Thursday, June 28, 2012

Something New: Napoleon at the NGV (see)

SEE: The Napoleon Exhibition at the NGV had been calling for a little while, the big banners on the building's side promising pomp and splendor. Closer inspection of the website uncovered more intriguing bits and pieces including a section on exploration and discovery with the diaries, drawings and records of the various French expeditions to Australia and other far-flung locales. I'm a sucker for old naturalist drawings so I was sold.

No cameras allowed in the exhibition itself but many of the paintings are well known like The Death of Marat; Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) in a hoop skirt dress; Napoleon, crowned; and Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul, crossing the Alps at Great St Bernard Pass, 20 May 1800 above. There's certainly splendour there and plenty of pomp. But it was the hat, the quintessential bicorn hat, sitting there behind glass, that really blew me away. Not so old, really, compared to some of the ancient artefacts I've seen and even handled, but it probably inhabits a bigger place in history, a more notable place than all the others. I couldn't even imagine standing so close to the man who wore it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Something New: Photo Book (make)

MAKE: It's Grandma M's birthday on Friday, so I went and sat down at one of those photo kiosks with Dear Boy asleep in his pram beside me and put together a cloth bound photo book with pictures from his first six months. Some of the photos didn't print true to colour but I'm happy with it. Looking back at pictures of my boy, I can't believe he's grown so much, that he was ever so small. I can't believe there was a time when he slept for longer than he was awake during the day, that getting a glimpse of his eyes was rare in those first few days. 

I hope she likes it.

Watching 'The Newsroom' and remembering

Somewhere in my dim, dark past... before Dear Boy, before Melbourne, before PhD... I was a broadcast journalist.

I wasn't a particularly good one.

The station's tech-heads kept a recording of me screwing up and would play it when I went to visit. I introduce myself and then there's the sound of me tapping the keys of the computer... and tapping... and tapping... then my slightly panicked voice cuts in " computer appears to be frozen so there will be no news at 11 o'clock...". And then nothing. Dead air. Dead, dead air until the jock on duty realised his 5 minute break was cut short and raced back to the booth to press buttons.

I started as the weekend newsreader for two radio stations. At the same time. I would write two bulletins, prerecord and send one through five minutes to the hour, then go straight into the other live. I was waking at 3am, falling in the back door of the studios at 4am with the early newspapers under one arm and then on air at 6.

But nothing happens on the weekend. It's not a peak news period by any means. The politicians are at rest and the public is at play. My biggest responsibility was to get the weather and tides right. But that doesn't fill five minutes of news on two stations every hour.

I began to drive to work, hoping for catastrophes, for car crashes, for big news.

And then they happened.

I started a 14 day breakfast shift on Boxing Day 2004 while everybody else went on holidays. I was the only journalist at work in my city that day. I was the only person in my building that morning. I felt like the only person left alive in the world, trapped in a darkened soundproof booth, as water washed away more than a hundred thousand lives.

Each day the death toll rose, the stories began to roll in - the Australian stories, then the local stories, then the personal stories.

The day after my shift ended I handed in my notice. But not because I was burnt out, although I was. Not because I felt like a garbage bin, filled with the news of the worst of the world, although I did.

I resigned because something I said was the worst moment of someone's life.

A light aircraft crashing after take-off at a small airfield in the valley! Two fatalities! A story! I grabbed it with both hands and broadcast it loud and clear. Twenty minutes later, crackling on the police scanner and an officer reporting in after pulling over a speeding driver. "Yeah, mate, she said she just heard on the radio that her husband's plane had crashed. She thinks he's dead... Yeah. Will do."

I still have nightmares. But not about any of that. I wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming of missing my cue, of my computer crashing, of dead air. I should have left sooner.

52 Poems (week 44 & 45)

So close to the end of this little project and yet I'm finding it harder and harder to gather together and read new poems. I find I'm not just searching for something new, because something new doesn't always mean something good (as I've discovered with my Something New project). I want to read good poetry or, at least, poems that make me feel something (besides boredom, that is).

Week 44

I quite liked 'Mookari' by Indigenous poet Dan Davis - chosen to represent Australia in a Commonwealth anthology (one poem per country).

I think it's going to rain today, the sun isn't so bright.
The clouds are slowing covering the blue, closing it all from sight.

He Coming Now I think I heard some thunder, smell rain in the air.
Just saw a flash of lightning , stretching out over there.

"BANG", the clap of thunder goes, it can give a little fright.
Watching this lightning can be dangerous, but oh what a sight...

'Mookari' can be heard recited here.

Week 45

It's definitely feeling wintery here, so I was searching out that feeling, that sense of chill days. This is what I found: Robert Hayden's 'Those Winter Sundays'.

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him...
Both poems are only quoted in part for copyright reasons. Search out the rest. They're out there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Neil Gaiman versus Stephen King

Neil Gaimon interviewed Stephen King. This almost sounds like a 'man-walks-into-a-bar' joke, but it's not. Although he doesn't 'do' journalism much anymore, Gaiman used this interview as an excuse to "drive across Florida back in February and spend a day with some very nice people I do not get to see enough." Who needs an excuse though when it's Stephen King. 

Here's what Gaiman wrote in the contributor's blurb (taken from his website, as are these pictures, which will link you back to the appropriate pages):

“I think the most important thing I learned from Stephen King I learned as a teenager, reading King's book of essays on horror and on writing, Danse Macabre. In there he points out that if you just write a page a day, just 300 words, at the end of a year you'd have a novel. It was immensely reassuring - suddenly something huge and impossible became strangely easy. As an adult, it's how I've written books I haven't had the time to write, like my children's novel Coraline.”

“Meeting Stephen King this time, the thing that struck me is how very comfortable he is with what he does. All the talk of retiring from writing, of quitting, the suggestions that maybe it's time to stop before he starts repeating himself, seems to be done. He likes writing, likes it more than anything else that he could be doing, and does not seem at all inclined to stop. Except perhaps at gunpoint.”

Something New: Sitting in the Sand (go/play/freeze)

GO: Lovely Husband suggested a walk this afternoon. The BOM was forecasting sunshine and he was in the mood for an excursion to show Grandma M some of the sights... or at least to get out of the house. So we took Dear Boy down to the beach at Elwood.

PLAY:  Dear Boy had never been on the sand before. We'd dipped him in the water at Crescent Head but never ventured onto the beach itself (pram wheels and sand aren't a good combination). He ran his hands over the surface of the sand before scrunching up little handfuls. Predictably, hand made it to mouth before we could catch it. That's one compulsory baby moment done... many, many more to come.

FREEZE: We'd rugged up in coats and scarves and gloves but the wind chill down near the water was too much for the Queenslander and my tropical-hearted husband. We turned that pram around quick smart and made for the warm cafe for hot chocolate and sticky date pudding.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bless, you, Aaron Sorkin, bless you

Something New: Another Grandma (meet)

Grandmala, Grandma J and now Grandma M. My lucky boy has many, many grandparents and great-grandparents still living and loving his cute little face. How could you not?

MEET: This is Grandma M's first time to see us since we moved to Melbourne and her first time meeting the boy. She's down from Queensland where the winter weather has been a balmy 24 degrees until the rain began. Now she's here and rugged up in winter woolies she had to buy just for this trip.

We picked her up from the airport and brought her home where she showered Dear Boy with presents (as grandparents are wont to do). She's a knitter and from her suitcase pulled a newly knitted Hoot. He lasted all of five seconds before his nubbly knitted feet were grasped in Dear Boy's chubby fist and pulled into his mouth.

Photo-a-day: June (week 3)

15. Yellow

16. Out and about

17. In my bag

18. Something you don't know about me (I have three of these)

19. Imperfect

20. Favourite photo I've ever taken

21. Where I slept


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