Toasted Vegemite sandwich

Vegemite is an Australian icon and the salty paste has many applications, stock in curries for example.

My favourite place for Vegemite is on toast with olive oil but my collaborator Ben, who publishes music as Kelp, suggested I should include it in my next toasted sandwich video.

For a while I pondered what would go well with the black flavour, then my friend Ash proposed beetroot and it made sense. Australian hamburgers sometimes feature sliced pickled beetroot (or pineapple but not both, it's a contentious issue).

The result was tasty but I think there might be a better flavour combination.

Resistance is fertile

Been reading how electrical resistors became a symbol of protest in Poland.

When the Solidarity movement was getting started in Poland in the early 1980s, any obvious public display of sympathy with the nascent union was dangerous, and immediate arrest (perhaps with a beating) was certainly a possibility. Media were suppressed, tanks guarded television stations, propaganda and lies were the party line, and the very word ”truth” was bandied about in a meaningless Orwellian polit-speak. Taking back the language was as big a piece of the movement as was the trade union. The Solidarnosc badge having been banned, union supporters took to wearing a small resistor…an electrical resistor…the way we might wear a campaign button. According to a Finnish reporter, “School children removed electronic resistors from old radios and attached them as visible badges on their clothes.” Add to that, the symbol of the disassembled (silenced) radio. Add to that the fact that movement leader Lech Walesa was a shipyard electrician, so the “electrical connection” (sorry!) meant something as well.

I love the complex symbolism that comes from such a simple signifier.

It's great that it continues to be a cultural artifact, such as this earrings that I found via Etsy.

Why stroll when you can roll?

One of those unfinished ideas on my desktop was a short tour video to show the size of the museum where I worked up until the start of the month.

I added a piece of music to it and it seemed to go much faster, even though I'd sped up the footage. Then it occurred to me that it's a bit like the first music video I made about 12 years ago, featuring a bike ride outside Wagga Wagga but without the dramatic ending.

Black day

Sad to read of Chris Cornell's passing, particularly now they're reporting he took his own life.

Songs like the one above are open about depression and that's why the song still resonates with me around 25 years after I first heard it.

Cornell singing seemed effortless and the way it maintains that fry up to the high range is really distinctive. Watching this recent version of 'My Wave' brought to mind memories of jamming this song with the Pongrass Bros in the mid '90s. I still love how the track opens with a part that comes in on the offbeat, so the first time when I heard the drums come in it really messed with my expectations.

Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger album was among the first CDs I bought with money from Christmas in 1991. It's still a phenomenal album and I expect a lot of people will now also revisit it.

The band had been one I'd wanted to hear since seeing 'Hands All Over' on Rage.

I loved that slow riffing of Soundgarden, like when I bought Badmotorfinger 'Rusty Cage' left me wondering if I was going to return the album, before hearing 'Outshined' and 'Jesus Christ Pose' -- which seemed incredibly heavy at the time and grabbed the attention of many liking thrash metal.

I saw Soundgarden play at the Big Day Out in 1994 but only for a few minutes as I was desperate to get a good spot for Primus, who were playing in the Hordern Pavilion.

My memory of the band was watching Cornell playing guitar and simultaneously hitting notes that seemed on the edge of a male vocal range. I recall thinking "how is that even possible?" before being left speechless while watching Primus as they dropped Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' into the middle of 'Pudding Time'.

Another musical highlight at a Big Day Out was seeing Rage Against The Machine play and Cornell would form Audioslave with members of that band, leading to the beautiful lament below.
Tom Morello's guitar work is exemplary too -- I think he's the Hendrix of our age.

Twice as many toasted sandwiches

The advantages of being a regional artist

Saw these observations from the Guerrilla Girls and thought some of it was relevant to regional artists.

The advantages of being a regional artist:
  • working without the pressure of success
  • not having to be in shows
  • having an escape from the world
  • knowing your career will involve doing something else
  • being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled “unique”
  • being stuck wherever you are
  • seeing your ideas adopted by other artists
  • running workshops to help people understand your work
  • getting a university degree so you can apply for a grant
  • being invited to talk at morning teas and community group meetings

An We -- cut-up poetry

Observe the result of moving around the words in half of a famous Australian poem

4000-year old dentistry

This image of very old dentistry fascinates me.

There's something about adorning teeth that's both functional and aesthetic that's both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Just yesterday I was talking with a neighbour about how people respond to teeth and remembered the glamour that seemed to affect me like a spell when she got her false teeth.

Put man back in jail

One of my final activities in the role of curator at Pioneer Park Museum was to promote the return of the man in the jail.

Earlier this year I noticed a visitor had made an unusual request in the Visitor Book. After raising the topic at morning tea, I was surprised to learn there was a history of a mannequin scaring people who look in one of the two jails at the Museum.

It's a simple thrill and one that the volunteers added to their list of projects.

The video embedded above also nicely rounded off my time representing Pioneer Park Museum on Instagram, marking the 300th post.

Spicy light and sound

Around 3000 people visited Pioneer Park Museum last Good Friday but only a few dozen saw the sound-activated projections I ran during the afternoon.

Enzo Ceccone's motorised mincer

In recent years the Italian tradition of making salami has gained increasing attention in Griffith as a result of the Festa della Salsicce (Festival of the Sausage), which is held at Pioneer Park Museum.

It is a laborious process to mince pork and then pack the meat into salamis. Usually it requires a full day, including butchering a pig before dawn.

Enzo Ceccone contributed to the preparation of hundreds of salamis, an activity which increased when he commissioned Yoogali Engineering to build an electric meat mincer during the mid-1970s.

“Dad used to do all his own salami-making,” remembered Nevio Ceccone. “Usually the machines are hand-cranked and he had one converted to electric. It saves a lot of time.”

“He used to go out and help others during the salami season,” which is during Autumn and early Winter. “Every weekend it was usually one or two” appointments to assist other families to prepare their salamis.

“As far as I know, he was they only person to have an item like this designed and made.”

On Facebook Denis Faganello remembered the machine “making salami with my dad”.

“He made salami for us year after year,” recalled Wal Snaidero. “I remember that mincer as a young kid.”

Nevio Ceccone recalled that his father Enzo would be “booked out for a month and a half” to make salamis in the region. His role in assisting other men to cure meat developed from the late 1950s and into the early 1970s, when the hand-cranked machine would be used.

The Ceccones had a routine that involved loading two tables onto the back of the EH Holden utility, as well as an array of knives and the meat mincer.

The collection of knives donated to the Musuem includes three which were replaced after many years of sharpening, as well as a homemade sharpening stone wheel that was used to hone the blades.

Family recipes for salami are guarded secrets. Nevio reveals only his father made pork salami with salt and some herbs, “but we don’t talk about them.”

Around six to seven pigs would be slaughtered to make salami for personal use, with another one to two each weekend slaughtered while assisting others.

Everyday magic

Recently I was visited by a couple of my uncle Martin and aunt Arlene from North America.

It was lovely to hear Martin recount courting Arlene by taking her to a restaurant dumpster, where they waited to see a brown bear.

I was reminded of a recurring feature of my childhood when my mother would treat my sister and I to McDonalds but insist we eat it on Chapman Hill, so we could look at the lights of Weston Creek.

Love Without Violins

Keep coming back to this song.

I like the vibe up until the key change, then I find myself kinda intrigued by Brian Eno's cadence and lyrics.

Neko Neve

Burnie Courts

I lived at Burnie Courts in the suburb of Lyons while finishing my first degree in Canberra during the late 1990s.

By then it was increasingly unoccupied. The block that I was in had tenants in half the apartments and then they weren’t replaced as people like my elderly neighbour Dave moved on.

Burnie Courts had a reputation for drugs and it was deserved. Even though there were no longer people openly dealing while I was living there, it still saw a lot of traffic from people hoping to score.

You can see an example of the reputation in this mural that once adorned the bus interchange at the nearby Woden shopping centre. That “25” above the $ sign that serves as the S in Courts reflects the price for a gram of marijuana. It amused me almost as much as the graffiti that later appeared saying "South Central Niggas" like it was the name of a gang.

One night a young woman passed out in front of my door. I checked on her occasionally and could see she was still conscious enough to be wary of me. After a couple of hours she moved on after showing no interest in joining me for a cup of hot chocolate.

Things were relatively quiet there until after about a year, then I was burgled three times in six months and my insurer refused to continue covering my contents. There were also nights when you’d hear windows being broken, which was very unsettling.

Friends would visit for a meal and comment how it was hard to believe I lived at the Courts. It was one of those lessons for me about how much a living room remains a living room. I think I could furnish a room anywhere and be relatively happy because much of what sustains me takes place within my head.

Burnie Courts have since been demolished and replaced with housing that blends a better ratio of public, elderly and private tenants.

NGA Sculpture Garden

While I'm thinking about the National Gallery of Australia's Sculpture Garden, here's a pic of me taken there in 1994.

It remains one of my favourite spots to visit at odd hours in Canberra, particularly as the lighting at night always plays tricks with my eyes and I start to imagine the sculptures moving.

Recently I returned to record Fiona Hall's magical fern garden.

Elvis is not available right now

When I shared an Elvis cover recently, it was part of a couple of other conversations about the late singer.

My friend Dave recommended another song, which turned out to be off-limits according to Youtube.

Around the same time, my friend Narelle was visiting from Parkes, a town that has had around 25 Elvis festivals.
She said that, while not a fan of Elvis, she'd appreciated the opportunity to see some of the lesser-known Elvises.

For example, inclement weather had led to sighting dozens of rain-dampened Elvises and strong winds one year had produced a grouping of the rarely seen dust-blown Elvis.

Ice in glasses

Fires and heat

Ever since newspapers have cut back roles like sub-editing, it's become commonplace to find typos.

So I've had to look for spelling mistakes that add something more to the subject matter, such as those that work with the theme of the piece -- perhaps subconsiously.

Which is why I like this one, where the word 'heat' has been used instead of 'head' to follow the discussion of campfires.

Return of the King

Seems appropriate for Easter ;)

Functional alcoholic

Pablo Picasso’s noon

the palms keep vigil over the tired countryside. orange trees bear clusters of golden sun ripened in the red noon. cypress clean clouds from the azure where insects glimmer, sparks born of incandescent sunlight. i listen to the rhythm of silence scented by fabulous blossoms. and my spirit is drawn towards these heavy desires that haunt the coolness of shade.

Didn't know that one of the 20th Century's most famous artists also turned his hand to poetry before my partner showed this to me last night.

She was looking for material for a cut-up poetry workshop that will be at Pioneer Park Museum's 46th Action Day this Good Friday.

It's interesting how much the description matches the Riverina landscape, which I guess is part of the reason why this part of Australia has thrived with Mediterranean influences.

The cypress pines that were widespread on the sandy loam of the floodplains aren't the same cypresses of Europe but must have been recognised as such, much like the Australian magpie is a distinctly different bird to the European variety.

Orange trees thrive here under an intense summer sunlight that, again, must share character with that of southern Europe. Walter Burley Griffin drew comparisons with Spain when he designed the town of Leeton, drawing in a bandstand in the centre of town:
The central Town Square, with refreshing shaded promenades, fountains, pool, and music, can set a standard that will tend to induce a high plane of attractiveness in private shows and places of amusement and refreshment that must compete where they do not collaborate. Perhaps the good old afternoon band concerts of the Spanish towns may be revived here, where the environment and the temperament of the people are so well suited.

Animal in a predicament

Recently I was introduced to the Facebook page Animals in Predicaments and have been amused by the sometimes surreal images and GIFs they share.

Just now while reading news websites, I saw this image from a story about a program to return pandas to the wild in China and wondered how long before it appears on their page.

The photograph is by Ami Vitale and has been shortlisted for a Sony World Photography award.

Simple trick to reduce power bills

In recent months there's been much discussion in Australian media on whether the national energy grid can meet demand.

A variety of commentators have weighed in, even Elon Musk contributed to the mix of options of available.

One thing that seemed to be missing from the flurry of words was discussion of how to reduce power consumption.

I am an energy miser and in the habit of turning everything off when it doesn't need to be on, which is one reason why you can't call me when I'm not home. (Another is I rarely answer the phone.)

Two things have contributed to reducing my electricity bills.

The first was buying a new fridge. I didn't realise the efficiency gains made in recent years, so when I was forced to replace my old fridge I saw a benefit in following months.

The second tip is more relevant, as people don't want to spend money to save money: turn down the thermostat on your hot water heater.

I can't remember where I read it but it was while living in a rental property, so it's a good tip for everyone.

Just head over to your hot water heater, look for a cover that's likely to be held down with one screw near the base of the unit.

You'll likely find a variable dial and it may even have temperatures written on it.

Turn the hot water heater down to around 55°C to 60°C.

It'll still feel hot but maybe not scalding hot. If you need hotter water while washing dishes, boil the kettle or microwave as much as you need.

If you're a parent there's an added bonus in that, should a child turn on the hot water tap in the bath, they are less likely to suffer severe burns.

Bladerunner poster

Saw this poster for Bladerunner and it's so beautiful that it jars with my memory of the grittiness of the film.


It doesn't seem so long ago that I wrote about being haunted by the image of a Syrian refugee holding his dead child.

This week I've had a number of reminders as this photo seemed to follow me around on my online travels.

I tried googling to find the name of the photographer and found many images of Syrian fathers holding dead children.

I've heard that throughout the 20th Century it was mothers who played a significant role in movements against wars and think these images of father grieving the loss of their children are worth reflecting on if humans are ever going to move beyond violence.

Mixed signals

Late last century a friend of mine was working in the public service in Canberra.

Specifically he was working in the Department of Defence, though somewhat unhappily. One day he showed me an internal mail bag marked Defence Signals Directorate.

It didn't mean anything to me, so he explained that the Signals Directorate were a secretive part of the Australian military that were often unacknowledged as their role was intercepting foreign communications.

These days they're better known, particularly after the 2013 news they had overheard conversations between then Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.

Anyway, this morning I remembered the DSD mail bag when I saw this advert appear on Facebook.

Funny thing was that as soon as I got the screenshot it vanished from beside my news feed.

Chastity clamp?

I've been pondering this clamp, which might be the male equivalent of a chastity belt.

I worry that, if I tighten it too much, my nuts might bolt!

Money fabulous

As a former editor I get a thrill finding typos in the local media.

This one is particularly great as the word that's wrong is like a 'Freudian slip' in the way it picks up on the theme of money from the paragraph before it.

History in the air

More than 80 years after the Gibbs brothers flew their homemade glider over Warburn near Griffith, it continues to generate interest.

Many have wondered what it would be like to fly and it’s been a pilot who has focused on how Gibbs flew. Dennis Buck recently visited the glider at Pioneer Park Museum and initiated correspondence to learn more about the aircraft. Captain Buck is a pilot who flew for the RAF and British Aerospace and also trained pilots for Australian airlines East West.

"Looking at William Lionel Gibbs' glider I wondered what inspired him to build and fly this aircraft,” explained Dennis Buck. “As he worked his farm he would have heard of the youth of Germany taking to the air in great numbers in primitive gliders. Forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles to have an Air Force, from this nucleus of partly trained glider pilots would grow the mighty Luftwaffe of World War Two.”

If it was this phenomenon of German youth taking flight, then it is ironic that William Lionel Gibbs would be killed over Holland fighting in World War II.

William Lionel Gibbs’ brothers Aswald and Harold assisted in the construction of the glider, which was an undertaking after supper over three years. In an interview in 1991 Aswald would recall the glider was built based on plans in a book titled ‘Primary Glider’.

“The fact that the glider flew would confirm that a set of plans was used otherwise the chance of getting the centre of gravity right would have been pure chance,” agreed Captain Buck.

“The aircraft itself must have been extremely well-made, suggesting William had exceptional woodworking skills. To tow a glider behind a car to launch it would certainly not have been recommended as the forces on the aircraft at even 20km/hr would have been immense.”

Fortunately the structure remained intact and the glider flew. “Had the framework been covered with linen and dope instead of silk and later linen and paint, greater things might well have been achieved,” speculated Captain Buck.

Lionel Gibbs’ diary records a total of 13 minutes airborne achieved over five flights in 1936, reaching an altitude of around 100 feet.

Captain Buck’s interest has been spurred on by questions from a glider pilot and former colleague in the UK, who is keen to know more about the aircraft. “I have a very interested glider pilot in the UK asking questions. I should not have mentioned it to him!”

So far the design of the Gibbs' glider remains a mystery. “There were magazines especially from the USA in the 1930's on how to build and fly a basic glider. It would seem that he considered flying lessons perhaps too expensive and like many glider pilots of that era learned by taking small hops and then mastering turns.”

“One thing that is interesting is that William was not selected for pilot training in the RAF. This would suggest that he had no formal training before attempting to fly.”

When the glider was donated to Pioneer Park Museum in 1972, Harold Gibbs was recorded by The Area News as saying Lionel was a self-taught pilot.

“He was the only glider owner in the district at the time... First he read books on ‘How To Be a Pilot’, then he practised flying by balancing the glider on a roller, in this case a small galvanised iron tank, facing into a sufficiently strong wind to give him soggy control. Then, with the aid of a motor tow, he took to the air.”

It is known that William later flew in a Tiger Moth but by then it would seem the glider made no more flights.

William would later join the RAF but being too old to be a pilot he was selected as an Air Gunner and died in a Lancaster crash while serving with 83 Pathfinder Squadron.

“Now is the time to recognise the Gibbs brothers' achievements by determining the origins of the design of the glider and restoring it to its former glory,“ enthused Dennis Buck.

Councillor Eddy Mardon, Chair of the Pioneer Park Museum Working Group, said Mr Buck’s comments highlight there are many remarkable stories in Griffith’s history and on display at the Museum.

“Exhibits such as the Gibbs Primary Glider contribute to telling the story of pioneering life in the MIA so that future generations can continue to learn about the can-do attitude that can still be seen today,” he said. "It seems incredible that a young man yearning to fly achieved his dream without leaving the family farm."

Visit the Museum and discover other great local stories from 9.30am to 4pm each day.

The Beatles by Klaus Voormann

Saw this on DJ Food's blog and liked it so much that I thought I'd share here.

Super automaton

March into the archives : Basin review

Basin by Eastern Riverina Arts

Wagga Wagga Regional Theatre on 23 July 2016
Project playwright Vanessa Bates, writers Marty Boyle, Diana Lovett, David O’Sullivan, John Riddell, Sulari Gentill, Freda Marnie Nichol, Craig Palmer, director, designer Scott Howie, performers Virginia Anderson, Haya Arzidin, Stephen Holt, lighting design Sophie Kurylowicz, sound design: Dave Burraston, textiles Julie Montgarrett.

Basin is a play about a fictional town of that name where a man-made lake has been diminishing as a result of drought and an older town revealed as the water recedes. This happened to Adaminaby, the Snowy Mountains town when Lake Eucumbene evaporated during last decade’s drought such that the foundations of the old pre-dam town became visible. Imaginary Basin town is also reminiscent of Lake Jindabyne, another dam site in the Snowy Mountains and the setting for a film where the lake took on a menacing character, as the Australian landscape does in so many stories.

It’s neat that the title Basin refers to a fictional town but also a much bigger geographic area, such as the Murray Darling Basin. The fluid in this vessel is water, the subject given the project’s writers. Howie’s set design reflects the writing with seven bowl-like basins circling the stage. In the middle sits a rowboat, at first covered with a sheet as though unneeded during the drought but later as a prop for a refugee to tell of her sea journey to Australia.

Basin is populated with a variety of characters reflecting the demography of regional Australia: mostly older people but with also a new arrival, the refugee Lily who provides contrast and holds a metaphorical mirror up to the society. With slight adjustments to costumes—unbuttoning a shirt or adding a headscarf—and subtle changes of facial expression, the capable cast played multiple characters in stories more tragic than comic, including a number of deaths, caused not by drought but by drowning. With set and seating positioned on the stage of the Wagga Wagga Regional Theatre, this touring production was intimate—the actors within a few metres of us and firmly in focus.

If you’ve ever lived in a country town, then you’ll know a difference to living in a city is the feeling that everyone knows everyone else’s business. So it was through conversations between the characters that the stories in Basin were told. Robert delivering meals on wheels to the older residents, such as Arnie and Patsy who gossip about each other. Mary missing her brother Jimmy who drowned, which leads Jake to worry it was because the dammed water was insulted — not such a crazy suggestion if you’ve seen the public prayers that appear during extended drought.

Director and set designer Scott Howie developed the project with Newcastle-based playwright Vanessa Bates. “She had to develop a model which allowed for seven writers to write rather than sit around and talk about what to write,” explained Howie. “By the third workshop none of us really knew what the play was. Then Vanessa deftly explained a structure that fitted. There were pages and pages of writing left on the floor. The workshops included the writing of monologues, but once the characters started interacting, the writers had to let go a little of theirs and let the others write them.”

The ‘water’ theme was realised from various perspectives, but I wanted the lake to feature more strongly and with a more consistent character, like the landscape in Picnic at Hanging Rock. It would have made Basin more cogent. However, the short scenes resonated strongly, both for their dramatic impact and a sense of authenticity. Six of the writers live in country towns and a couple of the names I recognised as published novelists. Basin defies the adage that ‘too many chefs spoil the broth’ with a succinct and well-paced production that reveals concerns that lie beneath the surface of regional Australia.

After its eight-town tour of the the Riverina, Basin will next be performed in Dubbo at the Artlands 2016 National Regional Arts Conference and Festival, 27-30 October. 

March into the archives : On Common Ground review


On Common Ground by The Cad Factory
16-18 October 2015 in Narrandera
Artistic director: Vic McEwan
Creative producer: Sarah McEwan
Project Co-ordinator: Julie Briggs
Project assistant: Kimberley Beattie
Production manager: Michael Petchkovsky
Rigging and production: Craig Hull
Production assistant: Kevin Ng, James Farley, Kate Allman

Last year The Cad Factory left from the Narrandera Common for a healing walk with National Museum of Australia’s historian George Main and friends. This year they’ve returned to the site with many more friends to install sculptures, textiles and other works.

Dozens of artists and many more locals came together to promote different perspectives on the location, and the healing theme continues with acknowledgment of the River’s “long history as a contested site”.

This historical perspective is brought into focus during Haunting on the Friday and Saturday nights. It featured a collection of vignettes from the region with images projected onto the River Red Gums across from Second Beach. Richly saturated photographs streamed through smoke onto pale trunks and eroded banks, as George Main and others provided recorded narration over an atmospheric soundtrack.

Haunting is one work developed by The Cad Factory’s artistic director Vic McEwan during his time as artist-in-residence at the National Museum of Australia. The projection brought together water, earth and branches and made them active in the storytelling, “‘enabling understanding that would be possible nowhere else, under no other circumstances’’” says Main in his introduction (quoting literary historian Robert Macfarlane’s view of the poetry of Edward Thomas).

During Main’s narration he remarks how few look at the fields of wheat in the Riverina and imagine the forest of River Red Gums that existed before the latter half of the 19th Century. The Common is one of those places where Australian gums feel like a forest. Many old trunks are wider than cars and some have scars from indigenous use.

While the trees reflected an older landscape, the projection of static images panning slowly across the River did too. It led me to think on the early days of Australian cinema, when the Limelight Department of the Salvation Army were one of the world’s first film studios.

The idea that art is spirituality in drag makes a lot of sense at a Cad Factory production, as the audience see local stories projected large. However, a sluggish pace is a divisive characteristic. The reverence in their tone and spaciousness for reflection has been described as “ponderous”. The snippets of history were like bubbles on the passing river and the variety of voices helped but sometimes George Main was speaking. So. Very. Slowly.

It was surprising to see police arrive as the audience departed Haunting. Facebook later showed a message from Michael Petchkovsky describing an incident with a local:

“The lout must have thought the bunyips had come for him when Hero Fukutu and I floated Gay Campbell's gorgeous black swan right past him in the darkness and Craig said boo to him from behind. He leaped up and ran screaming from the beach in front of all his friends, giving us all (his mates included) a number of giggles…”

The next day a local artist told me these “boys” were a feature at local events. Perhaps they are performance artists in their own right? She also enthused that the youthful audience weren’t engaged in their usual activities in the Common, reinforcing an idea this landscape remains a contentious space.

On the Saturday night there were introductions from McEwan, Main and local artist Michael Lyons, who performed imitations of wildlife such as “devil birds” (owls) on didgeridoo. It was the first of two musical performances that bookended the night. Local musician Fiona Caldravic closed Haunting with an operatic vocal in a bewitching outfit. It wasn’t until I looked at photos did I notice the pattern on her cloak matched the huge backdrop.

The huge backdrop was Vanishing Point, an installation across the River that was colourfully lit but still impressive the following day. It was elegant how the narrowing wires form a vanishing point and the billowing fabric serves to reflect the black swans that were driven from the landscape. The team of artists led by Julie Montgarrett drew on the writing of Mary Gilmore, who described the decline of swans as ‘swan-hoppers’ disrupting their breeding.

Swans and billowing fabric were recurring features in On Common Ground. Black swans appeared at First and Second beaches in the works of Kerri Weymouth, on a totem pole, and Julie Briggs, in a formation of paper birds streaming down the riverbank. The title of the latter, Yes Faux Nature is a Real Trend, is explained in the program as referencing Glen Albrecht’s term ‘solastalgia’ to describe the anxiety developed in response to negative environmental change.

Fabric on site took many forms, including kites, quilts and an extensive variety of eco-dyed sheets that were the result of workshops with local artists and Nicole Barakat earlier this year. There were many shades but also beautiful details, such as printing the shapes of leaves and branches.

Emma Burden-Piltz is one local artist whose practise has blossomed through collaboration with The Cad Factory. When I wrote about Burden-Piltz’s exhibition in Leeton, she identified circular motifs as an element from the landscape incorporated into her collections of found and reworked objects. In Tangible Spirit, Burden-Piltz hung eco-dyed fabrics to give form to the movement of air, as well as shaping structures that resembled fishing traps. Up close I spotted hand-sewn circles.

Another local artist was Elizabeth Gay Campbell, whose sculptural works are often seemingly simple figures with a deeper message when you read her statements. For example, Ophelia (2015) shows the figure from Hamlet dying in a puddle surrounded by rubbish. In the program the work is described as acknowledging the contaminated waterways and bush. It suggests dying Ophelia is the only remaining beauty but she’ll soon decay.

While a number of the works in On Common Ground shared pessimism about environmental change, I think the event was beaut for showing appreciation of Narrandera’s magical Common. The Cad Factory’s Vic McEwan often explains their role in creating memories within landscapes and the collection of activities and installations showed itself to be more than Bondi’s Sculpture by the Sea replicated on the Murrumbidgee.

More photographs can be seen here

March into the archives : In the Heart of Our Past review


In the Heart of Our Past
A Drive-in Theatre Experience at Narrandera Railway Station
11.30am Saturday 15 March 2014

Presented by The CAD Factory, Western Riverina Arts and Spirit FM
Written by Kieran Carroll
Based on a concept by Vic McEwan
Directed by Kieran Carroll and Vic McEwan
Performed by Paul Mercuri and Lee McClenaghan and the Narrandera Drive-in Theatre Choir
Music by Fiona Caldracevic
Administration by Sarah McEwan
Live sound by Edmondo Ammendola

Narrandera is one of the oldest towns in the western Riverina, having grown at a crossing of the Murrumbidgee River in the 1860s. The weekend is the 20th John O’Brien Festival and celebrates the poetry of Father Patrick Hartigan, famous for characterising pessimistic farmers in the lines ““we’ll all be roomed,” said Hanrahan, “before the year is out.””

Arriving at the railway station for the first of The CAD Factory’s four performances of In the Heart of our Past, I discover the radio in my car doesn’t work. As the play will be broadcast into vehicles while we watch from the carpark, I’m helped to find another seat for the show. My companions are Jess, Sarah, Claire and Frankie the brown labrador, who’s excited to see theatre for the first time according to a Facebook update on the event’s page.

A group in historical costume await outside the station as a tall figure in a baseball cap speaks into one of the microphones set up in front of them. It’s Kieran Carroll, who wrote the three short plays we’re about to see and hear during a 2012 residency with The CAD Factory. The group in costume begin singing as Kieran saunters away. They’re a chorus joining together in choruses, setting a scene that’s timeless and nostalgic and harking back to radio plays.

Actor Lee McClenaghan strides forward and introduces herself as Shirley Bliss, 20-year old dressmaker and winner of Miss Australia in 1954. She’s off to California to compete in the Miss Universe competition, farewelling well-wishers and then fielding questions from a series of journalists all played with varying accents by a mercurous Paul Mercuri. As Bliss arrives in the US, Mercuri transforms into a sleaze, possibly a film producer.

There are a few technical issues with McClenaghan’s wireless microphone cutting out at few points. I joke to my new friends that it sounds though cuss words were censored from the broadcast. Soon Bliss returns to Narrandera, heralded by the real squeal of a real train on the tracks beyond the station. Added atmosphere and apparently unscripted.

A musical interlude as the chorus harmonise before Mercuri and McClenaghan return in 1909 as Dr Harold and Gwen Lethbridge, who would treat Narrandera for over 35 years. The doctor expresses a desire to collect information on indigenous culture as well as snakes and wildlife. He recounts an old Aboriginal saying they “live in the land, not on it” and expresses a desire to eradicate poverty.

The chorus sing again, signalling the shift to the final act. It’s a beautiful song with the refrain “I shall pass” and lines include “any good that I can do, let me do it now”. The singers are led by Fiona Caldarevic, a local musician who — like The CAD Factory — has contributed to the cultural fabric of Narrandera in recent years.

Mercuri returns, bent over a walking stick and introducing himself as a 115-year old who was nicknamed ‘Drought and Rain’ by the Hanrahan of John O’Brien’s poem on account of association with climactic climate conditions.

“That mob in Narrandera will be blaming me for invading Poland,” says Mr Rain as he recounts leaving town ahead of bumper wheat crops. He finds a wife named Summer and jokes “you heard right, I married the hottest season.” After an affair with an April May, Summer leaves for Hobart and sets the scene for a joke about how Summer was never known in Tasmania. Like the rest of the show, it’s lighthearted material and delivered with aplomb.

The technical wizardry of broadcasting sound to a car-based audience evokes both radio plays and drive-ins of previous decades. Listening to comments from Jess, Sarah and Claire made me appreciate that theatre and movies benefit from being enjoyed in an audience. They delighted in aspects that are lost on me, like the performance of a girl in the chorus and the hat of woman. Meanwhile Frankie has excitedly spied a dog in the house behind the station car park.

Country towns often seem stuck in the past, trying to market history to passing cars in an age of innovation. So The CAD Factory bring a refreshing perspective to local events, interpreting stories into new formats with artistry. It enriches through reflection and inspires through fresh representation.

Bolster is a funny word

Last month I posted about a typo on the website of a regional newspaper.

It was one of my occasional postings about errors but I observed recently that the same site again used a variation of the word 'bolster'. It seems they use it frequently, which reminds me of the line about how every journalist needs new cliches.

Bolster does seem like a good word for headlines though as it's short and is easily recognised as a metaphor or perhaps sometimes as an analogy.

Anyway, the use of the word 'bolster' here prompted me to look for a definition.

And when I looked at idea that bolsters might be pillows, I couldn't help but imagine them literally.

If you try thinking about "out-of-towners" as pillows you get this image of grey nomads in a pile with a bunch of Waggans eating and drinking on top of them.

Try it for yourself!

Picture perfect at Pioneer Park Museum

Among the line-up of complementary workshops planned for Griffith Pioneer Park Museum's 'Action Day' this Good Friday will be photography classes from a local living legend.

Garry Bazzacco has been capturing the City of Griffith for over four decades and will offer assistance to beginners and intermediate photographers.

"The workshops will cater for all interested people, from the novice to the enthusiast, being fully beneficial for all those that participate," said Mr Bazzacco.

The first workshops in the morning will introduce an understanding of camera settings. "Using a camera is basically painting with light and, just as a painter will have different brushes to create effects, cameras have different settings that are good to know if you want to get a certain result."

The second workshop at 2pm will apply camera settings to outdoor photography at the Museum. "There's is so much action on Action Day that I expect we'll be able to explore the real-world application of a few photographic techniques."

"I feel this is a great opportunity for the community to take part, to learn, and to promote the variety of arts and crafts our City has to offer, and what a better location than at the Museum."

Jason Richardson, Pioneer Park Museum curator, said these workshops were an opportunity for visitors on Action Day to improve their skills with a camera.

"These days many people have devices that can record photographs and I expect many will be doing so on Good Friday, so this will contribute toward capturing another historic day at our community museum."

This Good Friday will be the 46th Action Day since Griffith Pioneer Park Museum opened in 1971. There will be a range of activities for all ages, including rides and displays.

The Action Day workshops are supported by Arts NSW’s Country Arts Support Program, a devolved funding program administered by Regional Arts NSW and Western Riverina Arts on behalf of the NSW Government.

Sandwiches for everyone!

When the Ninja Tune Forum closed they started a Reddit thread and I was pleased to see my last sandwich video still had an audience.

Thinking about making another vegan toasted sandwich today. Got a jazzy tune that needs a video.

Coles Custard Creams

When I was a child I had a scented eraser that resembled these biscuits, so maybe I've a sentimental interest in Coles Custard Creams.

Their smell is how I remember that erasers' scent. There's the same ornate design but this biscuit is larger in size.

The Custard Creams' buttery shortbread exterior encases a powder-y cream, which although sweet has something egg-like like custard.

There are two ways to eat this style of biscuit.

The first is to first dip it in tea, usually three times to achieve an optimal balance between saturation and structural integrity.

The second is to split the layers of the biscuit and place each cream-side down on one's tongue.

Random haiku

About a week ago I posted a haiku on Twitter. It was one that I wrote as part of my plan to write a haiku each day this year.

Then I was surprised when this reply came back within a day or so, which incorporates my middle line into a haiku apparently composed from others on Twitter.

It prompted me to think about the scripts and bots that populate Twitter and where one draws a line with collaboration and begins to call it plagiarism.

Then I remembered something about recent poetry controversies concerning lifting lines from other works in the guise of quotation.

In a Roman Osteria

This Classical Art Meme kept showing up in my social media and a strange thing happened.

Each time I looked at it, I'd spot another detail. As I did, I started to ponder the painting. In particular the question of the role of the viewer.

It seems like the viewer is put into the role of someone flirting with the two young women and who will now have to deal with their male companion.

You'll notice he is armed when you spot the knife handle sticking out of his pocket.

Yesterday when I searched for the original painting by Carl Bloch and it was interesting to learn the artwork is a kind of remix of Wilhelm Marstrand's painting of another Italian Osteria Scene. Marstrand was one of Bloch's teachers.

Another interesting detail in Bloch's artwork is that the patron who commissioned the painting, Moritz G. Melchior, is shown in the background. I'd also been wondering what brief Melchior gave Bloch. Did he say "I'd like a painting like Marstrand's one with the pretty Italian girls"? Or maybe "I'd like a painting where, when I look at it, I feel like I'm desired by young women."

Anyway, one final comment is that I think Bloch's remix is an improvement on the original and it's not just the inclusion of a cat -- although I think that was a very savvy move.

Excuse me


It's interesting to observe one of the local newspapers present the issue of medical marijuana after decades of the 'war on drugs'.

The image of a brown-skinned person smoking a joint is probably one that confirms biases among their ageing readership. It's a strange image for medical applications of the plant, seeing as smoking marijuana can cause health complications.

My understanding is that "medical marijuana" will be refined and presented as a medicine, such as hashish oil capsules or tinctures. Even if I'm wrong, it'd still be better to present images of people eating cakes or vapourising as these are healthier alternatives to smoking the so-called drug.

I write "so-called" as marijuana is a plant and the idea of a drug suggests a chemical that has been processed (like alcohol) or refined (like heroin).

Previously I commented on the apparent hypocrisy on the same news website, with stories on a drug raid accompanying one about medical imports being approved.

Animals could eat you

Another funny pic spotted elsewhere.

This one reminds me of the cute sign reminding people not to tease geese at the National Zoo in Canberra.

Two sides of stereo

Spotted this image on Twitter but, sorry, didn't get a photo credit.

It looks like something Scarfolk Council would produce.