Dancing for Yourself via New Art

“Awesome, isn’t it?
Dancing for yourself is the best, and we all (?) know the feeling of something that is so good it should really be changing the world….

Now that we’ve gotten this far, you need to know something: this event was staged. The person dancing is a performer, and what you have just seen is an art project.”

Provoking thoughts about experience and performance, art and self, the public, the commodity, and the private, the everyday, the contrivance, and the sublime. This is the latest post from New Art, who does not write often, but is always worth checking out when he does.

Discuss with your favorite dance partner, or with a reflection of yourself in some large mirror.

The End, part 1:: Stay Changed Always

Each year receives a name at its end—a word or phrase to hold its essence, a name to remember it by. So much has happened this 2010 that it’s hard to settle on a name…I’ve decided on something very general, though it really does gather all of the year into one firm hand:

The year of change

On Christmas day of 2009 I found a lump in my breast. It turned out to be nothing, however the full medical check-up I underwent at the start of 2010 disclosed that I was pre-diabetic (blood sugar levels not quite diabetic yet, but getting there,) had hypothyroidism, an unusually low blood pressure, and was overweight by 23 kilos. So I committed to making some big changes in my life:

I quit smoking. Initially I found ii-ne-kore’s diary of a quitter inspiring, but as she slowly slid off the wagon and gave up I turned to, and got real help, from QuitCoach.

I read dozens of books on pre-diabetes. The New Glucose Revolution and all the other titles in that series were the most helpful; I learned how to make better choices from among the foods and ingredients that I liked, instead of going on some sad, unrealistic diet of deprivation—like the truly hair-brained “Lemonade, Sea-water and Laxatives” diet that some misguided family members talked me into doing for 10 days in 2007!

I went to a dietitian and a diabetes educator for advice (and then I followed that advice!) and joined the local diabetes health organization.

I switched to a low GI and low fat diet:
I turned my back on potatoes, on bread, pastries and all flour-based foods, on rice (an Asian who can’t eat rice! Still, my days of creativity and life are worth more than all the world’s bowls of freshly steamed rice…)on candies and jellybeans (not a problem, I never liked them) and anything made with glucose (Greek Halvah, alas!) Said goodbye to all noodles (except soba and bean thread,) to processed meats, to butter, and to all but a thin sliver, a mere shaving, an occasional crumb of cheese.
I still enjoy beautiful food. I have turned to pasta with elaborate sauces of roasted tomato, grilled eggplants, basil and kangaroo fillets…to bulgur as tabbouleh or as a spiced bed for fiery vindaloo…to rich dhals of chickpea or split yellow pea or mung beans…to avocado and smoked salmon on a mound of fresh salad sprinkled with toasted seeds and walnuts…to bowls of fruit tossed with pure floral honey and yogurt. I watch my portion sizes. I don’t feel like someone on a strict diet!

I started taking the daily hormone for my hypothyroidism.

I went to a doctor and paid her to design a workout program for me. I enrolled in a good gym, and went there three days a week. I also asked my husband to build and install a simple workout bench on the deck of our boat. I bought several pairs of dumbells and a yoga mat. I use them on the days that I don’t go to the gym and it isn’t pouring rain.

The results? I’ve had 6 or 8 cigarettes in the past year. I no longer dream that I am smoking, either. In October I had the blood sugar of a normal person (no longer pre-diabetic), my thyroid antibody levels were down, my blood pressure was unremarkable, and I had lost 13 kgs (28 lbs). Needless to say, I really do feel very good, and I’ve gone from a size 18 to a 12 (at some shops I’m a 10). So yes, it did pay off in a very satisfying way, and my initial success has done wonders for my willpower and self-esteem. That sounds like a mouthful of New Age crap, but it’s true.

It doesn’t end here, of course…I know I can never go back to living the way I used to…and why would I want to, when that way obviously wasn’t working for me? I haven’t had this much energy and verve for years.

I don’t know where the strength to change so many things, so quickly, came from, but I am grateful that it came, and that it stayed with me through the year.
Fear played a part: that lump that started me on my journey of personal health. Nothing like the hint of cancer to make a girl sit up and take notice.
Honesty, too…my grandmother and mother both developed full-blown diabetes—my mother is now blind in one eye because she ignored the many, many years of warning signs, and lived as though she believed she was somehow above it all, or that it would, in passing, spare her for some special reason—and I had to finally face the hard fact that I had inherited the tendency to become diabetic; that, unless I made special efforts to avoid it, it would come for me, too, and that I would suffer as I got older.

And having reasons to live and stay healthy will often help turn a sea of unresolved grays into clear black-and-white choices. Kris, my partner and best friend, whom I love more than I love anyone or anything else in my world, is an active, adventurous, healthy man full of passion for life; looking after myself is one way of loving and respecting him, as well as being able to accompany him and share those adventures.

Also, there is that joy beyond words—the ardour, excitement, and intense satisfaction—that I get from other people’s art, and from making things, myself. I love getting up in the morning and taking a book of poems from a shelf, to enjoy with my coffee…or sitting in the dark with my headphones on, adrift on a sea of music… almost as much as I love being able to spend my days in my studio, deep in creative mindfulness… wholly engaged in the playful act of making something, where there was nothing.

These are my reasons for changing, and hoping to stay changed. How could I keep following my old ways, when there was so much beauty and joy and love at stake?

hello, 2010!

eye full of fireworksOn the whole, 2009 has been a good year to us…

I had my first solo show of embroidered works (Encarnación) and it was well received, if selling 13 out of 15 works is any indication); I made a few things…not nearly enough, but then it’s never enough! I worked with an ace bunch of crazy people at Garma 2009. My two best friends in Manila gave birth to a beautiful bubby, each, and my best friend in Darwin, Melanie, gave birth painlessly to a sweet little Mehlkloß called Charlotte Antonia. I had a total of  40 students attend my bookbinding workshop. I moved my creative circus out of the rented studio in the city and back home onto our boat, Sonofagun, which my belovéd made all cosy and welcoming for me. My Flickr account expired on New Year’s eve so I can’t access my pictures of the year until the holidays are over (LOL) and normal life returns…

Oh, and one little sting at the very end: we found a lump in my left breast the day after Christmas, but I can’t find out what it is until doctors’ clinics are up and running, as well…so I’m not going to get emo about it…just wait quietly until the world comes out of it’s holiday stupor.

In the meantime, I’m going to laugh as often as possible, snuggle up in a big bed with my belovéd (on our cozy boat, at the start of the monsoonal rains) and dream of all the things I’m going to do with this blank book of a year, this white page, this waiting canvas, this theatre stage humming with anticipation just before the curtains rise.


The lights snap on…

the floor boards creak…

the orchestra starts to play…

and the curtains rise…

{   A few bits and pieces from 2009 (what I could get out of Flickr, anyway)   }

2009  mosaic of pictures

1. The Midnight Velada, 2. Señorita Rosa, 3. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 4. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 5. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 6. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 7. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 8. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 9. Exhibit Opening 3 July, 10. ♥ my Sharpie…, 11. DSCF1524_1, 12. Melanie and Lottie, 13. Untitled, 14. work in progress: star lantern with ornamental hands, 15. Help the Philippines weather the storm. Links if you want to help., 16. IMG_0022, 17. IMG_0028, 18. IMG_0005, 19. How to make :: book beads, 20. A quick model accordion book for today’s class, standing for display, 21. five-minute drawing, with my left hand, of Kris, 22. Magic shoes, 23. NaNoJouMo – 003, 24. NaNoJouMo – 005, 25. NaNoJouMo – 007, 26. NaNoJouMo – 009, 27. NaNoJouMo – 011, 28. NaNoJouMo – 012, 29. my mini-jungle environment, 30. is it the “Aloha Shirt from Hell”?

A reading list for the next couple of years

As I grow older I  find that my consumption of literature has, along with other things, lost some of its former passion. When I was in high school I used to devour a book every couple of days (not all of them steamy romance novels, either,) curled up on a broken couch in the dusty attic of my parents’ house from mid-morning till the early hours of the following day. I know now that reading this way was a luxury of time and, perhaps, of youth: to be able to lose oneself for 30 uninterrupted hours in the world of the book—oblivious to hunger or thirst, my whereabouts unknown and unremarked by my family—and surrender myself to the delights, the feverish ideas, the anxieties, hot tears or disturbing sensuality that lay within each work.

At university my reading dropped to a book a week, mainly because I had less time to indulge in my  passion, but also because the books were getting more complex, demanded more critical thought, more concentration; it wasn’t enough to let the story and its feelings flow over me: the novel had become a complex little machine of intricate connections, cogs ticking a riddle, secret switches and coded messages that pointed, in oblique ways, to things and ideas in the real world.

Nearing 40, I might be lucky to read a book a month. Work, a relationship, friends, other commitments as well as many, many new interests, jostle for blocks of time. I’m less stuck-up, now, about what I read…there was a time when I scorned science fiction, or popular works. I used to force myself to read only classics, even when they were boring and difficult to stay with, because of some snooty idea that a quality mind only read quality books. Youth is such a self-righteous, ridiculous time of life! Still I’m glad I read the classics early on, for I doubt I would have the patience or perseverance to slog my way through Austen, now! And now? I read for a dozen different reasons: for information, for the love of the English language…the roll and roar of an ocean of words; for entertainment and lighthearted humor, for edification, still, but more often for a different angle on life and humanity than my own experience affords me.

There are many books I have not yet read that I would like to (or at least would like to try to read) and I am always on the lookout for a good reading list to serve as my guide. I base my choice of list on whether  it has a few books that I have already read and loved…it is a cautious approach, and I will not make very big leaps in the word of literature by hopping from pebble to pebble, but in my own slow way I move across the pond, sometimes to its edge,  and from there chance to spy something really new and unfamiliar, out in the middle of the field…

Random House has released their list (two lists, actually: the board’s and the reader’s) of the 100 Best Novels in their Modern Library series…not really two hundred, since many of the titles repeat in both lists. I’ve crossed out the ones I’ve read…again, not as many as it may seem at first glance, since many titles are duplicated.

100 Best Novels

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  89. LOVING by Henry Green
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

  1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
  3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
  8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
  9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard
  11. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  12. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  13. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. DUNE by Frank Herbert
  15. THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS by Robert Heinlein
  16. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein
  17. A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
  18. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  19. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  20. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  21. GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
  22. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  23. SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  24. GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
  25. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  26. SHANE by Jack Schaefer
  28. A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
  29. THE STAND by Stephen King
  31. BELOVED by Toni Morrison
  32. THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
  33. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  34. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  35. MOONHEART by Charles de Lint
  36. ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
  37. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  38. WISE BLOOD by Flannery O’Connor
  39. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  40. FIFTH BUSINESS by Robertson Davies
  41. SOMEPLACE TO BE FLYING by Charles de Lint
  42. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  43. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  44. YARROW by Charles de Lint
  46. ONE LONELY NIGHT by Mickey Spillane
  47. MEMORY AND DREAM by Charles de Lint
  48. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  49. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  50. TRADER by Charles de Lint
  52. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  53. THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood
  54. BLOOD MERIDIAN by Cormac McCarthy
  55. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  56. ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute
  58. GREENMANTLE by Charles de Lint
  59. ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
  60. THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles de Lint
  61. THE RECOGNITIONS by William Gaddis
  62. STARSHIP TROOPERS by Robert Heinlein
  63. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  66. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
  67. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  68. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  69. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  70. THE WOOD WIFE by Terri Windling
  71. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  72. THE DOOR INTO SUMMER by Robert Heinlein
  74. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  75. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  76. AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O’Brien
  77. FARENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
  78. ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis
  79. WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams
  80. NAKED LUNCH by William S. Burroughs
  81. THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy
  82. GUILTY PLEASURES by Laurell K. Hamilton
  83. THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert Heinlein
  84. IT by Stephen King
  85. V. by Thomas Pynchon
  86. DOUBLE STAR by Robert Heinlein
  87. CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY by Robert Heinlein
  88. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  89. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  91. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  92. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  94. MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
  95. MULENGRO by Charles de Lint
  96. SUTTREE by Cormac McCarthy
  97. MYTHAGO WOOD by Robert Holdstock
  98. ILLUSIONS by Richard Bach
  99. THE CUNNING MAN by Robertson Davies
  100. THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

The Modern Library | 100 Best | Novels

a million-and-one monkeys

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

—Gene Fowler

Like someone who’s clawed, bit, and fought her way through a dense jungle for several years, and has emerged on the other side, at last, here I am, in the magic valley, clearing, meadow, whatever that I was trying so hard to reach, and the adventure’s just about to begin!

Only, after all that drama, I feel like I’m just about ready to expire.

The year is 2009. Everyone and his dog has been keeping a blog for  years by now. The phenomenon is so passé that it may actually be trendier to go around deleting all the blogs you’ve written. The anti-blog. The non-blog. The un-blog.

And then there’s me… “metamorphosing” at last, not a butterfly but a cicada, having spent the last 7 years of my life as a fat grub curled up in the damp earth under some ancient, rotting tree. I smell like leaf mould and look like tektite and my coming-out party is marked by the start of the rainy season.

We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.

Robert Wilensky, speech at a 1996 conference

Honestly, I don’t know why I’ve even bothered to launch this, except that I have just spent the past week learning the most rudimentary sort of web geekery, and now that I have actually managed to “insert my API Endpoint and change the nameservers on my DNS settings”

⎨Good. God.⎬

..I feel like I’ve earned the right to start, yes!, “another blog by some would-be-writer and artist chick.”

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann (1875 – 1955)

If it’s good enough for Mann, hey, it’s good enough for me! One reason that it has taken me 10 years to write my first blog entry is that I hate writing. Writing is nothing but pain. But this blog is mainly about my bookbinding projects, tips and ideas on a whole bunch of art & craft techniques, what inspires me, what repels me, and anything else I’m into (philodendrons one month, photography the next, it changes all the time) that isn’t heavily word-based, so I think I can manage to keep up with the posts, daze you with pics, and keep the text to a minimum.

To be a well-flavored man is the gift of fortune, but to write or read comes by nature.

William Shakespeare