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Summer Playlist 2013

Ah, thought I’d forgotten, hadn’t you?

Seeing as for some reason my Summer Playlist 2012 was my most popular post ever, it would be silly of me not to continue. Even though it’s late. And summer is almost over. But here we go.

Now: these songs aren’t terribly recent, and I must admit that there’s some really obvious choices in here. But, all of these songs I genuinely like, and some of them have really good memories for me. I’ve narrowed it down to only 10 songs this year, because everyone hates hour-long playlists, am I right?

Because there’s only 10 songs, and most of them have really awesome clips, I’m going to embed their videos here for your benefit.

Ready, set, go!

1. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards

2. La Gusana Ciega – Talismán

3. Queens of the Stone Age – First It Giveth

4. Flight of the Conchords – Foux Du Fafa

5. Black Keys – Lonely Boy

6. Gotye feat. Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know

7. Lady Gaga – Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)

8. PSY – Gangnam Style

9. George Harrison – My Sweet Lord

10. Lana Del Ray – Video Games

 

So, there you go! Hope you enjoy :)

 

2013 – The Year of Living

Some of you may remember my post at the beginning of last year detailing my hopes and dreams for 2012. And you may have observed that throughout the year, none of them came to pass.

So, in 2013, I’m going  a bit simpler. 2013 will be my year of living. Not living more responsibly, not living stronger, not living harder. Just living.

2012 was filled with challenges and disappointments. One of the most significant moments of my life, my marriage, was surrounded by the rest of my life falling down around my ears. I lost my job and found myself mostly alone in my house. My health dropped dramatically, I had to drain my savings account and max out my credit card trying to keep us afloat. We only worked sporadically, and there was the stress of the wedding itself. It has been a very trying and lonely time and I am immensely grateful for all you guys, who have helped me through. I must admit, I related a hell of a lot to this comic during the past few months.

So, in 2013, I am determined to live properly. I am currently temping and the job market is improving. I have streamlined my daily life. I have emptied my wardrobe of things I no longer wear. I realised how many clothes I truly have – it’s outstanding. I guess now that I found a shop with clothes that fit me correctly, I went a little bonkers. I’ve also put a ban on myself buying Lush products – I have far too many half-full containers. I also have too much nail polish.

I’ve started to wear make-up – it makes me feel better at work (fluorescent lights can be harsh!) and I like experimenting with it. I’m learning slowly to cook and meal plan. I’m learning the value of stackable storage containers. I’m trying to interact with my internet buddies much more than usual, instead of staying silent. I’m learning to pluck up the courage to talk to strangers at parties. I’m saving for my honeymoon.

The goal is to stop worrying, stop consuming mindlessly and to stop being quite so slothful. I want to enjoy life, not be shy or ashamed of myself, and stop living in shambolic, student-y chaos. And, my ultimate goal this year is very easy: I’m going to write a book. I say that every year, but this time I mean it. I’m going to do it.

But, I can’t do all these things by myself. All your love, support and friendship means the world to me, even though I may be poor at expressing it. I can do this. We can do this. It’ll be awesome.

<3

Local spotlight: The Infinite Everything

So, at the beginning of this year, I moved from the thriving inner city where I’d been living off and on for six years, to a suburban centre 30kms away. Each location has its advantages and disadvantages, of course, but the thing I really hate about being away from the city is missing out on all the incredible art and cultural events that I used to attend regularly. So, I decided to find out what was available to me in my local area.

My nearest hub is the city of Parramatta. Parramatta is as old as Sydney city, and it’s large enough to be exciting, but small enough to be convenient. It has some beautiful historic houses and gardens, a thriving and diverse ethnic community (best Indian/Chinese food ever) and lovely walkable suburban streets. The council seem to be pretty interested in cultural and arts events, and they’ve given artists the means to start their own pop-up shops. The scheme is in its early days and has a few teething problems, but it has let me meet and make friends with some amazing people and galleries. So, here’s my favourite, with a heavy dash of bias.

The Infinite Everything is the brainchild of two wonderful artists: Delia Puiatti, aka Unknown Quantity, and Nam Nguyen. Delia is a designer who specialises in vintage textiles, and Nam does beautiful paintings in inks. Both of them try to work sustainably, including upcycling, and using recycled and found objects. The gallery is imbued with a deep sense of philosophy, which comes across in the pieces themselves. They also have a very interactive approach – collaboration and participation from everyone is highly encouraged and welcomed. The Infinite Everything runs events and workshops, including a colouring-in club on Thursday nights! What’s not to love?

They were kind enough to let me photograph some pieces in the shop, so here we go!

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A skirt upcycled from a vintage jumper.

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Here’s the front and back of the tag.

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Bracelets and pencil cases, all hand made and embellished.

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Handmade scarves on the centrepiece of the gallery – the staircase.

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Jewellery made from upcycled computer parts, by Carl Noonan.

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Hangings made from wonderful vintage fabrics.

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Zines!

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The staircase’s central column is made entirely from old books. Each step going around is labelled with the name of a virtue.

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This is Nam’s beautiful series, Day Dream. Nam also runs a monthly raffle on his blog where you can win one of his gorgeous pieces for yourself.

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And here’s an original Nam piece on an unusual canvas – me!

 

It’s not just me paying attention, though. A couple of weeks ago Delia was profiled in the local paper, showcasing her sustainable work and the ideas behind it. Plus, it’s a great photo!

If you want more:

The Infinite Everything

Delia’s website

Nam’s blog

Delia and Nam also have a joint exhibition, Magnitude, at Mars Hill Café, Parramatta, until the 3rd of February. I highly recommend you go to it. Beautiful inks! Space collages! Beer! There’s truly something for everyone.

Name change

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you know this blog has changed from writemepictures to rhombusflair. It’ll still be the same worthless content, just in a quirky new package.

Ta <3

This week, unfortunately I and my family had to put our dog Max to sleep. We’ve had him for over twelve years and he was a huge part of our family. We’re big animal people, and Max was our first dog in a long line of cats.

We picked him out at the pound, a pretty adult cattle dog who was quiet and looked at my mum with big brown eyes and a tilted head. I babysat him in the car while my parents went to buy him supplies, and he looked at me, shuffled over, and lay his head in my lap. It was only when we got him home and got him to a vet that we discovered that he was actually a three month old puppy, and half Labrador, who would grow to twice his original size – a small pony, I always called him. As he settled in, he fancied himself a guard dog, and would loudly and sharply bark at anything to darken our door, even just a plastic bag, and continued to do so for the next twelve years.

He was a pain in some ways. When he was young he would steal and chew things up. He, like all Labradors, would climb over you for even a sniff of food. We had to install a baby gate between the lounge and kitchen because he would eat the cats’ food. He would bark loudly at anything and everything. He only obeyed commands when he wanted to. He would sneak up onto the couch after we’d all gone to bed.

But, for all his faults, Max was a beautiful dog and wonderful companion. When he was a year old, my parents bought me a kitten. Smuff was so small that I could hold him in one hand, and I had no idea how this behemoth would take to him. Max became his second mother – he carried him, washed him, supervised him, playfought with him, and taught him how to hunt. Max would do this again for another kitten six years down the line. He was incredibly intelligent, and knew when any of us were sad or hurting. He would protect us from anything, sounded the alarm when our car was stolen, and was a gentle giant. He was liberal with his kisses and loved a good tummy rub, even up to the very end. He and I shared a bond, and he got older and mellowed, and would happily walk by my heel, play fetch in the park, and did everything I asked him to. Even recently, I was lying on the floor in my mother’s lounge room trying in frustration to hook her new PVR up. It wouldn’t work and I was getting upset. Max leaned over and gently licked my head. And then it started working.

Recently he started to slow down. He had arthritis in his legs, front and back, and we thought this was normal. He loved walks – his spirit was willing but his flesh was weak. He couldn’t make it five minutes down the road without having to stop, panting heavily. We didn’t realise this was the first sign of a bigger problem.

A couple of weeks ago, he went outside in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and didn’t come back in for three hours. My mother found him lying in the backyard, his back legs paralysed. The vet said that he’d most likely suffered disc damage in his back and it could heal with time and care. He went on a crash diet and required pretty much 24-hour care – we had to support him with a towel sling under his back legs. I stayed and helped for a few days, and then headed home.

My mother called a few days later and asked if I could come in again. It was worse this time – he had lost his front legs. I thought they were weak from the pressure that was placed on them when he moved but it was more than that. It was obvious he was in terrible pain despite medication and he wasn’t getting better. We spoke to the vet, and they agreed that another disc had been damaged in his back, and this was not going to heal. After a short discussion, we all agreed that it was time.

Mum and I were with him. I knelt on the floor, patting him, holding his head, talking to him. The vet gave us some treats, and being that he hadn’t had proper food for over a week, he wolfed them down. Max was so eager he accidentally nipped my fingers when I didn’t let go fast enough. It was calm, peaceful, and he went to sleep with me holding him and a tummy full of treats. The vet staff were saddened too – while he was there they noticed how friendly and laidback he was, there were kisses ahoy, and lots of requests for tummy rubs. We chose to have him cremated, and his ashes are in a pet garden at the crematorium.

Even though we’d accepted the fact that he was getting older, and that this day would come, none of us expected it to come so soon. This is the first time that I’ve really lost someone close to me, dog or not, and I’ve been blindsided. I’m not sleeping properly, I’m not eating properly. I had to start university preparation work this week and I thought it would distract me, but I can’t concentrate. Even last night I had to stay up till 3am playing Minecraft because it was the only thing that could calm me. A digital equivalent of a zen garden.

I have a broken heart and I don’t know how to put it back together. So I’m calling on you, my friends, and especially fellow animal lovers, for advice. It may sound silly, all this wailing over a dog, but he was my dog. More than a dog. A friend, a buddy. And I’ll miss him terribly, always.

Back to School?

So, in the latest of a long line of impulsive ideas and decisions, here’s a big one. Remember this post in which I lamented my lack of tertiary education?

I’ve decided, next year, I’m going to fix it.

I’ve decided to enrol at Macquarie University as a distance learning student in Semester 2, 2013. I will be studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Museum Studies. This study will fit in around me doing full-time work.

It sounds a lot. It definitely will be. Hopefully I will return to permanent full-time work soon (at the moment I have temporary assignments). The commute can take me away from home 11-12 hours a day. I haven’t studied intensely or written essays for nearly ten years, when I finished high school. I do worry about how I’m going to cope. I found a free online preparatory course available from Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory, so I’m trying it out before I commit.

Committing will take up six years of my life, and put me in debt to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t have full-time work yet, and neither does my husband. I had planned overseas holidays and the like. So, why?

The unfortunate answer is that I’m desperately bored with my life. I love my family, and my job(s) pay the bills, but there’s nothing more. I get up, kiss my husband goodbye, get on a train, answer phones all day, get back on a train, go home and watch TV for a couple of hours before I crash into bed. I’m writing less and less – I don’t have the motivation. I don’t have the brainpower. Work and sleep is not enough. So why not have a massive boot up the arse in the form of an intense, expensive university degree!

It will be hard, but I will love it. I loved doing Museum Practice at TAFE, but I felt like I squandered a lot of learning opportunities there, and didn’t work as hard as I could, or should, have. University has always been a dream of mine – my family are very working class, and no one in my family has gone. Neither of my parents, who are both very intelligent, got to finish high school. And after the disaster of my HSC year, I felt slightly cheated. Robbed of my potential. This is my way of making up for it, as an older and hopefully more mature, worldly person.

Of course I’m frightened. I’m scared of failure. I’m scared of messing up. I’m scared of not being able to hack it. At worst I will be left with the aforementioned huge debt and an uncompleted mess. But to be honest, I’ve spent my life scared of lots of things. Scared to be myself. Scared to do what I  wanted. What will people think? The most beautiful thing about getting older and standing on my own two feet is that I’ve started to care less, and less, and less. So, this is it. This is my time. This is me doing something purely for myself. I don’t expect it will increase my vocational opportunities. This is learning for learning’s sake, and I recognise that. But it’s something I always wanted.

So, here goes nothing.

Quick but exciting!

Remember how I said that I was writing for a gaming blog? Well, I published my first post this morning! If you see the world in blocks and pixels, you’re gonna love it.

You can find it here. Checking it out would be much appreciated <3

 

A new chapter

This is exciting!

I’ve been accepted as a contributing author to an excellent gaming blog, Play On This. I’ll be focusing on opinion/experiential articles, as well as retro PSX and current PC gaming. I’m hoping to submit my first article in a couple of days. I’ll let you guys know so you can check it out. But in the meantime, please do check out the blog, it’s pretty awesome. There’ll be a batch of new writers so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen!

Ta x

As you may or may not know, I have had a long and deep-seeded fascination with zombies that started when I was just becoming a teenager. This also applies to anything human-looking but not – mannequins, robots, statues, some animated figures – ranging from wonder to aversion to actual fear. This is a pretty common thing amongst people, and has a name – the Uncanny Valley.

Why are we so afraid of things that look like us, but aren’t us? Is it innate human xenophobia? Or our evolution couldn’t equip us to deal with this concept? (I’m not counting our close primate cousins – I’m focusing on created things.) The thing is, I’ve actually traced where my own response has come from, back to my early childhood.

Have a look at this:

Looks lovely, doesn’t it? This is a Voc, a robot that appears in a Tom Baker Doctor Who story.  (Okay, when I say robot, I really mean android. Carry on.) Vocs are service robots who range from mute menial robots, to normal workers, to special logistic coordinators. They look beautiful, and speak in a pleasant, smooth voice and come pre-programmed with the Laws of Robotics, which pervade so much of science fiction. Until this happens:

This image has haunted my dreams from the first time I saw it at the age of about 4, to even this day. I even had a bit of a shudder whilst searching for the picture! These creatures, in cardboard shoes and costumes made from shower curtains, stumbling through the hallways, strong machine hands covered in spray-painted washing-up gloves with chunky fake blood, their distorted, broken voices just repeating one word over again – ‘Kill.’

Still on Doctor Who, you have the big robotic kahuna – Cybermen. Originally from a dying twin of Earth, Mondas, forced to convert their feeble human bodies into metal ones, replacing limbs and eventually integrating organic matter into metallic bodies. Cyborgs, which many people would admit is the ultimate nightmare of human and robotic co-existence. Cybermen later end up wanting to convert humans to make more Cybermen – slicing their heads open and removing their brains and central nervous system to implant into a metal shell. Or even better, to build around their existing bodies, like the Mondasians in the beginning. Some would argue that cyborgs are the future of humanity, and you have to admit that some medical advancements are heading in that direction – robotic prosthetics, artificial valves and speech units. But let’s not think about that, shall we?

That’s the fear part taken care of. What about the fascination and wonder?

Enter this very special robot:

I could go on about Data forever and how awesome he is, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I fell in love with him as a child of 5, and then continued as a teenager, then an adult. I came to understand his complexity, and how his pursuit of humanity was supposed to reflect our own. I learned about Asimov’s theory of the positronic brain with neural nets and how much that science was used to explain Data’s backstory and how the actual practices of robotics and cybernetics was born out of it (not to mention how well-written Data generally is and how fabulously he is acted).

Why are we so obsessed with the idea of creating an inorganic copy of ourselves, especially with trying to create an artificial intelligence that is identical to our own? Is it that we use the idea of Data – to have a human-but-not foil to reflect upon our own humanity? Would creating a positronic brain finally help us understand how our own works? Or is it an extension of the human instinct to procreate? Is it a desire to ‘advance’ human achievement? I’m sure there are some sci-fi authors who can help me answer that.

Going back to Data – it’s funny how much we tend to anthropomorphise things. It’s even mentioned in an episode of TNG. We’re scared of humanoid things that aren’t actually human, but yet we secretly want them to be like us at the same time. It’s said that humans have a real knack for pattern recognition and the first pattern we are trained to recognise is a face. This makes sense when people sell a grilled cheese on eBay for $50,000 because you can see the Virgin Mary if you look hard enough.

I must admit I am especially guilty of this trait – I have assigned a name and gender to my computer. I consider my cat to be my child. But you could probably say the same thing about people who trawl the internet for hours looking for new LOLcats, and people who proudly post pictures on Facebook of the birth of their new car, with name. We’ve been doing this for centuries – projecting human qualities and personalities on animals, places, vehicles and inanimate objects, just like we still refer to countries, cars, planes and ships as being female.

So, what about the zombies?

That really came about because of this:

I first played Resident Evil when I was twelve. I loved the dystopian idea of a wrecked human species. (I loved zombies before they were cool, dammit!) It’s funny how drawn people are to dystopian ideas, even though we would never want to see it happen. It’s all about opposites.

I may have said this before, but I love the idea of zombies because they are the flipside of humanity. I generally try to think proudly of my fellow humans, and revel in their achievements and ingenuity. Zombies strip all of that away from us, although some may argue that zombies walk around among us now, just in another form.

Zombies take away all of our special attributes and reduce us down to our most basic forms – shells, unfeeling, unaware, unintelligent with only the desire to feed. The fact that they are biologically dead is an added bonus – we find death and the processes thereof such an abhorrent and fearful thing, so the ante is already upped. The allegory is powerful – we are watching ourselves literally crumble before our very eyes. Our cities, our cultures, our power, our fight to the evolutionary summit is wasted.

And there’s also the contention of their creation, depending on which origin story you prefer. There’s no better story than a created virus which was supposed to repair life, but utterly destroys it instead (Resident Evil-style). I also think it’s scarier if animals can be infected as well – our only allies turning against us.

I think it’s funny how astute creators have been in picking up our natural aversion to humanoid things, even before the Uncanny Valley concept had been created – the many variations of robots and cyborgs, shop window dummies coming to life and killing people, dolls doing the same, zombie hordes, the Statue of Liberty going for a wee stroll around Manhattan. It seems like this fear is so ingrained, and sometimes it’s heavily exacerbated by books/TV/movies, even inadvertently – look at early 3D animation like The Polar Express and Final Fantasy and don’t tell me you’re not creeped out by those mask-like faces and the dead, dead eyes.

So, are you unsettled by Robocop or the Terminator? Do you avert your eyes from mannequins in department stores (or secretly hope they turn into Kim Cattrall)? Do you plan your emergency contingency according to The Zombie Survival Guide? Can you escape from the Uncanny Valley?

OotD 4: Born This Way

New day, new outfit!

This is fast becoming one of my favourites. And I’m so pleased that my hair is finally grown out (I cut it super short 18 months ago due to an excessively humid summer and regretted it ever since).

 

Cardigan: Target
T-shirt: Lady Gaga – Born This Way tour
Skirt: Crossroads
Leggings: Target
Shoes: Converse (7 years old)
Necklace: Diva
Hair Colour: Color Bug by Kevin Murphy in Pink

 

I was privileged enough to see Lady Gaga in concert a few weeks ago and it was excellent. I bought two shirts and some socks. I might feature them one day! You can’t quite see it properly but I love the bright colours and the cartoonish grotesqueness of her likeness, almost in a Día de los Muertos style.

My Converse are my oldest pair and ones I should wear more. I sometimes wear this outfit with black ankle boots, to make it a tiny bit dressier.

 

My hair – I would really like to have an outrageous hair colour but my job is prohibiting that at the moment. A Color Bug is like eyeshadow for hair – it’s a powder you swipe onto your hair. You need to add product (I use dry shampoo or serum) to make it stick, and hairspray to seal it. It is messy and does rub off onto your clothes and make your hair knot after a while but I like it. I own the purple one too but I have to use a lot more of it for it to be visible.

 

This is my totally adorable owl necklace. I bought it on a whim after lusting after it for ages despite not having anything to wear it with.

 

This outfit represents a new direction in my style. The skirt is super-short, for me, so it’s a little bit of risk taking and exploring that wonderful avenue of Not Giving A Fuck. It’s a good place to be.

 

P.S. This is little but must be celebrated: I’ve hit 1,000 pageviews! Thank you to all my old friends, new friends and spammers for making it possible.

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