it’s been a while.

and i’d like to start writing more often.

over the past few months i’ve been plagued by a series of intense and often unpleasant dreams.

these dreams often wake me and leave me wide awake, my mind racing, through the early morning hours. sometimes, i can go back to sleep, but more frequently, i’m left awake and unsettled, waiting for the eerie twilight hours to pass. the world seems a bit less friendly, a little less familiar, when everyone is sleeping.

lately i’ve been spending a lot of time getting acquainted with these hours.

sometimes, when my dream is particularly menacing, i wake up myself (and allen) from yelling out. it’s unlike me. in the morning i wake up feeling like i’ve experienced a number intense situations through the night. it’s exhausting.

last night’s dream really shook me. i woke myself up calling out for help. it was just a whisper though, so allen didn’t wake up, even though i was trying really hard to yell.  in my dream, it was the early evening and i was walking to down cleveland street on my way to central station. i realised it was darker than usual and i was uneasy. i noticed a man approaching from the other direction, walking on the sidewalk toward me. as he got closer, he looked me in the eye and gestured ‘you and me’ before walking past me.  his intimidating glare frightened me, and so i sought refuge in a taxi that i saw hovering next to the footpath. as i approached, i realised the taxi driver and man were working together. the taxi driver sped away, leaving me vulnerable on the street. i was surrounded by an overwhelming darkness. i searched frantically for some light, or anyone who could help me, but everything was dark. as the man approached me i called out for help but my voice wasn’t working. i woke myself up rasping the words ‘help’.

a post i wrote in fifteen minutes

perfectionism can be a crippling disease and the biggest roadblock to creativity. it’s the reason i don’t post much. it’s also the reason i often don’t pursue a lot of the projects i’d like to do.

“when i have more time, i will be able to completely surrender myself to this project, and it’s going to be amazing.”

this is the thought that plagues me, because deep down i know i’ll never have ‘more time’. it also doesn’t have to be ‘amazing’. it can be just ‘okay’ as well. an ‘okay’ project can eventually be developed into something amazing. giving myself the permission to produce ‘okay’ projects means i can produce more. and producing more will help me to identify the projects where potential exists, and also the ones i’d rather let go.

doing a project in, say, fifteen minutes, and giving myself the freedom for the product to be just ‘okay’ is a notion so liberating that i hope it will enable me to produce more.

to reference one of my favourite quotes by Ira Glass:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I’ve just gotta make stuff that’s ‘just not that good’. stuff that is trying to be good. that has potential, but it’s not good. my work, it doesn’t always have to have this special thing that I want it to have.

Because one day, after fishing for years with not a single bite, there will be a magnificent fish on the end of the line. and it will taste delicious!

respect your elders

if you know me at all, you are probably familiar with my deep curiosity in the elderly. and so, in light of what feels like a reinvigorated, or even completely fresh interest in our fabulous dignitaries, i’ve really enjoyed following projects like advanced style, simone rocha’s AW13 Collection dedicated to her grannies and karen walker’s SS13 campaign.

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but equally, i’m surprised it’s taken so long for creative types to take inspiration from these sassy sistas (and brothers!).

these guys grew up in a day devoid of distractions like tablets and smartphones and revoked of the interwebs.

Instead they would amuse themselves with any of the following activities*:

- dictating the classics aloud to each other in a park in a act of bourgeois frivolity

- hosting daily afternoon tea sessions – and by tea, i mean gin + tonic with cucumber sandwiches

- dallying with the gardener

- mastering the art of small talk

- curating an impeccable wardrobe

- learning to ballroom dance

- becoming adept at a musical instrument

- cooking feasts and hosting opulent, extravagant dinner parties.

To put it into sobering perspective, we spend 70 hours** a week staring at a screen of some kind and sitting on our big, flat arses. We are less-well read, less polite, less impeccably dressed, probably fatter and our only ‘talk’ we feel comfortable doing is via text or, maybe, MAYBE Skype. But only with close friends.***

What the hell are we doing?

it’s no wonder we want to be like them! our nans and pops are naturally better at life than us in almost every way and i’m intrigued to know more.

i first became interested in old folks when i returned to australia at 18, rediscovered my grandparents and became paralysed by fear at the thought of their mortality. so, as part of a university class in ethnography, i interviewed my grandfather, capturing his life story on 5 hours of tape and 40 pages of transcribed notes. a cathartic exercise, it also gave me a new appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices he made in his life in the interest of his family – all the while maintaining his dry glaswegian wit and an immaculate getup.

another project that takes a leaf out of this book is starletreleased last year, but of course, i only managed to stumble across it  today, the film stars dree hemingway and besedka johnson and tells the story of a pornstar who makes the acquaintance of an elderly lady. it looks melancholy and bittersweet and i think i’m going to watch it this weekend.

*according to me

**an approximate estimated by me

*** a slight exaggeration

let a flower bloom within your heart

this week i am reading lee tran lam’s freakin’ gorgeous tribute to japan.

in her beautiful zine, she captures the landscape, cultural quirks + unique aesthetic charms through the lens of the expats who live + work there. i bought the zine at this year’s MCA zine fair way back in march, and up until recently, it’s been sitting unopened on top of an ever-expanding pile of books + magazines i am slowly but surely conquering.

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washi tape brings me all the joys.

having spent my final school years an expat in yokohama, i recognise the unexplainable pull that draws these folks (+ me) back so frequently. i think for me it’s because i’ve never encountered so many contradictions that can exist side-by-side so harmoniously. for example, my six foot frame can make me feel slightly uncomfortable when trying to navigate tiny izakayas, but equally i am reduced to a speck amongst a sea of people whenever i walk down the street in shibuya. it is a humbling experience. as a culture that values nature and tradition, they have found a way for it to work harmoniously with the neon-laden, concrete metropolises of tokyo + osaka. a culture of excess yet a tradition that values simplicity and the rules of nature (wabi-sabi).

it may seem strange, but one of my favourite things to do when i am visiting is to head to the cafe chain and indulge in a western breakfast, japanese style! this is white toast with butter, a boiled egg + a black coffee. tastes so great.

And in the spirit of nostalgia, here are some of my favourite snaps from my most recent visit to tokyo in june 2012:

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mushroom theory

of all the things i consume, i will never tire of the whimsical tales neatly packed into quarterly publication apartmento.

in particular i enjoy the short essays in the beginning of each issue, for their alternative musings of otherwise familiar daily spaces inject a refreshing new light i can use to shine on my own spaces. i have had mushroom theory tacked onto my bedroom wall for a while now. for me it serves to reduce the anguish i feel at the onset of a creative project – an anguish which i think is caused by a need to achieve perfection, which consequently leaves me paralysed + unable to progress for fear of letting the world see how imperfect i am.  the idea that imperfection is found everywhere in nature brings me relief, since nature truly is the ultimate perfection.

(some snippets from) mushroom theory by jenna sutela

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comparing food and architecture, [cedric] price is not the only important designer with culinary references. wasn’t it buckminster fuller who explained the chemical structure of the universe through pineapples? and another creative hero of mine, john cage, went mushrooming with music in mind. 

‘much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom.’ the amateur mycologist stated in a 1981 interview for the new york times.

coming from finland – a country where it’s possible to go on chanterelle outings in the central park of helsinki… it is easy to acknowledge the influence of the mushroom on local life, and even design. with so much wild nature around, it is for instance important to teach children to know a poisonous mushroom from edible ones starting with their first piece of furniture. And even the in-built ability to spot mushrooms everywhere in the surrounding environment, hunting and gathering all the time, must have an effect on how we experience life.

while all this might simply have to do with practicalities of life, or living where circumstances are somewhere in between urban and rural, i agree with cage that there is more to the mushroom when it comes to creative work. 

representing a disordered freedom void of determination and meaning, escaping erudition, mushrooms inspired his compositions based on chance operations. similarly, almost any creation can learn from the life of fungi – their spontaneity as well as symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment. 

after al, what mushrooms actually are is reproductive structures interacting with other organisms through their mycelium, decaying logs or partnering living trees, and thus leading a long life. like good ideas, they appear haphasardly and sometimes overnight, able to live almost anywhere. mushrooms were not only the source of inspiration for tapio wirkkala’s classic kantarelli vase but also the motif on a daniel palillo fashion piece. they also frequently show up on my dinner table in various different colours, shapes and sizes. 

mushrooms are a great reference point not only in size but also because of their mysterious propoerties. some mushrooms will kill you, while others, like the kombucha mushroom in tea, are considered an elixir of life comparable to the alchemical substances consumed by isaac newton and other 17th century inventors seeking longevity and ultimate wisdom. 

like the future, mushrooms are hard to predict and their preparation takes a prior intelligence to master. maybe that is why so many interesting things are happening around them. preparing for the future – just as identifying mushrooms, picking and cooking them – the more love, energy and practice goes into the process the better the result. ‘it is the element of anticipation that connects cooking and working’ as cedric price put it.

seeds, dancing + decay

i am endlessly fascinated by the beauty of transience and imperfection, and am in awe of the artists who explore this theme in their work.

below is a selection of some of the most recent treasures i have stumbled across – i hope they leave you as elated as they do me.

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danse serpentine so poetically captures how i imagine that flowers would sound and move if only they could. i could watch this a thousand times over and still be enchanted.

“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.” - Georgia O’Keffee.

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a collection of dancing leaves by yunfun tan (via wilder quarterly). i sometimes wonder why we are so quick to discard things the moment they inherit any sign of ageing / decomposition. instead, let’s enjoy the variety of shapes, colours and textures at every stage of the life cycle.

dancing 1: waltz

dancing 5: octopus

and my favourite…

dancing 6: asymmetric

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last weekend i spent a while wandering around the stalls at sydney contemporary and have been thinking a lot about a series of work by japanese artist saburo ota called seed project. as part of this project, ota collected and captured seed varietals in rice paper, carefully documenting when and where each was collected. the finished work is much like observing a diary of saburo ota’s year, communicated through the documentation of seeds rather than language. so commonplace are seeds that they are not often considered worthy of distinction in their own right. in this instance, however, they are treated like rare and valuable artefacts, frozen in time for everyone to marvel over.

i like the way saburo ota has turned traditional thinking on its head and invited us to regard the first stage of life in a new unencumbered light.