Thursday, July 28, 2005

to Adelaide

I won't be adding to my blog for a few days as we are flying to Adelaide for a quick visit with family. In the meantime, here is some eye candy for my crazy friends: a crazy quilt block I made for my niece's first birthday. It includes the French knot cherry tree that was inspired by Vivienne's photos.

The block includes tiny stitched symbols of some of Jack's firsts: an aeroplane for her first trip to the US, a bikini for her first swimming lessons and of course a football and scarf for her first Aussie Rules game as a spectator. The block is the second I have made for her: I plan to make one for her birthday each year and then join them all together into a keepsake quilt when she is grown up.

I hope she likes it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My star

Last night I went to the Sydney Observatory to look at *my* star.

It is a lovely bright B-class star, unfortunately not visible with the naked eye from this part of the galaxy, because it's about three to four hundred light years away.

This star was my birthday present from the gorgeous VoR and WonderBoy. I love you both.

Monday, July 25, 2005

But is it art?

Sharon at in a minute ago drew my attention to these artworks by Stephen Sollins in which he unpicks old needlework samplers, counts the stitches of each colour and restitches over the top of the fabric in a pattern of geometric coloured blocks.

I am fascinated because these artworks represent the old dichotomy between "art" and "craft". On one hand, it is an interesting exploration and deconstruction of this category of craft work, and it does show that Sollins values the samplers in his own way. On the other hand there is a sense of horror that he has destroyed an anonymous artisan's work.

Samplers are traditionally formal and unemotional works, stitched as part of a stitcher's education and training, following fairly strict formulae. They are in much the same vein as a primary school copybook, where a pupil writes page after page of "The quick brown fox" in order to improve his or her skills for more important work later on. So what Sollins is doing is in one sense no worse than if he took a schoolboy's copybook and wrote over the lettering. By restitching the colours, Sollins is showing that he does value the work in the stitching, but by removing the stitches from their context as constituents of a letter, design or picture he is also showing that he does not attach any importance to the meaning of the stitches.

As an artisan, I am at first incensed that this artist has destroyed a legitimate work of art in his attempt to create his own work. I wonder whether he would do the same with a more traditional artwork (by either a woman or a man) such as a painting: what would the reaction be if he took a canvas, scraped all the oil paint away and repainted over the canvas in geometric blocks of the original colours the artist used? Would the reaction depend on whether the original painting was by a famous artist or an anonymous dabbler?

It seems to me that Sollins is using the anonymity of those who created the antique samplers as a stepping stone for his own artistic statements, and that is what gets my back up about this. With my feminist hat on, I take offence at the categorisation of women's work, in the form of samplers, as "sentimental" and to the reduction of it (by a male) to its basic constituents, as if to further devalue the embroidery by reducing it to mere blocks of colour.

As I said before, it goes to the heart of the art/craft dichotomy. Does art have meaning outside the purely pictorial? Does craft have meaning? (Most stitchers would say it does.) Is craft "low" art, or is it a legitimate artistic expression? Where do you draw the line between what is craft and what is art -- and does the position of the line bear any relation to the sex of the practician?

One day I'm going to write a thesis on this subject.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Not a review

Last night I went to see the Opera Australia production of Trial By Jury at the marvellous Sydney Opera House.

As we were standing in the forecourt during the interval (or "half time" as the Voice of Reason calls it, when "the crowd" goes out to get drinks -- don't worry, I'll pay him back at the football tomorrow by asking why the "audience" is booing the "conductors" as they leave the "stage") we were commenting with amazement that an innately conservative city like Sydney (in the middle of the 20th century) managed to select (and pay for) such a magnificent and iconic landmark as the Opera House... and I can't say that the current government, with its penchant for tunnels and exhaust stacks, would have such cojones.

Anyway, back to Trial By Jury: Gilbert and Sullivan at their most cynical and wicked and Opera Australia at its most lighthearted. I really liked David Hobson as the cheeky defendant (I must admit, I have been quite partial to him ever since I first saw him as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann's production of La Boheme. Sigh. My tiny hands are frozen...) And Anthony Warlow was great as the judge: as one nearby patron tautologised in my hearing: "If you didn't know it was him, you wouldn't know it was him"! I had to stifle a giggle at that.

The production brought back fond memories of the fun we had performing this operetta when I was at school -- I was one of the bridesmaids (although in the OA version there are no bridesmaids, just an all-female press gallery). Oh, and it was part of a double bill with HMS Pinafore, featuring largely the same cast, which was also great fun. So although this is not a review, I do recommend the production if you are in Sydney.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cows with snorkels

I read this *fact* somewhere and laughed myself silly for a minute.

"You are more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark."

Yep. Because I don't think cows go to the beach much. I don't even know if they can swim.

[Or do you think they meant to say that I am more likely to be attacked by a cow than by a shark?]

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Finger in the pie

Australian troops are in Iraq, for whatever real reason, but apparently to oversee the installation of a democratic government. We've got our finger in the pie, but apparently we have no interest in actually tasting the ingredients.

Copies of the draft Iraqi consitution are circulating and being reported on all over the world but not, to my knowledge through Australian news sources. Why don't we care? If we don't care, why are we there?

Here's an excerpt from the NY Times that I find especially concerning:

Women's groups are incensed by Article 14, which would repeal a relatively liberal personal status law enacted in 1959 after the British-backed monarchy was overthrown by secular military officers. That law remained in effect through the decades of Mr. Hussein's rule.
The law used Shariah to adjudicate personal and family matters, but did it in as secular a manner as possible, pulling together the most liberal interpretations of Koranic law from the main Shiite and Sunni sects and stitching them together into one code.
Critics of the draft proposal say that in addition to restricting women's rights, it could also deepen the sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites. The draft also does not make clear what would happen in cases where the husband is from one sect and the wife from another....
"We don't want to use separate Sunni or Shiite laws," said Dohar Rouhi, president of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs. "We want a law that can be applied to everyone. We want justice for women."

I repeat: Why don't we care about this? If we don't care, why are our troops there?

[Thanks to Bitch Ph.D and others for caring even if we don't.]

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lies, damned lies...

...and statistics.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Negatively curved space

A news story in my local paper (syndicated from the NY Times) included this marvellous image of a model of hyperbolic space, made by a mathematics teacher. I love it! Who ever thought you could combine two of my favourite hobbies -- cosmology and crochet!

Even better, one of the examples the article gave of negative curvature was a sea slug (beche-la-mer). I am feeling so hyperbolic right now...

And thanks to Chloe for the coincidental referral to Monster Crochet. Oh, the Thinks you can Think!

Raison d'etre

Went out to buy my copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this morning (although I won't have the time to stay in bed all day until I finish it, as I did with the previous one), and stopped in to get a cappucino at a new kiosk in my local shopping mall.

I was quite tempted to try the special: $4.95 for a regular cap and two slices of "raison toast". Obviously some post-existentialist French bread with an ego. Can't I just have some good, old-fashioned dried grapes?

[By the way, Big W has Harry at $22.48, while the ABC shop is selling it at the rrp of $45.]

Friday, July 15, 2005

No bits

I'm really only posting this to experiment with adding images to my blog, so please indulge me.

I spent five minutes this morning straining orange juice through a tea strainer to get rid of the "bits". As a child I always insisted that I would only drink orange juice with "no bits" and I still prefer it that way, on the odd occasion when there is no alternative.

You can imagine how excited I was to find my ideal orange juice in Tesco, Gosport, UK. So excited I had to take a photo.

In the UK there are lots of brands of orange juice that come "with bits" or "no bits". Unfortunately, not in Australia.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Best of Buffalo

I discovered this blog about Buffalo, NY. I love the "best of" list... lots of places to check out next time I am in town. (Next year, Little Sister, if you're reading this -- I haven't told you yet!)

Now I just have to find a "best of Shanghai" list, in case Wonder Boy and I can tag along with the Voice of Reason to a conference he's been asked to present a paper at later this year.

One thing that tempts me to go to Shanghai... authentic congee! Wonder if they'll ask whether I've had it before...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Cancerous thinking

In the Sydney Morning Herald there is a column called "Big Questions" where readers can submit questions and other readers can provide answers. In answer to the question: "Where does all the money raised for cancer research go and why don't we have a cure?" Someone sent this answer:

"Into white lab-coat pockets. Science will never find a cure for cancer or any disease because they are looking outside the body for cures. Disease processes occur because the body is not working properly; that is, not healthy. A healthy body doesn't get cancer or the common cold. Health is the entity, not disease. Disease can only exist in the absence of health. Therefore improve and maintain your health. Ensuring your nervous system is working properly should be a priority."

This made me really angry.

It came on top of a television news report (I can't give a link, but it's not worth watching anyway) which opened with the line: "If love counts for anything, then Kylie Minogue will survive her battle with breast cancer." This made me really, really angry.

1. Are you telling me that if I had just loved my dad more, he would still be alive?
2. And how dare you equate the shallow adulation that Kylie's fans feel for her public persona with the real love of a family and friends who know the person (even Kylie herself) intimately?

People who say stuff like that are really saying, "Hey, if you get cancer it must be your own fault". Some juvenile part of me wants to say that I hope they get cancer and then see if they believe what they say (or write) -- but obviously I don't believe in karma.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Smoking gun

Some people are complaining about the new ban on smoking in pubs, making life difficult for the bar staff by ignoring the law and making a scene when they are asked to stop.

One look at the picture that appeared in the newspaper report tells you why: every person in the picture is a white, middle-class, middle-aged male. These people are used to getting their own way -- they have been since they were born.

Just look at the smug bastards, having their schooners after work before toddling off home to wifey (or possibly 20-something-blonde-girlfriendey -- frankly I suspect the guy on the far right. I mean, leather jacket and stonewash jeans... I bet he has a convertible in the car park. Probably red.)

These guys have never been told they can't do anything they want to do in their entire life, and no law is going to stop them now.

And the publican is no better than his patrons. "My girls," he says (although he actually means his employees, whose health he is required to look after under the OH&S act), "are a little upset".

A little? If I worked for a chauvinist pig like that (and I have, believe me) I would be more than a little upset.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mmmmm, congee

I ate roast duck and king prawn congee at our favourite noodle bar last night. Yum!

Every time I order congee there, the person taking my order always asks, "Have you had congee before?"

Does this mean that there are people out there who order congee, then complain when they get a bowl of rice porridge?

I don't understand.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Distant [industrial] relations

Here's our illustrious PM, on the radio this morning defending his new IR policy: "I don't know what circumstances -- beyond the Government's control -- will affect individual people."

Well, der, that's why you don't pass legislation that removes their few protections. Unless you're damn sure that more people are going to be better off than worse off. Where are the economic studies showing that there will be more jobs and higher pay? There are plenty that show the opposite. All we have is the PM's word for it, and you know that's worth the paper it's written on.

Deep impact

Yesterday I spent half an hour looking at pictures of a metal disc from earth smashing into a comet millions of miles away. Feeling excited, happy to be part of the human race... it's an amazing achievement! And so much more information to come: I love information, I love filling up my brain with the stuff.

In the letters page of my local newspaper this morning were a series of ungenerous letters, basically along the lines of: "Deep Impact, Big Deal".

My *favourite* was one that trotted out the tired old argument that we should be spending the billions of dollars that we waste on spurious space research [that was the gist of his letter, not my opinion] on combatting world poverty, which he apparently just noticed because he watched the Live 8 concerts on the weekend.

In other words, because PC (those are his actual initials!) doesn't personally benefit from the science of the Deep Impact probe, it's a waste of money. All those scientists, engineers, astronomers, technicians and admin staff at NASA should be prepared to sacrifice their jobs, homes and cars so PC can sit in his home and drive his car and forget about world poverty until the next time Bob Geldof puts the wind up him.

As if billions of dollars would solve the poverty issue. Start with equality, respect and self-determination... otherwise you might as well blast all the money out into space. And if you learn something new about yourself and your cosmic home in the process, well, in my book it's worth it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Whether you asked for it or not...

You're welcome to my opinion. It's worth about two cents, but I'm giving it away free in this blog!