Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The calling of colour...

Last week I watched the first two seasons of Devious Maids. I am acutely aware that this is trash television, but sometimes only trash television can balance out the demands of life - for me anyway.

I love the aesthetic of series like Beverly Hills 90210, Private Practice, Desperate Housewives. I quite like watching beautiful people live pathetic lives in gorgeous surrounds. It is very soothing to me. Call this my dark side, if you will.

Anyway, watching Devious Maids this last week, I was intrigued by the artworks used in sets for the interiors of these luxury homes. Some were quite classical, but being that many of the characters are in their mid-thirties and forties, a lot of the artwork was abstract and colourist - just my thing.

I haven't painted in almost a year.

The main reason for this is that I have something like thirty paintings laying about with no prospect of finding a home. I have loaned some to the mature age student room on Deakin's Burwood campus, but I'll take those back at the end of this trimester. I have my favourite painting at my desk in my office…

Anyway, watching Devious Maids and seeing these large canvas paintings on the sets has re-inspired me to paint. Unlike the poured painting I was doing last year, I feel drawn to more purposeful abstract colour work using brushes and not medium. I may or may not reuse old canvases with paintings I'm not all that happy with anymore. It is harder to do because I used various varnishes but it might be worth a try and might yield some interesting effects. The canvas I used for Harvest Moon (above) was reworked after I scrapped a painting which had not turned out as I hoped and this re-working gave the new painting a lot of texture and dimension.

Watch this space for new paintings...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


July is nearly done and usually at this time of year I am starting to look forward to the return of warmth and sunlight, but this year I have a terrible sense of foreboding. The quiet before the storm is when the air is heaviest with tension and electricity, and right now its charge is at its peak.

I have been invited to present at the Australasian Association of Writing Programs conference in Wellington at the end of November, and I am to submit a paper to be peer reviewed by the end of September. The paper will discuss things I wrote leading up to my colloquium, though I need to revisit the scholarly sources with a little more depth and perception of difference, I think. So, the paper will be challenging but probably not as challenging as what will come next.

You see, we have the makings of a perfect storm in November.

I will be preparing the talk, and that will be somewhat nerve-wracking. Primarily because I will not know the venue, and I am not well versed in actually using programs such as Prezi or Powerpoint. I mean, I can make a presentation in these, but setting this up at a venue and knowing how to work my way back and forth through slides is a whole other matter.

So, I'm bound to feel quite nervous in November.

As well as this, the house will officially move into the hands of the new owners in October. They told us in May they would be giving us notice to vacate by February, but possibly earlier, and so some time in November, I expect we will be looking for new digs, and possibly also moving.

Add to this the fact that Ari turns six at the end of October and therefore, the Grumpy Old Man will be moved from the parenting payment partnered to NewStart and will be expected to lodge 10 job applications a week, suddenly, he will be a lot more busy, and we will be living on less.

I have been trying not to think about any of this, but now that I have the invitation to present at the conference it is all becoming quite real and close.

I had hoped to be offered tutoring work after my colloquium, but we're in week three of the trimester and so far, no offer has been forth-coming. I suspect these things are arranged well before the beginning of trimester and therefore before I was confirmed. So, I'm guessing I will not be offered work now until November.

No work for either the Grumpy Old Man or myself will make looking for a new rental very challenging. We were so very lucky to secure this place easily, but that isn't like to happen again. MIL is not showing any signs of wanting to sell up and move in with us, even though she relies on us more and more for every month that passes, and her knees are giving her a lot of trouble these days (she doesn't walk, so much as shuffle, now).

I'm worried about not coping.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Opinions are mundane thought... And other ideas...

So, I've been reading about Deleuze.

I had decided not to like Deleuze based on what I read in this article. The panel for my colloquium had suggested I read Deleuze and Guattari's theory on 'minor literature' because they felt it was what I was expressing in my chapter. I read an article which stated minor literature had three elements:

1. Language is affected with a high coefficience or deterritorialisation
2. Everything in it is political
3. Everything in it takes on a collective value

From these points I told my exegesis supervisor that I did not think flash fiction was a minor literature. He then explained to me (sort of) what Deleuze actually meant by 'territory' and 'political' - shedding light on my utter ignorance of Deleuze's theories or concepts and suggested I read 'Gilles Deleuze' by Claire Colebrook (published by Routeledge as part of their 'Critical Thinkers' series).

So, I have been reading that book, and much to my chagrin, I've come to realise that many of Deleuze's thoughts are very similar to my own, and therefore when I wrote about flash fiction and identity and the identity of flash fiction and how I wasn't interested in defining what flash fiction is, but rather what it might do, I immediately caused all the better-read-than-I academics at the panel to think of Deleuze (and it didn't help that they were all predisposed to Deleuze's way of thinking themselves).

I kind of love what Deleuze has to say about opinion; that it is lazy thinking. It is deciding something is 'so', because it is 'common sense' or 'true', and therefore not engaging thought on the matter further to create new thinking and to encourage difference. Opinions are mundane thought - I'll be thinking twice before stating that I have an opinion on anything anymore, because I like the concept of creating new thought through questioning.

Of course, this is the challenge of my thesis. I must create new thought. I must rethink what has been thought until now about literature, though my exegesis supervisor was also suggesting that if I was engaged by Deleuze and wanted to use his thinking in my thesis, I also needed to rethink Deleuze - I'm not at all sure I am ready to do that just yet (but time is of the essence, as well).

Clair Colebrook discusses Deleuze's criticism of equivocity, the concept of more than one voice. The commonly argued dualism of mind and body, for example. Deleuze is critical of this because it sets up competing elements and a hierarchy, one must be superior, the other inferior (like the battle of science and spirituality; in this day and age, science - so-called facts - are favoured over spirituality and faith. Or vice versa, by those who exalt faith). Instead, he argues for univocity - that there is only one being, it is everything simultaneously. This really harmonises with the post-dualist in me!

Power is not necessarily oppressive, is another concept I find myself nodding my head to. Power is freedom to create rather than ability to suppress or oppress, and everything has power in its creativity. Yes, yes, yes! In trying to express this thinking, I am constantly offending people. Our world is highly idealistic, and therefore ultimately nihilistic when stripping away the perceptions only seems to lead to more perceptions and never the elusive 'true' nature of things which is believed to ground reality. I often find people cling to the perceptions, even when they claim not to want them or not to be deceived by them because there perceptions give them a sense of fate. It has ever been thus, and will ever be thus unless we are saved by something outside of ourselves which we can never quite lay hands on because it is thus.

I think my main supervisor - who is no fan of Deleuze - is going to be quite disappointed when I tell her I see so much of my own thinking in what has been described of his work.

Anyway, these thoughts are what I have taken from Clair Coleman's book on Deleuze, but that said...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dangerous Questions… (trigger warning)

If you are feeling suicidal, I urge you to speak with someone. If you live in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or go to this webpage and click on the red button -->

Sitting in the car this morning, I was listening to a discussion about suicide. It was discussing new research that challenges the perception of suicide as a selfish act. The radio personality interviewing the spokes person from SANE, attempted to link the story of this research with the news that Dr Nitschke (infamous for his euthanasia advocacy work) had had his medical licence suspended under suspicion that he has been involved in a suicide cult.

The concept of 'cult' has arisen from the revelation that organisations exist to help people end their lives without investigating why they want to end their lives, and not showing concern for people who are young and not terminally ill, even quite healthy who want to end their lives.

Here is where I start to ask some dangerous questions and I must preface this by stating, I am not suicidal, and I do believe most suicidal people are experiencing deep pain and probably would like to continue living if only they were able to perceive their circumstances improving. I have been there myself, worked through that pain and come out the other side.

That said, in accepting that the vast majority of suicides and suicide attempts are a matter of pain, is it inconceivable that a small minority of suicides and suicide attempts are acts of self-determination NOT as a result of suffering?

The lady on the radio went to great pains to state that suicide is not self and it is not weakness, but at the same time she felt that people who were suicidal needed to be convinced to continue living at all costs. The (not particularly bright) radio interviewer went on to state that it happens that people who have been suicidal and work through that pain go on to live more fulfilled lives than some people who never experienced that pain. That argument, to me is highly subjective and designed to elevate 'deciding to carry on' above 'never wanting to stop'.

People end things all the time. People decide to stop working on a particular project - do others implore them to continue because 'it will get better'. People decide to stop believing something - are they encouraged to continue believing beyond the point they value that belief because 'You don't know what the future of maintaining this belief will hold!'

What is it that is so terrible about making a conscious decision to end your own life. I know for people of religious faith, suicide is a slap in the face of God. Not valuing the gift he has given the individual. I won't dispute that because it is a belief.

But what is it to people who do not have a religious faith. Why does society value preserving life above all else, even a life which feels to the 'liver' to be finish, complete, if prematurely in the eyes of others.

'First do no harm' is the medical doctors creed. What constitutes harm? The majority believe death to be harm, but is it? Death is an end for some. A chapter for others. For some people it is believe to be a reboot. So then why is wishing to reboot or begin again or move on to the next chapter so terrible it is viewed as irrational (irrationality being the biggest sin in our modern word)?

Why must we assume that choosing life is the only rational choice, the only valid choice?

I'm sure I have upset most every one of you. I feel these questions need more discussion. We fight for a human's right to self-determination in every aspect, except death.

This post is absolutely not an encouragement to a person in pain to end their life, I still believe a thorough investigation of motif is the best policy. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

He's a good kid...

He really is.

He's 15 and he can be quite moody, but on the whole, he's a good kid. That is to say, as far as we know, he doesn't smoke, drink, or do drugs. He's never had sex. He doesn't roam the streets or hang out with troubled kids. He doesn't do any of the things that most parents fear their teenagers might get up to - or that they didn't themselves as teenagers.

He's a good kid.

That said, the Grumpy Old Man and I are still feeling it, the teen thing, that stage everyone tells you to dread.

The good kid is really not doing very well at school. He just doesn't care. Or as he likes to put it, he doesn't think about it. Doesn't think about what failing school might mean for him in the future.

We've tried the usual house rules. A regular bedtime so he gets plenty of rest. Homework time to make sure he does his home work. He has work to do around the house as well. And we've also made sure he has fun; he goes to friends housees and parties, he goes to the movies, not often, but sometimes. He has enough gadgets to be keeping up with the Jones, and he chooses he own clothing and style.

But there was no cooperation from him.

He stayed up all night playing computer games or chatting with friends.

So, we made the rule that he could only have his computer at the dining room table and at bed time he had to put it in a custom made charging station. He decided to sneak out after we'd gone to bed (sometimes at 2, 3 or 4am!) to get his computer to play games.

He would play with lego in his room, which was fine, except he'd put on the overhead light, so his brother wasn't getting enough quality sleep.

He picked on his second youngest brother all. the. time.

He told his grandmother he was going to 'wear mum down'.

He never answered his phone when he was out, and would came home later than agreed on because he decided to see a later movie and not tell us.

His grades just kept dropping.

We found out he had plans to wander around the city unattended during an upcoming excursion. We found this out because he insisted he needed his mobile for the excursion so the teacher could call him back after lunch. Then we found out that was just a story because he wanted his phone. No doubt he was going to tell us he'd lost it in the city so we wouldn't ask for it back. Not having devices is apparently killing him.

So, we locked up all the devices, or so we thought, he managed to find one I'd stowed away months ago. We knew he had it, but he said he didn't know where it was. The Grumpy Old Man had to get very, very grumpy, before he finally gave it up.

Now he says we're going to guarantee he fails school. He believes us moving him from his old room to share a room with his younger brother is going to prevent him from sleeping (you know, because he was sleeping so well when he was staying up all night watching movies, or playing games). He believes the sleep deprivation with affect his marks negatively (because, they've been so brilliant thus far).

He asked what would happen if he smashed windows and doors. I told I would call the police.

There are children dying every minute on this planet from starvation, from war fare, from neglect, but all he cares about is having his devices.

I guess this is what they warned us about having teenagers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

At It Again...

School's back.

We started the week with a car in the shop (again, sigh, fifteen year old cars are a bit like that. But brake pads are important. It's especially important to have non-shredded break pads on a car that carries four children every day).

I didn't get in to Uni until Wednesday, and then because it's orientation week and the club I'm secretary for had a stall, I really go no work done, only a bit of printing.

Yesterday we had to do grocery shopping, so didn't get any work done then at all.

Back in the office today and determined to get back into it.

The recumbent bike arrived on Tuesday, and I had fun assembling it - I've discovered assembling stuff takes me to my zen place (when I'm doing it on my own, not so much if I'm doing it with another person, LOL).

So, on Wednesday, Thursday and this morning, I've done an hour of cycling. I get up at 6am and set the timer on my iPad, and I have a playlist I've put together on my iPhone which I play on shuffle. The middle twenty minutes is the hardest. I don't really need to do an hour, and I might only do half an hour on weekend days, but it gets my steps up on my fitbit program, so that I've been clocking 10 000 steps easily the past three days. It's 9.30am at the moment and I've already clocked 6750 steps. I like getting it done first thing, that way it takes the pressure off for the rest of the day and I know I've done what I need to do.

The bento lunchbox arrived yesterday so today I've brought a pack lunch, which is kind of exciting (yes, my life is that dull, ha!).

Today's lunch

I'm not sleeping well at all though. I've been average about 5.5 hours a 24 hour cycle for the past week. Last night I slept 4 hours and 27 minutes. It's just not enough. I was hoping the exercise would lead to more solid sleep, but it doesn't seem to be working like that - though it's only been a couple of days, so I guess I need to give it at least a week.

The goal is to feel better. These are just the first few steps.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Gosh, I'm feeling so sad today, I can't even put it into words.

I'm taking myself off to the movies this afternoon. It'll be the first time I see a movie of my own choosing in a couple of years, and the first actual break I get from either studying or parenting in months.

We've had a tough few days here at home. The older boys brought home very concerning reports at the end of last term. Despite the work we've done, and the tutoring at the school, the boys marks have steadily declined all year.

As well as this, there have been issues with helping around the house, following house rules, and making seemingly endless demands on our finances because they either have been irresponsible or simply have an expectation of a parent funded social life.

Bryn's school report was excellent but we've been dealing with behavioural issues from him this year as well.

And Ari, I barely know where to start. That child is doing my head in with hyperactivity and devil-may-care attitude.

So, a few days ago, after having to go in and take Erik and Lukas' laptops off them at 2.15am (after banning laptops in their room a week earlier and repeatedly having that ban ignored), I lost the plot. I wasn't able to sleep at all after that.

So, at 6am I woke them up, marched them out to the dining room table - and Bryn as well - and said, 'Enough is enough'. I told Bryn that I would pay his summer camp deposit on Monday, but if he was caught nicking food or money from us again, or if he complained about dinner or refused to eat anything again, he would not be going. Then I sent him back to bed.

For Erik and Luey, I told them I would be buying a lockable box for the devices, as they obviously could not be trusted. I said they would only have their laptops for doing homework at the dining room table and once that time for that had elapsed they'd be locked up again.

I told them they would no longer be taking the bus to and from school. No more 'shopper enterprise' for Erik (where he buys things for kids at school on his way to school, and takes commission for the service), no more hanging with friends at the shopping centre in the afternoons between bus connections. No more phones at all - as they don't seem to be able to keep track of them half the time and the other half of the time, they don't bother to answer their phones.

This means that after school, they have to hang out in the resource centre until we pick them up between 4-4.15pm.

I also told them I would be buying maths and english workbooks for them to use at home on days they did not have homework from school - this is because they constantly claim not to have homework, but then their grades at dropping because they don't hand in their homework.

I told them they would be having hair cuts that day. Short haircuts. They love their long, floppy, in their eyes, bad comb-over hair. I don't like that look at all. For years I've tolerated them keeping their hair like that out of respect for their individuality. Well, no more. If they cannot show their family or school any kind of respect, they cannot expect to be shown respect either.

I told them that every four weeks when their GPAs come out, I'll be checking. If the GPA has risen or stayed above 2.0 (which is only a pass level), they could keep their hair, and let it grow out. If the GPA had dropped or was below 2.0, then they would receive another haircut.

Finally, I told them that Erik would be moving in with Bryn and Ari would be moving in with Luey. This is to put a stop to night time carry on. Bryn goes to bed two hours before Erik and Ari two hours before Lukas, so it is unlikely either boy would have anyone to chat to or be silly with. Also, Erik really doesn't like Bryn (for no good reason that any of us can fathom). So he is unlikely to engage Bryn. However, it might actually give them an opportunity to learn to get along.

I told Erik that as he was not showing any sign of looking for part time work, I would no longer be financing any of his social life. No more movies, sleepovers, birthday parties, etc. If he wants those things he needs to get a job - so today he is missing out on movies with his friends.

Once I had finished, I sent Erik off to clean the toilet, bath and shower, and Luey off to clean the kitchen.

Yesterday was spent moving the rooms around, and engaged in heated discussion with Erik where he promised to do all the things I wanted if I let him go to the movies with his friends. I told him he's said all of this before, but not followed through so now he gets nothing until he shows me with his actions that he is serious. He has to walk the walk now.

Lukas seems to get it, though, and Bryn as well.

Ari? Well, he's a whole other kettle of fish.

So, today I'm tired. I feel sad because I hate having to be the enforcer. Erik said I was making everyone's life miserable, especially the Grumpy Old Man, and that I just needed to 'let it go'. Let it go? Let them fail high school? Let them spend all day playing computer games? Let them go out as often as they liked with their friends? Yes, apparently, this is how he'll parent...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Looks like I took a break, after all...

I wasn't going to take that break my supervisor implored me to take, but then I woke up on Monday feeling all drained, and Tuesday I had braille, and Wednesday I had to be home for some other reason (which I just cannot remember right now). Thursday I needed to run errands at Centrelink and Friday we went to the school uniform shop. And then it was the weekend, of course, which was full on with birthday activities and sleep overs and lots and lots and lots of driving. So, on Monday, I couldn't face leaving the house, which really needed to be cleaned anyway. Yesterday was braille - and Friday will be braille as well.

Today, I've been a sloth. Though, as an excuse, I'll say we had some fierce winds here last night and our side gate was BANGING every couple of minutes the entire night, so I didn't get much sleep and that lead to a significant sleep in today.

The day hasn't been wholly unproductive...

I taught myself to rice paper rolls!

I know they're simple to make, but I'm no cook, so they intimidated me. These were very plain, just some iceberg lettuce, carrot and triple smoked ham. I plan to get some more interesting fillings happening. This is all part of a plan I have going at the moment to save money and eat a bit better than I have been recently. I bought myself a bento lunch box, like this one:


I'm going to take lunch to work each day, and the spring rolls will be part of that - not every day, of course, because I'd quickly get bored, but some days. I'm going to mix it up with fruit, and veg, dips etc.

As well as this, I have bought a recumbent bike. I have been considering getting one for a long time, and this tax time has allowed me to make it happen (don't get your knickers in a not, I've put a bundle of money into the high school account, and have another lump sum set aside in a savings account for school fees, car rego/insurance etc).


The recumbent bike is something the Grumpy Old Man's doctor recommended - all but pleaded with - us to get. You see the Grumpy Old Man went to the doctor over a year ago about the excruciating pain in his legs. The doctor said then that if the Grumpy Old Man didn't lose some weight and strengthen the muscles in his legs, he would be in a wheelchair in five years. Well, in the year since, the GOM has actually put on weight. This is not good.

A recumbent bike allows him to build the muscles in his legs with low impact exercise.

And I'm going to use the bike, too. Since my sight has started to deteriorate further this year, I've found walking around outside more and more challenging. I'm never sure of where I'm putting my feet and I have a lot of anxiety about rolling my ankles or falling over. So, I haven't been getting much exercise. I've put on weight as well, which is uncomfortable. So, I'm going to use the bike to get some exercise.

I also got an exercise and sleep so I can see just how much exercise and sleep I'm actually getting (I don't think I'm getting enough of either, and the result is a very tired, anxious me).

So, I'm looking forward to feeling a bit more energetic and getting better sleep, soon!

Good Job!