susurrus… Word of the Day

I’m going to have some time away from George. We’ve spent a lot of time together lately, and I’m not sure how healthy that can be for me.

It all started with some spare time and the thought that I might tackle something a little bigger. Something that would take more than a few days to chew through. I didn’t quite realise that I would chew through 2001 pages in less than a month.

2001… A George Odyssey. It seems apt as I headed out into uncharted territory, picking up first A Clash of Kings and later A Storm of Swords from the Game of Thrones saga at many plenty moments of the day or evening. If you’ve read this far, fear not, there will be no spoilers in this Post, which, as it happens, is my first in quite a while…

Anyway, it’s been good with George, if a little intense at times. The 3rd book (Storm…) I read on the Kindle and sees me move away from the TV show, where I have only seen the first two seasons – thus my imagination has some chance to take flight. The Kindle has its disadvantages and advantages. It’s a pain to look up the maps, so much so that I used Clash, which was a paperback, as my “reference tome”. The advantages… it’s light (so no GRR Martin wrist/forearm workout in reading a doorstop edition), you can see how far you have to go in the chapter or the rest of the book (disconcertingly so when it advises you early on that there are 31 hours left in the book… ha!) and you can use the Dictionary and Highlight functions.

Book 2 and, on Kindle, book 3

Book 2 and, on Kindle, book 3

The former is a funny process in itself. I have the Oxford Dictionary of English loaded into my Kindle and it balks at quite a bit. Direwolf is a case in point as I highlighted the first word I came to in writing this post to check which Dictionary I had installed. No Definition Found. But, it does demonstrate how rich Mr George’s writing has been, in terms of Thesaurus-like range of language he deploys. All of the weaponry, the clothing, the food. He has it covered.

And, he sometimes uses words that are, simply, wonderful. My favourite (and this is where I used the Highlight) function, meaning that I could find it again later, is susurrus (to murmur or hum, according to the Kindle’s Oxford) as he described characters coming across the river of the Green Fork. Lovely.

So, having mainlined two books in a row, my head is full of George. I gave the 4th book 4 stars on Goodreads… it’s epic, but as a friend said, in need of an Editor to give it a good trim. 1128 pages could probably benefit by losing 10% readily enough.

The fourth book is waiting, on the Kindle…. but first I’m going to read a book that I borrowed from the local library: Sara Gran’s City of the Dead, a detective novel set post Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. And at only 273 pages, should, by George’s standards, be a breeze!

In Awe of Good Writing

I have just finished Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore. This was a book my mother bought for me a few years back and, having watched the excellent tele-movie of it recently, I was spurred on to read it in place of other “next book” contenders.

It is compelling reading. What is more, it has highlighted some of the facets of good writing that work for me. 

For the benefit of overseas readers, The Broken Shore is a crime novel, set in Southern Australia, along a windswept part of the Victorian coastline. The main character, Joe Cashin, is a broken man himself, both physically and emotionally. 

An Idyllic spot for an Ideal book

An Idyllic spot for an Ideal book

As mentioned before, Peter Temple is a consummate writer. In addition to being a wordsmith, he is able to get me to replicate certain actions that are observed in the text. Thus I find myself, having read a character description of action, silently mimicking it to weigh its movement, as if I can test its validity. It is not so much a question of whether it is valid in the first place, it is more that Temple has so effectively painted the description with words, that I actually make any movement in the first place.

At the same time, there is a mix of language economy in marriage with carefully observed description. Thus, his itinerant work Rebb, often makes observations without using personal pronouns, particularly when referring to himself. This shorthand works brilliantly in capturing that laconic, perhaps bordering on larrikinism, that seems to be part of the Australian population, even if this might be a little stereotypical. Meanwhile, the landscape is its own character, invested with its own energy and emotion. Even the way that Temple depicts Cashin’s relationship to his two standard poodles, as they bound around the countryside, is worthy of consideration. 

I don’t often give five stars for books, or even write about them in blogs, but this one is a worthy contender. The fact that it has done more to tell me about the things I value in writing, in addition to telling a good yarn, seals the deal.

An Art Course – Allowing Space to Reflect

I’m in Week 2 of my beginner course in painting and drawing. The last time I did this was 2002 and, considering I loved it, it seems a shame that I’ve done virtually nothing in over a decade. I should emphasise that I’m very much the novice. I’m not aiming to produce saleable works. I’m just happy when I’m happy with what I’ve managed to do. Each session goes for three hours and time seems to become elastic, pliable. I love the idea that you become so immersed in the task and detail at hand that you become mesmerised. One moment it is 9:50am. Seemingly only a few minutes later, it is nearly 11am.

Still Life Effort 1 - using Olive, White and Black Acrylic

Still Life Effort 1 – using Olive, White and Black Acrylic

Another thing I love about the course is how it helps me to see how things appear and, perhaps more interestingly, what they are not. Things like shadows and light. The fact that clouds are not white… that shadows are not just grey or black… that water is not merely clear or blue. I’ve enjoyed viewing the broader world around me in fresh ways.

At the moment we are working on Still Life, gaining some concepts about light and perspective. Last week we started with drawing – something that I thoroughly enjoy working on – before moving on to working with black and white acrylic paints. This week we did the same thing, introducing one additional colour into the process. So my first effort of a wine bottle and apple were done with the addition of olive acrylic. The second – just the apple this time – saw me use red.

Still Life 2 - using red acrylic this time

Still Life 2 – using red acrylic this time

The intervening time between my doing a course in 2002 and now has seen some interesting changes in how technology can help too. The advent of the smart phone – suddenly you can take a shot of a possible subject at any time. Next week we will be working on self-portraits, using how phones to capture one’s likeness and using this to help guide the process.

I also like the idea that there is a “gang” of participants who continue to return each term, just so that they are guaranteed the time and space to continue working on something that generates such a degree of pleasure. It’s early days, but I’m hoping to do the same thing myself, so as to build in the chance to keep it going.

Tennis Elbow… without the Tennis… or the Elbow

I think, if I’m honest, that it was the kayaking that did it. Sure, I have a little cart that helps me get the 35kg kayak to the water, but then there is all the lugging before and after this. Then the repetitive action of paddling, which seemed innocuous enough.

I’m obviously in a mid-life crisis. One website mentioned that the likely time to get this was between 35 and 55 years of age, which puts me smack in the middle. Of course, I’ve done the right thing – I’ve been to see the Doctor, rather than relying on my Internet-based, self diagnosis.

I recall my mother going through a stint of Tennis Elbow in the mid 80s – except this was caused by tennis. At the time, I recall her complaining of the ache, but not the specific nuisance factor it can cause in so many other aspects of one’s day to day life. My ache seems to run along the inside of the forearm, for the most part, rather than the elbow per se. Here are some of the current problems:

  • I can’t play the piano (one might argue that I couldn’t play to start with, but there you go)
  • Typing is taxing (this Post is seeing lots of pauses and arm stretching)
  • Handwriting is worse – obviously this is just a reminder of how redundant it seems to be in contemporary life

Then there are the ones that catch you out, such as opening jars and bottles, reaching up to grab something from a shelf, opening a car door or even putting the belt on once you are in. I’m supposed to be taking anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen (but I sometimes forget) and, of course, rest rest rest.

The offending arm... perhaps "if thine arm offends..."?

The offending arm… perhaps “if thine arm offends…”?

Having read on another website that I can expect it to go anywhere from a few weeks to twelve months from now is not filling me with delight! Perhaps it is a karma reckoning for my Long Service Leave indulgence!

P.S. To those who have been Following my site, I apologise for my month’s absence. Missing a Post for one day seemed to roll around into a matter of weeks… I’ll try to make amends.

I Blame Hugh!

So how is it that I can go from finishing my first book on a Kindle to deciding I’m up for the e-publishing game? The book is Hugh Howey’s Wool and there won’t be any spoilers here beyond the first 10% of the book.

I’ve read a book on the Kindle app before, World War Z, during my holidays in Germany at the end of 2011. That was on my iPad; convenient for travel, but not for extended reading, as the light of the screen became a bit of an eye ache after a few hours. By comparison, reading Wool, on the Kindle, was easy. It was also a noteworthy experience because of my choice of book. Having a book that was self-published as an e-book, still something of a relative novelty in the history of publishing, seemed like a worthy first voyage on the device. image

Howey’s book delves into a topic that appeals to me. The post apocalyptic setting that saw a group of humans living inside a silo grabbed me immediately. Outside is a seemingly inhospitable landscape that sees those who exit the silo (and using “wool” to clean the silo’s camera lens sensors, hence the title) die shortly afterwards. What is going on? I’m not aiming to provide a review here – but this is a book that, having had my interest piqued by seeing it reviewed on ABC TV’s First Tuesday Book Club, I thought it would be worth following up. It was, but some of the concerns – that it feels a little unwieldy and has the sense of being an early draft in parts – are probably valid. It is one of those books that reminds me of my past, of shows like Space 1999 (of all things) in an episode called Devil’s Planet. Pretty cheesy stuff, but the idea of a portal to a deadly release point is flagged here. Even something like the 1971 movie The Andromeda Strain explored something like this, from my hazy teenage recollection, of a group of scientists working inside a silo, trying to combat an interstellar bacterium.

Anyway, having completed the book, having done some research, suddenly I’m in the realm of looking at publishing itself. I’m checking out a range of sites, discussing issues with royalty fees, using aggregators, the cost of the book itself and the critical need for a good front cover and, above all, a decent piece of writing. I’m all excited after a lazy 90 minutes of trawling and reading on the Internet.

Now I just need to get some writing done….

Of Seaside Carnivals and Rail Trails

A busy 24 hours. My children’s thirst for the annual trip to the summer carnival was slaked via large amounts of cash last night. Much of the fear that they had displayed at the edgier (for their age anyway) rides had dissipated this time around. I allowed my son to drive the dodgems the for the first time.

Everyone's a winner!

Everyone’s a winner!

This, in itself, was highly amusing. Calls to make small turns, just like Mario Kart were overlooked in fits of giggles every time the vehicle got t-boned. Eventually, the long suffering attendant reminiscent of a figure from Pirates of the Caribbean, boarded our vessel and helped plot a safer course. His final instruction, to put your hands on either side of the wheel and steer with your arms, seemed to make all the difference.

Later it was an inflatable see through ball on a blow up swimming pool, where he and other boys of a similar age wore themselves out by trying to run, only to face plant as the ball revolved eratically.

Perennially Popular Clowns... albeit a little mousey

Perennially Popular Clowns… albeit a little mousey

My daughter held out for that perennial classic, the clowns. Everyone’s a winner! the signs spruiked. In this case, it was a bling bracelet and some kind of pop gun for my son.

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Dairy country surrounds the track…

Three years ago, aged six, he won a gaudy green plastic dagger in a golden sheath. We still have it today.
Meanwhile, I drifted about, looking to take some Instagram snaps. There was a fine line between trying to take arty shots, without looking like some fairground stalker. In writing this Blog, I’m trying to use original pics only. At the same time, I’m trying to master taking shots with no recognisable individual in the Post, apart from the odd shot of me. So far so good.
Next morning, New Year’s Eve, I set out along the rail trail between Koroit and Port Fairy. For overseas readers, this is a part of south western Victoria, in Australia, that runs alongside the coast. I first did this ride just under a year ago. At the time, I wrote a post in my first blog. There is a link to it here.

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Briefly going into the trees…

It was a popular ride, with my passing a score of people on the 18km trip. At the end, Port Fairy, with a regular population of 2500 (which triples in size for the summer periods as is the case now) was abuzz with bikes, prams and dogs. A quick coffee, before the return journey. I’d used MapMyRide, a little GPS cycling app on my iPhone and every twenty minutes or so, the cheery US accented lady would report my distance covered and average speed. If nothing else, it was good to get out to clear the cobwebs and get 40km of riding under my belt to compensate for the Christmas culinary fare of the last few days.

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Bad selfies abound at 20km/h