Holiday Funtime 

DH and I are on hols right now, although it doesn’t feel very holiday-like to me. Last Friday we flew south to my home town Melbourne for my son’s engagement party on the Saturday and I’ve been schlepping about so hard I’ll need a holiday to get over the holiday. 

Friday am we arrived and promptly went to bed for a bit, because I’m tired all the time. In the afternoon we dragged ourselves into town to visit Whistler’s Mother, which (who?) was on show at the NGV International. Then it was an early dinner at a Korean diner before 2 comedy shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Folks, there were 500 shows at this festival. Unbelievable. Then cocktails at my favourite little bar Double Happiness, which is quiet yet buzzing. Not too loud and shouty there. 

   
 
Saturday was the engagement do, but not before DH and I went back to the NGV to see Warhol and Wei Wei. An amazing exhibition. Then it was a delicious Mexican lunch at a great place on Chapel St before seeing another silly show at my favourite venue Chapel off Chapel. This time it was Songs for Sarah Connor, terminated. Not as original as I’d hoped: I wanted more original songs rather than rewrites of well known show tunes. 

Then, Sunday morning after the engagement party we borrowed my sister’s car and headed to Aireys Inlet for a brief respite from the world. It’s quiet here and you can hear the ocean from the house. 

  
Then on Tuesday I headed back to Melbourne for my sister’s PhD graduation. Very proud. We now have 2 doctors in the family, neither of the life-saving kind. 

  
Of course, a real doctor would have come in handy for when my newly minted Dr sister decided to have a mild allergic reaction to the shellfish at lunch and get an itchy redness. I didn’t leave town until well after 7pm, so am in bed today recovering. 

Tomorrow we must leave my favourite place but I’m pleased to announce that not only am I writing a cabaret but I’m also starting my crime fiction novel. At the moment I’m just writing a bunch of disparate scenes to see how I write fiction. There’s no plot yet. Mostly descriptions of Brisbane. I think I haven’t read enough crime fiction set in hot climates; mostly the books are set in temperate zones or cold climates. Time for some steam heat. 

So I’ve decided to do #2

That’s not a poop, folks. It means I’m gonna do the cabaret. Out of a list of 7 creative things, 2 was the consistent front runner. I did a straw poll on FB and my friends loved them all except the academic numbers, which I’ll save for quiet time. 

In the meantime I’m calling my cabaret “A Bagful of Crazy”: women on the margins. Or something like that. My problem is I’m not funny. I’m actually quite a serious person (which is why my husband is so good for me; he cracks me up every day). So it’s no good me doing a funny comedy show. I won’t be on my own; I’m roping in an ex-student, plus a woman in her thirties if I can get takers. They can do the funny songs and keep it fresh. I’m all tragedy. Pathetic really. 

I’ve already started the planning. Women in musicals are always written by men. There are perhaps 4 women I can name off the top of my head who’ve cracked the scene: Jeannine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Fun Home),  Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman (Secret Garden), and Cindy Lauper (Kinky Boots). Women in musicals can be written well. Sondheim is pretty good once he got over being lambasted for his poor portrayal of women in A Funny Thing…Forum. Marc Shaiman and Stephen Schwartz  draw women pretty well and each champion strong women such as Elphaba or Galinda. But there are a fair few women drawn as monstrous caricatures, such as Rose in Gypsy, or Margaret in Carrie. If played badly, they are rightly awful. I want to reclaim these women. They weren’t bad. They were lonely, sad, ignorant, prejudiced. Marginalised and maligned. They had their reasons for being awful. 

So the first challenge for me is to select the songs. I have about 10; I’ll need 12, and I’ll be culling as the cabaret takes shape. I’m thinking of doing a 2-week course in creating cabaret down in Sydney in July. Exxie but my business hasn’t had overheads this year, and I need a creative kicker to help shape the story and patter. 

I’m also writing some of my own songs. This will provide links to disparate songs and help shape the drama. 

For the first time in forever, this feels like a fun, creative thing. So, look out, folks. A Bagful of Crazy. Coming to a cabaret near you. 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee I’d be telling you that this is the second time I’ve tried to upload a weekend coffee share but my internet connection is so crap (thanks OPTUS and the Australian Federal Gov’t for your shit, misinformed policies on internet capacity and speed) that I lost the first one due to dodgy internet connection. WordPress doesn’t like interruptions and tends then not to save drafts. I’m racing against time to finish this post before the linky closes.

(Actually, how about this: I’ll post it now and edit as I go. Sounds fair. Back soon.)

And….that was quick. I often upload my shares on a Monday morning which is still Sunday night in other hemispheres so I think I get away with it!

Righty-ho.

Now, I could tell you about my three chookies Euphemia, Josephine and Iolanthe who are very dear little girls, but who are not yet laying consistently (in fact, I’m pretty sure 2 of them haven’t started at all as we’re only getting one egg a day). I sit and watch them every day. Or I could tell you about my doggy girl Poppy, who is a bit smelly and not eating very much. I think she’s overheating in this crap weather and needs another trim. Or I could tell you about my cat Lucy, who manages to piss someone off nearly every day. However they are self-sustaining little creatures, mostly. I could tell you that my attempts to manage our herbs are coming to no good. I can’t manage the water issue or the sun issue. They either get too much sun or not enough, or I manage to drown them in water or dry them out. I wish they’d let me know what the problems are without just dying on me. On the plus side, the basil seems to be growing well and the possums have finally stopped eating the chilli leaves.

I could also tell you about the umpty-hundreds of concerts I’ve seen this week, very excited by all the offerings at the Brisbane Baroque festival, including Handel’s acclaimed Agrippina (who knew 4 hours could go so fast?!); a Bricolage of Heavenly Bach, a Vivacity of Vivaldi with Vivica Genaux and tonight a Purcell treat called King Arthur with some wonderful ex-QLD CON graduates in the roles.

But no. Feeling the pinch of unemployment. And no recreational or legal drugs to while away the hours. Sigh. Except coffee. Here, have a brew.

My last post revealed I’d finished the book chapter. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, even if it WAS 10,000 words long. Plus a 165-word Abstract, and a 1000-word reference list. But that leaves me in that awful pit place of no job and few prospects. I’ve applied for 2 jobs OS: one in New Zealand (a 3-hour flight away, then a 2-hour drive), and one in Singapore (7-hour flight). There’s nothing here except a Head of Music at a couple of high schools, for which I think I’m uniquely unqualified, because I don’t like children. Much.

I’m having a hell of a time staying positive and actually I just think I’m not very. I have a couple of creative ideas, but that would mean actually doing them. And when I’m low (depressed because no job= no value in the world, and this is literally the ONLY reason I’m low: I don’t have a fulfilling job) I’m not very proactive about creativity. I pretend to be a social constructivist but in reality I think I’m a pragmatist and I feel a lot more useful being gainfully employed.

Oh, to hell with it. Creative ideas are below in list form. Because that’s how I roll. Have another coffee. And here’s some delicious ginger cake I made a while back. Do have a slice, and enjoy the read:

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  1. Oily Rag Opera. A chamber opera company for small productions that only need 4-6 singers and a decent pianist. It could not pay for performers or players or personnel. How can it? The cost of putting on an opera is so high that even to stage a community production can cost upward of $50,000. And that’s just for the performance space! But I’d like to do a chamber opera: perhaps Suzanna’s secret or something like that. With actual proper opera singers who in this state are mostly out of work, and a good MD and D. If we could get a black box performance space this thing could have legs. There is some opportunity in this state for such ventures.
  2. Badly, sadly, madly.  Crazy women’s cabaret. A 55 minute cabaret with 3 female performers, one female MD, and one female D. Has it been done before? No doubt. There’s a few cabaret shows springing up in Australia – when I say a few, I actually mean shit-loads. There are hundreds. We have decent cabaret festivals in every major city, plus a heap of fringe festivals and comedy festivals too. So. 3 performers, 10 songs. Some self-penned songs (yes, I do this too), and some Musical Theatre favourites, and a few trios/duets. Obviously the theme being bad, mad or sad, all the songs have to relate in some way to a woman’s internal crazy. You know, stalker chick, psycho killer, manic depressive, abandoned woman, that sort of thing. With a half-decent patter and stage direction.
  3. Write a novel. Don’t know what about. Feeling a bit bereft of ideas for this one. I’m a bit plot driven, so perhaps a crime thingy. I love crime noir styles and have a peculiar fondness for a fellow called Peter Temple, who in my book writes some of the most compelling Australian crime fiction ever. His prose is sparse, hard to unpack at times (no problem with this: he writes for an intelligent audience), and he really GETS the bleakness of some Australian landscapes, whether of the human mind or the natural world. The only problem I have with it is that Temple writes with a strongly male focus, and all his main characters are male. He doesn’t write women well at all, really – they’re usually caricatures of what he thinks women OUGHT to be. Which isn’t so bad, exactly, just that I’d love to have some female protagonists in my reading. So, perhaps I could write my own.
  4. Write some more songs and compositions. This is not so hard if I’m doing pop and folk-inspired music. When it’s more classical or cabaret inspired it’s harder because my keyboard skills just aren’t up to it. And I actually believe good keyboard skills are what makes good composers. They know how to put chords together. Anyway, I could certainly write a few songs again. About fricking time. Or I could fix up some old ones.
  5. Write me my fricking monograph from my thesis and get me to a publisher, stat.
  6. Write a couple of research articles I’ve been putting off because.

So there you have it, folks. Yes, I have some creativity. No, I don’t feel like using it right now. Have another coffee, or perhaps a tea.

Brought to you by Diana here

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Of chooks, waistlines and Things to Do.

So the chickens are going well. I love my chookies. They are terribly cute, cautious and  scare easily. Divine. Poppy my groodle wants to eat them. Not pretty, so we’re planning a fox-and-dog-free chook run so that Poppy can hang out in the back yard again. Not fair to confine her to the front yard when the chookies barely use the back.

We’ve had the first few eggs. They’ve quite a pale yolk: more butter-coloured than orange. So I’ll be supplementing their feed with some appropriate food to give their yolks a colour lift. I ate some for the first time today. Scrambled, they were remarkably creamy. Much more so than the free range eggs I normally buy. And even better, one of the eggs was a double yolk. Win!

After I took my folks to the airport on Tuesday I realised my capacity to lose weight was in direct proportion to my care-factor. It’s never going to happen unless I get all serious about it again. Which I can do, I promise. Just not now. The weather is STILL too hot and I’m not really prepared to get out of bed before 9.00am. So I took me shopping and finally succumbed grumpily to the needs of my expanding waistline: I bought 3 pairs of size 12 trousers, and half a dozen t-shirts and tops. In QLD clothes deteriorate really fast because they’re always being washed. I looked at my own clothes: they looked tiredly at me and promptly sagged into grottiness and worse still: torn in parts. Plus, I only had about 3 pairs of sad old pants I could wear (2 pairs of WHITE pants, y’all, and 1 pair of 2-years old totally grotty navy pants that I wear EVERY SINGLE DAY when I’m not wearing the white ones), and it was beginning to get desperate. I’m not paring back my wardrobe to bare bones: I WEAR IT ALL.

Every so often I buy a bunch of t-shirts but 6 months later they’re always pretty woeful. Doesn’t matter which brand, either. They can be super-dooper expensive or quite cheap. They just lose shape and look old. On the plus side, I rarely throw out my t-shirts because I repurpose them either as pj tops, painting tops, or cleaning cloths. So there you have it. Instead of removing the fat from my body I’ve taken the easy way out. At least now I’m comfortable in my clothes again, and mildly stylish.

Things to do for the end of March and all April: finish off some book editing (tomorrow’s job), finish my book chapter (tomorrow as well), create a chook run, and go to the gym. Perhaps write some job applications too. I’m learning how to keep busy, and I’m starting to enjoy slowing down a bit. Perhaps I’ll write some fiction, as I promised myself so many moons ago. And I’ll definitely read a book. I’ve not read a single novel since I joined Goodreads. Unlike me. And I’m starting to think about being artsy-fartsy again. Perhaps I’ll join an art collective and do some arty-crafty things.

Happy Easter everyone. See you on the other side.

Australia Day: plainspeaking.

Retired Australian Army General David Morrison was yesterday announced as the Australian of the Year. This was 3 years coming as I think he couldn’t be nominated for this award until he had retired. The one great reason (and there are many more than this) is the following speech made to the Australian Army. It was a private speech, but it quickly went viral. What plain speaking can do, eh? This speech is worth sitting through for the plain prose and stark message, and its emphasis on diversity and equality in the workplace. I loved this speech when it came out and was uncertain as to why he hadn’t been nominated earlier. Anyway, the last two years saw an Indigenous AFL footballer Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year, and Domestic Violence victim, survivor and passionate advocate Rosie Batty. This year was an ex-army leader whose straight talking speech is something all (reasonable) Australians found compelling and honest. Enjoy the clip.

 

Another speech made by the wonderful and under-appreciated indigenous journalist Stan Grant also stirred Australians, as an impromptu speech he made in October did the social media rounds just now. This is the voice of desperation from our indigenous Australians, with a call to action: “we are better than that”. Australians (again, the reasonable ones that make up the majority vote, thanks for asking) have responded wonderfully well to this speech. Grant is characteristically humble about his speech and his role in advocacy for indigenous rights: he names many great advocates before him whose speeches are braver and stronger and better than his. However, this speech comes at a time when there is a sharp division in the media between the noisy right and the desire of the Australian majority to be better than our international image would suggest.

 

So today, on Australia Day, hubby and I will go to an Art auction. The auctioneers we know well, and lots of wonderful indigenous artists are represented there. We probably won’t buy anything but it’s good to value stuff for future reference. We have lots of cheap and cheerful wall art as we have bought at least 5 pieces from them, all under $1000 each. DH took two pieces to work as his workplace won’t release artworks they buy as there is a stupid loophole in Australian Tax law that says if you buy artwork for superannuation purposes it cannot be shown or hung in public spaces. For reasons entirely unknown to me. Anyway, it means we personally buy the art for the work space. Sometimes it’s bought back by the university as part of general decoration, but I think we own all the pieces there at present.

I love indigenous art: it’s abstract and non-figurative (mainly), but has a definite visual narrative that you understand as you get to know the artist’s vision. The works we buy are usually narratives of nature, place and country. Given the ongoing arguments Australians have about Australia Day, with its hellish history for our First Peoples, it’s good to be able to, in a small, entirely selfish way, give something back to the first Australians. And to those who may think these folk are being exploited: no. I did my due diligence. The artists are represented with dignity and their copyright and artist rights intact.

So off we go, to sit in a room and be yelled at for a few hours. On Australia Day I can think of nothing more fun. Happy Australia Day to you.

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The wheels of change grind slowly…and then they don’t

Feeling slightly bloggy today. That is, I want to be saying something, yet I’ve nothing much to say.

This week is the week of waiting and editing. Waiting for the bathroom to be done (ONLY the electrician is left now); waiting for some editing jobs to come in; waiting for Friday.

Friday is job interview day. I’m asking myself why I’m not walking the dog or doing some shopping but hey, there’s not much to be doing here other than TV watching (now onto season 3 of The Good Wife – a step down from The West Wing because it’s not as complex and just a little bit more melodramatic, but otherwise excellent).

I’m waiting for something to start. And start it has. I’ve just had a phone call from a colleague who may have some project work for me. So for a few weeks at least, if I don’t get the Friday job I now have some editing work, a DECRA grant to prepare, teaching singing to organise (although not much because I’ve been winding it down slightly), a possible project, and 4 singing gigs.

The year is gearing up again. So I really should be planning my research work. For those who care, I have a PhD in music. I have a bunch of stuff to do with this research, even if I don’t have a paid job to go to. I could plan and write my monograph, I could write a couple of research articles. However, as everyone in research knows, writing research articles is like pulling teeth. I get engrossed in it but I hate starting it off. It’s like writing a term paper but much, much harder. Nearly everyone you know hated writing undergraduate term papers. It’s no different just because I’m a grown-up. Luckily everyone I know procrastinates on journal articles, too.

Stooges pulling teeth

Anyway, so. Editing. It’s a thing. Yesterday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece, 130 words long. Today I edited it. Let go, much? It’s better, but not much better. I read it aloud this time. It helps to read stuff out aloud. One gets a feel for scansion, flow, word placement, comma placement, narrative and dramatic tension. I’m no good with grammar rules or poetry / narrative / syntax / phrase rules – I wasn’t taught any memorable English language rules as a child, and as an adult I struggle to retain information like that. I might remember a Kardashian moment, but I won’t remember syllable emphasis. I have to go with intuitive rhythmic/ melodic placement of the spoken word.

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Fiction so short is like poetry. Smells, sights, sounds, interactions, and a narrative arc told in 100 words. Brevity is vital, quality is paramount. No passive voice. Very few adjectives. The right word for the right scene, no excess or repetition unless the repetition adds narrative value. Tricky but doable. I’m getting better at it, I think. At least, my eye is sharpening.

So, waiting and editing is my thing this week. And now: to walk the dog.

Adios!

 

 

Flash Fiction: The pitch-drop experiment

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(Photo prompt: Pixabay.com)

“Who’s that over there”? The new grad student nodded at the grinning skeleton propped in the corner.

Fiona chewed on an apple. It was floury. She grimaced. “His name is Tom.”

John looked surprised. “Tom? Rather prosaic.”

“Nope.” Fiona stood up and flung the apple at the bin. Rim shot. “He’s named after Thomas Parnell, who created the pitch-drop experiment, the world’s longest and most pointless research project. He died never actually having witnessed the pitch drop. The skeleton reminds us never to indulge in stupid research. So, what are you researching?”

John looked abashed. “Er…I’m examining whether there is a correlation between structured procrastination and high achievement.”

“Brilliant.” Fiona snorted. “Well, John Perry, you’re in fine company. Adios!”

And as the door closed behind her John suddenly spied on the shelf a bell jar containing a beaker and funnel. From the funnel was suspended a thick, black drop of pitch. And the skeleton grinned, and grinned, and grinned.

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156 words.

(With winks to Prof John Perry at Stanford University, winner of the Ig Nobel prize for Literature in 2011 for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important. REFERENCE: “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title “Structured Procrastination.” )

 

With thanks to Priceless Joy from Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

Flash Fiction

 

 

 

Pesky narrative voice

I’m beginning to write short-form stories again but I have a problem with one of my narrative voices. He’s an abusive husband. POV-wise, I’m not sure I can accurately portray him. But he won’t go away. He’s hijacked my creative process! Sigh. I’m going to have to get him out of my system before moving on. He’s hung around for years. 

Anyone else have problems with their POV characters? Do they hijack your stories too? 

And another thing. What do people think of fan-fic? I’ve read some good stuff recently that in no way reads like fan-fic and I’m wondering, do these writers use the plots and characters of well-known films (Star Wars, true blood etc) as impetus for their creative flow or as a genuine tribute to that film? What gives? Personally I can’t see the point of fan-fic but I’m sure there’s one somewhere. 

Thinking about those goals again…

About 5 weeks ago I wrote about some goals I was thinking of aiming for, mostly to do with my personal and career goals. I was thinking at the time that I’d like to write. Maybe a fiction novel, or create a book out of my thesis. A cabaret. Or some journal articles, even.

The other thing I thought of doing was applying for a gig as a singing lecturer down south. But as time has rolled by, I had to explain to my DH just today that, actually, I don’t WANT to be a lecturer of singing, especially not down south, where I’d be away from him and our house and our life together. He has been super supportive about this job application – urging me to apply – but I just don’t want to go for it. I don’t really want to be teaching at all, if I can avoid it. It’s not that I can’t teach, I can, really very well. But I’m burnt out from it. And as much as I enjoy Musical Theatre, and as much as I love singing, I’m finding a new energy for writing.

I’ve been writing in this blog for several years, mostly agonizingly self-indulgent little pieces about my research and the sheer craziness of doing a PhD. Now I think I’d like to make forays into fiction again. I was always quite a good fiction writer although I’m not sure I like my narrative voice very much. I tend to write best when I create a narrative voice and prose style that is sparser than the one I use for my stream-of-consciousness one you see here. Actually, I’m a bit of a bower bird: I can mimic quite passably the narrative voice of any number of good writers. But as with academic writing, my best work comes from finding my authorial voice and creative muse.

So, as the weeks go by since I got the PhD email, I’m turning once more to reading and writing. Lots of it. I’m thinking short stories and small scenes first. To rebuild my creative writing chops. And, no, I don’t think I’ll go do yet another course on how to write – I’m done studying for now!

I’m not out of the woods yet – I am clearly in some sort of mid-life crisis, one that thankfully does not involve buying a sports car or dallying with a younger version of my DH – but the panic is over.

I’m taking time to think.

Also, I have a house and body to renovate.