Tuesday, 31 July 2012

This is my post about the Olympic Games.

One of the things I really like about the Olympic Games (or the 'Lympics as they tend to be referred to here) is that they inspire thoughtful discussion and examination of the place of sport in daily and national life.  They also raise questions of character (individual and national), resilience and leadership.

Sport is a great analogy for many things in life.  Having the elite athletes from different countries collected together for the duration of the Games creates a hothouse where all kinds of behaviour is on display.  We can see everything.

Today while planning a workshop session, the person I was in discussion with mentioned positive psychology as an important thread in his work.  He emphasised the need to create a positive mindset where people first congratulate themselves for the things they are doing well, before examining the areas which need work.  This resonates so strongly with me and I see examples of the default setting being negative everywhere.

I responded with the story of Olympic reporting on the now notorious loss of the Australian Men's swimming relay team who went into the event as a certainty for a gold medal.  We all now know that the team swam fourth in the final.  This means they swam the fourth fastest time of the fastest eight teams in the world!  That's pretty fast, from where I stand.  The commentator was being interviewed by the show's anchor (this is what happens when the use of footage is so restricted for broadcasters who don't hold the broadcast rights).  The conversation between the two men was focussed on Australia's "loss" and "failure" for about three minutes.  Having exhausted the criticism, the commentator then highlighted that there had been some good news in the pool on the same night - a silver and a bronze medal had been won by other swimmers.  Discussion on these wins was so limited that I can't even tell you who won the medals!

In the following days the men's relay swimming team - and the individuals in it - have been the subject of endless dissection, criticism and analysis.  In these days of elitism and money in sport, the Olympic ideals seem to have been diluted.  As I think about this it occurs to me that I don't really know what the Olympic ideals are.  If pushed I could probably come up with some fuzzy statements about bringing the world together in peace, using sport as a unifier to celebrate athletic achievement.  I'd throw around words like "sportsmanship" and "fair play" and "development".

I went in search of what the Olympic ideals actually are.  You can find them on the Olympic website under the tab called "Olympism".  The whole charter is available to download.

On page ten, you can find these "Fundamental Principles of Olympism":

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

5. Recognising that sport occurs within the framework of society, sports organisations within the Olympic Movement shall have the rights and obligations of autonomy, which include freely establishing and controlling the rules of sport, determining the structure and governance of their organisations, enjoying the right of elections free from any outside influence and the responsibility for ensuring that principles of good governance be applied.

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

7. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

My heart sings when I read these!  What a wonderful, lofty and optimistic set of ideals.  I particularly like the description of the Olympic Games as "the great sports festival" in point three.  It's not described as a contest or a competition.  "Festival" sounds like a celebration and an experience to be enjoyed.

I reckon representing your country at the Olympic Games is a huge achievement and an honour.  Winning a medal is the cream on top.  I know that every athlete would be setting out to win, but there can only be three place getters - I hardly think everyone else in the field is a loser.

(Even as I write, the introductory line in a story on the radio news was "James Magnusson has the opportunity to move on from his disappointment in the pool tonight..." Why does what a champion swimmer is about to do have to be framed in terms of their previous "failure".)

Last night's panel on Q&A contained athletes from a variety of sports and the conversation was excellent - measured, intelligent and thoughtful.  The panellists were asked about all kinds of things and this prompted a discussion about athletes as role models.  A question was posed about whether it's appropriate for an athlete to have a political agenda.  I was surprised!  Surely every human being has a political agenda, even if they don't call it that.  Why should a sports person be precluded from being an agent for change or good in their community?

All of the social considerations aside, I love the Olympic Games.  I discover obscure sports and become an expert on the technicalities of these sports. I'm not a big sports watcher generally, but I'll watch the Olympics when I can.  The medal ceremonies undo me!  I cry the minute the flag goes up and the national anthem starts playing.  There's something about the pride, joy and sense of achievement (and perhaps relief) that the athletes show.

It's very lucky I'm not an Olympic athlete.  I don't know how I'd cope.  I'd spend the whole time crying.  But at least I'd have Kleenex tissues as a major sponsor!

I'm off to see when the fencing, equestrian eventing or clay target shooting is on.

Are you watching the Olympics?  What's your favourite sport to watch?  Do you think the spirit of Olympism is alive and well?
As I contemplate renewing my commitment to divacultura for another year, I feel excitement and affection.  Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. As a thank you gift - and so I can gain a better sense of who's out there - I'll be giving away a pair of my hand knitted socks to two very lucky readers, where ever you are in the world (ie two readers will receive a pair of socks each).  To be in the running, leave a comment on this post by Friday 17 August 2012, stating why you like reading divacultura. My favourite responses will receive the prize (my decision is final).  Why not take the opportunity to sign up and follow too!

In tune and in synch.

Today has been a day of feeling the universe was tuned into me.  Or perhaps I was tuned into the universe.  Whichever way I look at it, there were many moments where I felt tingly as everything was perfectly synched.  As I write this, there are ten minutes left in the day and I wonder will this feeling continue tomorrow.

Today I facilitated a test run of a workshop which I've co-devised for Monash University as part of a project looking at empathy amongst multi-disciplinary health care teams.  Travelling on the train to the other side of Melbourne, I took the time to think about empathy and also about the day ahead.  It felt so good to be in a position where I would have the opportunity to put a new workshop "on its feet" to test the design and material before "going live".  Too often this step is not factored in and facilitators are left to find a way to make poorly designed things work.  

The day was a success.  While I was waiting for my colleague to finalise some work I opened my email.  After I'd checked that, I picked up the book I'm reading at the moment.  In rapid succession there were three moments that felt a little bit "spooky" - little bit like being in my very own Truman Show.

Firstly, there was today's edition of The Get More Goer, sent weekly by the Get More Guy, Warwick Merry, whom you met in this Question Time post.  Whenever I read Warwick's provocative few sentences, I often feel like he has a sixth sense and writes precisely what I need in my life at that moment. 

Today the message was all about assessing if you are truly listening to the needs of your clients.  His final statement resonated - deeply.  "Most of the time our existing clients tell us what they want. Why wouldn't you deliver that?"  

Probably because we can spend too much time thinking about life from our own perspective and forget to be empathetic.  

Secondly, I saw my weekly quote from Tom Peters:  "Effective communicating REQUIRES "wasting" lots of upfront time to establish rapport.  ("Getting right to the point" is usually disastrous.)  

Again, it hit me right between the eyes.  I'd just been having a conversation with a paramedic educator about the particular challenges paramedics face when they walk into someone's home wearing a uniform when there are also time restraints and "efficiencies" which they are required by the system to meet.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to work in a job that has human interaction as its focus, but where spending time to establish rapport, can sometimes be seen as taking too long.  Obviously in a life threatening emergency situation, I don't really care about rapport - I'll want my clinical needs addressed swiftly.  However, I also think about the power of an interaction where both things happen - my life is saved and the health care professionals work in a way that inspires a relaxed confidence that my life is going to be okay in their hands and more than that, my human dignity will remain intact because they understand what I'm worried about.

The third example is a little more whimsical.  If you've visited my "What I'm Reading" page lately, you will have noticed I'm reading about Stanley Milgram's obedience tests, conducted in the late 1960's at Yale University.  I opened up to a new chapter, only to read about a staff member with the same surname as my colleague at Monash University and that he had been a paramedic, the same as my colleague.  On the back of the two mass emails which appeared to be specifically written for me, it was a little bit freaky.

I wonder if I was noticing these "coincidences", moments of synchronicity, particularly because I was in a hyper-aware observant state of mind.  

Looking back at this question I see that it contains the answer!  To fall into synch, to feel more in rhythm, cultivate observance and make the connections is truly inspiring!  And come to think of it, it's a great way to develop empathy.

As I contemplate renewing my commitment to divacultura for another year, I feel excitement and affection.  Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. As a thank you gift - and so I can gain a better sense of who's out there - I'll be giving away a pair of my hand knitted socks to two very lucky readers, where ever you are in the world (ie two readers will receive a pair of socks each).  To be in the running, leave a comment on this post by Friday 17 August 2012, stating why you like reading divacultura. My favourite responses will receive the prize (my decision is final).  Why not take the opportunity to sign up and follow too!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

When the rain falls horizontally.

My customary Sunday walk with camera in hand was somewhat truncated today by the crazy Melbourne weather.  The sun would be shining one minute and by the time I had my coat on and umbrella in hand, I would step outside only to be fighting horizontal rain.  I felt like I was in one of the battle scenes in Lord of the Rings except there was no castle and not an archer in sight.  And all I was trying to do was walk to the village.

Miraculously, I wore my sunglasses part of the way.  I wasn't being rock 'n' roll; they were necessary.

The friend I was meeting for Sunday afternoon conversation and a glass of red wine urged me to sit outside.  I acquiesced and before long we were moving inside because the archers with the rain arrows had started up again.  We found a great spot by the window looking out at the street and before long were moving again.  This time it was the DJ who required our prime spot to set up his gear.  He asked us if we minded moving and we said we did.  His response was to become snaky and walk off.  We moved to our final spot for the afternoon and enjoyed each other's company.

As we emerged, it was suddenly night time.  The rain was still around and I had a tricky walk home juggling a bag of groceries, my handbag and umbrella.  I made it!

Anyway, I did manage to take an interesting photo on the nature strip outside where I live.  There's the stump of a tree which was removed a few years ago and it has become a hub for new life.

It's a toadstool forest!
(c) divacultura 2012

Random tram window shot
(c) divacultura 2012

After lunch with a friend in Richmond on Saturday, I caught a tram back to the city.  I've always loved the Forum Theatre on Flinders Street, with its gargoyles and ornamentation (it's wonderful inside too).  This is a random snap I took from the window of the tram just to see what would happen.

As I contemplate renewing my commitment to divacultura for another year, I feel excitement and affection.  Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. As a thank you gift - and so I can gain a better sense of who's out there - I'll be giving away a pair of my hand knitted socks to two very lucky readers, where ever you are in the world (ie two readers will receive a pair of socks each).  To be in the running, leave a comment on this post by Friday 17 August 2012, stating why you like reading divacultura. My favourite responses will receive the prize (my decision is final).  Why not take the opportunity to sign up and follow too!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Happy First Birthday - divacultura celebrates!

Today is divacultura's first birthday! On Thursday 28 July 2011, I wrote "Beginnings", the post that outlined my vision for divacultura's incarnation as a blog.

Looking back on that first post, I struggle to remember what my original title choice was.  After some hard thinking I remembered.  I'm glad that my longed-for title wasn't available.  I have the right title!

One of the reasons I started blogging was to create a daily writing habit.  I had had one many years ago, but had lost my match fitness.  I needed to start exercising my writing muscles regularly; they were a bit flabby.  I was also interested to see how my writer's voice developed and whether I could be as compelling on the "page" as on the stage.  I'm still exploring that question and I think it depends on the subject matter.  I've been delighted to receive feedback from you, my readers, about my written voice.  It's fascinating.  Also a wonderful reminder that applies to any artistic/creative practice, that one's work takes on a new life the moment it is handed over to the audience.

I've done pretty well establishing my daily writing habit.  366 days after I started I have produced 348 posts.  That's roughly 18 days I've missed.  I'm counting that as success on meeting my commitment.  I've had holidays and been travelling for work where it hasn't been possible to post.  When this has been the case, I've flagged it.  (I'm still mystified as to why one of these posts is my third most popular post of all time.) I do acknowledge that some posts are purely pictorial and contain no, or not much, writing.  That's okay with me.  I've started to take photographs again and have noticed myself being more observant and sensitive to the world - ingredients essential for nurturing creativity.   More importantly, I now feel the compulsion to write each day - confirmation that I have successfully ingrained a habit.  

At the beginning I wasn't sure whether many people outside my immediate circle would read.  I thought some of my Twitter followers would come over and read, because divacultura is also my Twitter name, but wasn't sure how long it would last.  While I'm always conscious of audience, in the beginning I was largely writing for myself. Now, I write for my audience and am always curious to read comments on the blog and also on facebook.  So please, if you feel the urge to say something, I'd love you to act on that impulse!

My other commitment was to produce copy that was error free.  I've remembered how hard it is to proofread and sub-edit your own work and from time to time posts do contain typos and other errors.  I'm very lucky to have a very diligent and eagle-eyed post production editor - my Mother.  Mum reads everything and gives me feedback and reactions.  She will also provide feedback on corrections.  Sometimes we have an arm-wrestle when I've made a stylistic choice that clashes with formal grammar/usage.  I win those ones, but it's always provocative and I appreciate having the opportunity to read my work from a different perspective.  My writing is better for it.  Thanks Mum!

A year on, I'm taking stock and thinking about how this body of work is relevant to how I position my business.  A year on, I've become much more aware of other bloggers and have enjoyed learning from their experience.

As I contemplate renewing my commitment to divacultura for another year, I feel excitement and affection.  Thank you for sharing some of your time with me. As a thank you gift - and so I can gain a better sense of who's out there - I'll be giving away a pair of my hand knitted socks to two very lucky readers, where ever you are in the world (ie two readers will receive a pair of socks each).  To be in the running, leave a comment on this post by Friday 17 August 2012, stating why you like reading divacultura. My favourite responses will receive the prize (my decision is final).  Why not take the opportunity to sign up and follow too!

In the meantime, here are some stats:

divacultura's biggest audience is in the US, followed by Australia, Russia, Ireland and the UK.

You can see the top five posts on the home page.

The next five posts which complete the top 10 are:

6. Photo a day - June round up and July list  (My interest in the July list waned and I haven't followed through on this one.)
7. Secondhand fumes - ever come across someone chroming on public transport?
8. Challenge accepted - the challenge in question was the first Photo a Day I participated in.
9. Prayers to the Goddess of parking
10. Question Time - who is the Lazy Civil Servant?  The launch edition of this regular feature.  It was fitting to feature the person who inspired me to start blogging.

And just for fun, here's one of my favourite pieces - The Man on the Steps.  A purely creative piece sparked by a glimpse while I was out and about.  It highlights the importance of being in the world with my head up and my eyes open and a preparedness to shamelessly eavesdrop!

Friday, 27 July 2012

My favourite things - this week

It's that time of the week again where I reflect on things I've loved during this week and share them with you!

1. One of my favourite things this week is happening right now!  I'm giving stuff away.  There are two more winners of a double pass each to see the film "Hysteria".  Congratulations to Anonymous (I know who you are) and Merryn. The things they wished they'd invented are fantastic and would be better versions than those currently available.  Find details in the comments on this post.  I love having such inventive and witty readers!  (*** Merryn and Anonymous, please email me your mailing address and I'll send your passes.)  Mousicles also won a pass and saw the film today.  See what Mousicles had to say about the film in the comments too.

2. One of the truths in my life is that I know some amazing people.  This week I had some inspiring conversations which left me thinking and with fewer available pages in my notebook.  (Lucky I have a store of notebooks.) One of my favourite things from this week was the ability to spend time thinking and exchanging ideas with inspiring, thoughtful people.  I also had French toast and strawberries.

Breakfast to be inspired by.  It takes stamina!
(c) divacultura 2012

3. My new way of working, with its flexible work schedule, is one of my favourite things this week.  It's not that new in terms of years - I've been changing the way I work since 2008.  It's been over a year since I established my business (and it's divacultura's first birthday tomorrow!), but I had been working fulltime since 1991, so it still feels new.  Anyway, I love that I can schedule personal appointments during the day away from the after hours and weekend crush and that I have space to think and be creative.

4. It's festival season in Melbourne.  I have a wishlist of events already marked for the Melbourne Writer's Festival - one of the best events of the year.  It's affordable and thought provoking and it can take a little time or a lot.  I'm off to the Melbourne International Film Festival on Monday night courtesy of ABC Local Radio 774.  (I'll be seeing Beasts of the Southern Wild.)  There's an Israeli Film Festival.  The Melbourne Festival is coming.  Hamer Hall has reopened after its refurbishment.  I love that Melbourne doesn't let winter restrain her spirit!

5. The view from the seventh floor of the Myer store in Bourke Street.  With floor to ceiling glass panelling it's the perfect place to see interesting perspectives on the world outside.  Now that I always have a camera with me, I like to wander up there and take some photos.  I've been up there before and shared some photos.  Here are a few more.

Time wrap.
(c) divacultura 2012
 This is virtually the same photo as the first one in this post, but it's being refurbished now.  I like the real one better.

Rear windows.
(c) divacultura 2012
 Looking down from the seventh floor.  The diagonal black line is part of the Myer window I was looking through.

Glass reflections.
(c) divacultura 2012
Looking straight down from the seventh floor.  Interesting reflections from several layers of glass at different angles.

Water spout - Little Collins Street
(c) divacultura 2012

This one has nothing to do with anything I wrote above, but I really like this photo and wanted to share it with you.  Walking around in the rain in the city is not one of my favourite things.  Taking a photo like this makes it all worth while.  It was about 12noon today.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Question Time - Who are Nerds & Music

This week's Question Time guest is my favourite Newcastle-based-folk-comedy-duo - Nerds & Music.  I'll let you know who the other ones are later.  I met these fine fellows, Wayne Thompson and Clark Gormley, at Summersong Music Camp a few years back and have been enjoying their company ever since.  

In restless moments where the members of the band needed to explore other projects, they've turned to me - separately - as a fellow musician and writer.  Clark and I co-wrote the hit song "Synaesthesia Blues".  It became apparent quickly that our audience was very boutique and limited to people who know what synaesthesia is without the need to check a dictionary.  Wayne and I co-wrote the marginally more successful song "Felafel (W)rap".  Both songs premiered at Summersong.  It's a privilege to share a by-line with each of them.  

Clark has a habit of calling me just before his room service dinner arrives.  (Perhaps I could market myself as a charming, remote dinner companion...)  Wayne and I talk about typography and design and stuff.

They're witty and clever and I highly recommend that you go to a gig if they're playing nearby.  There's a gig listing at the end of the post.  If not, here's an opportunity to spend some time with Nerds & Music.

(Wayne's responses are first because he answered first.)

1. Who are Nerds and Music? Which one is which?

Wayne: Obviously Clark is the Nerd and I am the Music, although I guess that depends on which one of us responds first to these questions. Clark's profession is actually much nerdier than mine, he's an engineer see? I'm a Type Designer, which is MUCH more mainstream...

Wayne Thompson & Clark Gormley are Nerds & Music.
Clark: Wayne’s the Nerd and I’m the ampersand in the middle.  (BTW you misspelt our band name Tanya. I’m also a pedant.)  As for the Music, we’re still looking.

2. Where do you get inspiration for your music?

Wayne: Use of the word 'inspiration' suggests my music is actually 'inspired' in some way. It's not. It just comes to me. Often in response to some stimuli in my environment, such as the smell of freshly cut grass (as in the song 'Geez I Like Your Grass'). It's like a bolt from the blue, I mean, I see or hear something and 'bang', there's a lyric or tune in my head. But "inspiration"? C'mon! I think you better look it up in the dictionary!

Clark: Shamington Theelswaite, Ergatomics, Aratcothinswit.  You probably don’t recognise the names because they’re in an alternate universe.

3. What's your writing routine?

Wayne: Get up. Eat. Avoid writing. Go to bed.

No, seriously, it's actually more complicated than that. Sometimes I spend the day on Facebook.

Oh, allRIGHT... ACTUAL answer: I don't have a routine. I always carry a notebook, because ideas have a habit of occurring at inopportune moments. Except in the shower, I don't take my notebook there, that would be absurd. Ironically, the fact that ideas often occur to me in the shower inspired the song 'Bugger Bum', about the cursing that occurs when you forget an inspirational idea because it occurred to you in the shower, and then you forgot it due to the lack of opportunity to write it down.

Clark: Two writers walk into a bar.  They sit at either end of the bar, and take out their laptops and start writing jokes about the sort of people who walk into bars.  After a while of listening to the rattle of their fingers against the plastic keys, the barman screams “Get out of here!”
The writers ask “Why?”
The barman says “I can’t stand this stereotyping!”

4. What's your favourite word?

Wayne: Transmogrify. I've always wanted to be able to use it in conversation.

Clark: Nerd is the word.

5. If you could script your dying words, what would they be?

Wayne: Please take your knee out of my groin (with a nod to Mel Brooks).

Clark: Aaaaarrrrrrghrhhhhggghhhhrrrhhshhhhhaaaaarrrrrrhhhhh

6. What gets your hanky in a twist?

Wayne: The washing machine. And poor punctuat.ion

Clark: The ready availability of tissues.

7. What's your ambition for Nerds and Music.

Wayne: Where's the question mark? Man, I hate sloppy grammar... that really gets my hanky in a ... erm... sorry. Where was I? My ambition for Nerds & Music would be to transmogrify (ha! I did it!) from a folk duo into an electric blues band. Full drum kit, screaming guitar solos, and lots of tattoos. Some say this might be ambitious. I say reach for the sky. But don't tell Clark, I don't think he'd like it. (Ed: I think he's going to find out...)

Clark: To make it through to the end of the day. 
And maybe to get a drummer.
To play the theme tune to the next series of Big Bang Theory.

8. What blogs do you read? What else are you reading?

Wayne: I can only wish I had the time to read blogs! In between Facebooking, Ipodding and cat-feeding, who's got time for blogs? .... What?... um.. er yes, and work, of course.

Clark: Tanya’s fabulous blog Divacultura.  (Ed: Actually, it's written divacultura - with a lower case "d". Not that I'm a pedant...)
Links on Facebook to Tanya’s fabulous blog Divacultura.
Actually, I really am reading “How I became a Famous Novelist” by Steve Hely.  A very funny book.  It was recommended to me by Tanya, who has a fabulous blog called Divacultura.

9. Finish this sentence, "If we weren't making music we'd be...."

"If we weren't making music we'd be playing other people's music."

Clark: Making license plates.  Nerds & Music saved us from a life of white collar crime.  I’d already started stealing white collars. 

Find Nerds & Music on facebook: 
To discover Wayne's typographical design work: www.atf.com.au

As for upcoming gigs, we’re very busy over the next month:

Nerds Storm The Terrace!
Friday, July 27, 2012.8:00pm. The Terrace Bar, 529 Hunter St Newcastle
Nerds & Music make their Terrace Bar debut at Newcastle's newest live music venue.
Nerds & Music will play all their hit to an adoring audient. Why not come along and make it two?
And what better location to play our homage to Hunter Street, the Milk Crate song (with apologies to Bob Hudson and Dave & The Deros).
Nerds are sharing the bill with veteran Australian country performer Daisy Burr, who is visiting Newcastle to buy a new set of venetians for her 72 XY Ford Falcon Station Wagon. 

Next Fairlight Folk Sat August 11th 7:30pm.
3 William St, Fairlight (the old Baptist Church just down from Sydney Rd).
Mick Conway and Robbie Long, Nerds & Music (Clark Gormley & Wayne Thompson) and Rebecca Moore. www.fairlightfolk.com

Nerds are also regulars at Club Sandwich Cabaret (first Friday of the month in Newcastle).  Clark will be solo MC for the next CSC as Wayne has soccer commitments.  
Club Sandwich for August will be celebrating National Science Week
Friday August 3, 8pm
$20 admission
It’s all in the Science…
And what exactly does that mean? Poor old science has been taking a beating recently – alternately blamed, held up as irrefutable, used or abused, mostly by those who haven’t had to present an abstract, method, results and conclusion in their entire life.
At the run in to National Science Week, Club Sandwich is going to employ rigorous scientific method to examine many of the issues that affect us in everyday life, from our upcoming bumper crop of atmospheric CO2 to why we have to choose cheque or savings when paying by eftpos.
Science has made our lives infinitely better and brought vast practical understanding to so many things including health, the environment, technology and now even God via the Higgs boson (who’d a though it!?). Pop on a knitted vest and some warm socks to wear with your Dunlop volleys as we uncover the odd, the eccentric and the almost unbelievable people and events that have shaped this mind expanding odyssey.
Appropriately, MC for the evening is that nerd Clark Gormley.
Royal Exchange
32-34 Bolton Street Newcastle 2300 (02) 4929 4969

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Return of Flaky Girl - or why ignoring my diary can only lead to disaster.

Last weekend I lost all concept of time.  I'd had a busy week where, unusually, I had barely looked at my diary.  With four days of facilitating it was easy to keep the details in my head.  Because I wasn't checking my diary regularly, I lost sight of what was coming.  I double-booked myself to such a level that I was living in two parallel worlds.

In one world, I knew that I had choir practice on Saturday morning.  When a friend suggested we visit the antiquarian book sale being staged as part of Rare Book week, I said yes and even planned lunch.  In my head, I was seeing Barry Humphries' show, Eat, Pray Laugh on Saturday night.  I'd booked the tickets back in March.  I could vividly recall the Perth hotel room I was in when I booked them, but had no idea what theatre I was to attend or what time the show was.

On Friday evening at the end of my choir's gig at the Gertrude Street Projection Festival, I had bid my fellow singers farewell with a "goodnight and see you in the morning".

At about 11pm on Friday night I decided to be prepared and print the show tickets in readiness for Saturday evening.  As I checked the details I discovered that I was going to the 1pm matinee!  That was the end of choir practice and the antiquarian book sale.

I contacted everyone to explain and apologised for being in a particularly flaky period.  Everyone was fine, but I felt stupid.

One reply from a member of the choir urged me to "get it together" with their tongue firmly in their cheek.

I used to have it together.  There was a time when I was the world's most organised and reliable person.  Flakiness just wasn't a mood in a my emotional lexicon.  I'd been to boarding school and lived on campus at university, I knew how to juggle a million things and never drop a ball.  As I grew up, I realised that this was behaviour I had learned.  It was necessary to adapt to the world I was living in, but it wasn't really me.  As I grow older, rather than getting it together, I'm unravelling.

When I suggest this to people they look at me in disbelief.  They raise their eyebrows and purse their lips.  They think I'm making it up.  I'm the queen of faking it until I make it and can easily create the illusion of complete organisation.  When the flaky girl rears her head, she lacks credibility. 

Yet, in many things, I am completely disciplined.  Now that I work from home (when I'm not facilitating or acting) I astound myself at my ability to stay focussed and get things done.  Previously when I've been at home studying or working from home to avoid distraction I've found any number of things to steal my attention.  Suddenly the prospect of cleaning the bathroom holds me in thrall!

On reflection, I've decided to embrace both sides of myself: it's a gift to be able to work both ways.  When I'm in business mode, I'm on time and exactly where I'm meant to be.  If I'm in creative mode (or if I'm tired and overwhelmed) time means nothing and I'll happily follow rabbits down holes until something distracts me.  Usually a basic need like food or warmth.  Both modes are valuable.

The other thing I am reminded of is why I value my diary.  Everything is in there.  All the details of where, when, who and what.  I just need to remember to read it.

What are your contradictions?  What's your worst case of double-booking?
Barry's show was excellent.  You can read my post about it here.
The Gertrude Street Projection Festival is still on and was one of my favourite things last week.
I had dinner with my antiquarian book friend on Sunday night instead - at Fidama in Yarraville.
I'm now catching up on learning new music I missed at rehearsal.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Blushing pink - the night sky says hello

The evening sky was blushing pink as I walked in the front gate just after 5pm.  With the relatively mild air, it reminded me of early spring.  I looked over towards the east and saw one of the cranes at the docks bathed in pink light.  It seemed incongruous - such a masculine piece of machinery, looking coy. Instead of a pink flamingo, it's a pink crane.  It made me smile.

I looked up and noticed the row of television antennae on the roof of my building.  Their iconic outline was silhouetted against the softly tinged sky.

These moments of appreciating the details are something I enjoy.  After a day with head buried in numbers and invoices, it felt wonderful to be out in a world that had made itself up to look its very best.

Thank you world!

Pink crane - of the non-ornithological kind.
(c) divacultura 2012

Suburban lifelines - a row of television antennae
(c) divacultura 2012

Monday, 23 July 2012

Teacher gets recognition - ten years later.

Travelling on public transport on the weekend usually brings a customer list which is vastly different from travellers during peak times.  At particular times on weekends I find it's best to be unobtrusive and avoid eye contact with other travellers at all costs.  It's just what you do when people are on their return journey after visiting their local "pharmacy" to have their "prescriptions" filled.

It was refreshing yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, to witness a reunion between a friendly and appreciative student and a taciturn and pugnacious former teacher.

An eccentric looking, white haired man boarded the west bound train carrying a satchel over one shoulder.  He placed his bag on a spare seat and then wandered up the carriage looking at the various signs.  On his return to the seat and his bag, he passed a young man.

The young man looked at the older man and then turned and asked him if he was Mr Such-and-Such.

The older man looked a bit put out by the question, pressed himself to the back of his seat, and then barely answered with a "yes".

The young man told the older man that he had been his teacher.  The older man shook his head and said that he was sorry.

"I don't know who you are," were his exact words.

The young man was undaunted, stood up and switched seats so that he could speak to his teacher.  He looked genuinely pleased to be reunited with his teacher and was unfazed by the frosty reception.  He smiled as he recounted his life since leaving Mr Such-and-Such's care.

"You taught me so much!  You really improved my writing actually.  I'm really grateful," the young man said.  His face was smiling and overflowing with the genuineness of his words.

The older man started to thaw a little.  He asked a few questions of the young man, even though it was clear he had no idea who he was.  Together they worked out that it had been over ten years since Mr Such-and-Such had presided over a classroom in which the young man was a student.

As we arrived at Footscray, the young man gathered his belongings and expressed deep gratitude for the random meeting with his former teacher.  Mr Such-and-Such wished the young man good luck in his study of Law as the young man alighted from the train.

I glanced over at the teacher.  He looked pleased to have received this warm-hearted attention.  He looked displeased that he had no memory of someone on whom he had clearly made an impression.  I wondered where he was travelling to and how long he would be have to search his memory.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Eat Pray Laugh - Farewell Barry Humphries

Image: Her Majesty's Theatre website.

Yesterday afternoon I did something I've never done before.  I went to see Barry Humphries live on stage in his show, Eat Pray Laugh at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne.  It's the farewell tour and I'm so pleased that I didn't let the opportunity to see a master craftsman performing pass me by.

Before Dame Edna took to the stage after interval we spent some time with Sir Les Patterson and the dead Sandy Stone.  I'd heard of these characters and seen snippets, but didn't know very much about them.  I knew that Sir Les is disgusting and wasn't sure about Sandy Stone. (Click here for photos of Sir Les and Sandy Stone.)

Sir Les is disgusting, but still, somehow, likeable.  He has a generous spirit and a big smile on his face to go with the innuendo laden crudities and racist epithets that fly out of his mouth - along with the spit.

The show started in Sir Les' backyard, somewhere in the unmistakeable Australian suburbia.  Silhouetted against the sky is a row of two storey houses with their television antennae reaching towards heaven.  The yard has a lawn and is surrounded by a hedge. Everything is covered in astroturf.  In the corner, there's a piano, also covered in turf.  There's the obligatory garden shed, complete with painted cricket stumps  and a barbecue set up near the back door to his house and the outside toilet.  We know it's a toilet because Sir Les is having trouble with his guts.  Suddenly the audience is roaring with laughter while they squirm at the bowel sounds he is emitting.  He has already warned us about his "volatile emissions".

His outfit is marvellous: a bright orange, yellow and black, ugly  "Hawaiian" shirt, over orange cargo shorts, black socks pulled half way up his calves and bright yellow Crocs on his feet.  Sir Les is apparently very well endowed and wearing shorts presents a problem as his enormous appendage appears below the hem line of his strides.  It's outrageous and screamingly funny because he's so open hearted!  He refers to the enormous bulge in his pants, telling us not to worry, it's just his stash of cab charge vouchers.

Not only does Sir Les provide satirical comment on current affairs, he speaks frankly of his wife, Gwenny's, charms, variously referring to her nether regions as the "gates of paradise", the "tarantula" and thus himself as the "webmaster".  And then he tells us about his latest venture - he's to be the latest celebrity chef.  He's going to try out a recipe for us - rissoles.  His helpers are The Condiments: four very buff dancers - two men and two women - and they wield their ingredients with aplomb while dancing around the stage showing off their incredible bodies.

As Sir Les plunges his hands into the raw mince to start mixing the rissoles by hand, the trouble with his guts takes hold again and these rissoles become even more revolting to think about than they had been when he was merely spitting all over the place.

I was left wondering why fart jokes and sounds are so funny!

Sandy Stone was the character which surprised me.  I found the image of this old, softly spoken man standing on stage in his dressing gown unbearably poignant.  I will even admit to tears as he remembered and sang, "My Blue Heaven".  The imagery of the set, with an easy chair and lamp which descended from heaven, looking like it was made of clouds, was gorgeously fitting.

What a ride!  To take the audience from guffaws to quiet comtemplation of our mortality illustrates the incredible craft, in writing, performance and direction, which was on display.

I needed the interval to recover before meeting Dame Edna.

She was fresh from a stay in a very posh ashram in India - the Dalai Lama may or may not have been one of her fellow travellers - and resplendent in a sky blue gown, sparkling with diamantes and reminiscent of a sari. We'd been shown a tabloid scandal reel to bring us up to date on the history of Dame Edna and then Dame Edna herself arrived on an elephant. She was up for a chat with the audience, engaging and terrifying the front rows - they could be singled out for her scathing assessments at any moment.  Dame Edna does vitriol like no one else, leaving the audience relieved that someone else is in the firing line.

Showing skills as an improviser, there were some moments where the ordinary responses from the selected audience members were hilarious with no embellishment required.  I'm thinking of Debra (Dame Edna's second favourite spelling, she prefers Deborah) who lives in a mud house in a suburb called "Research" with a cream coloured ceiling and coffee coloured bedspread.  Or poor Isabel who was criticised for her "laser sharp intellect" after she could not explain what an epiphany was.  Isabel was accompanied by an apparently elderly looking man.  Dame Edna asked if this was her husband and there was uproar when Isabel revealed him as her grandfather!  Denise described her home in Leongatha as being "Tuscan".  Quick as a whip, Dame Edna imagined all the people in Florence who are living in houses which could be described as being built in the "Leongatha" style.  Hilarious!

The people singled out for conversation were invited onto the stage, including Isabel's grandfather, who turned out to be blind.  A substitute senior citizen was found and he stood up to reveal himself to be hobbling on a stick!  It took considerable effort for him to climb the stairs, but he made it.  Dame Edna affectionately did the Australian thing and immediately gave him a nickname - he was referred to as "Seeny" henceforth.  (Short for Senior Citizen.)

There was a well-deserved standing ovation for Dame Edna after she had flung stems of gladioli to the audience and ordered us to sing "Wave that glad" with lyrics that went something like: "It's part of the show that's quite traditional, I was taught this song by an old Aboriginal, wave that glad!".

Another short film reel was shown and then Barry Humphries took the stage, with his trademark hat (a Fedora?) at a suave angle.  The audience rose to its feet and I felt a wave of affection and respect for this incredible artist.

As I waited for my friend in the foyer, I observed the audience.  They were considerably older than I am and their eyes were lit with the endorphins pouring through them as the result of almost three hours of laughter.  I spied "Seeny".  People were calling out to him and congratulating him on his "performance".  He beamed, clearly enjoying his new found celebrity.

Don't miss the opportunity to see this show!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

It's hysterical - more film passes to win!

Congratulations to Mousicles - you've won a double in-season pass to see the film "Hysteria".  Please email me (use the link on the about me page) with details of where to send them.

I have two more double passes to give away to Australian readers.

To win, please leave a comment at the end of this post before Thursday.  Two winners will be selected through a random draw.

For more details read this post.

Friday, 20 July 2012

My favourite things - this week

1. I was back to working almost full time this week and regained appreciation for my freezer and my microwave.  I knew that I would be home late and out early and as the week wore on, I'd be too tired to cook.  I made some soups and basic sauces, divided it into serves and put it in the freezer.  By Wednesday night, I was very pleased that I had done this.  As my eyes closed during the 7pm news, I was able to thaw and heat good, nutritional food in the microwave and have a satisfying dinner each night. That reminds me, I must wash up...

2. Melbourne football crowds.  This may sound like it should be on my least favourite things list, but I do intend it to be here.  Tonight I arrived at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne city and had to make my way to Spencer Street, walking towards the tide of people heading to Etihad Stadium for Friday night football.  I've always admired the fact that Melbournians know how to behave when there's a lot of them together.  Everyone just works it out and generally everyone gets where they are going.  I put it down to the training from a young age.  Kids are used to being in crowds from the moment they can walk and so they grow up just knowing how to do it.

3. The Gertrude Street Projection Festival is my final favourite thing.  In fact, I'm just home from singing on the streets as part of the festival.  With the trains on my line hardly running, I was late, but the relaxed nature of singing on the street meant that I could slip into the back row, joining the sopranos part way through the third song on the set list.  We sang at this festival last year and I remember it being very cold.  I had tights on under my jeans and enough layers of clothing to make me resemble the Michelin Man.  This year was warm by comparison.  It was lovely to see people out on the street, enjoying the company of their friends and stopping to enjoy some music and projection art along the way.  It's free and runs for ten days.  Check it out if you're in town.

After we finished singing, I walked back into town to catch the train home and took some photos along the way.

Corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets, Fitzroy
(c) divacultura 2012

Lighting up the towers on Gertrude Street
(c) divacultura 2012

Charcoal Lane windows - I love the shadow the tree casts.
(c) divacultura 2012

Charcoal Lane windows - detail
(c) divacultura 2012

St Patrick's Cathedral on the way back to the station
(c) divacultura 2012

Stony silence
(c) divacultura 2012

Gothic corner of Melbourne
(c) divacultura 2012

Lights at the top end of town - looking over at the Princess Theatre
(c) divacultura 2012

Same view, but the fountain is blue and I've used a different filter.
(c) divacultura 2012

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Question Time - who is Jo Thomas?

Today I'd like to introduce you to Brisbane actress and artist, Ms Jo Thomas.

Jo and I met many years ago when we were cast in a show together.  The play was called "A Tale of Two Men" and was written by a local playwright and director, Scot McPhie.  It was the first time I was paid for my work as an actress, so it was a watershed moment in more ways than one.  There were four characters in the play, two men and two women.  Jo and I became good friends.

We've come and gone from each other's lives over the years and recently reconnected when Jo brought her show "Often I Find that I am Naked" to my neck of the woods.  I drove down to Geelong with a friend to see her strut her stuff.

Jo's a smart, interesting woman.  I hope you enjoy meeting her.  Oh, and did I mention she's just been awarded a Churchill Fellowship?

1. Who is Jo Thomas?
A girl (inside); a woman (outside); an artist; a friend; a lover; a story-teller; a questioning soul; a wanderer waiting; an adventurer and a constant insomniac! 

2. Where do you get your creative inspiration?
Many times from books - a word or a phrase - from people and actions I observe and from other art I see - in galleries, theatres, cinemas.  GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) in Brisbane is one of my favourite places to hang out and enjoy space, beauty, quiet.  There's a gorgeous cafe sculpture garden which is a special spot.

3. What's your work routine?
Don't have much of a routine - it changes constantly depending on what I'm working on.  However, three regulars every day are: coffee, checking emails and exercising!  If I do these things I can get through anything else the day throws up.

4. What's your favourite word?
Oh so, so many.... this is hard.  I'm going with Dandiprat! (I had to look this one up...I always learn things from Jo!)

5. If you could script your dying words, what would they be?
I'm borrowing from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Peggy Lee's hit...)... very tongue in cheek:

For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself,
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball

6. What gets your hanky in a twist?
Leaf-blowers (use a broom!!); lack of leadership and courage in our political parties; prejudice and injustice; the terribly inefficient and expensive public transport in Australia.

7. What's your ambition?
To understand love.

8. What blogs do you read? 
Honestly the only one I read is divacultura.  I always have several books on the go - either on my e-reader and in paperback; and enjoy old fashioned magazines like The Monthly and The Big Issue. I get frustrated when I can't make notes on something I'm reading.

9. Finish this sentence, "If I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship I'd..." think they'd made an error but still buy myself a new frock and new shoes all ready for the Awards Ceremony at Government House! ;)

You can find Jo on the web over here:

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Random act of kindness

Travelling home on the train last night, I had a coughing fit.  I'd spent the day facilitating in a room with a very dry atmosphere.  I drank a lot of water during the day, but it obviously was not enough.  After I left the building, I had to walk about fifteen minutes to the train station in the cold air.  By the time I boarded the train, my throat and mouth were feeling dry and ticklish.

About two minutes into the train journey, I had that ticklish feeling in my throat that was telling me to cough.  I also had that feeling that if I started  I wouldn't be able to stop.  I tried swallowing.  I tried breathing, but that made it worse.  Soon I was in the throes of coughing and being unable to stop.

I couldn't get my breath.  I could feel my face was hot and probably red.  People sitting nearby started to shuffle.  They started to look sideways at me.  I even caught a couple of glares.  I had my mouth covered while I rummaged in my handbag to find a tissue.  It wasn't as if I was coughing on people; but the coughing was becoming more and more violent.

Soon I was able to arrest the coughing.  I sat trying to recover and catch my breath.  I did catch my breath and the coughing started again.  It was awful.  I felt out of control, helpless.

I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder and turned towards it.  There was a woman sitting behind me.  She asked me if I was okay and offered me some cough lozenges.  I was already sucking one of those so I said no to the lozenge but thanked her for her consideration.  I really liked the fact that she had been able to step away from the dominant culture in that train carriage which was to mind your own business.  As well as thanking her, I managed to let her know that I was okay and was just fighting a "tickle" that seemed to be irritated every time I inhaled.

I was so grateful to her.  Before she reached out to me, I had wondered how I would get anyone's attention if I really needed it.  Most people seemed to be plugged in and tuned out.  I hope that if I was in serious distress, someone who could see me would have come to my aid before things careened off track.

The gesture offered by that woman, was a random act of kindness and I really appreciated it.

What random act of kindness did you perform today?  Perhaps you were the recipient of a random act of kindness.  What did someone do for you today?

I'm passing some kindness on to Australian based readers of divacultura.  I'm offering the opportunity to win one of three double passes to see the film "Hysteria", courtesy of Hopscotch Films.  Details of how to win are in this post.  Entries close Friday.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Another challenge - Granny a day

Yesterday I discovered Pip Lincolne's "A Granny a day" challenge on her blog, Meet Me At Mike's.  The idea is to rediscover the Granny square and make one a day.  It looks like this has been going for a while and I'm a late arrival, but that's okay.

I like the idea of one thing a day.  The focus often leads me to find unexpected inspiration and to make new discoveries.  I've fallen by the wayside with the photo a day challenge this month.  It's just not igniting my interest this month.  Instead, I'm going to crochet a Granny a day.

I don't like to over think these things so my approach to colour and construction is random.  I have a big basket of yarn in the colours that I like (you won't find yellow in there!).  Colour selection is achieved by closing my eyes and seeing what I come up with.

Granny squares take me back to when I first learned to crochet.  My real Granny taught me how to make one and my first project was ambitious.  I would make a giant Granny square which would be a square rug.  There would be one for me, one for my brother and one for my sister.  We still have them.  I started with mine and distinctly remember announcing my colours as being "autumn": green, orange and bone".  My sister's was shades of pink and my brother's was shades of brown (sorry Douglas!).

I remember my Granny's patience as she reminded me about how to hold the yarn, how to turn a corner, how to do a slip stitch.  We finished them off with rounds of double crochet and then Granny taught me how to do crab stitch - you basically crochet backwards.  This was sensational and felt very grown up to be able to finish things off in the same style as my grandmother, who was a very accomplished master of many needle crafts.

I haven't made a Granny square for years and it feels nice to go back to where I started.  I had to do a little research to remind myself of the details, but it has all come flooding back.

For those interested in the technical details, I'm using 8 ply wool (Shepherd's, Cleckheaton Country and Lincraft Superwash) that I have in my stash and a 4 mm hook.  I'm completing 7 rounds, completing the set up and the first two rounds in the one colour and then changing colour at the beginning of every round.  To avoid having a million ends to sew in, I crochet over the ends so there is none of that.

Here's the one I made yesterday (Monday 16 July):
The colours are actually pink - they look quite orange in this photo.
(c) divacultura 2012

Here's the second one I made yesterday.
This one does have orange in it!
(c) divacultura 2012

I'm yet to make one today.

I'll post back here with photos regularly for an update.  I wonder what they will become?

Why not join in?  It's a great opportunity to do something manageable and play with colour. It might inspire you to learn a new skill. You could even donate a finished blanket to charity.  I'd love to see your work!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Giveaway - Hysteria film passes

I have a little something to give to readers.  Hopscotch Films has provided me with three double passes to the the new release film "Hysteria".

It looks like fun!  Here's the blurb:

"Based on true events, in 1880 London, the handsome young Dr Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), a believer in modern medical theories, lands a position as the assistant to society doctor Robert Dalrymple.  Dalrymple is a specialist in the female ailment "hysteria" - a catch-all diagnosis that seems to be affecting half of England's women!  Their treatment involves a literal hands-on method, and demand becomes so great that Dalrymple and Mortimer cannot keep up with 'curing' women.  To keep Mortimer working, Dalrymple promises him his business, and marriage to his beautiful, young daughter.  But when Mortimer falls for Dalymple's older and unconventional daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), his future looks doubtful.  In desperation, he invents a machine that will at least solve his medical challenges - the world's first vibrator.  In the delightful spirit of Calendar Girls, Hysteria takes a rather remarkable and daring true story and turns it into a gentle, warm-hearted comedy."

You can view the trailer here.

The passes are complimentary in-season passes for cinemas in Australia.  Thank you Hopscotch Films!

To win, please leave a comment below telling me in 25 words or less the one thing you wish you had invented.  Entries close this Friday, 20 July at 5pm.  Names will be randomly drawn and I'll be in contact regarding delivery.

I'll be offering something for overseas readers soon...stay tuned!