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I fell about laughing at a recent catch-up with colleagues, as one of our party came to the realisation that I am not, in fact writing pornography! but rather, I am writing a graphic novel and graphic novels are not synonymous with porn.

In lay terms, a graphic novel is like a comic book for grown-ups. The one I am reading at the moment is 344 pages long. Entitled Persepolis, it is the autobiographical account of Marjane Satrapi, growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The one I am writing is going to be at least as long as this, and I hope it doesn’t take 13 years to finish. This is how long it took Art Spiegelman’s to complete his memoir, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

In terms of sales, the graphic novel category is the fastest growing book category  today, yet it is still relatively unknown to most people. I am sure that the film, ‘The Watchmen’ will do much to raise the profile of graphic novels. The movie is based on Alan Moore’s book, by the same name which made it to the Time magazine list of the top 100 novels. The category is growing rapidly online, the webcomic list alone provides a daily listing of over 13,000 updated web comics.

Overview of the untitled graphic novel

There are 5 main characters in my as yet untitled graphic novel… Slyder, Jon, Amelia, Helena and Isaac.

Slyder and Jon are from alternative realities at the same point in the future (circa 2800).

Slyder’s people have rejected the creation of new things and are defined by their opportunism and the way they assimilate technology into, and with the natural.

In the year 2800 cities as we know them, have long since disappeared. Slyder’s people live in underground spaces such as Derinkuyu in Turkey, a vast underground city. The oldest parts of Derinkuyu have been around for 10,000 years, it is some 18 storeys deep, houses thousands of people and is so complex that it has vented kitchens, a winery and even a stable. There are many cities in the area joined by underground tunnels a couple of kilometers long and wide enough for people to walk three abreast. Slyders people also live in the large salt domes under Houston, 500 of them, each 1 – 2 kilometers wide. In 2009 we store some of the most volatile substances on the planet in these salt domes, ethylene for example is stored here under 1,500 pounds of pressure until we are ready to turn it into plastic. Slyder’s people also live in nuclear waste facilities in Southern California and many other such sites.

In the first installment, Slyder gathers the crew together. Through an appropriated technology (we don’t know from whom), Slyder has the ability to ‘slide’ people through time in different ways and to fold places and time together.

In Slyder’s time… one of the salt domes is full, Slyder’s people break the shell, it explodes, sets off a chain reaction and people die. The people in the nuclear waste facilities become sick, and die. Slyder needs help preventing these disasters from happening. Jon will help… up to a point, he’s happy for Slyder to stop these things from happening, but Jon is going to make sure that nothing occurs that will place his own present, an alternative reality to Slyders in jeopardy.

The novel looks at possible future scenarios based on current real world situations. I hope reach a different audience from those that would, for example read ‘The World without Us.’

I am happy to entertain all ideas for a title, shame the Watchmen is taken!

I’ll post progress and pages as I go, the latter will be of far superior quality when I add a scanner to my technology suite (some way off unfortunately).

NB: The images are still very much a work in progress, they have yet to be coloured (slight colour only) and the lettering is only ‘penciled’ at this stage.


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cimg2467My partner has taken to telling me that my mobile phone belongs in a museum. Friends suggest that when I have forgotten my phone it is because even I, am now embarrassed to be seen with it. My son thinks I should, and I quote, “kill it quickly!” Colleagues spy it sitting on the table and eye it quizzically. And as for me? Well I love my phone, it’s a Sony Ericsson P900 and it’s been with me for 6 years. It’s certainly beat up and it is kinda big and heavy, but it does everything I need it to. It takes photos and stores all my numbers and as an extra special little thing it lets me scribble on the screen with a stylus instead of using the key pad to send text messages. In short, even though my phone is out of date and ugly and war-weary, I see no need to replace it with another.

I love sparkles, fashion, design and all gorgeous things new and old. I am a hedonist, and a recovering shopaholic. I am easily seduced by all that our consumer society offers and my credit card is bent from the weight of all the glitz and glamour. It is thus that I have arrived as principles for a new consumerism:

  • only buy that what I need (it therefore follows that if it’s not broken, don’t replace it)
  • buy second-hand wherever possible
  • avoid plastic at all costs

I recently read, and recommend ‘The World Without Us’ in which the author, Alan Weisman looks at what the world would be like were humans to mysteriously vanish off the face of the earth: what would be left behind? for how long? what would our legacy be?

cimg2469Polymers, it seems, are forever. During the early 20th century, marine biologist Alistair Hardy developed an apparatus that could be towed on an Antarctic mission boat 10 meters below the surface to sample (ant-sized) krill. In the 1930s he modified it to measure even smaller plankton. It employed a band of silk, and each band had a sampling capacity of 500 nautical miles. Hardy convinced English merchant vessels using commercial lanes throughout the North Atlantic to drag his Continuous Plankton Recorder for several decades….. fast forward, and what have we learnt? Richard Thompson realised that the material was a time capsule and set about making sense of it. Thompson’s team understood that not only was the amount of the plastic in the ocean increasing, even smaller pieces of it were appearing. Slow mechanical action, like the waves wearing down the rocks into sand, there were no signs that plastics were biodegrading, only that the pieces were slowly getting smaller and smaller. “We imagined that it was being ground down smaller and smaller, into a kind of powder. And we realized [sic] that smaller and smaller could lead to bigger and bigger problems.” “There are the terrible stories of sea otters choking on polyethylene rings from beer six-packs; of gulls and swans and gulls strangled by nylon nets and fishing lines… His personal worst was a study on fulmar carcasses washed ashore on North Sea coastlines. Ninety five percent had plastic in their stomachs  – an average of 44 pieces per bird.” As these plastics break down, who else is consuming them? As they break down into smaller and smaller particles they are appetising throughout the food chain, to barnacles, sand fleas. “When particles lodged in their intestines, the resulting constipation was terminal.” If they were small enough they passed right through. “All he knew was that soon everything alive would be eating them. When they get as small as powder, even zoo plankton will swallow them.” The painting, as yet untitled is about this.

Thompson learned that it is not as it is in the ocean as it is on land. Thompson’s team tied biodegradable plastic bags to moorings and discovered that after a year you could still carry groceries in them.

PhD student, Mark Browne discovered that we are giving all this a helping hand. Shower massage creams, body scrubs, hand cleansers, all full of exfoliants, little granules that massage as you go, and all use plastic. Ingredients are listed as ‘micro-fine polyethylene granules or with polyethylene -spheres or beads.’ Whatever, they’re selling plastic meant to go right down the drain, into the sewers, into the rivers, right into the ocean.” If all human activity were to stop today, organisms will be dealing with our plastics for thousands of years… at least…. possibly more.

A.R.R.R. and not just for plastic! Avoid. Reduce. Reuse and as a last resort Recycle. A friend is starting a new blog and inviting people to contribute their ideas on being frugal (not to be confused with being miserly), frugal is about prioritising needs and desires, it is about engaging a mindfulness when it comes to consumerism and behaviours. I’ll let you know when it’s up and running.

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Call me the Dr

Here I am at the Brightstar 8th Annual Intranet and Portals Conference in Wellington, New Zealand.
Nearing the end of day 1 of the conference. I have given a presentation on Modelling Collaboration using the current work for the World Wide Fund for Nature, facilitated a 1-day workshop on the Intranet Hive and have only one round table this afternoon before my work is done.

Michael Sampson is speaking, largely off the cuff (as he says this is the way he now likes to present).

The title slide has 4 big circles with a number in each: 2013.

2 moving to one, the internet as a place to read versus the internet as a place to work
0 Zero tolerance for cool stuff: Business outcomes
1 bright future: all of that maligned cool stuff
3 ideas for making use of the things you already have

Michael is currently using the movie The Dark Knight to bring intranet concepts to life.

Capability, Possibility, Applicability, Changeability. The Dark Knight (Batman) drives his car, the car blows up… a few more steps along the way… and he turns this all into a motorbike (changeability) and off he goes. Michael is so smart!

Michael says, “people hate change being done to them, but they like to take it on themselves. People like to improve as they go.” This is a concept that I can relate to, yet people continue to ‘do change’ to others. I wonder if this is just human nature? And for those of us who are lucky enough to live in a peaceful corner of the earth is this how we play out those tribal instincts, swapping fisticuffs for a big change stick?

As I tidy up my notes the room flares up into GrUps talking about the online interactions of their kids, ironically bemoaning their use of the very tools which they are evangelising in their online practices They talk about mode of it, the language and how locked out they (the grown-ups) are from this. As my own son nears his teenage years I wonder if I will forget what it was like to be a teenager, and how important it was to connect to other teenagers, as much as possible, hanging on the phone in the study all night, saying nothing of consequence… just feeling connected. And as much as possible being connected without the grown-ups putting the glass against the wall of our lives, which of course these things, instant messaging et al are great for!

According to Michael, we can only collaborate when we have shared mental models, cognition, working practices. While our parents grew up with a small group of common experiences, 1 TV channel etc, etc, today we have a myriad of opportunities: 100 TV channels, many movies and dvds, the internet, you tube etc. This has created great opportunity for each of us to pursue our own particular interests and at the same time it has made it more difficult, or has isolated us from others with common experiences. The internet moves the field allowing us to find people from the farther reaches of the planet.

And call Mr Sampson the Dr (fingers crossed) very soon as he has completed his thesis.

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Online interview

Century of booksA little while ago, Ryan Witte contacted me, made a few comments on my blog and asked if he could interview me. Due to travel (mine) and extended sickness (also mine) it’s been a long time between conversations, however after some recent to-ing and fro-ing online to carry out the interview, it’s now live on Ryan’s blog. You can read the full interview entitled Time Travel on his blog here http://rwarchitextures.blogspot.com/2008/07/time-travels.html

The process was an interesting one for me in which Ryan carried out his own research by looking at my art work and the various online sites I have and by using his own knowledge of art. From there Ryan posed some questions for me to answer. It was an iterative process, each time the questions went deeper into the areas that Ryan chose to pursue.

I was afforded a level of introspection at an angle than I would not usually have taken.

I didn’t feel like Ryan was on the other side of the world and wonder if the technique can be used by others? I’ve suggested that a colleague try it out and am hoping that I will have the opportunity to do likewise with a global customer. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks to Ryan for the opportunity. Ryan’s site has some fantastic commentary on and imagery of art. Enjoy!

Image: ‘Great Pillars of the Library’, Oil, charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2008. I finished this painting after India and before leaving again for the US, Switzerland and Kenya. My son named the work and also wrote a fantastic post about it during a crazy night in the studio, but to our annoyance, he didn’t save it! I’ve not really wanted to write about the ‘Great pillars of the Library,’ as the words T wrote are better than anything I could put together.

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A couple of weeks ago I attended an Enterprise Content Management conference in San Francisco. The buzz on the floor was Nicholas Carr’s article in the Atlantic: Is Google making us stupid? According to Carr “foraging through the Web’s info-thickets” is leaving him barren of concentration, he says that as “the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”

Whilst, I too have felt this in the not too distant past, I link the effect not to how I consume but rather how I produce.

It’s over two years ago that I joined the team at Step Two Designs, my most painful first memories relate to the process of writing articles, reports, white papers and blog entries. As I struggled with the difficult task at hand I realised that this was a muscle I had not been flexing for some time, in all honesty, probably not since university! In previous roles inside the belly of a corporate I worked with the prevailing culture of constant interruption. If someone wasn’t knocking on my door or ringing me, then I could always interrupt any weighty tasks in front of me myself by checking my email or doing some research online.

Back then I realised that my atrophied attention span was not limited to work, it had spilled over into my creative life. I could no longer spend many, many long hours in front of the easel without finding some way to distract myself.

In the last couple of years, I’ve been working out and the worm has indeed turned. Writing is mostly a happy pursuit; hours in front of the easel are spent fly past uninterrupted and I have read more books for work and for pleasure lately than ever before.

My current M.O. necessitates more time than ever “foraging through the Web’s info-thickets.” I can therefore only contribute this increase of attention-span to how I produce, not to how I consume.

Image: The image is from the Maharajah’s palace in Jaipur, India. This is the queen’s fragrant garden at the bottom the palace. You can see how global warming has affected things here, when the last queen was in residence the area around the garden was a lake.

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I’ve recently been travelling through Malaysia, India and Nepal, carrying out work for WWF. In my travels it seems I’ve been one week ahead of tragedy. I left Malaysia a week before the cyclone hit Burma not too far from where I was and I left Jaipur in India less than a week before seven bombs went off almost simultaneously in and around the city. 80 people were killed and over 150 people injured. Most of the bombs went off in areas that I had been to, including the Monkey Temple, where a 10 year old boy was killed. There are many reports on the bombing online, including this one in the Sydney Morning Herald.

As if life isn’t difficult enough already in Jaipur! Here wealth means you have a change of clothes and a concrete floor under you. In India it is estimated that there are 44 million child labourers and two in five people live in poverty. The cast system and lack of education makes it difficult for many to escape these conditions and find a well-paying job. This forces many children to work to help to support their families. Children often work in dangerous conditions and are forced out of an education and out of a childhood by taking on adult responsibilities, duties and working hours.

Whilst I did enjoy the history and rich cultures and colours of the areas I travelled through I was aware of the conditions the local people were living under. I’ve arrived home with a renewed sense of wanting to put my position of privilege to good use. I have a few ideas on where to start and I’ll be enlisting the help of all my friends to brainstorm ideas and to bring them into being. If you know of anyone that is doing good work in the area or have some ideas that you would like to see put into play please let me know.

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According to the locals, in centuries past, everyone wanted to take over Jaipur (pron. Jay-poor) and many efforts were made to take the area by force. Located south, south, west of Delhi (Dilli), Jaipur is a dessert area, surrounded by hills that afford natural protection. Each ridge is lined with a defensive wall and posts for the soldiers that once guarded the territory. With a great history of Maharajas, their wives, concubines, eunuchs, palaces, forts and local villages, it is an interesting place to visit.

Like the rest of India, everyone wants some of your money. One soon discovers that there are not too many people who will help you out ‘just to be nice’ (is this an Antipodean thing?). Even when it was made clear that I didn’t wanted to be deposited anywhere on ‘the tourist trail’ I still ended up on it. The only difference being that this time the shops that pay the drivers their 25% commission pretend to be genuine, with ‘just for show’ dyeing machines cranked up for the benefit of tourists. While this mindset was frustrating, I also met a number of very generous people, particularly the folks at WWF in Delhi.

Jaipur is a big city and more than 3 million people call it home yet is still relatively easy to be close to the local people here. My tuktuk driver S.K. Meena insisted I accompany him to his home for a cup of chai and to meet his family, he has a wife, a 15 year old daughter and 2 sons, 11 and 10 years old.

By comparison to the rest of his village, it would appear SK Meena lives well. His house has 5 rooms (including the kitchen) and concrete floors. He proudly showed me photographs sent in a letter from a Canadian man he had chauffeured around. After our tea, the family changed clothes and brushed their hair ready to have their photographs taken and then we moved across the street to meet his brother’s family.

SK Meena then asked if it was ok for his family to grab a lift into town, we set off in the back of the tuktuk, his wife, daughter, niece and myself. Although I had planned a trip to the Museum of Indology, I swapped the opportunity to see a map of India painted on grain of rice for a days shopping in the local bazaars with the women.

I soon discovered that this was a mutually beneficial relationship. I paid a little more than them for items (but still a fraction of what I’d have paid had I been shopping alone) and they paid less than they would’ve paid had they been shopping by themselves. It was fun, with all the women suggesting the items and colours they thought I should wear.

Even though Jaipur has a strong tourist industry, westerners are still uncommon here, outside the main tourist attractions and hotels, I was stared at everywhere I went. The locals I met were very confused as to why my husband was not travelling with me, no amount of explaining that I am working whilst here and that he must stay behind and work provided a satisfactory answer.

After shopping I had cause to feign a sugar-cane allergy so as not offend anyone by refusing the glass of juice that SK Meena bought for us all at a street-side stall. Although happy to eat from the street-side stalls and drink the chai there, I did avoid drinking the local water, and the sugar cane juice had ice in it.

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