House of Baba Yaga

4 08 2019

During the days when she ran the Soul Food Cafe, Heather Blakey was in the habit of taking on a range of avatars, as they were known at the time. It meant that she could be whoever she wanted to be. I’m sure her psychiatrist would be very interested in this particular period of her life.

As le Enchanteur, Mistress of Lemuria, she first introduced travellers to the crone, Baba Yaga when they set out in search of the Camp of the Amazon Queen.

Of course, everyone knew that Heather was taking them to yet another of the places she had set up and that she would undergo a metamorphosis and become Baba Yaga.  She had become well known for doing crazy stuff like this. But, when they thought about it, everyone agreed that this identity was a good match for Heather who is very fond of assigning tasks and labours for the unsuspecting travellers who stumble through the portal into the world of Lemuria.

The Instructions

Everyone gathers, expectant inside the Cave of the Enchantress.

The Enchantress comes and announces that everyone is to go to the House of Baba Yaga and help prepare for Halloween and All Saint’s Day. She says that to reach the House of Baba Yaga we will have to pass through the Mountains of Myrrh, which the writer of the Song of Solomon (1V6) said he wanted to retreat to.

The Enchantress provides each person with a small bag. Each bag contains spectacles, a candlestick, a tiny anchor, a medallion with the imprint of the Unicorn and a set of wings. However, the bag also contains something that has been chosen specifically for the recipient. It also contains a map showing where the Gypsies are currently camped.

Le Enchanteur stresses that this bag is very important. Should anyone become separated from the group these things will become essential. She says that travellers may choose to wear the spectacles for they are purported to have fairy-like qualities which reveal wonders to those who wear them.

The Enchantress also gives you a doll so that like Vasilisa they will be able to rely on the dolls wisdom. (Find a doll or make one) She says that if anyone should lose their way, or be in need of help, all they will have to do is ask the doll for advice. She says that the doll will assist, that we must keep her with us at all times, that we must not tell anyone we meet about her and that we must feed her when she is hungry and give her drinks if she is thirsty. She tells us that we must travel by donkey and that it will take many days before we reach the house of Baba Yaga.

Once travellers have arrived they will, of course, be assigned tasks.

 





A Nostalgic Exploration of the Dig Tree

1 08 2019

Celebrate being Australian, learn about Australian History and discover the essence of creativity all at the same time. The Dig Tree is etched into the Australian psyche as one of the greatest ironic tragedies. Dig and unearth some of the secrets of creativity. The Dig Tree at the Soul Food Cafe was designed by Greg Blakey, a talented design student, with flair, imagination and the ability to meet the needs of his clients. Greg has created, amongst other things, Soul Food’s zany Magic Writing Tram.
Link available in the Way Back Machine

You will find links to traditional indigenous remedies within the Dig Tree.

Anita Marie, a former member of Soul Food and a founding member of Bancroft Manor (a virtual sanctuary) told how the Ragtag Community had picked up and continued to run with the WordPress Daily Prompt concept. It is a treat to respond to an idea someone else has put out into cyberspace.

Today’s post asks participants to “compose a post on your interpretation of “nostalgia”. Wikipedia describes nostalgia as sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or places with happy personal associations. There is no doubt that my work on this particular blog, one of the countless I have established over the years, has induced a bittersweet longing for something that has long gone, for a time that has passed. I closed the Soul Food Cafe nine years ago but have kept it all online in the hope that people will continue to make use of the suggested prompts and projects.

These days I continue to work as a purveyor of creative stimuli, running workshops in my local community and, under the name of Georgina McClure, building small virtual sanctuary at Bancroft Manor. Bancroft Manor a place where creatives can take up residence and work on their own or in collaboration on projects like Danse Macabre. Digging away in the Way Back Machine and hauling out the treasure from old links within Soul Food has induced a burst of creativity.

As I sit in some reverie I recall making ‘The Dig Tree’, one of the many features that appeared during those heady days when Soul Food was fully operational. Because the site will eventually sail off into internet oblivion I am including links to find it all in the Way Back Machine.

Each shovel under the famous Australian Dig Tree has a hyperlink to a page of activities. The idea of this feature is that you dig by choosing a random shovel.





Colouring Stories

30 07 2019

“You have power over people Mrs Blakey. You can get everyone in the room to write. How do you do that?” asked Jason from Keon Park Primary.

“We belong to the force of Blakey” said Avril, a member of a small working group at Keon Park Primary School.

When writing or talking about the Soul Food Cafe one does have to keep in mind that its original purpose was not only to publish fun projects, for both primary and secondary school students that I was working with at the time but also to ensure that students had a readership. Primary school students who I met, years after I had worked with them told me that they still loved showing off work that had been published on the internet, back in the days when the internet was still youthful and uncluttered.

Colouring stories went down well with all ages. One favourite, which I located deep within the Way Back Machine involved colouring in Angelica from Cooltoons, cutting her out, pasting her into a scene, along with some other and then writing about the ‘Bad Girl of the Block’.

Colour her mean! Add some action to the page. Write down a list of seriously ‘bad’ action words. Make a note of the things she is in a habit of saying. Think about who she likes to hang out with, how she walks, how she talks to people. Contemplate and recall some of the past bad deeds she and her gang have done.

Write a story entitled ‘Bad Girl On The Block.

One sunny Tuesday morning when Angelica set off to her aunt Didi’s and uncles Stew’s house she saw a police car. She was thinking, did her aunt and uncle call the police for what she had done last night. When Angelica went there yesterday, she was up to mischief, she wrecked her uncle Stew’s new record and new record player. When she was leaving to go to school she called Chuckie, Phil, Lil and Tommy stupid little babies. Just as she was walking out the door she said, “Bite me” to her aunt and uncle. When she was walking to school she saw a police car driving along beside her. The policeman wound down his window and said come here right now. Angelica ran away, right down to the corner and went in the schoolyard. The police car went through the gate that was open, near where they play soccer. The police car ruined the soccer lines that were marked only two days ago. The policemen hopped out the car and ran into the office so they could call her on the loud speaker. Angelica ran into the office and saw the police. The police said we are going to put you behind bars for two years. After she got out of jail she was really, really, really nice to all her family, even the babies.
by Emma Gould – Primary School Student

There are lots of sites that provide downloads of templates to colour. Judy Clement Wall is just one of them. Images like “When in Doubt, Wear fun Shoes’ would surely fit somewhere into Angelica’s daily life.

 





The Imagined House

29 07 2019

The house often is a symbol of the self, one’s own personality. In this exercise, students are led through a mental imagery scene in which they explore a house in their imagination.

You are walking down a road…. As you are walking, you see a house. Look at it. Notice its details…. Walk towards it. What do you notice about it?…. You start to walk around the house, looking at it as you walk…. Now you are halfway around. Notice the details of the house as you continue to walk around it…. Now you come back to where you were when you started…. As you walked around the house, you noticed a way to get in. Now go into the house…. What do you see?…. Explore the house, what’s inside?…. As you were exploring, you noticed a secret door leading to a secret room. Go inside that room. What do you see?…. Now leave the secret room and go back into the main part of the house…. Now leave the house. As you are walking away from it, you look back at it one more time…. You are back on the road once again, walking.

After completing the imagery exercise, write down what you saw in your imagination.

Upon completion, when in a group situation, we discuss how the various characteristics of the house may say something about their own personality – similar to dream interpretation. We pay attention to such details as to how the house appears on the inside as opposed to the outside, what can and cannot be found inside the house, how one gets into the house, what’s inside the “secret” room, colours, textures, how space is experienced, etc. All of these details may have symbolic significance.

When shared in a group ask other participants to help you flesh out detail by asking questions. The feedback provided by other students is invariably eye-opening. In fact, I am always impressed by how insightful some very young students can be.

Students often are amazed at what the imagined house says about them.

This exercise also works well for exploring the identity/personality of a small group. After someone leads the group through this imagery scene, the group members discuss what they each visualized. Based on that discussion, the group together then visually “constructs” one house that seems to capture the personality of the group and all of its members. Comparing the houses created by different groups can result in some fascinating insights into the unique personality of each group.

 

Source: Suler, J. (May, 1999). The Imagined House





Dare To Be Artrageous

27 07 2019

The purpose of the Soul Food Cafe is to promote writing as a daily practice. The site is quite literally overflowing with healthy and tasty morsels for every writer. It’s full of tips, techniques, references and encouragement for writers of all kinds. Visit it often for inspiration for “listening to your muse”.

Follow the link and get some instructions about how to make an artrageous hat to celebrate your creativity and help you think like an artist.

Nothing is more ordinary than a paper bag, which is why these hats are so extraordinary. The Hawaii artist Moses (shown right, modelling Halley’s Hat, made to honour the astronomer) crafted more than 250 of them in a remarkable creative outburst that lasted almost ten years.

Moses says he “feels like the luckiest guy in the world” because he was given “The Paper Bag Hat Assignment.” He can’t explain why, but throughout the 1980s he was obsessed with paper bag hats. He saw designs in trees and in mountains. Some are quite simple — just a bag cleverly folded and shaped into a head covering. Others, like Anthurium and Gothic Knight, rely on the bag’s crisp texture to hold intricate pleats. Quite a few, such as Two/Flat Knight, are held together with vast quantities of white glue. Waiting for the glue to dry was the most tedious part of the construction process.

Local merchants gladly donated bags and Moses used thousands. The rays of Sun Rook were made from at least 100 paper bags, which were twisted tightly, bent in half and glued onto a form so that more than 200 points bristle from its crown. To achieve the soft texture of Beethoven and Dahling, bags were twisted and crumpled repeatedly until the fibres just gave up and the paper became like flannel. Moses did so much folding and twisting that he developed serious tendonitis. At the time, Moses lived in a Chevy van and used the project room of the local library as his studio.

Periodically, he’d fill his van with the current crop of chapeaus, drive down to Hapuna Beach with a borrowed camera and ask passersby if they’d like to be photographed wearing one of his creations. People’s reactions were always positive. Perhaps they caught a dose of Moses’ infectious enthusiasm. The bulk of his Crowning Glory collection is owned by the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California. Martha Longenecker, the museum’s founder and director, marvels at these “imaginative, amusing, whimsical and timeless sculptural forms.”

Moses is one person who can suggest you put a bag over your head without your being insulted.

By Elizabeth J. Erskine
All photographs courtesy of Moses





Dream Imagery

27 07 2019

I had given up on writing a good while before I discovered the cyber-treasure Soul Food Cafe. Heather Blakey coaxed from me one last dying ember of literary inspiration, added her unique fuel and spark, and then graciously sat back to admire the fiery imagination she expertly fostered, though assuring me the magic is all mine. Heather taught me and continues to encourage me not to give up five minutes before the miracle happens
Stephanie Hansen

Gail Bixler’s Dream Imagery

As I patiently dig within pages of the Soul Food Cafe that the Way Back Machine snapped and visit internet sites that have long since been removed, I am finding material that reminds me of prompts I have found not only stimulate my imagination but have induced a flow of words in people I worked with.

Gail Bixler documented people’s dreams and their interpretations of those dreams. Dream Imagery is a great place to view pages that will not only give you ideas about how to record your dreams but use some of the material as you develop characters you are working with.

 

When I was working with some Grade 3 and 4 students at a local primary school last year I asked students and the two teachers working with them to take turns, to stand up and share a recurrent dream. Then I had other students listen and react as critics and ask for more information. I was, quite frankly, stunned by the ‘interrogation’ that took place and was inspired by the rich detail that emerged.

Then, having reminded students how to write in the third person I asked them to use this material to generate a story or a news report.

Perhaps you will use this technique and see what emerges.

In Writer’s Dreaming by Naomi Epel, Epel introduces us to some of today’s most important writers. As they discuss their dreams–both sleeping and waking– the 26 writers in this intriguing book create a portrait of the creative process that is more candid than most autobiographies and more inspiring than any guide to writing.

This guideline I relocated, tucked away within the endlessness of the Way Back Machine provides more ways to work with dreams.





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.

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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.