Oh I've been quite again. Hard at work,- looking for a quote that means something like - blessed are those that give.
Or it's better to give than to receive.
Or the giver is always better off than the getter.
Something like that.
Well why a quote on being blessed?
Well this year I've been blessed with not only a lot of well wishing comments, but also with a few beautiful gifts from fellow bloggers.
The first was a small Nuttish masterpiece that arrived one sunny afternoon from the beautiful Ces. A nut it was. And though, when I say the word 'nut' I might hear some twitters in the back row (people even smile when I say 'Nutcracker' for some reason. And even when I say Nussknacker)..... Everyday I stare at that work with envy. I have it hanging above my work space to remind me to try harder.
And then, blessing on blessing, the wonderfully talented Janne from Norway sent me a wonderous sketch book that wreaks of beauty and the essence of hand made. I'll post a picture of it in the New Year. At the moment I am staring at it's vestal beauty, shaking at the knees as I contemplate scarring it with my clumsy drawings.
And ... even as we speak I believe a small parcel is whipping it's way from Argentina - from the Marvelous Don Roberto esq. And boy I am looking forward to that one.... :) The joy is in the anticipation I always say but I think the joy will also be after the anticipation.
And lastly but not leastly recently I have connived and cunningly won my way through a riddling contest to take first place over at the amazingly insightful Pásztohy Lili at the World According to Lili. Yippee!!!!!
So I'd like to thankyou all for your kindness. I really am blessed.
Not like these little rick-shaw boys.
These are some of the Christmas Cards (and details of such) I've come up with this week. One I did for my wife's work. Another for a good friend whose skull I do intend to return. (Not Yorik). Stupidly I've spent so much time making them that I ran out of time to send them.
And of course Chrissie wouldn't be complete without John Lennon to remind us our how our lives are slipping past so quickly. I got a bit carried away with those - sorry about that - my tongue was stuck in my cheek for a while. Those images are mainly at the bottom. (If you are wondering what happened to Yoko... well, Michael Jackson made a guest apparence that day. He was a little stiff but I made the best of him.)
Oh nearly I forgot to mention Illustration Friday's topic "Mail." For that at first I was tempted to do Meg Ryan's orgasm scene in "You've got Mail."
Then I realised that was actually in "When Harry Met Sally." How dissappointed was I? (Just kidding)
Anyhow, I'll have whatever she's having, thankyou.
I'm sorry I haven't been to many blogs. I'm snowed under at the moment.
A very very very Merry Christmas to yourselves and your families.
So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
Okay I needed a little play with those last ones :) Sorry about that. I was a hippy once myself. Then my mum caught me and made me take her wig off. It was hot anyway and made my scalp itch.
Oh dear, just got back, the surf was rotten, the sand is stuck in my right ear, I am brown as brown toad and have lost so much weight that my head reminds me of Iggy Pop (on a bad hair day).
Anyway, thank you for all those great comments on that last one. You are very patient to read my ramblings.
Checking out everyone's blogs now and I see I have missed some zingers whilst I have been away.
You know, the thing that gets me about blogging is how I see all the artists improving so much. It's like : "hey, there is an audience, some one is looking, so I better pull something out of the hat."
And so hats off to you.
You know who you are. I bet you can feel it in your bones.
Gee I'm getting a warm fuzzy feeling in my left ankle.
Better quit while I'm a head. (What image does that last sentence make in your mind?)
Oh, this is my image for Illustration Friday "Phenomenon".
Originally I had a bunch of kids playing with a Ouijie Board summoning up Uncle Arthur wrapped in a sheet and looking like a primal Ectoplasm. The file I was working with was about 2.5 Gig - and takes about fifteen minutes plus to save. So, of course, being a boy, I only saved it once in the course of the morning.
Ugh. No need to tell you what happened.
Thanks so much for looking.
See you at your blogs.
PS: yes the image has something to do with Phenomenon. I had to make, let' see, one two three four five ... ten new kids for it.
Though the text was spaced for easy reading, Professor James Franklin MacCoddleswap's rubbery lips moved silently as he examined the single page report.
Even with the help of his finger nails tracing the lines, it still took him an atrocious four minutes and thirty seven seconds to read the whole page.
Finally, with a gasping sigh that suggested he hadn't understood any of it, he shoved the report across the desk and curled his lips with distaste.
"Oh jolly jam hot spot," he said to me. "I hate it when we find these things."
Next to the report on his desk was a revolver - a well used 1970's NSW police issue Smith and Wesson.
He noticed I was staring at it and he picked it up with two fingers. He pretended to examine the bolt where the paint had chipped off and showed the bare metal.
"Expecting trouble? I asked.
He ignored me and concentrated on caressing the muzzle of the gun.
"Didn't think so," I said.
He glanced up, squinted at me over his glasses. "Watch your tongue," he said. "I'm trying to be nice to you."
"You kept me waiting two hours."
"And with very good reason."
I said: "It's unprofessional for a shrink to run late."
MacCoddleswap blushed. "My boy, that's only your opinion. I worked horrendously hard to get where I am today. And my position often gives me a great deal of pleasure. Just like now, when I get to tell you the wonderful news."
"And that is....?"
"My good friend," MacCoddleswap said, "I'm afraid the chaps in the lab feel you've been a little sneaky."
He pronounced the word 'sneaky' with undue emphasis and I sat straighter in my chair.
MacCoddleswap continued. "They are very concerned," he said. "And so am I. You haven't quite lived up to our agreement.."
I sat up quite rigidly now and crossed my arms over my chest. "I've stuck to the rules as well as I could."
MacCoddleswap guffawed. His adam's apple moved up and down in his neck. It reminded me of a flapping fish wedged in a pelican's gizzard.
I watched him carefully as he placed the gun down. He placed the gun on the report so it didn't scratch the dark cherry wood of the desk.
"Rules?" he said. "Oh poppleycock! You, my fabulous Feenian friend have been at it again, haven't you? It's the very first thing you do after our sessions. Admit it."
I looked up at the ceiling. "Not the first thing," I said.
"Don't deny you've been burning the midnight oil every night this week. Mark my words, eventually you'll run out of wick. You're racing to the end of it."
I blinked. Run out of wick? I thought that was a bit personal - and said so.
"Nothing's secret here," he said. "Pretend I'm your considerate conscience. Aren't you supposed to be reading books rather than poking people in the eye with your illustrations?"
I didn't blink, held his gaze. I recognised the hidden words of course. Burning. Sneaky. Racing.
He was using all the right words. They'd been Illustration Friday prompts over the last few weeks. He knew it and I knew it.
Something was going on here, something I didn't understand.
"You can't go on," he said. "Apart from your wick, something else will give. Probably your corpus christi cerebullum. It's already looking like a Peruivian pickled pizza parlour. It all has to stop."
"Never," I said. "You've mixed me up with someone else. There's another Finnie around here somewhere."
"You mean that that sparkling chap in New Zealand? The gay and lesbian one? The one who wears a codpiece on his head? Oh have no fear, we're onto him too."
MacCoddleswap picked up the gun on his desk by the trigger guard. With the other hand he shoved the report across the desk at me.
Though it was upside down I pretended to read it.
I didn't need to read it of course. I knew what was on the report already - after all, I'd written it - not that I'd tell MacCoddleswap that.
Let him find out for himself.
Obviously we were getting nowhere. On the spur of the moment I decided to try another tack - something I'd learnt as a Sunday School teacher when I was trying to get the kids to behave.
Instead of reading the report I decided to stare at him.
MacCoddleswap was an ugly man so I started at the best part - his eyes.
Now I took more notice I saw that his face was obnoxiously horrid. Not only did his face make me want to mix my metaphors, but to go into flights of ridiculously lurid similies - it was the only real way to describe what I saw.
MacCoddleswap's eyes were mostly dirty green, illuminated by flecks of cardigan grey that speckled his irises like faded and abandonned Macdonald's hamburger wrappers in a park of dead grass. His eyelids were red and inflamed liked broken blisters, the base of the eyelashes caked with yellowish specks - blepahritus - literally inflamation of the eyelids. Unkindly I hoped the blepharitus was terminal. I'd heard somewhere that in one in three million cases the victim needed amputation at the neck.
Gradually I let my gaze wander to his nose.
It was a bad move.
Obviously MacCoddleswap had once been a rugby player. His nose was pushed to the his right side and fishooked up so I could see into his nostrils. His nostrils were small, dirty caves, the spiky nasal hairs jutting into the dark recesses like tarnished stalagmites. I guessed that somewhere in that foetid lushness was hiding a pea sized brain.
By now he seemed to know what I was up to, and twisted his head ever so slightly to spoil my line of sight.
That didn't stop me. Casually, and without fear, I continued my visual degustation of his face.
Beneath the nose I discovered the dry river bed of his nasal labial cleft. Deeper than normal, it could only mean one thing - that he'd been an only child - and been a spoilt one at that.
My gaze lingered on that cleft, imagining that when he cried and his nose ran it became a disgusting bubbling brook of watery nasal excrement.
I think my disgust finally showed on my own face because by the time I reached his mouth, he was wriggling uncomfortably in his chair.
I realized he'd had enough when he started to waved the gun around in my direction.
"Oh do stop staring!" he said. "It's so tiring."
I continued staring at his mouth.
Suddenly MacCoddleswap swore. He banged the butt of the gun on the desk.
"Hot damn! That's it! You can't push me like this. Do you know who I am? I've had enough. You're pushing the wrong bells and all the dings have been donged!" He grabbed the buzzer on his desk like it was a dead rat.
Unperturbed I kept staring at his mouth and said: "Still having your injections?"
His hand stopped at the buzzer. "Injections?"
"I heard you'd been volunteered for botulism tests....."
Something within him snapped then, his fat lips began to vibrate with anger, the ora-serratta widened, his fibrillating cheeks went beetroot, his eyes bulged like unopened tulips ready to burst and, for a second, his face swelled and his lips, obscene and ripe, beckoned to me like a shiny bubbling waterfall of wet, pink pigs' bladders.
"It's Botox, you idiotic imbecilic ingrate," he said.
"Botox?" I glanced at the half dead flowers on his desk. "There's rosemary for rememberance? And there's pansies, that's for thoughts," I said. "But Botox for beauty? Too late for you I'm afraid."
MacCoddleswap's fingernails were long and curved like claws. With a piggish grunt he jabbed at the buzzer over and over until a foreign accented voice answered.
He lent close to the speaker and shouted: "Svetlana!"
A minute passed. The door behind me opened. A thick chested woman clumped in, stood against the wall on the right of the door. Except for the orange hair and the dress she might have been MacCoddleswap's twin.
But not quite. Unbelievably she was even uglier than MacCoddleswap.
"This hunk of sveltic beauty is Svetlana," MacCoddleswap said. "Svetlana ich bin ein Easter Berliner. Before the wall came tumbling down, she used to make 1000 Kronor a day. Not bad for a woman with a wooden leg and the IQ of an under-ripe grapefruit."
"Doing what?" I asked, ignoring his atrocious German. I had poor taste in women but even I could see that Svetlana was too ugly to be a prostitute. Perhaps, if her hair had been longer, she might have been in high demand as an orangatang impersonator for childrens' birthday parties.
But I doubted it.
"Oh, jolly jumbucks! Just wait and see," MacCoddleswap said.
He'd finally had the guts to put the revolver down. Every now and then his red rimmed eyes glanced at it to make sure it was still there.
Unsteadily he climbed to his feet and opened the curtain that covered most of the left side wall of his office.
Behind the curtain was a sliding glass door. When the curtain was fully open I could see through the door into the next room. In the room about eight men were sitting on chairs. The chairs were arranged neatly around the walls of the room. The men had been dressed in the same grey overalls I usually wore. Though they were not three feet from each other, none spoke. I wondered if they'd been drugged.
In one corner three other men were lying face down on the floor, not moving.
"It must be time for me to go," I said.
MacCoddleswap shook his head sadly. "Dear dolly me, I'm very afraid I can't let that happen," he said.
Reflexively I sat forward in my chair. Behind me I could feel Svetlana take two lumbering steps towards me. There were false teeth on the desk. I pretended to admire their sleek plastic finish.
MacCoddleswap grinned. 'They were my grandmother's. I keep them there so they remind me of her smile." His own grinned widened and I saw that his own canine teeth were yellow. I shivered. The grin on his face was as out of place as a cheap Christmas ornament on the wall of a funeral parlour.
"You love to mix your metaphors," he said.
"So what? That's not a crime."
His grin vanished. He held his right hand out and spread the fingers. He tapped each one with the black barrel of the revolver. The metal clicked against each of his long yellowed fingernails.
"Let's go over a few points," he said. "Point one. What about your book, the one you're supposed to be working on?"
"Give me a chance," I said.
"You've had your chance. Three weeks is enough. Point two. Not only did you use passive tense, but you mislead your readers on that last post."
"What post was that?"
He looked at me accusingly.
"Oh.... " I said. "You mean the Secret of The Dancing Ducks.... I explained all that."
"So don't be shy. Explain it to me."
"It was purposeful misdirection. Everyone forgave me. To be honest I had every intention of telling the truth but I ran out of space"
MacCoddleswap guffawed. He tapped the barrel of the gun on his fingernail again. "Point three.... "
He paused and I noticed he was staring at the lower part of my face
"Listen," he said. "You've got food on one of your chins. Do wipe it off, will you? It's making me feel squeamish."
I didn't touch my face. Instead I kept my hands at my sides and stared out through the glass doors. The silent eyed men in the next room hadn't moved an inch. I kept staring.
Eventually MacCoddleswap took the bait and followed my gaze.
I took my chance. Surrepticiously I wiped my chin.
He was right. There was a glob of sticky white stuff just below my bottom lip.
I wiped it off with my index finger and held my fingertip up. In the poor light of his office it was hard to see clearly. The blob appeared to be whipped cream mixed with brown sugar and a small piece of honey coloured croissant - yesterday's breakfast.
Unfortunately the cream would have gone off by now.
MacCoddleswap was still gazing curiously into the next room, so I wiped the blob on the back of my chair. It would do the velour good.
After a minute MacCoddleswap looked back at me. His eyes narrowed and he seemed to realise that I'd been leading him on. Apparently he was as stupid as he was ugly.
That raised my hopes. Unfortunately.
"Now where were we?" he asked.
"Point five," I said.
MacCoddleswap seemed confused. Then a light blinked on behind his eyes. It was only a dim light, but it was definitely a light.
"So we've covered point three, passive tense?" he asked slowly.
"Yes," I said.
He grunted. "You're not lying to me I hope?"
"Never," I said.
He looked down at the report on his desk. There was a gold pen in his jacket pocket. He took it out, held it between two fingers and ticked off a few boxes.
"Ahhah!" he said. "We didn't cover point three and a half - 'trying to write like a cheap detective novelist'. I'd remember if we had."
I clapped my hands together, imitating his sudden enthusiasm. He didn't notice.
"Oh we did," I said. "Don't you recall? You accused me of being a Dashall Hammett impersonator."
MacCoddleswap screwed up his face so much I thought the tip of his nose would poke him the eye.
"Ha, very funny," I said. I stood up from my chair. "Time to go when you start making bad jokes."
In an instant Svetlana's hand crushed my shoulder. She forced me back into the chair.
MacCoddleswap said: "We haven't finished yet."
"My normal shrink only gives me two hours," I said.
"Your normal shrink doesn't work for the government," he said.
"Okay. I give up what's point five?"
"I'm afraid it's in regard to the pictures at the very end of this post. The ones with that sneaky kid stealing those ducklings."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Well, for a start, they're not ducks they're geese."
I shifted uncomfortably. The velour was starting to give me a rash even through the overalls.
"No one will notice," I said.
"Balls," MacCoddleswap said. "If I can see they are geese then anyone could.."
As if to underline his statement MacCoddleswap did the contortionist act with his nose again. This time he twisted the tip so high he looked like an albino monkey having an epileptic attack.
I tried not to laugh. Instead I nodded.
"Yes I can see your point."
"I'm afraid you need a rest," he said.
"I just had a rest."
"Rest? I've heard you are working on a commission."
I didn't say anything.
"And," he added snidely, "another book."
I kept my lips buttoned, didn't tell him I hadn't even sent off the first one yet.
He changed tack then. "How much do you weigh?"
After a moment I told him.
He blinked. "Pardon?"
I told him again - this time in pounds and stones instead of kilograms to make it easier on his brain.
He looked astonished. His lips started fibrillating again.
"That's it," he said. He nodded sideways at Svetlana.
Svetlana was quick. Before I could move she'd dragged me out of my chair.
I tried not to cry out, but she had a death grip on my hair and was doing her best to scalp me.
"Take him to Room 13," MacCoddleswap said. "Two weeks."
"That's not right," I said. "
Svetlana dragged me by the hair toward the door. I grabbed at the chair, missed it. At the doorway I stamped on her foot.
She laughed at me.
"MacCoddleswap!" I said. "You're making a mistake. Don't let it end like this. It's just not right!"
MacCoddleswap came out from behind the desk. "Hold on Svetlana," he said and peered at me through his spectacles. "What's not right?"
"You can't lock me away. I haven't answered my comments yet. There's blogs I want to visit."
I pointed at the paper on his desk. "Read the back of the report. Then give me a few hours at least."
MacCoddleswap picked up the report from his desk. I think the excitement was too much and his brain had stopped working. He scratched his chin to look intellectual.
"It's on the other side," I said, indicating with my hands how he should turn the page over.
Eventually MacCoddleswap found the back of the page. Eventually he even found the list - the list being the only thing on the page.
He put the report back on the desk, turned his back to me, then lent over the desk like a school master and read the names slowly, out loud, having as much trouble with the English ones as the foreign ones.
When he was finished he grunted and said "Too bad. Take him away."
Svetlana didn't need to be told again. With one fist she banged open the door, the other fist dragged visciously at my hair.
As she dragged me out into the corridor I managed one last glimpse of MacCoddleswap.
Already he'd gone over to the glass doors. He slid them open so he could see unobstructed into the next room. He had the revolver in his hand again. With the revolver in his hand he watched the mannequin men, the way they sat against the walls with those blank eyed stares.
We'd made several turns down the corridor, heading for the east wing, when I heard the shot. It was muffled by the walls, but a shot never the less.
Then came the sound of a man screaming softly.
And, finally, just like in a John Le Carre novel, another shot. Then silence.
As we reached Room 13 I couldn't help myself. I began to laugh.
Svetlana never loosened her grip, but she was curious all the same.
She said in her broken English "Vat's up with you Fennee? Why do you laff?"
"Oh no reason," I said.
How could I make her understand that finally at least part of me was happy.
She wouldn't understand that, at long last, the gun had been fired. She wouldn't understand that I could finish up my story now.
Well the first part anyway.
The second part - the part about The Secret of The Dancing Ducks - well that would have to wait for two weeks - when MacCoddleswap finally let me out of Room Thirteen.
And he would let me out of course.
That's if I made all the right promises.
Well oh dear, I'm still here and I'm so sorry I haven't got back to some of you. You know who you are. Heh. I'll be at your place this arvo. They've decided to let me out for a break and I noticed an abandonned laptop outside room 15 and a half.
What follows is a kind of apology for my last post. The one about "The Secret of the Dancing Ducks." It's a work in progress.
The images below an at the beginning of the post are all a WIP. From: The Secret of The Dancing Duck. Also known as "IF: Sneaky."
Have you seen Elizabeth Seaver's birds? If you are after great bird paintings check out her site. These Ducks are a nod to her wonderful images.
For me, I'll be back in a few weeks when I get out of Room 13.
In my library there's a small blue book which I keep on the shelf reserved for books on novel wrtiting. The book is called 'How To Write A Damn Good novel". It's written by James N. Frey and is a fine book, so much so that I've read it at least seventeen times. On page 67 of Frey's book - a particularly dog eared and well worn page - is a sentence that I find intriguing.
That sentence states that, if at the beginning of a novel (or short story), a shotgun is hanging over the mantle of the hero's house, then, by the end of the novel, that shotgun ought to have been fired.
In other words, we as writers have a silent contract with our readers. That unspoken contract states, that, if you stick with me to the end, then I, in turn, promise to deliver the goods.
That's where "The Secret of the Dancing Ducks" title comes in. The title of the post is my promise to you that, if you read this post, then eventually you too will know The Secret of the Dancing Ducks.
But before I get to the Dancing Ducks and their arcanum, I'd like to touch (talk, converse, gossip, chitchat, shoot the breeze, jaw, chinwag, natter) on some important elements about secrets in general. That's if you let me.
Firstly, have you ever noticed that, as soon as someone mentions that they have secret, then everybody wants to know what that secret is?
Humans appear to have am inbuilt want-to-know-mechanism that makes us stick our metaphorical noses into places that our feet don't (or won't) fit. To spy on our neighbours we stick our noses between the gaps in paling fences, to see what's going on down the street we poke our noses through windows, and in to see into adjacent rooms our noses sniff out keyholes and the cracks at the edges of half opened doors- all in the name of furthering our knowledge. That's partly why we have done so well as a species. Our inquisitiveness has helped us spread around the earth. Our noses have sprayed our DNA in every dark corner, our curiousity has marked our territories like dogs - and our propensity for being busy bodies has turned the Earth into our own backyard.
(Speaking of dogs, did you know that they have two hundred million nasal olfactory receptors? - sorry, not that I care - I just had a burning desire to tell you that).
Of course, many secrets are meaningless to anyone but the secret's keeper.
But not always.
If, for example, you watch enough television, read enough books, or see enough movies then you will know that plots are often driven by secrets. In movies and in real life, secrets can sometimes provoke a life or death situation, can sometimes cause a marriage or divorce, and sometimes give us massive headaches.
Oddly enough secrets are like objects. They have old owners - and they can have new owners. It's a given that a secret has less value if its present owner is inclined to blurt it out across the universe. If everyone knows a secret then it becomes an 'unsecret' - so to speak. The corollary being that, to be really really really valuable, a secret must be known by only the annoited few. And in the case of the best secrets, those annointed few must have coaxed it from its original owner.
And hence to these illustrations. For they too have their secret - and trust me, these illustrations and their secrets are ultimately related to The Secret of The Dancing Ducks.
According to the tennets of 'secretness' outlined above, the very fact that I have announced that these images have a 'secret' should theoretically be enough to stir your interest. And according to the shotgun contract I made with you at the beginning of this post, that secret should be worthwhile learning. And lastly, according to the second tennent of secretness, I must not tell you that secret straight away.
In fact I must make you wait.
But how do I keep my secret from you as long as possible?
So far I have used misdirection (you pretend to look in the other direction while I slip the rabbit from the hat), delaying tactics, blind paths, subplots, thrown metaphorical hand grenades across your path, said "Hey look at that naked person" while pointing you back the way you came - all in the name of making you wait.
And in this way I can make the secret seem more valuable.
Or can I?
To be honest, at this moment, I have an overriding and burning urge to reveal to you my confidential, covert,cryptic, discreet,disguised,dissembled,dissimulated,furtive,hush-hush, incognito piece of information that makes these illustrations special.
But before I do....
Did you ever read Foucault's Pendulum?
It's by Umberto Eco - that chap who wrote "Name of the Rose".
The essential themes of Foucault's Pendulum involve The Knights Templar,The Rosicrucians, The Gnostics, The Freemasons,The Bavarian Illuminati,The Elders of Zion,The Assassins of Alamut,The Cabalists,The Bogomils,The Cathars and , lastly but not leastly, The Jesuits.
In the beginning of his book Eco promises the answers to the secrets of all these things. Yet in the end we are given nothing but a demonstration of Eco's amazing ability to make us think he is intelligent. Consequently Foucault's Pendulum was the last book of Eco's that I will ever read.
A strong statement I know.......
They were made for Illustration Friday's 'Burning.'
Their original genesis was/were the Witches of Salem.
And that, believe me didn't work. (See album cover at the bottom)
Their second genesis was 'Nero fiddling while Rome burned'.
But Nero fiddling didn't seem quite right.
And after checking my facts it seemed that Nero did nothing of the sort.
And so I put the two together....
Feel free to click for big.
Thanks again for looking.
The final image is just below.