Monday, 4 May 2015

Stop fetishising paper books

I love books and I love reading, but I'm not on board with the romanticisation of paper books over their digital counterparts, as though physical books have some sort of moral superiority over ebooks.

They don't.  They both have their good and bad points.

One of these things is... much like the others, really

The batteries never go flat in a paper book, but you can't adjust the text size or contrast.  If you want to read a paper book in the dark you'll need a light of some kind, but depending on the device you're using to read your ebook you may find the illuminated screen causes eyestrain or insomnia.

There's nothing like rummaging through the cheap book bin at an op shop and finding something good in among the old Dolly Fiction and 70s cookbooks.  But with hard copy books you're limited to what's on the shelf or what you can have shipped to you, and transporting paper books takes takes time, money, and fossil fuels.  On the other hand the sheer size of the internet's cheap book bin means poking around without a clear idea what you're looking for is unlikely to dig up gold.  But if you do know what you want and it exists digitally, you can have it right now regardless of how old it is, how obscure or unfashionable, and how many physical copies exist.

You can store a whole library in a digital device, but it's not socially acceptable to perve through someone's Kindle to get a snapshot of their personality the way you can snoop on their bookshelves.  And bookshelves are lovely, but physical books are bulky and heavy and if you move around a lot - like I have - sooner or later some of your precious collection is going to either get damaged or disappear without trace.

I've personally never understood the excitement about "old book smell".  Maybe it's a sensory processing thing.  Or maybe it's because my own old books are mostly either bought from op shops or have spent years in cardboard boxes under relatives' houses, so they smell less like vanilla and ancient wisdom and more like cat pee and mothballs.

(Another thing I don't understand: the hate for organising books by colour.  They're your books, sort them however the hell you want.  But if you're buying books specifically for the colour or to use as decorations rather than to read, maybe it's time to look at your life choices.)

You can underline things and make notes in the margins of physical books more easily than you can in digital ones, but you'll have to get online or use other books to check references, verify facts or look up unfamiliar words or ideas.  My Kindle is an older model and not built for internet browsing, but it has a built-in dictionary you can access by pressing down on the word in question and can usually cope with a quick visit to Wikipedia.

Reading's not just a very good way to pick up useful knowledge and skills, but it exposes you to different opinions, point of view and experiences.  It can take you to different places and times and give you an opportunity to walk in shoes very different from your own.  Reading is important because the words and the stories are important.  The format really isn't.

So use whatever works for you.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lest we forget

Today's ANZAC Day marks 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli.

Noel Selway's done a great deal of research into the military history of his stamping grounds in the South Burnett, and when I worked for ABC Wide Bay we caught up to share his knowledge with the world.  His explanation of the historical context is really interesting.  For instance, for all the ideals of noble sacrifice and patriotism, a lot of the men who signed up had much more pragmatic reasons:
"You have to remember to the state of the country at the time. They were in one of the worst droughts the country had ever had, there was a lot of unemployment, and even the ones who were employed were just hanging in there. There wasn't a lot of money around.  Then of course there was the thrill of adventure, which I think more than patriotism was the thing that drove most of them to enlist."
Noel says many of the men who returned faced ongoing hardships, through the physical and mental battle scars and trouble reintegrating to civilian life.
"Some of the men were so badly injured, mentally and physically, they couldn't work again. The trauma of the war had its affect, and once the bond generated by fighting together or being together through those sorts of circumstances was broken, men were set adrift.
"A lot of men were unsettled. A review of the electoral rolls show a great movement of people out of the district, because the unsettled nature of the men meant that rural life held no attraction for them anymore. Lots of them moved interstate or into the cities, farms were sold off or just abandoned.  It was just like someone had stirred up an ants nest up in the country, and there was a great movement in the population."
Here are some photos from ANZAC Day in Orange a couple of years back:

Rosemary for remembrance, handed out by a Legacy volunteer
The firies had a good spot to watch the parade
Lest we forget

Saturday, 18 April 2015


Time to have a look at cool stuff and clever things...

That random foot-selfie is from a photography scavenger hunt, part of ABC Open's Lines and Curves project. You'll find the photos we took this morning, and others from around the country, on Instagram here.

Jess Marsellos has put together a mouthwatering guide to the food of the Bundaberg and North Burnett region.  Flick through it here.

Yeppoon Little Theatre's production of Cosi is on from April 24-May 2.

Terri-Anne Kingsley has put together a detailed and fascinating history of the last man hanged at Bendigo.

The Bimblebox 153 Birds exhibition - including my contribution Notes from a Bar Shouldered Dove - opens in Brisbane on May 6.  In related news, Bimblebox: Art - Nature - Science is on now in Toowoomba.

If you're in Rocky, keep an eye on Eldino's Cafe's Facebook page because they have all sorts of great stuff going on.  They're our host for our all-ages open mic show Amateur Allsorts as well as Allsorts' dirty older sister, the 15+ all-comedy show Feed the Beast.  They also run a trivia night, and you'll often find a random musician or comedian riffing in the corner when you wander in.  Get amongst it.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Five reasons not to start a literary journal

Literary journals.  They're wonderful lucky dips of reading; snippets of the eccentric, glorious and weird wrapped in brown paper and waiting for you to stick your hand in and pick one.

The internet's made creating a journal easy.  Dangerously easy.  So much so that I'm thinking of starting one myself.  That way madness lies.  So, for the benefit of my hyperactive, novelty-seeking brain, here are five reasons not to:

1.  You don't have the skills

Just liking poetry or fiction doesn't qualify you to run a journal.  Being a writer isn't enough either.  Editing a journal requires a special set of skills; to assess work on its own merit even if it's not to your personal tastes, to put together a collection that complements each other, to find a balance between different forms and moods and subject matters and a healthy diversity of writers.  It's not just about pulling together a mismatched assortment of stuff you like.  That's why you have a Tumblr.

I'm not sure what a literary hotshot's desk looks like, but it probably isn't this

2.  You don't have time

Who has time for anything these days?  "I'm busy!" is the catch cry of our generation, often code for "I have poor time management!" or "I spend too much time picking fights on Twitter!"  But a project like this does need an investment of time and effort in both the establishment and the ongoing running.

3.  You don't have the money

A lot of lit journals - especially the niche publications and noncommercial ones run by a small team or a single person - don't pay their writers.  And as long as the writers are cool with that, I'm not criticizing them for that decision.  I know what it's like to have grand visions and tiny funds.  But I believe in the philosophy of fair pay for creative workers, which means paying my theoretical journal's contributors.  And that means selling ad space, hustling for sponsors, or otherwise finding a few quid.  And as for that, see point 2, above, and point 4, below.

4.  You don't have the networks

Technology means I could, theoretically, start a journal tonight as a one woman band and do everything myself.  But to create the best possible product, something people are going to want to contribute to and advertise in and read, I'll need a posse.  Editing.  Graphic design.  tech support.  Community building.  People who know things.  People who know people.  It'll be as much time spent wrangling people as words.

5.  It's a heavily serviced market

There are a lot of literary journals around.  Some service a particular geographic area, some cover a certain genre, some create opportunities for unpublished or minority writers.  Some select their work in line with an overall aesthetic or philosophy.  The rabbit hole is deep.  And who's reading these things?  I am, with great enthusiasm, but I'm the kind of weirdo who watchs Fritz Lang's Metropolis for fun on a Saturday night so it's fair to say I'm not a common demographic.  So does the world really need another one?

This whole train of thought started because I'm in the process of giving this site a once-over in preparation for moving it over to my vanity url,  (At the moment, that redirects to an profile.)  In a few months time, I won't be using the Tea and Autumn name any more.  But I'll still own the url.

And it does sound like a good name for a journal....

If you've made it this far, check out some real ones

Some journals and suchlike I'm loving at the moment:

Black Heart Magazine
Cease, Cows
Cheap Pop
Crab Fat Literary Magazine
Vending Machine Press

Monday, 23 March 2015

Notes from a Bar Shouldered Dove

Notes from a Bar Shouldered Dove is a poem I wrote for the Bimblebox 153 Birds Project.  The project is a collection of artwork, writing, music and spoken word inspired by the bird species recorded at the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, and is having its first outing in Brisbane in May.  My contribution was written to be read aloud, with the opening and closing lines mimicking the sound of the bird's call.

Bar Shouldered Dove
Bar Shouldered Dove, Green Island.  Photo by David Midgley, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Notes from a Bar Shouldered Dove

He's doing some cooing
She's doing some cooing

I peck around primly in a grey silk shift
My russett ruff streaked with black
A flash of bobbing orange through the scrub

I don't need a shawl of showy spots
Or a brazen bonnet with a feather as high as my head
I don't announce my departure with a whistling clatter and fanfare of fluttering wings

Unlike some pigeons

I'm more peasant than princess
In my brown cloak, grey dress with cream below
And high red boots for dainty stepping from stalk to stalk as I sift for seed

She's doing some cooing
He's doing some cooing

Click through to find out more about the Bimblebox Nature Refuge and it's precarious future.