It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

Week 8. Resolution 8. Register as an Organ Donor. February 28, 2010

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This week’s resolution took only a minute to complete but could potentially have the biggest effect of them all.  Although you may not know it (I wouldn’t if I hadn’t looked it up) this week is Australian Organ Donor Awareness Week and to contribute I decided it was time to register as an organ donor.

In the past I always refused to tick the organ donor box on my driver’s licence, which was very much an active decision on my part.  I honestly believed that consenting to mutilation of my body after death would be the same as allowing it to happen to me in life.  I also felt a spiritual need to remain whole.  They were silly reasons but I clung to them and argued with anyone who tried to make me believe otherwise.

The older I got, the crazier these notions became, but in 2005 when they removed that box from the QLD driver’s licence forms I was no longer faced with the reminder I needed to act on my change of heart.

When my mother was diagnosed with leukaemia I was continually inspired by the generous act of donating bone marrow.  This is considered a somewhat painful procedure so the idea that someone would offer this freely, anonymously and selflessly, without ever knowing who they’re giving it to and whether that person lived or died, is completely mind-blowing.  You can only imagine how it feels to know that because of a stranger’s sacrifice you get to keep someone you love so dearly around for longer than they would have been otherwise.  How can you even put that kind of thank you into words?  And when you have something you no longer need how can you possibly deny another family who are about to lose someone the ultimate gifts of life and time?

According to  http://www.donatelife.gov.au/

Australia is a world leader in successful organ transplants but a shortage of donors means that around 1700 people are waiting at any one time for a life-saving or life-improving transplant. One organ and tissue donor can save the lives of up to ten people and significantly improve the lives of dozens more, yet Australia has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the developed world.

There are many misconceptions which cause hesitation among people.  For starters you can only be considered a donor if you have been declared brain dead.  This will be established by two independent specialists through a series of tests.  Your body will not be used for research as this requires specific written permission.  Marking a checkbox on your driver’s licence does not guarantee you as a potential donor.  The Australian Organ Donor Register is the only proper channel to register your decision and even then your family still has the final decision which is why it is also important to make them aware of your choice.

If you live in Australia you can find out more information at http://www.donatelife.gov.au/ and also at http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/public/services/aodr/index.jsp which is where the register is housed.  It honestly takes only a minute to fill out and requires very little information.  Much less information than it takes to join a social networking site.

Facing your own mortality is difficult, but it’s much, MUCH worse to endure life without someone you love by your side – so I implore you, if you haven’t already, think it over.

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Week 7. Resolution 7. Go to GOMA. February 24, 2010

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The Gallery of Modern Art, or GOMA, as it is affectionately known, is only relatively new to Brisbane having been established three years ago; but three years is a ludicrously long time for someone who claims to be an art lover to have never been.

If pushed, I would probably use the excuse that after seeing so many fabulous galleries around Europe (the key words there being ‘so many’) that I needed a rest from visual delights.  But the truth can more likely be summed up in a sentence that revolves around the word ‘lazy’.

When I lived closer to the city I spent many hours feasting on art at the Queensland Art Gallery, GOMA’s big brother, and while there is so much to enjoy, my favourite exhibition was always the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (which has now been re-housed in GOMA).  As much as I love the classics, eventually they can become too familiar, like a smile from an old friend.  And while I think Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin are massively overrated, there are many modern artists I adore, usually the kind you’d find in ‘Juxtapoz’ or ‘Giant Robot’ magazines or living on the walls of ‘Outre Gallery’ in Sydney and Melbourne.  The Asia-Pacific exhibitions never fail to find brilliant contemporary artists (for example, Yoshitomo Nara is a regular) so it is always a joy to spend time among the collection.

Upon learning that 2010 marked the triennial I jotted down the dates on my calendar and added GOMA to my ever-growing list of resolutions.  The exhibition was on for four months, so that’s plenty of time, right?  But it took an email, three months in, to give me the motivation I needed.

GOMA would be running up-late gallery visits with well known musicians, artist talks, films and an open bar, all with a price tag of $21.50 including exhibition entry.  Bargain!  (Although it did occur to me later that the gallery is always free so it seemed like a bit of a cheeky selling point.)  I decided to head to the evening featuring the music of ‘Megan Washington’ and ‘Ladyhawke’, well-known singer / songwriters from Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Starting at the 3rd floor we worked our way down as the exhibits became increasingly more unique.  (Incidentally – if you are a grammarian and have problems with the phrase ‘more unique’ please see here:  http://www.stevecooper.org/2009/09/01/grammar-rant-1-more-unique/) Unfortunately I later had to use my program for an umbrella and probably then left it in the cab home or I’d have much more to offer on the featured artists, but you can see pictures of the most amazing exhibits here … http://qag.qld.gov.au/ – definitely check them out because a picture speaks a thousand words and I’d prefer not to do all that typing.  Plus I’ve also included some dodgy photos I sneakily (and drunkenly) took while I thought the guards weren’t watching.  (They were, and apparently it was fine to take photos).

After visiting the 2nd floor which featured a room of ‘string’ in strands from the ceiling that you blindly walk through while bumping into other patrons, we stopped to drink in the sublime musical talents of Megan Washington and her story of gorilla love.  I prefer to peruse a gallery alone so I eventually wandered off to experience more of the exhibition before running into some old friends who I naturally had to drink a bottle of champagne with before watching Ladyhawke DJ and checking out the final, and by far the best, part of the exhibition, which featured crazy guitars, a mushroom cloud of pots and pans and a life-size deer made entirely of glass balls, among other marvels.

As someone who likes to take home reminders of my experience from galleries it was lucky the gift shop was shut as we left because even though GOMA has the most expensive gift shop on the planet, this is rarely a deterrent once your belly is sloshing with alcohol.

A most excellent night all round and although it seemed smaller than usual, the 6th APT is really a treat and definitely worth checking out (soon) if you live in the local area, especially if you can make one of the ‘up-late’ evenings.  I am also now very keen to see what GOMA houses the rest of the year.

 

Week 6. Resolution 6. Learn to Yo-Yo. February 13, 2010

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The yo-yo first discovered mass fandom in the 1920s and since then has had numerous fluctuations in popularity, reflecting the up and down motion of its very nature.  So I thought it would be wise to be ready for the next comeback, completely ignoring the fact that a thirty-something woman sporting a yo-yo is about as attractive as a middle-aged businessman riding a push scooter.  At my age it’s probably best to stick to ACTUALLY walking the dog and going around the world.  Although, deep down I suspect that the time of the yo-yo may be well and truly over with its popularity declining in direct proportion to the rise of videogames and the Internet.  And, to be perfectly honest, I am completely dumbfounded as to how they’ve managed to stay so beloved for so long because I found nothing enjoyable about this challenge.

I don’t remember yo-yoing being this hard.  Although, if there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that my memory can’t be trusted.  Maybe it has something to do with the human defence mechanism’s knack of allowing us to forget our most painful experiences.  Anyway, I honestly thought by picking one up and practicing for a week, I’d be writing this blog entry about how fantastically talented I am at all things yo-yo.

I considered buying one from eBay but the price-range was a little out of my league which is further testament to their status change from ‘fad’ to ‘collectable’.  Then I discovered, buried deep in the children’s activity section of the bookstore, a ‘Make Your Own Yo-Yo!’ book with “clear instructions and handy tips” and all the parts to assemble your very own ugly green yo-yo.  Ignoring the ‘Boy Stuff’ label on the cover I tried to purchase it on the sly but was caught by my colleague who simply would not believe it was a present for a friend’s kid, despite my ‘what the hell would I do with a yo-yo’ prostrations.  Damn her.

It was a cinch to assemble, requiring nothing by my bare hands (and perhaps some teeth) and while fighting off the dog with one hand I started practicing the ‘Gravity Pull’ with the other and was dismayed to find that my throwing resulted less in catching and more in winding up string. I thought to myself ‘why has no one ever invented a retractable string like they have in measuring tape?’ when I realised that it was because everyone else managed to catch their yo-yo JUST FINE.  Every now and then I’d get a good run of catches–I think 7 in a row was my personal record (whoopee de do dah) but generally gravity, and not inertia, was winning this round.

After my run of 7 catches, I decided it was time to move on to the ‘Throw Down’.  Initially this was a little easier to master (it’s basically just throwing and catching, but done overhand style) and after my run of 9 I decided I was a pro and moved onto the next trick.  The ‘Sleeper’ is a basic trick, according to my book, but the most essential to master, as it forms the basis of the majority of yo-yo tricks.  I could easily get the damn thing to sleep (spin at the bottom of the string) but there was no way in hell I was getting it back up again.  It may have been around this point that the book was thrown across the room and my trusty friend, the Internet, was consulted.

Here I read FAQs, watched ‘how to’ videos on e-how and marvelled at the tricks the Yo-Yo guy could manage (even in his 60s).  I learnt that I’d had the string tied incorrectly and was using it on the wrong part of my finger; that I wasn’t winding the string in the proper manner and was throwing the yo-yo the wrong way around.  Ah, I thought.  It wasn’t gravity.  I am simply retarded.  Thanks for the clear instructions and handy hints, stupid book!

So I tried again.

Still nothing.  In fact, now I couldn’t manage to catch the yo-yo at all.  Suddenly the voice in the back of my head that  I’d been ignoring all along made it known that my ugly green yo-yo was just a piece of shit yo.  Not having the faintest idea of where to buy another and no one to ask for advice I decided to call it quits.

You may have won this round yo-yo but unlike you, I will be back (next week).  Tooroo!

 

Week 5. Resolution 5. Make A Record Bowl. February 6, 2010

Let it be known that this was the week that I started to wonder what the hell I’d gotten myself into.  With 40 hours of work to complete and a doubling of chores with the defection of my parentals to Hawaii I really struggled to feel any enthusiasm for the challenge.  This was not helped by my realisation that completing the resolutions was contributing to my rapidly dwindling bank account and consuming the time I felt I should be putting into my studies.

With all this in mind I needed a really easy challenge and for the first part of the week I deliberated over which one to choose, eventually deciding on ‘make a record bowl’ as I had been thinking about it for some time.

I originally discovered record bowls while perusing etsy.com for some charming homemade wares.  But it wasn’t until months later when I picked up a copy of the brilliant book ‘500 Things You Should Know’ that I discovered how easy it is to make them yourself.  After further internet research I headed out to the local shops to pick up a cheap metal bowl before facing the inevitable task of choosing a record.

I really wanted the perfect record for immortalising in bowl form.  It couldn’t be a little known or embarrassing artist and it had to hold some significance for me.  Plus it had to have a pretty label!  All of this was a fairly big ask, especially as, for some unfathomable reason, I had no idea where to go these days to buy cheap second-hand records!  I even went to some trash and treasure markets a few weeks back and found nothing.  As I’d lost some heart in the whole resolution idea I had to make it easy on myself and keep my search confined to the house.

Rifling through my box of records I gave serious thought to whether I could part with ‘The Beatle Barkers’ (farm animals covering Beatles classics – brilliant!) I finally found the perfect piece of vinyl.  It was Transvision Vamp’s ‘Pop Art’.  It had a name which suited the medium, it contained the song ‘Revolution Baby’ which heavily contributed the naming of this blog and it had a pretty rainbow on the label.  However I did have some reservations about possibly wanting to listen to it again one day on my non-existent record player.

Before committing to the final piece I thought it best to have a ‘trial’ record.  For this I hit my parent’s collection.  Although not knowing how sentimental they were about such classics as ’22 of the Greatest Waltzes’ I eventually chose Mickey’s ‘Rock Around The Mouse’ with a Disneyland label featuring a dancing Mickey and Minnie.

There are many ways to go about melting a record into bowl form but the stock standard method is to put an upside-down metal bowl on a tray and place your record on top.  Then throw it in the oven for about 10 mins at 100 degrees Celsius.  At this point you take it out and with roughly a 10 second time frame you mould the record into the shape you want, or you can put it inside the overturned bowl and hope it settles itself into an attractive form.  The beauty of it is that if you don’t like your first creation you can just reheat and reshape as many times as you like.

Even though this was only supposed to be my trial record, since Mickey had sacrificed his life for the cause, and being the perfectionist I am, it took me about 10 tries to get a look I was I was happy with i.e. something resembling the etsy piece.  This was one of my first tries.  Amongst my experimenting I even gave up on the oven for a time thinking that I could use my hairdryer to heat individual sections.  However this caused my hairdryer to overheat 3 times within 20 seconds of turning it on and wasn’t at all achieving the desired effect.

Eventually I discovered the key.  Shape individual sections how you want, don’t worry about the time constraints, then when the vinyl has hardened just throw it back in the oven until it’s soft again, take it back out, and work on another section, etc. etc. until it’s just right.  This is what I ended up with.  I am pretty happy with it, although in retrospect the Disneyland logo irks me a little since it is such a common symbol and I could probably have another go of moulding so both sides are even, but other than that I am quite pleased for it to hold my trinkets.

One thing to be mindful of is that melting vinyl produces toxic fumes which can cling to both the bowl you use and the insides of your oven if used enough.  Some people attempt to make a living out of the craft and probably have suffered no side effects, however I did notice (probably simply due to my paranoia) that I had unexplained chest pains for the rest of the day even though I made sure the room was well ventilated.  There is heavy discussion on forums about not putting food in them or using them for plants and many people even suggest throwing out the metal bowl once your project is finished.

Alternatively if you are keen to ‘go pro’ in crafting record bowls you could end up with marvellous designs such as these – however, like anything, you need quite specific equipment. 

One day I might even get around to making a Transvision Vamp bowl but for now I am happy to be able to listen to it one more time.