All Charged & Ready – Day 17 NaBloPoMo 2017

So, after a good night’s sleep and a fabulous session this morning with The Superstars, I did all my enrollment stuff for next year’s online study. And (as always) I feel incredibly invigorated by having a study plan ūüôā

As is usual with undergraduate degrees, I need to do 24 units of study. I’ve just finished the 18th and start Documentary Screenwriting next week. So at the end of next year, I’ll only have one unit left!

The last unit will be an independent project, so I need to start thinking very seriously about what I want to do. Because my degree will cover two major streams, I can do something writerly and creative – like a suite of short stories or poems – or a scholarly screen studies project – perhaps an analysis of a particular director or suite of films. Also, other students I’ve chatted with, managed to get placements in organisations or private businesses to do specific research, but I’m not sure if there’s anyone in Hobart I could do that with!?!

I am very undecided!

Time to contact my course convener I think, and have a serious talk about my project!

In the meantime dear reader, any suggestions you might have would be gratefully accepted ‚̧

Have a great Friday, I’ll see you all tomorrow.

Sage flowers – for wisdom!

A Sunday Sidestep – Day 12 NaBloPoMo 2017

I’m coming down to the pointy end of another unit of online study, so this is going to be a brief blog post today.

This unit has concentrated on genre fiction, specifically Gothic and speculative fiction and despite being behind now with weekly work, I’ve really enjoyed it enormously. Starting with Le Fanu’s¬†Carmilla¬†(1872) we moved on to Charlaine Harris’¬†Dead Until Dark¬†(2001) for a taste of contemporary American Gothic. (I honestly found it an intensely disappointing experience.)

Leaving vampire fiction, we moved on to speculative works and Jean Rhys’ stunning post-colonial¬†Wide Sargasso Sea¬†(1966), one of my favourite novels. The thread of our study, looking at how Gothic fiction was melded into more speculative themes reminded me of that other retelling of the Jane Eyre story,¬†Wild Island¬†(2016) by Jennifer Livett, which was just as good to read the second time around.

Then, the course came to Margaret Atwood’s brilliant and disturbing¬†The Handmaid’s Tale¬†(1985) and I confess I spent way too long re-reading it and watching the recent television series. But Atwood’s prose is wonderful and I find this book inspires me both as a writer and as a feminist.

Now, in the final weeks, as I’m writing my own piece of speculative fiction, we are reading and discussing Paolo Bacigalupi’s short story “Pump Six” from¬†Pump Six and Other Stories¬†(2008).¬†The main threads of¬† Bacigalupi’s fiction are speculations on the future of humankind, based on many current and often divisive environmental and socio-political concerns. He paints a realistically grim picture of the future which I’ve found stays in my mind long after I’ve read it.¬†I’ve started but never finished his novel¬†The Windup Girl¬†(2009) and I wonder if subconsciously found it too scary. But I plan to go back and read it as soon as I’m able.

So, the rest of today I’m playing catch up with academic readings and responses, trying to add a little more to my own fiction and scoping out an accompanying exegesis. For the most part it’s been a really wonderful few months living with these works and I’d recommend all of them to you – except for the Charlaine Harris – but at least I know and can articulate why I don’t like that kind of fiction.

What do you like to read? I love to hear your thoughts and recommendations so please leave me a comment below. Take care everyone and see you tomorrow ūüėÄ

Love – Things That Grow

I’ve had a really rewarding and busy week. There’s been lots of weeding, planning out what seeds I need for spring, making loads of chicken stock for a sick friend and a dizzying amount of research into a paper I have to write about fan cultures. Above all, I’ve really been noticing how much lighter it is when I get up, and this morning (after some very cold and wet days) it was wonderful just to see kunanyi (Mt Wellington) again.

In my last post, among other things, I wrote about a project I’ve started with the Food Gardening crew at Oak Tasmania, growing Snow Peas in eggshells. Well I’m thrilled to update you all that we now have baby pea plants ūüėÄ

Everyone seems to have got involved, making sure they were carefully watered every day and it’s been a great success so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to get them outside to harden off once they’re all up and showing a couple of leaves. Then we need to find somewhere to plant them – space is tight at the moment!

And speaking of OAK, an advance notice for Hobart/southern Tasmanian readers. I’ll be performing with The Superstars on Friday 11th August (about 3 weeks time) at a fundraiser quiz night. We’re all looking forward to it and had a fabulous rehearsal this morning ūüôā¬†Finally, I got away from the garden and uni on Wednesday and attended the launch of Smoke One, a collection of highly commended and winning microfiction, published by Transportation Press and sponsored by Fullers Bookshop. It was a lovely, intimate event, and a selection of stories were read to a very appreciative audience. I was particularly taken with Andrew Harper’s story “Antlers” and Madeleine Habib’s harrowing but beautiful piece, “Hope Floats”.

Creating a cohesive story in such a short format is a very difficult thing to do – if you don’t believe me, try it sometime! – and I’m thrilled there’s such an international competition based in Hobart. If you’re interested in different forms of short fiction, I highly recommend this!¬†I’m planning a quiet weekend of gardening, reading and a trip to the movies – either Spiderman – Homecoming¬†or¬†Baby Driver, I’m not sure yet. But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, take care friends ‚̧

 

 

 

Felicity’s List – Paying it Forward

Some years ago, one of my music students, Ruby Grant (who’s also one of the most amazing women I’ve ever known) introduced me to her friends Felicity and Dave at a party. I was really taken with this young couple, who (like Ruby) were smart, interesting and really good fun. Originally from the UK, they’d ended up in Tasmania.¬†Occasionally, I’d see them at gigs and we’d bump into one another from time to time on Facebook. (In a town as small as Hobart that sounds ludicrous – but it happens!)

Then, in 2015 Felicity started a blog “About That Cancer Thing” and announced that at 33, she’d been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She was young, fit and otherwise healthy so I think we all thought that she’d get through this with her usual quiet determination. In her blog, she documented her treatment and what it’s done to her life, the joy of being able to go for a walk with Dave, their¬†disappointment at not being able to have a family, and the financial impact her treatment and ongoing care has had on their lives.

To that end, Dave and Felicity set up a Go Fund Me page to try and see if they could raise money to keep their dream of a family alive and to help with the incredible costs of being so ill.

A couple of weeks ago, Felicity posted that the meds were no longer holding the cancer back and as she so eloquently put it,

“You can’t protect people. You can try. But it’s not really protecting them. I thought I was protecting people. Then I wondered if I thought I was protecting myself. But actually I was just delaying peoples opportunity¬†to process the truth. Learning this didn’t really change my behavior though”.

Then a couple of days ago, Felicity posted “Wrapping Up” and at the end, a list she wrote some months ago when she was better than she is at present.

I urge you all to read it, as it is a wonderful, practical, uplifting and utterly inspirational thing.

To the best of my knowledge, Felicity is still at home with Dave and I hope they are enjoying the gentle drizzle of this warm autumn morning. If you can afford to, please donate to help offset some of their crippling medical costs.

And act on¬†Felicity’s list ‚̧

The Weird, Grim World of 2016 – A Personal Perspective

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As we come towards the end of 2016, many are bemoaning the seemingly endless outpouring of grief on social media for celebrity deaths. There’s no doubt that it’s been a nerve-racking year if you’re famous and part of the post-WWII “Baby Boomer” generation but a lot of people are getting sick of the intense posts from fans, citing that many important people have passed away this year who weren’t celebrities, and stating the obvious – we all die.

But have there been more celebrity deaths this year than in the past?

There’s evidence to suggest that deaths among the famous have increased, as reported in The Week recently. The dearth of internet news, celebrity sites and You Tube channels has meant that more coverage is given to the comings and goings of celebrities. And of course, social media itself has enabled ordinary people to post tributes to memorialise their favourite celebrities.

For my part, this year has been brutal. As a career musician and writer, I’ve spent a good deal of my life listening to, enjoying and analysing the work of David Bowie. There were times in my teenage years when¬†life felt very strange and his¬†work helped me make sense of it.

After Bowie’s death in January, the rot really set in and I lost¬†many significant people in my life. Most notably Jeff Weston, Leon Turner, Kevin Gleeson and my dear, beautiful friend Jacqui. There were others I didn’t write about, several acquaintances from the past as well as newer friends. Anecdotally, I have to say¬†that social media has heightened this. Reconnecting with people from my past and forming new networks has tended to make my circle of friends much broader and spreading news a very immediate thing.

Now at the end of the year, I was incredibly saddened by the death of Carrie Fisher and tragically only a day later, her mother Debbie Reynolds, who were both important figures in my life for different reasons.

Like so many of my generation, I first saw Carrie Fisher on the big screen in the original Star Wars (1977) . She was only a few years older than me, and her portrayal of the feisty Princess Leia was an inspiration. Leia showed us that girls could be heroes too, an important cultural lesson to any young woman of that era. I followed her film career with interest, and particularly loved her as the gun-toting Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers (1980) as well as her reprisals of Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga.

As the years rolled on though, it was her writing that really spoke to me. It takes a lot of nerve and downright bravery to be that outspoken and honest, and her advocacy for mental health issues really struck home with me. And I loved how she aged too, honestly and (for the entertainment industry) rebelliously.

Debbie Reynolds is a very different story. Back in the 50’s my brother (who was 14 when I was born) had a typical teenage crush on Reynolds from her lead role in¬†Tammy and the Bachelor¬†(1957). When I was born he was given the duty of naming me, and what better than after his favourite movie star! I was never a fan in the way my brother was, but since his death I always watch re-runs of¬†Singing in the Rain¬†(1952) and think of him.

So at a very personal level, 2016 has been quite the “annus horribilis”, bookended¬†by the passing of two people I never met but who spoke to me through their work and one who I was named for by my beloved big brother.

On the other hand, there has been a lot of joy for me this year too. My work with Callum and The Superstars was particularly uplifting and there’s great things planned for the coming year. All the personal sadness has underlined how I am surrounded with people who care about me – both professionally and personally.

As I said in another post earlier this year,¬†live your life well, with honesty and integrity and love unreservedly. Don’t put off seeing people or telling them you care, be brave and run with it.

Life is short.

Be well beautiful friends, and thank you for your support throughout this awful year ‚̧

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

Carrie Fisher as The Mystery Woman in The Blues Brothers

Dance with the Rhythm – Day 14 NaBloPoMo

I read someone’s comment on a local Facebook gardening page this morning about patience – and how they hope they’ll develop it as they start¬†their new garden. It got me thinking about how terribly out of touch I can be in my own life with the art of waiting.

I don’t think gardens are never “finished” in the same way that, for example, a piece of writing is. Yes, it requires dedication and a lot of hard work and there are choices made throughout the process, it is edited and polished and pondered over but there is an end point when it is released into the world.

Gardens aren’t really like that.

Those of you who know me will fully understand,¬†I’m not the most patient person in the universe, but over the years I’ve learnt how to wait. Yes, there is a difference! And I’ve realised there’s a rhythm to that waiting and I’ve managed to learn a few¬†of the steps ūüėÄ

It’s really just the same as being a musician. As I tell all my students, the day you feel you’ve “finished” learning any instrument is the day you should stop doing it. It takes a particular kind of determination and discipline to stick with it. There are triumphs and disasters – but if the foundations are solid and the drive is there all things are possible. And after 50 years of making music, I’m living proof it’s a lifetime journey.

 

I have a food garden, an urban farm with chickens and breeding rabbits for meat. It’s full of fruit trees, some permanent fruit and vegetable plantings that give it structure and beds of seasonal plantings. The one concession I’ve made to this are a few of my favourite Australian native plants that attract birds and insects (particularly bees), that are mostly in a particularly shady and cold section of the yard and the occasional “visitor” from nearby gardens, like the poppy below (which I will be pulling out before it sets seed!) Yet, there is always something in flower to look at, admire and enjoy while waiting for the garden to grow.

Gardens are like us, they are always being edited, upgraded and polished, evolving and changing with the seasons – always a work in progress.

Wherever you are, enjoy the supermoon and take time to dance with the rhythm of your world ‚̧

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Celebrating – Achievement Unlocked!

Hi everyone,

I know I’ve been a bit lax posting lately but I’ve been busy with all manner of things. Despite it being winter, a time when a lot of folks think there’s nothing to do, I’ve been flat out!

I’ve planted dwarf apple trees in wicking barrels, made sauerkraut, started shooting a music video with The Superstars, preparing for a debut gig this month with my student Callum, also from OAK Tasmania – all of which I’ll write about in the coming weeks.

But last month I reached a milestone – I’m officially halfway through my online Bachelor of Communications with¬†Griffith University and Open Universities Australia.¬†I won’t pretend – it hasn’t been easy! And there have been times when I’ve thought (however briefly) about giving up.

So to celebrate my achievement, tenacity and sheer bloody-minded stubbornness I bought myself a little present. Below is¬†a fresh Tasmanian black truffle that arrived Friday via courier from Perigord Truffles. There were two in the pack, which are now nestled in tissue paper in a glass jar in my refrigerator. While I’m working out what to cook with them, they require daily airing which makes the whole house smell utterly divine…….

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With the chickens laying again, I’m definitely having scrambled eggs with shaved truffle in the coming days and I’m planning to make ravioli with some herbs and vegetables from the garden too. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it goes ūüôā

Meanwhile, I have to get back to researching another assignment. Take care one and all, and don’t forget to be nice to yourselves occasionally as well as others ‚̧

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