The River's Edge

A highlight of the opening of the Crossing Streams exhibition was this performance of 'The River's Edge,' which was Fiona Caldarevic's musical response to a haiku by Sue Killham.

The more of your data I gather

Conversing Streams

While approaching musicians to ask them to make their responses to the haiku in the Crossing Streams project available for the exhibition, I had an interesting conversation with one who questioned whether it was appropriate for a non-indigenous person to comment on (what they saw as) indigenous history.

They wrote:
If it’s OK, can I ask a few questions regarding the exhibition? I thought about this for a while after the actual Junto, but are any of the people involved in the event indigenous? Or even the writer of the original haiku?

I ask because the prompt is using the lived experience of that group of people and I feel like it’s sort of weird for me to have even participated, being a well-off non-oppressed guy.

My reply:
Poison Waterholes Creek…is one of 14 poems that will be exhibited, along with around five hours of music. 
That poem was written by a friend who is very conscious of local history and my initial response was that I liked my poem about that location better because it didn’t open old wounds. 
Then I had to remind myself that I want to engage people but, more importantly, I read a column by Stan Grant where he talked about the need to break the silence surrounding the Frontier Wars. 
Stan’s father is a senior Wiradjuri elder and lives in Narrandera, while Stan Jr has also become a prominent voice in the process of reconciliation that Australia is going through. 
I think it’s an important conversation, particularly as increasing numbers of Australians identify as indigenous. 
It’s been really rewarding for me to see the discussion in the responses to the Junto, particularly those people who’ve gone and looked into Wiradjuri culture or found parallels with indigenous people in their own locations. 
Sometimes I think on how I can claim to be a first-generation Australian and how that is convenient when it comes to excusing myself from reconciliation. 
However, I am increasingly seeing the need to play role… So I’ve begun taking the opportunities to promote the conversation and it’s developed over the last six months while I’ve been thinking it through. 
Small things seem important, like reminding people of the treaty that was thought to have been negotiated nearby in the early 19th Century. As the national discussion about a treaty continues to be muffled by other issues, it’s good to remind people that it’s not something new.

Crossing Streams with Slow Book Haiku

What would Jesus wear?

In recent times the same-sex marriage survey has thrown up some interesting conversations, like the one about how the 'yes' vote will lead to boys being dressed in dresses.

So it seemed a good time to return to the question: What Would Jesus Wear?

While some might question Jesus' fashion choices, there's no doubting his achievements.

Jewel of the Riverina

The Murrumbidgee River catchment extends from the Snowy Mountains to beyond the dusty plains of Hay and includes numerous permanent and temporary wetlands.

Fivebough Wetland is distinguished through recognition under the United Nation’s Ramsar Convention, which identifies sites of international importance for migratory birds.

Many birds travel to Fivebough from the northern hemisphere during spring and stay for summer, before returning to breeding grounds in northern Australia and other islands. 

In winter the Wetland is also home to thousands of migratory birds taking advantage of the food and shelter available.

Over 170 different bird species have been observed at Fivebough, including seven species considered threatened in New South Wales.

Of 360 wetlands surveyed within the Murray-Darling Basin, Fivebough recorded the highest number of waterbird species and ranked second for the total number of species recorded in a single survey.

Upwards of 20,000 waterbirds have been counted on occasions, with the greatest count being above 50,000 birds.

Despite this huge influx of international visitors each year, many residents in the nearby town of Leeton are unaware of the significant role played by “the swamp”.

Fivebough was drained over a lengthy period in the 1900’s, impacting on black box woodland adjacent to the wetlands, and belah, saltbush and boree woodland on the higher areas. 

By the late 1970s Fivebough, along with nearby Tuckerbil swamp, became known for their birdwatching qualities. 

Sometimes brolga can be seen “dancing” at these wetlands, which also serve as a breeding site for black swans.

Murrumbidgee Landcare has worked alongside partners to improve the image of Fivebough Wetland, including liaising with local, state and national government agencies.

A tree-planting organised for National Tree Day in 2017 saw 50 volunteers put 800 seedlings into ground on the western side of the Wetlands.

As part of World Wetland Day in 2017, Murrumbidgee Landcare accessed funding from Riverina Local Land Services to provide a breakfast at Fivebough in the morning and film screening in town during the afternoon.

Each event attracted around 70 attendees, which represents around one per cent of the population of Leeton.

The Birds and Brekky event was supported by the Leeton Lions Club and included presentations from three guest speakers: bird surveyor Keith Hutton, wetland plant specialist Geoff Sainty and frog specialist David Hunter.

The afternoon screening of the movie Storm Boy commenced with a Welcome to Country from local Aboriginal elder Jimmy Ingram, followed by a presentation from Erin Lenon of Commonwealth Environmental Water Office on the international significance of the local wetlands.

In various projects Murrumbidgee Landcare supports efforts to rehabilitate the image of Fivebough Wetland, both its image and its environment.

Crossing Streams to make a splash in Narrandera

The Crossing Streams exhibition that opens in Narrandera will present local scenes in haiku and photography, as well as interpretations in sound.

Haiku is a form of poetry that originated in Japan and is known for its format, often three lines of 5-7-5 syllables, reflecting on natural scenes.

Earlier this year haiku were contributed, many by local writers. Five of these were distributed to musicians by Naviar Records, who hold a weekly challenge to sonically interpret haiku poetry.

Curator Jason Richardson is a contributor to Naviar Records and orchestrated this online collaboration.

“Musicians from around the world wrote music based on poetry describing locations around Narrandera,” said Mr Richardson.

“Recordings came from the United States, Canada, UK, France, Czech Republic, Australia and from Narrandera-based composer Fiona Caldarevic.

Contributions also came from the Disquiet Junto, an online recording community who responded to a poem describing Poison Waterholes Creek by Peita Vincent.

“That poem was chosen after reading Stan Grant’s call to end the great silence surrounding the Frontier Wars,” said Jason Richardson.

Other poems were interpreted as music from descriptions of floodwaters, trucks driving through town, gums in fog and trees on the riverbank.

Over sixty recordings were collected for the exhibition, which will also show photography illustrating a selection of contributed haiku.

“There were around one and half dozen poems sent via Twitter and email and one from my eight-year old son.”

The Crossing Streams exhibition will be complemented by the Slow Book Haiku textile exhibition, which is a collaboration between Kelly Leonard Weaving and Dr Greg Pritchard.

“It will be interesting to see how the economy of short poems translates into other media,” said curator Jason Richardson.

The two exhibitions open at the Narrandera Arts Centre from 1pm on Sunday 15 October.

The opening will feature a performance of Fiona Caldarevic’s music, followed by a workshop led by Dr Greg Pritchard.

Crossing Streams and Slow Book Haiku will be open daily until Sunday 29 October, when a workshop run by Kelly Leonard Weaving from 1pm will conclude the exhibitions.

The project was made possible by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, provided through Regional Arts Australia.

Surveying the damage

As a straight white male in a straight white patriarchal society, I've been a bit blase about the same-sex marriage survey.

Aside from having to endure another round of conversations with my partner on why she thinks marriage is an archaic form of property exchange, it really has very little to do with me.

In fact, I have so little to do with marriage that it seems silly for me to have to give an opinion on whether anyone should be able to get married.

But it's not about anyone in the sense of deciding who, it's about making it available to everyone.

At least that's what I thought before I started reading comments from friends on Facebook.

Matthew wrote:

The Australian plebiscite, where fathers get to tell the Australian Government that their sons are second class citizens. Thanks dad.

Kristen wrote:

The literally dozens of people who physically and mentally assaulted me for not being hetero, the people who made my life a torture and left me with damage that I am still trying to heal .... they get to vote on whether I am a real human who deserves real human rights.

The politics of Tony Abbott's idea to have a plebiscite as a way  to avoid enduring conflict about a policy that the majority of Australians support really doesn't reflect the outcome of the survey.

It's a mechanism that does little but further delay an inevitable decision that should be based on equality.

In the process it re-opens a lot of psychological scars, as well as fanning bigotry.

Of course, Shaun Micallef has already skewered the whole thing in the way a legally-trained comedian would:

Fran Lebowitz on sulking

Sulking is a big effort. So is not writing. I only realized that when I did start writing. When I started getting real work done, I realized how much easier it is to write than not to write.


A friend from uni runs a secondhand bookshop.

On the weekend he posted on Facebook that a customer had called asking if he had a set of "Disc World" books and my friend couldn't contain his giggles.

Google tells me there are 41 Discworld books by Terry Pratchett and they share in common being set on a disc-planet that travels through the universe atop four elephants on a giant turtle.

I've really enjoyed dipping into the series when I find audiobook versions at public libraries.

Pratchett has a distinctive style of storytelling that is very conversational, almost Socratic in the way exposition seems to effortlessly be placed within quotation marks.

Even minor characters will have a role in fleshing out the plot.

Most recently I enjoyed The Science of Discworld, which is mostly a summary of the science behind our planet from astronomy to evolutionary biology.

I've tried reading the books too but find them a bit like Shakespeare in being language I prefer to hear spoken.

Stephen Briggs' voice now comes to mind when I read Pratchett's prose, as I have been reading Truckers to my youngest.

Crayola Glowboard

When a duck eats mushrooms

According to The Gabzone this is an unaltered panel from Kingdom Hearts, yet it reads like a Disney character having a consciousness-expanding experience.

Warangesda closes this weekend

The exhibition is open a few more days at the Narrandera Arts Centre.

Warangesda details the history of the Mission at Darlington Point with responses from local artists, including AMS Woman Group’s artwork Murrumbidgee Yellow Belly, Treahna Hamm’s Murrumbidgee Yabby and Rodney Simpson’s Greed all shown and all created this year for the exhibition.

This Mission was significant for maintaining Wiradjuri in the region, first as a Christian mission and then an Aboriginal station:

The historic Aboriginal occupation of Warangesda was characterised by a relatively self sufficient Aboriginal community that participated in the economic maintenance of the wider community by the provision of labour to local agriculture. The people also maintained a culturally distinct Aboriginal lifestyle firmly based on the maintenance of family connections over the wider region.
Warangesda is rare in that it is one of only 10 missions established in NSW. It is unique in NSW, as it is the only mission or reserve site in NSW to retain a suite of original 19th century building ruins and archaeological relics.
The place is significant for its association with the last great inter-group burbung (initiation) in Wiradjuri country which was held at or near Warangesda in the 1870s. 

Peter Kabaila is a historian who's written on this area in various publications and has provided the text for the informative panels. His honours thesis was an archeological survey of the Mission site and many of the artifacts he found are now in the collection at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

The Warangesda exhibition was an opportunity for me to develop my skills "hanging" the show. I'd been fortunate to get a role working alongside Ray from Griffith Regional Art Gallery and Hape Kiddle, as well as Derek and Liana from Western Riverina Arts.

This experience was rewarding and I was encouraged to contribute ideas, which flowed freely after my initial suggestion to place on the floor the modesty screens that had been decorated with Warangesda history through a project run by Kerri Weymouth.

What do you do for a crust?

Among the trees of Matong State Forest are areas with cryptogamic crust.

This is a specialised community of cyanobacteria, mosses, and lichens.

It works to improve soil stability, as well as offering increased resistance to wind and water erosion.

Crusts are often a feature of arid and semi-arid areas, where their sponge-y texture might also catch seed from nearby plants.

They have adapted to severe growing conditions but can easily be disturbed.

Disruption of the crusts brings decreased organism diversity, soil nutrients and stability.

Full recovery of crust from disturbance is a slow process, particularly for mosses and lichens.

Visual recovery can be complete in as little as one to five years, given average climate conditions.

However, recovering crust thickness can take up to 50 years, and mosses and lichens can take up to 250 years to recover.

Hollows As Homes

Local Landcare Coordinator Jason Richardson has been visiting schools in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area to promote the role of tree hollows as habitat.

Did you know that it takes around 300 years for nature to provide a home for an owl? It’s even longer for possums.

There are no animals that are able to create tree hollows, such as the woodpecker in North America, so hollow creation is a slow process that relies on fungus to eat away at the tree.

In urban and agricultural areas throughout Australia, hollow-bearing trees are in decline.

In New South Wales, species that rely on tree hollows for shelter and nesting include at least 46 mammals, 81 birds, 31 reptiles and 16 frogs.

Forty of these species are listed as threatened with extinction in New South Wales and the loss of hollows has been listed as a key threatening process.

As part of Landcare’s visits primary school students learned how contested hollows can be, particularly in urban settings where hollows can be considered a public risk.

Jason spoke of his experience observing ringneck parrots intimidate grass parrots from returning to their nest.

The children were fascinated to handle the skull of a grass parrot chick.

The students then had an opportunity to assess school grounds and the surrounding area for hollows and observe local bird life using binoculars.

Burning Seed

Only a bit over a week away now!

Four plot structures

I. The Babadook
II. The Big Lebowski
III. Thelma and Louise
IV. Barton Fink

Is it OK?

My friend Alex posted this chart on Facebook and asked if the RU OK? suicide prevention campaign might be ineffective.

The RU OK? day has been running since 2009 and the chart doesn't seem to make a conclusive link.

However there are plenty of studies that show copycat suicides are a phenomena.

Does talking about suicide contribute to it?


Match wildlife to a hollow

Tree hollows are valued as habitat for many Australian birds, reptiles and animals.

Recently I've visited Riverina primary schools to raise awareness for the role of hollows.

It surprised me to learn that it can take 300 years to make a home for an owl.

Sow what?

English can be tricky when similar sounding words mean different things.

So I was curious when I read this headline and wondered if agricultural fashion had become an area of academic research?

No, it's a a typo and illustrates the need for subeditors.

Sowing seeds is planting them and often used as a metaphor, like the quote from the article here shows.

Game of chicken

Noticed the personalised number plate on this Steggles van at the lights.

Threatened Species Day

Today is Threatened Species Day.

I've been promoting the day with this photo of a Superb Parrot, which is considered vulnerable due to loss of habitat.

It's an older photo that was first published on my Shot Wildlife blog.

Three beer bottles

Saw this trio advertising clothes on Facebook this week and couldn't help but wonder if they were blowing on their beer bottles.

Could they be covering Billie Jean like the Bottle Boys below?

Sounds of (not so) silence

A friend shared this beaut version of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel singing 'The Sounds of Silence' live.

For me this song often prompts one of those 'what if?' moments.

Originally it was recorded without the electric instruments accompanying it, so I sometimes wonder how Paul Simon felt after hearing what happened to it.

After Bob Dylan went electric in 1965, Columbia Records' producer Tom Wilson decided this was now the fashion for folk music:

By June 1965, folk-rock had its first number one hit with The Byrds’ amped-up version of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” That month Wilson produced “Like a Rolling Stone,” Dylan’s landmark electric rocker… Without the knowledge of Simon or Garfunkel, Wilson hired session players – bassist Joe Mack, drummer Buddy Salzman and guitarists Vinnie Bell and Al Gorgoni – to overdub an electric backing track onto “The Sounds of Silence.”

Gorgoni later said he regretted the decision:

“I love the song – but those guitars ... they’re just awful. I really can’t listen to it now. ... Of course, all the things that are wrong with the recording didn’t stop it from becoming a huge success. So there you go.”

It's difficult to imagine the song without those backing parts now, but I wonder if it would've still found an audience.

I guess Simon and Garfunkel have accepted the electric instruments, or are they included in the live performance above to meet the expectations of the audience?

These days a producer would make it sound like the version below!


This weekend we held the inaugural Sausagefest.

It came about because some weeks ago while shopping, my partner tried to dissuade me from buying more sausages because we already had some in the freezer.

My response was that we should buy more sausages so that we could compare and contrast the results.

In the past we've compared local pizzas and it's an interesting exercise that I've learned from when I was developing my taste for wine, although I drink less of that lately.

Today we ate five varieties, two were boiled and three were barbecued.

The result was surprising as usually some family members are reluctant to eat kangaroo and it was universally the favourite. The meat was lean and free from gristle, with little extra flavour despite being promoted as containing bush tomato.

In second place was the rook wurst, a Dutch-style hotdog. It was juicy and mild.

Third place was more hotly contested, as I liked the kransky and kids liked the chicken and my partner liked the Italian beef and pork.

A black pudding remains in the freezer and, although I'm curious to try it, no one else seemed very interested in experiencing it.

Fathers Day gift

My son gave me this gift for Fathers Day.

It's a jar filled with positive messages.

Eden's such a little stirrer I see he couldn't help but put this one among them.

Two Men Contemplating the Moon

Two Men Contemplating the Moon by Caspar David Friedrich. 

Samuel Beckett said this artwork inspired his play Waiting for Godot.

PC Hipsta

While looking on Twitter for entertaining memes to share on Facebook, I spotted this police officer with a hipster moustache and realised I'd found the source.

The source of the PC Hipsta memes.

Wonder if copper Peter Winger realises the cultural touchstone that he's become?

Poisoned Waterhole

The fifth and final poem in the Crossing Streams collaboration between Naviar Records and Western Riverina Arts.

Journalist Stan Grant has written about the significance of the name and I wondered if the image of a poisoned waterhole would open up other interpretations of how humans treat their environment.

When I settled on using this poem, I decided to employ a technique promoted by my sometime collaborator Garlo Jo.

He's been encouraging musicians to record the wind playing their instruments on the Vent de Guitares website, which now links to the video below.

Below are the contributed recordings responding to this haiku.


Magnetic fields

Mildred Thompson, “Magnetic Fields” (1991) oil on canvas

Verdant town of trees

This week saw the fourth haiku in the Crossing Streams collaboration between Naviar Records and Western Riverina Arts.

It was written by Narrandera Library manager Sue Killham, who has supported workshops I've run at that venue and is the chair of Western Riverina Arts board.

Verdant town of trees
Poised upon the rivers edge
Waiting for one day

My response is a jazzy track that hopefully conveys how the town is surrounded by motion, from the wide Murrumbidgee River to the two highways that meet there.

Below are the contributed recordings responding to this haiku.

Gender neutral pronouns

There's a need for gender neutral pronouns in our society.

I write this as someone who works in fields often dominated by females.

For example, I've decades of experience working in communications and it's common to be one of a handful of men when I attend conferences.

While working with the Murrumbidgee CMA I was in a communications team with three women. It was somewhat confronting when the general manager called his "media tarts" to the stage during a meeting of the entire organisation.

A couple of weeks ago I was the only male at a meeting and was surprised when the group was collectively addressed as "girls" -- but mostly because I similarly reject being addressed as a "boy" for the inherent infantalising in that term also.

While I'm not convinced that "comrade" is the best word to take forward, it is one of the options that seems to connote a sense that we are all equals.

Get these snacks India

Recently a new grocer opened in Griffith and I guess the owners are Indian because of the usual identifiers like appearance and accent but also because they stock these Indian snacks.

I've written elsewhere that I'd like to see more curry-flavoured snacks, noting an opportunity for rice crackers.

So I was intrigued when I saw these Kurkure brand snacks and bought the green chutney, chilli chatka and masala flavours.

They're made from rice and corn flour and the result is a lot like Twisties snacks in shape and texture but with much more flavour.

The flavours vary from the fragrant yet spicy chilli one, to the saltier and also spicier chutney. The latter has almost twice the sodium content of the former, then the masala was sorta in-between with a bit more of a tomato-sorta flavour.

I'm really taken with them for being spicier and more complex than the flavours of snacks usually found in Australia. Most of the local products seem to be variations on salt in comparison.

I like that Griffith has a growing community from the subcontinent, including a Sikh temple built on the Hanwood side of the city.

Another thing that I like about the city is that it still promotes multiculturalism as a benefit for Australian society and an easy way to encourage people to explore different cultures is with their tastebuds.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when I attended a meeting of the Griffith Multicultural Council that it included a shared supper.

Nothing is true

Had to smile while eating crocodile

I've wanted to try eating crocodile for a while and took the opportunity this week when I saw it discounted at the supermarket.

The flavour was a lot like chicken, although the texture was more like a bigger fish as I broke it apart in my mouth. It didn't have the same stringy-ness as chicken.

On the packet they describe it as "light like calimari" but it didn't have the same slickness. It felt more like a chicken nugget.

The salt and pepper preparation featured more of the former than the latter. It was very easy to cook in a frying pan and the line on the packaging that it was "As Nature Intended" made me wonder whether it was saltwater crocodile.

The copy elsewhere on the packaging provided further entertainment, from the offer to "bite back" on the front to the description "pre-historic protein" on the back. I was also amused to see the word "compliment" used instead of "complement" -- which might be my favourite typo to spot in the wild.

Amazing visual convulsion

"Fully exert your inaqination"!

The packaging for this poor imitation of Lego gave me a visual convulsion.

Sweet dreams are made of cheese

Might have to make a toasted sandwich this weekend.

Table carving

My daughter Neve continually surprises me with her creative output.

At first I was aghast that she was carving into the tabletop with a busted ballpoint pen. Then my partner Jo shrugged and said she was happy to see her being creative and the table was cheap.

Last night Neve said she was doing my portrait, so I pulled my shoulders back and lifted my chin.

Then when she said "finished" I saw this result.

She then carved her own portrait and I like the kawaii-style eyes, which at first I thought were sunglasses.

A sepia wash

The third haiku shared by Naviar Records as part of the collaboration Crossing Streams is one I wrote on the coldest morning this winter.

I can still remember the noise as my car retracted an ice-covered antenna when I stopped outside Narrandera and took this photo.

My response sought to capture the sepia wash with a dirty Rhodes-style keyboard.

Below are the contributed recordings responding to this haiku.

Shoot straight you bastards

I'm entertained when I visit the bathroom at work and see the alleged last words of Harry "Breaker" Harbord Morant on the wall above the toilet.

It brings to mind the touching moment when he holds hands before facing the firing squad in this scene from the film Bruce Beresford directed.


I'm a slut for wordplay, which is why I find the name on this television bracket amusing.

An expression of love

“Encouragement is the greatest form that love can take” — Barbara Blackman

Years ago I had a girlfriend who worked at the National Gallery of Australia and I used to enjoy getting a personal tour of the exhibitions she'd helped put together.

While looking at the Federation exhibition she remarked how one painting had been loaned by the Australian Government from the Governor General's residence, where it had accumulated years of smoke that needed to be cleaned off. This reminded me of a sociology lecturer's remark that the rise and decline in tobacco smoking had been one of the biggest social changes in the 20th Century.

One of the last exhibitions this girlfriend invited me to see was Joy Hester and Friends in 2001 and Barbara Blackman was at the opening.

I didn't meet Ms Blackman but she made an impression on me as she was holding onto my girlfriend's arm. I'd arrived late to the opening and the two of them were standing near whoever was opening the exhibition.

My girlfriend smiled at me when she spotted me in the crowd and I was surprised to see that Ms Blackman's head turned toward me in response.

Even though I could see nothing had been said between the two of them, the blind woman had also registered my presence.

It's been an example for me about how many other senses we draw on everyday. Humans use sight as their primary sense and I often wonder whether it's a detriment that we don't better use others.

Encouragement is the theme articulated by Barbara Blackman in the quote above and if she hadn't made an impression on me at that exhibition opening I might've missed her opinion in The Guardian today.

I am very grateful for the encouragement I've received from those who love me. At different times it's made a difference to my life.

Flood waters recede

This haiku by Julie Briggs is the second in the series of poems about Narrandera that are being shared by Naviar Records:
Flood waters recede
Narrandera eucalypts reflected
Which way is up?

I've written on my Bassling blog that for me it captures a sense of the turmoil that's created when your town is isolated by the rising Murrumbidgee River.

Below are the contributed recordings responding to this haiku.