Monthly Archives: August 2006

star of the silver screen

I have been working on a commission lately and I always find it a challenge – more than that – I’ve never managed to successfully blend writing content, writing code, and creating art at the same time. It’s all or nothing. Betty Edwards writes about this in Color – the shift between left brain and right brain, and how the artist blending colours must make the shift back and forth while making discriminating choices between shades, tints, and tones.

On Saturday I did a runner from the arcane world of codes and web pages, off to a workshop Marcel was running on direct drawn screenprinting. Wellington was experiencing a legendary flow – not of an artistic kind, but of a rainfall kind, and the water flooding down the streets and into the gutters was astounding. My route to the venue was through the Aro Valley, and there were a number of small slips and land slumps – evidence that the land had more than had its fill of the rain.

At the workshop it was a very select group who’d braved the rain and the creativity was running as strong as the water. Marcel wasted no time in teaching – “Here, grab this, do that, give it a go, see what happens, the best stuff is random…”

Within minutes the first prints had been pulled and from there it was paper and colour and quick reflection followed by more works – by the end of play about four hours later we were all pretty drained – I’d produced a number of prints – in the end I’d gone past the idea of even direct drawn stencils, and was now working on screenprinting as an approach to monoprinting. I came away with some great raw materials for further enhancement by calligraphy – a very worthwhile experiment and learning exercise. Unpredictable results, and yet there was a measure of control – wonderful. One of the other participants produced some subtle yet richly coloured works that were just begging – at least to me – for some type and conversion into book covers. Very nice.

Screenprinting. A great way of spending a wet Saturday.

in the comfort zone

image from - Amber NovakThe Washington Post has recently (Sunday, August 6, 2006; Page N07) ran an article about my blog pal, Trevor Romain. Trevor is many things to many people. We first met at Blog Hui, March 2006. Our relationship quickly grew from guest speaker/conference organiser to good mates – quickly is something of an understatement – instantly is more accurate. Time spent with Trevor is something to treasure, as the people who attended the writer’s workshop Trevor ran the day after the Hui also found out.

The interesting thing about the article was that it highlighted Trevor’s ability to walk an even line between the maudlin and mundane.

That can either strike you as too much or just right, but it’s the kind of moment in which Trevor Romain thrives.

The subhead notes: Performer-Author Guides Kids Through The Harsh Realities Of Growing Up and while this is true, it misses another important aspect – we, as adults, don’t have all that many hot answers to bullies (or there’d be fewer in the workplace), to death and dying, to divorce, or any of the other daily horrors we deal with. Or perhaps you do. I must’ve been wagging school the day that was being taught. Trevor’s books and dvds provide a path for adults through the tough neighbourhoods as well.

How? Trevor strikes me as a guy who’s been up to the edge on the abyss – a number of times – and looked over, and come back to tell us what’s there. Not in a cheap and sensational frightening kind of a way, nor in a grim realistic way, but in a calm, and funny way. A comforting way. It’s still going to be frightening (because it’s new), and it’s still going to be realistic (because IT is happening), but there’s no reason why just because it’s serious it should be solemn. Laughing at the horror confronting us perhaps gives us the necessary sense of proportion and strength we need to go on to get in the comfort zone.

Thanks, WaPo, good article, strong writing by Spike Gillespie – clearly a journo who’s spent time with Trevor, and great image by Amber Novak.

reflecting on orange

pic from

God! Look at that guy. Could he be more cro-mangon?

he’s such a hobo

he’s scratching – urgh!

he’s got cooties – hah – wait’ll I tell Shona…

he wears a hoodie – a hoodie!

cute butt tho

he DID come to my concert

maybe he likes the oboe

as if…get a grip!

He’s probably just the cleaner.

Wonder if he’s single…

Nah. Probably not.

Cute tho.

Shy. Quiet.

Wonder if…

“Um. Excuse me…”

hope springs eternal…

Way back in May, I wrote about the Merchants of Misery. I concluded that people were motivated by misery – avoiding the stick was at least as strong a motivator as lurching for the carrot. Today I’ve realised that people are also strongly motivated by hope – again, not by the carrot, but the hope that there might be a carrot in the first place. I’ve started many jobs hoping the new would be better than the old. Many new days hoping today would be better than yesterday. I still hope for that.

There’s some debate about whether Pandora actually had hope in her box in the first instance, after she’d let the rest of the calamities go. Some scholars think the more accurate translation is that rather than hope, anticipation of misfortune is what was left. Anticipation of misfortune? Oh, yay!

You can see the MIA (Men In Advertising – like the Men In Black but wierder and scarier) would have a field day with the promotion of hope. “Hope in a bottle”, as Elizabeth ‘Snake Oil’ Arden would say.

Here’s a quote from Selling Hope, No Help from the Oregon State University Extension Family and Community Development which translates the nutrition hope-speak nicely:

“Balance” your body’s chemistry, “strengthen” your immune system, “stimulate” your body’s ability to heal itself. These words are vague and cannot be measured. If they can’t be measured, how do you know you are feeling better? According to law, dietary supplements can use these kinds of words on labels as long as there are no claims to cure a disease.

Hey, I want to be balanced, strengthened, and stimulated. Who doesn’t?

I also want fabulous hair, a six pack of abs, genuine high speed internet, spunky car, world travel, world peace, world domination. Actually – little secret here – I want it all.

And I hope I get it.

the colour of color

View 'Color by Betty Edwards: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors' product details at AmazonOn rare occasions I open a book and within a few moments – a cursory glance really – the energy and expertise of the author bounds up to me. Not exactly like a hyperactive puppy, but something akin to that. Betty Edwards’ Color strikes a chord as I’m continuing to explore (and attempting to capture) the colours of my world.

I had felt the book might benefit from including suggestions for palettes for beginner artists. I’ve recently had the experience of buying some new aquarelles – and sorting through the range to get colours that looked like they’d work together took quite some time. Not an unpleasant time, mind you, but more authoritive advice would’ve been gratefully accepted. Marcel told me all I needed was (something like) two reds, four yellows, and four blues. Sounds reasonable, if I was in his league of expertise. I intend exploring the exercises included in Color, using my aquarelles rather than acrylics, and I’ll see where that takes me. And, of course Edwards presents a basic palette for acrylics, including black. It’s kind of (old) fashionable to not include black – after all some Impressionists eschewed black from their palettes, and therefore we should too. Yeah right. Edwards’s palette includes titanium white, ivory black, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium orange, cadmium red medium, alizarin crimson, cobalt violet, ultramarine blue, and permanent green – nine colours in total. She recommends ‘artist’ quality, not ‘student’ quality. Good idea. Start how you mean to go on.

For most people, myself included, art at school was something of a haphazard affair. You either got lucky somehow and taught yourself to deal with paint and subsequently colour, or you ended up with mud. I believe if the methods outlined in the book were applied to a young audience we’d end up with some highly colour literate people – and more of that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I believe that fact that we as a nation continue to churn kids through the education system without basic drawing and colour skills is yet another education tragedy. I guess I’m still clinging dodo-like to the concept that part of the role of compulsory education is to prepare (i.e. enrich, enable, empower) young people for the rest of their lives.

more about short stories…

I think one of the most pleasing things about the flurry of blogs is the number of people chosing to use them to write short stories. I love short stories – they at least don’t consume a vast amount of time before you find whether you like them or not. There have been a number of books I’ve cursed and thrown across the room – frustrated because I invested the time in some shallow or vile story, hanging on to the last moment, in the vain hope that they might come right in the end. Mark Bernstein wrote about this:

Writing and reading are hard work, but each starts with fun. If it’s not delighting you, why are you doing it?

It takes a lot to make me abandon a book. A voice in my head keeps telling me to persist, to work through it, not to waste the money. (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!)

View product details about The Mothman Prophecies at AmazonBut it’s not only the time saving that makes short stories work for me. A well crafted short story is like a sumi-e painting – all of the key points are there, and although there is white space, there is nothing left to the imagination. I’ve been enjoying Bob Boyd’s My Postcard Fiction. His take on the Mothman was great fun. Chris Carter, heads up!

no sandwich, just the cheese

link to 88.4 The CheeseI slip below for a few days and when I surface I find people have been madly creating and working like wild things. I’m thrilled to see Grant has got 88.4 The Cheese up and running online. Online. Streaming radio. The best part, from my perspective, is hearing Grant doing the weather. Yay! Much better than those *urgh* yanqui voiceclips. Sound bites. Just urgh.

I’ve had a link in the Side Bar (the watering hole for friends of marginalia) for a while, but now, a download of Winamp Lite, (link from 88.4 The Cheese), a quick install, and boof – the job’s done. My previous experience of online radio has been limited to trying to find Scriarbin on ConcertFM. Connecting up with something rather more modern (but perhaps less avante garde) was effortlesss. Smooth, Mr Thoms, very smooth.

just breathe

I haven’t written here for a while – it’s beginning to feel as though I’ve been holding my breath for days now. And now, surfacing, blowing out the air and gasping, sucking fresh air back in. There are two simple joys in life – getting fresh air into your lungs, and finally taking a pee if you haven’t been able to for a long time. I worked with a guy once who told of not having taken a pee for a number of years – he had been on dialysis – and then finally getting a kidney transplant – and eventually, oh, the simple joys…

I can’t hold my breath for very long – it’s a sign of not being overly fit, and a matter of training. It’s possible to learn to hold your breath for quite a long time. Tanya Streeter broke the world freediving record by holding her breath for some three minutes and 38 seconds – the time it took her to descend to 400ft and back to the surface. The world record for floating face-down in a swimming pool is held by Tom Sietas of Germany who stayed under for 8 minutes, 47 seconds. The world record for swimming underwater in a pool is held by Peter Pedersen of Denmark, who swam 200 meters (610 feet) without taking a breath.

So, what happens when you hold your breath? Your body starts to get short on oxygen – your blood normally runs at about 98% oxygen – and there’s a corresponding increase in the carbon dioxide levels. And of course, your body starts to moan – you get complaints from the stretch receptors around your lungs. The stretch receptors sense each breath and moan to your brain when one is a bit late in coming.

So, the secret to being able to hold your breath longer is to acquaint your receptors with the sensation of breath holding. You can do this by – ah – holding your breath. Who knew? Another way is to take long, slow, deep breaths through tightly pursed lips. Your lungs become stretched because of the time it takes for them to fill. This is part of the technique used by Tanya Streeter.

If you’ve decided to become a freediver, take it easy. It’s generally considered to be not exactly life enhancing if your blood oxygen gets below 80% – around the level found in people experiencing cardiac arrest. In light of this concern, perhaps I’ll just continue writing instead…

I have to admit it’s getting better…

There’s a good chance my writing here will be reduced over the next few days as we (Marica and I) take a few days out for planning an intensive project we’re working on. We’re very excited about the development of the project, and we’ll have more to say over the next few weeks and months. I hope I’ll get a chance to write a few words here, but there will be a great deal of effort being applied to the task at hand, and so most of the thinking and writing will be happening away from the online presence.

So, why not take this opportunity to check out the writing from the list of friends in the right-hand column, or better still, if you’re feeling creative, do a little drawing or writing yourself. Chat amongst yourselves, and, play nicely children.

feel the fear…

One of the things I’ve come to be disturbed about in my life is the realisation that having worked for a number of years, and prior to that there was the school years, just how long – how many years – I’ve spent living in fear. Not because of the real and valid fear that business would change and I’d be out of a job or some such reality, but because some manager or employer would’ve had their hand smacked the night before or not had a meaningful motion or something and then on their petulent whim you find yourself in fear.

I hate that.

I don’t know whether this is emotional intelligence or quite what the gabble words are, but I find it amazing how often I’ve felt bullied and abused by my employers (for employer that could be my manager, rather than the employer itself). It’s an HR nightmare, and a scandalous waste of resources such as time and money. We train people up to be skilled, and then the management is so vile that the staff move on, long before the investment has a chance to show any return. I’m not an accountant, but it seems financially irresponsible to me. I’ve worked in places where the staff turn is greater than 30% – i.e. 100% of the staff/corporate knowledge base departs every three years. Strangely, nothing ever seems to be said to the management.

If I was involved (which I’m not) in the performance evaluation of management, staff turnover would be a key performance indicator. The reason why the rats leave the ship is because they’re closer to the water, and can see it happening before the captain does. And does a captain go down with their ship these days?

I’m afraid not. At least not often.