Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Guiltless maternity

"The arrival of the child, on the other hand, leads the mother into the labyrinths of an experience that, without the child, she would only rarely encounter: love for an other. Not for herself, nor for an identical being, and still less for another person with whom ‘I’ fuse (love or sexual passion). But the slow, difficult apprenticeship in attentiveness, gentleness, forgetting oneself. The ability to succeed in this path without masochism and without annhilating one’s affective, intellectual and professional personality – such would be the stakes to be won through guiltless maternity. It then becomes a creation in the strongest sense of the term. For this moment, utopian?"

Julia Kristeva Women's Time

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Make your own lollies!

Just found this intriquing recipe here (one degree of separation - Jackie French and I were both shortlisted for an Aurealis Award a few years ago, neither of us won it). Anyway, I thought I must bookmark that but fearing it would get lost in my ever expanding but extremely disorganised boomark folder, I thought, well, I may as well put it here. I haven't tried it out yet but it's on my list of things to do (along with horseriding and laser eye surgery). Looks like something you need to gobble pretty fast - love the storage directions...it doesn't say what to do if they start out looking odd, which pretty much describes all my forays into the mysterious world of homemade confectionary - sugar mice, toffee, coconut ice, caramel...

By the wya pic is of some kind of Lush bath product but it was the closest I could get.

Blueberry and Lime Fruit Jellies

You need:

1 cup apple juice
1 packet frozen blueberries
half a cup of lime juice
1 cup of sugar (or less – your choice)
2 tsp tartaric acid
half a cup gelatine, pectin or seaweed-based setting agent – gelatine is cheaper but the others taste better

Simmer everything except the gelatine, pectin or seaweed-based setting agent for half an hour.
Now add a little of the juice to the gelatine or other setting mix and then mix it into the rest of the juice. Pour it onto a tray covered in baking paper and wait for it to set.
Now cut into little squares, or diamonds, or long jelly snakes – you can give them a pair of eyes with a bit of peanut if you like and use a knife to cut a pattern into the 'snakeskin'. Store between baking paper in a cool dry place for a day or two, but not too long – remember they don't have any preservatives in them. Throw them out if they start growing mould or look odd.
Otherwise, give them to your kids for a treat or, better still, get them into the kitchen making their own, because once they get used to a genuine fruit flavour in their lollies, they won't want to go back to artificial flavours.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Top news

Princess Mary is up the duff again (well, what else is she going to do? Get a job?). I'm sure you'll all be fascinated to know that we went to the same high school. She was in grade ten when I was in grade seven, but I don't remember her and I am sure the amnesia is mutual. Still, I know she's most likely an avid reader of Eglantine's Cake so I'd like to wish her well. You know, it occurs to me that Mary was probably a pretty daggy name at Taroona High School circa 1987. But it's worked out well for her, it's quite a good name for a Danish princess. So that's foresight for you.

The Age's headline tells us Duran Duran have split, but rest assured, if you read the article (and I know you will) you will be reassured that it's only that Andy Taylor became unworkable (if you look at the picture you kind of get a glimpse at what they mean). I wasn't an enormous Duran Duran fan (my sister's wall was plastered with posters of John Taylor from Smash Hits magazine) but I did have many an afternoon of happy angst, listening to Hungry like a Wolf over and over again.

On a far more sombre note, I feel like I should say something about the DVD circulating Melbourne's western suburban high schools but to do so would be to imply that I understand the psychology of such acts and I'm afraid that in this case my usually overactive imagination fails me (or it's a place I choose not to send it). It does make me scared of the whole school experience. I don't know if Princess Mary's memories are rosier than mine (perhaps by contractual obligation) but my high school experience is not something I would wish on my daughters. I know Martin feels the same about his. But what are the options? Even if we could afford private school, I think we're all kidding ourselves if we assume exclusivity is a guarantee of warm happy memories and golden afternoons of happy learning and lovely skipping happy kids who are only kind to each other. And is it insane to want Frederique and Una's whole life to be a long golden afternoon? But it is what I want for them, I can't help it. I don't want to send them to the school of hard knocks. I don't think you need to be hit by a car in order to see it makes sense to take care crossing the road. All I want for them is to feel safe at school. I don't expect it to be full of constant joy. But I do expect it to be a relatively protected environment.

And then there are girls like Alexandra Adornetto, 14 years old with a two book deal under her belt. So you can find another, happier way of being 14, it would seem. I can't wait to read her novels and I wish her the best of luck.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sexing the text

It would seem I write like a boy, according to the gender genie, a neat little gimmicky programme based on a pay per view article which I am too cheap to pay for so I have no idea what it says, except apparently some words are boy words (around, what, more, are, as, who, below, is, these, the, a, at, it, many, said, above, to) and some words are girl words (with, if, not, where, be whe, your, her, we, should, she, and, me, myself, hers, was). I'm not sure what to make of this having nor read the article, though incidently (before being shown this by my clever Masters friend Nadia) I read Neil Gaimon's article, Books Have Sexes, where he describes that part of discovering the novel you're writing is finding out if it's a boy or a girl book (not for girls or boys, but just whether the book itself is more of a boy story or a girl story).
When I played with the gender genie, it was interesting to me that the prologue of Breathe is 'boy' writing (it's written from Trout's close perspective) and yet the scene where Undine uses her magic to make a stone girl with butterfly skin is 'girl' writing. Perhaps I'm doing something right! Glancing through the words, the male words seem very much about situating the reader, about imperative and fact, where as the female words seem more questioning, reflective. It's interesting too that 'she' and 'her' are chick words but 'he' and 'him' aren't boy words...is it an assumption that girls write more about people? 'It' is a boy word, do they write more about objects? 'Said' is a boy word too - do boys write more dialogue, or do they simply report dialogue in a more direct fashion (I love said. I am not a fan of shouted. In fact I loathe it. I don't mind a bit of whispering, hissing, replying action, but more often that not, I like said. Mostly because I like to imply the tone of the dialogue through the dialogue itself.)
To me, Breathe is Trout's story, it's a boy's story and Undine is Undine's story. So in that sense the gender genie is spot on (though I'd like to point out that I am and was always a woman whilst writing both pieces - so instead of gendering the author perhaps the program, like Gaimon's article, should be more concerned with gendering the text). Rise/Drift/Stay/Sandwiches (title still to be confirmed, but probably not Sandwiches) is a dual story, it belongs to a few different characters, including Jasper, Undine's spooky baby brother. It's interesting to me that Jasper as a small child in a single mother household with mostly female adults in his life, belongs to a predominantly female culture of language - this seems to have affected the voice that Jasper speaks with, even as an adult (ooooh...don't want to give too much away).
So even though the gender genie is to me really a kind of parlour game (sans parlour, unfortunately - I think a parlour would be quite nice, and don't parlours always have cucumber sandwiches?), it's still made me think about my writing in an interesting way. Thanks for another juicy link Nadia! (I know she pops in from time to time).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Secret Life 2: more of the frederique's photos.

She calls herself that: the frederique. Is that normal? She used to call herself the freak-a-reek and I'm afraid it's stuck. I'm so going to get in trouble when she gets to high school.

Fred's photo hobby is like a kind of everyone wins lotto: she takes the camera out and brings it back full to bursting with photos. I love her perspectives. I love the sense that I am looking at the world through her eyes. It's one of the most enchanting thing about having children, seeing the world anew, remembering how fascinating the familiar once was.

the secret life of fred

Often on Tuesdays and Fridays we send Frederique off to creche in one outfit and she comes home in another, though all the clothes in her bag are clean and dry. It was a little mystery which was today solved by Kylie, the director. She told Martin that at about 11 o'clock a small group of 3 or 4 girls creep off to the bathroom, strip down to nothing and try on each other's clothes.
When I was Fred's age, I used to hide under the director's desk every day and slip off my shoes. I lost several pairs doing this - no one knew where I was apparently (I don't think THAT would happen in a creche these days). Mum was Very Cross. But come on Mum admit it, you did think it was cute - on some level, right?
Fred's game accrues us as many clothes as we lose, its the great cycle of life, so her secret life isn't as potentially costly as mine was.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I am trying to think of a new title for Rise, since the publishers agree with me that Rise isn't quite right...but now I have to think of something else...there's a growing list. Contenders so far include Sister, Shift, Drift and Stay. I like Stay. I think the publishers are leaning towards Sister, which is kind of perfect in context but I am not sure I like it as a title of a book...if you know what I mean. It might be a bit too girlie YA. Opinions are welcome. It's been Rise for so long for me that it's hard to think about it as anything else (and Rise is a great title - it just doesn't mean anything!)

I have to think of a title for my short story too - tomorrow's the last day to enter it in the Age short story competition. Perhaps I'll just call it Zack - that's always been my back up name for a boy in a I'll never hate it kind of a way. Zack the story. It's got a good ring. (It will actually probably be called Meadow. Or Boy. Or The Boy They Brought Home, but I think I nicked that from somewhere. John Marsden maybe. Yep. I could say it's an homage. And suddenly it occurs to me that it's a tad patronising that Marsden thinks he can write a how to book for single mothers, but what would I know?)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

All you need is...

As I walked home with Fred and Una today from a lovely visting day, I heard two six-ish year old boys calling out to each other at the end of school: 'Bye, Max! I love you' 'I love you too, Alex. I love you so much, bye.' It was lovely to hear. It made Fred dance in the sunshine, on the grass, under the trees - she wanted to share the love.

Happy Birthday Frangipani.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

LOST 2 Review

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't watched the series and plan to, maybe you shouldn't read this as I will be talking about specific things that happened and you might feel like I give too much away, though I'll try not to reveal too many specifics. If you aren't planning on watching the series then definitely look away because this will fry your eyeballs with seering boredom.

It's fantastic that really great television is being made now. To me Lost seemed to be the absolutely essential antidote needed to all the TEDIOUS (can you hear me shouting Australian television creators?) reality television which is what, three years ago, made us give up on live-air television in the first place and limit our viewing exclusively to DVD. It's great to see a show that's all about narrative and character, that is brave enough to follow a complex narrative arc over a whole series (rather than that 'reset' style of television, where every episode must stand alone and any developments made in previous episodes are forgotten). From the bits and pieces I read and hear about television, shows like Lost seem to have inspired a return to storytelling in television. I only hope that Australia follows the trend and starts making some more drama, before all Australia's talent jumps on a plane bound for LA (cause we all know how that can turn out). And segueway, to the review.

I thought the pacing of the series was pretty good overall, Martin and I remained engrossed to the very end. However I did find the first half more compelling than the second. I loved the storyline that dealt with the other group of survivors on the island and to me the best episode was the one that took us back to day one of the crash but from their point of view. It was also a great way to introduce some new interesting characters (including a new female 'lead', played by Michelle Rodriguez, to change the group dynamic). Also, as life continues on the island, you start to realise that the drive to be rescued is diminishing, which is an interesting shift in focus. Many of these people have a more meaningful, fulfilling future on the island than they do in the 'real world'.

Thematically some lines were blurred, and we begin to realise that the Others (or Them as the second group of survivors called them) aren't straightforward bad guys and in fact we start to see that they've been, or perceive themselves to be, 'colonised' or invaded (though there is still a sinister implication that they are somehow responsible for the island and it's strangeness, and we're not encouraged to like them because they take away people's freedom and right to choose). All sorts of 'secrets' are revealed in this episode. What physically caused the crash (though it doesn't account for the mystical connections the characters have to each other and the island which is further explored in this season), what's in the hatch, the story behind the occupants of the Brazilian plane, what happened to Claire when she was taken...but of course secrets revealed lead to deeper secrets. We also get more backstory on most of the characters, flashing back to their lives before the crash. Many secrets aren't revealed, we don't know about the monsters (and we don't see enough of them in my opinion!), the polar bears, the visions and nor do we know why so many of the characters are connected (and these connections proliferate in the second series). Walt's strange abilities hinted at in the last series are not fully explored.

The series does interesting things with time, on several occasions taking us back further into their lives in terms of the flashbacks, fleshing out stories from the first season, like Jack's marriage, Kate's crime, Hurley's life before his big win (including the time he spent in the pyschiatric hospital and why he was there). Even on the island, there are episodes that lay two time lines together to tell a parallel story. It's interesting, because I hadn't realised how unusual it was to play with chronology in television in terms of storytelling and characterisation - I realised how much more flexible novels are in using unusual form and narrative sequencing.

My biggest problem with the series was characterisation. For some reason the writers decided to boil the characters down to a singular identity. Sayid becomes the Torturer, Charlie becomes the Junkie, Sawyer the Conman, Michael becomes the Father...Unfortunately, I thought they leaned heavily on stereotype in order to achieve this. Characterisation was a strength of the last series but it really fell down in Lost 2. Many of the flashbacks didn't actually contribute much to the individual stories and felt more as though they were being used as a device to connect the characters together (Sawyer is served by Kate's mother in a diner, Sayid meets Kate's soldier father in Iraq etc etc). Because characterisation was weak, I found that I cared less and when I didn't care, the stories didn't ring true. This was particularly problematic when it came to the storyline driven by Michael, the desperate father whose son Walt is taken from him in the last episode of series 1. The final episodes of series 2 (basically the climax of the season's action) was inherently flawed because I simply didn't believe in a transformation - that Michael would do anything, compromise the safety of anyone, in order to get his son back (it seemed extraordinary that he wouldn't have tried to enlist the help of someone - or coerce them - as opposed to what he did end up doing). The brief appearances of Walt (we don't know if he's physically there or if it's a projection or hallucination though he's seen by more than one person) at the beginning of the series are intriguing but seem to come to nothing. I am guessing Walt will feature in the next series (either that or it's shabby storytelling). But I wanted a bit more this series, just a kind of reassurance from the writers that they have a plan for Walt, and that they were in control of the narrative arc (whereas it actually felt that they had created too many threads and he got a bit lost as a result). I think they've relied too heavily on the potent image of a child being taken by strangers from a parent's arms (which was hugely impactful at the end of the last series) without following through - Michael tells us he's desperate over and over, but we're not really shown his mounting desperation in credible stages (show don't tell - it's the major rule of storytelling).

John Locke's character arc in the first series was a very intriguing one. He began as a stable, seemingly enlightened character with an apparently mystical connection to the island and all manner of useful skills, but as the series developed we learned that right up until the crash he had been an impotent and desolate man in many ways, with little control over his life, and his newfound enlightenment was tested. In series 3, Locke seems to come undone. What I was talking about before, where the characters are boiled down to a singular role - torturer, junkie etc - Locke actually becomes the box manager that we all knew he didn't want to be in the first series. He has a new role in life, a calling, and it's to push a button on a computer with an unknown purpose (except it has something to do with saving the world) that may or may not be an empty psychological experiment every 108 minutes. It seems to represent the most tedious, pointless bureaucratic job, except imbuing it with the 'superpower' of saving the world. Locke's faith is tested, which leads to the second primary narrative arc. The 'will I won't I press the button' storyline does feel a bit overworked though, it got repetitive. Also, though I respected the storyline, I wasn't anywhere near as interested in Locke the box manager as I had been in Locke the survivalist. I also didn't really believe he would so completely give up on his (mundane) calling after discovering some fairly ambiguous evidence that what he had been doing was possibly pointless, I think there needed to be one more thread there to kick him over the edge. Again, show don't tell - use action and drama, not monologue, to get the audience to believe the transformation.

In the first series the island seemed to have a life of its own; it was like another whole character, intriguing, beautiful, dangerous, perilous. John Locke says, "I looked into the eye of this island, and what I saw... was beautiful." It seemed to have a consciousness of its own, or sub-consciousness at least: a dreamlife. It seemed to have its own desires, to be self-protective, to want to enveigle the crash survivors into its heart for its own mysterious purpose. In this series, those characteristics are imbued on the 'Others' and the Dharma initiative (the team responsible for the hatch), the island seems to recede and become merely scenery. For me, this was the biggest disappointment of Lost 2.

But all in all it was exciting television. Someone dies early in the season (and it's not the season's only casualty) and you realise all bets are off, nobody's completely safe. There is an air in the show that anything can happen, you're never quite sure what the rules are (Star Trek, though it was great tv, was bogged down by its own conventions), it's a true ensemble cast which means that even main characters are, in a sense, expendable because the narrative isn't hinged on any of them individually. The flaws in characterisation and plot are so minor that it's a shame no one did anything about them (who lets these things slide? I guess in television it's an unwieldy diminished responsibility kind of deal - and as a writer, I know how easy it is to leave important stuff out because it's hard to distinguish between world-in-head and world-on-page - in television world-in-head would be world-in-meetings, a collective interior world...what seems patently obvious to a group of creators who live with the psychology of their characters every day might not translate as well on film when it is diffused through so many people - actors, cinematographers, directors, producers etc.)

Lost links:
Official site (I didn't hang round long cos I don't want to find out anything about series 3!)
Lost Season One Refresher
A reassurance that there's a plan

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A long hot dry summer

There's bushfires in Hobart, which is eerily reminiscent of Rise. The story takes place in February at the end of a long hot summer and bushfires are encroaching on the territory of the inner suburbs.
I remember one bad summer when the sky in Hobart's cbd was a hazy orange for days as fires burned the surrounding hills. I remember a night after I'd moved to Melbourne, waiting for news with my best friend Zoe as spotfires were burning on her parents' bush block and my parents were waiting anxiously to see if a separate fire (or maybe a long reaching arm of the same fire) would cross the main road and threaten their house. The crazy thing is that neither of them lived more than 15 minutes drive from the city centre - Hobart is like this, an evolving, organic city that curls into the bush. Standing on the main streets you can see bush, river, mountain, sky. The mountain seems safe, its flowing skirts pinned down by the city but in fact it is still largely wild - you can't really domesticate a mountain. It's wildness is expressed by weather - clouds overcome it, in winter (and Autumn and Spring and sometimes even Summer) snow falls on its peaks and as far down as town at least once in my lifetime, and in summer, fires scorch its sides, billowing smoke into the city. When the bushfires are burning you get a different sense of Hobart's relational spaces. You're reminded that quite separtate suburbs that are usually only accessible from each other by long linear roads passing through other suburbs, are actually joined by sparsely inhabited or unused hills and tracts of bush.
There are bushfires in Victoria too, but here, a similar distance from the city as my family home was, there's no sign of it except the force of the heat, the dusty wind. Bushfire weather, the highest of fire dangers. The protection we have in the city from the realities of fire is dangerous too, in a different way. Melburnians stubbornly want to water their gardens, I don't think we understand water restrictions in the same way that people who actually see the dryness understand them.
(Ah irony, as I was writing this Fred came in covered from head to foot in dripping paint and had to have a shower for the second time today - for the same reason. I decided to at least use the opportunity to wash Una and myself as well. I am not a daily showerer, having been well conditioned by a sister who always used up the hot water in the mornings before school, and also by my own habit of stealing more precious minutes of sleep before tumbling out of bed straight into my clothes and out the door.)
Rain is forecast over the weekend. Let's hope it brings some much needed relief. But it's going to be a long dry summer judging by the extraordinary weather we've already had.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

She's kind of a living doll

Jenny Lewis I mean (Click on the link and you'll go to her gorgeous site where you can listen to her divine song, 'Rabbit Fur Coat'. I want to live in her website.) She reminds me of a Blythe doll - it's the fringe, the big eyes, the copper coloured, shining hair. As the bio on her website reads: "All that's missing from this package is the hiss and crackle of vinyl, a shoulder to lean or cry on, and a tall mug of something strong to sip slowly."
Anyway, since Dustykisses sent me this some time ago, the album, Rabbit Fur Coat, has been on fairly constant rotation for both Martin and I. I love it, it takes me places.
Don't know why I felt suddenly compelled to blog about her, but there you go. Blog happens I suppose.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A blogiday

Haven't been blogging much lately, especially for a girl whose finished her novel! But this is because of things that keep me busy during the day (editing work, children, parties - I already feel like I'm in that busy lead up to Christmas, exacerbated by all the red and gold aisles in Kmart filled with Christmas crap) and the thing that keeps me busy at night. Yes we were overcome in a moment of weakness and bought it on dvd to celebrate downsizing the television. We've gone from having a fairly typical monster tellie in the lounge room complete with tiny surround sound speakers dotted round the room to the smallest one we could buy, which now sits on the top of our chest of drawers (the one we keep in the lounge room for stuffing ephemera into - though by definition when you store your ephemera it becomes something else: enduring rubbish, but conveniently hidden) and is plugged into the same creature speakers as our airport terminal for the laptops, which is how we listen to music. It means our lounge room is now neater and centred around the couches and the living rather than the tellie and the watching. We don't plug the tellie into an external aerial which means in this house we can't watch television at all, but we don't anyway anymore. Life's too short to watch ads ;) ANd ABC and SBS reception here aren't great even with the aerial. It also means we can make more of the natural light in the lounge room and when it comes to light, natural is the way to go and this was the main motivation for the change - the television was taking up prime real estate!
Anyway, as it turns out our dvd player won't play the Lost 2 dvds anyway (wrong region) so we've been watching them on the laptop. Perhaps we should have skipped television ownership altogether (but I'm not sure I'm ready to parent without television, as shamed as I am to say that). It's been excellent so far, with some interesting narrative structure, particularly in the way they are digging deeper into the past of the characters and the past of the island. But it's way scary. Lost 2 arrived last Thursday. On Friday I woke up with a sore neck from sitting rigid in terror and Martin and I both had nightmares. So we have agreed to keep it to one or two episodes a night.
Here are some photos that Fred took. When you're three and a half, it's all about colour. I love these photos. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mysterious, exciting

This arrived on our doorstep yesterday all the way from Japan. I have my suspicions who might have sent it (a certain Miss Kisses?) but it really is quite mysterious and I was baffled. I actually followed one incorrect lead already! Una loves it and so does Fred who thought it was Baby Jesus (I think her religious education is somewhat lacking) and now calls it the Angel Baby.
Anyway, thank you to the Angel who sent her, she is much loved (and soooo cute).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Brio Network

Go play here. Fred loves it, as do Martin and I.