The view from our flat during our stop-over in Hong Kong.
I’m traveling for the next three months in Europe. Michael is on long service leave, and we are visiting Tim and Tanya who are now living in Switzerland, and then taking off somewhat nomadically east to west across the Mediterranean countries. I feel very fortunate.
With Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s leadership looking pretty rocky at the moment, I thought I better jump in and post these photos of finger puppets of her and Opposition Leader Tony Abbot before she isn’t Prime Minister any more! They were made for the Women’s Health Magazine late last year and appeared in the January 2013 issue, illustrating a fluff article about Aussie excellence, in this case how good Australian politicians are at insulting each other in parliament.
The magazine first contracted me to make finger puppets of then PM Kevin Rudd and OL Tony Abbot and their deputies in June 2010, but almost the next day Rudd was rolled by Julia Gillard. Don’t want to be gazumped again!
There are few more photos of the puppets in my photoset at Flickr. Of course I had some fun doing silly things like this with them before they were shipped. Do I hear a resounding ‘ewww!’?
I don’t venture into the world of Jane Austen commentary very much anymore, but did notice some talk about the new Jane Austen stamps released in the UK recently. You can read about them more extensively at Austenprose, where there are also larger versions of each individual one. They were illustrated by Angela Barrett.
Stamps are interesting in the way that they are designed to carry a lot of meaning, but are ephemeral and largely unlooked at in everyday use; and now mostly unused except for collectors. They tend to rely on cultural understandings, large national ones – here pride in JA as an English author – and also more smaller cultural pools – here what is at the heart of what the novels are about, drawing on people knowing the novels well enough to understand what the illustrator is referring to. It’s a lot for an artist to convey in one tiny square of paper!
I was surprised to see them described by a few people as awful. I rather like the sketchy softness alongside quite decorative details. I find myself coming back to look at them and thinking about how Barrett did them and what she picked out as the symbolic moment for each novel – not what I would choose necessarily, but I like her choices. A lot of thought went into them.
One thing that intrigues me is just how much meaning is implied in what initially – and this is perhaps what people were disliking – seem like pretty bland choices of scene and delivery. The Pride and Prejudice illustration seems bland and static but then we know what a revelation his smile was to Elizabeth and how it is a critical moment in her dawning sense of how wrong she has been about him; and the dominance/submissiveness in the picture seems part of her realisation. (Funny, in the light of one friend jokingly terming it the ‘JA blow job stamp’). The Mansfield Park drawing is quiet and still too, but you can see the warmth and light of family on the other side of the door (both attractive and terrifying), and see all Fanny’s tension in the way she is holding herself and clenching her fists. And again with Emma all the action is in her inward contemplation and shame. We know why and what’s going on in all these moments, without it being spelt out more. This seems rather like the novels themselves, apparently small time in context and lacking in action, but rich with internal observations, understandings and things not said.
I hadn’t heard of Angela Barrett before but the illustrations I saw on searching are wonderful. Here is another I liked of a doll/puppet maker at work:
It’s a problem when inaccurate maps are used in apps that are supplying what might be critical emergency information to the public.
Yesterday in our record heat many people were using Fires Near Me, an app by the NSW Rural Fire Service. It maps and advises on bushfires that are currently burning in NSW. It’s a good development and a useful app. But on an iPhone (there is an android version) it relies on the half-baked Apple Maps. Check out some of the inaccuracies in my region around Canberra. Firstly, here is the accurate Google map of the area (on the left) compared with the Apple Map version.
On Apple Maps Cooma and Goulburn are both grossly misplaced, Queanbeyan to a lesser extent. Here’s how Cooma and Goulburn (about 40 km and 20 kms out respectively, and on the wrong sides of the highways) appeared on Fires Near Me yesterday, with the red dots showing where they should be:
It seems that the fire locations are probably right, but not the towns, but you have to have local or on-the-ground knowledge to know that. Last December Victoria Police spoke of their concern about people being led astray into a wilderness area when they were trying to get to Mildura using Apple Maps. The mistake was not wholly Apple’s, and perhaps this is a similar problem, a confusion over same-named larger council areas.
Luckily yesterday this wasn’t critical, but you can imagine in some scenarios it could be. The app comes with a barrage of disclaimers, and the sensible advice to gather information from a variety of sources. But given the propensity to blame authorities (and more recently, the scientists providing information that warnings are based on) for lack of adequate warning after the fact, even in circumstances that are impossibly unpredictable, you can imagine what would be made of wrong information like this if it did play a role in a bushfire tragedy.
I don’t want to be seen at all as down on emergency service organisations. They do an amazing job and we rely on them. They are also trying to keep up with new technology and avenues of communication, some unrealistic public safety expectations and pressure from an increasingly litigious culture which seems to require scapegoats.
This new adult puppetry show, Murder by Erth, is now playing at the Sydney Festival until 19 January. It looks really interesting, and while Erth has made some amazing productions over the last few years to do with Australian natural history, it’s exciting to see them branching out into something contemporary, dark and different. Rod Primrose from Black Hole (whose Coop was one of the highlights of Unima 2008 for me) is the puppetry director.
Last April I made these four muppet characters for a student film project. I never saw the resulting video, so I can’t say how it went! The Mushroom King technically isn’t really a muppet; instead he was made to dangle on a string, and his mouth is moved remotely using a bike cable.
I’m trying out the WordPress gallery here. It annoys me that you cant’t see the tentacle monster’s one eye in the thumbnail, but once you click on the thumbnails the gallery viewer itself is quite cool. Time will tell if I persist with using the galleries!
I was sad to read that Nigel Triffit died on 20 July. Peter J. Wilson in The Space Between : The Art of Puppetry and Visual Theatre in Australia says‘Of the many outstanding individual contributors to the development of puppetry and visual theatre in Australia over the past thirty years, none stands out more than Nigel Triffit’. He details Triffit’s theatre history, but unfortunately there is little online to link to. Triffit created Momma’s Little Horror Show, Secrets, the Tap Dogs, the Eternity tap section of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and others.
Earlier in the year I posted about a number of events involving puppets and puppetry that were being planned for the Cultural Olympiad accompanying the London Olympics, so you might like to review them now the games are upon us. Some like OverWorlds and Underworlds have already taken place, but Godiva debuts tomorrow in Coventry, and then proceeds to London over the following week. You can follow them on @GodivaAwakes.