Rugrats and Old Biddies


IMG 0046

A speed limit sign on the wharf at our local yacht club, Dinah Beach Cruising Yacht Association…

I thought I’d take a picture before some sourpuss complains to the committee and has it taken down.

Bear with me…

Apple 85W MagSafe Power Adapter for 15- and 17...
Apple 85W MagSafe Power Adapter for 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Minor home tragedy has occurred…my Macbook’s charger got its positive and negative pins crossed, yesterday (ahem, while I won’t mention any names, I’d like to point out that it was the Mr. Handy Man of the house who re-wired the plug…because he said I’d gotten them mixed up and had wired it wrong. Hah!), made an awful sizzling noise, and gave off the acrid fumes of deep fried circuit boards…all in the one second before I could run to unplug the thing.

So. No charger until I order a new one. Mine was modified to plug into a automobile’s cigarette lighter socket and charge straight from a 12-volt DC battery—without using an energy inefficient inverter—by the effing geniuses at MCT, Inc.seriously, I owe these guys, big time, for the technology I enjoy whilst living on a boat out in the harbor…these are my real heroes, not the pikers at Apple)

That’s nearly 200 smackeroos…thank you very much, Apple, for being such a bunch of snobs and designing the oh-so-exclusive, nobody-else-is-allowed-to-manufacture, fits-with-nothing-else-on-the-planet Magsafe Adapter.

In the meantime, the Macbook battery that they said lasted 8 hours, lasts 4, if you’re lucky. If I wanted to blog or check e-mail and RSS posts, I’d have to row ashore everyday, cycle into town, and plug my laptop into the power grid at the library or something. Weh. I’d much rather stay home and go into seriously intense creative mode. Things are going to be a bit quiet around here until my new charger arrives from the U.S. Sorry ’bout that.

In the meantime, go and check out Catherine Frere-Smith’s little embroidered bird softies, which have me in a paroxysm of love and envy at the moment. She was going to be my next über embroiderer, but it can’t wait till my power struggles are resolved…you really should go and have a look at this fresh blog post now.

Ah, and there goes my Pinterest account…

Image representing Creative Commons as depicte...

Oh, I know Pinterest is already working, and quickly, on the big problems they have been having with copyright issues…so deleting my account wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to rumors of lawsuits or anything like that.

But I was never comfortable using Pinterest…often because I would look at someone else’s pin, trying to find the source for an image (because I want to know who made it), and there wouldn’t be any information or links back to the original. There were just too many unacknowledged images on my boards, too many re-pins that, when I looked into it, didn’t have attribution. It was such a mess (and I was so mortified that I had been doing this to other people’s images!) that I deleted my account tonight. It just seemed easier than going through all my pins, deleting the ones I couldn’t trace to source.

I’ll wait till Pinterest has sorted its shit out before starting up again. So sorry to all the Pinterest followers I’m dropping, but I’d hate to think I encouraged anyone to re-pin an unattributed image that I’d used wrongly.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t using it very much anymore; I found all those images overwhelming. Spend too much time looking at other people’s original work and you might not be able to come up with your own! It was like being raped in the eyeballs by Pantone swatches: cupcakes, quilts, wedding decorations, dresses…all higgledy-piggledy and terribly, well, preoccupied with the acquisition of consumer goods, and with self-delusion: “If I can’t own it, at least it’s mine on Pinterest!”

I found that looking for too long made me start to want things…things that I didn’t need, that I didn’t even really want, that wouldn’t make me happier than I am, and that, when I finally got my hands on them, I probably wouldn’t use after the two-week shiny-new-toy phase had passed. It just does that to you…convinces you that you want/need all this…stuff! There were some good things, of course, but most of it was just ordinary junk, but in pretty colors. Blargh, I’d kill myself if I had more  than two things together in one room that used the rainbow as a color scheme. I’m not even sure that the rainbow can be called a colour scheme*…when you’re 14, the rainbow is a color scheme. But I’m not 14. Anymore. And I’m so glad my mom refused to paint my bedroom walls with balloons arranged in rainbow stripes, when I was!

*it’s a spectrum…you’re meant to choose a few hues, and leave the rest. That is a scheme.

As for my own images, I wish I could say something cool about the Creative Commons permission I put on my online images, but  it’s all pretty straightforward and uninteresting. Share alike. Attribution would be mighty decent of you. Non-commercial, though I’ll be honest and tell you I can’t be arsed to enforce anything, legally. I did, however, tell a woman to “drop dead” in 2003, and she obliged the next morning. Also, I put on a curse on someone in highscool, and her partner recently killed himself, I was told. Just sayin’. *laughs*

Banksy was cool before anyone else, and nobody does the Copyleft magnanimity better than he does. You’ll find this gem on his website, under the ironically-titled ‘Shop’ heading:

Banksy - Online Shop


candles on a dark rainy day

Nights, by the light of whatever would burn:
tallow, tinder and the silken rope
of wick that burns slow, slow
we wove the baskets from the long gold strands
of wheat that were another silk: worm soul
spun the one, yellow seed in the dark soil, the other.

—from Without Regret, by Eleanor Wilner

Our wet season is winding up, but we are getting a few days of hard, straight-down, heavy-as-lead rain, as a kind of encore before the monsoon trough relinquishes it’s hold on the weather. Soon it will be winter in Australia—cold down Sydney-way, yes, but it’s a fantastic time to be in the tropical North. Everyone in Darwin is looking forward to the change of season.

One recent morning was so dark and wet and miserable that I lit a few tapers…not so much to see by, but because I needed the emotional warmth, the flickering energy and golden color of those nibs of flame. Candles are a great comfort to me…I love the way they send shadows dancing around a dark room, and I can sit and stare at them for hours. My mom was a candle maker for many years…she didn’t make everyday taper candles, but one-of-a-kind art candles—tall, heavy pillars of translucent wax which glowed from within, revealing trapped dried flowers and fern tendrils curling inside the wax when lit. Her candles were widely exhibited, pricey, and sold to collectors…

But that didn’t stop my mother from using them as everyday candles in our home; she loved the 8-hour scheduled blackouts that the government instituted, for one year, in an attempt to cut down on national power expenses. She would come in from her workshop with armfuls of candles, and light them all. There were candles everywhere in the house on those nights—fifty of them, standing in groups of three or five, sitting on every piece of furniture, shining down from high ledges, throwing their light far up into the wooden beams of the pitched roof. The house looked like a medieval chapel, it was magical.

And there’s a teensy bit of the candlemaker passed down to me, too, because I spent many hours sitting with my mother in her workshop…it was where we had most of our mother-daughter talks. I even did some work for her, when she was swamped with orders, so I have the rudiments of candle making. Maybe someday I’ll do that for a spell.

This post was a bit random…just a bit of blather and procrastination before I get to work on some sewing projects I swore I’d finish today. :)

My perforated heart…a love letter

perforated love letter WIP

Here’s a sneak peek of a project I’m doing in collaboration with my friend Katerina Bona Vora of Zero the One

✕✕✕ ✕✕✕ ✕✕✕ ✕✕✕  ♡  ✕✕✕ ✕✕✕ ✕✕✕ ✕✕✕

I drew the design on 2mm. graphing paper, and then used the same as a guide to perforate a sheet of 220 gsm. watercolor paper. I’m working the stitching using a single thread of DMC embroidery floss, in a shades-of-fresh-to-dried-blood variegated red…

perforated love letter WIP

perforated love letter WIP

perforated love letter WIP

Come to think of it, this piece has the same feel of this other ‘love letter’ that I made 3 years ago, using the same variegated skein of thread…

The Midnight Velada

This needs to be said, and said, and said, until it sinks in.

Steal Like An Artist

Was introduced to Austin Kleon‘s timely little book this morning, via a post full of Kleon’s catchy, inspiring graphics, over on Thoughts On Theatre. Followed her links from there to Kleon’s own site promoting the book.

Steal Like An Artist - Promotional Poster

There’s not much I can say to add to this succinct message. If you are a creative person, you will already, instinctively, intuitively know these things. No doubt you’ve heard the message before…you’ve come across one of the many famous quotes on the subject, or maybe you’ve even thought these things up for yourself, and reading this list simply confirms what you have suspected all along.

Steal Like An Artist - Good theft vs. Bad Theft Poster

And yet, as common and familiar as these ideas are, seeing them still excites creative types. Why? Because while we’ve all heard the message, it hasn’t really sunk in to the point where we believe it, practice it, apply it, and really, truly KNOW it.

Kleon’s message is familiar, but not redundant. These things need to be said, and said, and said, until it sinks in and starts to change us from the inside:

The ability to create is a gift that life gives to everyone—your own creative ideas are a mashup of having seen other people’s creations—and what you then go on to create becomes your gift to the world, your contribution to the massive pool of art, ideas, and thought; you are simply joining in a conversation that started when human life began.

“Creativity is not magic, creativity is for everyone.”

Gillespie, on Charlie 'Bird' Parker

One of my favorite examples of both the continuing life of a good idea, and of artists drawing on what has inspired them in order to go on and make something “same, but different,” are these incarnations of a rhino woodcut that is nearly 500 years old…

clockwise from top left: anonymous 1514, Durer 1515, Durer 1515, Dali 1956, preemiememe 2009, Hans Burgkmair 1515

This seems to be the year my friends get their mojos on…

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Yet another creative, beautiful, soulful friend of mine has spread her wings and taken a leap off the artistic summit this month…

Pearlsha Abubakar, a beautiful and brilliant pianist, composer, and songwriter (she also writes articles for various publications, and has composed the musical scores to accompany quite a few television series…I mean, seriously, WTF? With friends like mine, who needs inferiority complexes?) has launched an online project called iSonger.

The concept?

iSonger is a website lovingly dedicated to just one piece of music or song…to the Filipino single. Because a song is forever….”

It is a tribute to both “a song”, and “The Song”…that single track, conceived with love and great feeling, meticulously pursued, minutely crafted. The featured song will get updated periodically. iSonger’s first offering is called North Avenue Station. Wide-open heart spaces and the sliding-past of city scenes frame this song, while the rolling, jogging piano recalls the sound of a train speeding along its tracks, traveling on, or away. The Tagalog lyrics have been translated into English here, an excerpt of which is below:

“…From those of you who have also loved this way
I ask for patience and understanding
As this story is getting to be rather long in telling
I guess it is so because
no one who has ever loved this way wants to miss a thing…

“…He brings his face closer to mine
I feel his breath on my face

He utters something in my ear
Then the wind comes and takes me away…

“…And the heart is beating
The heart is beating
The whole world speeding away…”

—from ‘North Avenue Station’ by Isha (Pearlsha Abubakar)

Please have a listen to the track, “North Avenue Station”, and for $0.99 cents, why not add it to your library of contemporary Filipina musical songers...erm, I mean songwriters! ;)

via iSonger.


The name’s probably a sort of many-layered inside joke…

  • in that ‘singer’ is a pretty common occupation these days (and most of them can’t play an instrument, nor compose their own melodies, nor write their own lyrics…they basically just belt the songs out and vamp for the videos) so the Filipino musicians who actually craft their music—who build it up from nothing, from the wooden whispers inside their instruments, from notes and poetry, from the translucent visions that visit one’s dreams, and who are involved in all aspects of getting that music out into the world—felt the need for a new term to describe what it is they do…

  • in that we like to poke fun at ourselves, and at the way many of us speak (or rather mis-speak) English…

  • in that the project title parodies both Apple products and “I, Caesar”, and could also be read as (one)Song, or (Isha’s)Song.

It’s not over yet…

Kek Lok Si wooden fan

You didn’t really believe I was done writing about Malaysia, did you?

You did? What, and not even one long, raving, ecstatic post about all the fabulous Penang street food—the primary purpose of my visit—that I tried? Are you kidding?

I’ve only been so quiet about it because I’ve been sorting through my notes—doing  a bit of backstory research, tracking down the origins of some of the dishes, the recipes for others—but I am almost ready to publish a monster post or two about my gustatory pilgrimage to Pulau Pinang. In the meantime, these are a couple more postcards I stitched during the trip…

Kuala Lumpur

Teh Tarik

Now that I’m home again, my wild foodie excesses have been reined in; I am back on my Low GI diet of soaked rolled oats, cracked wheat, simple salads, and temperate-climate fruit (tropical fruits being rich in high GI sugars). Sigh. It’s better for me, and I have to confess that I’m glad I don’t live where the food is exciting…or I’d have a hard time keeping the diabetes that’s been programmed into my genes, away.

Darwin‘s everyday food scene is no temptation: the blandness, the priggishness, the uninspired phantom of WASP cooking still haunts its flavours and methods (around these parts, ‘deep-fried’ is a flavour, and covering things in breadcrumbs is a favorite method.) I wander around the malls, oppressed by slab-like, drowned things  called uninspired names like “Veggie Bake” or “Meat Pie”. Most ‘ethnic’ cuisines are represented, of course…more often than not, though, by Chinese cooks. And these places seem to have altered the flavours to suit the Aussie palate (i.e. no heat, no subtle perfumes of herbs or spices, lots of salt and LOTS of sugar.)

Don’t get me wrong, I like living here, and there’s much more to life than food. It just isn’t (nor will it ever be) a destination for food lovers. Because cuisine is such an important part of cultural identity, not having the one can easily make the place feel like it hasn’t got the other, either. Some days it can seem more tragic than on others. :)

Darwin’s a great place for crocodiles, for camping and wilderness adventures, for going pig hunting in a pickup truck, with a cooler full of beer, some ugly murderous dogs in the back, and some ugly murderous friend in the passenger’s seat. I met a Canadian who said she came to Darwin because she wanted to “visit the tropics, without having to visit the Third World.” Well, there you go, a catchy line for our tourism campaign, if we run out of crocs and want to attract the sort of people who travel around the world in search of the same things they left back home: friendly white faces, McDonald’s, and the English language.

Is it any wonder that I escape into my memories of Malaysian food, and threaten to write long, wistful posts about them? I miss Asia…the buzzing, swelling, engulfing, “if-you-are-here-then-you-are-part-of-it” liveliness of its streets. The urgency and passion with which people celebrate and pursue their cultural signposts. The way people are pushed up against one another, both physically and emotionally…brushing barriers aside, and thinning the psychological walls between individuals.

Surprisingly, it makes for higher public levels of courtesy, tolerance and equanimity than you’d find in the neat and less crowded streets of Darwin. Strangers don’t abuse each other over brief encroachments upon personal space, or snap at each other over small mistakes. An outburst of self-righteous rage or an adult tantrum in public is a rare sight, and the one who loses his cool loses his status in everyone’s eyes (even if he does get what he wants in the end.)

Being impassive and watchful is probably what earned Asians (the Chinese in particular) the label ‘inscrutable’. All it means is that they’ve managed to move past the emotional intelligence of five-year-olds, and they won’t waste time or demean themselves by slobbering insincere friendliness over a perfect stranger…which, until they get to know you, is what you are.

DIY craft foam stamps

DIY craft foam stamps

I drew the design onto a thin sheet of craft foam, using a pink Sharpie marker. Then, using a combination of scalpel (X-acto knife) and small, sharp scissors, I cut the design out. Patience and very sharp new blades made this part easier. Floating bits, like the flowers inside the paisley shapes, weren’t a problem, because all the loose elements got glued to a rigid base, later on.

homemade foam stamps

I cut a piece of MDF to size, sprayed it with a permanent adhesive (90 High Strength Adhesive, by 3M, in this case) and stuck the foam shapes down. I let the adhesive dry for a couple of hours, and by then I was dying to use my new stamp…

For printing with foam, I like to brush acrylic paints (plus a few drops of retarder, but hardly any water…a damp brush is pretty much all the water that gets into the paint) onto a second piece of foam (I’ve got thicker foam for this…I use those smooth foam camping or yoga mats) and press my stamp onto the paint. I check to make sure that the entire surface of the stamp has paint on it.

Then, because I am too impatient to prepare some nice surfaces for printing (typical!) I grab anything that looks printable—an unpainted hand-bound journal, a sheet of creamy writing paper, my messy personal journal—and stamp my new design around a few times, for some instant gratification and just to work it out of my system. I might play with the impressions afterwards: painting in different colors, outlining with pens, shading with colored pencils, whatever…

Now that I’ve had my ‘play time’ with the stamp, I can start thinking about better ways* to put it to use than just stamping everything in sight, like some demented ‘Cowboy X”. :)
MDF cannot be washed in the sink (it goes to hell), so when I want to clean my stamp, I moisten a rag and blot the stamp against this rag a few times, then use the rag to wipe around the sides of the stamp, until the foam looks clean.
* Foam stamps work very well on cotton fabrics, too (wash and iron fabric, first, okay?!) You can use regular acrylic paints if you don’t intend to wash the printed fabric. Otherwise, use fabric paints and heat-set according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you’ve got any questions about this post, fire away in the comments section, and I’ll try answer them as best I can. Have fun!