The Goodlands Release: Week 257

Illustration for the graphic novel.

What would it be like if people never died?

I realized it was not a new theme in literature, especially in romance, but it still got me thinking. How would the government work? What would motivate people? Would culture be identified by nationality, by epoch, or both?

What about despotic rulers like Hitler or babies that never stopped crying? Even if people never aged, would they slowly be worn down by natural elements? Not even mountains can escape this.

From my ideas I began to weave a story that explored the intricacies and darkest corners of eternity. The only problem was that the only way I could imagine presenting the story was in a graphic novel format.

I’d gone to school for photography and done some drawing on the side, but I wasn’t entirely convinced I could pull the art off. I went as far as to buy a pad of drawing paper and after completing page one I realized I would be 80 by the time I finished.

The idea was shelved for a few years until I stumbled across it again while living in Australia. The big difference being that now I knew a very good artist – Barret Thomson.

After discussing the storyline over numerous flat whites, we were excited to get started. I spent evenings at the NSW State Library, researching character backgrounds. Barret bought anthologies of historical costumes and began designing clothing and environments.

The more time we spent, the more time we realized was needed. In the end, we decided to take a sabbatical in Colombia so we would have more time to dedicate to getting the project off the ground. Not only has it been cost effective to live n Colombia, but it has also helped inspire the art.

The Goodlands is still a work in progress, but we are excited to say that we have finally launched chapter one and from here on out there will be an update every Thursday.

Happy reading!

The Goodlands Comic

For comic updates: The Goodlands Comic

For development blog updates: Tumblr

Goodbye Sydney: Week 220

Bandaged foot

I knew it was the end when my foot dropped out from in front of me and I tumbled into the intersection. Not the end of my life, but the end of an era. I have this strange tendency to hurt my feet right before I leave somewhere. If I were more superstitious and less klutzy, I would probably consider it a sign that I shouldn’t leave.

My move to South Korea occurred after tripping over a cinder block at work. On the journey from Korea to New Zealand I angrily ran away from a taxi driver that was trying to add fees onto the metered rate. In my haste, I was thrown off balance by the weight of my backpack and skinned my knee and foot. Barret insisted on scrubbing the black gravel out of my wound and dousing the whole thing with hydrogen peroxide.

New Zealand was left with a flurry of blisters and Vanuatu was too. The only difference being the blisters from Vanuatu became infected and made my veins feel like glass tubes under my skin.

And so, during my last night in Sydney, I stepped right into a missing chunk of the sidewalk curb. My ankle twisted and the top of my foot scraped down the rough side of the concrete. I caught myself as I fell into the intersection and stumbled across the road just in time to catch the same train my friend was on.

By the time my friend and exited at St James Station, blood had begun pooling inside my shoe. I hobbled over to the station master’s office and took a seat while the first aid responder was called. It took about ten minutes to determine the best method for cleaning the wound. Then, while the benefits of Bandaids vs bandages were discussed, I began laughing because the situation was so ridiculous.

“It’s funny because I’m on my way to my goodbye dinner,” I explained to the employee who had won the most recent debate and was wrapping my foot with an entire bandage roll.

He smiled without knowing the recurrent connection between the two events and then asked, “Where are you going?”

“I’m moving to Colombia to teach English.”

“Oh.” He replied. “Hey, next time your back I’ll be better at this first aid thing.”

“No worries,” I smiled. “I hope someday to be back in Sydney and when I hurt my foot, I’ll know which station to go to.”

Letters Home: Week 219

WWI letter from the NSW State Library collection: Sydney, Australia

A month after the WWI armistice was signed, the NSW State Library advertised their desire to purchase the diaries of returning officers from Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The price was determined by the quality of the entries as well as the rank of the officer. Of the 500 strong collection, many diaries came from stretcher bearers. The highest paid diary set belonged to Major General Rosenthal. He received 75 pounds.

For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, the NSW State Library hosted an event called Letters Home. Since most of the material in the collection is one-sided, three panelists were asked to craft their own response to a WWI letter of their choice.

The fourth and youngest member of the panel was an actor named Brandon McClelland from a show called Anzac Girls. I’ve never seen the show, but with his gorgeous voice I imagined his character cradling a dying nurse in his arms while whispering you’re going to make it- just hold on! He administers the last bit of medicine available, but it is the sound of his voice that guides her back to her senses.

Even the men were moved. Peter FitzSimons, a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, asked the audience of predominantly retired women, “who thinks Brandon had the best voice ever?” As people cheered Peter joked, “he could sell fly spray to housewives and they’d think they got sex.”

Peter is also a non-fiction author and he was just in the process of finishing up a book about WWI. When it was time for his response it felt both memorized and off-the-cuff at the same time. He leaned into the podium with an aggressive stance and tore into his monologue with white-hot rage.

Peter apologized to Langford Colley-Priest, the stretcher barer from Neutral Bay whom he was replying to, for the unnecessary carnage. The men who ordered the pointless military maneuvers that kept Priest’s stretchers filled round the clock were never held accountable. Five and a half thousand men died in one battle alone and not one yard was gained.

The last panelist to read her response was Jackie French, an award-winning children’s book author. She was a firecracker of a woman in a red poppy shirt and red lipstick and wasn’t afraid to cut to the chase. “Has anyone ever killed someone?” Jackie asked the crowd. “Has anyone ever had someone try to kill them?”

Many years ago she had been taken hostage by a Basque terrorist organization and had been in a very difficult situation in which she had not been able to save a three-year-old child. From this experience Jackie emphasized that these letters and diaries should not be read voyeuristically. The reader should enter the piece after having thought about what they would do in that situation. Would they be willing to make the same sacrifices that the soldiers did?

At the end of the evening we left with a taste of what it had been like to be a soldier on the frontlines and also with a piece of fruitcake burning our tongues and warming our bellies. Because it was prohibited to send bottles of alcohol, soldiers were often sent sticky soft fruitcakes laced with rum and brandy. You could smell the alcohol from a few feet away.

Jackie was the 6th generation in her family to have sent this cake to an overseas soldier. “Only have a small piece if you are driving!” Jackie called out from the podium.

In an ideal world, she would also be the last generation to have that opportunity and the cake would instead become what it was that evening- a little piece of history enjoyed in the comfort of a library.

About: The NSW State Library WWI letter collection

The Finders Keepers Markets: Week 217

Finders Keepers Market Autumn/Winter 2015: Sydney, Australia

The Finders Keepers is a super hip craft fair that takes places twice a year inside the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. It is pretty much Etsy in flesh and bones and it draws quite a large crowd. The hall was originally a locomotive workshop, so it definitely lends a shabby chic atmosphere to the markets.

Barret and I paid a small donation to enter the event center and we were immediately swept away by the crowd. There was everything from clothing to candles in the shape of doll heads that, when burned, exposed a waxy pink brain.

The Finders Keepers Market- You Me & Bones Candles: Sydney, Australia

My guilty pleasure at craft fairs is quality ceramics and the best products I found were at a small booth called Skimming Stones. The artist who designed the collection of six plates worked in collaboration with a Japanese ceramic company named Kihara.

Skimming Stones plates at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

The result was an interesting fusion of Australiana with the traditional blue and white colors of Arita pottery. Barret and I couldn’t resist a plate with the kookaburra. They are very cheeky birds that sound like monkeys and one once stole the food right out of Barret’s mouth.

The Finders Keepers Markets - Fluffe Cotton Candy: Sydney, Australia

The queues for the food trucks were very long, so I made the sensible decision to buy a piƱa colada flavored cotton candy with a pink umbrella. Later on, while Barret was distracted, I made another sensible decision to buy a ceramic necklace in the shape of a giant piece of macaroni.

Flower vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

There was so much to see that it took us just under two hours to visit only half of the booths. I was also trying to photograph all of the cute stuff I saw, but it wasn’t easy with the crowds.

Bowtie vendor at The Finders Keepers market: Sydney, Australia

Towards the exit, and a few stalls down from a Polaroid booth, Barret and I found screen printed tea towels. At this point we were running low on cash, but we scraped up enough for two. One had Sydney scenes and the other had sketches of terrace homes. I had a sinking suspicion that our luggage was going to be overweight, but it was definitely worth it.

Vendor business cards at The Finders Keepers markets: Sydney, Australia

About: The Finders Keepers

About: You, Me & Bones candles

About: Skimming Stones plates

About: Fluffe cotton candy

The Neighborhood Pub Crawl: Week 216

The Rose Hotel in Chippendale: Sydney, Australia

I have often contemplated the curious color palette of The Rose Hotel on my way to work. In the nicest way possible, I would say the names of the paint chips were Victorian Christmas and baby vomit.

Although I was very familiar with the exterior of the hotel, I hadn’t been inside until the ‘fight of the century’ between Mayweather and Pacquiao. The main bar with the trompe l’oeil ceilings was full, so Barret and I found a wood bench in the spacious courtyard and ordered a round of Bloody Marys with lunch. With the exception of one loud group, the audience was cheering for Pacquiao and when he lost the hotel quickly emptied.

A laundry line outside a house in Darlington: Sydney, Australia

Barret and I followed the exodus of people back out onto the street, but the afternoon weather was so nice that we decided to take a different route home. From Chippendale we walked through a quiet residential street in Darlington before ending up in Redfern.

A faded and peeling wall in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that Redfern was a rough neighborhood, but the last decade has brought about significant gentrification. Strolling down Regent Street, Barret and I popped into an antique shop and against better judgment we left with two small spoons made from cow bones. Thin black decorative lines were carved into the polished surface.

Front door of The Bearded Tit in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

A few doors down from the antique shop was an establishment called The Bearded Tit. It’s an LGBT-friendly bar named after a puffy white bird that breeds in the reedy swamps of Europe and Asia. The backyard housed a ‘caravan of love’ and the gender-less bathrooms had a large moose hanging near the sinks.

A coaster at The Bearded Tit: Sydney, Australia

The best part about The Bearded Tit was its support for art. Local and international artists can apply to have their work displayed in a number of unique ways- from a wall to a curiosity cabinet. A ‘taxidermy tableaux’ surrounded a TV that was perfect for video art and resident artists could receive free bar food and 50% off drinks.

A small bakery on the Regent Street in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

After a round of champagne, Barret and I continued our circuitous journey home. Small family-owned restaurants, bakeries, and video rental relics lined the rest of Regent Street.

A terrace house in Erskineville: Sydney, Australia

It was dinnertime when we reached Erskineville, but neither of us wanted to cook so we walked through our neighborhood and towards the southern end of Newtown.

The Union Hotel in Newtown: Sydney, Australia

The Union Hotel had a lively cover band in the front and a large self-contained restaurant in the back. We ordered food and sat down near a father and his young daughter whom were both reading books. While there are more charming hotels further up King Street, Barret and I were both drawn to the classic brick Aussie hotel circa 1946.

The reason that I like Sydney’s inner west neighborhoods so much is that they are a perfect combination of historic buildings, livability, and community culture. It’s definitely not a cheap place to live, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better area for a stroll and a neighborhood pub crawl.

How to get to The Rose Hotel: 52-54 Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

How to get to The Bearded Tit: 183 Regent Street, Redfern NSW 2016

How to get to the Union Hotel: 576 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042

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