Sunday, 29 January 2012

Take Me To The Farm

My uncle's farm is one of the most absurdly relaxing places I know of.

Any time spent there seems to somehow double and slow down.

You don't feel guilty about taking it easy the way you might if you were in your own home surrounded by projects and tasks you know you should be getting to.

And yet you always seem to get something done whether it's cooking, reading, walking, general arty craftiness, conversations you've been meaning to have, drawing...

In autumn we get together to gather chestnuts and bring cheese, meats, marinated vegetables, fresh breads, tarts, pastas, bakes, sweet biscuits, hot drinks, cool drinks and other assorted items to share in a huge communal meal along with freshly roasted chestnuts.

In winter it is what particularly sheltered Australians consider freezing and it is so satisfying to sit around in front of the wood fire with a drink and a book looking out at the winter world.

This Australia Day long weekend* we wandered up again and apart from the usual blur of delicious local foods, cool afternoons underneath the trees by the house, and spirited debates**, I achieved a very specific victory.

Well, two victories really.

First of all, I finally began to learn how to crochet!

My aunt who is a complete art and craft genius talked me through the basic stitches and I have put together a moderately respectable practise square that looks like I know what I'm doing.

The second victory is by far the sweeter.

I was listening to Re: Your Brains by Jonathan Coulton and once my uncle worked out that it was a song about zombies he started rolling his eyes and he and my Dad started going on about 'you and your obsession with zombies'.
It petered out fairly quickly as I make no apologies for my interest in zombies and we had other things to debate that night but my moment of triumph was yet to come.

The next day I was sitting at the picnic table underneath the apple tree finishing off knitting The World's Widest scarf and listening to the audiobook recording of World War Z.
My mother and my aunt had joined me and we were all sitting there knitting and/or crocheting and listening to Henry Rollins, Alan Alda and others recount their experiences during the zombie wars.

Then my father and my uncle came over and, obeying our family's tendency to listen to absolutely anything going, they sat down and tuned in.

Apart from the odd question about the nature of the virus that was supposed to have spawned the zombie plague and the logistics of infection, they didn't speak.

At the end, after watching them listen to almost the entirety of World War Z, I sat back and waited for their reaction.

Instead of a resumption of 'pfffffffffffffft zombies' I got:

Dad: I've got the solution. Before you send your troops into battle, take all their teeth out, so if they turn, they won't be able bite anyone else!

Uncle: Nobody is going to sign up for that. Gummy veterans. All you need is porous muzzles with slash-proof straps and locks that are zombie-proof. Then they'll be neutralised if they are turned but get to keep their teeth if they aren't.

They spent the next two hours discussing light-weight battle armour options, protection plans for civilians, tactics for dispatching large amounts of zombies with low numbers of human casualties, some of the logistics involved in learning to produce adequate food with lower technology for a population that can't move outside a safe zone, where the biggest sociological and topographical problems would be in Australia that would hamper our efforts to push back the zombie menace and survive as a nation, and whether Grandma would retain enough sentience to hunt us down and gnaw our bits off if nobody went to save her before we retreated to a family stronghold***.

Game. Set. Match. Bitches.

It's taken me years to snare them but of all my family members these two are the ones you want to have planning for your survival.
They're both intelligent, thorough, with sprawling and unnatural memories and interests in just about everything.
They have the kinds of minds that look at the obvious and see the supporting factors that most will forget, and which automatically consider things which you may never have even thought about even when faced with the hardships that the absence of these things may present.

I may not be able to actually coax them into developing an official Zombie Survival Plan and distributing it at Christmas but now that I know the cogs are turning, I feel a lot more confident about my chances of survival should the time come.

Because let's face it, initial survival is one thing but long-term survival is another and initial survival can be a difficult thing to achieve when you're stretching yourself thin trying to gather in a family as large as mine with minimal losses.

*Well, we made it a long weekend by taking the Friday off. What's the point of working Friday after having a public holiday on Thursday?

**What other people may call 'a group of nutters barking at each other'.

***The conclusion was yes, yes she would. So we've assigned the closest family member Grandma rescuing duties in the event of a zombie uprising.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Australia Day

Today someone I'm "friends" with on Facebook posted one of those lovely 'we grew here, you flew here' posters on their wall, apparently as part of their celebration of Australia Day.

That rankled. I hate stuff like that.
So I commented that I'd never thought of them as somebody who would be hostile to people trying to start a new life.
Other people chimed in with their own surprise but I was still cranky.

So I wrote this and posted it on my own wall.

If you've ever used the phrase 'go back to where you came from' and meant it, please de-friend me.
Being scared of different cultures and languages doesn't make you proudly Australian, it makes you a wuss and a whiner.

We may be the lucky country but that's the point. We live in safety and freedom because of luck. Luck of where we are, luck of what we have.
It isn't a right, we aren't entitled to it, we're just lucky to have it, and not wanting to share it is selfish and petty.
Nobody wants to take it away from you, they just want the same chances for themselves and their families.

People go on about how new Australians should integrate with 'us' but when you push them away and shout at them and reject them, how can they? And why would they want to?

We're not full but you are, and I'm sure you can guess what of.

I don't like people who claim to speak for my country and then spray broad-spectrum hostile xenophobia.

I don't like anybody who chooses to define themselves by what they hate because then everything in their world is divided into the things they hate or don't hate, and what kind of way is that to live your life?

And above all, I don't like bullies.

And if you're swaggering around telling people that they need to meet your standards and do what you say and be exactly like you or they can piss off, that's exactly what you are - a bully.

The woman in question deleted her aggressive 'nobody has attacked me yet but I'm going to be defensive about my right to celebrate Australia Day anyway posts' and publicly apologised which was heartening because I don't want to think that she is really that kind of person*.

But the amount of people who then sprang up to bemoan the fact we have to apologise for loving our country or saying 'Happy Australia Day' - which nobody had said they did - or let the Muslims stop us celebrating Easter and Christmas or singing the national anthem in schools - which they haven't - was depressing.

Does anybody actually know anyone who has ever been told by an immigrant to stop doing what they're doing?

Have they ever had a person of another faith start screeching at them to stop celebrating Christmas?

Do you really this it's inappropriate for Aboriginal people to protest the celebration of Australia Day?
Can you really not understand why they might refer to it as Invasion Day and want any celebration of our shared nationhood to be acknowledged on a different day?
How can you say 'get over it' to a people whose society has been decimated and their culture irreparably damaged by the wholesale theft of their land?

The wonderful double-standard of telling new citizens to shut up and do what they're told and not try to change anything or try to steal the country from us and telling the original residents of our country to shut up and do what they're told and stop complaining about how we changed things and stole the country from them!

When I lived in Brunswick which has a large immigrant presence with a decent sized Muslim community, I was never treated with anything but respect or at the very worst disinterest.

Nobody there cared how I dressed or how I acted as long as I observed local laws and basic social rules of civility and I extended them the same courtesy.

I love my country.
I love living here.
But I really dislike stuff like this and always will.

*She may still believe in integration but at least she posted that she thinks that anyone willing to work to support themselves and their community is more than welcome as far as she's concerned. She's still obviously got issues but at least she'll engage with you on the topic.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Knit Wit

Remember how instead of learning how to crochet, I got seduced by the unholy art of knitting?

Well, as I march onwards to becoming the owner of the widest scarf in history*, I thought I'd post a couple of the videos that I found helpful as I began knitting.

The diagrams in books are all very good and well but until you've seen an action in motion, if you're anything like me those diagrams may as well be Magic Eye puzzles WHICH DON'T WORK AND HAVE NEVER WORKED AND DON'T SHOW ANY PICTURES EVER NO MATTER WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE SAYS!

YouTube has been a real boon to crafty beginners who don't have regular access to friends, relatives or teachers who are familiar enough with said crafts to be able to guide them.

Knittingtipsbyjudy does a 'how to add a new ball of yarn' video too but as she was purling and I haven't got to purling yet, I found it less straightforward than the video I embedded.

And soon I'll even get to try this one...

... at which point I will throw my outlandishly large scarf around my neck and shoulders and part of my torso and will settle down to actually learn how to crochet!

*I started off with a bunch of stitches because it didn't look that broad but it turns out, yes it was. I think I'm going to have to fold it in half and sew it up and turn it inside out or some malarky unless I want people to think it's a shawl.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

And Then There Were Three

In the interest of organisation and simplicity I'm creating two complementary blogs to keep this one company in the cold dark waste of the internets.

Additional Blog #1

I tried formatting my Reading List as a page attached to this blog but after a certain amount of books, the page refused to show any more and either deleted entries from earlier in the piece or didn't show later additions.

After temporarily conceding defeat (i.e. ignoring it for a while), I've finally created a separate blog to list all the books I've read and what I thought about them.

It's as much a personal record as a way to share these books with other people.

I'm afraid my descriptions and reviews tend to run to superlatives and generalisations but I can promise you 'no spoilers' because I have a soul and some common decency.

So here I give you Ricochet's Reading List which I will be bringing up to date shortly.

Additional Blog #2

As one of my freshly made New Year's Resolutions, I vowed to make one comic for every day of this year.

As I've found public accountability a great personal motivator, I've decided to post them all online.

That and the fact that whilst art for art's sake is an excellent and worthwhile pursuit, it really is much more fun when you share it around.

So in order to avoid cluttering up my normal blog space with comics, or allowing myself the cheat of pretending that they pass as normal blog posts instead of writing normal blog posts, I hereby declare this corner of the internet Pinball Panels.

Once I've spent some quality time with my scanner and had a fiddle about with the template settings and whatnot, I hope they will be made welcome and that the elder sister of the three blogs won't feel jealous of the twins and start bullying them.

They're just little, Pinball Mind, they don't know any better!
And they're both kind of one trick ponies so you've really nothing to be worried about.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest

Two things:
  1. Being Earnest is VERY important.
  2. I am now in love with Oscar Wilde.

I know I'm not the first heterosexual woman to make this declaration of a long dead gay male writer but oh my goodness!

The wit!

The words!

The waistcoats! Oh, the waistcoats!

We're living in a fascist dictatorship now, right?

That's what all the papers and crazy national and international 1984-type laws being introduced seem to be indicating.

If this is the case, who is in charge?

I need to talk to them about making it mandatory for all men - ALL MEN - to wear three piece suits at all times.


And Geoffrey Rush as Lady Bracknell?
Just perfect.

I am, of course, hopelessly in love with the completely useless Algie.

Partly because of the character, partly because of Patrick Brammall and A LOT because he seemed to be channelling Hugh Laurie's Bertie Wooster for his performance.

I mean look at him!

Just look at him!

He's a complete waster and you'd either have to restrict him to an allowance or prepare yourself for the poor house but I just want to tip him onto a picnic blanket and hand-feed him dainties by a river*.

The whole cast was magnificent and the set was inspired.

I haven't been to the theatre in a while and almost missed out because of the sheer speed at which the original shows sold out, but luckily they extended the season and I pounced.

I am so glad I did because it was just such a wonderful production that I could have watched over and over again.

*This may seem to support the 'all ladies like bastards' school of thought but in my experience, most of them only like fictional bastards. In real life Algie would either be under the thumb or out on his ear. Fictional Algie is like a puppy you can't get cross at for widdling on the rug.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Once More Unto The Breach

After a year off from resolutions, which was spent improving my life in other ways in any case, I'm ready to commit myself to a bit of resolving once more.

I am resolution ready.

  • Resolution the First: Punctuality
    My problem isn't technically punctuality. It's optimism.
    If I know it takes 10 minutes to drive somewhere, I'll leave 10 minutes before I need to get there.
    And then if I miss a form of public transport, hit some bad traffic or can't find a park or am unfamiliar with the area, I'm late.
    I've been reigning this particular personal failing in quite strongly in the last few years but I'm making a special project of it this year.
    If I leave half an hour before I need to leave to get somewhere, the worst thing that happens is that I get there half an hour earlier than I need to and I need to entertain myself for a while which is not a problem.
    The best thing is that if things go completely bonkers wrong I'll probably still have a chance at getting there on time or a lot closer to on time than if I keep assuming the best case scenario for every trip.
    This is a bit more general than the resolutions I usually put myself down for but considering how much of a person's life can be affected by how well they organise themselves, I'm making it a priority.

  • Resolution the Second: Ease Up On Social Media/The Internets
    Recently I've been spending what I consider an excessive amount of time dicking around on the internet.
    Some general surfing but a lot of checking in on my various social networking type sites or favourite websites to see if anything has happened. Usually not a lot has and what has could have been checked later. I'm spending time on this that I could be spending on actually achieving things.
    I'm not sure yet whether I'm going to assign myself a specific amount of time or time of the day for internet access or how I'm going to approach this but I'm definitely cutting right down.
    I slipped off the 'stop taking your laptop to work' wagon at the start of this year for a few reasons but I'm climbing back onto it.
    And I'm not going to flick the darn thing back on the moment I get back home either.
    I'm treating it as an extension of my efforts not to have unnecessary noise going on about me all the time, except in this case it's visual noise.
    Putting off doing things of my own or doing them really slowly because I'm checking up on what everybody else is doing is silly and beginning to cheese me off which means my enjoyment of the art/writing/interactions I like is being lessened.
    No more of that.

  • Resolution the Third: Draw One Comic For Every Day
    I keep intending to start drawing more little comics but without a solid plan I don't really sit down to do so.
    This year I'm going to try do a comic for every day. Probably not ON every day because there are plenty of things that might get in the way of that.
    But yes, for every day.
    365 comics.
    My current comic skills are a bit basic but hopefully a year of practise will help me improve and work out what sort of style I'd like to develop.
    I'd love to be able to draw like Lucy Knisley but considering all the art school she attended and all the practise she's had or all the not-sucking-at-making-herself-draw that she's in possession of, that ambition will probably be a long time coming.
    Just putting pencil to paper every day or every couple of days will be a good start.
    And once I've got myself organised I'll start posting them here or somewhere linked to here as a record.
    As my one solid specific-thing-that-you-do-a-specific-number-of-times resolution for this year I expect to focus most of my usual 'argh, am I accomplishing things!?' resolution angst on this - my brain's way of messing me about and keeping things interesting instead of doing anything useful like helping - but on the upside that means I can draw angsty comics about drawing comics and everybody loves that, right?