Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chemically Coded Paintings

A few years ago I was invited to attend a launch at the Australia Council of the then new Indigenous Protocols booklets for media arts, music, performing arts, visual arts and writing. These publications were devised "to help Australians better understand the use of Indigenous cultural material".  Australia had a shocking record of misappropriating Aboriginal artwork and commercially corrupting it without any payment or indeed acknowledgement to the original creator. These booklets, which were written by Anita Heiss and Terry Janke, went part of the way to offering a solution by providing nine principles that dictate how we need to approach Indigenous artists across all art forms with full transparency, with professionalism, and with courtesy and respect (and I would add – humility!!!) for Indigenous culture and traditions. These nine principles include "secrecy and confidentiality, communication, consultation and consent, and attribution and copyright." One of the things I specifically remember about the launch was an absolutely heart wrenching story told by Terri Janke about an Aboriginal painter from North Queensland, whose sacred artwork was photographed by some unscrupulous white people who then posted it over a bunch of souvenirs and the like. The consequences for the Aboriginal painter were tragic – he was ostracised from his community and he suffered spiritually, emotionally and physically as a result. I can't remember the exact details but I do remember being one of many who wept openly upon hearing the story. Another Australian agency that is championing the rights of Indigenous artists is Viscopy, the Visual Arts Copyright Collecting Agency. I strongly recommend all Australian artists to become members. 

Which brings me to my major point – the University of Western Australia has created a secret chemical code which "has been painted into an Aboriginal art work in a world-first step to outwit forgers who prey on Indigenous artists". Five unique chemical were actually encoded into five colours on a painting by WA Aboriginal artist Mr Timm, whose other work has been targeted by forgers. According to an article on the Perth Now website, "... the coding is an extension of elemental fingerprinting technology developed by Professor John Watling 15 years ago, which used high-powered lasers to trace stolen gold and diamonds back to their place of origin ..." 

Apparently, this process has enormous applications even beyond the art world. I think this is a great day for Indigenous artists and indeed all artists. Thanks to Anita Heiss for drawing our attention to this article.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome and Thank You Blog Visitors

A few weeks ago we installed Google Analytics onto our blogspot to see who was popping in to visit. We've been maintaining the blog for five months now and having a great time doing it but felt it was, in general, a one way conversation – not even a dialogue really except for those people who have taken time out to post comments. However, we were quite thrilled at the scope of the Analytics analysis with all its graphs, maps and stats. People weren't necessarily commenting but they were visiting. We had expected readers from Australia and the US mostly, and we were right in our assessment. This is by no means a contest but the USA came out on top with our homeland in second place within the Top 10. We were also delighted to see who took out the next eight positions, which are (in order) – Germany, Netherlands, the UK, Norway, Canada, Italy, France and Malaysia. Beyond that we also had visitors from Russia, New Zealand, Spain, Greece, Japan, Brazil, Belgium, Singapore, the Philipines, Romania, Indonesia, Hungary, India, South Africa, Sweden, Netherlands (Antilles), Finland and Saudi Arabia. We are very gratified and just want to say thank you for supporting us in cyberspace. We hope you'll make this a regular web pit stop in your busy day or week. Too bad we can't offer you real tea and biscuits because we sure would like to  ... maybe we can send you some virtual ones if we ever figure out how to do it!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

More Pigs in Mud

Following on from my God Save the Pig post on 23 September and the follow on story Can't Get Enough of Dat Darn Pig, I've received lots of private and FaceBook feedback from some of our readers who were fascinated with the ongoing saga of Bruce. I also received another 'domestic pig gone wild' anecdote from my wonderful friend Sue Hudson from Armidale. Sue is an Archeological Consultant specialising in Aboriginal archeology. She sent me a photo of this beauty, wallowing in the mud and the following story:

Life is full of stressful situations:
When everything gets to be too much of a hassle, lie back, take things easy, look at the bright side of life and relax!
While investigating some land for rezoning and looking for Aboriginal sites and relics, I was driving down a narrow lane searching for things of antiquity and I found this amazing site – Miss Piggy lying in a muddy pool of water under a railway crossing. This spot was shared with some ducks who were busy going about their days foraging for food (stressful for ducks). Obviously Miss Piggy had been having a hard day (waiting for food to be deposited), stressed out by not being with other pigs, hot, dry and feeling the world was just TOO much. Being a pig required keeping her skin cool and free from annoying biting insects, so she relocated to piggy heaven. Not even my vehicle stopped her from enjoying this blissful de-stressing.

We should take good advice when it confront us – do what pigs do – just go to the nearest muddy pond and veg out!!! 

Best NY Comics Store

A Sydney Morning Herald travel article by Barry Divola recently identified the best specialty bookstores in New York. The vote for Best Comics store went to Rocketship in Brooklyn. 
If you're a comic book geek or graphic novel aficionado, cross the Brooklyn Bridge, my friend. Smith Street is a cool strip in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill area. Rocketship's selection is large and eclectic and you won't have to fight your way through 15-year olds with questionable bathing habits who are looking for Batman figurines. The stores stocks fantasy and superhero titles but a large proportion of the space is given over to more literate titles from the likes of modern masters such as Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine. They also have regular displays of original artwork and appearances by well-known comic artists.
You can bet your patootie that Jozef and I will be heading over there during our new trip to NYC for a quick squiz

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Swimming Lesson Revisited

A few years ago when Black Mermaid Productions™ (BMP) included Bruce Love (we casually called ourselves BMP [Classic] at the time, as opposed to BMP [New Wave] which is now the two-person team consisting of Jozef and myself), we toyed with the idea of releasing a children's picture book called The Swimming Lesson as our first foray back into publication. 

This book was a 32-page, full colour story featuring Tilaweed, Hyfus, and their offspring Illora, as well as Tentus and No~Fin as the supporting characters. Check out the Character Gallery on our website for more insight into their publishing history, although it must be noted that the original 'disfigured' Illora never saw print and has now completely been reinvented. 

At the time of writing this picture book, these characters had already gone through their physical and emotional metamorphoses and transition from ElfQuest: WaveDancers to the Eternal Spheres™ Elf~Fin™ universe. We also had had serious talks with a major children's book publisher in Sydney about releasing the book. However, the managing editor wanted us to reduce the story from 2000 words to no more than 600 words and re-conceive it as a starter book for four to five year olds, which we understood would fulfill her needs in terms of publishing trends in the market place but which we thought didn't serve the bigger picture of what we wanted to achieve long term with our Intellectual Property. 

The actual picture book idea came at a time when we were disillusioned with comics after a long legal battle in the USA over these very characters. The other dynamic within the BMP team itself was that we were pulling in three very different directions – Jozef wanted to do picture books, I wanted us to novelise and illustrate our stories, and Bruce wanted to do short films. Needless to say, this is not a good recipe for focus and success. Consequently, we didn't achieve very much during that time period except to rediscover our love for comics, as well as to essentially create the sequel to the Elf~Fin™ comic book series/graphic novel we're working on at the moment – the Hyfus and Tilaweed underwater love story, which is progressing nicely. In fact, we even started serious talks with a very decent publisher the other day, but discovered we had very different professional and business needs. We subsequently discontinued negotiation because it would have meant signing away a large chunk of our Intellectual Property, although we must add that we parted on very good terms. We were reluctant to proceed as too much work has already gone into developing the creative property as it stands now, our love for and attachment to our characters and stories, and because we are quite understandably – as we're sure you will appreciate – jittery about signing any contracts that involve assigning copyright.  

Anyway, we posted some of the picture book roughs onto the Eternal Spheres; Elf~Fin page of our website (scroll to the bottom of the page in question to see what we're talking about), but I discovered another lovely piece in our archive the other day, which we thought you might want to see. The original draft reintroduced Korillia into the story, but she was such a force to be reckoned with that we decided to give her major page-time in the third installment of the Elf~Fin™ series. 

The picture book has been put on the back burner for the moment, although Jozef is keen to add it to our repertoire down the track. It will offer a slice of life within the continuity of the greater story arc. The other good thing is that picture books and comics books are no longer perceived as being incompatible in the marketplace – some comic book publishers such as Jim Valentino's Shadowline and his new Silverline imprint are adding picture books to their lists (Bruce the Little Blue Spruce), and some traditional picture book illustrators such as Working Title Press in Australia are adding comics/graphic novels to their list (Captain Congo and the Crocodile King). 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can't Get Enough of Dat Darn Pig!

More on Bruce the rogue pig – he has apparently become a stud-master at a piggery. I hope there's some accountability involved and he's not secretly sacrificed when he's no longer considered newsworthy. I looked at some new footage on ninemsn and I think his size has been grossly exaggerated. There are several breeding pigs on a property down the road from our farm, which we walk past every few days when we're exercising. Their size is on par with Bruce. If the piggery owners remain true to their word then this is a very happy outcome for the animal and we can all breathe easy from here on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

God Save the Pig!

A rogue "pony sized" pig that adopted 63-year old vegetarian, Caroline Hayes, has by the latest accounts apparently been saved from being destroyed. The pushy (and previously thought to be doomed) pig visited her rural property in northern New South Wales ten days ago and has refused to leave despite many forcible attempts by Council rangers to evict him. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Ms Hayes told the ABC she took pity on the pig when he wandered into her yard 10 days ago, nicknaming him Bruce and patching up a few ailmenets.

"When I found it, it had 15 ticks in its eyes which I actually took out," she said.

"One of its eyes it couldn't see out of, so I put cream in it and I fixed its back up, but apparently it's actually claimed my land and claimed my place."
Bruce – who by my reckoning has demonstrated remarkable resilience and intelligence – obviously knows a good person when he sees one. Despite having bailed up Ms Hayes in her outside toilet, ripped up a king sized mattress and rolled up a mat, he obviously has a champion in her. When council workers tried to remove Bruce, the distraught Ms Hayes, asked them to leave. I hope he stays permanently or if not finds another safe home. We'll just have to wait and see how the story pans out but I'll keep you posted. Thanks to my sister for giving me the hat tip. Check out photos at the ABC North Coast and the Daily Telegraph. In the meantime, hail to the pig and hail to the heroine!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Greenlighting Comic Book Pilots

Top Cow Productions, Marc Silvestri's studio and a comics publishing imprint/partner of Image Comics, has hit upon a fabulous business idea that invites fans to participate in publishing decisions.
According to an ICv2 website article:
For the second year in a row Top Cow has uploaded the first issue of six different comic series to its Website, emulating the TV networks that greenlight a number of different TV series pilots–with the big difference being that the decisions on which "pilots" to pick up for a full season (or in the case of Top Cow, to publish) are made in Top Cow's case by fans who vote on which of the six comic book pilots they would like to see become regular series, whereas in the world of TV it's the network executives who get to decide, not the general public.
This sounds like a great opportunity for emerging comic creators. We'd love to see the day when there's such a thing on television or the comics press as American Comics Idol!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fringe Benefits

Saw the first episode of Fringe last night which has been fast-tracked to Australia from the USA. WARNING: semi-spoilers ahead!

Anna Torv is fabulous! Gorgeous and thoroughly believable. I love her in close-up. Although she's Australian she was not on my radar and I can't remember the McLeod's Daughters episode in which she appeared.  I really like her and I really like her character Olivia Dunham who I am ready and willing and able to follow through the greater story as it unfolds. 

Great to see the gnarled character actor John Noble back on the screen after his riveting performance as the crazy and cruel Denethor in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King who was quite prepared to condemn his unfavoured son Farimir into the flames of a funeral pyre in a murder-suicide bid. This time John plays crazy as well, but a benevolent kind of crazy who might just save the world after being locked up in a psychiatric institution for 17 years.

I was a devoted viewer of Dawson's Creek while it was on, although I missed the last season because it was buried away at some god-awful late hour and even in a lunchtime slot on Channel 10 after the show had been cancelled in the US. Have no idea who ended up with who but was told the other day that Joey got together with Pacey. Don't know if it is true or not but will eventually have to rent the DVDs and find out for sure. Here is the segue into Fringe ... nice to see Joshua Jackson back on the small screen. Liked him as Pacey and like him as the darker brooding genius Peter Bishop in this one. He looks great in his long tailored coat.

I don't know much about Lance Reddick except for his appearances in the brilliant Lost. He is very striking and just commands the screen. His character is intimidating. I would have crumbled from his glare, but then I'm not a heroine in any other story except my own.

Intriguing pilot episode about a virus that brings down a plane and dissolves all its occupants into gelatine and bones. It has an X-Files sensibility with its master conspiracies, and the FBI and Homeland Security called into to investigate a mysterious and spooky corporation. Undoubtedly we'll see more science experiments gone awry in what looks to be like a possible bid for world domination within the realms of  "the Pattern". I am also interested in the almost sci-fi exploration of the human mind and its potential. Hated seeing animals in cages and cows in the lab but at least we were given impressions rather than full on stomach churning and emotionally upsetting scenes (although I have to give the director credit for that one amusing shot of the human characters sitting down with Jean the cow poking her head through as part of the coterie). I won't comment much on the story. You'll have to find out for yourselves. But I will say that JJ Abrams is up to his old tricks and if Lost is anything to go by then I'll be hooked on this one too. Here's the trailer for those of you who missed it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mermaid Treasures 8

This chubby little mermaid ornament was given to me for Christmas one year. She dangles from the door in my office. I think Jozef has a similar one. We both like the style very much and she has inspired us to create something in this mould in comics somewhere down the line. For some reason she reminds me of the Madame Morrible character in Wicked but not as nasty. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elf~Fin Updates and More

Elf~Fin: Hyfus and Tilaweed is chugging along nicely. Jozef has nearly finished painting another two page scene and we're going to splash out big time and actually post both pages in their entirety (sans lettering) next week on this blog and on our website. We'll leave it up to you to interpret the action, but in order to read it in context of the greater story you'll have to buy the series once it comes out. And boy is it chocka block full of stuff! 

On another note, Jozef's computer went down last week and he has replaced his system with some new goodies and many upgrades (he'll have to give you the particulars next time he posts on this blog). His original one was still under warranty and will be fixed but he is donating it to Black Mermaid in order to replace our much older and loved iMac which from memory we bought in about 1999 from the proceeds of our Broken Hill workshops. I like to use my MacBook – I love the comfort and flexibility of working from a high back recliner rather than stiff and straight backed on an office chair at an office desk. I have all the current Black Mermaid correspondence, marketing material and story stuff on my system so I will back it up onto Jozef's donated computer and he in turn will back up all his Black Mermaid specific documents and artwork onto the central system which is in my office. 

We have been working on another secret Black Mermaid project but more on that in October. It will take you by surprise. We're such terrible teasers, but we're nice terrible teasers – really we are ....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bait and Switch or Not?

Is it just me or is this a case of misrepresentation? Last week I heard the gate intercom go off and so I checked to see who it was. A strange woman whose car was parked outside our property asked me if I wanted to learn about global warming. I hesitated because I had a little niggling feeling that said "beware", and I responded by telling her that I was pretty au fait with the subject, which is true. I have read widely and my family and I have gradually been implementing little measures to ensure that we decrease our carbon footprint – these include switching appliances off at the plug when we're not using them, installing a bioseptic tank to recycle grey water and sewage, switching off lights in the house at night in empty rooms, using cloth bags for groceries at supermarkets rather than plastic ones, and so on. We have a long way to go and ideally we'd love to get solar heating and have one of those energy efficient houses where you pump electricity back into the grid rather than sap it, but this will take time. 

Anyways ... I told this woman that I was fairly well read and she hesitated – I got the sense that she wanted to be invited in to speak to me one on one. She then asked if she could give me some literature. I said I couldn't come out because I had something on the stove (which was also true) but she could leave it in the post box. She said she would follow through. 

The way she phrased things to me suggested that she may have been a local council representative or somebody from one of the many environmental groups that are springing up in educational and activist roles, but at the back of my mind I had a sneaking suspicion that the woman in question may come from a religious group. My instincts proved to be correct. About ten minutes later I retrieved the literature in question which turned out to be two magazines from a well known door-to-door religion. There was a short cover article on global warming on one of the magazines in context of the religion in question, but the other content was of the ilk of "do this now and be saved".

I'm all for religious freedom and respectful of people's points of view and belief systems, but this approach is a bit suspect. I do not want to be converted to anything – I like to read widely and form my own opinion about the nature of humankind and the divine – and I especially don't want to be subjected to religious bait and switch sales techniques which I believe this one to be. Authenticity and transparency ... that is the key to building trust between people, as well as marketers and prospects. Let the latter decide what they want to do and whether they want to partake based on full disclosure and no secret agendas.

Saturday Night Live's Human Fish Eating Machine

We don't get the long-running SNL in Australia on public television, but the random clips I've seen have been hilarious. Just came across this one about the Michael Phelps diet – I too have been fascinated his daily caloric intake that is hovering around the 12,000 mark, and which nobody else in the world can get away with unless they are an elite athlete, have got a kick ass metabolism and a low lactic acid count after exercise that helps aid muscle recovery like he does. Anyway, thought you might get a kick out of the following videos. 

Following on from that, I found the following SNL clip posted on FaceBook. Now, I'm not a political animal in the least and have a difficult time wrapping my rather politically naive mind around Australian Federal, State and local elections (just voted in the latter one on Saturday) let alone the US Presidential campaign. However, I used to watch The West Wing assiduously and learned all about filibusters, foreign policy and the importance of New Hampshire from that show. Now life seems to be imitating art – Barack Obama's campaign appears to be mimicking much of the WW's sixth and seventh seasons when Matt Santos's (Jimmy Smits) character begins running for president. However, after reading an article about Sarah Palin in this week's Time magazine where, in her capacity as mayor in her Alaskan hometown, allegedly, "asked the library how she could go about banning books", I am thinking that if I were American and if I were a registered Republican then I'd be calling forth the spirit of the fictional Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) to come in and take charge. Hell, while we're at it, bring on Tina Fey ... she's the real genius here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mermaid Video Watch 2

Jozef and I independently flagged this video on YouTube under the title 'Mermaids (2003) Innocente (DJ Tiesto], and simultaneously brought it to each other's attention – great mermaid minds think alike. Thought you might all be interested. Had no idea who or what Tiesto is/was until we looked it up on the ever reliable and informative Wikipedia entry – hail to the fans who post these entries on the Wiki site. Tiesto, by the way, is known intriguingly as a Dutch "trance DJ". I couldn't find any information about the video or the song on the entry although I did skim rather than read all the details. We also have no context for the song – we think it is from an album. In the meantime, enjoy the video. There are some lovely underwater moments in it and we both do like the tail swimming action although the trident looks a bit cheap.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quad Stack Brouhahahahahahahahaha

There has been a right royal kerfuffle in Australia about the release of the new Hungry Jack's quad stack burger. For our overseas friends, Hungry Jack's is burger chain franchisee of the US Burger King brand, the former of which has been operating in Australia since 1971. The legal  stoush between the two companies actually makes for interesting reading. But onto more important matters at hand ...

The quad stack consists of two buns with four beef patties, four slices of cheese, two rashers of bacon, and barbecue sauce. There are no salad vegetables like onions, tomato, lettuce or gherkin in sight (the other missing ingredient for us Aussies is the ever faithful slices of beetroot, which distinguish our burgers from the rest of the world's). I couldn't find any nutritional information on the quad stack on the 'Menu and Nutritional Facts' page of the Hungry Jack's website, but a Nine.msm article tells us that,
"The burger has more than 70gm of fat and over 4520Kj (1000 calories) – half the daily recommended calorie intake for a woman and nearly one-third for a man".
The release of this burger has been controversial in the media and in the health industry due to the current obesity epidemic and the fact that Australia has now been found to be the worlds most fattest nation (post Olympics this has been a gold winning performance that no individual or country should aspire to). I for one am not the thinnest person in the world, but I do follow a relatively clean diet and I do go to the gym regularly (I'm an excellent swimmer and can swim 2km in a session and can walk 20km quite easily – my record is 33.3km in a day. I am also flexible in the stretching department, competent at weights, and have even conquered the dreaded lunges). I don't smoke, have never taken drugs, I don't drink alcohol, tea, coffee or fizzy drinks but I do give myself treats because I love food and cooking and I love taste-testing new products. I don't as a rule frequent fast food restaurants – a Pizza Hut or KFC meal will have me gaining 2kg overnight because of all the salts, sugars and nitrates (I get so thirsty I drink about 2 litres of water straight after and it will take my body 48-72 hours to repel the effects).

Quite frankly I think the marketing people from Hungry Jacks are geniuses. The negative publicity has put Hungry Jack's into prime time news and started a stampede of customers (mostly by men) curious to know what all the fuss is about. Of course, all this hype got me wondering whether the burger was any good, and I shared these thoughts with a friend and comic book artist Matt Elder who attends the monthly comics mentor/mentee meetings in the city with Jozef and me. Matt has been staying here for the last week in solitude and on retreat and yesterday he surprised me with a quad stack. So here are my impressions ...

The first issue at the forefront is actually truth in advertising. Like many food advertising campaigns there can be a great divide between what the food stylists present for the camera and what clever photographers can capture in the final image that makes its way to us in print and on television. The photos of this mighty burger have been greatly exaggerated. The photo above shows what looks to be a monster burger – it appears to even overshadow in size the male hand that grasps it. The reality was that the burger I was given was about the circumference of the palm of one of my hands. So that was the first surprise for me.

The second thing I did was study the burger from all angles. It was neatly stacked. The cheese was a lurid processed orange colour but the meat patties were perfectly equal in size. There was just a touch of bacon overhang. When I picked it up it did not squash or slide or squirt. It did not smell any different to other burgers.

My next step was to cut it in half as per my usual practice. I have a system for my taste-testing practices. If I do want to try a limited edition burger such as this or indeed another new product not even in the fast food classification, I usually buy one then bring it to the farm and cut it into three to share with my parents so we can experience it together and then compare notes and to rate it out of five. In this case, I cut it in two and gave the other half to Matt (who had already confessed to trying one the day before). Then I took a bite of it in its natural state. It was okay, but nothing special.

The next step was to add the accoutrements I thought it needed taste- and nutritionally-wise to elevate it to its next stage of its culinary evolution – I added tomato and some cos lettuce. Mmm. much better. I finished it off slowly – chewing each bite before swallowing it.

The upshot of it was that I did not suffer any ill-effects post-consumption unless I was not consciously aware of them. My digestive processes didn't change; I didn't need to overcompensate with additional water beyond my standard eight glasses a day; and there was no change in my weight the next morning. Now ... this is not an endorsement for the burger. Nor indeed is it an indictment on the burger. This is merely a case of self-observation, and perhaps a strengthening of my understanding of the issue of moderation and balance. Ultimately, you can't legislate or bully people into doing things or not doing them because the rebellious and curious child part within ourselves will go the opposite way. You can only educate people and let them choose their own behaviour which is answerable to the law of cause and effect. I go through life actively wanting to create win/win situations for myself and others. In this case, the win was that I actually got to try something I was curious about but I did it in a way that on the face of it didn't negatively compromise my long term health. I was actually quite proud of the way I handled this situation. Now I just need to apply the same lesson to chocolate  ...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Filling the Well of Ideas

The most common question non-creative people ask creative people is: "Where do you get your ideas from?" The answer is pretty universal across the various artforms and mediums – personal experience, observing human behaviour, dreams, reading, anecdotes, photos and pictures, television – the list goes on. What is essential in the process is that one perpetually keeps topping up the well of the subconscious mind with content because it is through a miracle of transmutation in the deep underwater chasms that the individual pieces combine with each other to spout out original ideas into our conscious awareness. There are so many metaphors to describe this process – individual ingredients fuse with each other to form the perfect culinary dish; straw being spun into gold; patchworks sewn together to form a quilt; body parts stitched together and hit with a bolt of electricity to form Frankenstein's monster ... 

One of my favourite things to do to fuel this process is to scrapbook and I don't mean preserving my family history in albums; rather, I cut out newspaper and magazine photos and articles that inspire my imagination and then stick them into a visual arts diary. At the moment I have a twelve inch pile of collating to do. My 14-year old second cousin Reece who has a flair for art has been helping me on a paid basis. He has sorted the information into themes – architecture, nature, faces, underwater landscapes and animal life (specifically collected for Elf~Fin), interesting professions, and so on – and is gradually gluing them into the book. 

There is a downside to this undertaking. I buy four weekends papers every week but I sometimes don't get to read them all during that time. I then obsessively hoard them – in fact, I have about five years worth of unread newspapers piled up in our rumpus room. I then get into this unhealthy internal conflict between my decluttering, practical, pragmatic organiser self versus my obsessive self. Ditch the stuff unread! No, no, go through those papers and capture all the pieces you need. 

But there is a masterplan! A professional oganiser won't do the trick as I still need to look through them, and I'm pretty sure a mind-reading superhero with powers to scan, spot, scissor and paste the exact items I need doesn't exist in real life. However, I'm proud to say  the pile is gradually getting smaller because I have made a conscious choice and a conscious effort to multi-task – peruse a few yellowing pages as I clean out the kitty litter trays. I don't actually read these papers – the news is far too old and won't serve me in the slightest except to add to more information overload. But I grab two or three double pages from a broadsheet, do a quick scan and then either rip out an interesting photo story or just shovel piles of cat poop on top of it and wrap up the bundle as one would a serving of fish and chips and then throw it into the trash. In truth if I wanted to clear this backlog quickly, I would need to dedicate about three entire weeks to the task – time I can ill afford. So, I am doing it piecemeal over a long period of time. This should work in theory unless I keep piling new stuff onto it. To prevent this from occurring I have taken a new vow – read the papers within the week of release or turf them out. Now ... if we could only get Jozef to start working on his stuff what a perfect world it would be!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comic Book Tattoo

I received my copy of Comic Book Tattoo yesterday afternoon, the Tori Amos inspired anthology featuring the best comics creators in the business. I ordered it from Amazon (with a second copy for Jozef as a belated birthday present) about a fortnight ago. It's bloody HUGE! And sumptuous! I love the girlie pastel colours on the cover and the laminated texture of the driving goggles. If you're a bloke don't let that dissuade you from the rest of the book –  the styles and genres of each short story vary tremendously. There's something in it for everyone. Kudos to Image Comics for this extraordinary production. There's a lot of love and passion in this book.

I won't have a chance to sit down and read it till next week but the first thing I did was flick through with great excitement to find Colleen Doran's artwork, which quite frankly is brilliant. She knows how to artistically reinvent herself with each new illustrated work she does. She also has the ability to give her art either a feminine or masculine sensibility depending on what is required from the story (contrast Orbiter with a work to swoon to such Anne Rice's The Master of Rampling Gate). This particular Comic Book Tattoo piece entitled "Pretty Good Year" which was written by Derek McCulloch is so fresh and original. I especially love the January page that sets the mood for the entire story, and then April, August and lastly December with its eye-popping red. The last panel on the November page is my favourite – the green eye colour on the girl character is stunning and softly contrasts with the purple tones around it. The emotion behind those eyes is raw and haunting – I truly feel the grief. Outside of what I've mentioned above, there are several things I really appreciate about Colleen's work. One is that she has an extraordinary attention to detail (check out costuming and architecture in A Distant Soil). Secondly, she can cross genres quite comfortably and seamlessly (check out her manga work and the delicacy of her Lord of the Rings illustrative work), and thirdly, and most personally important to me, is that she knows how to get her characters to act. Check out her tragically beautiful Spiderman short story written by Peter David about the homeless girl, which absolutely reduces me to tears. I'd be buying CBT if I were you and going online to buy up big on Colleen's original artwork.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Wonderful Gay Purr-ee

I have lots of animals on the farm as you know, including 18 cats (10 domestic and 8 feral). I'm going on record here to say the domestic ones are desexed or in the process of getting desexed, and I am gradually catching the wild ones for the same purpose with the cages lent by the local chapter of the Animal Welfare League. One of the wonders of having animals is getting to know their distinct personalities, idiosyncrasies and behaviour. I watch the way they walk and move in a way an animator might watch animals to embody their essence in drawings. As a child I remember the flouncy provocative walk of Peg, the dog (voiced by Peggy Lee) in Disney's Lady and the Tramp I see a similar movement in our big white cat Snow, who puts one paw in front of the other with a little side to side hip tilt that makes him look like the feline version of a runway model. 

I got thinking about other animated films with animals as their leading characters – The Lion King and The Aristocats are obvious ones. And then I remembered a film I had seen as a kid on various leisurely Sunday afternoons before sports took over our channels on the weekends. It was called Gay Purr-ee – it was about a farm cat called Mewsette (voiced by Judy Garland) who is bored of the countryside and is lured by the promise of romance and adventure to Paris. The male cat Jaune Tome (voice by Robert Goulet) who loves her, follows and ultimately saves her from self destruction as she is unwittingly groomed by a villainous con-cat and a madam to become a courtesan for a rich American cat. Thought you might want to take a look (also check out other clips on YouTube). In the meantime, I'm going to hunt it up for Christmas for myself and Jozef ... please don't tell him!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Word of the Year

I'm not a 'word of the day' or even a 'word of the week' kind of person but occasionally I do come across new words that intrigue me and which I add to my writer's repertoire. I look them up then promptly lock them away in my memory until such time they can be used in an appropriate context either in writing or in speech. Words have their own unique energy and can activate various responses within people when the conscious act of reading invokes the subconscious processes of the imagination via the internal sensory (visual, auditory, kinesthetic and even gustatory and olfactory) representations which were brought to the attention of the therapy community and the general population during the 70s and 80s via NLP. Reading Perfume for instance, the brilliant novel by Patrick Süskind (whose German surname literally translates into 'sweet child') was an act of relating to the characters by wakening the sense of smell. 

Part of the challenge and the craft of writing is to find the right word to describe things – you can have a long list of synonyms but essentially only one or two of them are usually appropriate to get the effect you desire, which is why some writers (especially literary writers and poets) go through slow torture as they labour through their thesaurus's and dictionaries to find the exact words needed to lift their metaphors and similes into the stratosphere of beauty and originality as well as to create the right image, rhythm, balance, meaning... 

But I digress as I usually do in these posts. Ah, you know me well dear blog readers!!! My word of the year is 'entelechy'. I first heard the amazing Jean Houston who works in the field of human potential, use it in a presentation she did a few years ago. In truth, I thought she had invented it. However, just the other day I read one of her articles and low and behold there was that word again – 'entelechy'. Now that I knew how to spell it I could look it up. Here is the meaning I found on my Mac dashboard dictionary –
Philosophy - realization of potential; the supposed vital principle that guides the development and functioning of an organism or other system or organization; the soul.
I like it. It makes me think deeply about the core of its meaning, and moreover, whether I'll ever get to use the word with honour rather than frivolously for the pure sport of it. How strange is it that I should be so entranced by a word as I 'teeter ', no 'hobble', no 'totter', no 'stagger', no 'stumble' away from my computer on my sore ankle...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Million Dollar Mermaid and More

Speaking of Howard Keel, I remembered he starred as Hannibal in a musical comedy called Jupiter's Darling with the incomparable human-mermaid Esther Williams (I swear she reincarnated from the real thing). There's a scene where she escapes from some bad guys by jumping off a cliff into the sea below. She then performs one of her famous underwater ballet sequences, although from memory it was closer to an underwater swimming chase scene (the last time I saw the film was about twenty years ago). I couldn't find the appropriate footage on the Internet to show you, but thought that the uninitiated and younger ones amongst you might want to glimpse the wonderful MGM watery world of Esther through another appropriate substitute. Enjoy!

Spring Spring Spring!

That's the title of a song from one of my all time favourite musicals – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which was directed by Stanley Donan with amazing choreography by Michael Kidd (I loved the barn raising sequence). Always thought Howard Keel was the most manliest of men of the musical theatre along with the incredible and terribly sexy Gene Kelly who was not in that particular movie. I also thought the second brother Benjamin (played by Jeff Richards who I just found out was a professional minor league baseball player as well as actor) was the handsomest of the seven brothers. He ended up with gorgeous and sultry Julie Newmar whose character name – Dorcas – was anything but feminine (Newmar later went on to play Catwoman in the Batman television series with Adam West). But what a diversion ... I just want to say that the weather here is sunny and gorgeous and very welcome after a particularly cold and biting winter – even parts of the Blue Mountains had snow (Australians are such wimps when it comes to cold weather). Anyway, looking forward to swimming again ... I am a water baby at heart after all.