Smile a while, forget the bile

If I should die, let this be my epitaph: his only proof for the existence of God was music.

Kurt Vonnegut

Things keeping Karen sane week ending 30/08/2008 –

• The boy. Because he always knows what to say.
• Slaughterhouse-Five.
• The Mountain Goats touring.
• Pictures of my house. Our house.
• Discussions about shelves in said house. Yes – discussions about shelves, and packing, and washing machines and moving, are joy to me right now.
• Certain rumours about certain wolf-related bands.
• My kitty. He’s patient and brave and he knows he’s still the best kitty in the world. Even with the imposters.

So, I’ve been reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. It’s been a really long time since I’ve been so taken with a book. For a story centering around death and war, it’s had a seriously uplifting effect on my state of mind. So it goes.

First, it makes we want to write. And write really well. And right now I have no time for any of that writing nonsense. 12 hour days are slowly (actually, probably quite quickly) atrophying my brain.

But yes. I want to write.

Second, I’ve been doing that thing that I always do when I stumble upon something I love – I obsess about it. Not one to do things by halves, I’ve read the Wikipedia entry and looked at all the fan sites I could and read every obituary there was when he died on April 11, 2007. One day after my 30th birthday. Pretty much around the time that the wind got behind me and blew me into a million and one amazing directions.

And he was honestly the most amazing person. And clearly one of the most sensible people to have ever lived on this fucked up planet. And I’m a little sad that I didn’t understand the genius while the man was still alive.

Today was a day that felt like defeat. Through most of it I felt a hammer coming down on my head, regular as a metronome, to ensure I stayed nice and bogged down in metaphorical crap. I was alternately angry and close to tears.

But if you look hard enough there’s golden light. Or if you’re lucky enough, someone reminds you.

35 days.

Swing low sweet chariot

Two things.

First, the gravity of what something or someone means to you will never, ever be fully appreciated until you get even the smallest whiff of it being taken away. Or messed with. Or just not the way it should be. Once you get that feeling – the feeling that the ground could fall out from under your feet at any moment – you metaphorically grab hold of everything you have in your life and swear to every god there ever was that you will never, ever take it for granted so long as everything is made right in the end.

And I know it will be. It’s just that there is nothing more important in the world then your health and the health of the people you love.

Second, it’s really nice to know that your level of fandom (to the end of dorky ridiculousness) for a band and/or any of its members is shared by someone else out there in the intersphere. This blog post by Emma-Lee Moss of band Emmy The Great pretty much articulates why I have an aversion to meeting any of those musicians that I hold at pedestal height. John Darnielle included. I have no doubt I’d be a dribbling, mute mess.

I like this article for other reasons though. It manages to explain beautifully what it means for someone to have REAL charisma. It’s not about demanding attention when you walk into a room or how many 13 year old girls you can make scream and pass out. Also, it cements the absolute certainty I have about JD being one of the most fascinating people on earth. Not that I needed help there, but it’s nice to have the validation.


I have terrible discipline when it comes to books. I have at least 3 or 4 going at once, and usually at least one of them is something I’ve read before. For instance, right now on my bedside table (the one on the right side) I have The Little Red Riding Book, Down Under by Bill Bryson (read before, at least twice), 33 1/3 Greatest Hits (a birthday gift from the boy) and now, owning to a probably ill-advised trip to Ariel Bookshop on Saturday, Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson.

Which one I pick up will depend on the mood I’m in when I go to bed. I’m almost scared to pick up the Winterson book – once I do, I know everything (including sleep) will probably be forgotten until it’s done. I pick up Bill Bryson when I need to feel like the world is full of sunshine and witty anecdotes. I pick up 33 1/3 when I need soul food and want a short grab to read and finish in one night. The writing book is great, and well written, but a bit of hard work. There’s only so much grammar your brain can take at the end of the day.

We were talking on the weekend about making time for reading. Making time. It’s the thing I fret about most. Reading, particularly novels, just seems so frivolous. There’s always email inboxes to wade through and blog posts to write and new Wolf Parade albums to listen to (downloading is bad kids okay??!!). But I think you need to find the things that help your mind breathe, and make at least a little time for them. Because if you can’t find a good 4 hours to sit in the sun contemplating life, 45 minutes of this –

This new world weighs a yatto-gram.

But everything is trial-size; tread-on-me tiny or blurred-out-of-focus huge. There are leaves that have grown as big as cities, and there are birds that nest in cockleshells. On the white sand there are long-toed clawprints deep as nightmares, and there are rock pools in hand-hollows finned by invisible fish.

Trees like skyscrapers, and housing as many. Grass the height of hedges, nuts the swell of pumpkins. Sardines that would take two men to land them. Eggs, pale-blue-shelled, each the weight of a breaking universe.

And, underneath, mushrooms soft and small as a mouse ear. A crack like a cut, and inside a million million microbes wondering what to do next. Spores that wait for the wind and never look back. Moss that is concentrating on being green.

– might just do.

I get to see her speak on May 20 as part of Sydney Writers Festival. I’ve never been to anything to do with the festival before, and she is giving the opening address at the Opera House. I heard her speak once on Sunday Arts, and one thing she said about art being ‘an air pocket in an upturned boat’ has stayed with me all this time and really changed the way I look at a lot of things. I can’t wait to hear her speak again.

‘Cause I dream in skin-scented sentences

So for some time now I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a writing course. Actually, a lot more than toying with. I pretty much had found the course I wanted, and short of laying the money down, it was a done deal. It’s not something I’ve done before – i.e. concentrate that hard on writing. I write little stories for myself and the wider idea of the intertron. I moan about work and crap on about music. But it was only really around 18 months ago that I realised what I do is write. I write. I’m not sure I’m a writer, but I definitely write something resembling stuff.

Which lead me to thinking about honing crafts and brushing up skills and potentially turning a way to pass time into something that is maybe useful. Maybe.

But then comes the old issue of time. I am so time poor right now. Every piece of time that I DO have is used, I would say, pretty damn efficiently. Except for that Project Runway thing. But I mean, c’mon!! Monday nights SUCK and you gotta have somethin’, right? Anyway. What I mean to say is, when I have any time right now, I chock it full of stuff. Usually weekend stuff. With the boy. And if I were to fork out, say, $400 on a 4 week writing course, I had better be prepared to re-negotiate the time thing on some level.

And long story short, I’m not sure I’m there yet. Maybe in a few months, or maybe when I get all my eggs/clothes/toiletries/pets/furniture in the one basket/house. But there’s something more then this that’s stopping me here – I seem to have lost the habit. The writing every day habit. When I look through the archives of this thing I kinda shock myself with my early diligence. But then, back in late 2005, the blog was definitely a way to wind up the day. It was a thing to sign off to. A last call of the day. I have another one of those now.

But here’s the thing – I think I need to get back to that writing every day thing. As a starting point. At least every day I’m in the Windsor house. Because, well, it’s a habit really. Isn’t it? And if I’m not writing every day, or most days, right now, then I doubt an expensive course will really help with that.

So that’s the plan. Just to write. And to see where that takes me.