Aesthetics of Appreciation

27 07 2019

Named one of the 101 best Writing Web Sites by Writer’s Digest, SOUL FOOD CAFE provides inspiration for writers and artists to make creative work a daily practice. The editors hope that searching minds will appreciate the “chain reaction that promotes creativity and the flow of words.”

Back in 2004, I stumbled upon the work of Cynthia Korzekwa’s. Her exploration of the Aesthetics of Appreciation captivated me. Her retablos were a delight to meditate upon.  “If you’re lucky and don’t know it, it’s like not being lucky at all,” wrote Korzekwa. She suggests that to keep your luck alive you need to recognize it by making retablos

A retablo is a devotional painting, especially a small popular or folk art one using iconography derived from traditional Catholic church art. More generally retablo is also the Spanish term for a retable or reredos above an altar, whether a large altarpiece painting or an elaborate wooden structure with sculptures. Typically this includes painting, sculpture or a combination of the two, and an elaborate framework enclosing it. The Latin etymology of the Spanish word means “board behind”. Aside from being found behind the altar, “similar ornamental structures are built and carved over facades and doorways”, called overdoors.

Korzekwa percieved Retablos to provide a means of offering thanks for her luck.

I consider myself to have been lucky to meet people like Korzekwa when I worked the Soul Food Cafe. This site is what I consider to be a Retablo. It is a way of giving thanks to the divine source that continues to feed me. It also enables me to express how much I appreciated the generosity of all those people who joined me and fired my imagination during those amazing ten years.


Gratitude journals are very popular thanks, in large part, to the work of the mindfulness movement. Making retablos may enrich a gratitude journal. Consider finding ways to keep your luck alive and find fresh ways to make retablos.





Old Internet Gold

26 07 2019

While I was digging around in the Soul Food Cafe, as snapped by the Way Back Machine, I couldn’t resist following links to sites that have long since disappeared. Bingo! I came across an old link I had to Spam Letters.

Johnathon Land who created this insane site didn’t remember why he started writing back to those people who send spam but he did, and, in so doing he created Spam Letters.

Be cautioned! It is generally agreed that responding to such mail only results in your computer contracting a nasty social virus or encourages spammers to send more mail.

However, for fans of unsent letters and Julia Cameron’s morning pages, this does not pose a problem. There is no danger in copying ridiculous spam and using it to meet your daily ten thousand steps of writing target. (I can’t help wondering why no one has designed a ‘Fitbit’ so we can count our words).

Needless to say, I ended up going off on a tangent,  foraging around and low and behold I found some great ways to serve up spam.

But I digress! Here is one of Land’s replies to a spam letter! Back when I linked to his site I did think he might just have been on to something! Clearly, he was! He produced a book called, you guessed it, Spam Letters.

A Spam Letter by Johnathon Land

Subject: Re: Complimentary Disney Area Vacation
To: freevac3@turbomail.net
From: Jonathan Land <jland@incomplete.net>
Date: 07/03/2001

Congratulations!

You will be our guest in Orlando, Florida, home of Walt Disney World, for 4 days and 3 nights. All compliments of major Vacation Resort Developers.

Click here>>> http://www.websurfking.net/freevacations CLAIM YOUR GIFT

While I’m thrilled to have won this prize, I have to say that the timing is wholly unfortunate. I just got back from a 5-day trip to Orlando where I went to Walt Disney World and several other area attractions such as amusement parks and outdoor wax museums (which for some reason all featured a character named “Puddles The Blob”… must be a local thing).

I’d like to know if it would be at all possible to use my winnings from this contest to go to a different location. I realize that it would probably have to be some comparable amusement park-like thing, so I’ll just let you know what I’m looking for, and maybe you can suggest an alternate location for my prize.

OK… from my recent experience, I’ve actually found a lot to be desired from an amusement park. For instance, I’m not a big fan of light, heat, lines (queues when I’m overseas), height, speed, crowds (particularly children under the age of 30), individuals who have a lack of awareness of their own personal space, and noise. Basically, if this were more of a road trip scenario, my ideal buddy would be Woody Allen, but neither of us would dare drive.

I know it’s far easier to say what you don’t want out of something as opposed to what you do, so I’ll attempt to “verbalize” that to the best of my ability here.

My ideal amusement park would be a self-contained, climate-controlled environment that’s available for use 24 hours a day. It would be small enough to traverse the entire area with ease, but large enough so you don’t feel claustrophobic. It can have many windows, but the shades should always be drawn.

I’m very easy to please… I’m fine with just one ride. The ride itself should be a big uber-ride confined to one place where you don’t have to go running around the park. Personally, I like the video presentations that you can find at parks. It would be really, really cool to either A) have some sort of monitor like that with some sort of link up to a network that would allow the patron to select various presentations to view, or b) I don’t know… have some series of cartridges or cool computer-y thingies encoded with presentations that you can plug into something attached to the monitor. That could entertain me for countless months!

The most important thing about the above attraction though is that the monitor setup must be visible to all attendees, and the seating for the ride should maybe be a single row… possibly with a little table in front to accommodate refreshments.

I realize that more is to be taken into consideration in regards to an amusement park besides the fun stuff, so here I’ll address the nightly hotel situation, the concession stand, and the restrooms in reverse order.

The unisex restrooms should have full amenities such as a shower/bathtub (especially since I’m about to propose that the park have a built-in hotel), and a stocked, gratis medicine cabinet. Since the maximum occupancy of the park should only be a handful of people, the restroom should rarely be occupied, and you can easily co-ordinate with any others (essentially your guests who are there by invitation) about the necessity and priority of use, unless of course someone has “really gotta go”.

The concession area would have all of the foods that are traditionally strewn throughout the park in one concise space. Some of the food can be prepared at will by the consumer in an available oven or microwave. Until then there will be a facility where it can be refrigerated or frozen. There should be a network of businesses within immediate walking/driving distance of the park who can supply such things as food items, or even new entertainment cartridges for the ride.

There should be a built-in hotel that is mere feet away from the ride. There should be no specified check-in or check-out time, with no random strangers knocking on your door at 9 am to make your bed for you. However, random strangers in bed with you are perfectly acceptable, even welcome.

Most important – the park attendant. Preferably a young nymphomaniac in a french maid outfit, who would handle the upkeep of the entire facility and my sexual needs in exchange for affection, trinkets, an occasional dinner outside of the park, and a noble attempt to accommodate her insatiable sexual needs even though failure is virtually guaranteed. She can also reside in the hotel room space. I realize this last request might be toeing the line of illegality/impropriety, but I just thought I’d ask.

While I want this thing to be sparsely populated, it it would be ok with me if this park were part of a community of similar theme parks where each operator can tailor the place to their own whims and desires…. as long as they don’t play their music too loud.

I’ve enclosed a rough layout:

I know this sounds heavy duty, but the more I describe this place, the more I’d like to live there. Hell, I’d be willing to pay a monthly rate, but obviously I’d need to relocate there, and eventually I’d have to support myself by getting a job within a reasonable distance, but oh, it would be paradise!!!

So where am I going?
Jonathan Land

Your Complimentary Vacation Package Includes:

3 Nights Resort Hotel Accommodations…PLUS

2 Adult Admissions to Disney’s Pleasure Island Attraction…PLUS

$500.00 Discount Coupon Book…PLUS

Round Trip Transportation between your Hotel and Disney World, Epcot, and the Animal Kingdom.

You Must Qualify – Now.

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To be removed from future mailings please visit
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Archaeological Dig

26 07 2019

The Soul Food Cafe is an incredible multilateral sea of creativity and creative people in writing and art. This place is creative and inspirational without becoming cheesy and all-together far too feel-good for comfort. The visual aspect is unbelievably beautiful and complementary to its content.
Eating Peanuts 2003

The science of Archaeology was glamorised by the film Raiders of the Lost Ark which featured Dr Indianna Jones, the tweed suited, a celebrated archaeologist who is hired by the government to locate the Ark of the Covenant.

Plenty of famed archaeologists have set out to find the hidden treasure but not all face the challenges Dr Jones is confronted with.

The purpose of archaeology is to study how people in the past interacted with their world. Archaeological information is gathered through a detailed study of historic objects, sites and monuments and the contemporary uses of heritage.

Day-to-day Archaeologists conduct field investigations, analyze artefacts, excavate sites, manage the logistics of projects at sites, write reports and recommendations, teach, conduct research, and publish the results of their research in academic journals.

Archaeology is an important career because it assists us in obtaining a chronology of our past, it gives us some understanding of why human culture has changed through time and it allows us to explain cause-and-effect behaviour of humans in the past which in turn helps us understand the present and why humanity is the way it is. Through Archaeology we can make more informed decisions about the progression of humanity as it currently exists.

For example, important remnants of an antique Town, discovered in 1974 at Dzalisa, close to the Mukhranbatoni Château, indicate that these early inhabitants mastered and developed the art of winemaking. They also prove the existence of an important town north of Mtkvari (mentioned by the C2nd B.C. by Greek author Ptolemy). This established settlement, a satellite of the larger Town Mtskheta, played an important part in the development of the Karthli Kingdom. By its historical, artistic and stylistic significance experts believe Dzalisa to be part of the global heritage of mankind, as are Pompeii, Herculaneum and similar sites in Palestine and Syria.

Given all of this, what kind of archaeologist am I working as? In this instance, I am digging deep into the vaults of the Soul Food Cafe, making full use of the amazing Way Back Machine, to study this historic internet application, look at how it functioned, how its creator mastered emerging computer applications and consider its relevance for contemporary use.

Initially, I might unearth old prompts and try entering through a manhole.

Try the following Guided Imagery and when you have completed it write an extended piece.

It is raining heavily but, tired of being indoors, you decide to go out for a walk. As you walk you hear the sound of a solitary raven calling. The cars spray water and you can see the drains filling. Water is gurgling and splashing like mini rivers along the curb into the drains.

Under the shelter of your umbrella you keep your eyes down and suddenly you see a manhole cover that you have never noticed before. (pause)

It is ajar and you can see that there is a ladder leading below. (pause)

The urge to explore is great. (pause)

Suddenly you are aware that you have company.

The two of you decide to check out the world beyond the manhole. (pause)

As you clamber below you are greeted by… see, hear, smell, taste, feel…

You might begin by drawing the world below the manhole cover and then write or you might, like me, when I was in the Czech Republic in 2018, simply seek out interesting manholes when you travel.

 

 

 





A Rambling Wild Gardener

25 07 2019

Good heavens. Thanks to  Boynton I have only just discovered the Soul Food Cafe. What a fine site. What an innovative use of the internet to developing the historical becoming of Australian culture. Finding such sites is like following trails through the desert of cyberspace with other weblogs providing a series of maps of the country.

Then perchance, coming across soakages in the sandhill country, or a waterhole along a trail: Soul Food cafe is one such waterhole. Do take time out to replenish there. That is what waterholes are for—soul food. Many a time I’ve wandered the trails at night looking for a watering hole that pointed the way to the promised land. Around the waterhole, we sit under the night sky and reflect about the country, express our feelings about what is happening on this earth, and start telling our stories.
Junk for Code

Roger McKindley Iron Garden – Antares Newstead

The maker of waterholes? A web publisher? A writer? An assemblage artist? People never fully understand what I am talking about when they ask me to explain my creative work. Until recently I wasn’t really sure where I fitted into the wheel of those who work with the Expressive Arts.

Roger McKindley from neighbouring Newstead has no such problem explaining who he is. Found objects are sited creatively in the space where he lives and works, to form unique and entrancing patterns and images. The whole space is a kind of installation, where visitors are free to roam and explore – finding themselves by turns entertained, beguiled, uplifted and moved.

A qualified landscape gardener of many years’ experience, a stone worker and self-taught artist and sculptor, Roger has over the past 20 years, created Art Gardens wherever he has lived and has participated in numerous community and art events. He says that “reverence is everything. I feel humbled by the objects that I find… or is it that they find me?”

I have visited McKindley’s garden many times and love everything about his iron garden. This is a garden in constant flux, as objects are arranged and re-arranged to suit its creator. Nothing is extraneous. Roger finds beauty in all the objects he finds and the things that others discard – he brings these objects together into an enlivened and creative whole.

Perhaps tonight Roger McKindley is helping me explain the wild garden I initially created in the form of Soul Food and have continued to adapt through the use of countless interconnecting, collaborative WordPress sites. Like McKindley I am humbled by how objects and ideas find their way to me.

I garden! I forage, find and assemble fragments. Like McKindley I have reverence for the things that I find. Perhaps the best example of my foraging and assemblage lies within a series of features I made over a period of seven years.

I think one of my first Advent Calendars was what drew such praise from Junk for Code. It celebrated Australian culture and drew an enormous readership.

A wonderful Advent gift came from Heather at Soul Food Cafe, who prepared a virtual Advent Calendar, with one ‘door’ to be opened every day through to Dec 26. Like everything at Soul Food, this is a labour of love packed with good writing, thoughts and ideas both for making this a rewarding and fruitful time and especially for navigating the sometimes stormy and difficult waters of the holiday season.
Cassandra Pages

Made in Australia Advent Calendar

Design by Greg Blakey. Assembled by Heather Blakey 2003.

Perhaps you will gather together your art and writing supplies, pack a picnic, camp by a billabong (Australian waterhole) and spend some time exploring the bits and pieces that were gathered and assembled here.





It All Began Here

25 07 2019

‘Pitbulls I Have Known’ was one of the prompts that I offered students in my writing classes. Initially, they worked in their notebooks but as time passed we published using Bravenet. Then, as I worked the Soul Food Cafe, I found ways to publish their work and extend their readership. 

I was working as a Secondary School Teacher in a northern, former technical school as an English teacher when I began to introduce my students to the internet.

The guiding principle behind the work that I was doing as a specialist teacher of writing was that if my students wanted to become polished writers then they had to gain experience and practice the art. I also believed that if we used internet forums such as the now-defunct Bravenet, I would provide extra incentive for them to write.

To establish a daily writing practice, at the beginning of each year, I encouraged students in my English classes to create a special notebook to store their words. Most years students filled at least two notebooks.

One of my favourite exercises was to spend the first session covering the book.  I liked to get students to design a door that expressed their personality. “Are you like a fly-wire screen door, a big heavy front door with a solid doorknocker, a cathedral door?” I asked. I bought plenty of art supplies into class and we also made use of those lovely brightly coloured kinder squares and pages from glossy magazines to create a collage.

Once we had our notebooks established we make a commitment to write each day and we always counted the words we managed to get down on the page. The aim was to get as many words as possible in twenty minutes and to try to get more each session. I always provided quirky starters, students would read selected pieces to the class and we discussed how particular prompts drew out a lot of writing. It was exhilarating when students actually clapped in response to particular readings.

It was the redrafted responses to some of these starters which students published on Bravenet. This was the time when the internet was brand new and my students were very excited to see their work go live and to be able to show their work off to their parents and friends. I went on to publish the prompts and their work in the Student Lounge at the Soul Food Cafe. 

Consider covering a notebook with a door that represents your personality, follow links into the Way Back Machine which photographed this part of the site. Perhaps you will try some of these exercises.

Pitbulls by Jeff Hogan
From participating student folios

Lunch money! At school it was a valuable resource like gold was to gold miners, clients were to lawyers and at least one trip a year to somewhere in the world was to my grandmother. However, with all these things, there was something to steal these resources. Other gold miners, lawyers, deaths in the family and, with lunch money, school bullies.

The school bully at our school was James Mortimer Rela. He was rich, had a family who didnít give a damn and he received everything he wanted, and if he didn’t, he stole it. Like the time when he was eight, he nicked a womenís handbag so he could buy a racing car. Or the time when he was eleven when he stole a computer game from the library. The librarian, an overweight and elderly male, could never catch him. But the one I will never forget was when he shoved me into a video stand at an electronics store. While everyone was helping me up, he walked out with a brand new, shiny Playstation 2.

You might ask why I never stand up to him. The reason is, his weight, speed and strength. He weighed a good one hundred and sixty pounds. He could run the four hundred meters and never get tired as well as being able to lift up his own body weight, and more if he tried harder. He was as indestructible as a tank, as powerful as a nuclear explosion. But then one day I had an idea.

The one thing James could never resist was to take lunch money. He could make fifty dollars a day and not even have a job. And almost always he would spend the money on the canteens most valuable, edible cuisine, the Mister Feaster. It was ten dollars though, but it would have all youíre eating needs. Chocolate, sandwich, fried rice, soft drink, hot chips and more. It cost a pretty penny but it was worth it and James would always get it. However, James also had a fear. Pit bulls. Large, fierce, ugly, mean, slobbering, Pit bulldogs. That’s what James called them. My plan was hideous but it just might work.

It was photo day. I came into the canteen with a ten-dollar note in my hand. All the people in my class gave up fifty cents each to put into my plan. I walked right past James gang. There were a lot of teachers around getting their photos taken so they could do nothing but stare. I went up and ordered the Mister Feaster. Once I received it I slipped on the ĎMister Dumb Jokes sleeping potion, I sat right near the gang. The teacher’s left and James struck. He picked me up and threw me into the garbage. He then started eating and soon afterwards he had zonked out. A group of nine kids helped me carry James away and towards the pitbull cage.

James never returned to my school after that. The shock when he woke up and found himself surrounded by pit bulls made him think he shouldnít come to school anymore. As a celebration, everyone ordered the Mister Feaster and ate it in a piece. No James came and took it away. However, I didn’t end up going to the party. I was suspended for throwing James to the Pit bull’s but I will always remember that experience.





Through the Magnetic Doorway – A Story about Soul Food Cafe

23 07 2019

Soul Food Cafe is a magically creative and inspiring web site, so much so that a simple link and a few words don’t do it justice. Its creator, Heather Blakey, and I began an email discussion about how making a website can be a creative calling. The story of how her site came to be was so inspiring, I asked her to share it with you.
K.M. Porterfield

As a child, under southern skies, my days were spent in imaginary worlds, soaked in mythos, reading, writing and riding on the back of the winged Pegasus. It was during those hours of solitary dreaming, within the safety of my private universe, that the seeds of the cyber writing sanctuary, The Soul Food Café, were sown.

The Soul Food Cafe as it exists today is a product of imagineering, born of a creative dreaming and dogged persistence. The fantasy world of Soul Food emerged as I strove to prove that it is enough to simply write. It sprang from a mission to make writing accessible to all who desire to write, from a need to break down the myth that the only real writer is the published author.

I entered the New World of cyberspace when I pulled up my sleeves and applied the technology that computer geeks had invented. When I applied their tools to promote writing I observed an alchemical shift. The web became a calling and I created the kind of community that computer people like to talk of, but which is, in reality, as rare as hens teeth.

As time has passed The Soul Food Café has gained a life of its own. It has become a true oasis in a desert, a place where the tired and thirsty come to drink of the creative waters, sing their personal songs and, in so doing, re-invent themselves. The Soul Food Cafe has become a sanctuary, a delicious, divine release from reality, a place where the weary and the thirsty can feast upon myth and nourish creativity.

Within these magic, virtual, walls lie an atmospheric haven where fragile, sometimes timid writers can publish, share their knowledge, express their deepest fears and reclaim their imagination. Within the fantasy world of Lemuria there is fellowship, yet, for so many, this world feels like it has been created especially for them, tailored to meet their individual needs, built so they can live out their private mythology in a private garden of Eden.

How did this transpire? At what moment did I transcend my dream and create a vibrant, safe, creative cyber community where the creative congregate?

I transcended my dream and began to live my vision at the moment when I claimed the Raven as a totem. Throughout time the Raven has carried the medicine of magic. Today the Raven is the courier that carries energy flow from my keyboard to the world beyond. It is the Raven who guides and directs me, who has named me and provided direction for my web design. Astride cyber waves, we carry energy, seek energy, make links to rich powerhouses, tap gently on chamber doors and tempt more and more of the thirsty to come for a glimpse of the silken magic, mythos, ambience and mood that is so much a part of the Soul Food Cafe.

I transcended my dream when I reached within the deep loam of a powerful creative force known variously as Duende, Pakaramdam, Nommo, Mana, The Dreaming, or the Muse. I surpassed my wildest expectations when I felt the heat of this creative force conspire to build a magnetic doorway, whose energy draws kindred spirits to enter, seemingly by chance.

These days I look in wonder at what Soul Food is becoming. I now choose to soak myself in mythos, write, read and ride the wings of a blue-black, iridescent bird amid a flock. There is plenty of space out here in this exciting cyber world! You too can clamber astride the wings of this magical bird and share the fellowship. You too can reclaim your dreams within the safe, non-judgmental environment of Soul Food and, in so doing, actively live out your wildest creative vision.

Heather Blakey
Published 2005

 





Like Alice They Followed The Rabbit

23 07 2019

“Alice is bored sitting on the riverbank with her sister, who is reading a book. Suddenly she sees a white rabbit, wearing a coat and carrying a watch, run past, lamenting running late. She follows it down a rabbit hole and falls very slowly down a tunnel lined with curious objects. She lands in a long hallway lined with locked doors. She finds a little key sitting on a glass table. Behind a curtain on the wall, she finds a tiny door that opens with the key and leads into a beautiful garden. The door, however, is too small for Alice to fit through. “

By Natalie Rak

When Alice followed the rabbit down the hole into Wonderland she found a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. When some people stumbled upon The Soul Food Cafe they discovered that the Cafe was actually a ‘front’ disguising an entrance to the fantasy world of Lemuria.

The Soul Food Cafe was bought into the world by Imagineer, Heather Blakey. In its heyday, between 2004-10, Soul Food attracted over a million visitors a year. The majority of visitors never did notice the little key sitting on the glass table near the bookshelf. They never realised that the key triggered a mechanism designed to open the bookshelf, filled with the works of people like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

However, some intuitively knew that there must be a key that would open a portal. They persisted and found their way down the spiral staircase, crawled through the tunnels that meandered underneath the Cafe and eventually arrived in the Cave of the Enchantress.  Enchanteur (one of Heather Blakey’s alter egos) remains, to this day, an ageless Lemurian Priestess. She gave pilgrims a small bag filled with talismans, told them they must never relinquish the bag and magicked them into Lemuria.

When they recovered from the shock of being teleported into a new, thinly populated world, most of these pilgrims found themselves at Duwamish Bay. They invariably stayed at the Duwamish Inn, ate and drank heartily and full of trust joined a Gypsy caravan and wandered semi aimlessly around Lemuria with a host of donkeys.

Time moved on, the world of the internet changed. Travellers were drawn to the lights of Facebook, Heather Blakey’s life had been turned upside down and she needed to go away and reinvent herself. The world of Enchanteur drifted, like Avalon, into the mists. With Enchanteur gone, Soul Food has lain silent for over a decade and the door to Lemuria has been closed.

True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire.
Cesar Chavez

Over the past decade, Heather Blakey has successfully reinvented herself and recently graduated as a Masters of Social Work. During her final placement, inspired by the children at Winters Flat Primary School, she messaged Enchanteur. Imagine her delight when she heard the rustle of E’s gown and the giggles of her entourage. Everyone agreed that it is important to find a way to celebrate and preserve the memory of those heady days when Enchanteur was in full flight.

If you love the expressive arts and understand their power to heal you can try to launch yourself through the cobweb filled back passage that leads into the vast halls and vaults of Soul Food. Heather and E have at least 101 stories to tell about Soul Food’s origins and the glory days of Lemuria.