Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Change of Address

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The High-End Menial Labour Movement

It’s a month old now, but Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt pondered some questions of interest in their column Laid-Back Labor in a special New York Times Magazine issue on the Baby Boomer generation. They muse “Isn’t it puzzling that so many middle-aged Americans are spending so much of their time and money performing menial labors when they don’t have to?” Cooking, gardening and knitting are idenitified as cases in point. They cite research by economists Valerie A. Ramey and Neville Francis in which activities are ranked on a scale of enjoyment from 0 to 10. Somehow, Ramey and Francis decided that activities can only be defined as leisure if they meet or exceed a score of 7.3, a lower score renders the activity “home production.” Knitting (7.7) makes the grade; gardening (7.1) and cooking (6.6) do not. Dubner and Levitt suggest that the real question here is what makes a certain activity work for one person and leisure for another?

I find this kind of theorising amusing. I like to imagine the economists stalking the knitters, clipboards in hand. [Oh, this reminds me: did you see the film Kitchen Stories? A wonderful Norwegian film about time-management experts sent out to observe Norwegian bachelors kitchen habits. I loved everything about this film: the tall umpire-type chair set up in the kitchen corner, the expert’s caravan outside, the sweet, slow cat-and-mouse game between observer and observed.] I don’t mean to diminish the importance of such research, it’s just that as specialists in one area, we can all be so blind to the bleedingly obvious in another. Dubner and Levitt recognize this, I think: their schtick is all about questioning the primacy of economic modelling when the world and people in it are just so strange.

Sociologists are a case in point. Around the same time this column appeared, a book titled Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time came across my workbench. In this book, Robert A. Stebbins outlines a new paradigm for the study of the sociology of leisure. He refers to this paradigm throughout the book as the Perspective [with a capital P] , which has a slightly Orwellian feel to it. Stebbins sees that the problem of leisure is that all kinds of leisure have been lumped together as distinguished from production but indistinguishable from each other. He defines three main categories of leisure (and numerous sub-categories.) The three main categories are serious leisure, casual leisure and project-based leisure. I’m quoting Stebbins below:

Serious leisure: systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer core activity sufficiently substantial, interesting fulfilling in nature for the participant to find a career there acquiring and expressing a combination of its special skills, knowledge and experience.

Casual leisure: immediately, intrinsically rewarding, relatively short-lived pleasurable core activity, requiring little or no special training to enjoy it.

Project-based leisure: short-term, reasonably complicated, one-shot or occasional, though infrequent, creative undertaking carried out in free time, or time free of disagreeable obligation.

I’m tempted to alert Dubner and Levitt to this book [Update: no need]. And to the urls of all our blogs about cooking, crafting and gardening. I’m always interested to read about people’s experiences of transforming initially leisure-based activities into small businesses, and how doing so effects their experience of the activity itself. And finally, to this site, which refutes Dubner and Levitt’s assertion that no-one, since the invention of the washing machine, practices doing laundry for fun.

Monday, May 28, 2007


I was in the paper.

I was on the radio. (Scroll down to April 1. My interview runs approximately twenty minutes spanning Part 1 and 2 of the archive file.)

And I'll be speaking and teaching letterpress at Books.07 in Noosa in September. (No link available as yet.)


Saturday, May 19, 2007

My new slippers

Originally uploaded by ana ventura.

Aren't these lovely? Made by Teresa Cunha, a friend of Ana Ventura's mother. Arrived from Portugal wrapped in bright orange tissue, just in time for cold weather.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

ISBN 4-277-43063-5

Still can't crochet, dammit. Told myself to pull my socks up a while ago, and stop pretending that somehow it'd come to me overnight. I learned to knit and embroider as a kid, and while I hope I've improved since then, I think it's no coincidence that these are the techniques with which I feel most comfortable. Kind of like learning a second language before the age of six, I think. Some part of my brain sealed over before crochet got in. It doesn't help that everywhere you look there's lovely crochet happening, and people proclaiming, come on, it's easy. In spite of myself, I'm re-inspired, after listening to Brenda Dayne's interview with Annette Petavy. She's one of the ones touting crochet's easiness, but somehow, her tone is encouraging, rather than simply taunting.

This book has also re-inspired. Again, I can't tell for sure, but I think this is all the work of Eriko Aoki. If, by some miracle, I can conquer crochet, everyone I know will be getting a string bag for Christmas. Or a scarf loosely based on these drink coasters. In the event I fail, you'll all be getting heavy felt oven mitts.

Sometime back in January, I single, double and treble crocheted my way through a marathon night session at the Australian Open, feeling more and more confident that I'd cracked it. Only, my test square wasn't actually square: it was more of a triangle. As far as I can tell, I 'm not picking up the final chain in the row below, and for the life of me, can't tell where that might be. I swore I'd practice a little crochet a day, accepting my beginner status with zen-like calm. Rome wasn't built in a day, and all that. It hasn't happened. And I still can't play the piano, and my French..... well. Back to it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Second sock syndrome, conquered

I woke with a start at a quarter to six this morning. Thought, as good a time as any to write a blog post. I’ve been walking to work recently, which takes an hour at a fast-ish dawdle. I’m very glad it’s possible, because even ten minutes in a crush of pinstriped commuters begins the day on a slightly sour note. This way, I feel my kinship is with the dog walkers and early-rising groups of Japanese tourists. I cut through the back lanes of Richmond over to the MCG, through the Fitzroy Gardens and past the cathedral. I think about getting a bike, and mentally cheer every time I see someone riding in his or her regular clothes. I understand the practicality, or necessity even, of showering and changing at work, but I hate the idea. I plan to ride slow.

Slow’s been on my mind. I’m still digging out from under a To Do List laden with responsibilities stretching back to last year. Unfortunately, I’ve let whole slabs of life fall by the wayside (correspondence for one.) I’m ashamed to say that the e-mail contact to the right there wasn’t actually set to forward to my main account until a few days ago. (I just didn’t realise, and am too embarrassed right now to tell you how I worked it out.)

Lunch at my new workplace is 45 minutes long, which isn’t quite long enough. Fortunately, they’re fast at Slow Food Piadina, which was where my friend (businessman/suit) suggested that craft is the secret to a happy life. I’d been explaining tasks at work: making boxes, sewing and covering books, cleaning photographs, sorting negatives. It’s calming, satisfying work, and if I can pull myself together, will be a good mesh with my own work. Small steps.

Even with my dismal posting schedule, I continue to receive wonderful comments, each of which make me resolve to post and comment more. I haven’t been thanking people individually (see above), but every comment is a small paper plane into my world with the word encouragement on it. Thank you.

Which reminds me: D posted a brilliant treatise of a comment on my post about bircher museli, exposing me as the dimwitted food dilettante that I am. I’d never heard of a piadina until a few ago, and my only thought on encountering them was, D, what do you know about this? Do write and tell.

Finally, in celebration of slowness, see the above finished lollipop socks. Long-time readers will remember that I wasn’t convinced that I was knitting these the right side out. I’m still not sure. I presented my mother with one sock last Mother’s Day. This year, she’ll have a pair.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Calling Nessy B

in London! Blogger doesn't reveal your e-mail address: could you contact me at girlprinter[at]gmail[dot]com? Would love to chat. (BTW, I wear a size 37!)