Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jade, you take my breath away.

How jade travels into your life is important. The luck is in the giving and getting. In ancient China the Stone of Heaven was valued even higher than gold. To the victor went the jade sceptre. Second, gold. Third, bronze. Chinese believe jade has soul, increases energy and prolongs life.

Many women wear a simple jade armlet to brings health and good fortune. If broken in a fall the bangle will protect the wearer from serious injury. Well, that's the way Chinese tell it.

For me, Jade brings happiness. Pieces come. Pieces go. The collection grows. Some traded. Other trinkets given to friends as presents. Initially the Imperial stone was mined in Turkestan and later imported from Myanmar as Kingfisher Jade (or Jadeite) a bright crystalline green. That's the one Hong Kong jewellers go for. But jade carries importance in most every society.

Mayan kings wore jade ornaments as symbols of wealth and fertility. In New Zealand, Maori Greenstone carries a rich history and is scarce enough that restrictions are now placed on its exportation.

An African jade necklace sent by Rudyard Kipling to a woman friend in Sydney best described the 'great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River' colour of the river featured in his Just So stories. I had the honour of photographing said piece. Click here if you would care to see the collection.   MaX

awakening The Enchanted Orchid

The second edition of The Enchanted Orchid has sold upward s of 10,000 copies to date and the second edition continues to find new friends just as many who bought the first edition ask for more. Some like the orchid pictures. Some respon the romnce of speads like the carved marble Buddhas of Burma.i Others go for the travel tales. And the tips on orchid growing help keep interest up and running. Still deciding whether it's time to go to the next editon of take the 'e' train and try e.books and the electric media exclusively. The web draws such immediate response, yet a book in the hand does seem to have enduring popularity.

To take a new tack or go with the present production? That is the question. The old adage if it ain't broke don't fix it may apply. The romantic spreads of the carved marble Buddhas in Burma do give the orchid photos a sense of presence. Likewise the blue Vandas of Chaing Mai and the blue Vandas do add a roman in the current book appears to give such pleasure to the viewers. Still, the cup runneth over with a mass of beautiful new orchid photography taken from recent times and travels. What to do? 

The new effort Striptease - it's all done with flowers is attracting an entirely different market. Younger and slightly more interested in art and illustration drawn freehand on the computer - spirited interpretations of actual plants blooming here in the gardens. We are wear-testing the book through Atlas /BookMasters to see what kind of American audience it reaches. Next cab off the rank The Orchid Teacher is shaping up to be a self help book that encourages folk to learn from nature and the tenacious little orchid. You can browse the opening approach by clicking right here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mousey came with the cottage

Big ears, small face, he'd hop in to watch me work the computer at all hours of the night. Cute and curious he would next hip-hop into the newly painted kitchen area, pristine white and sanitised to within an inch of its life by my sibling sister. 

Unfortunately the hapless little marsupial left a trail of mouse droppings (blink and you would miss them) in his favourite cupboards and though I chose to ignore the matter - 'the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley'. Totally accepting of Old Fred the frog who caught moths amongst our verandah greenery, Sister drew the line on Mousey droppings in cupboards so scrupulously decontaminated. No. The mouse must go. Up to the local hardware store and, under the guise of purchasing orchid fertiliser I nonchalantly mentioned the subject of rat poison.

"Humane or not humane?" The guy was known as a real softie and we left with a little device called a TRAP-EASE. You should know about it. Upon entry the little marsupial is locked in for the night until his release next day. We scattered low-fat cheese in the back compartment but Mousey wasn't into cheddar. Back to that nice young man. "Try pumpkin seeds, he may be a field mouse."

Bingo on the second night, but where to release him? The Mitre 10 next to the sports oval fronting the industrial complex seemed the go. About a mile away. The store had a marvellous (and easily accessible) garden and seed centre out back where The Mouse would be perfectly happy. 

Mousey is free and holidaying far from the house

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Way we were

In the Rangoon garden, Darlinghurst 1981

The opening lines of my first magazine story popped out to bite me yesterday ... 'I'm having a love affair with Asia. Maybe you are further in than I am.'  If I knew then ...

The past is ever ready to hop in the cot as we cosy-up the future. The trick is to focus in the present. Be aware. No befores. No afters. Light the bonfire and on to the pyre go heaps of faded magazine stories and loads of old tear sheets. Travel light!

Today's burning issue for writers and most other creative folk is to build visible 'platforms' to out their talent - thus creating auras of success. No more waiting in the wings in Schwab's Hollywood Drug Store. We are now expected to front a raft of seminars, consult with gurus, and curry our way into inner sanctums of editors, publishers, and publicists. Where do we find the time to write? What happened to the Aquarian dawning? And where did Andy Warhol's fifteen minute throwaway line get us? Not far. Like most media grabs it was - is - feel-good stuff and nonsense, falling far from the mark.Love something I say, and go write about it. Screw the rest.

Things may have been easier back in the 80s. Sketch pads, camera, and a load of Yoken coloured felt pens paid my way around the Orient very nicely. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig, I'd work up travel and garden stories - mainly about orchid encounters. Nowadays, cell phones and laptops encourage writing on the run. Chasing hot hotel deals becomes the now and multi-tasking the norm. Information overload blocks the way to who we are, how we feel, and what we do best. Excessive amounts of higher education does not necessarily supply the answer and can cloud the issue when it comes to telling a good story. Numbed, we absorb newscasts and wallow in bureaucratic clap-trap that should scare the pants off us. Fascinated, we concentrate on the et ceteras. Where, oh where, did that love affair go? Beats me.      MaX

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

self publishing poster

Here are a few gathered thoughts on the subject of self publishing. A tough game and you have to believe in what you are doing. Decided to place a few positive thoughts on the matter in a poster format for wall hanging. A3 size.


Over the years I have gathered in a few thoughts from various artists on the subject of their work and the creativity muse. Here are some Picasso grabs in the manner of a graphic poster page. No. I have not used a Picasso original illegally. Merely threw one of his Peace Doves together with a few freehand brush strokes in Adobe Illustrator.

The Jade Street Trader

"Life is a library - and the books are only on loan. Miss McNally, Cecilia (Cec to friends) dealt in jade, old gold and antiques. A leading light right along Australia's eastern seabord she adored tripping to Hong Kong and I sometimes went along for the ride.

Miss M chose to stay at the Y adjacent to the Peninsular Hotel. I stayed at The Pen. Through a flurry of white liveried bellboys she would enter The Peninsular, greet friends, and via a side door exit into the Y. "Why spend on grand hotels - the YMCA is quite safe. Buy jade instead and finance your next trip."

The lady travelled light, jade jewellery in her handbag being the ticket to London should she decide to travel on. "Westerners undervalue jade. The best pieces in Hong Kong are from Australian deceased estates. Tomorrow, we go straight to the jade market - early, six-thirty on the seven one two bus. If you see a chemist I need bobby pins." Hair pins are central to this story.

Street barter had its moments. Scribbled numbers on old newsprint proffered by a gummy Chinese trader. Cecilia breaking eye contact to turn to me - the decoy, "Satisfied?" Before any response she would pivot back to harangue the seller. "This is not old jade. This is new jade. Not good jade." He would look suitably offended. Totally embarrassed I'd disappear into the bitumen. A thousand eyes watched. 

At a precise moment McNally would reach into her untidy French roll, withdraw a trusty bobby pin and scratch the bottom of the jade carving. "See! Very bad jade. Soapstone." Feigned concern. Chinese theatre? With Cecilia reduced to pidgin English, he'd flash a toothless grin,"Oh Kay." Then, Cecilia to me. "Show your money and pretend to leave." My embarrassment fuelled the charade. Money exchanged hands as a jade trinket gift slipped to Cecilia from an appreciative vendor. "When Chinese barter, there is always something left for them. You will never beat China in a deal." Too true, bless her.