Sunday, 30 September 2012

Daylight Savings

I freaking love daylight savings.

It’s a complicated love because every time it rolls around I manage to spend a week or two after the change reeling with daylight savings jetlag*, but it’s a true love nonetheless.

The sudden extra hour of sunlight is wonderful and despite knowing that it’s due to the already lengthening days and a flick of the clock settings, it feels almost magical.

And it makes a HUGE difference!

I don’t know about you but when I get home after work in winter and it’s already dark, a part of my brain goes ‘oh well, it’ll be bedtime soon, no use getting stuck into anything much’ and I have to fight an uphill battle to achieve anything substantial.

During the lighter months I will keep powering along until I run out of sunlight and then have to usher myself along to bed.

Sunlight in the afternoon and evening just makes everything better.

If you’re already a bit whimsical it can have you frolicking through the garden at 8pm, grinning stupidly at sunbeams and scrubbing strange almost inaccessible parts of your house for no particular reason.

The dark months are for snuggling up on the couch under a warm blanket and a pile of cats and reading a book.

The light months are for frenetic activity and feeling productive.

A friend has nursed a long misguided grudge against farmers because she thought that daylight savings was somehow their fault**.
A little cursory research suggests that it was brought in to give us more time to support productivity during World War I and some of the posters I found are frankly adorable.

Here’s one from 1918…

… and another from 2001…


Propaganda posters have often been used to encourage unfortunate attitudes or the dehumanisation of other cultures but sometimes they’re just overly dramatic or a chance for graphic artists to get really excited.

And I always hear them in the President Truman voice from the ‘Roswell That Ends Well’ episode of Futurama, which doesn’t hurt the entertainment value.

We’re so used to daylight savings being on the schedule that it’s kind of hard to imagine life without it.

I mean obviously it would just mean an hour more or less of sunlight here or there but if we’ve instituted it because it makes what you’d assume is a tangible difference, what was life like before daylight savings?

Would it be easier to just have summer and winter trading/business/schooling hours?

Such a little difference that it’s hard to believe it could have that much of an effect but it’s hard to believe we’d do it if it didn’t.

What I do know is that it means it is BBQ weather which means sundresses, sunscreen and cool drinks in good company and we can never have too much of that.

*An affliction that strikes either those who are resentful of losing an hour of sleep and refuse to face reality every year or those who have trouble putting down their books/laptops/TV remote controls at a reasonable hour and find themselves short a very needed hour of sleep.

**What do farmers care about what the clock says? Daylight savings often annoys them as it changes when deliveries have to be made without taking into account the fact that cows aren't going to get with the program and produce their milk an hour earlier etc.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sucked In

There are some books that just absorb you totally. You pick them up, fall into them and you can’t put them down.

Sometimes it’s the subject matter, sometimes it’s how they’ve been written, sometimes it’s the mood you’re in.

It can be a convergence of these elements.

Maybe a character or an event resonates with you.

This is a particular danger for me if I tear through a book in one sitting.

It can cause some very disorientating cognitive dissonance.

When I was a teenager, I curled up in an armchair one afternoon, my legs folded beneath me and read my way all the way through Wendy Orr’s Peeling The Onion.
Just as I was closing the book, the phone rang and I automatically leapt to my feet to go and answer it.
After wrapping myself so completely in a tale of serious injuries and a difficult rehabilitation, I was so amazed that I could actually walk that I almost forgot how and only just saved myself from face-planting.

There are a few books that have grabbed me like this.

At the end of each of the Lord of the Rings books I had to remind myself I wasn’t a hobbit.

At the end of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was relieved to find the fate of the world didn’t actually rest on my shoulders.

After Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns I was the most grateful I have ever been to find myself in a life where I am neither endangered or limited in my options by my gender.

As I finished up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I once again emerged with surprise into my own life.

I couldn’t identify with the challenges and the self-destructive behaviour that put her on her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail but once she was on it, I was sucked right in.

The exhaustion and fear and doubt and anger and wonder and moments of joy had me.

Even the moments of shocking honesty covering experiences that I didn’t connect with at all weren’t enough to shake me loose, they just drew me deeper into her story.
So when I turned that last page and found myself back in my home, I was surprised and pleased to find my feet were in good nick and I still had all of my toenails.

Like with some other absorbing books, I was also a little... not disappointed... but there's a sort of moment of sadness as you finish the book and step back.

While I don’t ever want to be in a car accident, have to oppose great evil, have to navigate a moral minefield, experience domestic violence and social repression, or lose a loved one or my sense of self so totally, I often envy the key characters the strength they’ve found and the challenges they’ve overcome.

Those victories weren’t without their suffering and loss but they are valuable.

With Wild, I envied Cheryl the sense of self-confidence and self-reliance she built over the course of her journey.
I know that following her trip she had plenty of other issues to work through, plenty of other things she had to achieve before she got to the place she is in now, the place she had to be in to write this book, but she’d already achieved so much.
She had somewhere to begin.

Books like these don’t just capture you for the duration of your reading experience, they also inspire you to look at your life, to try new things and sometimes just open your eyes to certain truths or possibilities.
They don’t come along at regular intervals but when these books turn up, they remind you what the real power of reading is and what it can do for you.

I hope everyone has the chance to experience this, to have their attention so thoroughly caught that disengaging at the end actually feels like a kind of surfacing.

If you have and feel like sharing, please let me know.
I’d love to see if your books can catch me up in the same way.
Even if they don't, just knowing that they've done that for someone else gives them a weight and power.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Naked Ambition

Before I get into the meat of this one, I'm just going to take a line to say Holy Crab-sprinkles! This is my 300th post!

OK, now that I'm done being stunned by the amount of time that has passed and the fact that I haven't been distracted by something shiny and wandered away, back to it!

I've been trying my hand at the arts and crafts over the last few years.

My most ambitious project so far was that I made a Deddy-Bear* for one of my friends for her 30th Birthday.
And of course it was my first project. I went from 'nothing' to 'super ambitious project made out of difficult to sew fabric'.
Luckily I have an incredibly crafty aunt who took me step by step through the process.
I - of course - forgot to take any pictures of it before I gave it to my friend but I've got another one 90% done that I've made for myself so I'll post a picture sometime this year hopefully**.

It looks a bit like this lovely bear by moonwing-pamela on deviantART but different as we put together the pattern ourselves and used shaggier fur.

I've started knitting, successfully produced a big-ass scarf...

...I cast on too many stitches because I didn't know how wide it would make it and then I had to make it long to balance it out... But look, if you wear it like this it is normal sized and extra cosy warm...

 ...and am now making lots of little squares for a snuggly rug.

I've learned how to crochet and have a tentative little learner's scarf on the go and probably some more little squares for a different kind of rug coming up sometime soon.

My new thing that I'm planning to throw myself into is trying to make a quilt.

And I've decided that the first one will be for my friend Awesome's baby - who is now somehow two months old! - who I'm sure will dribble and widdle all over it.

And this is the material I've chosen.

So friggin' excited!

And I am totally making one of these for myself!

And I have bought enough material to make probably a tonne of these because I didn't know how much I needed and erred on the side of super caution.

As you might be able to make out I have seven prints so some of them will go into the quilt design and some of them will probably become bags, maybe for holding quilts.

Very Hungry Caterpillar quilts for everyone!

Of course I haven't started yet, have no idea how long the process will take me and how often I'll be able to spend time with my crafty aunt and how much I'll be able to manage without her guidance but man am I excited.

*Toki's teddy bear from the TV series Metalocalypse

**It depends on getting time with my aunt and her heavy-duty sewing machine.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Kickstarter Swag

When done right Kickstarter seems to be a fantastic idea.

Creators get to pitch ideas directly to the public, the public gets to throw money at an idea that they support that might not have gotten funding from suspicious and short-sighted financial peoples, and the project can get done right.

The failsafes in place - the project has to be deemed viable and the person running it non-scammy before it is put on the site, and if the project isn't fully funded no-one gets charged - helps you feel that if you fork out dollars you should get something back.

I've only started paying attention to kickstarter recently because Amanda Palmer was suddenly all over my internets explaining that she was making a new album.
I knew I'd missed a kickstarter she'd done with Neil Gaiman and had been bummed out about that so I decided to get in on this one at ground floor.

So I signed up for Kickstarter, chipped in, and seeing as Amanda Palmer's project got super-funded in a short amount of time I knew that was a lock, I started looking around at other things.

These are the projects I've flung happy wads of cash at so far.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra's Theatre Is Evil CD and Art Book

This is the one that finally got me to sign up. If you watch the video you'll see why.
Unless you don't like Amanda Palmer, which is OK, she's a divisive artist.
I like her passion and her nutso vocals.
And the great thing about it is that with how the funding turned out they've managed to produce the album for public sale as well.
So those who contributed get lovely extras and we got to make it available to other fans who might not have had the money at the time.

So far the digital download has been made available for backers and by all reports has been rocking socks all across the internet.
The live shows have been going off and the physical packages are arriving all around the world for people who are waiting by their mailboxes like this is Christmas.

This track that they've released - Want It Back - shows you what sort of stuff you can expect from the album and the inspiring music videos that it has already produced.


Smut Peddler

Smut Peddler is a collection of sex-positive, queer-positive indie comics with some incredibly sweet love stories mixed in with all the lovely smut.
There are a variety of different stories for people of different tastes (in art, in story style, in smut) and there is a very accepting feel to the whole thing. Not everything will fit everyone's personal inclinations but it's very much a case of 'your kink is not my kink and that's OK' and even if you aren't engaged by a particular story, the art is still lovely.

They did a wonderful job of presenting different sexual identities, relationships and dynamics of varying configurations in a very natural and respectful manner, making all the pairings or groupings seem very casual and natural and fun.
Some of the stories are also funny as hell which is nice.

My backer PDF turned up recently and phew is it steamy in places. Very very nicely done.
I can't wait for the physical copy.

All of the contributors turned out excellent work.
I'd already heard of and seen work by Jess Fink, Erika Moen and Leia Weathington before but I was really really impressed by the technical art skills of other new-to-me contributors like Betty Jean Doe, E.K. Weaver, Nechama Frier, Lee Blauersouth, Theo Lorenz, Dechanique and their writing partners like Alice Hunt and Abby Lark.

The Smut Peddler PDF is now available for sale to non-backers.



Tome is probably the biggest and most ambitious of the projects I've backed.
A hardcover anthology of art in what is shaping up to be a glorious annual series. This particular volume will be about vampirism and will feature the art of Ben Templesmith, Becky Cloonan, Dave McKean, Francesco Francavilla, menton3, Molly Crabapple and many others. Those listed here are just the ones I recognise instantly, I expect to fall in love with the art and music of the other new-to-me artists when it comes along.
Yep, that's right, it has a music component.
From what I've seen of the work in progress and what I know of the quality of work the contributors are known for, Tome is going to be a eye meltingly beautiful.
I cannot wait to have this ginormous book of art in my arms. And it will literally be my arms. It'll be too big to just hold in my hands.

The very best part about the projects I've backed so far is that there is a gap between funding being successful and the product being produced and mailed out so by the time it finds its way to me I will have completely forgotten it's on its way!
Thanks past-me! You're a gem!

If you've been looking at Kickstarter but haven't been sure I guess the advice I'd give to you is to pick projects you're excited about, hopefully by people who are known for their passion for their work and their joy in creating and give it a shot if you're in a position to.
It feels really good to be part of the process, knowing that you helped something amazing be made.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Near Miss

OK that wasn't stressful at all.

Mum and I were out walking the dogs and were half a block from home when we noticed a little dog across the road.
It started yip yip yipping at us and was joined by another tiny little dog.
And with their powers combined they decided to run across the road in an attempt to join us and the Labrador of Doom and Apocalypse Pup.

So they ran right into the middle of the road.

Right in front of a car.

Hare Heavyweight Champion Of The World Krishna*!

Luckily the car stopped in time, I grabbed our two dogs and Mum ran out and scooped up the two tiny dogs.
The two tiny dogs which are puppies that can't be more than a few weeks old.

So while I restrained two incredibly excited Labradors that wanted to lick the puppies until they dissolved, Mum juggled them and knocked on the door of the house of the yard they were hanging out in**.

The guy who answered the door said "Oh yeah, they've been hanging out there for hours but I think they belong to the folks two doors down."




To his credit he did take Mum to the right house and help her put the dogs back into the yard with their litter-mates but it's too late, his loins are barren now.

The people who live in the puppy house - who only moved in a few weeks ago - were out and had apparently been out all day so there was no-one to tell about the near miss.

We hurried home to put our overexcited dogs in the yard and Mum decided to write a note about what happened and leave it at the puppy-house's front door so that they'll know to fix the fence up.

About five minutes later I got a call on my mobile phone.

From Mum.

"Uh, hi. There's about four tiny puppies out here trying to follow me home... So..."

Grab bucket of dry dog food, grab big sheet of cardboard, hustle out the door into the night.

When I get there the first thing I had to do was a Dr Zoidberg shuffle past the two cars parked in the driveway, then I had to use my phone to illuminate the fence and spot the hole.

The fence is a little bit bunged together, with one huge and very respectable chain-link fence section that has been recently installed but not secured between the house and the side-fence and as such it has a gap down one side that the new tenants have attempted to block up.

They'd done an OK job but there is one hole.

A hole I couldn't block up again yet because the wooden sheet that was supposed to be blocking it had fallen backwards and a whole parcel of unescaped puppies were wiggling excitedly on top of it while excited escaped puppies gleefully wiggled on my feet.

I tried to put the loose puppies back into the yard but they kept immediately popping out through the hole again and rolling about on my feet.

A couple of scoops of dog food flung over the fence and all of a sudden they were willing to leave the fence alone and those I gently plopped back over the fence ran food-wise to join the fun instead of heading back for Round 3 with my shoelaces.

Grab wooden board, grab big sheet of cardboard that I brought.

Grab pipe to wedge between board and adjoining fence.

Grab knocked over paint tins and pile them up in front of the hole just in case the little escape artists manage to get around the board again.

Check fence.

Double-check fence.

Scan the area for any missed puppies.

Throw a few more scoops of food into the happy scrum.

This whole time we've been able to hear Mumma Dog barking a few metres away, moving about but not getting closer and she hasn't showed up so our guess is that when they went out for the day they put her on a line and thought the puppies would stick close to her.

But the puppies got curious and/or hungry and went questing and she was unable to go drag them back.

After making sure the fence was double-extra completely secure and there were zero ninja puppies skulking about the place, Mum and I finally tucked the note into the door and wandered home.

So yeah, that was a little nerve-wracking almost seeing a couple of adorable puppies get minced and thinking that more of them could have met the same fate.

But hey, it worked out, all safe and sound and tucked away!

Good news for everyone!

Except that guy with the barren loins.

Sucks to be you dude.

But seriously?

For hours?

You're lucky you get to keep your barren useless loins.

*Why should Jesus get all the middle names?

**Does that sentence make sense? Yeah, it makes sense. You get it right?