January 24, 2017

IT'S BLURRY


"Mitch thinks that humans will evolve like in Charles Darwin to have a square screen in our foreheads instead of having eyes. We will look at their screens to see everything we need to know. We won’t need to cogitate any more."

Ali Smith - Public Library and Other Stories

For many years I used to set goals of the amount of books that I wanted to read in a year or for each month/week/fortnight in the year. As with most goals I often started out all right, but soon got busy, distracted or lessened the value I felt in actually accomplishing my goal. One year I was so disappointed with the amount of books that I read that year that considering it as a ride-off, I kept a few pages left in the books I read in the final weeks of the year so I could finish them as the calendar rolled over and feel a greater sense of achievement as I started the following year. A tad lame – I know.

The first book that I finished (and also started) this year was called ‘Public Library and Other Stories’ written by Ali Smith. It’s a collection of short stories and also the first book I have read by this author. I find sometimes that short stories can be really absurd. Their shorter format seems to give authors the license to leave more gaps in the narrative where you’re left to wonder how the characters and the concepts in the story really fit together. As an example one of the stories in this collection is about a woman who notices a spot appear on her body and she goes to the doctor for an examination, he runs some tests and refers her to some specialists. As the story continues you realise that a rose bush is growing out of her chest.

My favourite story was ‘Last’.  It starts out with a detailed description of the setting, providing the sort of illustration where you connect the location to something of your own experience and suddenly it becomes you who is living this story through your acquaintance with the main protagonist. You notice a woman in a wheel chair stuck on a train as it goes to the end of the line and you must work out how you might help. It’s a story of an odd shared encounter that brings a few strangers together.

I assume the book gets its title from the collection of anecdotes that the author collected about different people’s memories and experiences with public libraries, these are shared as reflections at the end of each story.

I think I felt too young to read this book, or maybe that’s how I interpreted the way I didn’t always understand the absurd. I liked the way the author made reference to the lives of other authors or spoke their words through the mouths of her characters. But generally I didn’t feel that I related to the characters in a way where my experiences could allow me to access the stories so that my understanding of the world was broadened. But maybe it’s just me.

Here’s a bona fide review of the book if that’s more your thing:
Ali Smith’s Homage to Public Libraries

Picture:
Dave gave me a film camera for my birthday a couple of years ago and I have just been getting back into using it. However I didn't realise that I must have bumped the auto focus button and accidentally shot most of a roll of film with blurry photos including images of Finley and Dave. It was a shame but there's also a lovely quality to the photos, each occasion still captured in their own way.

January 21, 2017

THE NEXT CHAPTER


"The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights. It’s a right we need to guard with unwavering diligence. But it’s also a right we can guard with pleasure. Reading isn’t just a strike against narrowness, mind control and domination – it’s one of the world’s great joys."

William Schwalbe - Books for Living

In one of the few blog posts that I have made over the last year (or so), I questioned if the world even still blogs. Reading posts from my collection of favourite blogs used to be one of my daily enjoyments. And even more so, I enjoyed thinking up what I would post on our blog next, and which part of our story I would tell. When I got busy with working I started to feel like I didn’t really have much to tell, but slowly over time this has evolved into not really wanting to tell those stories even if I had the time.

Our world is so saturated with the information and the details of our lives that we never used to know about one another. The ability to broadcast and update our peers is out our fingertips, in our pockets, sitting in our bags ready to be accessed at any point during the day. I love it and I loathe it all at once. Dave and I haven’t been on Facebook for a few years now, it doesn’t mean we don’t find places to visit around the internet but I got tired of knowing what was going on in the lives of others without genuinely connecting with them or seeing them face to face.

Last year we had a little boy, his name is Finley and he is one of the biggest bringers of joy to us everyday. We love watching him grow, making him laugh and seeing who he will be. But at this point in time, I don’t want to put him on the Internet. I feel hypercritical saying that, mostly because it’s the genuine real life stories about families and people that I enjoy reading in blogs the most. Sometimes because I can learn something or glean some advice, other times its just entertaining seeing lives evolve and unfold like keeping up to date with your latest television show.

But in saying all that, like I’ve said before I miss existing in this small part of the internet myself, sharing my photos, doing a little bit of writing and even just keeping a record of where my thoughts are at at different points in time. And for a long time I have been wondering what this place could become if its no longer a journal of our adventures and photographs of our day-to-day lives. (The other thing too is, that I’m sure that in the space that I have made between making posts here I have probably lost most of those who used to stop by and read. So what it becomes is probably of little consequence.)

Since Finley was born Dave and I have started to read a lot of the same books as one another. For years we have worked through our own books and occasionally recommended the odd book to each other (mostly I recommend to Dave a book that he’ll read - I’m not always that good at accepting book recommendations, preferring to find the right read for the season that I’m in). But when we started to find ourselves awake at random parts at the night to feed an infant, we wanted something to do to pass the time while keeping the light and the noise low, so I began to embrace the e-book, and found I mourned the lack of paper less than I expected to – not at all.

Its no secret that I love to read, and I love to talk about the books that I read too. Even when I’m not reading for University (I’m trying to promise myself that I will finally finish that Masters this year), I highlight and collect quotes believing that small sentences are worth storing up for some unknown moment when I’ll need to draw on someone else’s wisdom. So that’s what I want to do here, if for no one else but myself (oh no I’ve started a stay-at-home mum project), I want to write about what I’ve enjoyed in what I’ve read lately.

This week I enjoyed two articles that reminded me of how books can keep us grounded in a world that is changing and evolving quickly. And how the simple question, “What have you been reading lately?” can reconnect us on a deeper level if social media has only enabled surface level connections.

Recommended reading:
Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books
Shared Worlds: In the age of connectivity, books are more important than ever

Picture:
A bunch of roses I bought last year in the middle of winter, not long before Finley was born. Shot on film.

P.S: Dear world,
Please don’t think I am judging how you make use of the Internet or preaching that you should do something different. But for me to curb my own bad habits of too much time on social media I chose to cut myself off from the source. What anyone else does doesn’t bother me at all.

September 22, 2016

SOME KIND OF SPRING






"I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again."

Lewis Carroll - Through the Looking Glass

This was spring, I think two years ago. We heard that there was snow a little over an hour from our house, so we got in the car and drove there. Then we kept on driving till we reached the Blue Mountains and I saw the Three Sisters for the first time since I was a kid. Growing up I named those rocky mountains after my cousins because they are three sisters too.

This year our spring also feels like an extension of winter, but instead of snow there is never ending rain. The fire is still burning and outside the skies stay mostly grey. And for the first time, despite my love of winter, I am longing for some warmer days when we can sit in the sun and let our washing dry out on the clothes line.

May 3, 2016

DOES THE WORLD EVEN BLOG ANYMORE?





What do you call yourself when you used to be a regular at a place, like a coffee shop or to someone's house, but then you just stop showing up? Not because you don't want to be there or don't care, but just cause its not where your life is at anymore. Then, when so much time passes by you wonder if you still want to go there, or if you'd be welcome, or would anyone even notice? And because of your uncertainty, you delay your visit even longer. And suddenly a year has gone past. And do I even blog anymore?

What is blogging now anyway. I tried reading about it and perusing articles on Google to see where the online world lives now, cause if I stopped visiting my own little place on the internet, and the sites I used to visit, I wondered if other people did to. From what I gather I think a lot of people did. People are much more likely to frequent the online spaces that exist within apps, and can be found with the ease of less button clicks, rather than going through the links in their bookmarks, or to places where they blogs are/were so easily curated. I kind of got bored of the double up too - seeing the same thing on someone's Instagram as a blog - wondering why do I need to see it twice. And I stopped wanting to spend so much of my life looking at other people's lives, being less engaged in my own passing moments.

In a small sense I feel like my life kind of graduated a bit too. Instead of planning blog posts into my week, that time was pushed aside by finishing a university degree (and starting another one), starting a new part-time job, seeing that job evolve into a full time job, and feeling like my life became less filled with the kind of adventures and moments that seem blog worthy - unless you want to hear about the random things I hear students say in my classroom (maybe they could fill a blog of their own?).

The truth is our life looks different to how it did when we established this place (can you believe that was over 5 years ago!), but I guess its no less exciting, even if its not documented. I guess what I'm asking really of myself is if I can return to this strange realm of online documentary - maybe just as a cathartic exercise which would cause me to take a few more photos (which I love and miss doing), and to write a few more thoughts (which I also love and miss doing)? I'm not really sure of the purpose anymore (I call my mum enough, she already knows what I do each day). I'll think on that.

April 12, 2015

THE UNKNOWN HOLES IN KNOWLEDGE


"There is other men in me, beside this patient ass who sits here in a tweed jacket. What am I doing, playing the patient ass in a tweed jacket? Who am I talking to? Who are you, at the other end of this patience?
Who are you? How many selves have you? And which of these selves do you want to be?
Is Yale College going to educate the self that is in the dark of you, or Harvard College?
The ideal self! Oh, but I have a strange and fugitive self shut out and howling like a wolf or a coyote under the ideal windows. See his red eyes in the dark? This is the self who is coming into his own.
The perfectibility of man, dear God! When every man as long as he remains alive is in himself a multitude of conflicting men. Which of these do you choose to perfect, at the expense of every other?"

D. H. Lawrence - Studies in Classic American Literature

Our long absences here seem to be unending, it's something I will refrain from apologising for, seeing as another situation is not currently feasible. At present so much of my attention is engrossed with books that seem to constantly fill gaps in my knowledge - all that I was unaware were even there! Above is a section of text I read recently, I found it quite comical yet also heartening. D. H. Lawrence concluded that we must always wrestle against the uncertainties of character. Whatever our virtues, there is always a struggle or a need to apply energy to keep them established.
Sitting here in a four-story library, beside rows of books that stretch further than the length of our house, I can't help but imagine a life where this was the scenery I beheld frequently - but yet at the expense of every other?

Photos: Some of the things we saw recently while in Sydney on an Art Excursion with my Year 11 & 12 students.

January 31, 2015

YOU'RE A SKY FULL OF STARS


We wake up when it's dark. We search out the right words and grumbles to get out of bed and embrace the road outside for some exercise. We get home just after the first light and begin to scramble and shuffle around the house, we iron clothes, we gather food from the fridge for lunch, and we aim to walk out the door at the same time, leaving for work together. I drop Dave around the corner. We kiss and commit to time together later in the day; when our obligations are over, it will be just us.

We love to assemble days that are brimming with motion and have long since lost hope of a life that is normal, observing that it never seems to materilise. Life is always changing and moving. The only thing that remains simple is that each day it is us, waking up together, embracing the days that we make.

Occasionally the surroundings become inconsequential, and I hold a gaze on this man who is truly the best part of me, the best part of my life. Moreover, he is everything I am not, the safety and light that settles my heart.

January 26, 2015

SO LET’S KICK, AND PUSH, AND COAST!



A couple of days in the sun and sand is good, but needs to be topped off with a session or two in the local skate bowl. I blew the dust and cob webs off my custom Eric Boston deck (circa 2006) and checked to make sure that the wheels could still turn before sliding it in between the camping mattresses and the tent.

Dropping in. You smack the tail into the coping and place your left foot down. You stare at the bowl and try and read the camber of the concrete. You estimate your velocity and pick the perfect place to kick turn. Next thing - It's on!

The first run was mediocre, but the second was little better. Sooner or later you hit a full lap of the bowl and eventually two. Each lap you try and push it faster. Higher. Harder.

After more than a year off the board, the best way to conquer your fears is to hit the deepest bowl first. once you've hit the deep one, nothing else seems quite as scary. it took a while before I drew the first blood and bruises. Times seems to stand still as you realise that you're front foot wasn't quite far enough forward and you started your kick turn just a little bit too late. Hang up. Crash.

Old Dog. Old Tricks. I got a few 5-0s and a Rock-to-Fakie on the halfpipe, but didn't reach the coping in the bowl. On the flat ground I landed some Olly's, Frontside 180s, Powerslides and an ever-allusive Kickflip.

Life can get pretty busy and it's easy to let the fun things slowly slip out. Getting back on the skateboard was a good reminder that some of like's simple pastimes should get as much priority as the routine and mundane. I had a sunset session at my local skate park on Friday night. The air was hot. Dry. Still. The park was empty. You smack the tail onto the coping and place your left foot down. You stare at the bowl and try to read the camber of the concrete. You estimate your velocity and pick the perfect place to kick turn. Next thing - it's on!

November 1, 2014

ART EXCURSION TO BUMBERRY DAM


Bumberry Dam Excursion from david and elizabeth white on Vimeo.

At the moment I've just started teaching my first class of Year 12 students. They're such a sweet trio, and I don't think I could ask for a more enthusiastic bunch to take on the journey for their HSC. They go along with my strange ideas for finding art in interesting places and seeing the opportunity for inspiration all around.
This week we went on an excursion to one of our local dams to explore and gather ideas for a preliminary work they are working on. This is a little of what we saw.

October 1, 2014

KATHMANDU, NEPAL



The way a place looks and feels when you first walk along the streets, and drive through the energetic bustle of people absorbed in occupying their lives; is a short-lived opportunity, when everything is fresh, unexperienced, misunderstood and present for only a moment. While we waited beside the rickety baggage carousel, hoping the next collection of bags would include our own, I was reminded that our first moments in a new place can be our most hopeful, we are eager eyed, without routine and completely unaware of how to fit and exist outside our comfort zone. Its precious. Its short. Its valuable. Its a space that we rarely enter.

Travel has that brilliant way of reminding me that there are great and wonderful lives being lived all across the world. And while differences seems to confront me greatly, it seems that what we share in common is far more beautiful and precious. 

September 16, 2014

BEING THE RACONTEUR



"How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we told about our life. Told to others, but - mainly - to ourselves."

Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending

September 9, 2014

AN INTERVAL


"The theory she had had when wandering through The Rocks four years before - that time was a great black vortex down which everything disappeared - no longer made sense to her. She saw now that it was a great river, always moving, always changing, but with the same water flowing between its banks from source to sea."

Ruth Park - Playing Beatie Bow

June 17, 2014

THAT TOURIST FEELING

 "After all everybody, that is, everybody who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have to have two countries, the one where they belong and the one in which they live really. The second one is romantic, is is separate from themselves, it is not real but it is really there."
Gertrude Stein - Paris, France

I picked up this book and started reading it, a cold midwinter day in Brooklyn. If there is such a thing, I had reached the point in our trip where I had purchased too many books. A quarter of my suitcase was filled with them. I know books are the thing you're not meant to buy abroad, but they are the item I can't help myself with the most, including shoes. After reading the first part of Gertrude Stein's Paris, France, it went back onto the table in the store. Withholding I wrote down the details and my mum gave it to me for my birthday. 

The quoted lines above stick with me as I remember how much I wrote and imagined when away from my daily routines. I'm thankful that the school holidays are a week and a half away. I'm making plans to tackle some projects I've had on my mind for a little while, and catch up on all those parts of life that I always seem to be behind on.

June 6, 2014

HAPPY DONUT DAY

This is one of the finest doughnuts I have ever eaten. A raspberry yeast doughnut from Doughnut Plant, served up at Stumptown Coffee Roasters on W. 29th in NYC. Adding doughnuts to the list of things to do this weekend.

June 5, 2014

MUSING THE WEEKEND


I'm taking a deep breath and a short break, with just 1000 words left between me and the end of this semester at uni. And I almost forgot, we're facing up to a long weekend. A book pile has been assembled and I am bracing myself for a good dose of reading and coffee drinking over the three day break.

I mentioned last week that I had the task of writing a fiction piece that has had me completely out of my depth, but it turned out to be more fun than I expected, so much so that I might give it another go one day. This story has had me revisiting some of the streets of New York City, along with artworks that we found on the walls of some of the galleries and museums.

As always with us, every good adventure and story includes a good coffee shop. Here's a nice cup that we found on the lower east side.