Posted in Arty sparks, WWWhat?

Draw Something. Anything.

I think I’m very late getting on the bandwagon, so you’ve probably already seen the Draw Something app. Essentially, it’s online Pictionary with random strangers. Or, Words With Friends in picture format, if you like. And I’m hooked. I can’t really draw – a fact that is becoming more and more apparent with each game that I play – but there’s some satisfaction in your scribble being identified as your intended image. Basically, you choose from one of three options to draw (for your team mate to guess). And then you get awarded coins, depending on the alleged difficulty of what you chose to draw. An everyday plodder drawing equivalent – say, HAT – will get you one coin, while the nimble Russian gymnast drawing equivalent – say, PETSHOP – will get you three coins. (For the record, I have drawn both hat and petshop and they have been identified correctly by the person on the other side. How, I do not know, but that is beside the point.) You can use your virtual coins to buy additional virtual paint colours to brighten up your drawings, or to buy additional virtual bombs to blow up some of the letters that you choose from to name what the other person has drawn. People use bombs to help them decipher my drawings quite frequently – but I like to think that, like Picasso before me, the hidden depth of my work is not immediately obvious to everyone. I am also comforted by the fact that Picasso never had to try and produce a masterpiece using a canvas half the size of a phone screen, with an index finger as a paintbrush. The virtual artist’s life is not an easy one, I tell you.

However, there are some amazing people out there and I am regularly in awe of the quality of their drawings. Others, and I include most of my own drawings in this number, are either intentionally or unintentionally comical and I find myself shaking with laughter as I look at them on my way to work or waiting in line at the supermarket. For an app that is either free or upgraded to a 99c version, Draw Something definitely gives me my money’s worth in entertainment on a daily basis. Judge for yourself…

     (Ok, that last one is mine. CMM4. See what I mean?)

Posted in Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

Walk on by

I like to walk (and run, on a good day) around my neighbourhood. It’s a nice part of town, near the water and lots of trees, so there is a lot to be happy about when out and about here. But you wouldn’t know it, judging from the faces of my fellow walkers and runners. In 40 minutes, I can pass around 50 people on this well-walked path and I reckon about 3 of them will respond to my smile or greeting. (NB, this doesn’t include tourists, who are often so jet-lagged that they will say hello to a tree.) Granted, I may look a little bit like a beetroot in a hat and activewear, but surely it wouldn’t kill people to smile back and keep walking? I mean, it’s not like I ask open-ended questions as we pass, in the hopes of building a lifelong friendship. No needy cries of, “Good morning! How ’bout that Greek economy, hey?” or, “Can I just tell you a bit about Joseph Kony?” or even, “Nice day, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?” Just a smile and a sort of nod and maybe a ‘hello’ if eye contact is made.

But then I realised what I need to get conversation flowing – a dog. Size doesn’t matter, as there are little dogs and big dogs making friends on behalf of their owners everywhere I look. Whether it’s the polite, “ooohhh, isn’t she cute?” to one of those tiny designer dogs in a little corduroy vest (it’s that kind of area – I swear some of the dogs smoke pipes too) or, “wow! hello! look at you!” to a very ugly but large dog with sharp teeth (or a very ugly but large owner with sharp teeth). Dog people talking to dog people, while the dogless just walk on by – smiling goofishly into the breeze.

So, tomorrow, I’m bringing my dog with me. It should be interesting – his name is Goldie and he cost $13.95 from Ikea a few years ago. But he’s cute and furry and as long as the other dogs don’t get too close, I think it’s a foolproof plan…

Posted in Arty sparks, Musical sparks, Sydney sparks

The ukuleles are in town

So, last night I went to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the Opera House. Oh yes I did. My friend Jane bought tickets and invited me to go along and it sounded just weird enough to be my cup of tea, so away we went. Before the show, we were at Opera Bar and noticed lots of people (ok, by ‘lots’, I clearly don’t mean thousands, let’s say at least 37) carrying little ukelele-shaped cases. At first, I was surprised that the orchestra members would be out drinking so close to showtime, then realised that these must actually just be random people carrying ukuleles. The ukulele carriers covered some pretty broad demographics – men and women, young and old, two eyes and four eyes. I know it sounds dumb, but I had never really thought of ukuleles as instruments before last night. More of a cute-looking joke present to give a niece or a friend who secretly wanted to be Slash, but lacked any musical ability.

Anyways, we got to the concert hall and it appeared that the gig was sold out, or pretty close to it. On our right was a fancy looking pair of seniors, who told us that they had brought their daughter and their grandson (with his ukulele). And their Indian parish priest from Maroubra (with his ukulele), who seemingly loves music and turns every church service into a singalong. On several occasions of audience participation, said priest thrust his ukulele high in the air, like some sort of salute to the gods. Rock on, Father. On our left was another fancy looking pair of not-quite-as-seniors from the north shore. Jan was learning the ukulele after completing some classes for beginners at an evening college and had recently enjoyed a ukulele jam session with a group in Sydney’s inner west. Even my friend Jane advised that she had taken ukulele lessons. I like to think I’m pretty down with current trends and I definitely love music, so I feel like I have missed something here. WHEN DID THE UKULELE GET SO POPULAR? AND WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME?

Whatever, the concert was fun, with everything from Beethoven to Lady Gaga to a Playschool-esque singalong version of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK. The highlights for me were the emotional rendition of Wheatus’ Teenage Dirtbag and the upbeat, jazzy take on Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights. As we left, I was happy, but still not sure what to make of this new (to me, at least) ukulele world. However, I am nothing if not easily inspired, so thought I’d get home and google ukulele instructors in my neighbourhood and start taking classes. Then I ran into a group of youngish ukulele carriers near the taxis and my immediate reaction was: WEIRDOS. And that was the end of that.

PS, if you want to visit ukulele world without paying for a ticket, you can check out the Orchestra on You Tube.

Posted in Sparky gifts, Sydney sparks

Ahoy there, me hearties

Today the sun is out after another bout of rainy weather. It’s a beautiful day and there is a breeze that reminds you that it’s officially Autumn now (although this year in Sydney, you might have missed Summer if you blinked for too long). And on a day like today, I often look around and think…I wish [Person X, Y or Z] was here now to see this. I don’t actually know someone called Person X (or Y or Z), but hopefully you get what I mean. Whether it’s someone who lives on the other side of the world, or someone I used to work with, or an old friend or family member, or just Liam Neeson, I often wish there was some way of zapping that person right here. Kind of like Willy Wonka’s Wonkavision, when Mike Teevee gets transported in a bzillion pieces from the real world to tv world. But I wouldn’t want to do that to people I love, especially since we never actually saw how Mike Teevee ended up…And I know there’s texting, emailing, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Skype blah blah blah. But it’s not the same. Which is why I love the Travelling Heart Project. I stumbled across it last year when I found a link to it somewhere. It was started by a Sydneysider as a way to send love and happy thoughts around the world the old fashioned way – by mail. The heart that you adopt comes with cool tags for your message and the person has the option of using an extra tag to send the heart on to someone else. It’s a nice way to let someone know that you’re thinking of them – not just on their birthday or at Christmas time, but when it’s sunny. Or rainy. Or they have news. Or you see a funny looking dog. Or discover a new ice cream flavour. Or remember a silly thing that happened years ago and it makes you laugh. Or cry. I think they’re a great idea and sometimes they’re the perfect thing to send – whether the recipient is overseas, over the fence, over the other side of the table, over the moon or at the desk next to you. If you’re interested, it’s The Travelling Heart Project.