Friday, April 29, 2011

52 Poems (week 7)

The Lord Bishop of London used a small quote from Chaucer in his homily (?) for the royal couple's wedding. This here is his 'The Love Unfeigned' (Chaucer's, not the bishop's).

OH YONGE fresshe folkes, he or she,
In which that love up groweth with your age,
Repeyreth hoom from worldly vanitee,
And of your herte up-casteth the visage
To thilke god that after his image
Yow made, and thinketh al nis but a fayre
This world, that passeth sone as floures fayre.

And loveth him, the which that right for love
Upon a cros, our soules for to beye,
First starf, and roos, and sit in hevene a-bove;
For he nil falsen no wight, dar I seye,
That wol his herte al hoolly on him leye.
And sin he best to love is, and most meke,
What nedeth feyned loves for to seke?

Right royal

The Archbishop of Cantebury has the most magnificent set of eyebrows.

And the Lord Bishop of London is a darling.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (61-70)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. Parts three and four are over here and over here. Part five is here.

For my birthday, I asked Lovely Husband to make me some mix CDs from his music collection (don't worry, it's legal here in Australia to make mixes and to share your music with other people within your household. Luckily). For a man that listened to a lot of metal as a teenager, his collection is quite surprising, full of lovely ladies with wispy voices or power lungs like Adele and Florence. Here's a sample of the new stuff I hadn't heard before. Some of these are bluesy, some poppy, some folky, some electronic.

61. Nikki & Rich - 'Dreaming'
62. Gabriella Cilmi - 'Awkward Game'
63. Lisa Mitchell - 'Slow' - have to get through a few minutes of guff from the Today Show at the start of this clip.
64. Yael Naim - 'New Soul'
65. Emiliana Torrini - 'Today Has Been Okay'
66. Imogen Heap - 'Hide and Seek'
67. Oh Land - 'We Turn It Up'
68. Lenka - 'The Show' - come a long way since Cheez TV!
69. Ash Koley - 'Don't let you feet touch ground'
70.Ellie Goulding - 'Guns and Horses'

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hello Sailor!

Our lone cucumber of the season has finally popped out from under the furry leaves. It's not the only one; some of our carrots are starting to rear out of the soil, unearthing their orangey heads. As an uneducated gardener, I'm not altogether sure what this means or if it's a good sign. Are they ready to harvest? Is there a definicency in the soil? Is it too damp? Not enough sun? So fickle. Like the whole baby-making caper, sometimes it amazes me that anything manages to grow at all.

As with the baby-making, though, not all is well in the garden. Something's chomped its way through my baby broccoli. Little buggers. Might have to go back to the seeds on this one and start again.

Happily, the sweet-peas are thriving. I'm holding out hope that they survive the bugs, the winter and my carelessness. Love the smell of these suckers.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book shelves/stairs

More book porn, this time tucked into the staircase. This would have either have me curled up in very awkward positions browsing through titles or tripping over my own feet because I'm not paying attention. Lovely Husband poo-poohed the idea because it'd be a bitch to keep clean. Pfft. Who worries about dust when there are books upon books to gaze upon.

Photo source: unknown (came in an email list - please let me know in the comments if you know the original source!)

Forbes' fictional rich list

Forbes has released their list of the top 15 richest fictional characters. Scrooge McDuck tops the list with $44.1 billion with Carlisle Cullen, Artemis Fowl II, Richie Rich and Jed Clampett rounding out the top 5. My favourite, though, is the inclusion of the dragon Smaug, always depicted curled around his pile of gold and silver. Michael Noer breaks down how they calculated the dragon's wealth based on descriptions in the book of his treasure pile, his belly crusted with diamonds and gems and the Arkenstone of Thrain. Just his description of how they calcultated the worth of the precious metals makes me want to head straight back to The Hobbit.

"The book describes Smaug as “vast,” “centuries-old” and of a “red-golden color.”  According to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons’ site The Hypertext d20 SRD a true-dragon of that age and color measures around 64 feet from snout to tail.  However, a great deal of that length is likely tail.  By way of reference, Komodo Dragons are 70% tail by length, so we can estimate Smaug’s body to be approximately 19.2 feet long.
Dragons are long and narrow, so we can safely assume that Smaug can curl comfortably up on a treasure mound with same diameter as his body length – 19.2 feet.
How high is the mound?  Well, at one point in The Hobbit, Bilbo climbs up and over the mound, and we know that Hobbits are approximately three feet tall.  Assuming the mound is twice the height of Bilbo, we can say that the mound has a height of approximately 6 feet – like a six foot tall man climbing over a 12 foot mound of coins; substantial but not insurmountable.
To keep the math relatively simple and to avoid complications like integrating the partial volume of a sphere, we can approximate Smaug’s bed of gold and silver to be a cone, with a radius of 9.6 feet (1/2 the diameter) and a height of 7 feet (assuming the weight of the dragon will smush down the point of the cone by about a foot).
Now we can calculate the volume of Smaug’s treasure mound:
V= 1/3 π r2 h = 1/3 * π * 9.62 * 7 = 675.6 cubic feet
But, obviously, the mound isn’t solid gold and silver.  We know it has a “great two-handled cups” in it – one of which Bilbo steals – and probably human remains, not to mention the air space between the coins.  Let’s assume that the mound is 30% air and bones.  That makes the volume of the hoard that is pure gold and silver coins 472.9 cubic feet.
We know that Bilbo eventually takes his cut of the treasure in two small-chests, one filled with gold and the other filled with silver, so it seems safe to assume that the hoard is approximately ½ gold and ½ silver, or 236.4 cubic feet of each metal.
A Kuggerrand, the South African Coin containing 1 troy ounce of pure gold, measures 32.6 mm in diameter and is 2.84 mm thick.  Solving for the volume of a cylinder( V= π r2 h), then converting cubic millimeters to cubic inches, then cubic inches to cubic feet gives a volume of 8.371354e-05 (or 0.00008371354) square feet for a single coin, containing one ounce of gold.
Using similar logic, an American Silver Eagle coin (40.6 mm in diameter, 2.98 mm thick), which contains one troy ounce of silver, has a volume of 0.000136 square feet.
It’s then a trivial matter to determine the number of 1-ounce gold coins (2.8 million) and silver coins (1.7 million) in the heap.  At the moment gold is trading at $1423.8/ounce and silver at $37.5/ounce making the gold coins worth a little more than $4 billion and the silver ones worth $65 million, or $4.1 billion for them combined."
Love that they used the AD&D Monster Manual as a reference.

Photo source: Smaug by John Howe c/o

52 poems (week 6)

Rainer Maria Rilke chose his own epitaph, a poem in his Austrian German that translates as:
Rose, oh pure contradiction, delight
of being no one's sleep under so
many lids.
Such an image to ponder as one kneels beside his grave. A lot of his work circles these same ideas, with preoccupations with solitude and a strange anxiety pushing through. His observations of the life around him are more intriguing, capturing little moments of insight like this in 'Child in Red'.
Sometimes she walks through the village in her
little red dress
all absorbed in restraining herself,
and yet, despite herself, she seems to move
according to the rhythm of her life to come.

She runs a bit, hesitates, stops,
half-turns around...
and, all while dreaming, shakes her head
for or against.

Then she dances a few steps
that she invents and forgets,
no doubt finding out that life
moves on too fast.

It's not so much that she steps out
of the small body enclosing her,
but that all she carries in herself
frolics and ferments.

It's this dress that she'll remember
later in a sweet surrender;
when her whole life is full of risks,
the little red dress will always seem right.
Photo Source: Poetry from Sephora's Beauty and the Blog

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (51-60)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this musical escapade can be found here and here. Parts three and four are over here and over here.

51. Weezer - 'My Name is Jonas' -  One of the brothers was busting out with the first few lines of this at dinner last night and air-drumming.
52. The Decemberists - 'This Is Why We Fight' -Portland band, but every now and then the lead singer drops into such a familiar accent.
53. The Decemberists - 'O Valencia!'
54. Kids of 88 - 'My House' - What a strange little electronic pop/dance ensemble. Certainly deliver on their promise of the eighties.
55. Kids of 88 - 'Just a Little Bit'
56. Sick Puppies - 'White Balloons' - Not what I was expecting, given where I'd come from to find this. But I'm always up for a suprise. I suspect the live stuff is better than the rest.
57. Sick Puppies - 'You're Going Down' - Surprisingly, I adore this song. It's one of the ones that's covered for my Body Combat class. And the 'my fist in your face' sequence at the end is beyond satisfying.

58. Oh Land - 'Wolf & I' - ...And now for something completely different.This Danish ballerina has that voice Lovely Husband likes and has crawled under my skin and burrowed into my own musical tastes.
59. Oh Land - 'Sun of a Gun' - This one is even more catchy.
60. Lady GaGa - 'Beautiful, Dirty, Rich' - I'll leave the showboating, but I dig the catchy pop tunes.

Photo Sources: Oh Land from; Weezer from

Yes, we're going to a party, party


Thank-you, Lovely Husband. Presents, dinner, cake, losing at Trivial Pursuit - beyond the call of duty.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

52 Poems (week 5)

 Pablo Nerudo keeps popping up in my hunt for poetry. Trying to find the perfect poem, but it's late and the longer I take to choose, the less or the worse I'll end up choosing. So here's 'Sonnet XLII: I hunt for a sign of you', which is the first one I read. It's keeping me out of bed but worth the dark circled eyes in the morning.

I HUNT for a sign of you in all the others,
In the rapid undulant river of women,
Braids, shyly sinking eyes,
Light step that slices, sailing through the foam.

Suddenly I think I can make out your nails,
Oblong, quick, nieces of a cherry:
Then it's your hair that passes by, and I think
I see your image, a bonfire, burning in the water.

I searched, but no one else had your rhythms,
Your light, the shady day you brought from the forest;
Nobody had your tiny ears.

You are whole, exact, and everything you are is one,
And so I go along, with you I float along, loving
A wide Mississippi toward a feminine sea.
Photo Source: Poetry from Sephora's Beauty and the Blog

The birds! The birds!

 An enormous flock of cockatoos descended on the neighbourhood, covering the oval like a carpet and crowding the trees up and down the street. The noise was incredible, igndignant squarking whenever a car or pedestrian passed underneath. They swarmed for over an hour, then just before the light disappeared, they all melted into the evening.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (31-50)

As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this music escapade can be found here and here. And part three is over here.

I've been feeling folksy this week, looking for something rawer than I normally listen to. I don't get much of this on the car radio, so it's something I have to search for.

31. The Waifs - 'SunDirtWater' - Adored the folksy, bluesy-ness of 'London Still', 'Bridal Train' and 'Lighthouse'. This is way more bluesy and making me pine for the summer we didn't have.
32. The Waifs - 'Fisherman's Daughter' - One of the few bands that manage to keep the Australian accent in the vocals.
33. Mumford & Sons - 'The Cave' - 'Little Lion Man' was all cranky sweetness and people kept sending me copies knowing I'd like it. 
34. Mumford & Sons - 'White Blank Page' - Awesomeness from the Bookshop Sessions.
35. Mumford & Sons - 'Winter Winds'. 

36. Wilco - 'You and I'. 
37. Billy Bragg & Wilco - 'Walt Whitman's Neice'. That Mermaid Avenue album is such a good listen.
38. Billy Bragg w. Wilco & Natalie Merchant - 'Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key'.
39. Bill Bailey & Billy Bragg - 'Unisex Chipshop'. Awful quality video but I'm a sucker for a comedy song, even more so for people who are happy to take the piss out of themselves.

40. Kate Nash & Billy Bragg - 'A New England/Foundations'. Turns out I'm also a sucker for a duet.
41. Kate Nash - 'Men's Needs'.
42. Kate Nash - 'Flourescent Adolescent'.
43. Ani Di Franco - '32 Flavours'.
44. Ani DiFranco - 'Untouchable Face'.
45. Indigo Girls - 'Closer to Fine'.
46. Indigo Girls - 'Galileo'.
47. Natalie Merchant - 'Candy Everybody Wants'.

48. Taylor Swift - 'Back to December' - I'm not a country fan and I'm not fussed on teen girls singing but I've been secretly digging on Taylor Swift. Part of it, I think, is because the first few hits of hers I heard on the radio were actually telling a story. I like that but it's not something that happens often.
49. Taylor Swift - 'Our Song'.
50. Buffy Sainte-Marie - 'Generation'.

Photo Sources: Waifs from photo page; Mumford & Sons from; Taylor Swift from

Thursday, April 7, 2011

'She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning.'

I was thinking this morning of childhood, which then led me away into the books I was reading when I was 5, when I was 10, 15, 20. One of my favourite books as a teenager was Nabokov's Lolita, mostly because of his way with language but partly because it was 'not the done thing'. Woolly-chested Humbert was shiveringly sympathetic to me at that age, but the ability to paint a girl into something resembling a demon was astounding.  The one-sided skewing of the first person narrative was a revelation.
 "She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita." - Vladimir Nabokov
I memorised and quoted these lines for a book report I did in year 11. My teacher accused me of plagiarism, of having help, and couldn't contemplate that a spangly-limbed teenager could read, or understand or (*gasp*) enjoy the book.

Photo Source: Penguin edition cover from 'Camille Reads' blog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Detail oriented

I was sent a link to a Wall Street Journal profile, 'A Model Maker's Workshop', on Adam Savage's new home. The writing is fairly uninspiring and emotionless, but the slideshow fired the imagination. First, there's the library. I'm always a sucker for book porn and this is wall to wall books we're talking here. Then there's the kitchen. Heavenly. And the shot of his 'man-cave', his workshop several blocks from hom where he keeps his tools and many of the larger replicas, models and toys he's made or collected.

Surprisingly, the real kicker for me was the shot of his office, with a more subtle collection of his built and found models. In the article, it talks about a Grail Diary from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which took Adam years to make. A prop maker by trade, he was essentially building a book from scratch, poring over the move, taking screenshots and making notes, sketches and maps. An impressive obsession. Even that, though, was secondary to the bookish deliciousness of Broom's Box.

The box is a prop used in the move Hellboy, seen only briefly in a few scenes. But the box was up for auction on ebay, selling off the movie set to fans one piece at a time. It's a gorgeous box, complete with books, reliquaries, bottles, carvings, pictures, crystals and all manner of bibs and bobs. Adam won the ebay auction and then set about trying to recreate the box's contents. As so began an epic geek-a-thon, calling on the Hive Mind via various discussion boards to help him find items that match. What he couldn't buy, he built or repaired himself, even filling the pages of the blank books based on screen shots.

 I'm inspired to head to ebay and find myself the beginnings of an obsession.

Photo Source: Screen shots and photo from Adam's MobileMe Gallery, 'Broom's Box'.

Monday, April 4, 2011

52 Poems (week 4)

In my search for a poem this week, I was lost on where to start and googled the word 'poem'. One site offered me random poems and I clicked through the Maya Angelous and Pablo Nerudas that I'd heard or read before until something new appeared.

The first was 'Happiness' by Raymond Carver, whom I'd only known from his letters to his editor, desperate cries to leave his work alone, so he could look himself in the mirror and still see a man, and not return to the bottle, because his stories were full of another man's words. This was the Carver I knew, and a poem called 'Happiness' was reluctantly read. But it's lovely (excerpt only below).
SO EARLY it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought...

...Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.

The second is by a man named Billy Collins, about whom Google has produced for me long lists of accolades. 'Marginalia' is just what I was looking for (an excerpt below).

SOMETIMES the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head...

...I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."
Photo Source: Poetry from Sephora's Beauty and the Blog; Billy Collins from; Raymond Carver from's article 'Being Raymond Carver'.  

Reaping what I sowed

It was a rough weekend in the garden: bit of planting, bit of watering, shifting a pot or two and harvesting these little suckers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New songs on a Saturday morning (21-30)

 As part of my ongoing effort to improve the range of my cultural consumption, I'm casting out for new things to listen to. Parts one and two of this music escapade can be found here and here.

There was a folksy Rod Stewart song on the radio yesterday, sounding something like Maggie May. Been trying to find it, walking through old clips and concert performances but nothing that rings the bell. Shame. Was hoping to include it here. Instead, the next ten are all the magical leaps and bounds I took from my Rod Stewart search on my quest for something new.

21. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - 'Please Read the Letter'
22. Tori Amos - 'Pink & Glitter' - Cornflake Girl; Blueberry Girl. Something about her draws me in, even more so after a student wrote a 5000-word essay on her.

 23. Tori Amos - 'Maybe California'
24. Tori Amos - 'Winter'
25. Sarah McLachlan - 'Ben's Song' - That's one hell of a note at the start, not one I expected was coming from a human source.
26. Sarah McLachlan - 'Loving you is Easy' - Hard to reconcile an upbeat McLachlan with the rest of her songs that I adore but I love it just the same.

27. Angus & Julia Stone - 'For You'- Another wispy lady singer with a strange accent.
28. Angus & Julia Stone - 'Mango Tree'- Not as fussed on the ones he sings, but sweet enough.
29. Florence + the Machine - 'Drumming Song' - Not the face I was expecting when I first heard the voice. Love her odd little dance moves, though.
30. The Corrs (feat. Bono) - 'When the Stars go Blue' - Such Irish loveliness from the Liva 8 concert.


Photo Sources: Tori Amos from her official website; Angus & Julia Stone from the Cover Lovers website (also has a link to an awesome cover they do of 'You're the one that I want')


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