Thursday, 30 October 2008

The head cold is in retreat, leaving me with the traditional cough, croak and cold-sore. Noice.
I haven't had the brain power to do very much lately, and I'd hoped to have been churning through Lily's quilt.
But all I've felt like is reading and knitting. Beanies for Will and his mates, who really like them. The endless rounds are quite soothing when you're feeling off.
And a Monteagle bag from Mason Dixon Knitting. You can find a lot of them on Ravelry, too. In my haste to start this one, I used the wrong sort of yarn and the wrong sized needles. But what the hey.It involves some fun stitches, and should all unravel when it's finished to reveal a handy string bag for shopping. It's quick, too.
:: We've been watching Mad Men on DVD. It's set in a Madison Avenue advertising agency in 1960. First episode was very clever, and the period is brilliantly created. But by the third episode, I need a break! So many hideous characters! Such rampant sexism and general arseholery. Shudder.
It won lots of Emmys, but I can see why it hasn't been a massive hit.

Plus, at the end of every episode you feel as if you've smoked a pack of Camels — without the filter tips — and downed a litre of scotch. I'll get back to it after a rest from it!
:: I wrote a story for my old paper back in Perth. felt a bit rusty at first, but as soon as I got the intro down, I was off!
:: We're off to see Neil Young tonight! Yay! With the election so close, he'll be hot to trot. I'll have to have a nanny nap this arvo to manage to keep up late tonight. Death Cab for Cutie is supporting — don't know them at all. But I've discovered — thanks to David — that the band name was the title of a song by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band from the sixties, which they performed on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour. You can see that here. I've been a huge Bonzo Dog fan, since my brother and I lovingly watched every episode of the kids' show, Do Not Adjust Your Set, when we were very young.
:: We've almost settled on another apartment in New York for next week. Despite losing all our money on the last booking rip-off.
:: Got to go — need coffee.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Patriotic criteria

My Melbin mate, Sue, sent me this test:

You know you're Australian if....

You know the meaning of 'girt'

You believe that stubbies can either be worn or drunk

You think it is normal to have a Prime Minister called Kevin

You waddle when you walk due to the 53 expired petrol discount vouchers stuffed in your wallet or purse

You've made a bong out of your garden hose rather than use it for something illegal such as watering the garden

You understand that the phrase 'a group of women wearing black thongs' refers to footwear and may be less alluring than it sounds

You pronounce Melbourne as 'Mel-bin'

You pronounce Penrith as 'Pen-riff'

You believe the 'L' in the word ' Australia ' is optional

You can translate: 'Dazza and Shazza played Acca Dacca on the way to Maccas'

You believe it makes perfect sense for a nation to decorate its highways with large fibreglass bananas, prawns and sheep

You think 'Woolloomooloo' is a perfectly reasonable name for a place

You believe is makes sense for a country to have a $1 coin that's twice as big as its $2 coin

You understand that 'Wagga Wagga' can be abbreviated to 'Wagga' but 'Woy Woy' can't be called 'Woy'

You believe that cooked-down axlegrease makes a good breakfast spread

You believe all famous Kiwis are actually Australian, until they stuff up, at which point they again become Kiwis

You know, whatever the tourist books say, that no one says 'cobber'

You know that certain words must, by law, be shouted out during any rendition of the Angels' song 'Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again'

You believe, as an article of faith, that the confectionery known as the Wagon Wheel has become smaller with every passing year

You still don't get why the 'Labor' in 'Australian Labor Party' is not spelt with a 'U

You wear ugh boots outside the house

You believe that the more you shorten someone's name the more you like them

Whatever your linguistic skills, you find yourself able to order takeaway fluently in every Asian language

You understand that 'excuse me' can sound rude, while 'scuse me' is always polite

You know what it's like to swallow a fly, on occasions via your nose

You understand that 'you' has a plural and that it's 'youse'

You know it's not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle

You biggest family argument over the summer concerned the rules of beach cricket

You shake your head in horror when companies try to market what they call 'Anzac cookies'

You still think of Kylie as 'that girl off Neighbours'

When returning home from overseas, you expect to be brutally strip-searched by Customs - just in case you're trying to sneak in fruit

You believe the phrase 'smart casual' refers to a pair of black tracky-daks, suitably laundered

You understand that all train timetables are works of fiction

You get choked up with emotion by the first verse of the national anthem and then have trouble remembering the second

You find yourself ignorant of nearly all the facts deemed essential in the government's new test for migrants.

You will immediately forward this list to other Australians, here and overseas, realising that only they will understand!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Reading through egg yolkThe pic above is of a tiny corner of Powell's, the amazing, vast bookshop that takes up an entire city block in Portland, Oregon. This is just the fiction by authors whose names start with C. They stack new books right in there with used ones and different editions. It's wonderful.
:: I'm crook as a dog at the mo — just a head cold, but yucky. I remind myself of that passage in Bonfire of the Vanities where Wolfe describes someone with a hangover as having egg yolks inside his skull. Eeyew. But accurate.

It's not the sort of condition in which to take cold pills and go to bed with sore nose, rheumy eyes and aching teeth, head and neck to woozily read poet Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face.
But this is really very good; a treatise on self-esteem, image and the nature of beauty, in which she also documents dozens of operations, starting with having a lot of her jawbone removed when she was nine, followed by almost two years of chemotherapy, and radiation. In all, she had 38 operations through the rest of her life, many of them vain attempts to re-construct the part of her face that was missing.
I finished it quickly and then moved on to what is really its companion book, Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty.
I'm a great fan of Patchett's Bel Canto, and I have two other of her novels in my TBR bookcase.
I bought the Grealy book and T&B at Powell's, intrigued by a notice staff had stuck to the shelf explaining that Patchett and Grealy had been very close friends, and that Patchett had written her book after Grealy died a few years ago.
This is the story of their friendship through college, their struggling to become writers, and Grealy's obsession with being found lovable.
I don't have enough brain power or energy to say much more about these two volumes, other than to recommend them as fascinating reading. Grealy wrote with great elegance and surprising detachment about how she dealt with what she went through — not just the incredible pain, but also the desire to 'put on a brave face' and the psychological effects of all that. It's not an exercise in self-sympathy by any means.
Read them both when you're feeling hale and hearty!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Ponder this
If McCain and Palin get elected, it'll be the first winning Republican ticket for over 80 years without either Nixon or a Bush on it. Not counting the short period when Ford took the mantle of president after Nixon resigned.
Perhaps that's what former Secretary of State Colin Powell was referring to on the weekend when he endorsed Obama, saying it was time for 'a transformational figure' and 'generational change'.

Friday, 24 October 2008

The news channels have been making a big fuss, over the past few days, about the fact that vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin spent $150,000 of Republican money on clothes for the campaign.
On his nightly satirical news show, Jon Stewart asked how anyone could spend $150,000 on clothes in eight weeks.

I could understand how, especially shopping at Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, where she spent most of the loot.
The more pertinent question, I reckon, is how anyone can spend $150,000 on clothes and still not look like it!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

On isolation I watched a great documentary about Annie Proulx last night. It was a few years old, and in it she was researching and writing That Old Ace in the Hole, which I think was published in 2003. It was a fascinating documentary, though i confess I haven't read anything of hers since Postcards, which I didn't like nearly as much as The Shipping News, which remains one of my favourite novels.
Anyway, the program told of Annie's great love of driving herself all over the US, and how she lived in the Panhandle areas of Texas, in a little house all by herself, to research the hog farms and rural environment of this largely neglected part of the US for Aces in the Hole. And then, to write her book, she took herself off home, briefly, to her house in Wyoming, where she lives way out in the sticks so she can ski in winter.
There, she organised all her research material, and eventually took off again for her other house in a tiny little seaside village in Newfoundland.

All of which brought to mind our recent visit to Ghost Ranch, in northern New Mexico. On two or three hectares in the middle of this huge ranch, Georgia O'Keeffe had a low-slung adobe house, Rancho de los Burros, in which she lived off and on from the 1940s, in contented and productive solitude.
Her husband, Arthur Stieglitz, remained in New York, holding showings of her paintings, pushing up her profile and her prices.
You can visit Ghost Ranch and stand on spots that must have been darned close to the actual places O'Keeffe set up her easel to paint some of her landscapes. But unfortunately, you cannot visit her house, which remains private and inaccessible — though you can catch a glimpse of it from the track. (If you click on the pic, you'll get a bigger image.) Well, I was enchanted by all this, and in raptures over the desert landscape. I joked to David that this would be a perfect set-up for us. I could live out here, painting and working in the beautiful wilderness, while he could live in some city somewhere, doing amazing PR for his wife and organising fabulous exhibitions of her work. Just the ticket.
But then I got thinking about the solitude.
The place is remote even today. In O'Keeffe's day, getting into Santa Fe, which is about 95 kilometres away, or Taos, almost the same distance, would have been major undertakings on dirt roads in slow vehicles.
She had no electricity at her house, either.
I could get by without TV and computer, and maybe even radio, so long as I had the means to listen to music or something.
O'Keeffe had occasional help, and visitors and even guests, and the main ranch house was only about a a couple of kilometres away.
But those evenings must have been very long and quiet.

I don't think I could have hacked it — and even if my set-up was more like Annie Proulx's, with electricity, and connections to the outside world, I'd still find that solitary life unsettling, I think.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Razor sharp I left all my paper-cutting gear out while I was in New Mexico, and Will decided to have a go. These are all his work. While I drew my designs before cutting them, Will just got stuck straight into it with the scalpel. The dancing skeletons (below) were part of an assignment he had at college to come up with designs for the Day of the Dead (October 31 to November 2).
:: I love all the Day of the Dead art everywhere in this part of the world. A store in Santa Fe had this great display of papier mache dancing skeletons ... ... and I was able to pick up a bit more to add to my collection at home! Love it.
:: We had awful news this morning: the apartment we'd booked and paid for in New York for next month, where we'd planned to celebrate Lily's 21st, doesn't exist. We've been the victims of a well-organised scam which is apparently under investigation by the FBI.
Poor Dave is so furious. We've never been ripped off, or stolen from, before — apart from identity theft on my Visa card, which the bank reimbursed me for — and it's really sickening.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Gold in them hillsI was unprepared for the beauty of northern New Mexico. I think I expected dusty deserts, candlestick cactus, rocky mesas and barren plains.
But the reality was so totally different.
We went for a drive up, up, up to the Santa Fe National Forest, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, where they run the ski-lift in the autumn — way before the ski season starts — just so you can get up to 3500 metres (11,500 feet) and look down on all the wonderful colours.
It was a wild day, really cold up there, with driving rain and big winds, the tail end of a hurricane that had been blowing in from the south-west across Baja California. So the chair lift wasn't working.

Now, my Dave is scared of heights, so I'd been curious to see how he'd deal with a ski-lift — and he didn't disappoint me. When he saw what he'd have had to sit in, his immediate reaction was, 'Where are the seatbelts?' So it was sort of lucky for him that rain had stopped play!
On the way down from the mountains, the wind really whipped up and the sky was for a moment filled with swirling yellow hearts as the aspens lost their leaves. It was breathtaking.
Apparently, this clear hillside of aspens is where there was a big fire in the 1880s. The evergreens were killed, and the sun-loving aspens wasted no time in getting established in this sudden gap. Eventually, the evergreens will grow again and squeeze out the aspens, but for now there's this little piece of wonder to enjoy.
For your consideration
I have had great fun, Dace: and here are some very classy exec-style bags from our favouritest store in the world. Let me know what you reckon! (That one in the bottom right hand of the pic above is not leather, but it is sturdy, well-designed and stylish and about $25.)
1. This green one is Italian. Lovely leather. I looked for a black one, but no luck.3. This one is by Maurizio Tauiti, Italian. Gorgeous soft, thick leather. It's big, and the top sort of folds over loosely. Unstructured even. Mi piace molto! No compartments, but pockets on the inside walls.
I have tried to get this pic up the right way, with no success. 2. These are Michael Kors bags. Lovely leather, in a range of colours. The original price ticket says $348 (it's a bit blurry — sorry!).You could have one in every colour, for every outfit!
They have nice top-stitching, and my hefty model reckoned this one felt like a very stylish soft leather briefcase. I liked the light-coloured fabric lining, which makes it easier to see inside and find things.
4. Margot was also interesting, though I can't remember her country of origin.There's also a removable shoulder strap with this one. I like the lining, too!
5. This one (below) is not much to look at in my blurry pic, but this is a roomy Kenneth Cole. Kenneth is an established name in American leather goods and fashion.The leather is smooth and shiny — not as shiny as patent leather, though.
6. And we'll finish today's showing with another cheapy, not in leather, but roomy and practical nonetheless. This is popular Tommy Hilfiger, in green and also in a dark tan.Nice sturdy construction and a pleasing shiny lining.Of course, I have forgotten the price, or to take a pic of the tag. But I think Tommy was going for about $30.

Sunday, 19 October 2008