Category Archives: Odds and Sods on Board

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. 

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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.

Is There A Right Time To Read A Book?

Is there a right time to read a book?

No, it’s not a rhetorical question because it’s always the right time to read a book.

What I am asking is do some books resonate with you at a certain age? Can you miss that opportunity and not have the book make the same impact as those who read it at the “appropriate age”?

For example, some years ago, a student of mine was reading J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye for her English Extension 2 Major Work, comparing the protagonist Holden Caulfield with the modern equivalent of the bad boy, Bart Simpson.

I read the novel to understand her thesis and I knew it was a celebrated text but it left me cold and unengaged. Since then I’ve tried to work out why. Perhaps I simply missed the phase during my adolescence when it would have taken on greater resonance.

In a similar way, I recently read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle and I learned much about writing from them, but they didn’t have the “wow factor” for me. Would I have gained more if I was younger? Had a different mindset?

In comparison, reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in high school blew my mind, while Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn left me cold. Don’t even get me started on Dickens’ Great Expectations.

I’m in the middle of Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist and again, it is touted as “one of the best books of all time” according to the sticker on the front cover. I am liking it as a fable but I am not “getting it.”

I’m not referring to the style or language of a text, but its engagement with a culture or generation. Context may play a significant part in a understanding a text’s reception and its reimagining in later eras through its thematic concerns keeps it relevant. Think Shakespeare and the various recreations of his texts.

But there are books, and plays, that I love. Sometimes a book speaks to right where you are, at a specific time in your life, addressing a particular issue or providing a revelation.

I love Shakespeare, ancient Greek tragedies, Homer’s epic poems, Milton’s Paradise Lost, anything by Tim Winton and Markus Zusak, Enid Blyton and Judy Blume when I was growing up, Tolkien in my teenage years (and more so now I’m older). Even the classics: Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, but not Wuthering Heights.

What books have you read that hit the right spot at the right time for you?
What books have you read that you felt were not the right time for you?

When Is Reading No Longer Reading?

When is reading no longer reading?

I am a high school English teacher and in the curriculum reading and viewing are separate modes (the other three are listening, speaking and representing).

Traditionally reading involves the printed word in either novel, poem, play or short story, feature article, news report or letter.

Increasingly, the definition of reading extends to visual media: television, film, the internet, graphic novels and comic books.

It could be argued that reading involved pictures long before words. And what are words but a recognised collection of pictograms arranged into a sequence:  Aboriginal rock art, Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics?

Reading is therefore the viewing of a codified system of verbal language.  But the modern codification of our verbal language means we now read the verbal equivalent in a codified form we call the alphabet, the written and printed word only.

With the advent of portable devices (tablets, smart phones, laptops and notebooks) the lines between reading and viewing are being blurred with multi-modal storytelling and the incorporation of multimedia into stories: text that moves, movies built into the experience of the text, the incorporation of sound.

For example, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore” is a brilliant text. The illustrations are superb and the story is delightful.

There are 3 distinct modes of narrative;  3 distinct ways to ‘read’ the story: picture book, interactive narrative (app) and an (Oscar-winning) short film.

But which of these 3 modes of narrative is “reading”?

On the one hand I would argue that yes it is reading. We “read” film as we have learned the code for deconstructing and constructing meaning in film. I posit interactive narratives potentially detracts from the primary purpose of reading: the deciphering of code and symbolism to make meaning from words alone.

The imagination of the reader transports him or her into the world of the text, creating the visual images based on the words presented by the writer. In a picture book, the visuals are an adjunct to making meaning, giving the reader visual clues to the meaning of the printed words.

Brief research suggests different parts of the brain are activated by reading and viewing. Where does interactive, digital narratives fit into this scenario? I don’t know. Anyone have links to relevant research?

On a side note, the debate about handwriting and typing is analogous: what do we gain by learning to write and form letters that typing does not, despite the increased speed typing allows? 

Handwriting forms an integral part of learning and knowing a language, as opposed to learning to type (further longitudinal research needed). We are in a period of rapid change; the results of which we may not see for some years yet.

Anecdotally, I see my students who have grown up with computers and devices as a parallel, if not the preferred method of communication, rather than the handwritten word, and the formation of their language and conceptual framework is poorer than I think it should be for students who have access to more information than at any time in history. There is more educational research and study needed.

Does the definition of reading need to change?

The advent of digital storytelling and interactive narratives means we have to rethink the definition. And I suspect it will remain fluid for some time.

I have no firm answer on the matter. I define reading as the interpretation of the printed word. However, I see the reading of film as a legitimate, too. Somewhere in between lies picture books, comics, graphic novels. They are all valid texts to read, but I would caution balance between all forms.

What do you think “reading” is?

Making Money from Creativity

 

The discussion regarding Amanda Palmer’s choice to ask for musicians to donate their time and talents to her recent tour has elicited a wide ranging discussion about the arts, labour and payment for services.

For Amanda Palmer’s own words, drop in here: http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20120914/

For commentary go here: http://kotaku.com/5943112/amanda-palmer-asks-musicians-to-play-for-free-pisses-off-musicians

and here: http://overland.org.au/blogs/lfmg/2012/10/art-is-a-labour-issue-part-1-wages/

and a recent post from Amanda in response to the lengthy discourse, to understand where she is coming from and what she is doing about it: http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20120919/

Click your linky way around the threads of argument. Well worth your time. I am not intending to pour fuel onto sparking match heads, but simply help raise some questions for creative people to think about.

There is no single way of doing things; flame wars and vitriolic comments achieve nothing. Discussion, when informed by reading and research, is the preferred method we should all follow.

Disclaimer done. On with my perspective.

The breadth of the argument can be divided into two lines of thinking:

  1. It is about an artist’s choice to volunteer their time and talents.
  2. It is about an artist’s choice to receive payment for services rendered.

Within the artistic community, I am sure there are times when people will volunteer their time and talents for free, while at other times they will opt for payment for services rendered.

It is still the artist’s choice, but I think there is something else behind it, and it stems from those who are perhaps not within the artistic community. I am a firm believer that each individual can, and should be creative, in whatever media is appropriate.

But those from outside the artistic community see art not as an occupation, but as a hobby, a pastime, something to fill in the lazy Saturday afternoons. Art is considered a fringe activity, not a focal point of a person’s existence.

The arts should never be considered a fringe activity of society; it should be embraced as the heart, soul and mind of society. Just as science, philosophy, religion, capitalism are other aspects that make up our society and community, so too is the artistic circle. These different paradigms give meaning to the individual, a way of seeing and understanding the world around them.

Art (writing, painting, film making, theatre, performance poetry etc) is not play, it’s work. It’s fun work, but work nonetheless.

And work requires recompense. Art can be monetised, as with any occupation. It is worth someone’s financial investment whether it’s a painting, a novel, CD, film.

While some people become teachers, nurses, train drivers, others pursue artistic endeavours as their work, their life style and primary source of income.

Creative arts will always be about an individual’s expression and definition of themselves as some define themselves by their occupation as a designer, IT programmer or business owner.

How do you support the arts?

 

Create Art “Just Because”

We had our school Art Show during the week and I popped in to view the HSC (Higher School Certificate) Major Works.

There was a wonderful array of art utilising a variety of media from painting, photography, mixed media, sculpture, installation and pencil.

Accompanying each body of Major Work was a brief statement by the artist, explaining the purpose and intention behind the piece. Some statements were fluid pieces of prose, capturing the essence and beauty of the work in a brief paragraph.

And then there was one statement that struck me. 

The statement did not explain or describe the artwork. The artist put forward the idea that the expression in the art work was an expression of what was in his head. It was the equivalent of shrugging one’s shoulders and saying, “Just because.”

And I love that idea. 

Sometimes we want to explain our idea, describe the beauty of our creative work, wax lyrical on the deconstructivist, post-modern interpretation of Freud’s analysis in the subliminal metaphors of our work.

Our words, pictures, music, film or art does not always require an explanation or a reason for being. We do it for no deep philosophical reason or existential afterthought.

Sometimes, we created a piece of art, “Just because.”