29 September 2012

The Wonder Book of Animals

Now I am no mycologist, but last week I thought it must be the time of year to find earthstars again. I looked in the place I found them last year, but there were none. This morning though I happened to see them beneath a pine. It was a kilometre away from my last sighting, but still in Haig Park. Reliable is nature.

My sister was very happy with her postcard. This book was purchased just for the front cover. It has no date of publishing inside, but looks close to a hundred years old. It was two dollars on the binders table at the Lifeline bookfair, but I had no ambitions to repair it. Certainly a sturdy piece.

26 September 2012

How The World Began

This is a postcard I would have sent many times, but in fairness to Carol Barker who wrote and illustrated How The World Began in 1974, it shall be sent only once. I paid two dollars for the book at the Lifeline Book Fair just for this picture. The book once lived in Hughes Public School library before it was CANCELLED.

20 September 2012

The Continuing Adventures of Daryl

Hey, it’s Daryl. The sea otter. Enhydra lutris to you zoological types.

I gotta say - the word quixotic annoys the hell out of me. KWIX-OTIC. The book is called Don Quixote. KEY-O-TEH.


It just doesn’t make sense.

Not that I have read Cervantes. I find literature in translation painful and who has time for the Classics anyway? It’s all Mr Darcy this, Mr Darcy that or some sweaty gardener. James Joyce! Even the judge only pretended to read Ulysses.

Sure, I tried to watch Becoming Jane, the movie about Austen; you know, the one with Anne Hathaway, because, hey – I’m only otter, but I fell asleep.

Deep down, say at a depth of around 22 metres in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean, I suspect the word quixotic is just another way that people try and make the otters of this world feel small.

Well, I got news for you! I’m a self-employed plumber. Six figures baby and I got more work than I know what to do with!

When I open a book at the end of a long day day foraging and unblocking pipes, I want to cross the silent spaces on my own terms. So give me plain writing and then give me less. It’s called minimalism. You wanna know about Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory? I am absolutely the otter for you.

19 September 2012

Enhydra lutis

My name is Daryl and I am a sea otter.

I was born that way.

Don't judge me.

I am the largest member of the weasel family, but amongst the smallest of marine mammals. My thick coat of fur is the densest in the animal kingdom. If I want to walk on land I can, but I totes prefer to live in the water.

My diet is mainly marine invertebrates: sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans and some species of fish. I make a mean spaghetti marinara - you know what I’m saying.

I use rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells so I am one of the elite mammal species to use tools. For instance, to pry an abalone off its rock, I hammer the abalone shell using a large stone as many as 45 times in 15 seconds. That is a serious work rate, but those suckers can cling to rocks with a force equal to 4,000 times their body weight!

Although I can hold my breath for up to five minutes, most of my foraging dives only last between one and four minutes.

We spend ages grooming. Well, I do anyway. This involves cleaning the fur, untangling knots, removing loose fur, rubbing the fur to squeeze out water and introduce air, and blowing air into the fur. It might look like I am scratching a serious itch, but there ain’t no lice or other parasites on me. When I eat, I frequently roll in the water to wash food scraps from my fur. Cleanliness is next to godliness my aunty always used to screech.

Prior to 1741, there were 150,000–300,000 of my kind, but then we were hunted extensively for our fur. Our numbers fell to just one or two thousand, living in a fraction of our historic range!

An international ban in 1911 on hunting us, conservation efforts, and reintroduction programs into previously populated areas have contributed to our numbers rebounding, and we now live over around two-thirds of our former range.

Staus: seriously endangered
Best place to meet me: around the Kuril Islands of Russia or the Aleutian Islands of Alaska
Dislikes: orcas and drunken oil tanker captains

Writing on writing

Harold and the Mao suit was my first assignment. No one said I could not put it on my blog and I usually share my creative pursuits here. I am looking forward to having it workshopped. My main concern is it is inaccessible to the reader who is not familiar with Thoreau's Walden or Emerson's essays. Not that I am a huge fan, but I found these authors over ten years ago when I was in San Diego for a few months, along with Walt Whitman. Occasionally I still read some Thoreau or Whitman, but rarely. They remain for me an expression of the American ideal.

It was a fun story to write. The picture of Harold, who only won his name in the story, was painted at least a month ago. When the picture went on a postcard a few weeks later, the first sentence of the story was the only message on the back. A week or so later I started to write very late one night with no idea at all where it was going. A few days before that, I read an article called The Enduring Legacy of China's Great Famine. Everything in the article was news to me.

I can certainly see that Joseph Heller, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams influenced my style.

Patrick Holland came and gave a guest lecture to my class. Here is what I learnt:

Want to be a professional writer? A novelist? No-one will publish you without an established reputation for short stories. Want to publish a collection of short stories? No chance unless you are a successful novelist. Catch-22.

So the discipline of the short story is the place to start.

Less is more. Minimalism. The Ice Berg Theory - get the 10% you can see right and let the reader fill in the 90%. Patrick returned often to the Japanese ethos and the power of simple brush strokes to paint a full picture. I have ordered a Yasunari Kawabata book as a result. He has not read Musashi though, I asked when requesting comment on the idea of writing as self discovery.

To leave something unsaid by talking around it is a skill. The writer has to allow the reader to cross the silent spaces and meet the work on their own terms.

Older, simpler words are better. They have lasted through social and geographic change. They are robust. Interesting to compare words of German and Latin origin in this regard. The German is more definite, simple, better suited to prose or poetry.

dark Old English deorc, of Germanic origin, probably distantly related to German tarnen ‘conceal.’

obscure late Middle English : from Old French obscur, from Latin obscurus ‘dark,’ from an Indo-European root meaning ‘cover.’

Compare 'the dark forest' to 'the obscure forest'.

It is undeniable that fashionable terms and slang can date very quickly.

We learnt a bit about his favourite sentence structures, before he finished with the really serious advice: TURN OFF THE INTERNET. This is necessary to write free of distraction. He mentioned JDarkroom and Zen Writer as programs worth trying, but suggested using a pen or a typewriter at least some of the time to better connect to the experience.

I really liked Patrick because he believed that his finest writing was simply the revelation of that which already existed. It was also good to hear that he gets questions about the meaning of his work all the time and honestly replies that he is not sure of the symbolism of a particular character or aspect of the story.

Later, in the tutorial we had to do a five minute exercise on the topic of either death, fear or sex. Write around the subject without mentioning it at all. I came up with one sentence: The blind groping of matter for reality while the clock ticks. For me, this covered all three.

15 September 2012

Harold and the Mao suit

“Here I am, by the hair of my chinny chin chin, I am a hare,” said Harold.

Harold was not the type of hare to wear a suit of tweed with a plaid waistcoat.

He had no use for a fob watch.


Harold was perfectly happy wearing his Mao suit as he travelled through life.

Not that the Communist styling of this garment was an expression of any particular sympathy he cherished for the masses. Nor did he entertain a secret delight at wearing a costume so deeply symbolic of the Great Leap Forward. For a hare, as I am sure you can see, such a choice in clothing could thus be the source of a delicious irony.

But absolutely not. Harold preferred to taste his irony in the greens of the field. Even the most rudimentary student of recent Chinese history knows the prelude to the Cultural Revolution was no laughing matter. Hordes of peasants knew this too, right up until the moment when they starved to death. And then they knew no more.

Still, today in China, no high school student will find a text book refer to events fifty years previous as anything more than a time of serious economic difficulties. The story of Du Xingmin, who often dressed in a similar, if somewhat larger Mao suit, is not widely known. Mr Du wrote about the theft of grain by the local party secretary and was accused of sabotage. Before his arrest, he was beaten and both his eyes were gouged out.

Although in the following months, 128 people in Mr Du’s village died of starvation, Harold today found beauty enough to satisfy him in the utilitarian lines of the suit. The cotton formed a loose fitting simplicity that allowed his pelt to breathe and impeded the progress of no pursuit. Four patch pockets was certainly nothing to scoff at for so practical a hare. Harold also happened to be an ardent devotee of the Transcendentalists.

In fact, his life had thus far demonstrated an unquestionable faith in Thoreau’s admonition, ‘…beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.’ Indeed, this particular suit was one of two worn by Harold’s father until the day he had a precipitous meeting with a motor vehicle.

As luck would have it, Harold’s father was not wearing his Mao suit the fateful day of his disastrous attempt to cross the road. Luck was definitely not having Harold’s father anymore, but Harold himself was approaching the age when all respectable hares go about their business fully clothed. He shortly found himself entering a brief but dignified period of mourning proudly dressed in a not new suit.

Thereafter, the Mao suit was his constant companion. Amongst the variety of possessions within its pockets, including a battered copy of Walden and selected essays of Emerson, there was no little red book to be found.

13 September 2012

Benvenuti al sud

Benvenuti al sud is a charming film about a post office manager from Milan who is punished by having his job moved down South to Castellabate, near Naples. It's very funny.

I watched a bit of the film again to get the text for the back of my postcard. The man from the North reads a quote on a wall plaque "Qui non si muore" and asks his companion the story.

"Qui non si muore."
Lo ha detto Gioacchino Murat, il Re Francese.
E stato qui a Castellabate.
Ha scritto questa frase:
"Qui non si muore" e poi รจ morto.


"Here you do not die." That's what Joachim Murat, the French King said. He was here in Castellabate. He wrote the phrase: "Here you do not die," and then - he died.

Murat was a Frenchman who was King of Naples and Sicily for seven years in the early nineteenth century. Quite a character according to his biography, he reminds us of how recent the unification of Italy is. Also, the Neapolitans actually shot him after a court martial!

Watching the film reminds me of the charm of Naples, the wacky people, the beauty of the coast, the scooters and small town life. I really did not like Florence and Milan so much at all.

Here is a scene from YouTube mocking the Neapolitan dialect.

12 September 2012


Mostly I just enjoy the soma of the pen. As if to spill the ink is to drink from the well of relief, to breathe in release. It is colours too that attract me. And rhythm. The forms, precise; the words, concise. All unique, it does entice.

At last, there is nothing more to say. After writing for days and days and days, or maybe twenty minutes, it is over.


So the types of thing my writing study has covered so far are the concepts of story, plot, theme, point of view, characters, characterisation, dialogue, time, place, structure, style and voice. It was certainly refreshing to hear at university today that 'style' defies complete analysis or definition. Hallelujah. I bet they don't talk like that in mathematic's lectures.

My understanding of writing craft and story telling is growing. For me, this is not the same as poetry. I might consider my writing poetic, but this is very different from writing a poem. Writing a poem for me is about purity. The purity of beauty reflected in joy, even in sorrow.

09 September 2012


I was powering through the postcard production today. Mostly I know who they are for.

out and about

A gorgeous day so I walked an early loop of the bridges on Lake Burley Griffin. The path around the water's edge is very well lined with blossoming prunus, particularly white ones near the National Gallery of Australia.

These catkins are beautiful. What a wonderful word from the obsolete Dutch katteken, literally a kitten.

I stopped at Mocan and Green Grout for breakfast on the way home. It has a great fit out and is most hipster. Although my regular coffee drinking ceased a few months ago, I have taken to the occasional mocha. My soy mocha there was excellent, much better than the one I had yesterday in Braddon. Funnily, after my recent meditation upon the passing nature of cherry blossoms, my granola with rhubarb and yoghurt included them as decorations! Assuming they were esculent, I ate them.

It was delicious, but the serving size looked and felt parsimonius. Not that I exactly counted, but it felt like less than ten spoonfuls. If it is that expensive to make, then charge more than $9 for a bigger serve. Also, given the exposed nature of the kitchen area and the regularity of red notices in Canberra of late, it might be time to make some pretense towards food hygiene. You know, gloves. At the least, don't be popping bits of food in your mouth while you are chopping. It is not a good look.

Anyway, still hungry, I grabbed a Bread Nerds sweet on the way out. I'm a big fan of their loaves and the custard and strawberry danish was perfection.

Turn turn turn

The turn of the seasons really charmed me, but perhaps winter is not quite ready to retire yet. I am really enjoying my writing studies and mean to do some notes here soon. Here are a few expirements with photoshop. I might try and do a suitable course to learn more about making composite images from scans.

O so soft, warm and gentle the Canberra morn:
Now sing spring - the winter is no more.
These dawns I grant you, miracles all -
My fresh graces banish the languor of night.

I watch as the petals of every blossom are released from the yearn of sap. To wind, sun, rain, beak, they all succumb. Like the faithful dreams of children they leap into the unknown.

02 September 2012

Spring Gallery

In the surrounding streets, blossoms and other such signs of the season. Pistil, stamen... love-wands reaching... anther, filament, according to biologic reasoning. A surprisingly still bee is a spider's meal. The return of golbular inflorescence. Vital spineless creatures facing extinction. Won't SOMEBODY think of the Bubas bubalas?

Checking out Divine worlds and taking more photos today.