(This is a mirror site of my webpage karenjcarlisle.com)

Monday, April 29, 2013

What Skills Shall we Forgo?

Yesterday, we attended a meeting at our child's school so a new computer tablet could be allocated. This  will be used for classes for the rest of the year. This reminded me of a news article, from earlier in the year where 45 states in the US have changed their school curricullum guidelines,  so that handwriting is not a priority. http://naturalsociety.com/how-cursive-writing-affects-brain-development/

Everything I have learnt and experienced makes this simple, and seemingly innocuous, statement set off alarm bells. As a trained optometrist, I have learnt that fine-motor skills are part of the learning process and when they are skipped, this can cause problems.  In the long term, we may find that it does not make a difference but some studies have used MRIs to show that there may be some cause for concern about the cognitive development of our children. In the study, children who had actually handwritten the letters showed more advanced neural activity than those who had not, supporting the theory that handwriting can improve expression, composition and fine motor skills.  

On a practical note, I found that it much easier to learn and retain information at University, when I wrote out notes rather than just highlighting it. If I drew diagrams, I could recall them; if I just studied them, my recall was not as accurate. I also find my writing style is different when typing as opposed to when I am  handwriting. I get more ideas when handwriting. If I am stuck for an ending or for a plot twist or segue, I shut the computer and pick up my pen. If I am writing a more logical article, editing or polishing a story or post, I work on the computer. 

While tablets are going to help with creative use of innovative technology and possibly of learning to work independantly, I am grateful that Australian schools have not replaced learning to read and write via handwriting with typing technology. I still believe this is a very important part of our children's development and allows them to use varied areas of the brain at an earlier age. My personal opinion is that handwriting is an important step in creative and cognitive learning. 

We won't really see the results of the US state's decisions until the current generation has left school but if they are using tablets, maybe the dreaded ipad can be useful than a standard computer and keyboard. At least the touch screen allows the user to manipulate the hand for drawing or electronic handwriting, to form the letters, instead of only typing. I may have to revisit this post in another five to ten years to find out the results of the changing times. 

For those wanting further information on studies, this is also an interesting read: 

Wait for It or Pay for It!

On the weekend, we went to the cinema to watch The Great and Powerful Oz. I enjoyed the movie. Won't say too much (spoilers!) but it gave an explanation of how The Wizard and The Wicked Witch of the West came into being. Interesting, with enough of the feel and flavour of the original Wizard of Oz. 

This is not what this post is actually about...

While we were waiting (and waiting) for the pre-movie advertisements to finish, the couple behind us were having a loud and animated conversation. It was difficult not to hear the discussion. It was even more difficult not to comment on it. I held my tongue though, as many of you will probably know, the following is a real sore point of mine. It all comes down to copyright.

The conversation began like this:
Girl: 'Did you see Game of Thrones, the other day. I haven't had time to watch it yet'
Guy: 'I download it on TorrentFreak (I think he said) watched it straight away.'

Now, I am not a fan of Game of Thrones, but even I know that it is shown 'express from the US', on Foxtel Showcase in Australia only two hours after showing in the US. How hard is it to wait two hours! For those who don't have Foxtel , I have also read today that Quickflix has made a deal with HBO so that Australians can legally download the series for instant streaming. 
Yet, despite this, it appears Australians are still the pirate capital for this show. (along with London and Paris) http://delimiter.com.au/2013/04/03/despite-quick-cheap-legal-option-australia-still-top-games-of-thrones-pirating-nation/
What is that I hear? I don't want to pay to download it. Tough. Foxtel viewers have to pay for it. If you want it for free, then wait til it comes to free TV... like many of us had to in the past.

The conversation continued with the girl listing a long, long list of TV shows she watches (how she had time to go to the cinema, I don't know) and the guy listing all  plus more shows that he downloads illegally so he does not have to wait for it to legally hit our screens. Apparently he does not like to wait to see them and has to see them immediately.

If you distil it down, the essence seems to be that illegal downloaders dont want to:
 1. wait for it 
 2. pay for it.

It was only recently that we were able to get Doctor Who fast tracked from the UK. We used to have to wait months for it. We didn't die waiting for it.  We learned patience and craved it all the more when we got it. So learn the words delayed gratification. All good things come to those who wait etc. Maybe this skill could prove useful in everyday life? hmmm? No one owes you a free ride.

TV shows and movies (as well as most other art, novels, music etc) are the end product of someones imagination, time spent creating the work (sometimes this could be a year or more), hard graft in finding funding and then making the final item. The final result may be for entertainment but it is also the source of income for many people and their families. 

Somewhere along the line there has to be a payoff by viewers or no one gets paid. We, as viewers, pay either by pay per view (legal download), pay for view (Foxtel or equivalent) or via advertising (waiting til it goes to free to air TV). Patience and advertising is the flip side of seeing it for free. Simple facts of life.

Not only does it take money from the artist and actors who create it but illegal downloads endanger the continuance of your favourite show, skewing the actual audience numbers. I recently saw statistics on Game of Thrones.  Apparently if the audience of 2 million who watched it legally in Australia, had actually illegally downloaded it, then the television show would not have got renewed. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/box-seat/stop-stealing-game-of-thrones-says-us-ambassador-to-australians-20130427-2ilam.html
That is what copyright is supposed to help protect. Circumventing it will not only hurt the copyright's owner but eventually it will hurt the viewer.

Think about that for a minute. Are you willing to deny someone's family their income?  Seriously?  For the less altruistic out there, are you willing to jeapardize your favourite show being made for the sake of being impatient! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What a wonderful world.

Most people just see the world as just the stuff that surrounds them. The streets are just streets. Unknown people are just there, sometimes annoying. Plants are just greenery. They have not looked up to the sky and seen a building for more than its street level and doorways.  Such a pity. There is so much more to the world around us! 

There is a wonderful photographer who specialises in urban scapes which he photographs at night (usually about 3 or 5am!) giving the most beautiful colours and haunting scapes. I love his work and he inspires me to do more urban work. You can see some of his work on his FB page: https://www.facebook.com/waynegrivellartandphotography?fref=ts

The buildings that surround us, particularly here in Adelaide, have so much history. My family are getting used to me stopping and just looking up to see what some of the buildings reveal as they tower above us. I took this photo some time ago. It shows the contrast of our city.  Another was taken, while (my husband was) driving under an overpass that is currently being built. 

It pays to actually look at the world around you.  There are some beautiful and unique visions that are only there for a second and possibly only seen by you! 

A recent trip to the cinema, at Marion prompted me to borrow my husband's phone again. On arrival, we found that the New York bar and grill has changed  ands and is now a Cafe Primo but the architecture still stands (I don't know for how long). How often have moviegoers or shoppers just stopped to look at the retro signage, with that Disneyland feel. Unfortunately, the camera does not do justice to the intenseness of the red circle light. On leaving, I saw the reflection of the sunset , in our car bonnet. two pictures later and the red was faded. Gone forever.

I remembered my SLR for a picnic yesterday. Even such mundane things as food, can become an interesting image.

Finally, look at the wonders of nature that surround you. The tree was a mass of colour and texture. The huge flock of cockatoos took flight, during our BBQ picnic... reminding me of the Hitchcock movie Birds.   

I must admit I am often caught out seeing something that is begging to be photographed, and I don't have my SLR with me. Realistically, I cannot take it everywhere.  It does not matter what equipment is used. Just about everyone has an android or iphone, these days - most of which have decent cameras on them. There are even websites set up specifically for the new area of photography that is growing and gaining some respect in the traditional world - coined iphonography. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhoneography
There is a flickr group specifically for iphone users: http://www.flickr.com/groups/iphoneography/

The world is a beautiful and interesting place. If only we have the eyes to see. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Can NEVER have too many books!

I spent the past day arm deep in old books that we have been collecting, over the past year. (not the ones from the recent Library sale). My husband finally put up the shelves we needed for them. We have had the bookends and the clock for over a year now and have been planning for some time. Finally it is all in progress.                                                        

After fortifying myself with antihistamines, I started the task of sorting out the piles and organising the order of the shelf. So much dust! Amongst them are some classics, some twists on classics and some19th century editions - including novels and scientific books.
I am now extremely happy as I can not only find the book I am looking for, but it looks great! 
New to the pile, this week, was A Sherlock Holmes compendium, The Prisoner of Zenda and H G Wells...

After immersing myself in the (already) written word, I proceded to immerse myself in the (currently on the go) written word. I finished off the day on a fourth draft of a Gaslight short story and wrangling the nomenclature and niceties of Victorian gentry titles. About another 1000 words and a few rewrites and hopefully I can put this one to bed. 

(Note to self: I really have to get a phone with a decent camera on it)

Protectoring by Appointment.

Usually, I try not to make very fannish designs, not because I don't want to (I have so many fannish ideas) but as it flirts close to copyright. I am a strong believer of the rights of the artist/ writer, as I have mentioned one or twice before.   Just occasionally, I just can't help myself. If I can wangle a homage that uses a few key images that provides enough of a hint to fans of the genre but without infringing on the originator's copyright, then I am quite happy to go for it. 

I have been doodling on another t-shirt design, after starting to read Soulless, the first book in the Parasol Protectorate series.  What could be simpler than a parasol? (not if I am drawing lots of frilly frou frou on it!)

First, the pencil sketched layout: I decided to hand-draw the writing, much quicker (for me) than trying to manipulate it in a programme. The wording? I did not want to use Parasol Protectorate, as that was Gail Carriger's own phrase, so I went with Protectoring by Appointment as that is what I would want to do! Waiting for ink to dry is like, well, like waiting for paint to day. A few cups of tea later and I inked up the parasol. 

The colours were determined by a description in the book - a black parasol with purple pansies. That was what started me off on this one - my favourite colour was purple - I just had to do it!

I am thinking of sending this design into Tee Fury, to see if they will take it on. Tee Fury seems to sell a lot of fannish T's.  With that in mind, I kept the colour pallette limited to only 5 colours which is much harder than you think! Shading must be kept to a minimum (argh). Otherwise it will be on Redbubble later...

Thanks to the computer, I tried a few different colour combinations and here are the final options. 

Any preferences? (I am leaning towards #1) If I am lucky enough to make it through their screening and you see it on Tee Fury, please make sure to vote for it!!!!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lest we Forget

One thing that is guaranteed to bring me to tears, no matter where I am or what I am doing, are two songs made famous by Redgum - And the Band played Waltzing Mathila and I was only 19. (As does The Last Post.) As a general rule I try to avoid movies and television shows that relate stories from the World Wars or Vietnam war but these catch you out, when you least expect it. Occasionally they will play on the radio or in the shopping centres. People stare at me as  I blubber like a baby. 

Over the years, I have come to realise that I don't care if they stare as I am glad these songs make me cry. Why? Think of the other option - that I don't cry. I don't want to be hardened to the death of others particularly if such people died to defend me and my country. Don't get me wrong. I am definitely not a fan of war.  War is a stupid waste of lives and resources. 

(from And the Band played Waltzing Mathila by Redgum)
How well I remember that terrible day
the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter

On this Anzac Day, remember those who fought and died for our country, who protected our lives and the lifestyle we now enjoy. I may not agree with war but I can still respect those who fought and / or died. Remember the horror and the uselessness of war. 

Today, I remember them. Never forget the horrors of what has gone before... and in remembering maybe we can learn from our past pain and learn to accept those who are different and live in peace. 

They shall grow not old, as that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
(from Ode of Remembrance by Laurence Binyon)

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I forgot

found this picture....
I must have taken it.... I forget why I took it...

Seeing pictures everywhere.

Over the past few days, I have been hit by multitudes of mental images and flashes of ideas for short stories. I have been exhausted trying to keep up with them and get them onto paper for later work. ( I did manage to finish a short story called Second Chances? which was sent off last night.)
What a dilemma to be in! The problem is being able to concentrate on one story at a time!  Too much, too quick. I am hoping I will remember some of them at a later time...

I have also been annoying my family, with constant 'wait up, I need to shoot something', when we have been out and about, this week. I have even resorted to borrowing my husband's mobile phone (which has a better camera than mine) as I am seeing photographs everywhere - in the shopping centre, on the street, just walking or driving around. It seems to be worse when I don't carry my SLR with me. Here are a few from 'iphoneographies' (but not on an iphone) from the past couple of days: (and we all love piccies)

1. waiting for the rain to stop. 2. Puddles. 

I do however miss the optical zoom of my SLR. The digital zoom is just not the same! The second set of images was at a local supermarket.
3.Cleanup. 4. Stuck in a corner. 

photos: copyright Karen Carlisle.  2013
(sorry for the short post, not well today)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing and Other Pastimes

I have been contemplating entering short story competitions for a few months now. Finally, I feel brave enough to officially enter my first short  story competition, in decades. I have had articles published before but these had a vaguely factual basis which I found much easier to keep under a 2000 words limit. Draft one of a short story was finished yesterday and I did some rewriting some more on it today. Thank goodness for friends who can give constructive criticism. My short story is now on its third round of proof reading and I am looking at (hopefully) my final draft.

This competition has been a challenge for me. The word limit is 1500 words. While I can easily average 1000 words for articles, blog enteries or 'lifestyle' articles, most short stories I have written average over 3000 words. The challenge is to learn to cull unnecessary parts of the story, honing my skill in editing and learning to restrict the use of my commas! Writing this blog has given me more practice at writing shorter pieces and has been instrumental in finally preparing me to enter some prose for judging. (So thank you, dear readers, for reading my posts!)

Writing a blog is one thing but entering a competition is completely different. I have entered many art competitions, over the years, but this will be the first prose competition that I have entered since high school. I must admit I have some major butterflies. For years, I have been relatively confident in my artwork, enough to lay it bare for competitoin judges for critque. Writing, like any art, effectively lays ones soul bare to the reader. People I do not know, have not met and probably never will, get an insight into my thoughts.  

This leads me to my biggest fear (and, from what I read, many writer's fear) of rejection. What if it is not good enough? What if it is utter rubbish? What if it is just put aside due to genre preference of the judges? ... what if? 

I read an article, by a published Australian author, this year. It was very helpful, possibly one of the most helpful articles I have read in a while. It said simply, write. If you don't write, you cannot call yourself a writer.  If it is utter crap, don't worry. Continue to write. Practice writing. Try to write (or read) 1500 words a day. That article led me to creating this blog. It has provided me with a regular writing platform, to practice some of my 1500 words per day. It has given me the confidence and courage to contemplate entering a competition!

I am now eyeing off two more competitions, both of which have a limit of just 2000 words. I find this is the most difficult length for me to write. More is needed to fill out the story, but there is not enough room to get into too much depth. I can see that my editing skills are going to really get a work out. I work better to deadlines though, so I am looking forward to taking on the further challenge. Hopefully, I will rise up to the task. Maybe then I will be brave enough to try some flash fiction (maximum 500 words) ... now that would be a challenge!

Leek and Potato soup... no, it is not a metaphor

Winter is on the way. I am happy. I love the coolness in the air, the freshness on the breeze through the back door. The comforting, smokey odour of woodsmoke, from the neighbours chimney, completes the scenario. I am happy.  My husband now has to deal with the drop in temperature, inside the house, and has started rumaging around in the attic, for his trench coat. 

It has been raining and my garden is glistening with the watery bounty. Slowly, it is soaking into the ground and I can almost hear it gurgling its way down to the aquifer. Unfortunately, this summer was a scorcher and our leeks shrivelled and the potatoes were sparse. A trip to the local fruit shop, provided what we needed, however, for one of my cold weather favourites - Leek and potato soup!

Two leeks, finely sliced have been sauteed until they were just translucent with a handful of shallots thrown in and soon the wonderful smell, of allium, began to fill the kitchen. Half a kilogram of potatoes (chopped to about 1.5cm squares) were then added, with a litre of vegetable or chicken stock ( I prefer chicken) is then added and the lot is left until it boils. It is now simmering for another twenty minutes and will then be processed in the blender to a soupy consistency. I am just enjoying the aroma as it fills the rooms. Onions are too strong, leeks are less painful on the eyes.

Dinner tonight is leek and potato soup. Easy to make, nil preservatives, healthy and figure friendly. Most of all it is hot, soothing and great for dunking bread. I am looking forward to winter!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Culling actually means cutting my heart out

This weekend, we scored 127 second hand books, from the local library book sale, for the princely sum of $40 in toto. Bargain! I am a sucker for booksales, particularly second hand books as I get more bang for my buck. Second hand stores, garage sales, online book stores such as Brotherhood books are like honey to me, and I am the ant.

There is, however, always a catch. Four years ago, we had a room extension, added to our house, so we could fit the boxes and piles of books, we already had. Currently we have 13 stand alone bookshelves, about 3 boxes and several piles of books... not including the 4 bags we purchased this weekend. What a happy predicament to be in... and what a gut wrenching one. 

At this moment, I am staring at tens of piles of books, all arranged in author or genre, all waiting for their new place amongst our old favourites. And here is the rub; all of those books are favourites. With limited space, we have to cull some of our existing stash but where to start? This is where I have to admit that I have cheated and started with our daughters library of books. 

Gone are the early readers and (most of) the picture books. (There are some picture books that I just cannot part with.) Gone are the chapter books. (again, most of them. There are some our daughter won't part from... yet). These once loved books are now destined to become the loved, and possibly favourite, books of our friend's younger children. 

Now comes the mammoth task of culling our beloved books, some of which I have had for almost forty years! We have made some rules:  
Rule 1: Gone are the multiple copies. We have found five already and are likely to find more, having put off this when my husband and I got together. With similar tastes (as well as vastly differing ones as well), we are bound to find several double ups... Now that would make the process so much easier. I can only hope.

Rule 2: If we have forgotten we had them, and are unlikely to read them in the next 12 months, they go (unless they are classics like Jules Verne, HG Wells, Asimov etc or Beowulf or Agatha Christie or...... you get it). Generally, this will be some of those books we bought, read and thought, meh.

Rule 3: If it is a full series, it stays. If we have only managed a few, in the series, and not found the impetus to find the remainders, then we probably don't really have a craving to read them. This equates to gone.

Rule 4: Emotional attatchments work. I am keeping my Blue Moon Rising and Forgotten Realms and Susan Cooper books. So there.

Rule 5: No one touches the Pratchett, the Dresden Files or Doctor Who books (from the 70s and 80s). 

I think that may allow us to relocate some of our books but each one removed from the shelves (or boxes or piles) feels like a piece of my heart has been cut out.  I really hate being an adult sometimes. 

Photo: (c) Karen Carlisle, taken at Mortlock Wing of Adelaide Library

Calender Curious? Anyone for some Steampunk?

Someone recently asked if I sold calenders. I have previously made calenders, for personal use - happy family snaps, for the relatives. I have been tinkering with the idea but need to get twelve similarly-themed drawings or photographs for a themed calender. What would people prefer? Artwork or photographs?

Some months ago, I flirted with the idea of a Steampunk calender, mostly based on photographs. (I am currently chasing up model releases). I am also planning some still life Steampunk influenced photographs, as well. Would you, dear reader, prefer mostly portraits or still life photographs? 

This, again, was a learning process with GIMP - working with layers, altering colours and adding filters. Each is based on my original photography. I added a border and some cogs to add to the steampunk feel. There are two styles of photos: one is sepia, the classic expectation for steampunk and an old world feel. The other is posterised, giving a surreal appearance but keeping some colour. An entire calender of sepia photographs would be bland.

Any thoughts or preferences, dear reader? 

On the question of original artwork. Would colour or pencil drawings be a preference? Would you prefer more steampunk, fairies or another theme?

In the meantime, here is another t-shirt for you all at Redbubble - Steampunk - feel free to buy and recommend to your friends!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Smells of Reminiscence

While driving home yesterday, I was reminded of school days spent on the lunch time grass area where we used to look for four leaf clovers. That patch of grass was riddled with them. My record was fourteen, in one sitting. What triggered this reminiscence? I was driving, past the local community park. The car window was down and the caretaker was mowing the grass. 

I absolutely relish the smell of cut grass. It smells of a warm Autumn afternoon, the birds singing in the trees, while I sip a calming cup of tea - especially after it rains.  It is an afternoon pottering in the garden. It is school sports days and picking the freshly cut grass from the tread in my sneakers. It is the scent wafting over the front yard when my grandad mowed the grass - comforting, fresh and irristable. It is so many childhood memories conveyed in molecules drifting on the wind. Thank goodness, I am not allergic to grass pollen!

When I used to work, in the city, I drove past the Torrens Park gardens that followed the river (actually the size of  a small creek most of the time) specifically to smell the freshly cut grass. I would wind down the car window, and breathe deeply to draw in the copious amounts of air, maximizing the effect! The gardeners were diligent and regularly mowed it in sections,  so I got my fix on most days of the week.

The science nerd, in me, did some researching. Apparently the molecules, creating the smell of cut grass, are produced when the grass is actually injured. Studies have been made on other plants, such as tobacco, which undergoes a chemical change in compounds produced, when attacked by hornworm caterpillars (their saliva!). The modified compounds attract a predatory insect which attacks the larva of the caterpillars. It has been theorised that grass may produce chemicals, when it is cut, to protect itself, possibly with anti-microbial action.

What price the glorious smell of reminiscence?

I live in two conflicting worlds. The scientist in me craves information and facts. I know why the moon looks larger when near the horizon. I know why we get beautiful sunsets (the ones in Queensland after the Java volcano were the most glorious I have seen). I know why grass produces such a delightful and familiar smell. The artist in me relishes the beauty and wonder of the world's wonder - the colours, the sounds and the smells and the memories they produce. (and logically, we need to cut the grass to keep the snakes away)

For now, I will just sit back and open the door, while our neighbour mows his lawn, and smell one of my favourite aromas in creation. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It is New T-shirt Time!

After a few days of sad news and irritating allergies, I needed some art therapy. I needed to design a new t-shirt! Designing and drawing helps me concentrate on the beauty of things and is cathartic. Creating things soothes my soul. 
As I have been concentrating on some award scrolls recently, I have been on a historical bent. This one was based on celtic designs of knotted animals, that can be found on Celtic crosses and in illuminations,. It was used for an old fanzine/ apazine contribution called 'Off the Artboard' of which I have blogged before. This version was mimicking a carved stone with pastel colours that can be seen in various illuminations, including The Book of Kells.

some examples can be at: 

I wanted to choose colours that were similar to those used, but also of a different colour palette to my previous t-shirt designs - for those of you who want something different. 

You can find the design at Redbubble: Off the Artboard 2: Celtic.

Which colour t-shirt do you prefer this design on?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brain Squish, the Cat and What I did Not Do Today...

Be warned. Brain is squish. 

Often, I will use the standard what I did today, to give me a jump off point for my post. Today's work involved drawing up matching 'scrolls'. Mostly it is twisty the acanthus-type leaves, with some medieval flowers. There are two 'animals' used as totems on the device. However, I cannot post pictures today as they are a suprise...

So, I had to find something else to post about. I had my flu vaccine shot and have been driven crazy with itchy skin, eyes and sneezing, with my allergies, over the past few days (most likekly not related though). My brain is screaming and I am sick of it. Thank goodness for antihistamine! In my brain addled state, the word antihistamine is a funny sounding word. I know it's scientific meaning but if you break it down, it is anti - hist - amine or anti - his- ta -mine. Hmmm... 

I have a cat. She is a cheeky cat - very intelligent, sneaky and a very tricksy thing. She has allowed me to live with her for twenty years.  She ascertained, at a young age, that it was not worth her time to chase birds; she just sits there and talks to them by mimicking their noises. My vet classifies her as a healthy, very well-loved, geratric cat. But I don't let that lull me into a false sense of security. I know better than to think that I can relax. She is always on the look out for a chance to acquire some human food, especially my husband's icecream.

Her arthritis may make it harder for her to clean herself and climb the furniture but she has trained us to pick her up and leave a footstool so she can climb more easily onto her favourite spot.  However, she still has her twenty minutes of kitten crazy. Though her footing is not as sure as it was, she is cunning and tries to outwit me by doubling back, at random intervals. I think her extra long years have given her more time to hone her sneaky-skills.

So, how did I segue from antihistamine to my cat? Who knows how the brain works in an antihistamine-induced dilerium ...
Anti - his (hiss)? My cat does not tend to hiss, unless she is at the vet. She is very, very good at defending herself, even with her arthritis. The vet and the nurses know her well and have a very healthy respect for her claws and tactics. 
Ta: the relief when rescuing a clothing item (especially the silk) that has been commandeered by her
and mine! - as in give it back, it is mine!

No deep philosophising today, sorry. I have to go pick up my cat. Apparently the purring is good for the nerves and reduced hypertension... or is that just propaganda spread by our feline friends?
Warned you my brain was squish!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reflections on the inhumanity of humanity

I was going to write something else today .. but I just can't think of anything else other than complete and utter disbelief and disgust that someone would set of one bomb, let along two bombs... AND at a marathon - a sporting event where people, from all nations, get together in a spirit of community!!!  

This will be a short post, as I am having problems forming actual words to explain how I feel! How can someone hate so much, that they conspire to maim or kill others, especially people they do not even know! This is the oldest running marathon, in the world - bringing the world together. There were 27 000 runners plus friends, relatives and supporters. Now we hear that there was a second incendiary device (maybe not related to the marathon explosions)...

It is times, like these, that I wonder if the world will survive itself. There are so many who do not think of others and strive for personal gain, whether monetary, political or terrorism. Then...

I see those people who ran towards the blast. They put themselves in harms way to help a stranger, to comfort, protect and aide them...  I am reminded of the Australians who took holiday leave and flew to Queensland to help clean up stranger's homes, after the huge floods. I am reminded of the many volunteers that feed the homeless every day...

...and I am reminded that the percentage of terrorists and pyschopaths are small, in comparison to the vast majority of decent, caring people.  People and life is more important than buying the biggest and the newest, shiniest iphone; they are more important than insisting that the economy has to keep growing at a certain rate. They are more important than being the first to see the latest television show.  

We have to guard against slipping into non-caring ways. Why? Because we all live on the same planet. We breathe the same air. We are the same, no matter the race, creed or religion. I pray that we remember this before it is too late.   

Be excellent to each other.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pride and Restrictions

Yesterday, I had a Jane Austin fest - the full BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. I have a soft spot for the clothing, especially those long, fluid coats worn by Mr D'Arcy! Sometimes, I long for a simpler time with  more manners and ettiquette, the romance of it all (I am a big softie really) and then I slowly remember the reality, of that era, and how lucky I am to be living in the twenty-first century.

I am the daughter of dairy farmer and lay-preacher's daughter. I would not have been a great catch if I had lived in the early 19th century; I would have not had the opportunity for a University education, due to my perceived social standing and the fact that I am a woman.   Modern medicine has allowed me to survive the birth of my daughter. My life is definately enhanced by being born in the twentieth century. 

Mr Bingley compliments, "All young ladies are accomplised. They sing, they draw, they dance, speak French and German, cover screens and I know not what". With such a list of accomplishments, I am feeling a little inadequate!  On the surface of it, had I been born in Jane Austin's time and been one of the privileged classes, I would have had the time to learn, practice and hone my skills at so many artistic things that I would love to at least try some day.  I could have gone beyond basic French, kept up my school German, be able to practice my drawing and photography more than part-time. I could spend more time embroidering and catch up on my reading. I could even try dancing. 

But at what cost?  Dig deeper, and we can see the restrictions woman had then. Today, I am blessed to live in time where I have so much more freedom. I can improve my 'lot in life' by education and work - both not available to most woman in Jane Austin's time. I have modern luxuries such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners to make my life easier. But I cannot have my cake and eat it too, as they say. I need to work, at least part-time, to afford the luxuries most of us have come to expect in the 21st century.

It is interesting how, in just a few centuries, things can change. In early 19th century, we read of women who felt trapped as that is all they could do. Today, I get told I am indulging myself too much, if I concentrate on my artwork.

I can only hope to follow such an extensive list of creative pursuits in my spare time and there are just not enough hours in the day. But, I do have the option to work, study and follow my artistic pursuits. Like everything, I need to work hard to afford to do the things I enjoy. I have started the slow climb, so that my creative pursuits may, one day, produce a decent income. Until then, won't give up my day job!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The makings of an almost period Patent of Arms.

I call it an 'almost period' Patent of Arms, as it this is almost like an unpaid commission for an individual, playing at re-creating Medieval and Renaissance times, living in a modern world. They have modern ideas and sensibilities. They have not grown up in the past, with all of the the ideas and cultural references that would have been everyday, say in the 1400s. So no matter how much I wish to recreate a perfectly accurate Award Scroll, by definition I am starting with a conundrum. A scroll is a rolled piece of parchment. What I am recreating is a modern document suitable for framing, to celebrate an achievement in a modern-day club, in the style of a six hundred plus old piece of scribe work. 

Yet, despite this, I find the whole process very fulfilling. Deciding on a style and designing and then creating, a homage to it. Firstly, I like to get an idea of the recipient, the colours they favour, any favourite images or totems (animals or plants etc), and whether they have a preferred era they like to 'play in'. This can cover from early, say Saxon, to late Elizabethan.   I need to get the feel of the form of the images, the layout, the colours and style of writing (calligraphy). This can only be done by looking at as many different versions that I can find.  Like most of my artistic ventures into a modern 'scroll' or 'patent of arms', it starts with research. Lots of research. 

Yesterday, I flipped  through a pile of my calligraphy/ illumination books and a few copies of Books of Hours, that I have at hand. I also trolled through the internet, trying to find a specific picture, that I KNOW I had seen somewhere. I did not find the specific one I was thinking of, but did find some adequate substitutes to get me started.

This project does have a few constraints, one of which is that it needs to be done in a short time. For this reason, I have decided to make it smaller than I usually do. Thus, I do not have to rush to fill a larger space. I would not be happy having to rush the painting portion as this is my favourite part and I do want to give my best effort for the recipients. This  also means that the calligraphy portion will cover less area - a bonus - as this does require more effort on my part. The standard script/wording also requires truncating, due to the smaller space available. This is still a work in progress.

The day ended with a definite size and basic layout which now requires a decision on the final decoration. The colours are mostly decided upon. I have sent a draft of the shorter version of the wording, after some help of friends, with possible translations.

I leave you with the layout and will elaborate, at another time, when more progress has been made on this project.

Not Just For Profit

.. not that there is much actual monetary profit in being an artist anyway - at least for most of us. Honestly, who would choose a job where the most common description, used for well over a hundred years, to describe it is 'starving'? Or the track record of many artists making more money after they have died? Not the most attractive selling points for a career choice.

So what do I do it for? I have no choice, and there lies the rub. I have spent over 25 years in a well-paying profession which I enjoy but it does not give me the same satisfaction as creating something. Over the past years, I have rediscovered my 'bliss'; nothing gives me the same calmness or completeness as I achieve during or after I have actually created something. Every one has a piece of my soul embedded in it. My dear husband has commented many times, over the years, that I get grumpy when I have not 'made something for a while'. 

It does not matter whether it is writing, drawing, costume making, photography or even creating in my garden. All elicit the same endorphin-like effect. Bliss. Today, I am meeting with some of my friends for Scribes, for calligraphy and illumination, as a part of one of the clubs I am a member of. We re-create medieval and renaissance style 'scrolls' for boons given in our club. It is yet another outlet to give me my creative fix. It can take 3-6 months to create an original design, with calligraphy (writing) in a period style to match the artwork.  

Here are some examples:

And at the end, each one is given freely to someone (I often don't know) to thank them for work done. Though I do take commissions, these work is a labour of love - worth it for the smile you see on the recipients face! 

So, the answer to the question who would choose being an artist as a job? Me, because it is a passion and not just for profit.
(I won't be giving up my other part-time job in a hurry, but what a wonderful  full-time job it would be.)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Better Late than Never.

Today was my daughter's school sports day. We had an early morning and I was there to cheer her on. (so am a little late today, sorry). We donned ourselves in various green items of attire, which has been collected over the past weeks, and presented ourselves for a day of races and events. I had bought a green wig but was advised that would be 'too silly and embarrassing'. I was also given the lecture about no hugs in public. 

Overnight, today's forecast had suddenly jumped to be almost 30 deg celcius (in Autumn!) so sunscreen and green Zinc and multiple bottles of water were also added to the list of required items. We had a record long, dry summer, this year, so I should not have been surprised that it was to be so hot. Unfortunately, this also meant that the paddle pops, at the canteen, had melted. I managed to get one of the last ones for sale and suffered a brain freeze (ice-cream headache) as it had to be devoured before it finished melting completely.

After four hours in the melting heat, there was the celebrity event in which parents, teachers and school captains took part. It was like pass the parcel down the line - with water bombs. Thankfully, all electrical equipment had been removed, prior to the event, as almost everyone ended up drenched. The students (and some of the teachers) were very diligent in ensuring the School Principal did not miss out.  

The only artwork I managed today was the large green 'Ms', on my daughters cheek, denoting her school sports house. (It always reminds me of the PP on the cheeks of the Planet People, in Qartermass). 

Sorry, for the short post today; I am trying to rehydrate after the heat. 
I shall leave you with a picture, taken by my daughter today. (She asked me to carry her pom poms. She did not say where.) I am off for a nanna nap now.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Blakes 7 and Other Little Green Men

I am a fan of 1970s and 1980s BBC and UK science fiction. I loved them. I still do - Doctor Who, Blakes 7, Star Cops, The Prisoner The Avengers(I know it was 60s), Sapphire and Steele.  Yes, it was clunky. Yes, they had a non-existent budget. But, as is often the BBC's want, they made up for this in original, interesting storylines. At the time, this was all new and unseen! They did the best they could do with no CGI, handmade models and the ubiquitous BBC Doctor Who quarry. Ignore the cardboard walls and man-in-the-monster-suit alien. We used our imagination to fill in the blanks and create a high tech wonderment. 

It was the same with the original Star Wars movie. We look back it now and, with the benefit of large screen HD televisions and the pause button, we can see the lines where the Tie Fighters were matted in. Did those of us who lined up in 1977, for seven viewings of the movie, really care? No! We were excited to see something new and original (yes, I know that Star Wars was based on classic hero myths and stories) movies! While the 'remastered' copies do look more slick on HD, I still remember sitting in a small seaside town cinema, in awe of such things. 

I admit, I still prefer to watch the original cut  of Bladerunner (it may be unfashionable, but I like the Film Noir style voiceover and the atmostphere it created) and of Star Wars: The New Hope (Han short FIRST!) and, yes,  it is possibly out of nostalgia more than anything else. These were the movies and television shows that I grew up with, they fostered my love for science fiction (I was already a sucker for fantasy, having read Lord of the Rings umpteen times). They enabled me to create images, ideas and feelings that have remained with me all of my adult life and influenced my art and writing (including that SF novel I wrote in grade 12... )

Over the decades, the amount of science fiction on our screens, seems to wax and wane, depending on whether the television/movie industry thinks it is popular and they can make money. Fair enough. It is their money and it is a business for them. However, many great SF shows have been cancelled due to this (my husband still hopes Firefly will return some day). 

Babylon 5 was the first television show to really make use of CGI, to great advantage. However, they still relied heavily on great, and sometimes wonderfully thought provoking stories. Alien Nation was another of the 90s SF television shows that used the science fiction format to tackle sometimes quite emotionally charged and ethically questionable story lines, using aliens to question the ongoing apartheid and racism. Great writing and better special effects equals great science fiction. Even the less 'serious' SF shows and B grade SF movies were great fun. I still have a soft spot for Space Rangers (with Linda Hunt). 

Then we hit the past decade, when Hollywood and television discovered that making CGI blockbusters was easier than writing good storylines - to the detriment of many movies, in my humble opinion.  It is just a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. If we see more than a basic plotline, we are extremely fortunate. 

Now is the time of remakes. I guess, the movie Powers That Be have realised that their audience is wanting storylines again. Movies such as War of the World, The Day the Earth Earth Stood Still and Total Recall are just rehashes of previous movies. No original storylines here. This falls under the guise of we need to update the movie/story so it is relevant to the current generation. By this reasoning, we will have a new Total Recall every 10-15 years! Heaven forbid! This is just lazy programming.

We also have a deluge of movies based on previous work, such as comic books and novels. Hollywood has been using novels for movies since it's inception. This, at least, allows for some (hopefully well choosen) well thought out storylines. Lord of the Rings is the most obvious example here. I actually loved the movies. Khazad Dum looked exactly as I imagined it. In as similar vein, we have the many Marvel comic movies. The danger is that literary fans may not like the movie if it does not live up to their expectations, as can often happen. The advantages are that the story is open to a new audience and hopefully the original writers will receive a decent sized benefit  from it. Let's face it, at least it is not a rehash of an existing movie. 

Now were are in the time of the Reboot; which is probably a fancy marketing word to sound a lot less like remake or copying an old storyline, isn't it? Moviewise, we have had the Dark Shadows reboot, and from televeisoin, we have Battlestar Galactica and V, as examples. Personally, I was dissapointed by both.  I think they were hoping the current generation have never seen the original and others would have forgotten it. Maybe they don't care about those of us that saw the 'original' and prefer it. Why didn't they just change the character names and call it something else?   

This has even gone to the extremes of the relatively new Spiderman movies have now had a reboot to update them. This is not all creative suicide though (I hope).  Star Trek reboot (which I enjoyed, I must admit). The premise is that the reality line has been altered as consequence of events in the first movie. This allows for familiar characters, that we love, to have new updated stories. While still a bit of a cop out, at least it is not a clone of the other movies or television show. 

I just read an article on i09.com today (which was the impetus for this post), that the Sy Fy channel is finally investing (or at least planning to) in a swag of  new science fiction series. I guess, it became less trendy again. Hopefully, they will concentrate less on dubious reality tv shows, cooking shows and wrestling! Having heard there was to be a reboot of Blakes 7, I have now read it is Sy Fy that has engineered it. The pilot is to be written by Joe Pokaski (Heroes) and directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Let us hope that is it a well thought out and written version of one of my favourite shows, and not a rehash that will destroy the whole experience. 

Finally, my real hope is that television and the silver screen will  give writers a chance to show their originality and not just look at the statistics as to what is most likely to get bums on seat. 

As 'Number 6' said, "I am not a number!" 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rattle, Shake and Roll

Today I am rattled. I am dealing with stress again. I am about to return to part-time work, in my other professional guise, after months off. All of my relaxation techniques are being utilized today as I have a meeting with the Powers that Be. I tried to start writing my post last night but could not concentrate; I tried to do some sketching but my hand is shaking so the curves look shite.  

I spent yesterday doing some fact research for a speculative fiction story. I have to see if I can pull out some specific historical happenings to fit in with an alternative history I have planned for a major historical figure. This follows on from some ideas that I jotted down, a few weeks back; a good thing coming out of a bad night's sleep. I was originally going to set the story in his timeline but am thinking I may move him forward and see what happens and how it would effect him (and history) when he returns. I am on a roll! I now have 9 pages of notes, just on the original historical path, and more on some plot ideas that I would dearly love to be able to fit into the puzzle.

I am planning on some endorphine-producing hard work digging in the garden after my meeting, this morning. To my surprise, over summer, about six french lavender seedlings have self-seeded themselves in the garden. I made the mistake of digging three of them out, too early in summer. They died. But then, we did have a record hot, dry summer this year. I have been biding my time, to transplant the other three. They should be tough enough; they have survived summer with minimal care. Currently, the upcoming weather report is looking reasonably mild with possible maximums to only the high twenties (Celcius). It is looking a lot safer to dig them out. So, today I will be shovelling shit (and compost) into their new homes, in preparation for their move. Quite an appropriate metaphor, really.

I have previously mentioned that my garden relaxes me. The lavender seedlings are a reminder that, no matter how bad things are, some things can survive. My grandmother used to say 'What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."  The woman was a font of knowledge! I too, can survive this chapter in my life and go on to rewrite the story.

And now for some gratuitous pics I have taken, of my husband who stands by me in my creative moods:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On a lighter note.. More t-shirts!

As some of you may have realised, I have been concentrating on my writing, in the past few weeks. Blogs have been getting a little heavy and introspective. Today's offering is a little lighter in mood; it was too gorgeous an Autumn day to get too serious.

This week, I have finally managed to get my hands dirty, in the garden, and connect with the earth. However my hands have also been itching to draw something all week. When I finally managed to put pencil to paper, I could not get my fingers to behave themselves (or maybe my brain is to blame). I just could not achieve a satisfactory doodle to emerge. My mind was definately elsewhere. 

Plan B: I sifted through some of pieces of art which have been earmarked for upcoming projects. This image resurrection project has been planed for a Roleplayer Character t-shirt, since the inception of the series. Back in the late 80s, I originally drew it in inks with pencil shading, for a D&D roleplaying tournament game. I love drawing fantasy dwarves - cool beards and lots of leather!  However, I must admit that I have postponed finishing off this one due to the recent Hobbit movie (but it was pointed out that maybe I should get it done, as planned, and strike while the iron is hot! Perfect timing?)

I think I have finally nutted out a few things in GIMP: 
  • how to reduce the pencil shading so I can recolour in blocks, 
  • using layers to colour, without losing the ink lines (I still can't draw with the mouse!)
  • best of all, this time I achieved the blue title on the first attempt! That is a major break for a technophobe, like me. (My husband gets so frustrated that it takes me so long for me to decipher and remember the basics of programmes - but he is in IT, so that is no surprise)

Next, was the hardest decisions. What colours? I didn't want drab, boring browns as often used for dwarves. The drawves, in my campaigns, have flair. They wear strong, jewel colours to brighten up the mountain depths and to remind them of the rubies and emeralds that they adore, mine and covet. They love leather and metal.

Finally, there was the decision on the title to be made. Originally, it was to be emblazoned with Dwarven Fighter. To keep the letter sizing consistent with the other t-shirts, the title was twice the height of the dwarf character image. I toyed with leaving the juxtaposition of heights but this really did unbalance the whole image; the dwarf ended up at almost waist level. I decided to rebalance the image and just entitle it Fighter. Naming it dwarf, would have restricted me for later planned projects and now left me open to draw other dwarves of differing classes. (There is a female dwarf, somewhere in those piles... and I have plans...)

If you head over to Redbubble, you can now find Roleplayer Character #6: Dwarven Fighter.  The original sketch is available as postcards, posters and more!

For the (tabletop) fantasy roleplayers out there - what sort of characters would you like to see on a t-shirt? What would you buy?
Also I do commissions: A4 size characters in ink... :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Bullying against Free Thought

Intellectual discussions don't seem to be as popular now as when I was at university. I used to have the most fascinating discussions about space, space-time, bending space, black holes. I used to read the cutting edge articles and still watching docos and reading books on them. Forget the complex maths (my worst subject) but the theories and concepts are mind-bending and such fun to debate.

Philosophical  or theological discussions seem to be harder to have these days, as well. I have many friends with differing beliefs. It is fantastic! We often have to agree to disagree but have some really eye-opening, thought provoking discussions and debates along the way. But go further afield, and there seems many people who are not even wanting to entertain the thought of any alternative idea or knock down anyone who don't agree wholeheartedly with their point of view. 

I was brought up to believe that everyone has a right to their own point of view and that it is a good thing (an encouraged thing) to listen to their points of view. Even if  I didn't agree, I can find something interesting to discuss or end up on a totally unrelated (and usuallly very interesting) tangent. This creates a creative and  productive atmosphere, with intelligent, thoughtful debates on differing subjects, and a greater understanding of others, life the universe and everything.

I was encouraged to question things I believe, to explore my thoughts and others thoughts - and decide what I think - for myself. Most of all, I was encouraged to respect that others may not think the same way as me. That is what creates the variety and spice of life. However, more and more often, I now hear of bullying, monstering, flaming and downright oppression of ideas and concepts, particularly on the internet.  I am very saddened by this. People are missing out on so much when they only listen to one voice, only share one voice and ignore, or try to control, the many voices that create the choir of the world!

And now, this growing unaccepting culture is also trying to impact on writing and art. Art and writing is very personal. I do it to express my imagination and the many ideas that bombards me. It could take a decade , or more, before I get any measure of success that is credited by most of society. I have been told that I should write something more popular - popular fiction as opposed to speculative - that I should draw things that are more popular: they will sell better. Hmmm....

I do this gig because I simply cannot not write. I have to - even if it is not the most popular thing at the moment. I draw what I draw because I have to draw it. I make no excuse for that. I can do things for commission but what I love to draw will not change. It is me. 

Sadly, it seems that these days, some people want to be sheep and if you don't agree with the loudest alpha sheep, then the group tries to butt you out. Well, this chick ain't be shoved that easy. I will continue to listen to the world's choir and make up my own mind. I'd rather be a stubborn goat than a cloned sheep.