Sunday, November 14, 2004

Of new toys and new technology!

I had to do it sooner or later. Most new films and TV shows are coming out on DVD these days. You can still get videos, but with my local video library gradually changing over to DVD only, I felt as if I was still using vinyl in the era of CDs. (Mind you, there are some people who still refuse to use CDs, but that's another story). I knew DVD players were a lot cheaper these days - you can buy one at the supermarket for less than $70! Now, if any time, while I had some money from book royalties, was the time to invest.

And so, my friend Bart and I went out one night to Myers' Megamart store in Moorabbin. Bart loves new toys, whether they're his or someone else's, and is very good at choosing. I had to buy a new TV as well, because the tiny 34 cm set that has graced my lounge for 10 years just wouldn't take a DVD player - not in stereo, anyway. So we went all out. TVs are cheaper these days too. I'd hoped to get a Panasonic, a brand I have been happy with in the past, but the only Panasonic TV available for a price I could manage just didn't have the features I wanted, so I went for the LG, a new brand which is still inexpensive but good quality. It is 51 cm - quite big enough for me - and stereo. Bart and I decided on a video/DVD combo, because they're so cheap these days that if one part of it breaks down, it's not going to be a hassle to replace. It also meant that the old TV and video could go to my room and I could watch in bed. Bart bought me a DVD he saw me looking at, the special edition of Spartacus, and we did a very good deal on my new goodies, with delivery virtually thrown in.

A new era has begun. It's strange to remember when I recorded Star Trek on audiotape from the TV (I still have those). Then my thrill at the new VCR, and taping absolutely everything I'd ever loved. And now I have another new toy, which will let me keep my favourite stuff from being damaged, and gives me more room on the shelves while including more material. Wonder what's next?

But then, the years have brought me a lot of new things. I wrote my Honours thesis using a typewriter, and I was thrilled to have an office model instead of the portable I'd used in high school. Then my first computer at work, an Apple IIE, which didn't have a hard drive - you just shoved a program disk into one drive and your word-processing disk in the other. At home, I had an electronic typewriter which I'd bought with my winnings from the Mary Grant Bruce Award for children's fiction. It let you word process one line at a time before printing out. When I met Bart, he helped me get my first home computer, the Mac Classic II, which I still have and was still using only a few years ago, before I got a laptop lease at work. I'm on to my second laptop and the latest Mac OS.

And here I am, blogging on the WWW! My Dad, nearly 80, has become a "Silver Surfer" who needs his daily "fix" of the Net.

Go technology!

Friday, November 12, 2004

The "new" National Gallery of Victoria

I've only been back to the National Gallery of Victoria twice since it re -opened, with a flourish of publicity. I have to say, I miss the old one. They made a big thing of the fact that they didn't, after all, remove the water-wall, but last weekend, it was painted over - so you really couldn't see the water. The former Great Hall, with its stained-glass ceiling doesn't feel like a "Great" Hall any more. There are about four eating-places - one wasn't enough? Two, even?

What really bothers me, though, is that the large, warm, comfortable galleries have been reduced to small rooms, mostly dark, with hardly anywhere to sit and admire the paintings. Small though they are, they feel big because they're virtually empty, with maybe one small bench in the middle. The wood-panelling and the sunshine in the main entrance area are gone. Metal ramps from one floor to the next and the place is a rabbit-warren, with "exit" signs that just take you to the next gallery, not out on to a landing. Heaven help you if you want to visit the facilities! As for the displays of pottery and other relics, they're for all the world like the Homewares department in Myers!

Bring back the gallery I grew up with!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Prehistoric hobbits

So Tolkien was right! It's all over the newspapers about this race of tiny people whose skeletal remains have just been unearthed in caves on an Indonesian island. They're a different species, but co-existed with homo sapiens, and villagers put out food for them, like Europeans did for the fairies. The average height was only a metre, smaller than pygmies. They've been nicknamed hobbits. They were a lot brighter than their small brains would suggest, and I like to think they might have been refugees from the Shire.

It's great every now and then when you get some news that tells you it's okay to dream.

I wonder what it was like, being such a small human in a huge world, confronting huge humans, giant rats - but oddly, dwarf elephants.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Writing projects

When you write, you get stressed out without a project. I got a very pleasant surprise when my ploy of sending my education title about archaeology to a publisher worked. It was accompanied by a note saying, "This has sold 31,000 copies so far, got any work for me?" As it happened, my former editor from Allen and Unwin, who is now series editor for a sort of junior version of the True Stories series, for which I wrote two books, did have some work for me and was pleased to hear from me. So I'm working on a juvenile book about spies. It's surprised me how quickly I've managed to get through most of the first draft - I think it's all the education writing I've done, where they give you about 3 months to do a non-fiction title, complete with research.

Jack Dann once told me that you always have to "hustle" for writing jobs. He was right. I have been hustling for projects for years now. I watched him at work once, his ears pricking up when I introduced him to my then-publisher, his hand reaching into his pocket for a card... Whether I will ever be as successful as he is, I don't know. I doubt it. But you don't have to be a massive bestseller to be able to consider yourself a professional writer. If you "hustle" and get work, if someone is prepared to pay you to write for them, you're a professional writer. I've found it pays not to be fussy - fiction or non-fiction, juvenile or adult, if someone is buying, I have a go. And while I'm establishing myself and letting my name be known to those who are buying, I can still get on with the SF and fantasy that are my first love. I've sold a few of those stories too!

Friday, July 23, 2004

Six degrees

I've heard of this "six degrees of separation" business. Well, sometimes it seems to work. I have just worked out that there are about that many degrees between me and Herbert Dyce Murphy. HDM was an Australian who spied for British Intelligence early in the 20th century. I came across him while researching for a book proposal for Allen and Unwin (still waiting!). HDM had to dress as a woman for his job and was actually quite attractive. He claimed to have been painted by E. Phillips Fox, an Australian artist, in his famous painting "The Arbour", now in the National Gallery of Victoria. Fox was married to artist Ethel Carrick Fox, who once painted a still life, which was bought some time in the 1940s by Sunshine Technical School, now a part of Sunshine College, and I work on the campus that used to be Sunshine Tech. I was also the first person to be shown the painting when my friend Desi the art teacher unearthed it in an old store room.So I have a connection with a very strange part of Australian history!

Perhaps it's just another way of saying it's a small world. I have recently re-established contact with two old friends. In one case, she had gone to Russia just after the fall of the Soviet Union and that was the last I heard of her until a mutual friend (I didn't know she was a mutual friend) told me recently that she had regards for me from the other friend. In the other case, I had lost contact with a much-loved penpal. Recently, I got an e-mail from her eldest daughter, who, like me, is on the Harry Potter list Harry Potter For Grownups.Monita had wondered if I was her mother's old friend - well, Bursztynski isn't a common name. So I am back in touch with my friend Gail because I like Harry Potter. Another time, I went to a Council of Adult Education course I had chosen by sticking a pin in the catalogue and found myself sitting behind TWO old friends I hadn't seen in years!
Not quite the six degrees thing, but certainly small world.

I do have less than six degrees between me and my current close friend Bart. Bart went to uni with a lady called Sharon. Years ago, my then-library technician, Anne, went to work with Sharon at Sunshine West Secondary College. Later I met Bart and then a few years on, worked with Sharon. Another friend, James, worked as library technician at Flemington Secondary College before I did and before we knew each other.

Degrees of separation between me and famous restaurateur Stephanie Alexander? Stephanie A was originally a teacher-librarian. She worked at Princes Hill Secondary College. I eventually spent some time in the same library.

This is fun!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Meeting former students

This morning, I met a former student at the railway station. I remembered him only as a mild nuisance, not truly nasty. He was very happy to see me and told me enthusiastically about his job as a painter, which he was enjoying, and that he played professional table-tennis. He asked about some of the other staff and laughingly said he'd been "a little shit". I always like to see students who have done well. They don't have to be academic, just happy. It's one of the pleasures of working in the school system. It lets you know that you've done okay, too, especially when you get a visit from a kid you yelled at (as I have, several times).

Of course, sooner or later, you get reminded of your age when a teenager says, "You taught my mother." Ouch! :-)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Introduction to me

My name is Sue Bursztynski. I write children's books, do book and film reviews and run a library. I love things Arthurian and things science fictional. This site will be about all of the above at some stage and whatever else I feel like writing about.

I'm a member of the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Publishing Co-op, which publishes a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to the lighter side of SF and fantasy. Stories range from funny to serious, with a prefernce for funny or at least light. We need some humour in this dark world.