Miss April Advises: Fracking Frequent Fornicator

Dear Miss April,

My problem is manifold. I have terrible gas & I cant find anyone to frack me.
Who should i look to for relief?

Yours {or maybe not}

Frequent Fornicator

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Dear Frequent Fornicator

Have we not met before? Have I not been graced by your gaumless wit in years gone by? Did I not advise you well by wuthering you off to a life of fornicator’s delight? Wellaway, did this not unfold as you expected? My mirth should not be interpreted as hideous vice, lets just accept merriment is in the air.

Flatulence is no laughing matter and can cause significant distress when trying to locate suitable fracking partners. Well, we are all just searching for love aren’t we FF? Herein I toss my mirth aside and offer you my genuine counsel. For a high pressure lad such as yourself, ready to burst out onto the scene like a larrikin debutante, I would look no further than your next singles night at the super sexy Australian Petroleum and Production Exploration club. I hear they like their dikes big and their veins throbbing. They are salt of the earth people, looking out for their fellow man, and no doubt will only have eyes for you as soon as you and your uncontrollable gas come sashaying through the doors. Don’t fall too deeply in love though, you will feel the earth move, but whatever you do don’t swallow; I hear the water’s contaminated.

Yours in relief.
Ew, I feel dirty,
Miss April

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Miss April Advises: Friends With (Too Much) Trouble

Dear Miss April

Its not exactly heart breaking, but it just wont get off my mind and i thought i need some advice im certain i will follow 🙂

im friends with this guy for a few months now and he recently got married, we both felt attracted to each other kissed once but never dated.

he never told me he was getting married when they where about to get married his girlfriend “now his wife” knew about me and asked me to stay away from her husband or she would quit this wedding and asked me not to tell him she spoke to me. i did what i learned from you, treat her the way i expect to be treated in a situation like that. I didnt think we could actually stay together so i kept my distance and never mentioned anything to him.

they got married and now he is back, he figured things out about his wife calling me and apologised for his wifes behaviour, explaining to me they where not supposed to get married, it was a last minute decision and a very complicated one.

since then things have been strange, our relationship changed its not like how it was before, i miss talking to him everyday, i miss going out with him and hugg him when ever i feel like.

He still insists on seeing me but i always come up with an excuse because i know its not easy for him to have a friend like me and i dont want to do something we regret later on.
but i honestly cant say away from him. I feel this urgent need to make him jealous with any guy friend i have and to get his attention at all times, i feel lonely and sad maybe because i am not dating anyone at the moment.

I think we can continue being friends like old times but its not going to be easy because:

– His wife is very manipulative and will do anything to keep us away from each other, like telling him i said wrong things that i never actually said, and so far he preety much got a wrong idea about how i dealt with her, and i never had a chance to explain to him what exacty happened between me and his wife.
– we both feel attracted to each other, that calls for problems.
– its not a friendly honest relationship and it hurts more than i thought it would.

he says he is not happy yet they have been together for 6 years, part of this unhappiness i am guessing is because of me. as he once told me after meeting me, he fell in love with me and things changed with them.

he was very dishonest to me and her and so was i because i didnt tell him about his wife speaking to me, i was afraid it would make things worst but friends should be honest with each other. i guess i forgive him for not telling me about how serious it was and later on his marriage, because i know deep down he did what a guy in love would do. he knew as soon as i found out things would change and they did.

we never actually dated, kissed once but always been friends i feel like he was the one who put an end through things by getting married. I know i'm not the victim in this story and all the while aware he had a girlfriend fooling myself by believing we are just friends. after all he was in love with me, i wasnt and he had to move on.

but why do i feel like i was dumped? Oh miss april, should i be friends with him or move on even though i’m not ready for that? if i have to move on any advice in how i should do it without hurting anyone?

looking forward to hear from you

yours,

Friendswithtrouble 😦

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My Dearest Friendswithtrouble

I do feel a special bond with you, particularly after our last conversation. I believe my initial advice to you was “other people’s fiances do not make good boyfriends”. Let me expand on that further by stating: other people’s husbands do not make good boyfriends.

Quite frankly this young man sounds like an utter scoundrel. Do not pity his emotional dilemma, that is not your burden to bear. My advice to you is – run for the hills!

You say that you can’t stay away from him. Well, my dear, to put it plainly, yes you can; and that is exactly what you will choose to do if you have a skerrick of instinct left for self-preservation. Do not worry about hurting your gentleman friend, for he has been no gentleman nor no friend. He has behaved in a manner according to the worst kind of bad egg. Is he in love with you, is he trapped by a manipulative new heartbroken bride, is he….stuff and nonsense. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter as it bears no consequence to your outcome. You have been treated poorly, and you do not need to empathise with his situation. You need to leave it.

There is no escaping your heartache. You will feel it, but know that eventually it will pass. Do not try to avoid this necessary pain by making short term decisions that can have even worst long term ramifications. Character is everything, and the only way to judge character in our friends and lovers is through their behaviours. This character is not what you want nor deserve. Be strong enough to accept that and you will come through this pain to find yourself in a far better place to choose a much more worthy suitor.

Thinking of you in this time of need.
Yours,
Miss April

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Miss April Advises: CF – My Boyfriend’s Fiance

Dear Miss April

You probably read this a few times before…

I need your precious advice, i’m friends with this sweet caring guy for a few months now, we both live and work in the same place and yes i’m one of those dedicated friends who’s ready to help with anything… plus we had chemistry with that we got closer to the point of kissing once, aware that he has a girlfriend, i made it clear that it was a spur of the moment act and it can’t happen again he told me he thinks his in love with me.. but i couldnt say the same because i felt it was too soon to be sure of that and i am seeing other guys aswell a few days ago he went home for holidays and recently his girlfriend texts me asking me questions about my age and what kind of relationship i have with him… she said she saw his phone and we chat alot but its always sweet friendly conversations it was the first time i spoke to her, she told me they are getting married soon and since they have a distant relationship its hard for her and she wanted to quit this relationship because she thought he was cheating on her with me. she asked me not to tell him that she texted me. i said i knew about her and i insisted we are just friends, and she can’t quit because he really likes her and i know all about them but i honestly dont know, i had no idea they’re getting married! i didnt know it was as serious as the way she describes… i dont want to be the reason they break up. I think he likes me but we dont have a future together and she is probably expecting i should get away from him… its her right, she is the girlfriend, for his happiness i can back away but i don’t know how because i dont want to hurt him.

she still keeps on texting me, asking me if he ever told me anything about her and saying “maybe i am placing you in a complicated situation, but please try to understand my side”

can i ignore her or speak to her and answer her anything she wants to know i want to help but i fear she starts to harass me or makes me feel guilty because i don’t know her… should i tell him about it?

please please lighten my burden miss April 😦

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Dear Miss CF

Other people’s fiances do not make good boyfriends.

Young lady, the first step you have to take in order to make good decisions is to be honest with yourself. Is your dedication to the friendship not slightly tinged with attraction? Your practical side declares that you have no future together. However, here we find you, in the midst of a traditional turmoil of the trio.

I suggest to you to ignore excuses. It is the coward’s path to avoid difficult situations with the pleasing excuse of not wanting to hurt others. Perhaps concentrate more on what is the most honourable act to undertake, because I assure you people are already hurting. If his fiance is forced to approach you with such candor, this speaks of her inability to find the honesty and reassurance from him. This does not have to be your problem at all, but you obviously do feel some responsibility and empathy. I would suggest you respond to her as you yourself would want to be treated in that situation. I would suggest you have every right to be as equally honest with him. I also suggest that you then leave them be. Ultimately, they should be speaking with each other and you should not be involved in what is essentially an intimate affair of the heart.

Personally I find it quite astonishing that an obviously dishonest young man can allure two seemingly open and thoughtful young women! In both friendship and marriage, your partner’s character is key. As always, don’t shy from the probing analyses of yourself and others.

Well wishes to you all.
Yours,
Miss April

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Miss April Advises: H – A Respected Friend

Hi April

i will try to be quick.

i kissed a guy who is in a relationship with someone else, and i told him i have a boyfriend too but its not serious… but i don’t. this guy happens to work with this other amazing guy.. Andre that i wish was mine and i was expecting i would meet him and sweep him off his feet but now that i kissed his colleague who has a girlfriend i don’t know my chances.

it didn’t want to make him cheat his girlfriend.. i did help him a lot recently and maybe thats why he felt attracted to me but it wasn’t my intention i really care about what his friends think of me and i wonder if there is any way i can still keep my image as a decent respected friend..

any advice in how i should handle this situation.. please

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Dearest Sweet H

I am wildly assuming from your sleight of hand that you are of a younger generation to my good self by at least a century or thereabouts. So, you can imagine my delight that your misdemeanour did not contain the vileness that is sexting, nor the obscene modern obsession with over-sharing. A kiss. A simple kiss. Something so innocent, so easily overcome. Yet, you realise that might not be so. A kiss always has meaning – ever so shallow or ever so full.

Why did you kiss him? Why did you lie about having a boyfriend? These are of course completely rhetorical questions. I confess I don’t happen to be that interested in the answers myself, but you should inspect your motivations and know thyself. Those who know themselves can often solve their own problems, and make much better decisions next time.

I feel your regret, but what has happened cannot be undone. To appease your guilt, and to salvage your friendship with Mr Kisser, tell him the truth or close to it. Make light of it, let him know that you still like him as a friend and how foolish it was that you kissed each other. What a harmless, silly mistake say you with a laugh. Oh yes I agree, hopefully he will say feeling relieved that you won’t tell his girlfriend. Tell him that it was a spur of the moment act which neither of you want to repeat, but you value his friendship and hope you both can get over this mishap. Do not apologise. You have done no more wrong than he, and do not let your regret take on the burden of complete responsibility.

How to explain the nonexistent boyfriend? Hmm, this is tricky. It will look rather strange if you admit you lied about having a boyfriend, but then if he believes you have a boyfriend then he might tell Andre, and then they will think you are 1. unavailable for a serious relationship and 2. unfaithful. This is the gist of your worry? I say, go for complete back down. Come clean, let him know that you don’t really have a boyfriend and you are embarrassed to have said it, and not sure why you did. For that fib, say sorry. You thereby place yourself in a position of discomfort, this is not easy and does display a fine character. If a friend can not appreciate this, and forgive, then perhaps he was no friend to begin with. Don’t dwell on it though. This phase will pass.

The difference in your behaviour now will reflect the difference in your true intent. Do you want to save your image of being a decent and respected friend? Or, do you want to actually be a decent and respected friend? The former provides leeway for deception; the latter’s demands are more rigorous and true. One rule of thumb, simple but effective, treat your friend as you hope a friend would treat you. This ensures that whatever the outcome, you at least know you have done your best.

Best of luck in friendship and love,
Yours,
Miss April
Soul meets soul on lovers’ lips – Shelley

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Miss April Advises: Big G – Tracy Emin and the Clap.

hey Miss A,
You seem to know about this art caper.
Ive been snogin on Tracy Emin for a coupla weeks.
How long b4 I end up on a quilt or somethin?
The dude needs props.

yours
Big G
aka the clap

Tracey Emin, title is self-explanatory,

Tracey Emin, title is self-explanatory.

Dear Big G aka the clap

I am not sure how to express in writing an uncomfortable silence. However, that silence has provided me with the time to process your most peculiar turn of phrase and attempt to translate this into proper English. Thank you for providing me with the exposure to something altogether new and peculiarly ugsome.

I am a lady, and as such am a firm believer in the adage that one must ‘never kiss and tell’. With this in mind, your ability to freely proclaim your love-making attempts with this Miss Emin seems most insincere. This is worrying, for I am a fervent champion of the authentic. This leads me to believe the authentic feeling in your situation is solely to be on a quilt? Is that right? The kissing is not so important, the relationship is not so important, the emotion is not so important, but you are quite fond of quilting? N’est-ce pas? Is it cross-stitching, appliqué, or crochet, that fires your passions?

I actually know very little about ‘art’ bar my exposure to the piety of glistening white flesh and ecstatic rapture that adorned my hometown Cathedral. My competence is to be found in cool observation and rational analysis. That being said, I decided to sashay down to the reference library for a swift education in Emin and quilts. Lo and behold, my respect for the art of Gesamtkunstwerk and all, am I really forced into creating profundity myself given such paltry ingredients? I thought the exalted discipline of the arts was meant to do that illustrious work itself. Lamentably, the public parading of therapy is such a popular 20th century malaise, driven to grotesque proportions in the latter decades and beyond. It feels most uncomfortable to feel both saddened by the desperate celebration of self-loathing, while simultaneously suspecting I am a witness to Narcissus him/herself. The bright lights are certainly blinding.

‘Tis the age of self-indulgence and vanity; art in the name of cause célèbre. So, yes, little clap, you do need props. Best you get them yourself. Best you come up with some ideas and leave damaged millionairesses alone. You have moral turpitude on your side, so celebrity should not be too hard to find. Why I suspect you might already be smeared and appliqued into notoriety. Dignity and artistry though, might have escaped quite a distance along another path.

Don’t go spreading,
Yours,
Miss April

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Miss April Advises: Cheer Leader – blind happy gesamtkunstwerk

Dear Miss April,

I think of myself as a positive person. I like to greet the world with objective optimism. Over the the holiday season I have begun to doubt the effect of my ebullience. Even on tiresome Xmas lunches I’ve chattered nattily. I tried engaging teenagers and techno toddlers. I even chucked the cheeks of grumpy uncles. Now the pudding is gone, I am getting feedback that I am “too blindly happy”. It seems my cheer is causing some chagrin and I am being viewed as witless for my mere wish to spread some joy and cheer up some pitiful stained lives.
Ever the optimist, I changed tack and decided to try empathy. I hit a hard crowd as my first target was that hot bed of apathy, teenagers. Ignored, I moved onto Gen Y’ers. It was plainly illustrated that was too ironic in my desire to elevate in a set of protracted text messages. It appears hopefulness can seep out my crevices to be detected by the entitled schadenfreud[ians] of the Y type.
Every where I turn my effusiveness is spurned. I feel backed into a grey rabbit felt corner. Can Beuys help? Or Gin perhaps?
Should I go for gold and join the scientologists or not worry and be happy?

Yours enthusiastically

Cheer leader

Dear Cheer Leader

In short – yes to Beuys, gin and happiness; no to Scientology and worry. However, if you have a spot of spare time come take my hand and let us inspect this further under the microscope…

I would like to begin by stating that I completely understand. The scenarios you mention are not uncommon to my personal observations, but they are rare. There are unique personalities who show ‘ebullience’ in social situations to people they are acquainted with or have just been introduced, about subjects they initiate, the music playing or not playing, participating wholeheartedly with motives pure but mistaken by others. Often it is an expression of enthusiasm that is unfamiliar to almost everyone there because it lies beyond the boundary of that which is socially expected and experienced. Unwittingly, your cheer unnerves them. What could be going through the minds of these average Joes and Jills? Goodness only knows, but I suspect they could possibly be thinking – is this odd character genuine? Is this bundle of joy ironically casting aspersions upon me? Is this spoken word actually English? Who is Beuys?

It is possible you are threatening them, Cheer. Most likely they would not even be able to articulate fully why this is so, hence accusations of being ‘witless’. Let us not blame them totally, as recent research shows it does take a certain amount of stupidity to be happy these days; deep thinking tends toward sadness. Gosh, we are within an era of anxious pessimism deeply entrenched in politically correctness and hip social engagement, so your enthused glee might not be de rigueur right at the moment.

I know it is very seductive to demonise those who reject us, but although you do succumb to this somewhat I find that you also display an admirable quality. You are self-aware enough to try again. Ys, grey bandits, babes, teens, all in the season of Christmas cheer must be family, friends, or a degree separated. You have a reason to try again, you want to connect with them so you try different approaches. Well done. Not many people can lay claim to this type of reflection, resilience and persistence. This displays a commitment to a most notable aspect of humanity, the need to be understood, and here you are attempting both – to be understood and to understand. Or are you? I have a niggle, Cheer, and only you can answer this. Is your ebullience a guard, a shield, a deflection to vulnerability? Perhaps your level of cheer creates an instinctive distrust in others because they have sense of a facade, and therefore they do not know the mystery underneath, is it innocent or malevolent?

My advice to you is this: reflect on my suggestion, reject or accept as truthfully as you can and see where that leads you. Regardless, you obviously have a natural predilection for Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk which spills over into your everyday conversation techniques. What you might find is that your approach will eventually pay off. Persistence is key. Much like the joy a familiar musical score can bestow upon a crowd, the crux is familiarity. A few Christmases down the track you will find those who once disdained you look forward to your entertaining if somewhat perplexing interchange and you become a favourite of said soirees.

If, after time and effort, you find that still there is no success then yes, perhaps they are a bunch of simpletons, bastards and dullards, and by all means allow yourself the fecundity to not worry and be happy – Viva Gesamtkunstwerk! 

Keep cheering,
Yours, Miss April

Postscript: At no point, under no circumstance, in no world imaginary or real, could I possibly advise you to join an (alleged) expensive cult as a cure for woe or path to joy. I would happily discuss this further but really, that’s another most extensive post.

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Miss April Advises: Sports Injury – Clothes fit for the Emperor.

Dear Miss April,

I encourage exercise. Its great to see the svelte and the ample doing their bit to
become their ( or societies) ideal shape.
We have come so far but some things are lost is rush on our daily treadmills. We
have lycra to stream line our bodies as we hurtle about on our stationary bicycles.
We have coloured sports bras and vibrant layering options. These possibly a
distillation of Samantha Fox, Courtney Love and Olivia Newton John. Thanks to all.

I need to digress to provide background information that will aide in my enquiry.
Lycra while seemingly other worldly and eternal is still just a textile and like
all textiles, possibly with the exception of Kevlar or 70s polyester, is prone to
degradation. When tightly bracing and stretched around a body in motion it can be
very transparent when old and worn. Many people are unaware of this unintentional
nudity and can lead to quite the eye full in the street.
I know there are lycra fetishists, to be sure, but, all decent fetishists know that
furtiveness is no substitute for indulging your obsession fully and at length with
others who appreciate your particular proclivity. This is usually done in private
for the most satisfying results, so I’m told.

Although as I said , taking excise is to encouraged it has some side effects. If
done properly it requires effort resulting in perspiration and its bi-product,
pong. Thats why they have showers at gyms, I presume. Its what happens after that
disturbs me. I have seen people in there sports attire in cafes winding down over
large milky caffeinated beverages.

This begs the question, have they exerted themselves sufficiently, showered and
redressed in fresh gym clothes to demonstrate a love of fitness? Its more troubling
if this is not that case. Then why are they shopping for home-wares and high end
furniture in these fecund invisible undergarments?

Do you think we should lobby the garment industry to put used by dates on these
clothes? Like cream and meat for instance. Im sure this would have the same effect
of reducing retching in the street as the sanitisation of the food industry has.

I’m eager to hear your opinion and possible other solutions.

Regards

Sports Injury

Dear Sports Injury

What a colourful portrait you paint! This world of lycra fetishism astounds me, surely such things are nonsense, but when I searched the world wide web of information I came across such a disturbing array of fetishes that lycra seemed so innocent in comparison. Who knew swimming caps and goggles caused hearts (and loins) to flutter so!

What is acceptable and what is not? Wearing tight-fitting lycra while shopping or relaxing in a cafe is not in itself unacceptable, it is one of the grey areas of modern society whereby personal expression through fashion is so much more experimental than in my day. However, if we try to claim that there is no dress code, we are deluding ourselves. Abolishing expectations of dress in public is not a freedom, it is moral anarchy. One’s dress is not purely an individual expression of taste, personality and status; like Manners, it is an expression of our relationship to fellow man.

A person’s dress reflects a relationship with themselves and their community. We are a shared society, and pride in appearance, whether it be the time it takes to create a perfectly pointed Mohawk, to coordinate a desired nonchalance, or commit to the highest of fashion, we say to each other, I care enough to make the effort. It says to our neighbour “I see you, and this is how I would like you to see me”. We are connected.

It is unequivocally and entirely unacceptable to wear a sweat drenched exercise costume to eat or shop in public. The mere thought of a lady testing various sofas in her threadbare fabrics steeped in sweat and Impulse sends me a shudder, the implications of hygiene alone – eek. They should be ashamed.

Your suggestion of a use-by date is an excellent idea, are you in marketing? They would double their sales much like shampoo manufacturers did when some genius decided to put ‘repeat’ on the bottle’s instructions. However, my personal conviction is to work toward reducing our consumption, I would not like to recommend for people to discard clothes perfectly suitable for exercise, ironically their very raison d’etre. Perhaps a warning label might suffice?

WARNING: This garment may cause social disgrace if worn in public.
WARNING: People hate you shopping in these clothes.
WARNING: Research shows that you stink after exercise.
WARNING: 20 washes = Emperor’s New Clothes.

The likes of you and me though are in a quandary when it comes to pointing out these miscarriages of dress. How does one do so without seeming rude, or even unkind? It is an art form, truly, and that is why those with such good manners appear so elegant. Perhaps you could discretely follow the culprit around said furniture store? As you witness the derriere bearing down onto the unsuspecting sofa – voila – you kindly insert a water resistant padded cushion betwixt them. “For your comfort, Madam” you say with a dapper smile. After following her around a few more times, she might begin to realise the expectation of herself you are kindly alluding to.  

If you notice a lady drying off at a nearby cafe, pass her a scented wet towelette and a travel hand sanitiser – “you’re welcome” you say to her companions. Do you witness her virtue being threatened in a public street by worn threadbare fabrics? “My lady!” you say with urgency as you run to her aid, wrapping her in whatever comes to hand, towel, street sign, balloons, Thomas Dux bag. “Your honour is being threatened by those underclothes, never fear; I will escort you to your car.”

Thus, you are fortunate to display to the world your generous wallet, community spirit, good character, and one can only hope others will follow your fine example.

To avoid such direct intercourse you might prefer a more clandestine approach – print out this response and post it in pertinent neighbourhoods, on suspects automobiles, in shop windows, etc., etc. A public education campaign could be just the ticket!


Yours faithfully, Miss April

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In Arcadia: the art of Tomislav Nikolic & uncomfortable stuff about God

Tomislav Nikolic, 1: Hear the passion in their voices see the heaven in their eyes,
2: Their hopes and schemes are waiting dreams for less than paradise, 2012
acrylic and marble dust on canvas and wood
Diptych: 190 x 220.5 x 10.5 cm each

I understand the relationship one is expected to have with art today, the intellectual’s rhetoric. Take for instance Tomislav Nikolic’s recent body of work in arcadia, a strong collection of paintings that could be described in terms of colour field, formal abstraction, colour theory, insert references to Rothko & US / European abstractionists, terms that can categorise to the point of malleability enabling us to digest but also at times coolly aloof. What I really take away with me from this show, my true experience, is less sophisticated – feelings, memories and private thoughts that I cannot articulate.

Most particularly the diptych leaves me strangely exhilarated, the combination of scale and hallucinogenic qualities of the palette produce an uncharacteristic (for me) optimism and an altogether unreasonable thrill that – sigh, I just know that something good is going to happen. The optical illusion that one is larger than the other – first the left one, then the right one – produces an anthropomorphic rhythmical breathing pulse. The colours of in arcadia are saturated, they are beaming, they are the colours of Titian, the colours of the Masters, the colours of religious art; the blue of the Virgin Mary, the gold of icons, the light of Mystics.  And that is perhaps what I’m not supposed to talk about in this day and age, in the age of the intellect. I don’t want to throw my hat in with religion and the rhetoric of new age spiritualism leaves me squirming with ill ease, but where does that leave me?

DEATH. It’s still fairly sexy right now in contemporary art. Actually, over the past 5 years or so it has become positively mainstream. You can doll yourself up from head-to-toe in skulls. What underlies this fad? Could it be that the combination of the outing of atheism, plus the witnessing to mad behaviours of religious mania, encourages us to become less afraid of death? Are we becoming more present? It would be lovely to think of it is an awakening to the fragile beauty of our mortality: “Only by embracing our mortality can we be happy in the time we have.” – Dr Gordon Livingston

Or perhaps we are afraid that the true death is looming, with the effects of climate change ravaging our world emblematic of an innate self-destruction, and the cold inaction of those in power, perhaps we now see that we might bear witness to the death of us all. If we are all gone, then death is absolute. There is no remembrance; we have fallen into nothingness.

Non omnis moriar, said Horace’s Odes – I shall not wholly die. Yes, and he was right. As long as people remembered, then death was not complete. Only if there were nobody at all left to remember would death be complete.” – Alexander McCall Smith, The Charming Quirks of Others

Nicolas Poussin, The Arcadian Shepherds, c 1628-9, 101 x 82 cm, Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth House.

Et in Arcadia ego – Even in Arcadia there I am.

Arcadia – the pastoral idyll, the classical Utopia; at one with nature, ourselves, life itself, it is pure contentment, Heaven on Earth.  But even in Arcadia, Death exists.  As I know Nikolic painted Don’t really want to know it better, want to keep it in the land of fantasy, in response to Poussin’s The Arcadian Shepherds, c 1628-9, he too must have been thinking of death.

6:Tomislav Nikolic, Don’t really want to know it better, want to keep it in the land of fantasy, 2012
acrylic, marble dust and 22.5ct champagne leaf on canvas and wood
104 x 85.5 x 6 cm

Poussin’s first version of this work is a classic Memento Mori allegory, telling the audience that even saucy bare breasted nymphs, and partying shepherds at one with nature must succumb to death, inscribed in stone ET IN ARCADIA EGO and a skull staring down at them to boot! Today the theme has a more interesting dimension to it, we can ponder our own mortality not as a Christian did with Poussin –  do not succumb to vanities, obey God in this life to ensure your place in Heaven, etc., etc. We can ponder Memento Mori with the tiny voice of Dawkins in our ear, ‘there is no God!’. Aware of our own mortality, without responsibility to secure an afterlife of bliss, our reasoning forces us to realise we are responsible for each other. The reprieve from suffering in this world can only come from ourselves; the responsibility for the continuation of life is ours.

But it’s not quite as easy as that though is it? The conscious process of considering our own mortality is going to lead us into the unknown. It is going to lead all of us in different ways because we are bound by our own experiences, intellect, capabilities, personalities, ability to process thoughts and emotions, not to mention ye olde family and culture. Some people need religion, others only for a short time, and others not at all.

I come away from Nikolic’s work thinking about the notion of Agape.  As he, the artist, peeks into the esoteric material of Alice Bailey, the Seven Rays, and Theosophy. It reveals (to me anyway) a longing to discover the mystery of what one feels but can not explain. Love. The love that connects and overwhelms us, that identifies the energy of life as something sacred, an ancient pre-God notion where the concept of Agape was so powerful and confusing that it somehow transformed into God. God is easier. With him we don’t have to think so much, he just is, and tells us what to do.

Tomislav Nikolic, 7: a constant overlapping, a cyclic development and a process of fusion, which is most confusing, 2012
acrylic, marble dust and 24 ct gold leaf on canvas and wood
85 x 108 x 5.5 cm

Let’s return to Ancient Greece for a moment. Andrea Mantegna painted Parnassus (1497) and Triumph of the Virtues (1502) for Isabella d’Este.  500 years later Tomislav Nikolic, using Mantegna’s works for inspiration, paints Hear the passion in their voices see the heaven in their eyes and Their hopes and schemes are waiting dreams for less than paradise, for us. This is the exhilarating diptych I referred to earlier, recalling the language of the Mystics – Agape.

“What is this which shines on me and pierces my heart without hurting it? I shudder and am aflame at the same time: I shudder, because I am so dissimilar to it, and I am aflame, because I am so similar to it. It is Wisdom, Wisdom itself which shines on me, breaking up my cloudiness, which yet covers me once more as I fall away from it through the darkness and rubble of my troubles.” – St Augustine, Confessions, I I.9.

Andrea Mantegna, Parnassus, 1497, Tempera and gold on canvas, 63 x 75 1/2 inches

Andrea Mantegna, Triumph of Virtues, 1502, tempera on canvas, 63 x 75 1/2 inches. Louvre, Paris

Parnassus, home to the Muses – Goddesses who inspired knowledge in arts and sciences. It is the land of poetry, literature, and learning. Another woman, Minerva Warrior Goddess of Wisdom, ejects the Vices from the garden of Virtues. Out says she to idleness, sloth, hate, lust, avarice and ingratitude. She, the powerful symbol of Wisdom, and Protector of the arts and sciences.  How telling that Wisdom is represented by a woman. I always thought Eve’s act was not a sign of weakness, but represented an admirable and courageous intellectual curiosity.

Arts, mythology, science, they were intimately acquainted, the combination of which was believed to be the path to wisdom.  How thrilling are those conversations that twist and turn from conjecture, allegory, evidence, to build stories that can teach us so more effectively then the retelling of facts.

It is ironic that our capacity for religion is seemingly intrinsically linked to our own extraordinary survival and evolution as a species. Our human drive to discover, to find answers to this painful human existence, this extraordinary world wherein we find ourselves. Our feelings of  ‘something bigger than ourselves’ developed our minds, imagination and intellect (actually, discovering red meat was delicious to eat had quite a bit to do with that too).

Like Tomislav Nikolic who travels to Arcadia, bringing back with him a plethora of confusing emotions and ideas, and pop lyrics, will we permit ourselves to delve into this layered conversation?  I do not believe in God, but yet I find myself talking to a God that I know my kind invented, when I need to. It gives me comfort, helps me to understand, and I am the wiser for it.  Only if he starts to talk back will I begin to worry.

PS: Tomislav Nikolic is represented by Jensen Gallery, Sydney. His exhibition in arcadia is happening now until 22nd December 2012.
PPS: I saw a preview of the show in Melbourne at Greenwood Street Projects. You can find out more about the artist on his website page, and see the complete body of work on-line here.

Detail: 1: Hear the passion in their voices see the heaven in their eyes,
2: Their hopes and schemes are waiting dreams for less than paradise, 2012
acrylic and marble dust on canvas and wood
Diptych: 190 x 220.5 x 10.5 cm each

Detail: 1: Hear the passion in their voices see the heaven in their eyes,
2: Their hopes and schemes are waiting dreams for less than paradise, 2012
acrylic and marble dust on canvas and wood
Diptych: 190 x 220.5 x 10.5 cm each

Miss April Advises: Taken for Granted – Artists are peeved!

Dear Miss April,

I’ve been reading your column. It seems you are quite knowledgable when it comes to the arts and aesthetic issues.
We all hear that the arts industry is unregulated. Its a well publicized and expolited fact. We know that in opposition the goverment is leaden ,bureaucratic and unresponsive. Its a well publicized and expolited fact. What happens when these areas overlap, say with the Australian Council?

We have all seen the self interest, nepotism, shallow thinking and ego pyrotechnics at work, but happens when you get the arts industries heightened pitch overlaid on this gravelly platform provided by the goverment? Well, sometimes its self interest, nepotism, shallow thinking and ego pyrotechnics. It doesnt make for a sure footing.

The grant system seems to help in a direct individual way and the artists/ creaters/ creatives sometimes get some money too, but this cash injection is the most impotent of the boards traits. Perhaps if there were broader impacts than turning up at private openings and previews at the opera house for the bereaucrats. What about lobbying for a better tax position for artists? Imprisonment for lazy curators? Ensuring the funding goes to the artist not their dealers who write the applications? Why hell, even making their web site user friendly? Beneficial longterm outcomes!!

Do you think its time they put down the Chardonnay in Sydney and had a good look at what theyre offering the arts community and the tax paying public?

Best

Taken for Granted

Dear Taken for Granted

Stop, please, don’t! You’re making me blush! It is true that art woes seem to have predominated this advice column, but I believe that may be less about my own knowledge and more about the mindset of our local community. Lucky to have such woes!

Oh, wouldn’t it be a blessed thing to have arts funding policy decided by an Agony Aunt column, the power is making me swoon! It is interesting to note though, that yours is not the only frustrated voice (like him, him , him & her) regarding our nation’s major arts grant body. Why, I do believe our federal fund is currently under review‘transparency please!’ – is the cry upon the winds. I ask you though, what is it that you really want from Miss April? Much of what you say are statements, opinions, questions which demand a nodding and smiling agreement.

I’ll tell you this. Clogging up our prison system with yellow-bellied curators would probably exhaust our arts funding, not relieve it! We’ll have another grant category just to cover it – legal defence funds for dull curators. It is sad that we have a national tradition of ‘I’ll have what he’s having’ when it comes to acquisitions, grants, curatorial inclusions, publicity, etc, etc. All a rather big yawn isn’t it?

I agree, a user-friendly website would be helpful. I mean have you seen this clip? I agree, the system has led to accusations of nepotism! I agree, seeing the same commercial gallery being awarded tens of thousands of dollars year-in and year-out, despite them being the most successful and fiscally liquid business in the industry is rather eyebrow raising. I agree with many of your points. And that is all I can do for you here. Or is it?

Dear Ms/Mr Granted, may I call you Taken? I infer from your moniker you see yourself as a victim of said system? An artist yourself perhaps, a musician, actor, dancer, painter, writer? The frustration at the inequity of the system feels worse because you see yourself at the short end of the stick? Then I would like to impart some advice to you before I sign off here today. Put it behind you. If you spend your energy rallying against the system, not only will you go mad, you will be spending precious time and energy away from your craft. I can imagine it is frustrating that grants are awarded to others under perceived dubious methods, but fear not, because the artist does have the last laugh. Do you know the secret of becoming an artist, truly? The secret is: just do it. Don’t wait for grants, don’t waste your time thinking about policies, don’t waste your time stewing on the system, concentrate on your work.

Not to say that you should not submit your grant requests, continue to do so if you so wish. You’ve got to be in it to win it! Here is a case study where an artist is talking about their approach to writing grant applications. There is some good advice there. However, it also emphasises the need for the artist to be adroit at influential writing skills, not a skill all have, which puts them at an immediate disadvantage. So my advice for you here would be to draw upon your friends and family, if you know someone who can help you prepare – ask them. The video also inadvertently points out a bittersweet element of the grants system – multiple successes for the same artists & organisations, means no success for others. If you want to get involved, why don’t you register as a Peer? If you want to critique or suggest improvements – write, email, call them. Contact the board members. Also, you could contact the Department directly in Canberra. Make yourself KNOWN.

To be honest with you Taken, there could be vast improvements, they could inject some fresh blood and new ideas, and transparent assessment processes; and perhaps I could spend my years pondering such matters, perhaps you could too. But I would rather get back to my typewriter, and you should get back to work. 

Thank you most sincerely for entrusting me with your worries,
Yours, Miss April

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Miss April Advises: Knee Deep – kid’s parties get complicated

Dear Miss April,

I have been placed in charge of an extremely unfamiliar task. A children’s birthday party, under 10’s to be exact.
My memories are of sugary phantasms, sprinklers on lawns and throwing up in the car. I’m sure times have changed, what with child obesity and peanut, wheat and lactose intolerance in the under 10 set filling the newspaper.

I’m not sure how sparking mineral water, imaginary tea, crudites and felafel’s will go down with the pink outfitted ruffians I will be hosting.

Any catering tips would be appreciated?

Soon to be

Knee Deep

Dear Knee Deep

Good old blogs and Facebook pages now hold host to plenty of information about such topics. There is a Thermomix page (for those dedicated to the hot right then 1960s Italian kitchen technology now popular in Australia) where eager food obsessed mothers recently swapped some children’s party food ideas such as: fruit kebabs, rainbow cupcakes, cake pops (very ill-advised IMHO), or even the chocolate beetroot cakes and magic bean chocolate cakes (made with red kidney beans) for those who take delight into tricking children into eating a healthy ingredient cooked to death.

One time-blessed mother listed her complete menu: vegetarian sausage rolls, cinnamon scrolls, apricot and coconut balls, fruit platter with yoghurt dip, popcorn, mini-quiches & pikelets.

Another suggestion was homemade hummus served in individual plastic shot glasses, each fitted with a carrot and a celery stick. Healthy yes, but then you risk the ire of those who condemn such perverse overuse of plastic. A tricky balancing act at party time.

All of these are wonderful suggestions, but really most kids go straight to the cheezels that one’s husband/brother/uncle decided to serve up and ignore all healthy options. All of a sudden there are party pies, fairy bread, and bowls and bowls of lollies that seem to come from nowhere. Well-intentioned mother has wasted her time, and no-one seems to empathise because by golly its a party and time to kick back. One soon finds out, that behind the facade of conversations eye-ball deep in healthy matters, most parents are sick to death of thinking of gourmet options subconsciously suspected as pretentious brainwashing and fantasise about halcyon days of sugar highs, and food full of hyper-real colour.

This pickle of a situation recalls a story I once heard. A story of upright, disciplined citizens with only the best in mind for their child. No additives, no sugar, no fat; only a fully controlled diet for their little boy. But they understood that other parents were not so strict so chose to have their little one’s party at McDonalds, with a large food-colouring fantasy of a cake. Isn’t that nice of them? Their son, of course, could only watch on, nibbling at his rye wrap while his best friends devoured their starch and fat, and delighted in his birthday cake from which he did not taste a crumb. Model parents. A quiet boy.

But I would be remiss to treat lightly the seriousness of food allergies and child obesity. I can solve the latter by simply stating, a child’s birthday party is no place for you to worry about the Western world’s obesity problem. Leave that responsibility where it rightfully lies, with the parents, broader community’s attitudes to fast foods and capitalism. If you do have a guest with food allergies I am certain you would be duly informed, and it is then your responsibility to supply  suitable options for their needs. That’s where the magic bean cake comes in handy.

So take a page out of the child’s manual to parties, put on your tutu and join in the fun.

Bon appetit!
Miss April

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