Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Category: essays (page 1 of 4)

The festival poster project

This is for a visual design assignment I did for university. The finished design is included. Couldn’t get that text how I wanted it.


Introduction

The second project was a poster for a festival, which stressed a family-friendly music and cultural experience where camping and food was available, and transport to the venue was also provided. This project was also to be created in Photoshop CC or earlier, at A4 size, 300 dpi with a CMYK colour format designed for printing. With this, I chose a psychedelic theme, which emphasised the happy and carefree nature of the festival.

Aims

As well as the tutorials for image manipulation provided by the university for this course, I used several I found on the internet, particularly for the creation of the poster which implemented Photoshop’s Smart Object feature (Blue Lightning TV 2014). The festival poster required a different approach. Here, there was an emphasis on the cultural and carnival nature of the festival, with a stress on it being a family-friendly event. I went with a psychedelic approach, framing a central character, a public domain photo of entertainer, the Big Bopper (Wikimedia Commons 2015), with bubbly text, tinted with a rainbow gradient. The top half of the poster listed the musical acts that would be in attendance where the bottom half listed the details of the festivals such as amenities, the cost and the location. The font used was Bell Bottom Laser, also sourced from www.dafont.com, which loaned the text an appropriate psychedelic feel.

Methods used

This was a lot more challenging to create as it involved smart objects, clipping and grouping layers.
• Selecting canvas size, dpi scale, CMYK colour space and bit depth.
• Changing the background to a background layer using the layer’s context tool.
• Applying a gradient theme to a layer.
• Adding a ripple effect border to that layer.
• Using the magic wand tool to separate the Big Bopper from its background, using the default settings of the tool. The magic wand tool was the most effective to use on this occasion as the Big Bopper stood out from the background.
• Importing the Big Bopper as a png file with alpha transparency so the background blends in with the poster image.
• Using the move tool and the transform tool to place and size the Big Bopper onto the poster image, as a new layer.
• Using the Desaturate function (Ctrl-Shift-U) to make the Big Bopper greyscale.
• Using the Solarize function with a setting of 3 to add a solarising effect to the Big Bopper.
• Applying a gradient to the Big Bopper using the layer’s context menu with gradient fill.
• Adding a clipping feature to the Big Bopper layer so the applied gradient and visual effects would apply to that layer and no other.
• Adding text using the Bell Bottom Laser font.
• Moving and resizing text with the move and transform tools.
• Converting each text layer to a raster using the rasterize layer context menu option. This was to enable effects to applied to the text.
• Selecting all of the text using Control-Click and added them to a new layer group.
• Using the gradient fill context menu option to add a gradient to the text.
• Using an outer glow context menu option to add a border to the text to properly separate it from the background layer, and aid in avoiding eye strain.
• Using the move tool to position the grouped text layer.
• Using the transform tool and warp tool to select the grouped text and apply a deformation to the grouped layer. By grouping all of the text, it made deforming the text around the Big Bopper easier.

The festival poster

The festival poster

The funky frog project

This is for a visual design assignment I did for university. The finished design is included.


Introduction

In assignment 1, we were required to create two screen layouts. The first of these was a web page mockup using either Funky Frog or Down Under Reef Holidays as the basis for the design. I chose to use Funky Frog as I felt it would be a more stimulating project to create. The mockup was to be designed in Adobe Photoshop CC or earlier, at 1024×768, at 96 dpi, and in 8-bit RGB colour format.

Aims

The aims for the web site mockup was to present an eye-catching site that demonstrated visual flair, ease of navigation, and to leave a visitor in no doubt as to what the theme of the site was. The colour most associated with frogs is green, and the mockup makes liberal use of the colour. The logo banner is is written in the Weltron Special Power font, which was obtained from the font repository www.dafont.com (2018). This font has a suitably “funky” appearance which does not trade style for legibility. The remainder of the site’s text is in the Verdana font, created by Microsoft for excellent screen legibility (Microsoft 2017). There is also an image of a frog, manipulated in Photoshop, that blends in well with the funky theme. The frog image was sourced from a wallpaper website (firsthdwallpapers.com 2013).

Methods used

Adobe Photoshop CS6 on Windows 7 was used. Withal, I found using Photoshop a challenge, as most of my image manipulation has been done with the open source GIMP program, Although the two share many common features, they are different enough in implementation to cause some confusion. When adding text to the image, I encountered a punctuation positioning bug that required searching for a solution, which I found (Digital Hippies 2013). In conclusion, the creation of these two graphics was certainly an educational process.

• Selecting canvas size, dpi, colour mode and bit depth from Photoshop’s new image dialogue.
• Working with layers, how to rename layers, hide them, duplicate them, and move them up and down the layer view.
• Changing the background to a background layer using the layer’s context tool.
• Using the blending mode context option, selecting gradient fill from the options, selecting gradient colours and orientation, placing a gradient onto a layer.
• Using the colour selection dialogue to change colours. Entering HTML hexadecimal codes for the colours, e.g #ffffff for white.
• Adding text using the text tool, changing font type, size, colour fill
• Positioning text using the move tool, resizing text using the transform tool, adding drop shadow effects to the text.
• Using the shape tool to draw rectangles, with both sharp and rounded edges. These were used for the navigation bar, the example drop down menu, and the black vertical dividers.
• Using the lasso tool to remove the frog image from its background. I attempted to use the quick selection and magic wand tools, but could not find the right tolerance to separate the image from the background effectively. I ensured that anti-aliasing was set to remove any jagged edges.
• Using the eraser tool to clean up the edges around the separated image of the frog, ensuring that anti-aliasing was set for this tool as well.
• Importing the frog image as a png file with alpha transparency, allowing it to blend in with the gradient theme of the background. Positioning the image using the move tool, and the transform tool to resize it to suit the overall web page.
• Using the shape tool to create the three panels: the main body panel, the sidebar panel and the sale panel at the upper right. Using the fill tool to give colour to these panels. Using the layer’s context menu to add drop shadows to each of the panels.
• Using the layer list to place the main body text panel underneath the drop down menu.
• Using copy and paste techniques to add illustrative graphics to the image, such as the Facebook image, the treble clef, and the mobile phone graphics.
• Using the move tool and the transform tool to position and size these graphics.
• Using the text tool to place other text, such as the phone number, the copyright, and the panel text. Using the move and transform tools to position and size the text.

funky frog

The funky frog website mockup

Statistics don’t prove anything

Rather a broad, all-encompassing thing to state, right?

Well, it’s true. Statistics don’t prove anything. Even the most rigorously undertaken statistical tests can only strongly suggest whatever outcome the hypothesis the tester set out to examine.  Practically every properly conducted statistical test is built around a confidence level.  That’s to say that there is a % chance that the expected outcome may be incorrect, or the obverse of that, what you’re expected to be incorrect turns out otherwise.

I’m not going to go into type 1 or type 2 errors but in science, most confidence levels for tests are set at 95%. So, there is a 5% chance that data collected falls outside of the test’s purview. Five percent is a significant figure, when all things are weighed up. Even if the confidence level was set at 99%, there still a 1% chance of an anomaly. Even in things one would consider dead certainties.

So, while lawyers may be able to prove things, statistics can’t – and it’s not their task to. They can only strongly suggest.

 

The efficacy of Richmond Valley Council’s Food and Garden Organics Collection scheme

A report I did for uni. As always, do not cite any part of this in your own work, as it’s not peer-reviewed or authoritative. A PDF of this report can be found here (725 KB)


Abstract

On the thirteenth of June of 2016, Richmond Valley Shire Council in northern New South Wales introduced the Food and Organics collection scheme. This scheme was first implemented in the Casino district on that date, and then other parts of the shire such as Evans Head, Coraki and Woodburn on the twentieth of June.
The scheme was introduced as a response to perceived wastages and environmental concerns disposing of organic waste in normal landfilling. It was decided that these wastes would be of better service to the community if they were composted, returning the product to the soil as mulch and compost. This composting is performed at the Lismore Recycling and Recovery Centre.

To facilitate this scheme, the shire council delivered to each resident a small kitchen caddy and a roll of biodegradable liner bags. When filled, the bags are then placed in a green-coloured recycle bin (a “wheelie” bin) for pickup by the council’s garbage disposal service. This larger bin is for all organic waste, namely grass clipping, leaves, cardboard and other compostable products.

The aim of this paper is to examine the efficacy of the collection and composting process in comparison with traditional landfilling methods. It will review not only the environmental impact industrial scale composting has, but also the financial aspect, and whether composting is cost effective vis-à-vis with landfilling.

Keywords: composting, methane, landfills, Richmond Valley Council, recycling
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Aswell, dissapointed and alot

More non-sequential musings


It kind of irritates me to see the above in text. Even in notepad++ all three come up as spelling errors, which of course they are.

It’s lazy and/or ignorant writing that leads to these horrors. I suspect that lessons learned in school were promptly forgotten amidst the madness of the Internet. Logically, I’m standing in the way of a tidal wave if I think this small homily will change either jack or shit. But it’s nice to give voice to it.

Folanae fanlo

I love putting obscure gaming references into the things I write. The title of this page is the password you need to get into the Mountainmen’s treasure room in the game Ultima Underworld 1. The heading of this section is the password you give to Illomo the Seer in the same game, who then gives you a mantra you need.

It’s not difficult to feel nostalgia for these old games, but when I load them up and look at those blocky, 8-bit graphics, of course I wonder how I ever played them at all. Well, it’s what I was accustomed to at the time. I genuinely believed back in the 90s that they were wonderful.

Incredible thing, nostalgia. I look back upon a lot of games I played 15-20 years ago with a wistful fondness. The first MMO I played to any length, Everquest, I often reflect back on with attachment. Gaming online – cooperatively – was very new then. I say cooperatively, as most of the online gaming with human interaction was with shooters such as Quake etc.

So I didn’t quite know how to react to certain people and occasions and I was a bit of a blowhard back then.

I got into it with a few people in Everquest, especially with one guy who had an interest in my wife. There was a hell of a lot of acting tough and hot-air generated threats, and I perpetrated some of it. Nowadays, people online laugh at that sort of thing – internet tough guy detected – or they make memes out of it.

So if I give that nostalgia close examination, my time in Everquest wasn’t as idyllic and fun as it initially seems. The game was also an horrific time sink requiring a major investment of time – it took a long time to do anything worthwhile in it. But that’s the allure of nostalgia. Some time ago, four of five years, I installed the game again and ran around on my wife’s wizard. Mixed feelings abound.

Cytherea alive

Random thoughts


Imagine if you will, that you get a new job somewhere…say, a baker in a bakery. You’re there for a few days and you get to meet the cast and crew of this workplace – some are new, some have been there maybe a year and others are veterans of the bread and cake making trade. Grizzled, hoary things of unenviable vintage.

One day, you turn out seventy loaves of new white bread and boy do they smell good. Your nearest workmate – let’s call her Alice – Alice has churned out ninety loaves of bread, and that’s the record she thinks a neophyte like you needs to better. But there’s another workmate – we’ll call him Gerry – Gerry points subtly to the old baker veteran up the end of the row and whispers, “But Harry there baked one hundred sixty loaves in one hit! and nobody else has ever come close to that.”

Everyone becomes reflectively silent as they take in this bit of breathless news. A quiet yet magnanimous respect for Harry descends on you and you regard him with new-found awe. One hundred and sixty mo-fucking loaves!.

160! What an unsurpassable effort! Insuperable! Harry is top dog in your smitten eyes now, big chief baker amongst bakers.

Of course, you’re no longer cognisant of the fact that before you joined the ranks of bakers, you wouldn’t have given a second’s thought about such an achievement.

I’m sure sociology has its own term for this, but I’m creative and made one up. This is a phenomenon I define as “relative heroism” and it occurs in nearly every workplace on Earth. The guy or girl who’s baked more in an hour, or arrested more criminals in a week, packed more cartons, sheared more sheep, cut more hair, served more beer, did the Kessel run quicker than Han Solo…

Elder Scrolls medals of valour

Relative heroism goes beyond the walls of the mundane workplace. It’s online too; ensconced in the virtual world. I was in a beta test for the game Elder Scrolls Online, and like most who applied to test it, I came into the beta fairly late, like a year after it commenced. Quite a few people had been accepted into the initial round of invites the developer issued, and some of these displayed the relative hero attitude. They’d been in beta for a year, therefore they were veterans; dogged, hardcore, burned-in veterans at that. So there was some condescending resentment towards the likes of myself, who was a “scrub”.

One went as far to suggest he had entitlements and perquisites with the game’s makers beyond what is probably normal in developer-tester relationship. He reasoned that the developers of the game owed him something for the time he’d put in.

He and his kith were heroes, almost of the war veteran kind, and felt they deserved some variety of reverential respect from beta-testing “scrubs” such as myself. Logically, and to the surprise of few, they didn’t get it.

Relative heroism.

A Richmond Range adventure

Please do not cite this blog post in a report or paper. It’s not peer-reviewed and is simply an informal account.


Between 23 August and 26 August 2017, I attended a camp for university at Cambridge Plateau, which is part of Richmond Range National Park, approximately 35 km west of Casino. Richmond Range is a dividing point between the watersheds of the Clarence River to the west, and the Richmond River to the east. Both of these rivers are part of what gives the Northern Rivers region its name. (The Tweed River is the other one).

We made camp at the picnic area at Cambridge Plateau, which is ordinarily not legally possible, but the NPWS of NSW has given the uni special dispensation as we were a research organisation and ultimately will be benefiting the national park (and environmental science in general).

Where we were:

Area map for Richomd Range NP

Area map for Richmond Range NP (Source: Google Maps)

The picnic ground is along the ridge, with a very scenic view facing eastward, and Mt. Warning (Wollumbin) could be seen if conditions were clear. Interestingly, the picnic ground is a transition between two biogeographical areas, with dry eucalypt forest to the south, and subtropical rainforest to the north. There are two scenic walks accessible from the picnic area, a short ten minute walk, and a longer, more challenging hour-long one.

The rainforest component of the national park has achieved World Heritage listing, and the visitor’s information signs at the picnic ground state that the entire park has among the highest biodiversity in Australia. During my stay at the picnic site, a lace monitor (Varanus varius) wandered in occasionally, and a red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) was seen along the road to the south, in addition to the myriad of birds that could be heard, especially the sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) with its ear-shattering shriek.

After setting up camp, we were briefed as to the activities and projects we would undertake, then we travelled to our assigned transects (ours was in the eucalyptus forest) and laid out Elliott traps and infrared motion detector cameras. The box traps were baited with a rolled ball of oats, peanut butter and honey.

Where I set up camp:

My tent at the site

My tent at the site

I did not have a great first night. My sleeping bag, which my youngest daughter currently uses as a doona, would not zip up, so I had to use it as a blanket. This was not very successful, as the cold from the ground seeped up through the inflatable mattress and made sleep a patchy affair. The net result was I had about three hours of productive sleep. So I was in a daze a good deal of the following day. Even with a mid-morning nap, I was feeling it throughout the day.

Anyhow, after breakfast, we went back to our designated transects and checked the traps. We retrieved the SD card from the camera, and found it had exhausted its batteries overnight (it operates on 6-12 AA batteries). So we caught nothing on camera there, but we had better luck with the Elliotts. We caught five animals from 25 traps, which gave us a 20% success rate. Four of the animals were the fawn-footed melomys (Melomys cervinipes), a native rodent and one Stuart’s antechinus (Antechinus stuartii), a marsupial. I never managed to get a photograph of the antechinus but here’s one of me holding a melomys. As is visible, its tail is longer than its body.

Yours truly and a captured melomys

Yours truly and a captured melomys

Like most rodents, the melomys is an omnivore, and is apparently an adept climber as one we released scurried straight up a tree. An interesting point about the antechinus is that it is semelparous, that is that the male has a single reproductive episode and then dies. The antechinus and a few related species among marsupials are the only mammals in which this occurs. As it happened, this time of year (August, late winter) is their breeding season, so the male antechinus we found was very feisty and highly-strung, and drew blood from its handler.

After checking the traps, we left them closed until the afternoon, where we re-opened them, as our programme called for trapping over two nights. Later that day we ventured down the same transects for a reptile survey, which mostly entailed us turning over logs and large branches. We saw a few reptiles, mainly small skinks and legless lizards. There were centipedes, millipedes and slaters (woodlice) as well. However our reptile count was below expectation, and we theorised this was due to low rainfall over the last month. In Casino, there has been 0.2 mm of rain in the month, which is the lowest in twenty years.

Also on the second day, we examined what bats were caught in the harp traps. The bats in question are microbats, carnivorous mammals generally smaller than their flying fox cousins. In fact, many of them are among the smallest mammals in existence. They are insectivorous, catching their prey on the wing by using echolocation. To facilitate this, many of them have elaborate ears and facial structures that have evolved for the purpose of sending and receiving the high-pitched frequencies.

The majority of echolocating microbats emit frequencies that are well above human ability to hear. We used a device known as a bat detector to hear their calls. This instrument bounces down the signal (often 40-55 kHz) to a frequency humans can hear. This little fellow below made a lot of noise while he was being measured.

The little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus) having his particulars measured.

The little forest bat (Vespadelus vulturnus) having his particulars measured.

Unfortunately, a number of captured bats died in the traps after antechinuses climbed into the trap receptacle and ate them. All up, we captured four different species of bat, and all surviving animals were released the following night.

In the evening of the second day we went spotlighting along the road near our transects. The object of this was to survey nocturnal arboreal mammals such as gliders and possums, and other creature we could see, such as owls. Along our transect, which was 250 m in length, we saw three greater gliders (Petauroides volans) in total. This species is renowned for simply staring back at a spotlight, whereas other glider species, and possums, tend to avert their eyes or get out of the way of the beam. The gliders we saw were 25-40 m high in the branches of the Eucalyptus trees upon which they feed. Their yellowish-white eyeshine is rather striking in the nighttime darkness.

I borrowed one of uni’s sleeping bags, and a neighbour gave me a blanket. That night, I slept infinitely better and woke on the third day feeling much happier about things. Firstly, we performed a bird survey along our transects, 20 m in from the road. Didn’t see much, but certainly heard a lot, especially the omnipresent belling from colonies of bell miners (Manorina melanophrys). These birds are problematical in the Australian bush, as they feed on the exudations (lerps) of psyllid bugs (a type of sap-sucking true bug of the insect order Hemiptera). They don’t eat the psyllids, but their territorial nature chases away smaller birds that do. The upshot of this is that psyllids flourish, and trees die from sap deprivation. This is known as Bell Miner Associated Dieback and is an increasing problem in the forests these birds dwell in. They are cryptic to see in the canopy, as their colouration matches the mottled green to yellow leaves of Eucalyptus well. Definitely one of the heard rather than seen creatures of the wild.

We then checked our Elliotts and found two female Stuart’s antechinuses, and two male bush rats (Rattus fuscipes). The latter is a very common species in the wild of Australia, though it avoids urbanised areas, which sets it apart behaviour wise from the exotic black rat (Rattus rattus). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of either of these species. Since our ground-dwelling mammal capture regime was to last only two nights, we took the traps up, as well as the SD cards from the cameras.

Later that day, we had briefings on career paths for environmental scientists as well as an opportunity to draft the introduction and methods of the report that will come out of the camp. That evening we went on the second of our spotlighting excursions, but this time we performed it along a rainforest transect. Alas, we saw nothing, but this is to be expected. While rainforests are often touted as centres of biodiversity, this is largely true in the floral and invertebrate sense. Most of Australia’s arboreal mammals do not dwell in rainforest trees. However, there was incredible epiphyte growth in some of these rainforest trees, with one specimen almost covered in staghorn ferns (Platycerium superbum).

That night, the uni’s sleeping bag unzipped and wouldn’t re-zip properly, so I had a mixed experience. If/when I go camping again, I will definitely apply lessons learned. Before I went to bed, I had a chance to show off my star-gazing skills with a few people, pointing out Aquarius and Capricorn, et al, to them.

Rainforest habitat north of the picnic area

Rainforest habitat north of the picnic area

After one very cold night, we performed another bird survey, with much the same results. To add insult to injury, the zipper on my coat broke, making this outing a chilly enterprise. Then it was time for pack up, and we got everything in order to move out, leaving the picnic area and the environment the way we found it. All rubbish was taken out with us. There were no bins at the site, only two composting toilets, and as I mentioned at the beginning, camping is not usually done here hence the lack of facilities. So I was four days without a shower, and I enjoyed having one when I got home.

Withal, it was an enjoyable and educational experience, despite the cold and personal under-preparation for camping.  It’s certainly given me incentive to look forward to a career in environmental science, and seeing as I’m halfway through the last subject I need to graduate, that reality isn’t far away.

 

A revelatory book explored

A self-help book

The light bulb came on

If How-To’s Were Enough We Would All be Skinny, Rich and Happy – Brian Klemmer


I’ll be the first to admit that this post’s title would most likely fail SEO critiquing. On the plus side, it can certainly not be described as clickbait. No 10 reasons for blah blah here.

Anyhow, onward and upward. Some time back, my local library had a sale, disposing of excess inventory. I bought about 15-20 books for the princely sum of $10 Australian. A few were fiction, but most were non-fictional works on topics that I possess a passing interest in (at the least). This book was one of them. The title itself was intriguing, as I’ve sat and glossed over quite a few how-tos in my day, on a wide variety of subjects – including personal improvement.

This one is short at 149 pages, divided into ten chapters including an epilogue. Each of these chapters cover themes and concepts that could easily stand on their own, though there is ample inter-relationship, making this book a cohesive whole.

This book is strongly recommended.

Chapter 1: The secret

The key point of this introductory chapter is that we see things and the world tinted through sunglasses. While wearing these, we are loath to view the world (or anything) in any other colour or hue apart from what these glasses show us. We stubbornly adhere to the ingrained belief that there is nothing beyond this view, and you’re foolish to even try to describe the world in any other terms. So take them off and see what the world truly looks like.

Chapter 2: The Formula of Champions

For me, this chapter was the awakening. The formula to success is Intention + Mechanism = Result. This may well be self-evident to many, but the kicker here is what an intention is. The author argues that people intend to do things at two levels. There’s your stated intention – I’m going to lose weight – but your true intention is – it’s all too hard or it takes too long – therefore the formula collapses before it even starts. I’m proof of this intention vs true intention paradigm, just have a read of the Operation 47 pep talks I’ve posted here.

Once your true intention becomes what you’re truly desiring, then half the battle is won.

Chapter 3: The Key to Relationships

In this chapter, the author discusses the self-destructiveness of what he calls the 3R’s – resentment, resistance and revenge. He asserts that feeling these three emotions is natural. It’s not about avoiding them, but redirecting them into positive energy. Some excellent guidelines are provided to do precisely that.

Chapter 4: Responsibility

This one is self-explanatory. Taking ownership, and having the liberty to make choices.

Chapter 5: To think is to create

This chapter sums up the differences between the conscious and the subconscious. The author asserts that it is pointless to pep yourself up at a conscious level if your subconscious isn’t in line with it. It then discusses visualisation as opposed to imagination. Visualisation of wants and desires aid in realising them. Again, this is a landmark way of seeing things for me, much like what was discussed in Ch. 2. They’re limpid concepts that remain obscured to most people.

Chapter 6: Your vision 

This chapter is about goal-setting and some different ways of approaching them. Short and sweet.

Chapter 7: The power of balance

This is another one of those epiphanous chapters. Here, the reader is asked to visualise, or actually draw, a diagram based on four different aspects of your self (that’s not “yourself”) – physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Although the author is writing from a Christian point of view, he does stress that spiritual can mean whatever it means to the individual.

These aspects are rated out of ten with one being the least. The object is to balance the four aspects in harmony, without one or more having outliers and thus putting you out of balance.

Chapter 8: Oneness vs separateness 

Discusses how essentially that no human is an island. It goes on to explain that most of us have an ingrained us and them belief regarding others, and the object of this chapter is to remove this and become inclusive with those you formally excluded (mentally or otherwise). By doing this, life comes win-win for all concerned, rather than win-lose or lose-lose.

Chapter 9: an action attitude…first day, last day

How not to burden yourself with unwarranted fears and the like. Dreams are easier and simpler to achieve if the road ahead is cleared of all foreseeable trouble. Plus it tackles the subject of procrastination by asking you to roleplay your last day, and what would you do and/or achieve before you died at the end of that day.

In other words, there is no moment like now to get things going. See excuses for what they are.

Chapter 10:  Rags to riches…applying the philosophy 

Delves into a case study of an Hawaiian man who makes kites and yo-yos. This chapter is all about achievable goals and the art of goal-setting. Gives a ten point philosophy to make the transition from poor to successful, and most of these points were touched on in previous chapters, particularly win-win and visualisation.

The book then concludes with a summarising epilogue and an exhortation to being faithful and true to yourself while on the to a better life.

Honours critical review – gothic literature

An essay I did for uni


Review of Danielle Carr’s (2013) Master of Arts thesis Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature

The nature of my research is to place the traditional forms of Gothic and dark romantic literature in a contemporary Australian setting, taking the genres away from their archetypal settings of castles, mansions and inserting them into the everyday, workaday world of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. Danielle Carr’s thesis is titled Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature and her research parallels mine as she explored the psychological themes behind Gothic and dark romantic fiction, and separated them from their settings, thus enabling Gothic and dark romantic fiction to be effectively placed in any location. Additionally, Carr’s research includes creative components integrated into the thesis, which is a strategy I will use in my own research.

In spite of the title of Carr’s thesis including postmodernism, there is actual little emphasis devoted to this artistic movement. On the contrary, in form and shape, Carr adheres to traditional narrative structures in her creative works, with clear beginnings and endings, and no unreliable narrator techniques are used. In fact, as Patricia Waugh states, modernism is a fiction of consciousness, where postmodernism is one concerning itself with the fictionality of a text (Waugh cited in Nicol 2009, p. xvii). So postmodernism as a literary style is less interested in the working of the psyche or the soul than it is on the nature of the very text itself, using this definition. Another definition is that postmodernism is a blending of all styles to deliberately defy classification (Abrams 1999, p. 168). There is none of this experimentation in the thesis as Carr concentrates altogether on the nature of the Gothic and the dark romantic being fictions about the conscious. She makes a distinction between Gothic and dark romantic literature, stating that the latter is a subset of the former (Carr 2013, p. 5) and quotes Poe’s Ligeia as a salient example. She suggests that the seminal difference between the two is that dark romanticism features visionary, poetical writing. However, the distinction is often blurred as Dinçer points out that both are fictions of dark dreariness, usually concluding in an unhappy manner (Dinçer 2010, p. 220).

The methods Carr used were composing three creative works of varying length, The Conservatory, Psychosis and The Lady of Tangiers, then writing an exegesis on each, with an eye to psychological theory and how it can be applied to Gothic and dark romantic fiction. Carr worked alone on this thesis and there is no acknowledgement to any other contributor apart from a bibliography listing her sources. Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature draws heavily on the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (Carr 2013, p.3), particularly Jung’s theories of Self and what Jung called the archetypes: psyche and soul (Stevens 1994) in which Carr identifies as being critically important to Gothic literature. She argues that the literature itself would be ineffective without psychological insight or the application of psychological theory. The literary symbolism in Jung’s theories has been utilised in Carr’s first creative work in the thesis, The Conservatory, is a short piece the author has constructed in a deliberately antiquated style. Within, Carr implements Jung’s archetypes and his theories on the mandala – the circle. The mandala, according to Jung, was emblematic of the what he termed the “psychic transformation” (Jung cited in Stevens 1994). Carr uses this symbolism in her short story to illustrate how a mental state can come full circle. The Conservatory also deals with the matter of the Faustian bargain, where the protagonist is searching for the elixir of youth. Carr cites Goethe’s work as being seminal to the Gothic canon (Goethe cited in Carr 2013, p. 13) and she has her protagonist seemingly forsake his life for the pursuit of the elixir.

In her second creative work, Psychosis, Carr again applies the psychological theories of Freud with regards to the repression of bad memories (Freud cited in Carr 2013, p. 27). In her creative work, Carr suggests that repressed memories are not a natural mental state and there had to be division between the conscious and unconscious. The character of Melinda in Psychosis is redirecting her suppressed memories into “anxiety hysteria” (Carr 2013, p. 28) which Carr suggests is a subset of psychoanalysis. The hidden or obscured memory aspect posits itself into Gothic literature in terms of the unstated or understated, which Carr exemplifies with her mentioning of du Maurier’s Rebecca (du Maurier 1938) in which the titular character is deceased but exerts a palpable and dark influence throughout the novel (Carr 2013, p. 5). So, Carr suggests that what is figuratively buried beneath the surface can be an effective ploy in Gothic and dark romantic literature.

Her third creative work, The Lady of Tangiers, is a novelette that draws upon Freud’s theories of the uncanny (Freud cited in Carr 2013, p. 49). Here, a unrequited love story is made ominous by the environment itself: the Sahara Desert. The visitors to this harsh land are a group of English aristocrats going for a sortie from the safer confines of the Moroccan city of Tangiers (or Tangier as it is more commonly known). Among the sands and the harsh winds, they encounter the supernatural and the romantic interest of the protagonist vanishes. Carr in her exegesis of this story makes comparisons with the colonial experiences of the British in Australia: the strangers in a strange land trope, thus shifting the genre of the story into the postcolonial. She states that Gothic fiction set in lands that have been colonised are by their very nature haunted (Mafe cited in Carr 2013, p. 50) which suggests that the land itself remembers or is capable of sentient deed. This is an important facet to my research as I intend to employ a similar methodology with my own creative work: imbuing the land itself with a slumbering malevolence.

Much of the thesis is a work of juxtaposition and intertextuality; comparing her creative works to previously published material and placing them into the Gothic and dark romantic canon. Interestingly, she makes comparisons between The Conservatory and previously published material insofar as stating that the garden is a place of innocence (Carr 2013, p.17) and that this innocence can be inverted by the application of Gothic and dark romantic tropes, especially those sourced from philosophical literature such as Jung and Freud. Thus, I feel that Carr is making a point here in her thesis that Gothic fiction is largely one of upending order and completion, and replacing it with disorder and unresolved issues. This is a crucial key in my own research as other works I have studied have drawn similar conclusions (Chudy, Cook & Costello 2010).

To summarise, Carr makes repeated references to psychology and symbolism and their importance in Gothic and dark romantic literature. There is stress made that these forms of literature depend heavily upon the usage of symbol and metaphor for their potency. Indeed, Carr draws a conclusion through exegesis and exposition that Gothic fiction would not work without such artifice. At its very core, both forms of fiction are works of psychology, where the fear and dread, or the sin and guilt, are sui generis. I do not believe that Carr has made a totally effective use of her fiction to convey the points she is making as all three works are in need of editing, as there are numerous phrasing and dialogue issues with them. Regardless, the core ideas are firmly there and the exegeses are sound, providing further avenues into deeper research. In summary, this thesis succeeds as an article of research into Gothic and dark romantic fiction, particularly in an Australian setting.

References

Abrams, M 1999, A Glossary of Literary Terms (7th ed.), Thomson Publishing, New York

Carr, D 2013, ‘Psychological Reflections on Post – Modernist Gothic Literature’, MA thesis, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria

Chudy, T, Cook, N & Costello, M 2010, A ‘ruined or fractured’ sublime: voice, identity and agency in reading and writing the gothic/noir in subtropical regional Australia, Strange Bedfellows: Refereed Conference Papers of the 15th Annual AAWP Conference, 2010

Dinçer, F 2010, The light and dark Romantic features in Irving, Hawthorne and Poe, The Journal of International Social Research, 3(10), pp. 218-224

du Maurier, D 1938, Rebecca, Victor Gollancz, London

Nicol, B 2009, The Cambridge introduction to postmodern fiction, Cambridge University Press, New York

Stevens, A 1994, Jung, a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford

One night at the table (play)

A play I did for uni


CHARACTERS

TRAVIS A welder by trade in his late forties, loves his
cricket and his footy. Working class traditionalist.

LISA His nineteen year old daughter, first year uni student
Progressive minded.

SETTING

A dining room with a long oblong table in the centre. The table is set for a meal for two. A single fluorescent light on the ceiling. Sparse furnishings – some paintings of nature scenes on the walls, a wall unit with associated knick-knacks. There is a kitchen in the background.

TIME

It is dinner time. Light through kitchen window gives the impression of twilight.

SCENE 1

AT RISE: (LISA is bringing two plates of food from the kitchen to the dining room table. TRAVIS is sitting at the table already, busy with a mobile phone.)

LISA
(Reaches table)
If I have to cook at Christmas, I’m gonna scream.

TRAVIS
(still looking down at phone)
Hmm? Well, we can’t eat grass for Chrissy, can we?

LISA
No, but we can have something cold. You know? Salads, cold meat, rolls and stuff. We don’t need to cook. You’re too stingy to buy air-con for this place.

TRAVIS
(looks up at LISA as she sets the plates down)
Stingy? You know how much a decent reverse cycle air-con costs? To say nothing of the power bill. So much for Tony nuking the carbon tax – freakin’ bills keep going up. Nothing’s getting cheaper.

LISA
(sits down)
More reason to have cold stuff. You don’t want high bills, then don’t make me cook at Chrissy. I buy cold stuff from Coles – coleslaw, green salad mix, mesclun and a bunch of sliced meat, and we’re good to go.

TRAVIS
(shaking his head)
Bullshit. That sounds like a granny’s Sunday lunch at the nursing home.

LISA
Think of the environment, Dad. If I don’t cook at Chrissy, there’s less carbon polluting the air, making summer hotter. Everyone wins.

TRAVIS
Except for me. I get rabbit food for Chrissy. (stops eating and glances at LISA) What the hell is a “mesclun?”

LISA
It’s NOT rabbit rood. Look, you don’t get enough vitamin C and iron, Dad. All that shit you eat for lunch now, pies and sausage rolls and so on. Unhealthy crap, every bit of it. Dr. Gordon at uni, he’s a geologist and he says that pies have thickener added to them to bulk them out. That stuff’s carcinogenic.

TRAVIS
It’s what?

LISA
And you’re making me cook in forty degree weather. All because you won’t buy an air-con. Well, I’m bringing in that big fan from out in the garage and I’ll be gunning it all day if I have to slave away in there.

TRAVIS
I don’t think it works.
(HE chews, and stares down at his food)
What’s this purple stuff?

LISA
It’s cabbage.

TRAVIS
Purple cabbage? Really? I think you’ve added some of your Greenie chemicals to it. I’m gonna end up a socialist now, aren’t I?

LISA
(shakes head slowly)
Dad! It’s a cultivar of cabbage that’s purple. It’s the same damned thing as regular cabbage. Brassica oleracea, the cabbage of yore. Same stuff, trust me. Another teacher at uni, Professor Wilkins, he teaches calculus and says cabbage’s iron content is as good as spinach. There you go, an expert, so it’s good for you, green or purple.

TRAVIS
You’re not making this shit for Chrissy, I can tell you that right now.

LISA
Shit? My cooking is shit?

TRAVIS
(covers his mouth apologetically)
Well…no, just this cabbage.

LISA
But it’s still something I cooked! Me! Did you call mum’s cooking shit?

TRAVIS
(coughs)
No. Of course not…um. I’m just saying I prefer cabbage that’s the right colour.

LISA
Try it.
(emphatically points at her father’s food with a fork).
Just give it a go. I bet you like it.

TRAVIS
All right, it’s good.

LISA
Told you. We’re having it for Chrissy.

TRAVIS
Yeah, but you gotta cook it, don’t you? Slaving away in the kitchen.

LISA
Boiling vegetables isn’t the same thing as roasting stuff in an oven. I can make cabbage, toss some salads together, some nice sliced meat, like ham, mortadella, pastrami, some hot English mustard, cranberry sauce. What do you think of that?

TRAVIS
Morta-what?

LISA
If I get all the meats and salad vegetables Christmas Eve, it’ll only take like ten minutes to sort out Chrissy lunch. There’s this guy in America, Doctor Oz, a world-famous medico. He says that doing things like slaving away in the kitchen isn’t a productive use of your time. He’s an expert on health, so he would know all about time and motion, right? Makes perfect sense to me.

TRAVIS
Yeah, he sounds like a genius. Still don’t think it’s right not to cook for Chrissy. It’s a tradition, you know? We’ve been cooking big baked dinners and lunches for Christmas for donkey’s years. What would your mum think of not having a roast dinner for lunch? Think of what she’d say?

LISA
She’d say “buy a damn air conditioner, you cheapskate”

TRAVIS
They cost thousands for a decent one. Already told you that. I’m not made of money so think of my bank balance, please.

LISA
Get a halfway decent one then. I’m still getting that fan out of the shed if you’re gonna make me cook.

TRAVIS
It’s un-Australian not to have a roast at Chrissy. Like not having Coon in the fridge.

LISA
Plenty of Australians have salads and cold meals at Chrissy. Coon cheese is nasty, and it’s racist. Just ask that guy in Toowoomba.

TRAVIS
(gives LISA a long, hard stare)
No true Australian has cold meals at Chrissy, Lisa. It’s completely not dinky-di.
(TRAVIS turns to the audience)
I just can’t understand it with her. This family has had Christmas dinners for ages, since I don’t know when. Nice, hot, big Chrissy lunches and dinners. Sometimes turkey, sometimes roast beef or ham, but I gotta say, I don’t care for turkey much. The Yanks love their turkey, but I reckon it tastes like old mutton. But either way, we don’t have cold stuff for Chrissy. I don’t care if it’s summer here and the wallpaper’s falling off the walls – it’s how we do things. How we’ve always done it. It’s our way and there’s no reason to change it. We cook for Chrissy. It’s too easy, you know? You don’t fix things that aren’t broken, and a good old fashioned Chrissy lunch, with ham, taters, asparagus and stuff is how it’s good. Not damned salad and sliced meat from Coles’ Deli. If you want that, have it for lunch some other day, but not Christmas Day. Traditions are traditions for a cause and there’s no godly reason to change them.
(turns back to LISA)
It’s not ridgey-didge, Lisa. It’s not what any true Australian would do.

LISA
I guess we’re not true Australians then. I’m embarrassed to be an Australian sometimes anyway, Dad.
(LISA turns to the audience)
People booing champion Aboriginal football players, our speaker of Parliament on the take and all that. Our manufacturing base is no more, everything has been outsourced or sent overseas. Everything! And people need to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution! Harmonisation of the people! Reconciliation. What Dad wants me to do is indicative of the old-ways zeitgeist. The woman cooks, the man sits and watches, goddamnit! If only Mum had stood up for herself more with him, but no…old school she was, pathological housewife, born female to be nothing else than a sow-breeder, kitchen slave and dogsbody. At least she had the sense to finally realise her place in life was tainted. I wonder if she’ll even call us this Christmas from wherever she is now. I just know Dad spoke shit about her cooking too. Well, no more!
(turns back to TRAVIS)
I’m gonna go get that fan. If it blows up then you watch – I won’t need to cook anything this Christmas.
(LISA gets up and EXITS through the kitchen)

(TRAVIS grunts and returns to his mobile phone)
I wanted to put ten bucks on that four year old I saw at Rosehill, whatever it’s bloody name was. How the hell do I place a bet again?…What do you mean, no credit? I just got paid yesterday…ah stuff it, I’ll go down to the TAB. Can’t beat the old way.

(LISA returns to the dining room, carrying a tall metal fan. She puts it in front of her father and plugs it in to a power point.)
Watch this thing conk out!
(SHE turns on the fan. It starts up smoothly, oscillating strongly.)

TRAVIS
Looks alright to me. Look at it go. If it wasn’t gonna work, it would’ve stopped by now.

LISA
I thought you said this probably wouldn’t work? It looks like it’s never been used to me. Probably hasn’t been.

TRAVIS
(another long and hard stare to LISA)
Are you gonna cook Chrissy lunch?

LISA
(distracted)
Hmm…yeah why not?

TRAVIS
Good girl, I knew tradition would win out in this house…what’s a mesclun?

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