Sendak on the artistic process

Interesting take on the artistic process by Maurice Sendak, the author/illustrator of Where the wild things are, among other texts:

Sourced from 'FAN THEORIES'
Maurice Sendak image. Sourced from ‘FAN THEORIES’ at

“This dual apperception [of self as adult and child] does break down occasionally. That usually happens when my work is going badly. I get a sour feeling about books in general and my own in particular. The next stage is annoyance at my dependence on this dual apperception, and I reject it. Then I become depressed. When excitement about what I’m working on returns, so does the child. We’re on happy terms again…”

Cited in The New Yorker: AMONG THE WILD THINGS By Nat Hentoff, Jan 22, 1966

Not a political thing; then again, maybe it is…

Speaking of things climatic should soothe us into the realms of the non political; that of course is not so. I wonder if any of Mr. Trump’s people – or the mannikin himself – is aware of NASA’s perspective on climate change; just another expert agency one can safely ignore, I guess. I know that our own PM (Monsieur Turncoat) is ostriching us into higher use of dirty coal and the pockets of mining magnates.

Image from Bloomberg site and based on NASA data.

For me, our days now are gravid with climate change; several years of personal recording of temperature and rainfall data where I live offer alarming evidence that (at least in this little corner of the world) things are getting hotter and less pleasant. Average summer maxima and minima have risen by over 2 degrees celsius in the course of just 3 years. Rain falls less frequently but more intensely. The birds and butterflies I know appear and disappear at different times than they used to.  Yes, I hear that it may be a temporary aberration… but it surely feels like so much more, and worse.

A lovely writer

careynovelcover-hisillegalselfI’m reading Peter Carey’s His illegal self; the back cover blurb put me in mind of Bliss, my favourite of his novels. I have been mightily impressed (again) with his transitions: slick, poetic, expedient. Look at this one, paragraph 3 of chapter one, it follows 2 paragraphs of context and background on the boy (who is one of the novel’s key focalisers): ‘Then, when the boy was almost eight, a woman stepped out of the elevator into the apartment on East Sixty-second Street and he recognized her straightaway…’ The woman is his mother, the boy is Che  (named, we know,  for the revolutionary and icon of 60s protest) and the apartment into which this woman steps is Che’s grandmother’s; the woman who has kept him all these years.

We know, without being told, that this is Che’s mother. In a sentence or two we have a clever juxtaposition of context/background with a child’s here and now. With rescue.

And look at how Carey engineers the ruunign away of mother and son from the grandmother. ‘…out on Lexington Avenue and his grandma was looking for a taxi. The first cab would be theirs, always was [notice how those two final words characterise the grandmother: empowered, privileged; don’t we all want to run away]. Except that now his hand was inside his true  mother’s hand and they were marsupials running down into the subway, laughing.’  No accidental diction here; look at true and marvel at its implications re Che’s perspectives; he is now with his true mother and not with the false one (his grandmother). Marsupials posits a love so close it is pouched, enveloping: the kangaroo with its joey. Coincidentally a metaphor more likely to have been chosen by aa Australian author, which of course Carey is. Lovely prose; still a ways to go with my reading so will need to consider all the other things that go into making books memorable before I add this to Bliss as a book worth re-reading.


A deep sense of place



Extracts from an essay


Let me pose a simple yet stubborn question of what you need to imagine are your last days. Suppose that Death — which nearly had you — has let go for a time; a remission which gives you, let’s say, a week’s grace. Maybe two. You are spry and full of life and feel the need to go back to a place that is… special. Somewhere loved, treasured.

Where do you go? And, more importantly, why there?

If you are like me, your place will not be urban. It will be natured and own a spirit; you will have sensed it, received it, deeply1. It will have, to quote geographer Edward Relph2, “a synaesthetic faculty which combines sight, hearing, smell, movement, touch, imagination, purpose and anticipation.” In short, all your senses and all of what your mind desires and anticipates will partake of it. You will use it. Why ‘use’?

For me, its purpose — why you use it —  is a key part of its significance. It feeds all those other reasons you partake of place, of nature.


~    ~    ~


I shall answer my own intractable question, not out of dire necessity but because to create its answer is to rekindle my sense of why nature and place matter; to re-establish meaning; in imagining it, I am anticipating bringing into being what Richard Louv would call3 a place that restores us, one that feeds a hunger.

My immediate purpose in this place, to be singularly mundane, is fishing. Angling…

When the term “place” is used geographically (as in the expression, “The place where I live is…”), the reference usually seems to be to somewhere about the size of a landscape that can potentially be seen in a single view—for example, a village, small town, or urban neighbourhood.

Edward Relph, 2011, A pragmatic sense of place


Google Earth lets me take in this place, from headwaters to confluence with the big river, in that single view. The scale of such a viewing, however, is not really human. Nor practical. Nor what I really know. I have never scaled the ladder of topography (blessed because it is mostly preserved in a National Park) down which the creek descends and have been no further than a two-day fish/walk up from where the creek joins the river. There is more fishing to be had than I have ever done and still parts of this place I’d like to go, different to what I sense and know simply because I’ve never been there. Those places I’ve yet to go, to be, are ones with imagined continuities and dissonances from those I have travelled. A reason to explore; maybe next time.

Though the landscape is dominated hereabouts by beef cattle and mixed farming (lychees, guava, some sugarcane, other exotics) it is the traditional land of the Girramay, Bandjin and Warrgamaygan peoples4. They would have known and loved this place; peopled it with stories, swum in it, worshipped its shade, trapped its eels and snakes and birds, caught its fish, eaten its plants. Like much of the native vegetation in the wider valleys, they were — under the auspices of either pest removal or now-deeply-ironic protection —  fundamentally removed as a significant influence on place after Europeans came here to do what they do in the mid to late 19th century. Down deep in the creek, however, while wading, you can still feel it is as it was when they camped here, fished it, loved it. Riparian vegetation still shades the creek, azure kingfishers (Ceyx azureus) still sit and watch the water — and you, freshwater monitors leap ashore from drowned branches when they hear you coming…


1 In A Pragmatic Sense of Place (2008-09), Edward Relph speaks of a distinction between spirit of place and a sense of place. One may say that the difference between them is that the spirit of place, in lying outside us, is essentially transmitted to us. A sense of place is received, interpreted; it lies within us.

2 Relph is cited in Threshold country, by Annamarie Weldon, 2011.

3 See The nature Principle, Human Restoration and the end of nature deficit disorder by Richard Louv, 2011

4 See Queensland Government, Cultural Histories E – I, Hinchinbrook Shire, 2015 and Qld Government, Department of National Parks, Sports and racing (what a strange amalgam), Dalrymple Walking Track, 2016…





And now for something… different

Forgive the abridged theft from Monty Python… Lazy titling while on a mobile phone to blame.

I’ve just read an interesting and affirmative piece in the New Yorker, entitled Citizen Khan,  which prompted this response from me.

“As a non-American I took much from this story; it reminded me of what has always been the great promise of US social & political ambition (and unfortunately also of how often that ambition can be frustrated). I was also alarmed at how similar US & Australian histories have been in terms of racist exclusions… think of the White Australian policies of the late 19th & 20th centuries. I do think the journalist might be mistaken when she claims that… “At the start of the Second World War, the United States was the only developed nation other than Germany to explicitly restrict citizenship on the basis of race…” Australia still restricted citizenship & this continued, one could argue, into the early 1970s.”

Trafficville – full draft written; time to let it sit

Finished first full draft of Trafficville- dystopian cyberpunk fiction re gaming, social media and so on; it is 24,600 words, give or take. Probably merde – I’ll follow Mr. Hemingway’s advice and let it sit in my cyber kitchen drawer for a couple of weeks before I have another look.

The final chapter reads:

Chapter Forty-Three

Q and A


So here’s a sampling of key Q and A we here at Phantom have dealt with during the beta trial and first three weeks of full release (English version only). Feel free to send us more – remember; this game works best with your interactions built in.


Q from Randy in Dallas… If this is meant to be so American I don’t get how come there are no African-Americans in here?

A: I guess you just never played any bits of Trafficville with Benny Goodman, who is Normans’ best friend. He’s just one (the main one) of 17 African American characters written into the mainframe of Trafficville, and he gets a Hispanic girlfriend. Can’t get much more Yankee-doodle than that.

Surely you must have seen at least one darker than average character at some time while you played Trafficville! And no, we didn’t have the police force round them all up, nor shoot them, though that was one reality we did contemplate. Benny does get mobbed by rogue police. We didn’t put that one in – that was outside players messing with the program; we love that Trafficville can take on a life of its own.

Q from Sissy in Duluth Minnesota… How come Adolf Hitler got into the plot; I mean, that was a bit weird?

A: That actually came through one of our beta players and we were as surprised as you to see him walking down Merrie Yngland Drive. But we let it run and it worked out as a game, didn’t it? Had to have good old Norman climb the clock tower, didn’t we, to re-set. Who’d have thought we’d get that lesson in – how easy it is to become a Nazi. We liked what the game taught us with this one.

Q from Wayne in NY… I felt like the game got out of control sometimes; I mean I felt like I was just reacting, not in charge. Was that intentional?

A: Yes, and no. We’ve written so many possible pathways into this (and the lightspeed tech means they’ll run at a natural pace) that we knew the game offered stuff we hadn’t even thought of; it was meant to be like life, after all, unpredictable. We just didn’t know how life-like it could be.

I guess if you’re a real control freak that might get a bit much – but most of our feedback has been that players love that the game doesn’t repeat itself… It is good to just go with the flow… 

Having fun with satire…

I have gotten right into the writing of Trafficville ~ USA… the joy of simply putting words down on paper and damn the critic and editor who sits on your right subconscious shoulder… That will come later.

Another taste: (comments welcome)

Part I: Beta

Chapter One

Report glitches



 (All character names and bios copyright Phantom Gaming Co.)

[Image from; needs to be modified, as not a creative commons image.]

Read [icon]  or listen to  [icon] this text:

Characters do not define nor control your actions in the game. You define theirs!  But all characters require, of course, a foundation matrix. In a way, you’re their daddy or mummy; you make them but genetics (or at least our base programming) has had a bit of a say in what you can do with them…

          Call it engineered biology – and if this sounds like too much crap and “Hey man, we just want to get on with the game”, well, we’re with you. Go ahead and play ~ what you can and can’t do with the characters will become obvious… But hey, if it feels like you’re a god, well I guess we can proudly say we sort of agree with you too.

          So check out the characters below – and play with them. Select characters by tapping screen or with fixed stare and blink on name.

[Insert game play character table…]

What you do with your character[s] is up to you…

Some basic rules:

  • You may select to be only one character at a time.
  • Game play continues with chosen character unless that character perishes (at which time your game score reverts to zero). Or if game reset.
  • Character accrues points via rewards but rewards vary according to character. Basic reward categories are programmed into each character – players actions will determine rewards. Scores may be checked by checking out a book in the library.
  • Complete reset overrides game – all characters and storylines revert to default settings.

SIMPLE RULE – avoid resetting.

The ultimate reward is to take control of the life of your character – rewrite the programming…

*MENU selected via user control; the interactivity of the programming allows the user to determine how the menu is pulled up; this is one of the key interactive features of the game. Users will work out – INTUITIVELY – their own way[s] of opening menu commands.


Autorun  + reset

 (Can be reactivated by climbing the clock tower, or by petting Ms Manx’s dog.)


Awaken and watch.

Demonstration module 1 begins.

A window slides open; the sun is warm and bees hum. The world looks good.

Blink and you are somewhere else…


Two boys enter an empty room


     Richo Novian-Smith gently pressed the self-adhesive wireless receivers to his temples and near the corners of his mouth. He lifted his shirt and pressed some more onto his chest, just above his nipples and then, quite deliberately, slipped his hand down the front of his boxers. ‘You put ’em here too,’ he said. “You’ll find out why…It’s worth it.’  He slid up the leg of his pants and placed one on each calf. His feet were bare and he placed and pressed one tab atop each foot, just behind the toe bones.

     He gave a pack of wireless tabs to Evan Butler. He watched him put them on. Then Richo slid the new, long-awaited disk into his Phantom Game Machine. Auto-run engaged and, with the sound of a cruise missile’s launch, the game burst in upon the room…


     And you’re playing.


     Stars rush at you, a city assembles, hover cars whiz and buildings materialize. Trees, buses, prams, people of all ages appear – a whirling concoction that asks you to look here first, then there, then there and there and here and you haven’t time to speak or think. And at last it is all there before you…

Then you are back in the room.


     ‘Dude… Cool.’ Evan Butler said. He was – he thought – Richo’s best friend of Richo, and Richo was the richest boy in uptown Trafficville. He was so uptown he wasn’t really there. He had private tutors and didn’t really belong. Somehow, Evan wasn’t quite sure by what means, he’d been pulled into Richo’s world.

     He knew what he had to say now. And so he said cool. And Richo liked to be called dude.


     A 3 D boy walked across the wall. There was no town or confection of people and buses, just the boy. He looked nerdy.

     ‘My name’s Norman…’


     ‘Shit no,’ Richo said. The boy froze. ‘He’s for a fiery chair.’

     Evan laughed. In an earlier incarnation of the game he remembered how Richo had one day set a SIM down in a chair. The dude was smoking.  The chair suddenly burst into flame. Richo hooted.

     The fiery chair became Richo’s great game; he’d build up characters and then burn them up. Richo always did it in a chair. First he made the ordinary house they lived in, then he made the character, then he gave them dumb jobs and mousy girlfriends or nerdy boyfriends (or no boyfriend at all). He gave them bosses that were nasty. They were never bosses themselves. Then something happened and they decided to kill themselves. Usually it was that their girl dumped them or they lost their job or their folks did and they got poor. Richo figured things couldn’t get much worse than that. He always had an overstuffed chair – like the one Richo said he hated at his even richer grandparents’ house – in these poor sap’s houses. It was their aspiration to wealth. They sat down and lit a cigarette (the manufacturers claimed it was real) then somehow the chair would just erupt in flames.

     Richo whispered be gone – did something with his hand. Evan wasn’t sure what. Norman simply dissipated. The room was empty, then…

     She walked in, every teenage boys’ dream. She smiled right at Evan, flicked a blonde tendril away from an eye, and…



     ‘That’s more like it.’

     Evan briefly resented the fact that Richo hadn’t even let her speak before taking control. He was moving his hands and somehow enlarging her breasts, dropping the neckline on the Angora sweater she wore. Evan figured her breasts were perfectly fine the way God or at least the default makers had made them but hey, it wasn’t his game.

     Evan was intrigued. ‘How are you doing that?’


     ‘Are you satisfied with your changes?’ the teenage, drop-dead-hot girl asked them. They both just looked for a while.

     ‘You bet,’ Richo finally said.

     The girl winked at them.


     ‘See,’ said Richo, ‘it responds to my voice.’

     ‘You’re gorgeous,’ Richo told the girl.


     ‘My name is Jenny Sweet,’ she said. She wore a winsome smile. She said nothing more. Boys talked to her, not the other way around. She was simply waiting, not frozen now, just marking time.

     ‘You ain’t seen one percent of what this game can do,’ Richo said. ‘I got my Dad to buy the sales promotion DHT…’


     You know. That new Direct Hologram Technologies© stuff. Anyway I watched all the simulation stuff. This is awesome. It’s got a pre generated story chip with over 200,000 variations in it and there’s a pre-built cast of over 30 characters. And it fits in with your life – I mean, you enter all this information about yourself and stuff, by voice direct you know, so there’s none of that typing shit and the story simulations are for whatever and wherever you want them. But that ain’t the best bit. You can choose different options for the characters and actually rework parts of the story. And then you can save them to the story chip, which has got room for another 300,000 or so variations. And you can build a library of story chip stuff and have them interact.’

     ‘Like the SIMS.’

     ‘Shit no; it’s a hell of a lot better than that. I mean, there’s stories in here and the characters look like they act without you. You have the chance to watch what they do, like a movie, and then you get a chance to change what happens. And you get to play with the character’s lives and, you know, like I just did – you can change them.’


     ‘Yeah. You know, like I reckon that nerdy one, I’m gonna make his life a misery… Then he’ll just want that chair.’

    Evan ventured an opinion, a favourable one. ‘The graphics are way cool.’ He pointed at the girl on the wall screen. She had taken a seat, which had somehow materialised in the cream coloured room she inhabited. And was that pot plant new? Evan couldn’t remember if the room had looked quite like that before. ‘She’s hot.’

     ‘Yeah,’ Richo said. ‘I wouldn’t say no. That’s what these tabs are for’

     He waved his hand again…


We all whirled into the space within his eye’s iris… And we’re all playing.