Category Archives: inspirations

fresh new day

There’s been a flurry of working going on over at our new initiative, Fresh New Day. Marica and I have begun creating a document of our everyday world – using photography and writing to learn more, notice more, to explore the local and immediate in greater depth.

I’m very interested in the cosmic in the commonplace. I’m looking forward to making numerous photographs through the year, hopefully elevating the familiar with insight and inspiration. I can’t wait.

So far it’s been fun (and funny) as Marica and I are generally not discussing the images and the words before we publish them, and so reading and viewing each other’s day brings surprise and laughter as we see what’s caught our eye. It’s been interesting to see colour and design commonalities as well – but from very, very different perspectives.

You can get an update on our photos by clicking on the ‘fresh new day’ tab (above), or get the hot off the press images and writing at Fresh New Day HQ.

the good old days

I recently caught up with a former student (Hi Floyd) and I was ranting about how cool the technologies are today – no more wrecking backs and knees lugging heavy video cameras and such around. I can get almost the same quality video from my little point-and-shoot Fuji still camera as I ever did from a 3-tube, and in terms of editing, Quicktime and Movie Maker can give me pinpoint accurate editing and still have $20k in my pocket compared with the old edit suites. I could just about be drawn back into teaching again. Just about…

The difference, though, that really makes a difference these days is the ability to communicate – around the room, around the corner, around the world. And even though that’s what my Masters is in, it still makes me shake my head in amazement and delight – I love it when it works, especially when connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways.

Here’s an example:

A few weeks ago I was wondering what it would be like to have a pet hyena.

image from http://www.pieterhugo.com/ Well, you do, don’t you. Except I don’t have Conan-sized biceps and I decided that a beast that size would probably knock stuff off the coffee table and shed everywhere and generally be – well – beastly. Cool, yes, beastly, undoubtedly. Damn useful, though, if I ever went back teaching. You need a good laugh when you work with people who find themselves unemployed.

The photo, by the way, by Pieter Hugo – the story behind the photos is great, and has given rise to ‘My baboon is feeling nervous’.

I digress. I decided a different kind of animal might be the order of the day, and after clicking around blog rolls and the net, I ended up falling in love with My Pal Walter. Who wouldn’t want a giant tortoise for a pal?

I thought Walter, and his pal, David Palumbo, were just the best thing, and I was moved to discover a little more by reading David’s profile. Turns out he’s an illustrator from Philadelphia, USA. And he (of course) presents some of his ideas, paintings, and sketches in an online portfolio. Using technology to communicate that’s called.

image by David Palumbo - davepalumbo.blogspot.comIn addition to the science fiction-y / fantasy type illustrations – book covers and the like, David does a fine line of erotic postcards. I’m not 100% sure if they’re erotic – they’re certainly beautifully illustrated with young women at various states of undress, however if you look at my drawings of nekkid chicks they’re anything but erotic. Perhaps it’s because I don’t draw as well as David.

An aside: horrors, I note I haven’t drawn since 2007, and some of the works from then are pretty odd and awful. I firmly believe it takes 10,000 hours to learn how to do something – I’d guess about another 9,995 hours are needed urgently.

As a warm-up exercise before working on his commissioned work, David began creating small postcard-sized paintings. What started out as a fun daily practice has turned into a new passion, and before you knew it, a book was born and a new web site, Quickie, was launched.

As part of the promo for the book David posted on his blog that he would give away prints of the postcards as – wait for it – postcards. If you sent him an address he’d send you a card. I figured there’d be none left or any other excuse I could come up with to explain why I wouldn’t get a card, however, to my complete delight a card duly arrived – signed by the artist himself – what a joy! The image is the one above – some chick removing purloined y-fronts. Hmmm, now there’s an interesting story…

MYOBBack to loving how connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways … way, way back when I designed and ran a Government funded business course for the YMCA (well, someone needed to get the profits and, as a not-for-profit, the Y was second to none in terms of taking profit).

There was no money to promote the course (of course) so I created a series of posters shamelessly re-appropriated from appropriated art and when no one was around fired them off through the Y’s copier, and posted them across town. Most were not coloured (this was in the days before cheap colour copiers), however I sat down with my coloured pencils and did a few for fun.

My friend Floyd rocked up to do the course – “I saw the posters and figured you’d probably have something to do this kind of carry on.” We got on with the course – Floyd pursued other fields, I went on to work with another oppressed minority group, the terminally rich.

The core image (with Gordon and Cynthia) was, I believe, created by Boris Vallejo – part of his Conan portfolio. The vulture (not by Boris) on the left says, “Oh well, I spose we better clean up Jenny.” The vulture on the right replies, “Yeah, else she’ll stain the carpets and stink up the place.” Jenny? Jenny Shipley, then minister of social welfare, and definitely not someone you’d want to take home to meet your parents, unless they were rabid National voters. Despite Gordan’s sovereign efforts, Jenny received her knighthood today. So much for the carpet.

And the connection? Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell turn out to be David Palumbo’s parents. I love how blogging allows us to make connections, to weave old stories in with the new – our world is hundreds of times richer and with far greater potential than it was 20 years ago. The real changes are not new minerals or whatever, rather something not only sustainable, but something increasingly available – human intercommunication and sharing of ideas.

Happy 200th birthday, Charles

Charles Darwin turns 200 today. My hero. After all these years he’s as provocative as ever. Definitely who I would invite if I could invite six people from anywhere (or any when) in history to have dinner with. Not sure what I’d make for dinner, but very clear about the invites.

Life, changing

Christina's World
Christina’s World Art Print
Wyeth, Andrew
36 in. x 28.75 in.
Buy at AllPosters.com
Framed   Mounted

The first writing of the new brings no comfort at all. I was saddened to read of the passing of Andrew Wyeth noted by James Gurney, and then in the NYTimes. It’s always interesting to me how little things can change lives – and it was seeing the work, Christina’s World (above) that set me on a more creative path than I perhaps would’ve walked otherwise. I saw Wyeth’s work – reproductions rather than originals – in the 1970s and I was struck by the strange (yet familiar) isolation the images conveyed. It’s difficult for me to express how these sparse images are so evocative – I can all but hear the susurration of grasses, the soft ‘flumph’ of curtains pulled over the window frame to flap in the breeze, the ringing of silence. ‘Atmospheric’ doesn’t capture the almost surrealistic detail – and yet, when you look, no details, just scratchy brush marks. Wonderful.

My favorite work is ‘Wind from the Sea‘. Strangely haunting, I’ve only ever seen the painting by way of reproductions, most no larger than the link. I frequently think of this image, and before today the memory of it has somehow enticed me buy property near the sea – pursuing the empty promises of imagined realities. Who knows what are the sources of motivation?

no writing. reading only.

One of the nervous moments people experience is the thought of their parents – you know – doing it. Not doing it, doing IT. Somehow the thought of our grandparents doing it isn’t so bad, and great grandparents – well, no one thinks about it. The ‘it’ I’m writing about is keeping a blog – a journal – a diary. What if we found our parents had kept a diary – oh horrors – what would it contain? And meanwhile we write like creatures possessed and think this online stuff is all new and exciting. We are the first generation to share our intimate (sometimes TOO intimate) thoughts with the rest of the globe. You know who you are.

My life, it seems, lately, has involved no writing here. I’ve been writing elsewhere, and now, slutty reader that I am, reading elsewhere too. Honestly, no shame, I’ll read anything. It’s not as though I’m addicted, I could give up at any time. I’ve found this new haibun/haiku writer – can you guess who is the author?

Drizzly.
  Dense mist in evening.
Yellow moon.

Hey, good for you – I would never have guessed George Orwell. Yes, that George Orwell. George has started to publish his diaries online. And the haibun/haiku is from August 10, 1938. Makes me think George would’ve been a first class writer using Twitter.

There’s something addictive to reading George’s writing – he’s as attracted to (or at least documents) the banal and mundane as the rest of us – he would’ve been a blogger or tweeter or whatever as much as anyone else these days, except, of course, it’s 70 years ago. Startling. Addictive. And when he’s got his writing going on, baby, it’s going on.

goldfish dreaming

Inclinations - buy this print from AllPosters.comLast night I dreamed about goldfish, in our pond, yes, the one by our front door. Huge goldfish – koi – rather than goldfish, to be more precise. The pond was full of flowering lilies and other aquatic plants. I couldn’t get over how happy and vibrant the fish were – they were just having the time of their lives. It was as though they were all smiling and generally loving life. Don’t tell me, I know, fish don’t smile. But these ones were just acting as though, ‘Oh yeah, baby, we got it going on, and yeah, you th’ man’.

We don’t have koi (calm down, biosecurity) – however based on my dream, the thought of koi is something rather wonderful, and I’d be most happy to attract more of that positive, happy energy; thank you.

Everyone has something to learn, everyone has something to teach

Way, way back in the 1970s – yep, I had flared trousers and pet dinosaur – I was interested in what we called ‘learning exchanges’. The concept is simple enough. I know how to put in a fish pond and water garden, you know how to write ruby on rails, we get together and swap/share the information. Money may, or may not, change hands. Generally not – the concept was ‘exchange’. Barter.

The weak link in the chain (especially in the 70s) was how to let people know what was available to learn, and what could they offer to teach. The School of Everything has attempted to address this using a Drupal implementation. It’s sort of a cross between a crappy poster in the supermarket for piano lessons and the labour exchange.

School of Everything is a site where teachers can advertise, and everyone can browse for someone to teach what they’re looking for.

It’s free to use, whether you’re teaching, learning or both. To contact teachers or advertise your own teaching, all you have to do is register.

Limitations: UK only (at the moment), teaching is not for free. Not entirely limiting however, and it’s great to see a web-2 variation/inspiration on an old idea.

thick as a brick…

…but not as tasty. Manuals, that’s what we’re talking about here. Manuals. How to do it, be it, make it, fake it, break it, hack it, fix it – the list goes on. But oh, if only the zen masters could be engaged in writing manuals for the rest of us. Short. Simple. A haiku that explains everything you need to know about the patch for Vista. Ha! As if – SP1 for Vista – a blistering 1Gb of remedial patching…imagine how chunky that manual will be…

If only there were no thick manuals.

Huzzah!

stuck in the boondocks?

Ok. So you’re stuck in the boondocks and yet, weirdly, you have a call, if not a burn to learn stuff. Oh, how I know the feeling. And you and I both know that Tim Berners-Lee and Noam Chomsky are not going to do a double act down the pub on Friday night. So what do you do? You’ve burned the local library out (both books), bought a beer for the one bright light in boondockville, and now… and now?

Well, good news. Now you can check out lectures by and interviews with some of the world’s leading lights, not at the local pub, to be sure, but right here at videolectures.net. Oh yeah, Chomsky’s going to be there, as will Tim (that’d be Sir Timothy) Berners-Lee.

When you find a spark of the burn to learn, even in the boondocks, the best thing anyone can do is pour on petrol and back up apiece.

postmodern hand lens

pomo-lensI read somewhere that 80% of all scientific research can be done with the naked eye, and of the remaining, 80% of that can be done with a hand lens. This is not a hand lens, nor is it an image of a hand lens, you sneeky Magritte fan you. It’s a picture of my memory stick. You can buy a 1gb memory stick like this for around $NZ30 – yes, I know, you can get them bigger and cheaper – but for the price of a couple of coffees and bit of a snack you can have a portable research tool that a few years ago was unimaginable.

Here’s how to make your pomo hand lens:

First catch a nice fresh memory stick. A 1gb is sufficient, you can get by with smaller, even down to the 250mb size – but why scrimp?

Next, surf off to portableapps.com, and grab the PortableApps Suite. Or, do as I did, get the PortableApps Lite – I’m try to keep my weight down, so less is more. Follow the install instructions and install PortableApps on your memory stick. If there’s a chance you’ll be using your memory stick on some antique (pre-xp) computer, remember to grab the patch. Without the patch the PortableApps won’t work, but the subapplications – Firefox portable is the application I was interested in – work fine.

Make sure you download and install Firefox portable. Check everything is working, don’t be loading the fox off your hard drive and thinking everything is good.

Next go off to tiddlywiki.com and download the latest copy of a tiddlywiki. Make sure you save it to your memory stick.

Next, go to TiddlySnip and install the plugin/extension for Firefox. Do the configuration thing, linking the TiddlySnip to your on-memory stick tiddlywiki.

*Bing!* Job done. TiddlySnip allows you to surf to a web site, select a portion of text, right mouse button and scrapbook that snippet (with the url and references AND tags you select) to your now ever-expanding and ever increasing in value on-memory stick wiki. You go to the library? Do your thing. You go to work? Do your thing. You go anywhere? Do your thing. My memory stick has become more valuable to me now than a diary or a notebook ever was. If I was studying now I’d never spend time trying to find those lost references – in fact, I think I’d be building my thesis pretty much from the get go. Great tools. And all for half a dozen cups of coffee.