Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Knubbly lovely
Here's a close-up of how that hand-dyed wool from a couple of posts ago knits up — this is the right side ...... and here it is on the reverse:I'm using a sort of herringbone stitch which I thought would show off the flashes of colour, as they are not big enough to make stripes or anything clever. I found the stitch pattern here.

:: It is unusually hot here. Already. I think it got up to 34C, and it's still 28C. Must be those Santa Ana winds. But it's going to cool down tomorrow and get back to normal through the rest of the week.

:: More bookish posts coming real soon. I'm thrilled and a bit chuffed to report that two publishers and a writer from Arizona have sent me books to read and review!

:: I'm also thrilled and a bit chuffed to report that I'm off to England with Lily in July. My cousin's daughter, Samantha, a lovely English girl who lived with us in Perth for eight months in 1995-96, is getting married in Sussex. I always promised her that I'd be there when she got married, so we're booked and all set. We'll be spending three or four days in Paris as well while we're in the neighbourhood!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Michael Brecker
I'm devastated.
I just found out that Michael Brecker, the most brilliant, sexy-tenor-saxophone player ever, died in January this year of some rare and weird illness.
Just get a load of his playing in this video — turn up the volume:

This was the concert that Dave and I saw in Perth with Simon when it toured in 1991 — and it remains the single most outstanding concert I've ever been to, the one where I thought that if I ever won a few million dollars in the lottery, I'd get Paul Simon to put it all together again!
And when we saw Paul Simon in concert in Los Angeles in 2006, and again in New York just the other week, I kept looking for Michael Brecker and hoping to hear him play that wonderful smoky solo again, in one of the most perfect songs.
He had an incredible career with 15 Grammys and session spots on hundreds of albums. I am so sad that he's gone.
Come in spinner!
I think a two-up term is in keeping for the day after Anzac Day — we had the gear ready to go for a rowdy game of two-up at the Bondi yesterday, but somehow it never got played!
Anyway, I'm using the term loosely to show off my yarn, though I only dyed it, I didn't spin it. (It's a long stretch, I know.)
I followed the instructions on Suse's excellent blog, Pea Soup, the exact post of which you can find here. Only my efforts were not nearly so neat, orderly and well-executed as Suse's. Nor were my colours so artfully combined and tasteful! I soaked my wool in the vinegar, and laid it all out on the dining table, and got stuck into the colours. You use those little pointy-capped bottles of food colouring that we used to put in the bath water for the kids when they were little, or to colour cake-icing and Easter eggs.
I was going for a bluesy look (as you can tell!), so I'd mixed teal blue and two lovely purples to go with the blues that came in the packets. I had two packets of ordinary colours, and one of startling neon colours, which had a hot pink and turquoise, which I thought would go quite nicely.

Initially, I used paintbrushes to put the colour where I wanted, but in the end I was having so much fun and listening to some great music, so I resorted to chucking.
And I was so excited and caught up in the whole fabulous process that when I'd used all the colours in my scheme, I couldn't stop. Didn't want to. I frantically went back to the packets I'd opened and rounded up all the unused vials of reds, greens and yellows.
The result is, well, a dog's breakfast ...And my skeins came undone, so I had the mother of all tangles to deal with.
But in a funny sort of way, the colours work, I think, and they are sort of growing on me. So I may just knit the whole mess up into a scarf or something. And I'm absolutely hooked, and now that I've gone berserk and had my fling, I shall approach the whole process with more panache and maturity! Thanks, Suse!

:: I just drove Will to meet up with friends at Encinitas beach, having made him promise he'd not go swimming in the sea!

Yesterday morning, we had a tragic and dreadful shark attack at Solana Beach, just north of the dog beach at Del Mar, the first fatal shark attack in San Diego County for half a century. It has eery similarities to the fatality at Cottesloe (popular metropolitan beach in Perth, Western Australia) seven years ago: same feeling of a tragedy completely out of the blue, same time of day and time of year (spring), same sort of shark, same sort of guy ... spooky.
It was very strange all along the coast this morning. We have a warm, sunny weekend forecast, with highs of 29 and 30C, so people have flocked to the beach — but very few of them have ventured into the ocean. No surprise!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Anzac DayWhen we went to bed last night, it was around the time for Australians to get up and go to the dawn service on the other side of the world. And we thought of you all down there, in the cool of the autumn morning, and wished we could be there for this day of days.
David and I both had grandfathers at Gallipoli, and in Perth, David has worn his grandad's medals on the day.
In San Diego, the Royal Australian Navy observes Anzac Day with a well-attended service on the USS Midway.
This is a de-commissioned aircraft carrier that is now permanently docked in the bay at San Diego. It's so enormous that standing on the foredeck for this service was like being four or five storeys up.It was a short but moving ceremony, with all the traditional components, attended by lots of US and Australian military and brass, and the odd New Zealander. We even had a highly-decorated US rear admiral, who gave the reading.
By coincidence, two huge (and loud) US Navy helicopters provided the fly-past, just at the perfect moment after the Last Post. We sang along to recordings of the national anthems of Australia, New Zealand and the US, and I was a little sad that our recording of Advance Australia Fair was the same maudlin Julie Anthony version that gets trotted out and played in at the MCG every September for the footy Grand Final. Honest.
But that's by the by. After the ceremony, everyone retired to the Bondi where we put on a barbecue lunch — with real pavlova for dessert — that's still going strong at almost 6pm, David tells me!

Friday, 25 April 2008

Back to work
So this is the scene here at Schloss Zed, now that our lovely week-and-a-bit of family visits is over. Sunny but sad!First to arrive last week, from Australia, were David's brother and sister, Jeff and Heather, and Heather's husband, Peter.Then Lily flew in on Saturday night, so for the first time in a while, most of the Zeds were all together, for brekkie at the Hotel Del Coronado, above and below ... ... dinner at the Bondi (of course!), walks along the Mission Beach boardwalk ... ... and with the dogs on the beach at Del Mar ...... cricket at the park (hard to believe they're brothers, isn't it?)... and lots of family yarning.
Then, just a couple of hours before Lily left, my cousin, Duncan, and his partner Amy — below — arrived from British Columbia on their way to New Mexico. Here they are in the weird and wonderful desert garden at Balboa Park in San Diego yesterday.
It was only the second time we'd ever met — and the first time was over sixteen years ago — so it was great to meet this branch of my family and discover such similar interests in music, art, books and lots more. They were such easy, enthusiastic guests, and needed just time and sunshine to thaw out after their Canadian winter, and a chance to unwind after busy jobs and the stress of packing up and driving south down the interstate-5 for a couple of days to get to us.
Now Lily's back at college in Olympia up north, Jeff's back in Perth, Heather and Peter are in New York on their way to Hong Kong, and Duncan and Amy are on the interstate-8 heading east for Arizona.
But it was so wonderful to see so much of our family!
Booking through Thursday
[Thought you'd all enjoy this pic, taken by my daughter Lily, of one of her college friends in Canyonlands National Park, south-east Utah, during spring break.]

This week it's all about seasons:
Do your reading habits change in the spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don't have a garden? More light fiction than during the winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack? Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the spring as you do the rest of the year?
I'm unaware of changing my reading habits in the spring, as, apart from my childhood in England, I always seem to have lived somewhere where there are really only two seasons: summer and not summer.
That's not to say there isn't evidence of spring here in San Diego, or that we didn't recognise spring in Western Australia. But when it's sunny all year, what's the fuss?

Here, in SD, there just isn't that sense of wonder after recovering from — and having survived — a winter immersed in snow, or even really icy-cold temperatures and weeks of rain.
Winter here is not so very different from summer, just a bit colder.

And in Western Australia, where spring comes towards the end of the year, in the crazy frenzy of the lead-up to Christmas, it causes mixed feelings in me: sure it's a wonderful warm growing season, but at the same time it's the precursor to the long hot summer, which is mostly something to be endured.
For me, the joy there is all about autumn, the longest time from the start of summer and the best possible weather.

So to get back to the point, no! I'm not reading anything different at all in spring!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Time out (again)
I'm home alone for the rest of the night (until David arrives home with Lily, some time after midnight) and I'm supposed to be emptying the dishwasher, putting away the shopping, cooking the weekend's meals, tidying up, and folding the dry washing to put it away... but I just had to stop to show you two of Will's brilliant new artworks.They start off as elaborate drawings by pen, and then he photoshops them. I just love the colours in this one — it reminds me of a William Morris design.(Illustrations copyright Will Zampatti, 2008. Please don't reproduce without permission.)
Guest list
I'm so excited: Lily is coming home for a long weekend. She rang me on Tuesday with news of a dead computer, a lost phone charger, a lost wallet, and finally a badly burnt arm, sustained while she was making pancakes. So I told her that she needed to come home to the sunshine and let me feed her soup and tuck her up in her bed after a night in front of the telly. She sadly said that sounded wonderful, so we decided to surprise her.
I have so many frequent flyer points after my two trips to Oz and back that we rang Alaska Airlines straight away and in five minutes had her booked on a plane home. She gets in just before midnight tonight and leaves late on Monday night. Yay!

:: David's brother, Jeff, their sister, Heather, and her husband, Peter, have just arrived in town. We went to LA airport to meet them very early on Wednesday morning and, to keep them awake so they could stave off jetlag, we drove them to Hollywood ...
... stopped for coffee at Mel's on Sunset Boulevard (below, you can see Heath at the entrance and Jeff doing his best not to fall asleep across the bonnet of my car) ...... then drove them along the coast through Orange County, stopping at beautiful San Clemente for lunch in the sunshine ... ... before we finally let them stumble off to their hotel in downtown San Diego in the mid-afternoon.
Lily's thrilled that her weekend home will coincide with a visit from her uncles and auntie, and dinner at the Bondi and brekkie at the Del.
Will is hoping Jeff, who's been a bit of a cricket star in his day, will find time for a game of cricket at the park. This is getting pretty serious now. Will's mates come round after school for a couple of hours on the local oval soccer pitch, and they have bought gloves, balls and pads online.

:: Next week, my cousin, Duncan, and his wife, Amy, will come to stay for a few days. They live on Vancouver Island, Canada, and are driving down the west coast of the US on their way to New Mexico, stopping with us in San Diego before the big turn left and inland. So there'll be even more dinner at the Bondi and brekkie at the Del. Love it!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Worshipping at the shrine
Our trip east last week was all about the pictures And a bit of sculpture..
I studied art history for three years in the '90s and I just can't tell you what it was like to see many of the works I'd only been able to study in books, or online, right there in front of me.
I couldn't get enough, so it was lucky that we only really scratched the surface of all that these two great cities have to offer. We'll have to go back and see more!
In Washington, we spent most of one day at the National Gallery, especially in the East Wing, which is full of the Modern stuff, an amazing building full of light and spaces like this (click on the pics to see them b-i-g!) ...... the red blades are part of a massive kinetic sculpture by Alexander Calder, and despite its size and weight, you could see it slowly and silently moving if you looked long enough.
There was a room of smaller Calders in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (below), and I just loved the calm of the monochrome setting:
The two cities each had a casting of an Alberto Giacometti sculpture, Hands Holding the Void, and while the Washington one stood alone against a wall ...the NY one had a lovely Picasso glowing behind her to keep her back warm!There were plenty of yummy treats on the top floor of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, where they keep all the contemporary art:
The stripy painting is a three-dimensional Sean Scully, of whom I've long been a great admirer. I can't tell you about the neon/video installation map of the US states, because I actually ignored it to look at other stuff. Though looking at it in this pic, it looks pretty amazing, don't you think?
This is another view of the same fantastic room: And this is all quite apart from the wonders of the National Portrait Gallery, which shares this magnificent building.
In New York, MoMA was also full of mind-blowing spaces ...
... the views through the building, the scope of its walls and windows themselves as awesome as the artworks.
The black object (below), suspended by electric cable over this void in MoMA is an ordinary domestic fan. Free from a stand or a frame and left to swing by its long cord, it whirls over the heads of the people below, flying in random arcs and curves through the space.
Of course, after all the Big Names ...
my brain felt a lot like this:But oh! What a glorious way to spend a few days!
And our worshipping was in no way confined to the big galleries. there was plenty of great stuff all around us.
In SoHo, for example, I stumbled across this amazing work by a very talented and enigmatic Brooklyn street artist who signs himself Elbowtoe. I think this is his blog. He paints these (to me) Egon Schiele-style figures on stiff paper, cuts them out and pastes them about the city. Fantastic!
In midtown, we walked past the Lever Building almost every day, and the first time we did we saw this:
A man in a striped bobble hat wrapping an enormous sculpture of a pregnant woman. The sculpture, The Virgin Mother, is by Damien Hirst, no less! It had been standing here for six months and now it was time to move it out and bring in some new wonder.
Here the removal team has just started wrapping her head and feet in preparation for shifting her out of this spot and bringing in a new work. By the evening of that day she looked as though she'd been attacked by giant spiders:We were told the new work would be installed at midnight last Friday, but when we returned to check it out, the removal team was still building the enormous crane that was needed to lift this hefty Virgin Mother out of her plaza setting. The next morning, she was gone, but nothing had yet been installed in her place, so I can't tell you what masterpiece occupies this space now.
Oh, but these weirdly distorted sculptures of his own body, by Richard Dupont, are in the lobby gallery of the same building:Being in New York also provided the chance to visit Pace Gallery, which represents my very fave artist, Jim Dine. I had visited this gallery's website for years, checking out JD's prints, so it was a thrill and a half to actually visit it.
When I boldly asked to see some of Jim Dine's work, a very pleasant young woman came to talk to me. I told her that though I did not have the means to buy any of his work, I intended merely to worship at the shrine, so she smilingly pulled out some of the great man's prints to show me.
In truth, it is his more energetic, gestural plant drawings that are my absolute favourites, but just seeing his prints was an unforgettable moment.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Booking through Thursday
We're pondering this today:
I’ve always wondered what other people do when they come across a word/phrase that they’ve never heard before. I mean, do they jot it down on paper so they can look it up later, or do they stop reading to look it up on the dictionary/google it or do they just continue reading and forget about the word?

Have to be a bit priggish here and say that I don't often come across words or phrases I don't know. That is, apart from scientific, medical or other theoretical terminology — I'm usually a fiction reader, though, so this is a rare encounter.
But whenever I do hit the unknown, I'll look it up immediately, using the dictionary first, or my husband, and then maybe Mr Google.
That is, unless I'm reading in bed, when my husband is my first point of reference, especially for queries about history, poetry or the Black Death — and that way, he's often so intrigued that he'll willingly get out of bed to find the necessary reference book.

I must add, however, that I am easily enraged befuddled by the sort of communication usually attempted — in vain — by 'modern' young teachers with a tight grasp on educational theory and only a very slim grasp on English; or by a wannabe conceptual artist and indeed, his/her wannabe conceptual art critic; or by a pompous book reviewer; or by a government worker — but don't get me started on babble-speak ... please.

:: Added later: And what about words we read that we know the author (and editor and proofreaders) has got entirely wrong and obviously doesn't know?
I'm so sick of seeing 'enormity' used instead of 'enormousness', when 'enormity' has nothing to do with size ... and 'lay' instead of 'lie' ... bet you know a whole lot more!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Time out
Just had to take a few minutes out of cleaning the house (yeeuch — please note the elegant apron) to brag about my latest succes d'aiguille. Much more important than frigging about with the Swiffer duster.
This is my Clapotis, which I have finally finished after an entire year. I started it in April last year and knitted about eleven inches, then put it away. But when I had to rush back to Australia the second time, I packed it to take with me, thinking it would provide the brainless, rhythmic knitting therapy I might well need.
And it did. There were plenty of occasions when Mum and I sat at Dad's bedside while he drifted off into an uncomfortable, rattly sleep, and I'd knit on and on and on. I extended the length of it, partly because I couldn't bear to finish it, and partly because I wanted it to be longer than it looks on the pattern — which you can find here.
In the end, because it's so stretchy from being knit on the bias, it's turned out to be over seven feet long - room for plenty of turns around one's once swan-like neck.I cast off while I was still in Perth, and then Mum started unravelling all the dropped stitches for me, which took far, far longer than you'd imagine! Then I packed it up again, still unfinished, to take on our holiday last week. I eventually sewed in all the ends (from switching from one ball of yarn to another) and finished the last of the unravelling when I was in Washington the weekend before last, and wore it on a chilly, sunny day — it was gloriously soft and warm.
I made it out of Debbie Bliss alpaca silk dk (80% baby alpaca, 20% silk), which is extremely soft and luxurious, and it took about ten balls — maybe twelve. Fortunately, I'd bought the yarn online from WEBS where it had been discounted to something ridiculous like $3 a ball, so the whole thing was not too extravagant an exercise.
:: So these, above and below, are the chunky socks I knitted for my brother, mostly in Albany, sitting beside him in his house as he recovered from his horrible hernia operation. I also knitted a few inches here in San Diego between my trips back to Oz.They are for Garry to wear in winter with his beloved Blundies. Garry's a social worker/counsellor who travels all over the Great Southern district of Western Australia meeting his 'clients' and helping them out.
The socks are a bit big for me, but you get the picture. It's lovely soft Cleckheaton wool I bought in Australia, and just a standard old common or garden sock pattern.

:: Both Dad and Garry are on the mend now. In fact, I had a very excited call from Dad this morning to tell me that he had managed to walk 36 metres in the parallel bars at the hospital rehab unit. Such a great achievement!

:: Here are a couple of gratuitous pictures of my very spoiled little dog, Yoshi,
who's very happy to have me back, especially my nice, warm bed!