Mass shootings: a cultural narrative

The rest of the civilised world and particularly Australia (with the smugness akin to the reformed smoker), see gun control as the blindingly obvious solution to mass shootings in America. I certainly do, and I’m aware many Americans do too.

Aside from gun control, though, I think there is also an issue to do with narrative within the culture. By this I mean that certain narratives arise within and help to define cultures. They follow an evolutionary path – diversification, sifting, and selection – and those selected for steer societal mores. Once embedded they can be powerful and hard to shift, as each new instance of the pattern beds it in even more, making it seem more just the way things are, and people use it to their own ends.

Mass shooting is now a powerful cultural narrative in the US for the disaffected of a particular type to use like an unimaginative recipe, so that ‘while all the stories are true, some names and identifying details have been changed.’ This knee-jerk narrative has to change, so that going on a shooting spree isn’t the obvious first port of call if you are deeply at odds with the world.

It also has to be said that the public response to these events has also become it’s own narrative.

I don’t know how you go about changing these cultural narratives – we have ones of our own in Australia; I wish I did.

Added to the Pandora Web Archive!


I’m thrilled and honoured that my site has been selected for preservation by the National Library of Australia, and will be re-archived regularly in their Pandora Australian Web Archive. The thing that makes me happiest is that my Pemberley Image Gallery will be archived. Thanks so much NLA! And a special thanks, too, to Marianne Mettes from PuppetOodle who suggested my site to them.


I feel fine

(My teenage drawing of George)

Freecycle is pretty cool, isn’t it? A freecycler just called at my door to take my box of Beatles newspaper and magazine clippings. It feels good to have given them to someone who really wants them, as I’m not interested in the clippings anymore.

The collection included some Beatles Monthly magazines, a few posters, some ghastly half-photo half-drawing portraits that Mobil service stations must have been giving away in 1964 and other amusingly dodgy promotional material, and accounts of their notable visit to Adelaide. Their biggest crowd ever, at 300,000 people about a third of Adelaide’s population at the time, lined the route from Adelaide Airport to the city. Unfortunately I wasn’t there, as I was just a bit young. I remember looking at the ticket queue with curiosity and maybe a little longing though – it must have been important to me if I cut articles out of the newspaper.

The shape of oil dependence: unfortunate but maybe not too far-fetched?

Pelican photo credit: Charlie Riedel via the Big Picture

Abu Ghraib photo credit: via The New Yorker

Vocational guidance circa 1973

VG test 1973

I’ve had a lull in my work, and instead of powering ahead with my ideas of an exhibition to do with stuff, I’ve been clearing out stuff from our cupboards. I’m sure the two are linked in some fairly powerful way, so I’ve just been going with it.

One of the interesting things I found was a vocational guidance test that I thought I did when I was about 14, but is dated 1973 when I was 20! My parents must have been worried about me… I certainly had little idea at that time about what I wanted to do. This is how the test profiled my interests:

1. mechanical
2. artistic
3. literary
4. outdoor – natural world
5. computational
6. social service
7. scientific
8. musical
9. persuasive
10. clerical

The first 2 were way above average, the last 3 far below average. The mechanical interest surprised everyone. Looking back it amazes me now how accurate and consistent these results were,  and how muddling along eventually brought me to making for the theatre and sculpture, which dovetail so neatly. The persuasive and clerical ratings are funny. I still have hardly a persuasive bone in my body when it comes to manipulation and telling people how and who they should be. And what little record keeping and book keeping I have to do is always a bind.

The occupational recommendations are typed by hand on a typewriter, pre-computer, of course. I think the asterisks are for careers that accommodate multiple areas of interest.

VG test 1973

I did enjoy volunteer work as a public radio announcer at one time, and love radio, so it’s surprising to see radio announcer considered only in it’s commercial role. No mention of librarian, which is strange. A beautician under artistic is a stretch. The female forms actress, tailoress and authoress look quaint, we just don’t use those terms anymore, do we? I did try editing and teaching, and never had any aspirations to be a chorus girl!

Spurious colour association

It’s always a bit disturbing to have brand loyalty for spurious reasons, especially when you know it’s exactly what the corporation intended. It’s idiotic, but give me a row of petrol stations and I scan for BP’s greenwashing green and yellow because they makes me feel optimistic in comparison to yellow and red, or black, blue and red.

Boycotting BP is not a particularly rational response to their disastrous handling of the oil rig disaster either. There are plenty of other oil corporations probably operating under equally dodgy regulations, and it doesn’t touch the key issue that we are hitting our limits. But there is a bit of satisfaction in abandoning them.

I must have pretty strong colour association. I found myself reaching for my purple tape measure the other day and half expecting chocolate.

Remembering Paris


I was in Paris a year ago and it’s fun to look back at my photos and see what I was doing each day.  One of the things I liked best was watching everyday life. I don’t know what those big iron bollard-type things on either side of old Parisian outer doors are called, but I imagine they protect the stonework from getting side-swiped by vehicles going in and out. They are often decorative, and these ones looked rather like bee hives. As I approached I inadvertently interrupted this elderly lady counting the ridges on the bollard on the other side with her walking stick. When I was past, I looked back and she was counting them on the other side in what seemed like a little ritual!

A few doors down there was a gate rather than a door and  I could see through into a manicured courtyard, a palatial-looking home for these two cats. (Click photo to see it bigger at Flickr). The tabby came up to me and said hello through the bars of the gate.

Cats in Paris

I loved old doors on the street like this one, so huge and solid, and with so many layers of peeling paint. Can you see a face?

Old door

Old door

Maybe I’ll post some more over the next few weeks? I didn’t post much while I was travelling.

Did you make cubbies?

(Polyglot Puppet Theatre: We built this city)

When my kids were little, lounge cleaning became cubby time. (Is it only Australians that call playhouses cubbies?) The sofas would be pushed together and blankets draped over them to make an enclosed space to play in while the vacuuming was done all around. Then, more often than not, the seemingly new spaciousness of the vacuumed room made for wilder plans and the cubby would be extended and enhanced with more blankets propped up crazily by brooms, the drying rack, and chairs. It gave birth to a new understanding of the old saying that nature abhors a vacuum.  Inevitably someone’s temper would fray, or vital pegs would come adrift one too many times, and it would all collapse into a just an ordinary pile of blankets, and it would all be over until next time.

We had a favourite picture book by Shirley Hughes, Sally’s Secret, which was about a little girl who has a cubby in the garden. Sally has various inadvertent 
visitors, one a ladybird, and then she and a friend dress up and play ladies with a little tea set.

Our kids and their friends played cubbies in spaces under shrubs or overhanging branches, too. Sometimes the houses were for games with soft toys, other times gang clubrooms. Later, one friend in the cul de sac used garden clippers to tunnel a cubby into a thicket of bushes in the nature reserve at the back of the houses. Nearby the kids made a treehouse, only to discover that a bunch of boys from another street (and school and religion!) regarded it as theirs. Exciting rivalry ensued with much messaging and spying, but strangely I don’t remember how it was resolved. There was also camping in the garden, which might be regarded as a kind of advanced cubby play?

For a few years on our Christmas beach holidays when my nieces came to stay, five of the six kids would share the bunk room and convert the whole room and all the beds into a maze of interconnecting blanket cubbies. So it would stay for days at a time, with the kids disappearing inside for long stretches between trips to the beach. It was guaranteed to produce tantrums from the littlest who was not always allowed in. Years later during a Christmas dinner when much wine had gone down and someone jokingly came up with the idea of a ‘family sorry day’, there was a confession of deliberate provocation, though at the time, of course, there was never proof.

The handful of children I taught at an alternative school in 1980 were seriously into cubbies, too. The school resided that year in a government house in O’Connor. The kids constructed an elaborate cubby in the pile of firewood outside, making passageways and rooms and furnishing them with odds and ends for their games. It would be outlawed at any school these days.

I’m guessing that the intimacy of a room of one’s own; the satisfaction of the process of construction; the collaboration, role play, decisions, secrets and power play of the group; and the way a cubby becomes whatever imagined world you desire must all factor into what makes cubbies such essential play.

Do your kids make cubbies, or did you?

(Polyglot Puppet Theatre: Interview with Sue Giles about We built this city)


Unusual Australian flowers at the markets today. I imagine they were specially there for Valentine’s day, though it’s not a big deal here.