Ramble: A BIG PARTY, TWO BAD PARTIES, NO PARTYING

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I wish I was a con-artist. Wait, that came out wrong. I have no desire to be tricking people out of their wealth with dodgy promises (well, not much desire anyway). No, what I’m talking about are those marvellously entertaining people who go to pop culture conventions, or ‘cons’ for short. If you’ve never been to a con, well, I reckon you’re missing out. All under one roof, 10000 poeple a day or more wandering around talking about and thinking about science fiction, horror, fantasy, comics, movies, television, games and just generally having a good time. Okay, when I say ‘television’ I’m not talking UNDERBELLY or BREAKING BAD so much as TRUE BLOOD & XENA, but then again there’s no reason why fans of those shows shouldn’t represent as well. Its all make believe, after all. Anyway, the really cool part of a con is the cosplay. (If you don’t know what cosplay is, stop for a second and google it. We’ll wait here for you while you catch up).
(Back now? Up to speed? Cool, lets get back to it). Some cosplayers go to massive effort to dress and act like their favourite characters. You can really see the dedication they have for something which is, for most of them, an unpaid labour of love. When its done well, cosplay is as much a perfomance art as street theatre or busking. And that’s what makes them ‘con-artists’, you see.
Last weekend I went to Supanova, one of the two bigger cons held in Sydney. I don’t know when the other one, Armageddon, is this year – if you do, let me know. And maybe we’ll dress up and go cosplaying together. I do a very believable ‘old fat nerd with a beard’ impersonation….

“Go on Darryn! Do it next year! Join us”

I alternate between cranky & cynical about politics, especially Australian politics. Its been said of the American two party system that they have a party of bad ideas and a party of no ideas; here in Australia we seem to have a party with ideas but no clue as how to communicate them, and a party of communicators who say all ideas are bad. Some folks blame the fact that we have a hung parliament, but I don’t think that’s correct. Even before the last election, the ALP under Julia Gillard was brimming with ideas it should have been able to win support for, having spruiked them for a couple of years. The Mining Resource Rent Tax was crying out to be sold as a vehicle for increasing employment and encouraging venture capitalism; the Emissions Tax/Trading scheme is going to have such a negligible impact on household and small business expense that it should have been a cinch to promote; and the National Broadband Network is the 21st century’s laydown infrastructure winner, an investment that will bear fruit for at least the next 60 or 70 years. If nothing else, they should have dug out old speeches from the late 19th century or early twentieth century about telegraphy and telephony, and used those to sell it. But all three policies have been poorly explained to, & therefore poorly accepted by, the general public. On the other hand, I can’t recall the last time I saw anyone from the Liberal Party speaking positively about any of their own ideas. Its a standing gag that the Libs live in the past … and their total emphasis on saying ‘we will undo this, we will repeal that, we will overturn the other’ reinforces that. They don’t seem to have any policies or strategies except “Let’s reboot; last save point 2006”. They claim to be the party of small business & free enterprise, but when was the last time you saw Bruce Bilson out flogging a policy? Yes, Bruce Bilson. The well-known Liberal Party spokesman for small business, consumer affairs & competition. Oh, you never heard of him either, huh?
There’s a Federal election next year, and that should be a time of energy and excitement during which we are presented with two competiting visions, equally vibrant, for Australia’s future. But it won’t be; it will be an exhaustively boring naysaying contest between a party that has wasted most of its opportunities while in power, and a party whose objective is simply to achieve power with no idea what to do when it gets there.
Bring on the Independents again.

We’d be better off with this lot.

….

Next week, Tara and I are going on a 5 day juice fast. We will eat nothing and limit our liquid intake to water & freshly squeezed vegetable and/or fruit juice. Apparently this is very good for getting the toxins out of the body and helping with weight loss, two things that I need to attend to. Going 5 days without a proper coffee is gonna be the hardest part for me, but I’m sure I won’t murder more than one or two random strangers before the week’s over. I’ll post updates here and on my Facebook for those who are interested. Life’s never dull unless you want it to be.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three round meals a day.

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Poem: LIGHTNING HAIKU

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Following on from yesterday’s haiku, here’s another one. It’s probably even less technically correct than the other one, but dammitall, poetry isn’t, or shouldn’t be, scientifically constructed. If DEAD POETS SOCIETY taught us anything, it taught us that.
And that playing Puck can kill you.

Lightning Haiku

Divine fire, silvery white
Tree smiter, life bringer,
Turns night to day

© Darryn Roberts 2007

Poem: SUNRISE HAIKU

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Haiku is a traditional Japanese form of poetry. Ideally, it can be identified by 3 distinct elements – its length, its subject matter & a dichotomy between the first and last parts of the poem defined by the position of a ‘cutting’ word
In length, a haiku should be 17 ‘on‘. In English, this is sometimes interpreted as ‘syllables’ but is more correctly described as ‘beats’. For example, the word ‘TOKYO’ is three syllables long (TO – KY – O) but when pronounced in Japanese it is four on (TO-o – KY – O) in length. The subject matter of a haiku was originally drawn from a specified list of words, mostly (but not exclusively) ‘nature’ subjects. The cutting word, called the kireji, can appear at the end of either the first set or second set of on (originally haiku were not written in three lines; that is a Western convention designed to emphasise the kireji) and serves to define the tone of the poem. If the first part of the poem is the shorter of two distinct ideas, the kireji is intended to direct the reader to question something; if the first part is longer, then the kireji serves to point the reader to a conclusion drawn instead.

Now, that’s all very compressed and there’s far more to the technicalities of haiku than I know. In fact, I’m sure that even that brief definition is probably imprecise and incorrect in some way or other. That’s because Japanese language is an extension of Japanese thought, and poetry is an extension of a culture’s language. I come from a long line of people who write words made of letters that represent individual sounds, left to right across the page in lines that start at the top and work to the bottom, broken by punctuation symbols like comma, colon & apostrophe among others. I don’t come from a long line of people whose literature exists in pictograms, where one symbol represents a whole word. The nearest we in the West come to that is the ampersand (&) and the ten numerals. I only point all this out because a purist will no doubt find my haiku very lacking in the basic elements, and I excuse myself by the fact that I am doing the best I can with my cultural limitations.

Sunrise Haiku

Rise with me and watch
Clouds of pale pink and silver
Help us greet the day

© Darryn Roberts 2003

Poem: LOVEY AND DOVEY

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I’ve just got home from a dinner date with my lovely wife Tara. We do have some fun together, she and I, and we make a good couple I think. She’s motivated and I’m lazy. She’s a clean freak, and I’m a tidiness Nazi. She’s slender and I’m … not. She’s beautiful, and I appreciate beauty. What more do you want in life?

Lovey and Dovey

Lovey and Dovey went for a walk
Said Lovey to Dovey, “Lets have a talk!”
Said Dovey to Lovey “What a splendid idea!”
And so Lovey whispered into Dovey’s ear:

“My sweet Dovey darling, you are so fine –
I’m eternally thankful you chose to be mine.
I’ll never be anything other than true;
Because, Dovey darling, I truly love you!”

Dovey said “Lovey, this romance is fun,
But what of the days when the romance is done?
When I’m old and I’m saggy, where will you be?
Will you still then be in love with me?”

“Oh Dovey”, said Lovey, a grin on his face,
“My love is secure, in a very safe place.
I water it daily and feed it good food
To ensure that my love is always renewed.”

Said Dovey, “You’re sweet and you do make me smile,
But what if this sweet talk is some sort of guile?
Perhaps after all, I still will get hurt
If you persuade me to lift up my skirt.”

“Oh Dovey!” said Lovey, who looked really shocked
“Your suspicion of me has got me all rocked!
Whilst it can’t be denied that I am full of lust,
Please rest assured that my love you can trust

Never a second passes each day
When I’m not thinking of you in some way.
It’s not just your body I’m hungering for –
It’s your heart and soul and your mind and lots more!

I adore you, my Dovey, and you can believe
That in no situation would I ever leave.
No matter if you come to my bed or not,
Still will I cherish the love that I’ve got.

In fact, I’ve decided, only just now
That I’ll live my life by this very vow –
Things carnal and fleshy I hereby abjure;
My love for you will strictly be pure!”

At this Dovey sighed, and looked all forlorn
“My Lovey, I must tell you now that I am torn.
No man ever has told me something that sweet –
But… a true balanced diet must include meat.

This vow you have offered, while noble and all,
Gives me no recourse to answer the call
Of my womanly fires when they burn so bright
On a hot summer day, or a cold winter’s night.

And frankly, my Lovey, you’re ever-so-dreamy –
I’d envisaged us doing so many things steamy.
I’m quite disappointed, if I’m to be honest –
For I’ve purchased some butterscotch to spread upon us!”

Well Lovey squared up, took his Dove in his arms
And said “Darling, I yield up my vows to your charms.
Only one thing I ask, and it’s not much to grant –
Respect me after you’ve been in my pants.”

And so to the shrubbery the young lovers fled,
Not patient enough to head home to bed.
The hedges and bushes shivered all shooky
As Lovey and Dovey went wild with the nooky.

And it just goes to show, as I always say
That where there’s a will, there’s usually a way
And where there’s a won’t, there should be a maybe –
So come home to me, and let’s do it, baby!!

© Darryn Roberts 2002

Poem: ONE FIRE

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So, I don’t have a lot of poetry from my old website left to bring over. I guess I’m going to have to write some new poetry or something pretty soon. That’s not as easy as it sounds, at least initially. One must prime the pump, so to speak, and then when the muse strikes, keep it going as long as possible. Here’s where you, loyal reader, can help. After all, a blog may only be as good as its writer, but it’s only as valid as its audience. Is there a subject you’d like me to attempt? A particular form of poetry you’d like to see? Perhaps you’d prefer to see more rambles, more reviews or something else entirely. I’m looking forward to your suggestions, so let rip.

One Fire

One inexhaustible fire
Burning in
Two hearts and bodies
Leading to
Three words
Which mean the world.
Four weeks we’ve shared
Which seems like
Five minutes to me
And its gonna be
Six days til I see
You again.
Seven oceans I would cross
To hear those words and see that smile.

© Darryn Roberts 2001

Poem: LETTER TO THE WORLD

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About ten years ago, I found myself in a very low place. Much later, I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety, and these days I have it mostly in check, through a combination of mild medication, lifestyle choices, and attitude. Back then, however, I was not only suffering the anguish caused by the black dogs, but also dealing with the confusion of not knowing what the problem was, or even that there was a definable problem. I just thought “I’m a bit mental” and went about being miserable and inflicting misery on other people as well. I have made some truly stupid directional choices in my life, and I don’t avoid responsibility for them, but I now know why some decisions I thought were good ones were actually anything but. A lot of my issues are rooted in low self-esteem and insecurity, and so I took a lot of steps to overcompensate and validate myself in the eyes of the world, a habit which I guess may have started in childhood.
Anyways, as I say, it all came crashing down on me about a decade ago and I went to see a counsellor. This was not a process I enjoyed, and I only went twice. I think one leg of the journey I hadn’t made then was the realisation that I need to reach out and open up, instead of bluffing my way through, and so I didn’t get as much out of the process as I might have, I dunno. Water under the bridge now, in any event, but one of the things I did take away from counselling was the need to be more honest WITH myself, even if I couldn’t (at that stage) be totally honest ABOUT myself to the rest of the world.
Long story short, here’s a poem I wrote as a cathartic exercise during that period.

Letter To The World

I want to blow your mind,
And make you gasp in awe at me.
I want you to find
That I’m what you want to see.
I want to be adored,
Admired and respected.
I want not to be ignored
And not to be rejected.
I want to know that you feel great
‘Coz I was in your day.
I want to have you as my mate
Because you like my way.
I want you to sigh and swoon,
To go weak at the knees,
Whenever I am in the room,
And keep your eyes on me.
I want to be the Pivot,
The Centre and the King –
Attention? You can give it
And love every little thing.
I want to be the first
One that you notice in all cases.
I want to make you want to burst
And leave wonder on your faces.
I want you to pine for me
When I’m doing something else.
I want you to want my company
Just because I am myself.
I want to take your breath away.
I want you to think I’m wise.
I want to see your lust for me
Shining in your eyes.
I want to be the guy who says
What everybody thinks.
I want to be the very best
And for you to buy me drinks.
I want to be the brightest
So that you all need my glory.
I want there to be quietness
When I’m telling a story.
I want you to think I’m cool
And witty and so clever.
I want to make you stare and drool,
To win at each endeavour.
I want to know you’re feeling
Whenever I’m around,
That I’ve set your senses reeling.
I want to astound.
I know, down deep, I’m not the man
Who’ll make you feel this way.
I should just deal with what I am –
But I WANT IT! anyway.

© Darryn Roberts 2002

Review: THE WINTER’S TALE

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We went to see The Winter’s Tale last night, which is most appropriate because a) it’s winter in Sydney and b) it’s also winter-y in Sydney, with chilling cold and sheeting rain, and even though sunset is about 530pm it’s dark by 430 because of the weather. This production was put on by Shakespeare On the Green, a small local company whose performances we have enjoyed for the last few years, having seen them also present The Comedy of Errors & A Midsummers Night’s Dream. Both of those were performed outdoors, so it was quite foresighted of them to change their MO and use a hall instead this year. Not being a Shakespearean scholar of any note, merely a bloke who knows lots of trivial information, I would guess that The Winter’s Tale is one of the Bard’s lesser known plays. It’s certainly a story that held my interest throughout, as it varied from Othello-esque palace drama in the first act to rude pastoral comedy for most of the second.
The Winter’s Tale centres on Leontes, king of Sicilia, who is wracked with suspicion that his best friend Polixenes, king of Bohemia, is having an affair with Hermione, his queen (who is heavily pregnant with their second child – although Leontes believes that Polixenes may be the father). Throughout the first act, he falls from noble hearted monarch to base paranoid villain, instructing his courtiers to do murder, imprisoning the queen and eventually ordering the newborn princess to be abandoned in the wild. The first act closes with Leontes ridden down by despair – his wife & his heir dead, his best friend estranged, his court distrusting or dispersed, and his daughter lost. He comes to terms with the fact that all his suspicions were for naught, Hermione being proved loyal posthumously, and must now deal with the guilt and loss his behaviour has wrought.
The second act opens sixteen years later. Leontes’ lost daughter Perdita was rescued as an infant by a Bohemian peasant family, who found her (complete with the obligatory tokens of royal provenance) after the courtier entrusted with her disposal was et by a bear. All who know her remark on her grace, her beauty & elegance; her foster family believe her to be a fairy changeling. In one of those typically awkward Shakespearean plot twists, she has fallen in love with the prince of Bohemia, Florizel – the son and heir of Leontes’ former friend Polixenes – and he with her. Whilst she knows his true nature, her family believe him to be merely a wealthy landowner and welcome him as a commoner into their home for feasts and parties. Polixenes grows concerened at his son’s increasingly frequent absences from court, and he resolves to discover what’s afoot by disgusing himself and his advisor Camillo as simple folk. They find themselves observing the peasant family partying down, celebrating the betrothal of Florizel & Perdita. Polixenes reveals himself and orders Florizel to abandon Perdita, threatening to have the peasant family killed for reaching above their station. However, true love runs true, and the youngsters resolve to flee Bohemia. They are abetted by Camillo, who longs to return to his native Sicilia (he fled there when he helped Polixenes escape Leontes paranoid murder plot). Camillo instructs the kids to sail for Sicilia and present themselves as married and representatives of Polixenes, claiming he wishes to re-establish relations with Leontes.
On their arrival they are warmly welcomed by the repentant, but still guilt-stricken, Leontes; however, they are soon undone by the arrival of Polixenes and Camillo who reveal that Florizel fled from court and Perdita is a commoner. Luckily, Polixenes’s wrath is soon stayed by the revelation (by the peasant family) that Perdita was a foundling; an investigation of those fortunately found tokens establishes the truth, and everyone is reconciled. Further joy ensues when the noblewoman Paulina displays a statue of Hermione that is so warm & lifelike it amazes the gathered royalty; of course that’s because it’s the actual Hermione, whose death was faked all those years ago against just such a happy day as this…. and they all live happily ever after.
Shakespeare On The Green put on small, intimate performances – if there were two dozen in the audience last night I would be surprised. They costume appropriately (although neither completely in period or modern, everybody’s place in the world is easily identifiable by their garb – good job, well done by costumier Kate Shanahan), and prop sparingly but effectively. This leaves the focus on the craft of the actors, and some fine craft indeed was on display here. The standout for me was Tristan McKinnon as Leontes, who conveyed all the nuances of a king who believes he’s been betrayed, only to finally discover he betrayed himself, with marvellous credibility. It didn’t hurt that he looked a little like Viggo Mortenson and sounded a little like David Wenham, either. At times I loathed Leontes, at other times I pitied him, and if you can evince that kind of investment from the audience you’ve done the job. Cat Martin in her dual roles as Hermione and the peasant matriarch was competent and then some, exuding noble benifence & aggrieved innocence as the first, and homespun gravity as the second. Nobody in the rest of the cast – Brendon Taylor, Emma Harris, Chris Lewis, Alistair Buchanan & Elisabeth Tuilekutu – let the team down either; if there were any fluffed lines or missed cues I didn’t pick up on them. Everyone enunciated, everyone projected – and these are things that can make a small theatre delightful or discouraging. Special mention to the very versatile Andrew Chessher who not only attended to special effects, he also played in- and out-of-scene music and even managed to stroll on stage in a couple of roles. As usual, everyone in the company played more than one role, and the directorial staff of Sher Guhl & Victor Kalka have obviously drilled their performers on the importance of distinction between characters.
So, all in all, this was a most satisfactory and enjoyable introduction to The Winter’s Tale for me, all the more so because there was free mulled wine on offer. I’ll be back for more Shakespeare On the Green next season, and if you get the chance, then you should get along to a production as well.
Cheers,
Darryn

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