Category Archives: Odds and Sods on Board

Promoting New Art – Helen Perris

I love coming across new music, new books, new artists, and supporting and promoting them however I can.

One way is blogging about their art and material, another by putting links via social media avenues.

Today, local Sydney artist, Helen Perris releases her new song, Mirrors and Windows. I really like this song. Lovely production. It has a pop sensibility with reference to Helen’s influences in cabaret and musical theatre. Think Amanda Palmer, Tori Amos, Kate Bush. All lovely stuff.

Helen is a singer songwriter, musician, promoter of the arts and a generally cool person to know.

Watch the video below.

Check out Helen’s page and bandcamp site for more of her music.

Whenever you can, however you can, support artists. Promote them, buy their products. 

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Odds and Sods Behind the Lounge

The last week of the school term is fast approaching, extending to two weeks out of the classroom. In theory, this is free time. In reality, it’s marking, preparation for lessons, planning and sharpening pencils.

What it means for my writing is hopefully a little more time to work on a couple of projects. I have in mind the completion of new drafts for 2 short stories, tidying up a couple of poems, and the completion of the first draft of my verse novel.

It is very ambitious and I’ll be disappointed if I can’t get some of these projects up to speed. Must stay focused and on task. No distractions.

Speaking of distractions, on a whim the other night I opened my iPad, found a picture of my daughter (Miss #2) and attempted to draw it on a tiny Post It Note (the pencil gives you an idea of the scale).

This was the result.


But, what ever you do for one child, you must reciprocate for the other. My attempt at drawing Miss #1 was not as good (it’s the eyes; they’re not right).


Side by side for comparison; Miss #2 on the left, Miss #1 on the right.


Unperturbed, I took my pencil and pen to band practice and sketched one of the guitarists during set up and sound check. The proportion is wrong, but it’s not bad.


Side note: faces are SUCKY to draw. I can never get eyes and noses and lips in the right places.

Learning Experiences (nothing spoils fun like finding out it builds character – Bart Simpson): I am not very good at art but I don’t care.
It’s practice; the development of a skill.
It’s another way of being creative, unlocking the unconscious parts of the brain while it’s distracted learning a new skill like drawing.
I embrace the suckiness and enjoy the process.
And I’m not ashamed to post my early attempts here.

Creativity is about fun and play, and messing about with boats. Hang on, that was Rat. Never mind, move on. Nothing to see here.

Don’t forget to play with your food from time to time and learn Roman numerals. I’m off to draw.


Practice Pages – Music To Die By

This Practice Page was inspired by a line in a text I was reading (I wish I wrote down what it was – it may have been an article I was reading online). The line that sparked the thought forms the title, Music to Die By.

Oh, it’s all flaws and problems but I like the idea of simply throwing words down on paper to explore an idea; try to excise the cliches and boring prose with something different. I find the same phrases or half-sentences popping up in my writing like dandelions, spreading their seed when I fart and sowing a new crop of half-arsed sentences.

Therefore, the practice pages are a good way to expunge tired expressions from my writing and find new images and constructions. And, yes, this is all just practice and in no way should be considered ‘art.’

Music To Die By

The funeral march, never heard by your own ears, is a cadence of steps bearing the weight of the coffin with you inside it. The missed step and misstep, Perhaps the last thing you heard was the shufflely slap of slippers in the hallway, the click of the bathroom light and stop/start splash of urination.

You have a set list of songs you’d like played at your funeral; even one or two put on there as an ‘up yours’ to certain family members. But if there was one song to play, that best encapsulated who you are, and who you were, what would it be? The sentiment of a song, meaningless to everyone else but you, and you can’t hear it.

While mulling it over, there are playbacks of other songs: the frenetic two-beat of punk, a stuttering motorcycle of attempted rebellion until the motor smooths out and rebellion is understood as a revolution of the mind, not the clothing.

Or the rushed climax of lovers as the radio plays some innocuous pop song in the background, a soundtrack gouged in wax and on each subsequent listen the memory replaces the physical engagement until the only thing left is chemical memory and the desire of what it represented.

This then, is the purest music: the silence between heartbeats until at last, the needle of the record lifts, pauses, returns to the carriage and with the final click, the revolutions cease.

Cuts To Arts Funding

In the recent Government Budget here in Australia, there is a controversy about the allocation of funds to an independent body, The Australian Council For The Arts. Part of the money, approximately 20%, is being taken and given to a new government body, controlled by the Minister for the Arts. Over the next four years, the money given to the arts is also being cut back.

It has raised the ire of arts bodies and artists, and rightly so; government controlled arts funding is akin to propaganda.

I am not a recipient of an arts grant, nor have I been one in the past. I may apply for one in the future.

In times of economic stress, the arts are one of the first to be cut back. 

I think for a lot of tax payers, the idea of paying for artistic people to paint, sculpt, develop plays, musicals or operas, is throwing money into a big dark hole to be buried forever and seeing no return on investment. I’ve seen in the mainstream media, editorials decrying the ‘waste of money’ given to a public piece of art. 

Art is seen as subsidiary to earning an income as opposed to seeing art as a way to earn an income. I see it in attitudes towards music, art, woodwork and the like. It is not seen as a serious career choice. At its best it is a hobby, a crafty interest, a sideline pursuit, something done on weekends or once a weeknight.

I want my taxes to be made available for public services: roads, education, health and hospitals, public transport AND the arts.

What I think needs to happen is for the conversation to be on the role and purpose of the arts in our society. People consume art: film, music, books as the basics but are not aware of the time and effort required to create it. 

We need to have the conversation about the value of art, what it contributes to society and culture, not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of its spirituality, ethos, mentally and emotionally. 

We need to have the conversation to demonstrate the need for the arts to be understood as an integral aspect of our society.

The arts are not a respite for those with mental or physical disabilities. Nor are the arts the domain of the ‘tortured artist.’ The arts are the domain of all; we should all be creating, all contributing, while allowing for those who want to pursue it as a career to make that choice freely and boldly.

We need to have this conversation for art’s sake.

Those Who Can, Do AND Teach

There is a saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

What a load of bollocks.

It’s said as an insult; a derogatory, snide remark to elevate one person and denigrate another.

As a teacher, it’s particularly insulting because it’s my profession, my career, my calling. To teach is to pass on knowledge, information, insight, technique, skills, habits.

To say those who can’t, teach, is to abrogate responsibility of all people to teach one another. 

Fundamentally, every interaction is teaching. We give it different names or titles like coach, mentor, professor, guru, but the interaction is the dissemination of knowledge and the acquiring of skills.

Teaching is an aspect of our relationships with one another. As parents we teach our children right from wrong, good from bad. We teach them to tie shoelaces, ride bikes, make sandwiches, treat people with dignity and respect, how to make friends. We should also teach them to create. Never let a child feel like creativity is a waste of time.

There are skilled and gifted teachers in every creative endeavour and every profession. While they may not receive the praise and accolades of some of their peers at the higher echelons, or their names are not well known, their work is far more significant. They allow the next generation to stand on their shoulders and see further. In turn, they pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation, hoist them onto their shoulders and help them see further still.

To teach is to create. It creates interest, passion, wonder, curiosity, desire, engagement, questions. It creates a learner.

A student is never greater than the master. No, a master should ensure that the student IS greater than the master. This is creativity. This is teaching. Equip the student with the necessary skills and understandings to excel.

Explore the “family tree” of an artist in whatever medium. See where they came from, who they learned under, what ideas they developed and passed on. Know the origins of your art. 

Understand you can teach someone. It doesn’t require a degree, time in a classroom. Teaching is done in the quiet moments of conversation, time shared over tea and doughnuts.

Those who can, do AND teach. 


The Selfie and Art

The Selfie Generation and The Misunderstanding of Art
While away on holidays the thought of the ubiquitious selfie struck me as an indicative misunderstanding of the way art functions in society.  Without giving it too much thought I put the random thoughts to twitter.Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 9.37.14 pm

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There has been commentary on the narcissism of the selfie, and the selfie generation. Self portraits are nothing new in terms of the history of art but the selfie has predominated in a digital age and the shift in societal thinking. It is nothing more than self-aggrandisement.
The selfie misses the vital point of art and its function in society as a whole and the community on a smaller level, leading to this statement:
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Ultimately I don’t care about the photos of yourself, or of your food, or your beverage, or any other piece of ennui you care to photograph and post on social media. What I do care about is the image you have carefully and thoughtfully constructed in order to tell a story.
It can be a photograph, a drawing, a doodle, a sketch, done with crayons, pencils, textas, salt and pepper, the spilt milk on the table and played with to create a pattern. 
The fact is, the art is deliberate and has a purpose. The fact a company can sell a book of Kim Kardashian selfies says a lot about the disposable artistic culture we live in. We have monetised narcissism which diminishes the value of art as a whole and what people are willing to pay to contribute to a vibrant arts culture. The same thing can be said for reality tv celebrities and their ‘biography.’ It cheapens the literary culture and pushes publishing to look for the next quick cash cow they can milk then slaughter. 
If we want art to have longevity it must have purpose, definition and an audience. A selfie has none of them.
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There is a place for art for the individual and the self. But it is not art to be shared publicly. It can be shared with a few select people but not for the whole community. I don’t show the scraps of sentences found littered in my notebook or my practice pieces to the readers of my blog (unless I am using it to illustrate a point). This is the art for myself. Only when the piece is completed, edited, refined will I show it to my audience. I know what is done for myself and what is done for my audience. 
By all means, take selfies and share them with your audience. Just don’t cal it art.
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 Feel free to disagree with me in the comments; I would like your feedback on this.

What’s your opinion on the selfie as ‘art’? 

Adventures of Lego Writer Man

Last year a friend of mine, amongst other people I know, maintained a Thankfulness theme on Facebook. Every day for an entire year, 365 days’ worth, he posted a new thing to be thankful for. It was an encouraging read and made my realise how blessed I am when I consider the breadth and depth of things I can be thankful for.

However, it spurred a new idea: the daily adventures of a Lego figurine, in particular, a Lego figure who was a writer.

So, Adventures of Lego Writer Man was created. Armed with his cup (for tea) and laptop (to write on), he embarks on a literary journey. Each day I post a photo on Twitter of Lego Writer Man and his adventures. Follow me (@revhappiness) or the hashtag #AofLWM.


Wish You Well

Happy New Year to you all.

2015 is here and whether you celebrate it with good intentions or good champagne, there is something about the marking of a new year that sets it apart.

Last night I played at a New Year’s Eve gig (I play drums in my spare time when I’m not teaching English or writing) and we always end our set with the song, ‘Wish You Well’ by Bernard Fanning (Powderfinger).

It’s a beautiful sentiment and we love playing it at weddings especially, to bless the new bride and groom, but it’s a positive sentiment to give to all our audiences. 

This year holds so many possibilities, many of which I have not foreseen, some I have planned for, but I intend to live out the year focused on the adage to ‘love thy neighbour’ because only when I seek to serve others will there be freedom and peace on Earth.

And so, with that in mind, I just want to wish you well for 2015. 

Remixing is the New Creating Part 2

Earlier in the month I mentioned I had a piece listed on the if:books Australia Open Changes project titled The Storm. It was a remix of a previous work, Jodi Cleghorn’s poem, ‘Later.’ I took the line, “born up on the cicada chorus.”

In good news, I have another piece featured in the last week. You can read ‘The Naked Rosehere.

I took inspiration from Jodi Cleghorn’s piece, ‘She Would Be Grass.’ In particular, the line “On the ninth day, green patches of turf appeared.”

Now the project is closed, it will take the form of a story tree. I will let you know when it is up for you to have a goosey gander at.

Do You Want Story Time?

My collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn (with whom I wrote Post Marked: Piper’s Reach) has just released a new collaboration with Claire Jansen.

She explains the process here.

Let me give you the blurb.

Three days before Christmas Amber lands in Australia to celebrate the festive season with Ben. But he’s not expecting her or the news she brings. Her presence sends radial fractures into Ben’s life and those close to him, from his sister to his lover and beyond.

Told across a single day, through the eyes of five characters, ’24’, delves into the complexities of the relationships closest to our hearts.

This is not a long read, 12 episodes of approximately 500 words each, criss-crossing between blogs. What hooked me was the multiple narrative points of view telling different aspects of the story, but more than that, in such a concise word limit and narrative time frame, the characters are wonderfully fleshed out.

I can see the possibilities of this being developed further into a longer short story, even a collaborative novel. Dare I say it, a TV miniseries. 

This is a great read and well worth your time with a cup of tea or coffee and your favourite biscuit.

The first instalment of your reading journey starts here with “24” – 06:00.