Of spectral moonscapes, ochre dusks and many other things

Dear Richard

It’s us. The Slow Reading Appreciation Collective. Perhaps you thought we had forgotten you, popped you on the bedside table and not picked you up again, such has been our silence over the last 6 weeks or so? We apologise if you were worried about our reading, slow, fast or some pace in-between. Never fear. Not for you the remaindered piles of unread books that sit gathering dust in our respective houses (while mine anyway….I shall not speak for fellow Slow Reader and Thought Terrainer). We have been greedily consuming your fabulous book over the past weeks. We’ve just been on holidays so we haven’t been much bothered with doing things like fulfilling a self-imposed commitment to write to you about it.

You probably don’t recall that last time we wrote we had arrived at p. 81. Kif was just completing his deal with the publishers to write Heidl’s book because money. Collectively we have now read up to p. 197. Individually we both have finished, but we shall keep reading collectively because that is when the gorgeousness of your prose comes to life and makes us laugh, gasp in horror, giggle and, frequently, sigh in dismayed recognition.

Now we know you’re a busy fellow so we won’t bore you with a detailed reading of our 100 or so pages. We’ll just look at some of our FAVOURITE parts. Some of the bits that made us “stop, collaborate and listen” (with apologies to Vanilla Ice). And by that I mean, we stopped, we chatted, we re-read just so we could hear some of these phrases again for their stunning beauty, unexpected, perfect metaphors and often times the need to unravel exactly what was happening.

Question: on p. 87 when you write “Like madmen walking backwards” are you slyly referencing Yann Martel? Only one of us has read the latest book and it will probably stay that way.

p. 98. Here’s something we marked at the time and didn’t really realise it’s significance. Should you have written in “spoiler alert” in the footnotes here Richard when Kif is musing on the colour and quality of Heidl’s eyes? “They had the depthless calm of black water in fatal rivers. Later I noticed that on some days his eyes were like those of a wild dog, the pupils preternaturally dilated. At such times, he seemed to circle his prey like a wolf. Mostly though, his eyes had the glaze of road kill. Without hope, they both terrified and mesmerised me.” Looking back I had underlined “fatal” in pencil as well as “glaze of road kill”. Having read the end that is coming back to haunt me. Powerful much Richard! Especially when we really had no idea what was coming in the end.

Wait up! Here’s the wombat reference on p. 102 when you’re talking about Ray. “His eyes momentarily had the same dying wombat look as Heidl’s”. That wombat comes back. Clever. Didn’t realise that then either. How clever you are now we see, because Kif is writing this is in present tense but also in retrospect. So it allows you to drop these hints and clues into the text without us, the readers, realising what’s happening. We are the colour of impressed.

p. 105. core vs non-core. We haw-hawed in recognition of this. #politics

p. 113 “scried”. What a lovely verb. Looking for signs/future/predictions.

We continued to enjoy your writing about writing. Here’s a bit that got the underlining pencil treatment as you describe Heidl speaking “At such times, he talked simply, in the way the best writers write simply; his words nothing, the undertow of them everything,” (p. 123). Oh, but we could all write like that.

And then again on p, 124, Heidl and “his corpse eyes”. Foreshadowing again which we manage to underline but clever you, we perhaps did not see the full implications of these evocative descriptions. Blow us down if we don’t see that again on the very next page where you liken finishing a novel to murder. whoa.

I”ll tell you what made us laugh out loud was on p. 138 where Kif put together his writing schedule. This was the laugh out loud/sigh with recognition situation that we adored throughout the book. And here’s the best description of anything I’ve ever seen perhaps (overstatement obviously but you know) “panting cursor”! That’s what it does!!!

Other words caught our eyes and our imaginations “arabesques of nonsense” (p. 140). We were stopped in a tracks by this one on p. 155 of the west of Tasmania

“dying mining towns, spectral ruins in a moonscape of desolation, wounded blues and greens and bright bronze rock glistening in the forever rain and lonely yellow headlight trails, turning north past the last of the rusting, ripple iron shanties, seven stubbies down, maybe more, gunning it up the green-walled mountain passes”.

Blimmin Heck.

I for one would love to listen to someone sing a “song cycle of demand” (p. 161) or be able to see the “ochre cataclysm of dusk” (p. 185).

What about this though on p.188 “But the truth is that if I stopped for even a moment and thought about the things I’d done I’d have to kill myself. And maybe that was Heidl’s fear too”. Sheesh. Missed the true significance first time round but it’s even more fantastic on second reading.

So we have slowly made it to p. 197. Reading. Definitely Appreciating. Collectively. And now also, we both know what’s coming, just like your narrator Kif, so when we next meet to read again together we will have the inside knowledge on how it ends, and how reliable or otherwise Kif might be in his/your depiction of himself and of Heidl.

Thanks for the deliciousness Richard.

Sincerely

Us.

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I pumped up the bicycle tyres.

This is not a metaphor. I did it. I just pumped up the bicycle tyres. It’s more like a shiny miracle than anything else. It’s right up there with vacuuming all of the dog hair out of the back of my car.

Which is what I did this morning too. What in the ‘Sam Hill’ is going on? I haven’t even told ‘Nearest‘ about the vacuuming. He simply will not believe it!

So, yes, the next step is to actually get on the bike, but it’s dark now, and windy, and time for sleep. Today I finished the first piece for 2018, and the first piece for an upcoming show in Brisbane. It grew out of a little sunset walk, a small scribble, and a full sheet of Fabriano paper. A bit like the bike – I haven’t used Fabriano for many, many years.

072 Late Blush Pandanus

Four layers of washy watercolour, some liberal slabs of masking fluid, and some watery gouache marks that nearly killed it—and then resuscitated it—at the front end of a small series of works on paper needed for mid March. I have three other works on the go, but this one gets a name and a place on that strange and mysterious list of ‘done’, where the line between disaster and done is quite fuzzy and explicable to anyone but ourselves.

073 Late Blush Pandanus

Last Blush, Pandanus, 2018, watercolour and gouache on Fabriano 300gsm, 56cm x 76cm. The bones of the sketch are all there, and it felt essential to know where the masking was going to sit, a known structure, and then the watercolour tends to take things from there. The next studio day is six days away which feels like another country.

074 Late Blush Pandanus

Another scribble awaits, masked paper ready. No reason to not just hook in when that day rolls around… straight after a little bike ride through the pandanus. 😀

 

I am, like, a really stable, great showman

Slight spoilers ahead sweeties.

The line for The Greatest Showman was long and we’d been burned once before with the rare phenomenon of sold out sessions. Still, we lined up, got our choc tops and got a good seat in the small theatre. We even kindly made room by moving up our row so two people could fit in. We’re good people.

We suffered through the insufferably long advertisements, preview, advertisements, preview show during which time I dropped chocolate on my dress three times. Not that I was counting or anything. Man, that Liam Neeson film looks like Garbage. The Commuter. Jeez.

FINALLY it started. Now, I’ll just mention that everyone I have spoken to about this film has flipping raved about how much they loved it, how great it was, how great Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron are, etc etc blah blah *insert emoji face with love hearts for eyes here*. And in my humble film watching experience this is frequently a sign that I am going to be disappointed. Even when Margaret and David would give something four to five stars, expectations were immediately set right up there and nothing lived up to the hype.

The Greatest Showman was no exception. Bloody hell. Can this film be any more contrived and stagey? Why do all the songs sound exactly the same and I can’t remember one of them 3 minutes after leaving the cinema? Why on earth if they’re making a musical set in the 19th century would they not use music appropriate to the time instead of these freaking awful stomping power rock, hip hop, pop shite? I know that’s trendy. Hamilton I’m looking at you. But it was awful. That thing they wrote for the character of Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind to sing was so dreadful I wondered if it was meant to be a terrible joke. I really expected the audience in the film to burst into laughter. It could not have been less subtle. It was the opposite of subtle. It was almost crude in its beltingness.

If Hugh’s performance had been any more twinkly-eyed and twinkly-toed he would have exploded into his own constellation. Settle down man. You’re not in the Boy from Oz now. Listen carefully. Sometimes it’s okay to dial down the charm. Stop it with the charisma. Overloaded. You’re in danger of tipping over the edge into Tom Cruise-territory and we know that leads nowhere good. Zac Efron – your best performance was and always will be in Hairspray. I lurved you in that. Because you got the joke. You were in on it. Here you are a little bit of the joke. You can dance and sing and everything but that revoltingly saccharine thing you had twirl around to about stars or summink with Zendaya was embarrassing. I was quietly cringing in my seat. How did you keep a straight face? The director showed admirable restraint in not having her give you the kiss of life while you were dying of smoke on the stretcher after the big fire. It would not have been out of place here. Anyhow hey ho you survived to dance the finale. Good job. Michelle Williams had little to do except wear a lovely blonde wig and support Hugh in his never-ending quest for acceptance. She did this quite gracefully even when she had to be standing in the breeze waiting for him to come and see her at the seaside in one of the concluding scenes.

I know what you might be thinking. Wendy. Stop being such a grinch. It’s just good old fashioned entertainment. Well old-fashioned certainly. Good? Nope. Instantly forgettable? Pretty much. One-dimensional? Indeed. Absolutely cardboard-cut-outty? For sure. A waste of talented cast? Definitely.

As I sat through it musing, three thoughts came to mind.

  1. PT Barnum = Donald Trump. I am the greatest showman. I am very stable genius and really smart. Does saying it really make it so? Was PT Barnum the originator of “alternative facts”, hoodwinking and hoaxing his public? Does someone want to trace that line back? I don’t. I’m too lazy. Is this the film musical we deserve in this time? I think it might be. Depthless. Surface. Spectacle. Guy Debord was and is still relevant.
  2. Seinfeld 1992. As always, Kramer said it plainly and clearly.  People want to watch freaks. Because that’s as thoughtful as The Greatest Showman gets about its circus acts as well. What would have been interesting would have been less Hugh Jackman and more about the stories and lives of the (and I hesitate to use the word) “freaks” in Barnum’s act, perhaps actually addressing the issue of exploitation in some kind of nuanced way.
  3. In fact, there’s probably an amazing documentary or biographical film to be made about PT Barnum. This isn’t it. And maybe we can say that’s because it’s a light and fluffy musical. But musicals don’t have to be light and fluffy and I think this one is really disappointing because it chose that path.

Now I know that I’m doing that terrible thing where I’m criticising a film for not being what I wanted it to be, rather than on its own merits. And it does have some merits in a talented cast and what I imagine was a huge amount of money spent on costume, design etc etc. It’s bling from start to finish. That’s not a compliment.

Ultimately thought, I think that we, the film going public deserve better. More effort to make a film where we engage with the characters. Where they are actually engaging – where the actors are given material to work with that they can use to engage us that doesn’t entail anachronistic white teeth and really shiny hair. Yes. Even in a musical. I direct you to Strictly Ballroom and Chicago to name but two.

Come on now.

Please.

NB. The Last Jedi was still worse. Much much much worse.

 

 

 

tiny writing

Well that was flipping frightening. In the end it was best to do it like a band-aid a la the advice of Jerry Seinfeld “One move! Right Off!. It was that or dither about for another week, fiddle faddling with verbs, tenses, synonyms and the like.

Let’s go back a few steps. 2017 was the first year in more than I would care to imagine that my job has not involved writing of some form or other. There’s been everything from a thesis to copy for a 30 second radio ad and all forms in-between. But last year…nothing….unless you count report card comments, which I don’t. And strangely, I felt dulled by about October and I couldn’t work out why. It took some time and reflection and chattering with another thought terrainer about the entire kit and caboodle as to what the heckfire might be happening. Ding dong! No writing in life ya big doofus. (that’s me. the big doofus).

I had also arrived at an interesting point where I was feeling the need for something that I would make, create and put out into the world without fear or favour AND in the process try to not worry about other people think. If you know me well you’ll know worrying about what people think of me is one of my special powers. I have it down to a fine art. I’m an expert. I guess now if you don’t know me well you’ll know this too now. #confessions

So it seemed time, and timely (given I had 6 or so weeks of the school holidays that they give to good for nothing school teachers like myself) that I give this all some thought, throw it in a saucepan, stir it about and see what came out. What came out were all sorts of things some of which I may eventually do. I thought BIG! which was great and exciting….and then I lay on the brown lounge for a few weeks and thought about time management and changed a few things. For one, I thought I was going to make every edition Winifred Bell Tiny Writing by hand, and send individual copies out in the post. Romanticised much? Yes. Would I still like to do this? Yes. Is 2018 the year that will happen. Sadly no. Because reality.

What I did manage to do was take some inspiration from my ordinary days and my memories about summer, write two poems and three pieces of prose, find a free flip book maker, use canva to make my pages including a front and back cover and get it online. I set up a FB group. I have just now with much trepidation sent it out into the ether on the social media. That’s actually a little achievement for me. Especially the last part of sending it out into the world. Because instead of being the endless armchair critic I have publicly put my feet in the creative waters (that’s a little bit Kath and Kim eh!) and said, “me too”.

I also committed to doing it 9 more times this year. It was frightening and scary but I did it anyway.

Here it is

 

 

 

Soundtracks: hooked and hung

067 Art TransportI love buying art.

I wish I could buy more.

But the practical (less wall space) economiser (less wall space) in me has slowed the gatherings … though not halted 😀

As we plucked the last pieces from the walls of the little Queenslander cottage Nearest noted “It’s not much without the art on the walls”. Those 100+ year old horizontally jointed, tongue and groove walls hold stories of their own but for us the tales were attached to everything we had attached to them.

None of it valuable to anyone but us. And there again, like the bookshelves, marinated with our memory. At the new place we set to, drilling a peg-board of holes in almost-pristine (but not fresh) plasterboard.  Across a whole day, simultaneously working our way through old CD’s on the ‘low-fi’, applying a heavy hand to an already loaded brush with nostalgia.

Eras.

Years.

Romantic souvenirs.

071 berwick ducksBerwick ducks from Nearest’s family kitchen fly towards Peter Nambarlambarl’s Sugar Bag Spirit; the souvenir from Oenpelli and Kakadu, when we moved from north to south in ’97. Moving.

With less wall space comes the salon-hang. Requirements:
1 patient and useful handy-human (not me),
1 x pedantic, possibly annoying, director of placement (yes me),
1 x canine for comic relief, and
4 x CD’s from the 90’s.

068 salon hang design

070 wombat hole

Peruvian kids from 1988 jostle with 2/6 Industrial Bin, linocut, 2011, by Cameron Eaton, a throwback 2003 Wombat Hole study of mine chats with a joyful lady by a 2001 painting group pal, Lavinia.

Some needed a little space of their own. When stranded with friends in Alice Springs in 2001 by the collapse of Ansett Airlines—during the same week as 9/11—what to do but sit on the cool, carpeted floor of the Papunya Tula Artists gallery and fall for this painting about women and walking tracks, by Wintjiya Napaltjarri.

069 Papunya TulaThe shopping joy, quickly fading as we boarded the bus 2 days later for a 42.5 hour ride back to home and work, then returned when the paintings arrived a week on, to become the marker of that memory.

The ease with which I now see imagery—drooling over the devices (guilty, yes) at what becomes a scrolling kaleidoscope that’s a bit awesome (but not as good as a real kaleidoscope)—has produced a laziness in me. Those images don’t hold memory, nor are they committed to memory. Sure, I get a momentary buzz / inspo / giggle (raccoons) and I won’t stop doing it, but it doesn’t have meaning when compared with sitting in front of an artwork in a gallery, or in my own lounge room.

There’s a good thing to do on this final day of 2017. Maybe sit in front of your pictures and ‘listen’ for the soundtrack that extends much further back than this year.

Here’s a plan, pop on My Friend the Chocolate Cake while you’re there. Hah, the 90’s! You’re welcome.

HNY

Soundtracks: perfect bound.

064 Bookshelf 02

I love reading fiction.

I wish I could read more.

I wish I could read more non-fiction, but I just don’t reserve the time. I save those rare and precious reading times for the suspension of my current life – to shape shift fully into the lives in the novel on the bedside table.

We recently moved. And I packed the books for the move from a bookshelf that’s grown only slightly in the 8 years since it’s last relocation. I had made a commitment to libraries rather than purchases, but still occasionally am drawn into the magnetised world of the book shop and want to buy it ALL.

So, the packing…

066 Bookshelf 04… the nostalgia, the flooding memories. Above, two novels by a Sydney writer whose wife I met 20 years ago through work. And I love her, she’s an amazing human. (He’s totes amaze too) It’s the introductions to the books that bring back the memories. That person recommended this book, my fellow blogger gifted me that book (or did she loan it!). Every single book held it’s own story on a timeline. It surprised me. The feeling.

Even Nearest’s non-fiction shelves held my memories!

063 Bookshelf 01

It was like flicking through photo albums (which I did as well… this was a looooong pack), or thumbing through the record/cassette/CD collection.

Eras.

Years.

Genres.

Absorbed, dismissed, revisited, kept.

The bedside table now holds First Person by Richard Flanagan. I read small snippets alone, and then out loud with fellow slow reader and co-bloggette, Wendy.

This book is a keeper. And it’s place in the shelf will mark a moment. But only for me.

Go and sit in front of your book shelves for 15 minutes.

It is moving.

065 Bookshelf 03

I’m down…

The Beck Song Reader project continued today with the second song in the album: “I’m down and this town is a nuisance”.

The direction on the sheet music was “Shuffle”. I spent some time googlerising this and looking at the different between shuffle and swing. Subtle differences but basically don’t play the quavers evenly….swingish them. See how made a verb there. What I really liked about this one was not just the cute lyrics (look em up I’m not retyping them here….but also the fact that there are two verses, two bridges and no real chorus.

I interpreted it as a slow country kind of ballad. And then I added the initial vocal and I was going to leave it at that….but then I remembered the challenge set out by Beck in the album notes. Make it your own. So I added one harmony line. And then I added another harmony line. And then, before I turned into a one-women version of the Bee Gees I stopped. The harmony is a bit rough and ready in places (understatement) but I decided to resist my classically trained impulse to seek perfection and leave in the off bits….recorded live…straight into Garage Band on my IPad Pro. Yes, I know. It’s not quite sound studio we all dream of but it does me.

As always I’m hyper-critical of my untrained, ornery singing but I remind myself that the point of this little hobby-project is not to sing like a professional. It’s to discover the music that Beck has written, play and sing it and make it real. For me. So here it is:

And as always, once I had done my thing, I searched for Beck’s version. Here’s a nice live one. A bit rockier, rockabilly, or summink. I love it.

Anyone. Even you.

Let’s get something established right from the get go. I’m a Beck fan. Is he a Scientologist? I don’t care. He can write songs. It’s perhaps no surprise that I have eventually come to his 2012 Song Reader. It perhaps is a surprise that it has taken me until 2017. Or perhaps it isn’t.

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The Song Reader is an album….of sheet music.  Unrecorded sheet music on release. This was exciting I remember thinking at the time. It immediately caught my imagination but I wasn’t going to send to the USA to get it and living in little old Bundaberg it wasn’t easily available, so it sat “out there” (gestures to far horizon beyond my mind) for some time until just over a year ago I stumbled upon it on the specials table in the QAGOMA store. Bargains!! I snapped it up, brought it home and immediately put it to one side.

Until today. I was vaguely aware the songs had been recorded in the intervening years. I had somehow, studiously avoided them, while purchasing other Beck music in the meantime. Strange?

Maybe you came to Beck as I did when Triple J flogged “Loser” to pieces in the early 1990s.

Slacker, grunge (proto-hipster) Beck was in danger of being a one-trick pony, a one hit wonder. In fact for a while he was.

But then there was One Foot in the Grave with it’s astonishing stripped back, folk-pop-vibe of wonderful songs and the stunning clip (which I can’t find) of Beck with Willie Nelson. Recorded before Mellow Gold but released after it. It’s a favourite. They’re all favourites!

Prolific is Beck. The Grammy award winning Odelay has every song an immediate hit and classic. Dance grooves like you’ve never heard them. Perfect songs. I bought my CD copy in Hervey Bay’s last independent record store the day after it swept up the Grammy awards. I listened to it for what seemed like forever. How about Where It’s At.  Go on…. click on the link. You won’t regret it.

Mutations. Midnite Vultures. Guero. Morning Phase. Sea Change. Modern Guilt.

I may have missed some. All different yet all quintessentially Beck in their variation and willingness to delve into different musical styles and genres and, in doing so, create his very own Beck-ness. I’m about to get to the most recent release Colours.

Hiding in there though was the Song Reader. Until today I didn’t know what any of the songs sounded like. That was the point. For me, the “reader”, to discover it in my own way and in my own time. Just like music used to be published and discovered. Sheet music. Around the piano. At home. In the living room. The parlour. The lounge. So I guess you could say that it’s publication in 2012 by McSweeney’s meant it wasn’t the most accessible “album” of Beck’s in that you have to make the sound yourself. That seems like an effort in our age of instant gratification and immediacy. That seems like it might take time. Like there’s a danger that we might not “get it” the first time. Or if we do, it might be different the second time. Or the third. Or the numbers that come after that.

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That’s how popular music used to be distributed. Yeah. Sheet music. Single song sheet music. And in doing so, there wasn’t just one version of a song. There was less of the authoritative version. There were many more individual versions. Interpretations. Made by people just like you and me. So what a gift is the Song Reader. We’re actually meant to participate in the music-making and listening process. Beck is asking us to! What a guy.

Indeed he says as much in the Preface that is included in the album.

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“not so long ago, a song was only a piece of paper until it was played by someone. Anyone. Even you.”

Beck is even keen for us to get a little bit creative with our interpretations. He says as much. What’s this change the lyrics and the chords? Will it still be his song? Of course it will. That’s just what happens in the “in-between” with sheet music when the songwriter launches it into the universe and the amateurs take it up and do there best.

 

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And so today I did. I am the “Anyone. Even you” Beck is talking to in his Preface. I can play the piano. I can sing in a thin, reedy, not very attractive manner. This song came to life for me in the very playing. I recorded it lo-fi style (cheers Beck!) using Garage Band on my IPad. You can hear the back ground noise and the crunchiness at the end as I moved the device to stop recording. That’s okay. That’s normal. Music isn’t meant to be all auto-tuned perfection. We’ve come to think that’s normal. There was musical life before that.

The first song in the Song Reader is “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard”. Beautiful cover art and a snippet of a song on the back (also written by Beck) just like old-time sheet music used to have as the publishers advertised their other songs. What I loved about this one was its reference to Tin Pan Alley and it’s sweet easy melody and simple chord progression. If it was a recorded album it’d be a cracker first track to get the people in.

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I deliberately didn’t listen to any other version until after I sang and recorded it. Because once you’ve heard a song you’re covering it….you’re not interpreting what you found on the paper. Beck would probably find my version fairly pedestrian. Here’s him singing it. Heck even I find my version pedestrian. He takes a snappier tempo and welcomes in the mouth organ and guitar.

I may get a little more adventurous as I continue through the album.

So for your listening interest:

The Faustian deal

Hello Richard

We meet again. All of us. You, Kif, Us – the Slow Reading Appreciation Collective. Well we met again. On Monday evening. You might not have realised because you weren’t there in actual real time but I’ll tell you what. You certainly provoked some of the old discussion there. In fact I think it’s fairly safe to say that we discussed more than we read. Because of you. And Kif.

This fortnight we started at p. 63 and got up to p. 78 for anyone who might happen to be following along at home. You certainly placed Kif in a creative and ethical pickle. Should he take the ghost-writing offer or should he plug away at his novel. Can he do both? Certainly, it seems like the novel is hard yakka what with his awful Council job. He needs money. We understand. Money is a problem for those who seek a creative life. We felt for Kif as he worried he would ‘somehow be tainted, not simply publicly, but in my heart, having abandoned some sacred trust for a Faustian deal involving money’. (p. 63). Gosh how giggled (one of us a little forlornly in sad recognition) at Kif’s publication history up to this point. His book on Tasmanian modernism, his short stories. His commitment to “literature”, his desire to stay a “real writer…who had not really written anything real” (p. 64).

As always, Richard you delight us with your wordsmithery “gobbets of work”. Gobbets! Perfect.

And poor Kif. You really have emphasised his family dilemma with the twins on the way, and Suzy, his long suffering partner. How Kif manages be so confused about her unconditional love for him that is not based on his success or failure as writer is all too poignant. He was so determined to stuff things up. Amazing really. So angry, so self-pitying, and so frightening. Kif is a writer in the middle of a personal and professional crisis.

And then he loses his job – his only reliable source of income – at the Council, where the garish Jen Birmingham finally gives him the sack.

And then, only then, when Kif is at his lowest, he gets the call. The offer from Gene Paley to write Heidl’s memoir. Before he knows it, the deal is on. He proves himself to be hopeless at bargaining for expenses and yet here he is now on a six week deadline.

So while we didn’t read very much in terms of pages, Kif’s artistic dilemma – of principles, achievement or lack thereof, of self-belief or lack thereof, of money or lack thereof certainly got us thinking….about our own principles, achievements, self-belief, financial situations, work-life balances, successes and failures, life, the universe and our places in it. It was a welcome and reflective parallel discussion to Kif’s story. We saw ourselves in Kif’s struggle to see himself as a writer who really hasn’t written anything much yet. Is it self-indulgent to live a life marked by creative interests and pursuits? Is it selfish? Is it necessary? Perhaps it is all of those things….more or less. What happens when creativity in any form goes missing in our lives. What happens to our equilibriums? Is this why we can feel out of whack? How much pursuit of creativity can one fit into a life while also paying the bills and buying the groceries? Is it possible to do both? How? Should we?

Perhaps there are not concrete answers to any of these questions. Perhaps a creative life is a continual questioning? And that’s okay?

Richard?

Are you there?

See you in two weeks.

Slow Reading Appreciation Collective.

Moderation

What she said.

Read that first before you continue reading this because really that’s what I want to say and I’ve been mulling over something like it for a while now.

Do you follow me on Twitter? Perhaps you’ve noticed I’m not tweeting much this year. Sure there’s been a few retweets every so often. A few faves just for kicks. But not much else. My twitter feed is chockas with opinion makers and advertising and I can’t see the good people from nearly a decade ago when we used to chitter chatter there for the cool gang all clamouring to write the wittiest political joke in 140+ characters. You know what Twitter…. I used to love you so much. But now you’re boring me. The only time you’re useful is when there’s an emergency or something breaks in the news. Then you come into your own. The rest of time is lots of scrolling for little reward. Except wasted time. Is that a reward. I guess not.

And now for good old Facey. Facebook. The Facebook.

Phew I’m getting tired of this. (and yes I do realise that if you’re reading this it’s because it automatically shared on FB. I’m not an IDIOT. I understand IRONY. sometimes. Sometimes I understand irony. Other times I go all a bit Alanis Morrisette. Perhaps this is one of these times?). Soon it’ll just be using FB to see what I did on this day last year, which will be seeing what I did on that day the year before, which will be the same as I remembered the year before that. And then I’ll disappear into my own belly button. As will all of us.

Insty. Insta. Instagram. Yes I still have time for you. Because photos. But the ads are totes annoying me. I started blocking every single one but they overpowered me and I gave up. I use you the most.

There’s an Ello account out there in the wildspace of the inter webs. Jeepers only knows what it’s for but occasionally I get some notifications via email.

What’s App. Newish user. Annoying ping. Facebook messenger. Why do I need this AND texts AND What’s App. Why?

And texts. And emails. Just four accounts thanks. Two that I check regularly plus work. Oops make that five. I forgot about my second little used gmail.

I guess what I’m saying here (not very clearly) is that there are lots of ways to communicate with me. And for me to communicate with others. Using words. Using emojis. Using acronyms. Using video. Using images. And in the last 6 months or so I feel like I’m less connected people than I’ve ever been before.

Because ….and I’m just putting it out there…we might have become a little bit lazy. A little bit complacent. Sure! Yes! We’re in touch! We’re friends on FB. I follow them in Instagram. I had a text the other day. Or was it last week?

What the hellfire happened to picking up the phone (antiquated styling) and actually speaking to someone? What happened to ….now sit yourself down….talking face to face? I email people at the next desk to mine.

That. Is. Absurd.

No really. Think about it. It’s surreal and ridiculous and has to stop. Because for all the communicating we’re doing we’re not actually nurturing our connections with each other. We’re not building or feeding them. What we’re actually doing (some of the time anyway) is feeding our own egos. Woooooo look at all the likes and comments. Look at the faves. Look at the little red hearts. They like me! They really really like me!

No. I don’t think that’s what it means at all. Not all the time anyhow. Sometimes it means they want to be seen to be liking you. To be associated with you and through that association they build their own social media presence. Which is just that…. a presence. It’s not actually the whole of them. It’s just a little bitty part of them. Now it’s okay to have this little bitty part. Sheesh there have plenty of joyous social media moments that have made me guffaw. But we could live without it.

We really could.

Now I hope I don’t sound pious or preachy. I do it too. Often. I’m just saying that perhaps…just maybe… we need to think about how we interact with and on social media a little more. If social media is boring the pants of you 80% of the time, or making you feel down, perhaps you need to change it up.

 

Don’t mistake social media presences for the glorious messy reality of each us. I am not my Facebook profile or my Instagram account. We might need to put down our devices occasionally and look at each other. And speak. With our actual voices. And be happy with that.

And every so often we have to be able to live with silence, without filling every waking minute with notifications and updates.

Everything in moderation.