Tag Archives: psychology

How to succeed at University – by REALLY trying.

As you may be aware, I’ve been fully immersing myself in past editions of the Sydney University Newspaper: Honi Soit over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve really stumbled across some ripper stories and I particularly moved this one by Graham Sawyer from 1963:  How to succeed at University – by REALLY Trying . While he admits that it wasn’t entirely original and was based on an article from Esquire, I found it very enlightening and wish I’d read this before I first arrived in 1988 as a humble Fresher with my map out in front.

Naturally, the procession of students from school to university continues. Indeed, Year 12 is currently sitting for their HSC or final exams and all being well and that being their goal, they’ll be off to uni in the new year. So, who knows? Perhaps, this advice from over 50 years ago will stand them in good stead:

Honi Soit Supplement March 5, 1963.

THERE IS too much time wasted in your first few days at this sepulchral establishment in telling you how to pass exams. If you have managed to enrol, register, and in general to get into the University, then it is self-evident that you have the required ability and intelligence to graduate. You will find that study and exams are a mere formality and can be taken in your stride. It is far more important to enjoy your course, and to make your years at student level the most memorable of your life.

This means of course as much time as possible should be spent away from study. The successful student is not necessarily the one that passes. This you will realise within six months, so you may as well learn it now. The ultimate goal or criterion for success as a student is the attainment of power within the University. Now power is a nebulous concept and it can take many forms. There is political power, power of personality, power of opinion, power in talent, and even (and this will appeal to many) power in lack of talent. Only at University can a talentless bum be regarded as a somebody. Exploit it . . . So we present a few simple rules and paragraphs of guidance which if carefully followed will lead to your recognition as a person of status in student society.

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The Main Quad, Sydney University 2018.

  1. Arrival.

Note here that the first hundred days of your career are crucial. This is the time when foundations are laid, and it gives rise to our first rule: DONT JOIN ANYTHING YET IF YOU CAN POSSIBLY AVOID IT. Sound out which clubs are fashionable, which have the smallest membership and which you can become president of most quickly. Don’t worry if you are not interested in the Club’s activity. you will find that it mostly boils down to self-administration anyway. Don’t be afraid to go to the functions held in Orientation Week which involve afternoon tea, because the population at these is largely starving third-year students and not enquiring freshers. Some very useful contacts can be made here. In conversations, raise your age, be uncertain about what course you wish to take, be indifferent to people, be self-contained.

  1. Friends, Making and Breaking.

Don’t keep in with the friends you have made at school, you will find they’re inadequate for your progress at Uni. Seek out new friends who are rich, influential, very bright, or very talented. When going out, the rule for the student on the move is this: GO OUT WITH WOMEN WHO ARE EITHER OLDER OR VERY GOOD LOOKING. Do not waste time with any others. If you cannot attract this type of woman, mumble something about an affair with a married woman. This is as good.

For the freshettes, only go out with second-year (and upwards) fellows, this is far better for status. If you cannot get a guy, say you are being faithful to a young doctor in Melbourne. Have a picture. Don’t just go out to enjoy yourself, the luxury of this comes later. Be conscious of the impression you are making.

  1. Conversation.

There are two points which will enable you to carry on a very impressive conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Firstly make sure you have evolved a philosophy of life. Contrary to the opinion of the “world outside” students are heading back to morality. The “what’s the use — let’s do it before the bomb comes” attitude is decadent. The best philosophy for this season (and very big on sex appeal too, incidentally) is idealistic cynicism (i.e. what has happened to the moral fibre of the world etc.). Adopt this philosophy and you are sure of success. Also make the most of your background, whatever it is. Never apologise for it, no matter how squalid. Make it sound exotic. Talk about how your mother and father make love a lot. Be personal and feel free to criticise them whenever possible. Call them “oldies”. By the way, a knowledge of carracing is desirable (though far from essential) to aid conversation with the rich and social set.

  1. For Those In College.

Although a book could be written on entry into college the following hints may be of assistance.

  1. Be gracious, even when yelled at to answer the phone.
  2. Be mysterious, never take anyone (at all) into confidence.
  3. Get long distance phone calls, exciting letters . . . arrange these yourself,
  4. Rent a good painting for your room, when you have to return it say the artist was having a show, Australian art only of course.
  5. Buy from a junkyard a smashed up TR3 grille and inscribe it “September 1961, Sandra”. Put it in an obvious position.
  6. Have an affair with a girl in Sydney, and one in the old home town. Talk about it with passion, let whole college advise. Break one of the girl’s hearts, and plead guilty to the whole college.

 

5.A Note on the Academic Side.

Remember this maxim: “A friendly lecturer is like money in the bank’. Make at least one friend, preferably in the Psychology Department for they are young, generous and above all, understanding. For now, go to all Classes, lectures and do all your assignments. Do not be too smart immediately. Let lecturers think they have helped you. Preferably do your essays on time, but if you need an extension, red eyes and a plea of “family troubles” never fail. All other comments on this topic I reserve to my later paper to be entitled “How to Pass Exams, Find Religious Faith, and Have a Traumatic Love Affair Simultaneously”.

6.After the First Hundred Days . . . The Move to Power.

The primary and most important task now that you have laid the foundation is to choose the role which you must assume for the remainder of the year, unless of course you stage a conversion later in the year, which is good if done tastefully. Sportsmen are unfortunately no longer powerful student figures, real power lies in the assumption of one of the following roles and exploiting it to the full. Rule of thumb here is: Make sure your name is on it.

Different Student Types

  1. The Newspaper-Literary Complex.

Student Graffiti Artist

The home of this is the “honi” office where gather all the literary types to belt out their muses on ancient typewriters, and swap theories as to primordial excretory functions of Kerouac in 20th Century literature. It is a quick and sure rise to power for both sexes when they join “honi”, for its staff are really the elite. You merely sit in the office, think up sick or dreary jokes, find lesser people who can be sent up. All this without the need for any talent. If you have talent you should write endlessly. Be prolific; it’s fashionable. Write poetry, it takes less time. The best gimmick to assume power in the newspaper field was last year when a group got the editors thrown out and took over the paper. Don’t try this again, it has been (as it were) done to death.

The sure way to power in the literary field is as follows: Submit a very dirty fortnightly article with either your own name (if it is something like Carslaw Gardfish) or a pseudonym like Gloster or Alkie (if your name is commonplace). Never let either editor or staff see you, until you have been published three times, then boldly walk into the office and present yourself with your next opus.

You are made.

2. Student Politics Group.

At the elections in June campaign vigorously for the S.R.C. Your platform should be: More representation for freshers, and abolition of the S.R.C.. Note: only your own sex can vote for you, do not waste campaign time on members of the opposite sex. Union elections are also beneficial, but cut your teeth on the S.R.C.

Join one of the political clubs, preferably the Labour Club if you live in a blue ribbon Liberal electorate. This proves you are sincere. Join the C.N.D, (three stars) or Student Action (two stars).

Get your bloc votes from a religious group (two alternatives here) or the very helpful college Or faculty vote (especially in Engineering), When on Council, Or any semi-political committee, speak often and vigorously using big words. Go to Union Night. Resign conspicuously from small office and talk vaguely about pressure being brought to bear. Whatever you do, don’t be a Communist … it simply isn’t a good joke any more. Organise a protest . . . against anything . . .

Politics can be rewarding in ways other than simply status. There are many free trips to “conferences” and other perks which are yours for the asking.

3. The Charismatic Party-Giving Non-Joiners.

Firstly look up “charismatic” in a dictionary. Now give parties anywhere you can find, Paddington, an old ice-works, a brothel, East .Sydney Tech, (but you get the idea). Wear an impeccable suit with perhaps a bullethole in the shoulder. When people ask, give no details. Drink only Rum-and Coke (very IN). Invite the Royal George push. Spend the night in the window of a furniture store, and chunder on the display carpet. Apologise to the owner. You’ll be a legend in no time. Be a big wheel on Commem. Day. Race off women (more of this in another paper entitled “Ovals and Bars — another view of University Life”).

4.The Arty Theatre Set.

Student Theatre Type

You will find this group in the Union Theatre Foyer at any time. Go to castings for plays and make a grand entrance by slamming the door or somersaulting into the room. Try for only big parts, refuse the small ones as unrewarding. Carry a book on Becket with you wherever you go. Say you would rather read a play than see it acted. Have a successful audition with the A.B.C. and Tibor Rudas. Try to establish a Rep. Company but bow out to commercialism when you find it costs too much. Wear the hair longer than average and wear quite old clothes.

Deplore method acting and speak loudly about the corruption of the Independent Theatre. Go to lessons with Hayes Gordon even though you hate the Method but tell the set that the man is a great teacher. If you can play the piano, try to play for Revue. Compose modern jazz or perhaps a concerto for bassoon and bull-fiddle. If you are an actor have one speech that you really can do, even if it is only eight lines. Memorize the Henry VI speech (part III, act II scene 5) which goes:

For what is in this world but grief and woe,

O God! Methinks it were a happy life.

To be no better than a homely swain.

Say it very softly and sadly at any given opportunity.

5.The Intellectual or Crackpot.

Do something legendary, like in a final exam say that you disapprove of the question and answer one of your own brilliantly. Be friends with libertarians (on the way out, but still useful) or perhaps the Philosophy Department. Someone is sure to think you are brilliant. Give blood donations, steal books from Fisher, have only one set of clothes. Admit something that no one else would, like that you are illegitimate. Do bicycle presses on the Quadrangle lawns and learn the names of the Union waitresses. Shave seldom, but do NOT grow a beard (this is pretentious and only for the pseudos).

Read poetry, submit things to “honi” at a distance, Quad lounge, have many ideas and theories. Go out with the most beautiful girl around (she’ll go, don’t worry), do not shave for the occasion and wear odd socks. Change your course as often as you can. Don’t go to lectures explaining that “lecturers have nothing new or original to offer”.

So there you are. Just a few hints on how to really get down to the important issues of University life. Girls can adapt the above comments to suit themselves. Of course this has not been an exhaustive list but we really hope it may help you. Good luck! Oh, by the way, we have been asked how one tells when one has attained power. Here’s how you know . . .

  • Freshettes’ -freshers’ eyes sparkle with interest when you are introduced.
  • Jokes are made about you in student political circles.
  • People tell stories about your exploits in Manning,
  • You fail, or are sent down.

(Note: This article, though masquerading as an HONI SOIT original was actually adapted from an article in Esquire  our American counterpart. — GRAHAM SAWYER

…..

Before I head off, I just wanted to share one little anecdote from my four years at Sydney University. While I was in first year, my bag was stolen from the uni gym. Quite aside from losing my wallet, my glasses were in the bag and my clothes. So, I had to catch the train home in my gym gear and I couldn’t see. Clearly, this was one of those things which are dreadful thing at the time, but becomes funny in hindsight. Anyway, about 3 years later when I was doing my final Honours year, I received a phone call from the University’s security service. They’d found my bag. Indeed, I think it had been there the entire time.

Well, after all that time, my old bag had become quite the time capsule. There were notes in there from friends  and all sorts. What really stunned me though, was that there were two maybe three bottles of red nail polish in there. What on earth was I trying to achieve? I’ve never been particularly vain or into makeup but I felt this definitely came under the heading of “trying too hard!!!”

University Graduation

The Graduate…I must’ve succeeded at something.

So, then…I’d love to know what you thought about all of that. Do you have any advice of your own you could add? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS The sketches appeared in the original article. Artist unknown.

When It Is What It Isn’t…Friday Fictioneers.

“Perspective…It’s all about perspective,” Professor Smart explained. “See that planter box of grass… Now, lie down on the floor and look up at it. See how the grass appears so much larger. Assumes the height of an almighty jungle, although it’s barely knee-height. Your mind plays tricks on you. You always need to double check. Make sure you’re seeing what you’re actually seeing.”

This was too easy. With Professor Smart lying down on the floor absorbed by his theories, my partner crept unseen behind his desk and stole the Picasso from right behind his back. He had perfect tunnel vision.

…….

101 words.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Each week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Ronda Del Boccio.

I am a passionate photographer, and what I love most about photography is how it illuminates my vision. Helps me to see things with such clarity and intensity, that I see details and objects through the lens which I usually miss. This is a form of tunnel vision in itself, and yet it’s also showed me how different the same object can appear from different angles and how things appear much larger when you photograph them from the ground looking up. I love playing around with perspective in photography, although I’m glad I can do it digitally these days. I’m saving a fortune.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

An Unpredictable End…Friday Fictioneers.

The end was unscripted. He simply sent her a text, as cold and unfeeling as a Winter wind. Yet, her grief was brutal. A stab to the heart. A kick to the guts. She could even feel his huge mechanic’s hands tighten around her throat, along with that final gasp.

Kate was not above revenge. A crime of passion. Destroying him cell by cell with her own rat cunning. She even thought of phoning Roger.

Yet, a skerrick of reason remained. That, while she couldn’t make it better, she could always make things worse.

Now, she could only face the storm, but with renewed strength, knowing it too would pass.

……

This was my second go at this week’s prompt and it stretched so far beyond the initial photo prompt that I decided to use a different image. It looks at how we respond when someone does something terrible and unforgivable to us. Do we lose ourselves and our core values in pursuit of revenge? Or, self-destruct unable to recover from the pain?

I remember a bit of a joke from my single days: “If you can’t have the one you love, love the one you’re with. If you can’t love the one you’re with, turn out the light.”

When it really boils down to it, we really have no choice but to plough onwards through the storms of life, but there are things we can possibly do to prevent the storms from building up. Moreover, we can also be better prepared, and in peak condition when they hit. That way, we’re better positioned to be a victor, than a victim and to rise from the ashes of what ever it is that hits us.

Here is the original photo prompt thanks to :

July 18 dawn-in-montreal

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

This was another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields

Best wishes,

Rowena

Making Eye Contact at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.

“The eye, the window of the soul, is the chief means whereby the understanding can most fully and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of Nature; and the ear is second.”

Leonardo da Vinci

After spending April cavorting round the world with a ramshackle gang of dead artists, yesterday I was stealing the eyes out of the living. Well, not exactly the living artists themselves, but rather their portraits. Or, to be exact the portraits they’d submitted for the Archibald Portrait Competition, Australia’s Premier Portrait Prize.

I’m not sure exactly what drew me towards zooming in and photographing the eyes on a number of portraits. However, as a person who wears glasses and is considered “high myopic”, I am perhaps more conscious of sight. As a creative, I’m also aware of this intangible thing called vision, which seems to involve seeing the unseen. Or, even having magical x-ray eyes, where you can somehow perceive the hidden bones of things.  As a photographer, I also became aware that I see so much better through my camera lens, than my own eyes. That I’m seeing with a conscious gaze, instead of being on auto-pilot.It makes such a huge difference to my powers of observation. Have you found that?

“Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind… it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location… it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.”

Leonardo da Vinci

 

Recently, my awareness of sight and the eye was expanded further, while researching Leonardo Da Vinci. Once again, I was reminded of the special and very intensely detailed way he saw, analyzed and even dissected the minutae around him. Indeed, fueled by his insatiable curiosity, he also studied and dissected the eye itself. Clearly, you don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that Leonardo Da Vinci was an inspirational role model. Someone we should at least consider worthy of emulation, or in my case, it would be thrilling just to touch the hem of his garment.

However, what particularly concerns me is the impact that screens are having on our vision in the contemporary world. Eye contact is being superseded by people staring deep into their screens, as though they contained the meaning of life. So often, I see people who can’t get through a conversation without checking their messages. Indeed, they react with all the excitement of Pavlov’s dog when their phone beeps, rings or tap dances (if they have a smart phone), and place any face-to-face interaction on hold while they jump for the phone. There are people walking their dogs along the beach while on their phone. People walking through the park glued to their phones sending text messages. Cafes full of people sitting alone nattering away with their fingers, instead of doing what we always loved to do…people watching. Or, heaven forbid, actually having coffee with a friend.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”

Helen Keller

What is the meaning of this loss of eye contact? What are the ramifications for our communities when our eyes are glued to our screens, instead of observing and even absorbing the world around us through our own eyes? Is humanity, and not just those with a diagnosis, losing our people skills? Will we soon reach the point where robots could replace humans, not only because the technology’s there, but also because our quintessential humanity has been switched off?

I write these warnings as though I’m immune from the screen. Yet, I’m frantically typing these words into a screen myself. However, it is a conversation I’ve had in person many times, which might’ve first started five years ago when we were my grandfather’s home town of Hahndorf, in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills. It’s a very picturesque, historic village with original German Fachwerk cottages dating back to the 1850s or so. Of course, locals live there who are caught up in the normal day to day and aren’t going to gawk at the historic features everyday like someone whose just seen them for the first time. However, I think it was while we were sitting in a cafe in Hahndorf, that I heard my very first warning about mobile phones replacing human interaction. Indeed, the proprietor pointed out this Mum who was talking on her phone while out walking with her child in the pram. From an older generation, she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t talking to her child instead.

DSC_9957

I see oceans and wondrous lands looking in these incredible eyes.

Of course, mother’s are an easy target. I’m one myself, and I can appreciate the serious difficulty of trying to get any time to yourself. Moreover, I’ve also know the difficulties of trying to run a business and work from home while juggling a baby and seemingly dropping each and every ball. Yet, as much as we might need to make a dollar and have some intellectual and social stimulation, perhaps we could also pay more attention to where we are, even if it’s purely from a safety point of view.

Anyway, I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you, that the screen invasion isn’t just about mothers. It’s everywhere.

Fortunately, I’m not dependent on my mobile phone for work, and am one of those non-conformists who can be difficult to reach. Moreover, somewhere along the way, the phone went from being a source of connection, to becoming an irritation. I’ve rushed to the phone too many times, only to be greeted by a telemarketer. Or, it’s just getting to the climax of a show or I’m in the flow writing, and the phone rings. Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly rare that my phone rings and I’m excited when I answered it. Of course, for me, actually getting to the phone can be quite difficult, as can talking with my lung issues. So, I’ve reached a bit of a stand off with the phone. “Leave me alone”, and now we’re getting along just fine.

That said, I do have a mobile phone and when I haven’t left it at home, it’s very helpful for touching base with the family when we’re out. We can each go our own way and meet up again quite easily and there’s always that backstop. On any family outing, there’s usually somebody who wanders off.

Anyway, getting back to the Archibald Exhibition, my interest in photographing the eyes of paintings was piqued a few weeks ago on my last visit to the Art Gallery of NSW. I zoomed into one of Sidney Nolan’s iconic Ned Kelly portraits, and photographed Ned Kelly’s almost googly eyes inside his helmet. They were rather freaky to be honest. My son had posed next to this painting as a five year old, and instinctively mimicked Ned’s gaze and it made for a funny portrait of our then “Little Man”. I might be his Mum, but he was just gorgeous, especially when he wasn’t walking into ancient statues, threatening to decapitate them.

“A painter may be looking at the world in a way which is very different from everyone else. If he’s a craftsman, he can get other people to see the world through his eyes, and so he enlarges our vision, perception, and there’s great value in that.”

Edward de Bono

Yesterday, I just found myself drawn into the eyes of many of the portraits, and zooming in and photographing just the eyes seemed like a natural next step. Indeed, it’s actually inspiring me to try to draw eyes myself. Seeing them all zoomed in like that, has actually made it easier to see how i could be done.

I don’t know whether anyone else has gone through a gallery picking the eyes out of the paintings before. However, that’s where I finished up yesterday and I’d like to go back and take it further.

How do artists recreate the eyes of their subject, especially when the eyes are the window to the soul and should be reflecting more than the reflection of a photographer’s flash?

Well, I have no idea. I can’t even pull of my doodle of a cube and get the perspective right. Indeed, after seeing the Young Archibald collection, I thought I’d better give up an an amateur doodler as well. “I can’t draw. I can’t paint. I’m hopeless.”

Yet, I’m not.

Art is intimidating, and doubt that artists even feel they’re good enough.

That they’ve arrived.

Anyway, I found myself drawn into the amazing eyes of so many portraits.

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So, after viewing the Archibald finalists, I wandered through the older portraits looking for eyes to photograph there, and didn’t find much to inspire. Many of the subjects weren’t looking out at the viewer and were turning away. Few, if any, of these eyes captured me in quite the same way as the modern portraits. Indeed, I know they didn’t. I pondered that a little, and would’ve liked to speak with someone more knowledgeable about art and get their opinion. It’s not that I don’t value my own opinion and observations, but there are no embellished gold frames around my opinion, only my glasses.

I guess when it comes to appreciating your sight and not just taking everything around you for granted, that losing your sight would add an intensity, an urgency that most of us lack. The same could be said for myself. I’m already living on borrowed time, and I know what it means to carpe diem seize the day, and not let it fly off into the ether…get lost into the screen of a mobile phone.

Best wishes,

Rowena

DSC_9550

Ned Kelly’s eyes clearly popped out. However, he looks like he could be watching TV.

PS For those of you who might be somewhat artistically inclined, I found it interesting cropping the eyes out of the faces. While I’d zoomed into quite a few faces while I was at the exhibition, there were others which I cropped tonight at home and I was having to decided whether to include or exclude noses with each set of eyes. The whole process did seem rather strange, as is my current desire to try to draw/paint the eye, when the eye kind of needs a face to nestle into.

That brings me to another question. In preparing yourself to tackle something like the Archibald and pull off a portrait which gets hung, do you practice drawing all the bits of the anatomy on their own first and then try to amalgamate it all as a whole. Or, do you just go for it and hope to pull of something vaguely human which might, if you’re lucky, capture the essence of the person?

What I can tell you, is that I could really feel myself being drawn into the eyes of some of these portraits and that they truly were leading me beyond the face, the canvas and a journey deeper into their soul, or goodness knows what or even during a bit of a U-turn and heading inward. After all, there’s some sort of energy or connection bouncing back between the artist, the subject, the canvas and the viewer, although I have no idea how you’d plot that out diagrammatically, or even if you could.

I’ll be coming back tomorrow to add references to all the artworks and the artists tomorrow. It will be quite a job in itself.

Pup Psychologist Anyone?

It’s been quite awhile since the dogs have made much of a blogging appearance, and now they’re back with a vengeance. Our brother and sister pups, Zac and Rosie, are now about 9 months old and let’s just say, have developed plenty of “personality”. Personality, which has had me searching the depths of Google for parenting support. While parenting courses for young humans are usually free with at least a yummy morning tea thrown in, training your pups is expensive and so we’re trying to muddle along on our own. I think the pups are onto this are expanding their horizons well beyond desired bounds and it’s time to ignore those puppy dog eyes and for nice cop to become tough cop. Put my foot down, even if a paw or two gets stepped on in the process (which happens quite a lot around her with twelve paws under foot.

DSC_8233

Rather than offering any solutions to the difficulties of puppy training, I’m just going to let it all flow …a bit like a glass of red wine on a white carpet. Or, a pink fluoro highlighter pen which has been chewed into a puddle of pink with splashes of ink on the guilty party’s paws.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our dogs, there are three of them. Lady, a border collie x cavalier is about 6 years old and we’ve had her since she was two. She’s a rather mellow dog and about the size of a Border Collie with the Cavalier’s floppy ears and facial appearance. She’s mostly black with a tip of white on her tail, chest and paws. Isaac “Zac” and Rosie are both 9 months old and are supposedly Border Collie x Kelpies but we suspect there could well be some greyhound in the mix. Zac has the long legs of a ballet dancer, and can look rather statuesque when he strikes a pose. Zac also happens to be our resident lap dog. He’s very snuggly and I had been thinking he had an innate sense of intuitive compassion, but I’m also wondering whether he just likes a warm lap in the cooler weather. Rosie has white legs and face with black spots, which are rather cute. She’s evolved into a feverish fetchaholic. Of course, we’ve all seen one of those in action, but rarely at rest.

Bilbo with ball

I had to honour a fallen hero. Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

So, I guess you could say like around here isn’t dull and that’s why we need a resident dog psychologist and in their absence, there’s me…and Google.

Firstly, there’s chewing. Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, most dog owners know that anything on the floor is fair game and that just like toddler proofing your home, you need to put things up if you don’t want the dogs chewing it up. However, not all dogs have read the manual, and Rosie has had no qualms about making choice selections from our kitchen table and exercising puppy power. I think perhaps her most impressive achievement to date, has been taking a pink highlighter pen out of the jar on the kitchen table and chewing it up until there was a pool of pink ink on the tiles and splashes of ink on her front legs. There was no denying that crime. She was caught in the act.

DSC_8401

A scene of canine carnage in our lounge room.

Of course, providing your pups with a steady supply of bones is a good idea. As I said, prevention is better than cure. However, sometimes I’m flat out getting to the butcher for the humans. Moreover, when I have bought bones, they’re instantaneously gnawed out of existence. Don’t ask me how they do it. I didn’t know bones were a fast food. Indeed, I thought they were supposed to keep your dog occupied for hours. Silly me.To think I had the audacity to think of myself as a bit of an expert on dogs. Clearly, I know absolutely nothing about them at all.

However, clearly the same can’t be said about them, because they can read me like a book. Indeed, they can read my soul much better than most humans. They really are amazing.

This takes me onto their next issue… our in-house Fetchaholic.

If our experience is anything to go by, this addiction all starts out in a fairly understated way. Someone in the household can’t resist giving that adorable little pup a tennis ball. Before that one corrupting tennis ball appears across it’s radar, that pup was pre-programmed to chase sheep, rabbits, and rid the world of rats. However, now all of that’s changed. That very same pup has suddenly had all that genetically pre-determined brain circuitry re-wired, and if your dog is very particular like our Bilbo was, all they’ll see is a green sphere. In hindsight, that was a blessing because Rosie isn’t particular. Tennis ball, half a tennis ball, felt of tennis ball right down to the very last remnants of fur of tennis ball, she’s back. Or, she’s dropping a bit of stick over the top of my laptop. I guess she thinks I’m just as addicted to tapping away on this thing and need a diversion. Indeed, she probably thinks she’s doing me good and giving me exercise.

She’s wrong.

Her pestering is only annoying in the end, but just as I’m getting fed up and about to confiscate the ball, she gently taps me with just one paw pad  and it’s so much like she’s tapping me with a finger, and that she’s not a dog, that I can’t resist.

That said, I’ve just put the ball up and told her to sit. However, in true fetchaholic fashion, she’s returned with the remains of a toy mouse, which had a pull the string wind-up mechanism some time ago. After ignoring that, she’s returned with a bit of stick…a remnant of a bit of stick…and its offspring. We’re talking desperation on both sides. How do I get this dog to leave me alone?

I dropped the ball over onto my son’s lap, he just passed it back.

Humph. It’s definitely time to make myself a cup of tea and perhaps that will  break the cycle. Just had to rethink that. Zac is now sitting on my lap, and while you’d think that might provide a sort of barricade in between Rosie and I, she’s now dropping her paraphernalia on the top of him.

At this point, you’re not the only one asking why we adopted two pups and why we didn’t just stick with Lady. Apply the KISS Principle…Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well, I wouldn’t know how to keep it simple and I clearly don’t know how to say: “No”. I just keep going until I fall in a screaming heap.

This brings me to my next issue…a fear of other dogs.

Lady & Zac

Lady and Zac running along the beach in January.

Usually, our dogs socialise with other dogs as a pack and feel quite comfortable with each other’s support. If anything, they can intimidate a lone dog on the beach. However, yesterday, I took Zac to the beach by himself and while he initially loved running and really got some great exercise, it was quite a different story when he saw other dogs. He was cowering behind me like a young child hiding in their mother’s skirts. He even jumped up behind me putting his paws on my shoulders. He was terrified with his tail between his legs and then that fear turned to aggression and he really got narky and was snapping and snarling at the other dog, who retaliated and they both ended up back on their leads. It was time to go home, a time-honoured parenting trick.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running yesterday before we bumped into any dogs.

I have also taken Rosie walking on her own and she’s also quite cowardly in public and walks much of the way with her tail between her legs. It’s been quite a concern because you want your dog to be happy and have positive interactions with their own. Fortunately, Zac and Rosie are fine when they’re together.

I’m think the answer here could be taking them out more by themselves, so they can build those social skills. They are very much like twins and miss each other terribly  when they’re apart, even if it’s only for a short time.

Zac Seal

Zac swimming looking like a seal. You can see how this character wouldn’t go too well on a lead.

Just when I thought I had everything covered, my last gripe is tugging on the lead. We seem to be having some success with Rosie on this front, and it is Zac who turns into a racehorse as soon as the lead goes on. Indeed, “pulling on the lead” is an under-statement. We have tried a Halti collar and he’s somewhat getting used to it but he doesn’t like it. The funny thing is that he is so placid without the lead, and I can’t really understand what fires him up so much. Of course, he loves going for a walk but this is more extreme. This is like a canine Clark Kent going into a telephone booth and emerging as Thor.

Lady kids coffee

The funny thing is with all these canine antics, they provide us with endless entertainment way better than any television show and they’re our critters. They might not be our own flesh and blood, but perhaps that’s part of their appeal. Dogs live with us are part of our own families and so much like us and yet they’re not. Despite all our attempts to humanise them, they’re still dogs. And we love them, perhaps even because of their foibles or perhaps it’s us who have actually fallen under their spell and we might need to consider who is Master. Our dogs can be very proficient trainers. Indeed, my dogs have trained me.

Chewing, ball chasing and lead pulling, I wouldn’t be without them.

Do you have a dog and do you have any recent posts you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Everybody Hurts…

Tonight, when we went round to my parents’ place for an early Mother’s Day dinner, Mum piped up and said she wanted us to listen to a priest singing on Britain’s Got Talent. 

Well, I must admit I was rather taken aback. I don’t know what comes to mind when you think about a singing priest, but I was thinking of something more along the line of Gregorian chants, than something I could relate to. So, while my mother was uncharacteristically excited and really wanted us to see it, I had no interest whatsoever and instinctively wanted to extricate myself and runaway. However, considering it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, I thought I’d better play the dutiful daughter, and avoid being a complete ratbag. Listening to a priest sing for a few minutes, wasn’t going to kill me. Moreover, I am a bit more mature these days.

Then, I see Father Ray Kelly on the stage, and there’s something immediately likeable about him. There’s a sort of brown shoe honesty about him and he is that simple, heart-felt man of God. The sort I’ve come across now and then, but is far from commonplace. He is one of those men of God who is of the people. A shepherd who knows his sheep and responds to their cries. Who knows there are 100 sheep in the flock, and not only knows when one is missing, but also by its name. This type of person is very hard to find.

When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes…

REM: Everybody Hurts

Well, of course, I don’t really know whether all of these impressions are true, but when he sings, I not only believe him, but I also know he’s singing to me. That he personally cares for each one of us and our hurts, and is a reflection of God’s unconditional, personal and intimate love for us. These aren’t phrases I throw around lightly. Father Ray was there in a simple grey suit, his collar and brown shoes and there were no props. No machinations. He simply was, and he was speaking for all those people out there who are desperately hurt, and he’s personally asking them to hold on. It was so clear he cared and was singing straight from the very depths of his heart…his soul. It was just so beautiful and I had to share it with you. Indeed, I hope it touches a chord for you.

What are your thoughts? How did it make you feel?

I could listen to it over and over and over again!

Best wishes,

Rowena

The featured image was drawn by my son.

PS Here’s the wedding song which launched him on You tube Father Ray Kelly singing Alleluia

Y- Jack Butler Yeats- Letters to Dead Poets…A-Z Challenge.

 

Welcome to the second last day of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, we’re moving onto Irish artist, Jack Butler Yeats (1887-1957), who was not only a painter, but also won a medal in swimming at the x Olympics, wrote poetry and novels including a stream of conscious novel, which had the nod from none less than James Joyce of Ulysses fame himself. I’m not sure whether this qualifies him as a Renaissance Man, but he certainly could pass as Rodin’s Thinker, which represents a fusion of athletic fitness, the intellect and the poetic mind (at least in my humble, unqualified opinion!)

Initially, I’d chosen Jack Butler Yeats, because I’d written top his brother, William Butler Yeats, two years ago when my A-Z theme was Writing Letters to Dead Poets. While I didn’t know much about either brother at the outset, I felt a connection through our shared Irish blood. That although I’m a sixth generation Australian and my last Irish ancestor arrived in 1855, that I still have more than a glass and a half of Irish in me and I’ve been wanting to explore my own cultural heritage further.

We’ll be accompanied by The Dubliners playing The Town I Loved So Well.

Portrait jack Butler Yeats

Born in London in 1887, Jack Yeats was the youngest son of Irish portrait artist, John Butler Yeats and Susan Pollexfen, and the brother of   W. B. Yeats, who received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature. He grew up in County Sligo, Ireland with his maternal grandparents, and was deeply influenced by his grandfather, William Pollexfen who was a former seaman. He returned to his parents’ home in London in 1887. Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for magazines, drew comic strips and wrote articles for Punch under the pseudonym “W. Bird”. In 1894, he married Mary Cottenham, also a native of England, and they resided in County Wicklow. From around 1920, Yeats developed into an intensely Expressionist artist, moving from illustration to Symbolism. He was sympathetic to the Irish Republican cause, but not politically active. However, he believed that ‘a painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints’, and his own artistic development, as a Modernist and Expressionist, helped capture 20th century Dublin , partly by depicting specifically Irish subjects, but also by doing so in the light of universal themes such as the loneliness of the individual, and the universality of the plight of man. Samuel Beckett wrote that “Yeats is with the great of our time… because he brings light, as only the great dare to bring light, to the issueless predicament of existence.”[4] The Marxist art critic and author John Berger also paid tribute to Yeats from a very different perspective, praising the artist as a “great painter” with a “sense of the future, an awareness of the possibility of a world other than the one we know”. Moreover, his father recognized that Jack was a far better painter than he, and also believed that ‘some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack’. Jack Yeats died in Dublin in 1957, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Perhaps I’m running out of brainpower towards the end of the challenge, or Jack Butler Yeats is more difficult to fathom than most. That’s why he’s running a day late. The more I get to know him, the more confused I become. I guess that’s a natural part of getting to know anyone. That, after you get passed those initial introductions, it’s like all the pieces suddenly fall out of the cereal box at once, and it takes time and effort to assemble them into any kind of picture. If I was a surrealist like Salvador Dali, or an abstract expressionist like Jackson Pollock, that might not matter. They’ve already accepted that nothing makes sense. That there is no natural order of things, and our world is utter chaos. However, my background is in historical research where you research, document and footnote the facts. Moreover, you’re also meant to come up with conclusions, which should look more like a neat stack of boxes, than multi-coloured scribble on a whiteboard, which is how my thoughts are looking  right now.

This brings me to that great imponderable…Can anyone truly know anyone? I mean even when you look into your nearest and dearest’s eyes, how much do you really see? How well do you really know them? Can you be sure? Or, are you seemingly dancing together, yet actually listening to different songs with entirely different meanings? Since most of us marry our opposite, it’s probably more than likely. Yet, diversity, and having complementary skill sets and the capacity to extend each other, are all wonderful things. It’s just that sometimes it’s nice to look into someone’s eyes, and at least see a glimpse of ourselves. Get the feeling they’ve walked in our shoes…and reciprocate.

dogs

That’s Lady at the back and Bilbo at the front.

My dog has mastered this, especially when I’m cooking. Lady sits there at the foot of the stove and could easily take out “Best in Show” switching on her huge, chocolate-brown eyes, oozing with so much love and understanding, that I fall completely under her spell and feed her. Yet, for some reason we humans are losing the art of eye-contact, especially in this age of the screen. It really helps to bridge the gap between two souls.

 

 

 

Anyway, immersing myself in all things Jack Butler Yeats, last night I was reading:  Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. Before I start linking some of his thoughts to his paintings, I thought I’d go off course again, and share some of his thoughts about poets and poetry…

“With the man of poetical temperament experience is an end in itself. Others go through life, as though they were tourists, with their eyes open for enjoyment and some kind of profitable speculation.[1]

“Carlyle was by nature all poet and musician, but his Scotch conscience put a veto on his natural inclinations. He married an ugly wife, thereby perhaps scaring away the Muses. It is often so.[2]

“…there is another type (of man) the man who does not want to rule or be ruled, and that is the man who writes poetry.[3]

Jack_butler_yeats_rha_man_in_a_room_thinking)

Jack Butler Yeats, Man In A Room Thinking.

One of the resounding themes of these letters was just how much Yeats valued solitude, and it could well be said that he elevated the Solitary Man to the heights of Da Vinci’s Renaissance Man.

“I will write again of the solitary man. First of all, alone among men, he is himself and only himself. The companionable man is himself and someone else, seeking expression through the medium of prose or action, thinking of other people and therefore always leaning towards compromise and for that reason working in a spirit of insincerity. Poetry is the voice of the solitary, as resonant and as pure and lonely as the lark at sunrise. If the lark were to bother itself with the `Collective Soul’ of the universe, it would not sing at all. Again, the solitary is the only man who retains his spiritual integrity. With the companionable, belief is opinion living in the heart of talk or action, and dying away when the heat fades.

Old hermits were right in their instinct for the desert since it meant a living to oneself, wrong in the sense that it meant a separation from human voices and from the faces of men, women and children, an uprooting of the human plant from its natural surroundings.[4]

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

However, as much as Yeats elevated the solitary man, he populates his paintings with people and there was one particular story I came across which revealed he had quite a love and compassion for the every day person on the street, or in this instance train, and their story. For this story, we’re turning to Man on a Train Thinking 1928.

The painting went up for auction recently and this account appeared in The Irish Times:

“The painting depicts a man whom Yeats met on a train from Dublin to the west in 1928. Yeats apparently noticed a man “in the corner of the carriage, who had a woebegone expression and whose coat and collar were buttoned up to his ears”.

He looked so wan and sad that the artist asked him: “Are you ill? Can I do anything to help you?”

“No, sir, thank you,” replied the man.“You see, it’s like this, sir,” he continued. “I bought a ticket for the Calcutta sweepstake for a pound note. Then I sold it to a man for £2. And now that ticket has won a prize for a hundred thousand,” and he sighed dolefully.

“Great heavens,” Yeats said, “if that happened to me I’d have cut my throat.” Then, to the artist’s consternation, his sickly looking fellow-traveller moaned: “That’s just what I have done, sir!”[5].

By the way, I completely misread this painting. What I saw was a man sitting on the train reading a book. Yeats’ solitary man…the poet. This interpretation really resonated with me as the only time I can really get stuck into a book, is on the train, although I always write a lot too and always take a notepad and a book with me. That said, I’ve also been caught short, and resorted to those last blank pages they leave at the back of the book. BY the way, my train trip is quite scenic, as the train snakes around the waterfront and crosses over the Hawkesbury River Bridge. The view’s particularly magnificent at sunset, illuminated by the golden glow of the setting sun.

A Giant Reading

Jack Butler Yeats, A Giant Reading.

Yeats also addressed the social isolation experienced by people who are different in some way and saw it as a mixed blessing:

“A man on his deathbed or after he has been snubbed by his wife may enjoy a few moments of solitude, the rest of his life is a noisy gregariousness. He fears solitude as a child fears the dark, indeed it is a universal dread which one must learn to conquer. A poet learns his lesson generally by finding himself early in life shunned, he is odd. `Why was I born with a different face?’ Blake asked. Genius is fundamentally odd and men hate the exceptional.[6]

As you might recall, people with extraordinary physical appearance often became attractions in the circus, where they became spectacles for general entertainment. In A Giant Reading, he’s showing two circus weirdos sitting together…the tallest man in the world and the blonde woman sitting next to him is an albino. Of course, that wasn’t how I saw it and thought it was possibly a couple who’d just got married…the newlyweds.

Yeats, Jack Butler, 1871-1957; Among the Reeds

Jack Butler Yeats, Among the Reeds.

Finally, I just wanted to mention Among the Reeds. Although I don’t get out very often, I love kayaking and when my parents had a holiday house on the waterfront, I used to paddle along a narrow waterway through the mangroves and almost disappear. It was magical, being surrounded by nature on all four sides, and inhaling and exhaling with King Neptune and anything else that was above or below the water.

By the way, I just stumbled upon an article in the Irish Times, which exposes Jack Butler Yeats greatest secret in The Secret Life of Jack Yeats. I decided not to ruin the anticipation and highly recommend you read the article itself. Clearly, I am not the only one who found that the various pieces of Jack Yeats which weren’t fitting together very well.

After all this challenging research, I’ve almost run out of steam. However, I’d better get that letter written…

A Letter to Jack Butler Yeats

Dear Jack,

You were quite a letter writer back in your day, so I hope you’ll be pleased to hear from me. I can’t remember exactly why I started writing these Letters to Dead Artists. Of course, I needed some kind of theme for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and while it’s decimated my capacity to keep up with the day to day, this daily pressure cooker environment does wonders for my writing, and instead of editing my work over and over and over an\gain and filing it in the bottom drawer or my hard drive, it’s post and up on the world wide web. It’s out there. It’s almost turning me into a Woman of Action, although I’m still too much of an over-thinker to get there yet.

Anyway, as I said, I’m not exactly sure why I started writing these letters. I honestly don’t feel like I’m really communicating with the dead and it’s surely not you guys replying back to me and yet there’s stuff popping into these letters which clearly hasn’t come from myself. It’s all a bit of a mystery really, but I’m not the first creative soul who’s experienced “the muse”. Indeed, you wrote:

“The solitary is one with the forces of nature, with which no man can argue; every action and thought of his mind and every feeling comes from sources beyond our utmost ken. And in thus describing the solitary, am I not uncovering what is the essence of that true poetry which I have called the voice of the solitary?”

I have a feeling that when you passed away and crossed over the rainbow bridge as we say about our dog, you took a few pieces out of the puzzle with you so that any nosy parkers like myself who came snooping around in your wake, would only get more and more confused the more they delved into the pot. Indeed, I can’t help wondering whether you completely dismantled or even burned up your studio to maintain your mystique. French artist and sculptor Edgar Degas, who you might’ve known, is regretting not torching his studio, now he’s seen what they’ve done to the Little Dancer. He’s still dropping F bombs and it’s now been a few weeks. He’s even tried to snatch her out of the Louvre to blow her up. I shouldn’t be telling you this because you could become implicated. It’s bad enough I’m in on it.

Anyway, the whole idea of these letters is to ask each artist a question. I guess my question for you, is how focused should an artist, writer, creative person be on the task at hand? Or, should they leave themselves some room to jump off the railway track and even go right off the grid? You achieved so much across a range of fields, that you were clearly able to divide your focus and back a few winning horses at the same time. I often find that I stumble across things and most of my best work has been completely spontaneous. Indeed, this series is a case in point. I simply started out with a list of artists but even that’s changed and I only plucked you out of the hat two days ago out of some inexplicable gut feel. That said, there wasn’t a lot of competition for the letter Y.

Anyway, you’d better join the train with the rest of the rabble. I’m sorry your journey will be so short. There’s only one day to go.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Letter From William Butler Yeats.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. Ezra Pound snatched it straight out of my hands. He calls himself my “Letter Keeper”. Indeed, it’s been a bit tricky because of course I have to keep my correspondence with Punch Magazine a secret and I couldn’t have him knowing that I’m “W. Bird”. Clearly, he’s not very discreet as he’s already published my private letters.

Well, I don’t know if this answers your question, but here goes:

“Reason is a school-master calling his boys into school, imagination is a school master in a happy mood dismissing them to wander in the woods, for the space of that holiday every boy to be his own master. “

Does that help? In my day, we also said you needed to stop to smell the roses. That doesn’t mean you can only smell roses and keep walking past the frangipanni, lavender or wattle blossoms if I’m over your way. It means you’ve got to take time out of the everyday and immerse yourself in nature for awhile. Recharge your soul, just like you people are constantly charging your stupid phones.

Well, I’d better post this before Ezra sees it.

Best wishes,

Jack.

 

 

[1] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound. This letter was dated February 6th, 1915

[2] Ibid December 21st, 1914.

[3] Ibid September 6, 1915 p 14.

[4] Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 41.

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/fine-art-antiques/yeats-painting-with-a-sorry-story-1.2438058

[6] Passages from the Letters of John Butler Yeats Selected By Ezra Pound, 1910. This letter was dated January 6, 1916 p 47.

7. Ibid April 2nd, 1915 pg 43.