Holding Patterns

Everything ebbs and flows. Interests wax and wane. Seasons change. Things are shaken up and settle down again for each of us in our brittle, safe, enclosed snow dome worlds.

While I wasn’t blogging for a while earlier this year, I poured my spare time  and energy into drawing. It was a way to not think about a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to think about. And mostly it worked. I drew meaningless patterns to lose myself in them, and as they spread I began to direct them more, to strive to make what I drew beautiful.

And when I thought I had enough confidence I set myself a project.

First there was learning. Then practice. Then the idea.

First there was the learning in class. Then practice on paper. Then the idea.

The project was to use Zentangle to decorate an MDF box. It took a while.

  • I relearned that mistakes are just a part of the process.
Started out using every pattern I'd learned and ended up with a fish.

Started out using every pattern I’d learned and I made a fish looking thing. I panicked.

  • I remembered the process is as important as the outcome.
The fish disappeared, but it wasn't right, yet.

The fish disappeared, but it wasn’t right, yet. Neither was the focus. #fuzzygram

  • I relearned the naive beauty in patterns and repetition. This is doodling people, not rocket surgery.
Some bits were more effective than others.

Some bits were less effective than others.

  • I learned that the tools must fit the medium being worked on. Drawing on MDF was not like drawing on paper or card stock. Different pens yielded better results under different pressures.
  • The right pen and right pressure yielded more intense colours.
  • I learned the more intense the colour, the better.
As I did more, less became more.  It told me what to do.

As I did more, less became more. 

  • I learned that not everything must possess symmetry.
  • I learned bigger and bolder was better. Otherwise everything disappeared or looked messy.
  • I learned the drawing must fit the space.
  • Tiny timid patterns got lost in the vast expanse of the work.
Zentangle in 3D was an opportunity to see and do things differently.

Zentangle in 3D was an opportunity to navigate challenges differently.

  • I learned a narrow palette is as effective as all the colours of the rainbow.
  • I learned to enjoy the highlights and shading in the lowlights, for perspective.
  • A lot of the time it felt like meditation, which was the original point of Zentangle.
Effectiveness was  measured in how it worked up close and from afar.

Effectiveness was measured in how it worked up close and from afar.

  • After so long writing stories, I relearned art and beauty can possess utility.
  • Attempted art has ruined the MDF; however, as it’s still a box, I can put stuff in it.
When it was done, it wasn't what I had imagined.

When it was done, it wasn’t what I had imagined. That’s ok. 

  • The more I did the more I learned what worked. I turned to repeating the same shapes, and filling the spaces between with smaller patterns for greater areas.
  • I learned darkness is a useful contrast.
  • Zentangle means learning that things don’t need to be difficult to be art, or to be beautiful.
Drawing, like life and all art, is about recognising the light and the shadow.

Drawing, like life and all art, is about recognising the usefulness of the light and the shadow.

  • I learned not to be afraid of mistakes. It was a cheap MDF box after all.
  • It might not be the most beautiful thing ever, or perfect, but I finished.
  • That’s a lot of stuff I learned or remembered while decorating a box.
  • I forgot about the stuff I didn’t want to think about.
  • Learning wasn’t even the point. The point was doing something. And I did. Anything I learned was a bonus.

I recommend learning about Zentangle. It’s an official thing, with a website and even teachers, and a whole heap of inspiration can be found on Pinterest. It all adds up to look formidable, but if you can somehow hold a pen and pencil and draw lines, then line, by line, it’s entirely doable.

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Dealing new illusions?

This is what some people thought about TV in 1976. I quote it because it speaks to me today and I suspect it may to others.

You’re television incarnate…Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same…And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. The Network, 1976.

I”l just leave that thought there, for a moment, while TV continues to evolve.

Anyway, new versions of old stories is a thing older than Shakespeare. Buster Keaton was doing remakes before talkies in Hollywood. Ghostbusters (now with women), Bad Idea Theme Park with Jurassic World, Point Break Redux, the list will go on. However, no one much has tackled any kind of media story, new or remade, for a while.

There was The (Un) Social Network, but that was more a college coming of business age, douchey entitled youth with rowing montages drama rather than a film about the media. I guess there was Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, but wasn’t that a fantasy about ‘ethical reporting’? I can’t really comment as I didn’t see it, although I  noticed it occasionally enraged the internets. As I noted in a post about Sherlock, that too dealt with media a bit, but through the focus of the take on Conan Doyle’s detective.

The flip side of remakes is making over history, and there has been an appetite for this with Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire and in Australia Love Child and The Secret River. The negative is that the recent fictionalised stuff about Julian Assange tanked. Maybe that’s more because people are divided about him being a supervillian or freedom of information fighter or both, or that his story hasn’t finished or perhaps that he and his situation is even weirder than TV or film can make show. Also why go see a film about Assange when he makes his own music videos?

What would be interesting to attempt, is a near recent history/remake or update to the 1976 film Network with English-Australian Peter Finch. People get their news differently now, although there are still old-ish men yelling at us from televisions, they are just more likely to be comedians, while there are more platforms, weird global business empires with their shady deals, citizen journalists, crowd funding, pay walls, outsourcing, listicles, and breaking bad Buzzfeed news. Then there is the tech, slave factories and rare earth mines in fragile eco-systems for smart phones, hacking and security all to attend too.

Ye Olde Political Satirical Sketch, the basis of Satirical Sketch Comedy.

Ye Olde Political Satirical Sketch: analogue version of a Viral Satirical Sketch Comedy YouTube Video.

There is the digital divide, disruption, and cryptocurrency,  peer-to-peer lending and shadow banking all involved in and around media. And I haven’t even got to the political stuff: the TPP, and how in Australia journalist can report on something they didn’t know was deemed an operational security matter and for doing that they go to jail. Peter Greste, who was actually jailed for this very crime job in Egypt, is not impressed when he got home to freedom in Australia. These are the same politicians who are talking about ‘those viral things‘ in the Australian parliament. Truly, watch that last link, as it says everything about the level of debate.

Anyway, the below is one of the greatest rants  ever filmed and because some days it seems the news of the world is one endless cycle of the same, on repeat. Since about 1976.

I mean, aren’t we still, mad as hell? Course,  these days we get the anger for a minute or two and fumble to find something to direct it at, perhaps digitally signing a petition. Then the anger and the wrongs of the world are filed away as we are overwhelmed by the next wave of stuff invading our devices, reinforcing the idea we remain the powerless minions we always were, too weak to ‘meddle’, like some do, with those ‘primal forces of nature’ and the ‘immutable by-laws of business’.

Still, the more things change, the more things stay the same. I don’t know what it all means, but one day there will be a new or remade dramedy about it. We’ll download it into silicon chips implanted into our eyeballs for direct viewing as we blink between news and lifestyle feeds or something.

Arthur Jensen: There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast…interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars…It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. Network, 1976. 

 

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At cross porpoises

Chances are, you, like me, had never heard of the Vaquita Porpoise until recently. If  you have, it’s because there are now less than 100 in the wild.

We humans think we own this joint, and that we’ve conquered it. Humans describe it  in terms of our economies and resources. But most of us barely know it. It’s the space ship that sustains us, it is what shaped who we are, along with everything on this tiny planet and we take it for granted. We only recently found out about its secret underground seas, and can barely conceive of microbial colonies living on oceanic volcanic vents. And environmentally, we keep biting the hand that feeds us. How stupid is that?

Dead as a. Callous disregard is the human calling card, are we taking that into space with us?

Dead as a. ‘Callous disregard’ is a human calling card, seems we do take this into space.

Meanwhile, we simple humans have yet to comprehend the magnitude of Earth’s complexities.

This is because we’re occupied with narrow time frames, a day, a month or four score and seven years. To the world’s largest flowering plant (that lives like me in Victoria, Australia), such time frames are merely a growth stage. Your dog crams an entire life into maybe 12 years. Remember how long days were when you were a kid? They are like that all the time for dogs. No wonder your dog is happy to see you at the end of such an immense time period as a whole working day.

If you saw Interstellar you will have seen how time is demonstrably relative.  It is true as far as we know. Yet, time and space and even direction are understood differently across cultures and across species. I sometimes wonder how a writer can hope to convince readers of the reality of an invented world when we know so little of, and care even less about, the ‘real world’.

I’ve been sporadically reading John Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale and I like the world building and her voice. His complex ideas about intelligence and consciousness and responsibility, regarding Zoe and the Obin are compelling. However, so far I have issues with colonists who think nothing of habitat destruction upon arriving at new planets. The breathtaking hubris of this. They aren’t even going to new planets to investigate or study them, except to measure the safety of the biosphere. Although, I like the idea of Space Mennonites. It might be set off this world, but it seems Scalzi’s interplanetary settlers are as flawed and ignorant as any European settlers/explorers to Australia and everywhere else. In his future humans haven’t progressed much.

People wonder why a couple of Johnny Depp’s dogs caused so much mayhem. It’s because 200 years + of deliberate and accidental animal and plant introductions to this continent wreak absolute havoc with native flora and fauna. And they don’t need more havoc by some unforeseen bug hitching a ride, or rabies or who knows what else.

Some random dog disease accidentally brought into Australia could end this lil platypus, when people have only just started to believe in them.

Some introduced disease brought into Australia could end this lil platypus, when people have only just started to believe in them.

Anyhoo, I write SF. I like to speculate. I can imagine all kinds of worlds more or less advanced than our own, in all kinds of ways. Yet, I sometimes wonder if we are evolved enough. Not just in terms of technology, but in terms of being ethically, or morally, or spiritually prepared to properly encounter and appreciate Earth’s own animal and plant intelligences, let alone any alien intelligence.

Nature, red in tooth and claw. Or as this depicts, in balance and mutual respect until people.

Nature, red in tooth and claw. Or as this depicts, in balance and with mutual respect until stupid people.

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Review: Lincoln + myth making

I’ve had a fascination with myth and myth making and recently watching Lincoln (2012) directed by Steven Spielberg, got me thinking about it again. If the United States has succeeded at one thing, it has succeeded in the mythologisation of its history, even to the point where those myths are exported to the rest of the world.

The film worked. This President, gently imitated in popular culture forever, became understandable and I could see why he was and remains, beloved by so many, even if he infuriated people too. I’d never thought about Lincoln’s voice before, and I’m no expert, but for me, once again, I was convinced. I particularly loved this bit, where one of the most important decisions of the film hinges on a conversation with a couple of Morse coders:

Abraham Lincoln: Euclid’s first common notion is this: things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other. That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning and its true because it works – has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is self-evident. You see there it is even in that 2000 year old book of mechanical law it is the self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same things are equal to each other.

I’m glad the film was a vignette rather than his entire life. The narrower focus gave an impetus and tension to the narrative that it would have lacked without it, even though the ending is not in doubt (unless you know nothing of US history). What became evident was Lincoln’s incredible political and inter-personal nous, even at the cost of his personal relationships.

Sally Field as Molly Lincoln lent conviction to her portrayal. I understood she had to fight for the role, given she is (shock) 10 years older than Daniel Day-Lewis, but you can’t fake chemistry and they had it. This is what casting agents and producers need to understand: chemistry happens at any age, not just between 23-year-old women and 55-year-old men.

As a non-American, what occurred to me is Australians don’t really do this with politicians. We are sceptical of those who seek to mythologise anyone and there are as many critics as fans of any particular candidate.

The closest Australia has to a famous inventor and polymath is the fictional Yahoo Serious.

The closest Australia has to a celebrated inventor and polymath like Ben Franklin is the fictional Yahoo Serious. Seriously. 

Hence, there are no politicians whose speeches Australians memorise, even when they make good ones. Some collect the insults used by Prime Minister Paul Keating, who did corner the market in this area. But a legendary ability to hurl a slur across the floor of parliament just makes Keating the subject of a musical, not a hero. PM Bob Hawke was (and remains) a legendary drinker (Google lists beer first when you enter his name) and parts of the culture commend him on this, but again, it’s not the same. PM Malcolm Fraser was (rightly) a hero to the Vietnamese community in Australia, but divided opinion on other matters.

There is an argument that Australia’s lack of mythologised characters is due to a lack of a bill of rights, or wars of independence or civil war. But Australia had plenty of battles: like the Rum Rebellion and the Eureka Stockade and the WWII attacks on Darwin. There were battles between settlers and Indigenous peoples, including massacres (which require their own histories), and these continued into the 1930s, so they can’t sit as part of some kind of romanticised early settler past. They should be remembered and mourned and to our collective chagrin, they are not.

I don’t think war creates in that way anyway. One could argue it is about time, Australia is a young nation, albeit with the world’s oldest living continuous culture. Maybe that’s a factor.

Anyway, it maybe more about the concept of national character. If any country has one, Australia’s is to mock those who would be our heroes. We can’t even be polite to our politicians. Those who hold the highest offices don’t get courtesy titles and our current Prime Minister this year almost lost his position, partly because his ‘captain’s call’ to re-instate knighthoods, was universally derided.

Americans may assassinate its politicians, but they still call former presidents Mister. Australia doesn’t even have a title for the spouse or partner of the Prime Minister, except when it was First Bloke, which was kinda endearing, even if it was because no one remembered his name. Hell, most Australians would find it difficult to list most of our PMs: there was Barton, the one that drowned, the one who loved the Queen and Whitlam.

Following on from a belief that Australia stands for egalitarianism, (even though rarely practised), this country has some national myths. They consist of the reactionary vs larger socio-political forces. Thus, one of our most divisive is an executed police killer called Ned Kelly. A bushranger who was (justifiably) angry at the oppression the poor and especially the Irish-Australians faced. He is both hero and villain. Interestingly, a recent study found you are more likely to have died from non-natural causes if you possessed, in life, a Kelly tattoo. Such is life indeed.

In this vein, Australia’s soldiers fighting losing battles not so much against the enemy (they respected) but against their better judgement at the behest of an Imperialism they learned to disrespect has been analysed forever.  See Gallipoli, Breaker Morant and every recent WWI commemoration. Yet, even that process of mythologisation has waned. People aren’t watching epic depictions of WWI like they used to. The audience is tuning into cooking and renovation competitions, for instance, for our collective dose of the myth of the underdog.

Every myth Australia has of itself is contested. Even if we laud the farmer settlers, it was because Australia is one of the most urbanised nations in the world. Few, even in Banjo Patterson’s day, were living that life he did his best to mythologise in his ballads.

Perhaps that’s our character: contrariness. We get people holding up individuals and events to commemorate, while at the same time we find reasons not to.

Maybe there are other reasons why Australia doesn’t have a Lincoln or a Washington? Take for example Governor William Bligh. No, I mean take him, he was despised by most everyone he met, including his friend Fletcher Christian, hence the Mutiny on the Bounty and later, the Rum Rebellion.

Then we have founders of the Australia’s Federation, like Alfred Deakin, who had many interesting qualities. In fact he:

attended séances and channelled messages from mediums. In 1877 he became president of the Victorian Association of Spiritualists, and was for a short time a member of the Theosophical Society. Alfred Deakin  and the Divine, 2014.

Deakin, a thinker and writer of lyrical prayers, in some respects, could be considered Lincoln-esque, in designing polices to encourage the development of a fair labour market, prevent slavery and ensure indentured workers were not imported. Yet, this same policy, called the White Australia Policy, enshrined in legislation 19th century beliefs in ‘hierarchies of races’ and expressed in parliament the idea that Aboriginal peoples wouldn’t survive. The upshot of Deakin is that people born here were attacked and deported and Indigenous families were broken up, becoming the Stolen Generations.

It’s hardly the Gettysburg Address is it?

Deakin: We [the Commonwealth Parliament] have power to deal with people of any and every race within our borders, except the Aboriginal inhabitants of the continent, who remain under the custody of the States. There is that single exception of a dying race; and if they be a dying race, let us hope that in their last hours they will be able to recognise not simply the justice, but the generosity of the treatment which the white race, who are dispossessing them and entering into their heritage, are according them (Parliamentary Debates IV, 4805).

Alfred Deakin has things named in his honour, as a founder of Federation, but  his statues aren’t tourist destinations, and he lacks the pop cultural recognition of Lincoln in the US or beyond, even now.

I think we should know our histories and our myths. America can lionise Lincoln. But I’m ok with Deakin and others of his ilk not being mythologised.

Washington. Australia has it's war heroes, I guess, like Sir John Monash, but we don't do school plays about them or mock them on Pinterest.

Washington. Like the US, Australia has generals, such as Sir John Monash, but we don’t do school plays about them or mock them on Tumblr and Pinterest.

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A Summerisle not forget

Sir Christopher Lee has passed into the West and into legend. His long career and abilities are now being examined far and wide by those who worked with him and those who admired, his many, many, films, amidst his other accomplishments.

What I’ve found interesting is the focus on how he spent much of his career as the (very effective) villain, at first ostensibly because his looks were considered too ‘exotic’ to be considered a leading man. This is contrasted to how many fans have described his voice. He may not have defined the ‘look’ of a Hero but he certainly came to define a type of aristocratic and learned Englishman. This combination of hauteur and questionable status found expression through his Sherlock Holmes and also in the Musketeers’ series of films, and also as Lord Summerisle, particularly when juxtaposed with Edward Woodward’s Sgt Howie.

As Saruman, he was the highest power for good in Middle Earth, and Lee evoked all the imperious arrogance, power and also fear across all the films that lead to his character’s ultimate downfall in (the good cut of) The Return of the King.  He captured perfectly where his character was heading in Lee’s final scenes in Battle of the Five Armies, which is a bonus we should thank Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson for, not be all waah, waah about because ‘it wasn’t in the books.’

We can argue that Lee’s aesthetic leant characters both familiarity, but also a dignified ‘Otherness’ – if a straight, while male actor can indeed be other.  Perhaps he is the source of Hollywood’s fascination of casting English actors as villains, even if they have to put on German (Die Hard) or South African  (Age of Ultron) accents?

 

I can see in the future foreign types will be heroes, not just enemies.  And exotic hats will become popular with aliens.

I can see ahead that we will be depicted as heroes, not just enemies. And the Fez will be popular with aliens.

However, we should question why this ever became a trope. ‘Foreign’ should not only ever equal bad. Can we see others not as exotic but as human? In Australia, we shouldn’t have to have an award-winning actor such as Miranda Tapsell (The Sapphires and Love Child) demanding roles that are not just about the ‘otherness’ of Aboriginality, for instance.

Stories can be full of heroes and villains of all sorts. Square jawed All American types could be your rampant doom merchants in Bond films if both written and cast that way. Indigenous characters can be heroes , women (of any ethnicity) can and should be the central characters of superheroes films. We shouldn’t Marvel at this, we want this. We want more than just a blonde male Bond in the 21st century, we want diversity. Lee, who wanted to play Gandalf so many years ago, not only a Bond villain, would have wanted this too.

Tell us again how in the future women can be artists and geographers and any character they want to be.

Tell us again how in the future women can be artists and geographers and villains and heroes in any story they want to be.

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The 13 and a third times advice amazingly recommended writing like Buzzfeed!

The internet is full of stuff. Kitten videos, for instance and memes. And things not including kitten videos (?). And reams of advice for writers sometimes also including kitten videos.

Frankly, I’m tired of being advised by sometimes well-meaning, but ultimately advertising driven content churners presenting lists of ways to make my blog sound like Buzzfeed. They’ve pop up a lot recently in social media, and all of them are almost exactly the same: how tos for people who don’t wanna try properly.

Disdainful Lynx is judging   bad writing advice.

Disdainful Lynx judges bad writing advice.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I could present the 8 Reasons Why Content Generators have a Time and a Place. And I mean no disrespect for what Buzzfeed do in particular, they are champion at distraction and entertainment and news(ish) stuff. But I don’t want to write about them or like them. It’s not me. It’s not what I’m doing here. I reckon if you visit or follow my blog I bet it’s not why you’re here either.

The point of the internet and all writing is that it is a method to give voice. It shouldn’t be news to you that each of us has a unique voice and perspective. I don’t want to explore and present my voice and (hopefully interesting) perspective by sounding exactly the same as every one else. And neither should you. I will strive to sound like me and you should sound like you. It means if I don’t include a number and a descriptive term and important noun in my catchy title it’s because I don’t want to, it’s not because I can’t. (Believe me this is the advice, like SEO for kids or something. Blergh.)

A million readers who turn up at my blog because they have a second to see if my words are exactly the same as everyone else’s is not as valuable as reaching a single reader who believes I have said something worthy or memorable. (This post probably isn’t it – sorry). Writing is about attempting to make connections and explore meaning, not p*ssing people off with time-wasting lists of obvious stuff.

When I have come across links to such advice, I have taken to mocking them gently. I can’t help it. But in the future I will ignore them completely. They waste time and are content-less content. I don’t present content. I write stuff. And this is the most stuff I am willing to write about this so-called ‘advice’.

Here’s a cat.

Here is a giant cat by a river contemplating its new coat of arms. As one does.

A giant cat by a small river contemplates its new coat of arms. As one does.

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The problem with previews

There are many things coming up I want to see and read. The problem is that the previews and news about them are so far in advance I may miss them later when I have forgotten my current excitement. Damn the invention of the NOW GENERATION.

It’s great I can see previews for films set for release in October but if you’re going to show me bits of Macbeth that Scottish Play with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and David Thewlis (who is expert in playing unlucky characters in historical epics) then I wants it now. Now I say.

 

 

Also add to that list Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak and the film Suffragette, which I only just heard about the other day but looks very good. Not to mention most of the Marvel franchise. Meanwhile, I’m interested in what Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchmen will be like (as is everyone who ever fell in love with Atticus Finch), but I’m not about to pre-order it. I may wait until the pundits tell me whether or not it has ruined To Kill A Mockingbird. This is in contrast to how I will be all over the extended Battle of the Five Armies as soon as it comes out. Maybe it will have a more fitting funeral/conclusion.

Some things can wait, I guess. I mean I only just watched the final Letterman episode from last month. It was strangely more moving than I thought it would be given I haven’t been a regular watcher for years. It’s about priorities.

And there is too much TV and too much news about all the TV I either haven’t watched or can’t get or missed completely. However, I do have a knack for liking things that get canned after a season or two anyway so I might as well wait. 

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