Monthly Archives: September 2005

what colour is your city?

new zealand kingfisher image from www.fotomagic.chWalking at lunchtime, working out the ache after sitting too long in a long (but interesting) meeting, I became aware of the colours around me. I decided the colour of our city was terracotta (and shades thereof) and blue. Cerulean. Like the colours of the kotare – the kingfisher. I really like the colour combinations, especially when blended nicely with the pearl coloured light we sometimes get here.

I lived for a while in London and I think the colours of London are red and black. Not everything in London is red and black, of course, but to me there is a recurring theme – a kind of musical beat of red and black, with other colours playing their role in the orchestration.

The Key to The Name of the Rose : Including Translations of All Non-English PassagesI think Umberto Eco would try to convince me that this day dreaming in a haze of colour represents a subconscious attraction to the medieval – a quest for our roots. He argues we’ve been questing for the Middle Ages since the late fifteenth century. That’s when they ended. I think the middle ages start the day you turn 18, but then I don’t have a book about medieval monks to try to sell. Yet. I think Umberto is stuck in a eurocentric time warp – out here on the rim I’m more worried about fire and ice, terracotta and cerulean.

What colour is your city?

blackbird update ii

beautiful blackbird image from Everything seems to be progressing along nicely. I haven’t seen any evidence of chickens as yet, and I don’t know what the incubation period is for blackbirds.

Or any other bird for that matter.

I do know how long it takes to write a haiku – just a moment (after a lifetime of consideration)…

prošao pljusak
kos na ogradi stresa
mokro perje

thunder storm over
a blackbird on the fence
ruffles wet feathers

By Ružica Mokos, from Zagreb, Croatia, in Lishanu, an interlingual haiku journal.

concrete poetry

image from to the wikipedia’s definition, concrete poetry is poetry in which the typographical arrangement of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the conventional elements of the poem, such as meaning of words, rhythm, rhyme and so on.

I love this city, the hills, the harbour, the wind that blasts through it. I love the life and pulse and acivity, and the warm decrepitude… there’s always an edge here that one must walk which is sharp and precarious, requiring vigilance.

Patricia Grace

map from - the wellinton writer's walkDown on Wellington’s waterfront, now a wonderful fusion of natural scenery and urban structures, there is a walk which is marked at various points by a series of large, concrete, typographic ‘text sculptures’ designed by Catherine Griffiths. Each sculpture contains a quote by a well-known New Zealand writer with strong Wellington connections.

The walk currently celebrates the work of 11 writers; Katherine Mansfield, James K Baxter, Robin Hyde, Bill Manhire, Bruce Mason, Patricia Grace, Maurice Gee, Patrick (Pat) Lawlor, Vincent O’Sullivan, Lauris Edmond, and Denis Glover.

exploring marginalia

You don’t have to love Wellington in the early evening, but it’s easy to.

Wellington goes on in the edges and margins in my life. I march on through dealing (or not) with the offerings of the day in whatever way I can. Somtimes (well, most days) I write – here and/or in my journals. I draw (not often enough) or take photos – more now with the digital camera solving that scanner step. But at each stage, Wellington is the present (and forseeable) canvas. There are smaller canvases, more limiting horizons, worse weather, duller people, and harsher work potentials – it’s not that I haven’t experienced them here, but very much moreso elsewhere. Wellington, I feel, offers an updraft for the creative spirit. It’s ok to be creative here, other places I’ve lived I was (and so were others) creative in defiance of the milieu.

So the notes I make here, and the images, are my marginalia – my notes in the margins on my life here in tumeke Poneke. And most days that feels pretty good.

blackbird update

three blackbird eggs in the nest There’s been some degree of nervousness on my part – I suppose all expectant fathers feel the same way. The blackbirds weren’t seen around the nest for some time – at least a week I would guess. It was hard to tell because anything can happen while I’m at work of course. I’d noticed a new cat in the neighbourhood and I’d reached a level of concern that the parents might’ve been frightened off the nest, or even worse – they weren’t to been seen anywhere either. I did hold some hope because the nest was intact, and it stayed that way, even though there are plenty of sparrows wanting to get nesting materials.

Last Sunday I noticed the hen bird was sitting on the nest – I ran around the house finding both sets of binoculars, and the camera. I didn’t want to lumber out and scare the hen the way I’d feared the cat had. The photos I took were dreadful – a brown smudge in a triumph of greenery – a perfect demonstration of the concealment of the nest.

Finally the hen left the nest – put some money in the parking meter – who knows. I managed to go to the nest and get photos of the eggs, without disturbing the hen. Three eggs, greeny-blue, with purpley-brown speckles. Not striking like the sky-blue of thrush eggs, rather more subdued.

I’m assuming now that the nest had been left for the week after completion for the mud to dry, or perhaps the couple had a contract to complete elsewhere, or a quick trip to Rarotonga for some RnR before the baby-making got serious. All I know is I’m really pleased to see the eggs and the nest and the family in the making.

My version of Wallace Stevens’s haiku:

I was of three minds,
Like a nest
In which there are three blackbirds.

Speaking of family, one of my must-read bloggers, Trevor Romain, has illustrated one of my favorite songs.

bored with your husband

Someone asked what should they do – they were bored with their husband. At first I didn’t know what to suggest – I’m a husband myself, and so what would I know about these issues? Then I decided to give it some thoughts and offer them here. You don’t have to take my comments to heart, you could click off…

First, you’re bored. Lucky you. I’m so envious. Boredom means you don’t have to take any responsibility for whatever situation you find yourself in. Teens often claim to be bored. They are. They’re spoonfed and don’t have to worry about where the next meal’s coming from, and they didn’t have to clean up after the last. Lucky them. When I hear someone is bored I’m envious. I’m not bored with dining out – it’s a meal I can just sit down and enjoy – someone else has done every single step – I just have to enjoy it. That’s pretty thrilling to me, actually, and still a treat.

Stop playing the ennui card, darling, you’re not that precious.

If you and your husband were working on a project together you wouldn’t be bored. Find out something you want to do together and do it. Sell off all your pointless and unimpressive crap and use it to fund your charitable project saving the children from illiteracy or malnutrition or disease. In other words, do something impressive and worthwhile. Make a contribution of your heart – something other than the cheap way out – money. There’s a link on the right hand side of this blog to Trevor Romain’s blog. I’m not sure if there is a Mrs Romain, but I imagine she doesn’t find her husband boring.

You’re bored with your husband. Why? Because you know everything about him, right? Of course you do. Write down 100 things about him, using not less than 500 words per thing. Can you get beyond 10 things? It’s not that’s he’s so all-fired boring, it’s that you can’t write. Don’t sit there reading this blog, get off your grand canyon and take a writing course. If you have managed to reach 100 things, bind up the book and give it to him as a gift. Send a copy off to the local university and see if you can get credit for a Masters or PhD.

You can’t be bothered? Too much like work? Of course. You’d have to give up being bored and participate and goodness knows, we couldn’t have that now, could we?

In truth, you might think you know someone, but you don’t. Oh, you do. You’re special. Good for you. Get out your paper and pencils and draw 100 portraits of your husband from memory. Develop the best 25 into paintings, frame them, and get some public exhibition space and hang one on. Have a grand opening, and invite your husband along.

Make a series of cds of your husband’s top 100 favorite songs, in order. You know what they all are because you’re bored with him. Better still, write and record 100 songs in honour of his bordeom. If you sing them in country and western style they’ll be great. To count you’ll need to hear them played on the radio. Don’t stop until you do.

Write a blog about how earthshatteringly boring he is. Don’t you dare miss a day. If there’s really nothing to say about him, write about him morning, noon, and night. A year later there’d better be not less than 365 postings. Why wait, most blogs allow you to post retro, so you could blog his boredom for the last year. That’d be impressive. Promote your book and music there.

Write about the dreams he has left. Write about the dreams he had when you first met. Write about the dreams he left behind when you first met. Write about how you helped him achieve some dreams and how you worked together to reset bigger goals as the smaller ones were achieved. Write about how you’re working together to achieve new meaningful goals, for your good and the good of humanity at large. You have worked together to achieve his dreams haven’t you? Keeping out of his way and popping another chocolate in your mouth isn’t working together to achieve his dreams, by the way. Write about what you did when you achieved goals and dreams together.

Write about what attracted you to him in the first place. Could it be that you were perfectly matched? A human is just a gene’s way of making a new gene. You were attracted because your genes wanted to get together with his genes…

When you’ve done all this, write a book and teach some classes on how to deal with boredom caused by your husband. Start locally, but don’t stop until you’ve taught both nationwide and not less than five countries where they don’t speak your language and you have to use a translator. Promote your classes through your blog.

And at the end of all the creativity, beauty, and work you’ve done for meaningful charities, if you think your husband is still gob-smackingly boring and you just can’t stand it any more, why don’t you take some of the money you’ve made from selling the portraits and drawings, and the royalties from the books you’ve written and promoted so wonderfully in your blog and through your classes, and you’re now all famous and probably not as boring as YOU once were, and spend some of the money on the man who made it all possible for you in the first instance?

Don’t try and reform him. Buy him a lawyer and some freedom. He deserves it for putting up with you.


014 – can’t get it up

One of the great frustrations in life, and I think one of the great character-builders that a person can face in life, is when you realise that what you love can’t get it up.

I’m not talking about sex here, although that might be true in your case. What I’m referring to here is when you have had a chance to explore an activity which you love doing, but it can’t earn you a decent living. I have seen it often in others, and know it from my own experience – the things I love doing can’t get it up – they don’t earn me a living.

This becomes slightly more frustrating when you see someone else doing exactly what you’d like to do and some how – miracle of miracles – they’re earning a living from it. What completely drives me to the point of intense character building is when I see someone doing it badly, but still managing to stay in business.

And if it is a job or business I’ve personally been involved in, particularly if it is one I’ve worked hard in to stay in – just don’t ask.

Althought there are books about ‘do what you love and the universe will reward you with cash’ I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling somehow cheated and at the least, annoyed, because someone is doing badly what you’d like to do well. And somehow it works for them. I can remember as a kid, my brother’s friend talking about a mutual acquaintence of theirs, and how something had gone well for the individual – Terry’s rueful comment was – ‘It always happens for the people you hate’. He only slightly laughed.

Like many people I’ve given up doing many of the things I love doing, and things I’m good at doing, in order to earn a living. I think everyone has a gift of some kind – something they can do particularly effortlessly, or simply just works for them. Lucky the person who has been able to convert that skill, talent, or gift – call it what you will – into a cash generating activity. But most don’t have that lucky knack.

So people try to manage this – it becomes character building – to balance up the economic needs with the emotional, spiritual, heart-of-heart needs. Desire lines and maps – I see this as the ideal concept of earning a living. When you can follow and do what you do naturally and well.

Sadly, for most people, the need to earn money outweighs the natural flow.


grindstone cowboy

In Lambton Square, checking out the dulcet tones of the checkout chick in Subway (previously blogged at eatWell(ington)), leaving with my six inches toasted…over the speakers, Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’. I was transported back more years than I thought possible. My father had organised a family reunion at home, and some of my cousins who were older than me brought records to supply music. They probably knew well that we wouldn’t have had anything hip and trendy. My cousins were kind enough – I was amazed by their generosity at the time – to lend me their records for a week. I recalled one of the 45’s was that Glen Campbell song. I played it, and others they brought, over and over on the radiogram. Radiogram. Like a stereo, but made of wood with one large, all encompassing speaker.

It wasn’t our radiogram – I don’t know exactly who it belonged to, but I know there were records (LP’s) stored in the cupboard underneath. I seem to recall a Leontyne Price LP (I can’t imagine why), and definitely Beethoven’s Eroica (probably Karajan’s).

I’m often transported by music – sometimes, as in this case, to a specific time and place. I can often recall exactly what I was wearing, other sounds and smells. The scene is complete.

I wondered, as I wandered back to the grindstone, if Glen Campbell has now been re-encoded in my sound storage facility, in the 21st century…I felt quite ‘homesick’ for the simpler times, and grateful for my cousin’s generosity of spirit – they’ll probably never know what a difference that simple act made decades later.


I am number two, you are number six!

As time went by I wondered about the nature of blogging. Was it ‘genuine’ writing? I have no idea what genuine writing is. It is writing, so it might be genuine. I saw it on the internet so it MUST be true. Right?

I asked a librarian friend whether it was possible to get an ISSN number for my blog. She didn’t know. A search turned up the Australian National Library and the online form to apply for an ISSN number, including indications that a digital publication was acceptable. Without further ado, I did. A couple of days later I received quite a snotty note saying “Beee-loooggggs??? We don’t do beeeeloogggs around here laddie.” I took this to mean no, and sent back an equally curt note suggesting they could save everyone’s time if they put a little note on their form to the effect that they don’t do blogs. I received no reply.

Meanwhile, my librarian friend thought blogs were a rather cool idea, and ISSNs for blogs was a very interesting idea, and has asked a couple of her colleagues at the New Zealand National Library about blogs and ISSNs.

The International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) Librarian at National Library of New Zealand wrote: Blogs are technically serials – serials being publications issued in successive parts, with each part identified by a number and/or date, bearing a common title, and intended to continue indefinitely. Some blogs fall outside this definition due to a lack of a numbering/dating system, but generally they are serials.

According to the National Library’s current guidelines for ISSN assignment, they do not assign ISSN to weblogs. These guidelines are in line with those laid down by the international ISSN community, which among other things specifically exclude assigning ISSN to “personal or organisational homepages (including weblogs and diaries)”.

Their guidelines also preclude the assignment of ISSN to serials (print or electronic) where each issue is not at least 4 A4 pages or equivalent – blogs tend not to meet this requirement.

The Director, Collection Services at National Library wrote – the ISSN International Centre’s position is as follows:

“Are ISSN assigned to electronic publications?”

Yes, ISSN are assigned to electronic publications as far as they are serials or other continuing resources. However commercial web sites, personal weblogs and web pages, web pages which contain only links to other URLs are not eligible for ISSN.

Webblogs would be covered by legal deposit when the electronic provisions in the 2003 Act come into force. This will occur three month’s after the Electronic Documents Requirement Notice is issued, which is expected to occur in the last quarter of 2005.

However, the National Library have always said that they will be selective about what electronic doucments they add to their collections. It is not imagined though, that personal webblogs will be the first electronic documents that the Alexander Turnbull Library selectors choose. Of course if it’s not a personal webblog that may be a different matter altogether. Personal webblogs will be gathered up when the national library does a whole of domain name harvest. They do not yet have a date for doing that.

Interesting. I’m not sure what a blog is if it’s not personal. I’m also not sure what a domain name harvest is either, but I suspect I don’t like it. I think the simplest, clearest and best answer is – ‘Is this equal to four A4 pages?’ If yes then ISSN, if no, then blog, baby blog.

I’ve reached the stage, however, where I’ve moved on with wanting (neeeeeding – rhymes with pleeeeeading) an ISSN number. Has a more than slight feeling of collapsing into respectability and the next hideous step will be the accountants will come knocking and what happened to the ‘net will happen to blogs. The lithe will have moved on, of course, but I would’ve liked to blog a tad longer. I don’t want to be a mainstream writer in this context. Blogs should be about being free to publish as and what we see fit and having a readership of one person. And maybe your mother. And, as Mark Bernstein pointed out at Blogtalk Downunder, that’s ok, you should write to your mother more.

Nett result is, I now don’t want my blogs to have an ISSN number. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, de-briefed or numbered!

to have and to hold

Terence’s folks had three china pheasants flying up the wall of their small living room. No ducks for these people, they were suburban aspirers. Terence was my school mate, and I’m not mocking their small house, it’s just they were universally large people, and their small house must’ve needed love and patience in abundance. I’m not sure that there was any abundance – it was always a slightly tense atmosphere – which I always put down to just my normal feeling uncomfortable with strangers.

Getting back to the pheasants, sitting in the living room one day with Terence watching tv – which was in itself unusual, it meant his folks were away somewhere – my eye was drawn to the pheasants. Something was weird, but I couldn’t quite figure it out. On closer examination I found that the biggest pheasant had been broken into a number of pieces, and glued back together. The overall effect was like looking at a pheasant with the Cubism filter slightly on. Terence admitted the pheasant had fallen victim to an unexpectedly accurate rubber band…

Philipp Blom writes about kitsch and its collectors in To Have and to Hold, along with a plethora of other collecting fetishes. I’ve commented before I’m not particularly oriented to collecting, and Blom is an inspiration not to start.

He does have a chapter dedicated to book collectors – bibliomaniacs – people for whom the idea of buying two copies of every book is reasonable – one to read, one to collect. Um, this is something I can understand. He writes about the collector who got a bigger house to manage his ever expanding book collection – this doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. If memory serves me right, this is the same collection that is working through the auction houses 170+ years after the collector’s death. Some of the books are still in the cases they were delivered in – never opened, never read. Now, at this point, this bibliophile and I part company – what’s the point of having a book and not reading it?

I believe you should never fear to read a book and I’ve always been determined to take whatever book I could borrow from a library and read it – without fear or favour. The idea of ‘forbidden’ books is something of a horror to me (and an enticement to read them). I really like a quote Blom included:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth, and returneth not, this book from the owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails, and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.

Curse on book thieves from the library of the Monastery of San Pedro, Barcelona

I’m sad when I remember my friend, Terence. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on Xmas Day, 2001, at about 5:30 in the morning, going home to his partner and kids after working through the night so he could spend the whole day with his loved ones. After somewhat empty childhood and teenage years he deserved love, and life, longer.