The Witness Statement

It’d been our wedding anniversary and we’d been to dinner and a show in the city.

He’d drunk a little but thought we were alright to drive home. The car seemed to know though, and the long drive had been limited to 80 even though we rarely turn off the autopilot. I never learned to drive.

We weren’t too far out of town when Stan first heard the sound. He commented that the car needed maintenance, saying it could be the aircon or an engine fan. Usually our electric car is quiet but the sound continued to grow louder. A little later he said “I hope they’re not bikes.”

Then we could hear it was bikes. I suggested we make a report but Stan said it’s probably only drones and we’re too far from help anyway.

We knew the stories of bushrangers but they hadn’t been reported in our district before. We thought local farmers were too poor to be of interest to criminals.

Stan turned off the autopilot, trying to get our car to go faster. It was no good. The safety system would not allow us to speed up.

Their bikes were still getting louder but we weren’t too far from home now. We thought if we could get past the gate then they’d leave us alone.

Then we saw their lights behind us. There were nearly a dozen. Still the car wouldn’t change speed.

The bushrangers shot at our tyres and the car stopped. Stan tried to override the safety but the autopilot kept responding that maintenance was required. It shutdown.

They surrounded us. The lights on the motorbikes blinding us. I could see reflections off metal. They had weapons and armour. The smell of brewed fuel and dust came through our aircon.

After a little while they smashed the windscreen. I screamed.

Stan yelled that he’d give them whatever they wanted. They smashed his window and he fell forward.

I cried for help but still they revved their bikes. Stan wouldn’t move and I could see he was bleeding.

Then the back window was smashed and I heard them yell for my jewellery.

A hand came through Stan’s window and grabbed at my necklace. I threw out my bag and my earrings and brooch. They took Stan’s watch then rode away.

I bandaged Stan and called for help. It seemed to take over an hour for the medical drone to deliver supplies and the whole time I was afraid the bushrangers might return.

Toasted sandwich with barbecued vegetables

Em and en

One of things I enjoy about working in a museum is getting a sense of context for bits of otherwise trivial information that I've accumulated.

An example is the difference between an em and an en. Shown here is a bronze en ruler that is in the collection at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

During other work editing documents and learning graphic design software, I was introduced to the differences between a hyphen, an en dash and an em dash.

A hyphen is like a minus sign except it adds words together to create a concept, like air-conditioner.

An en dash is the same size but shows a range, like 9-5 in Dolly Parton's song 'Nine to five' as shorthand for 9am to 5pm business hours.

An em dash is a longer dash and is used as a kind of dynamic in writing, like:
“Familiarity breeds contempt — and children,” Mark Twain once said.
Because I usually can't remember where to find the — on a keyboard, I'll write -- instead.

(On another matter, one thing that frustrates me is seeing people use an ellipsis instead of an em dash, as these should signify something is missing from a quotation. So, when I see an advertising slogan like "for the best prices in town... come to our shop," I assume they're saying there's a proviso like "for the best prices in town except the cheaper places that we won't mention...")

Anyway, the difference between en and em dashes these days is less important because digital design software has made a role like typesetter largely redundant. It's one of those professions that computers replaced a long time ago.

Typesetters existed back in the day when printing plates were pieced together with individual letters. These days the process is mostly automated, so it's less important to know that an em represents the width of m, the widest letter; which is twice the width on n — although both and en and em are useful to know as two-letter words in Scrabble.

However, if you look in the settings of graphic design programs, you can still find evidence of ems as a measurement.

Shown here is an instance in the preferences of Adobe's InDesign software.

No Surprises

Reminds me how much I enjoyed watching HBO's Westworld over the Christmas break.

That show prompted many thoughts about the nature of being human and how we're going to struggle with artificial intelligence. I'm tempted to watch it again.

Louise Bourgeois

One of the main reasons I still log in to Twitter is Womens Art, which provides a steady stream of work by female artists.

One of their perennial favourites is Louise Bourgeois, whose art I hadn't seen before and have been inspired to look for more.

I like the variety of art Bourgeois produced, including sculpture and installations, as well as the wry observation.

I also like how progressive she seems to have been. This might be a generalisation but it does seem like many male artists grow more conservative as they age, whereas there are many female artists that grow increasingly bold.

Bourgeois battled against gender inequality in the arts and, at the age of 98 in 2010,  donated an edition of 300 prints to raise money for marriage equality.

It seems interesting that this remains a battle in Australia, which has yet to satisfactorily resolve the debates and narrowly avoided going to an expensive plebiscite that was planned for next month.

The print "I do" symbolised Bourgeois' view of this issue:
"Everyone should have the right to marry," Bourgeois said in a release by Freedom to Marry. "To make a commitment to love someone forever is a beautiful thing."
 I also like this from the Wikipedia information on Bourgeois:
Bourgeois aligned herself with activists and became a member of the Fight Censorship Group, a feminist anti-censorship collective founded by fellow artist Anita Steckel. In the 1970s, the group defended the use of sexual imagery in artwork. Steckel argued, “If the erect penis is not wholesome enough to go into museums, it should not be considered wholesome enough to go into women.”
Thanks Womens Art for introducing me to Louise Bourgeois' artwork.

Making political art


Got a nice sunset pic?

If you've taken a nice photograph of a sunset, why not email it to Kate Morell?

I was moved to send a few of my pics to Kate after reading of her wish to see more than 14,000 sunsets before she loses her eyesight to Ushers syndrome.

Projection again

Returned to Wagga Wagga tonight to photograph my projection again, as it's now at something approaching the full size Council is capable of reproducing.

Two years ago

Facebook tells me this was in The Irrigator two years ago.

Hey you kids

Projected in Wagga

See my projection for Wagga Wagga City Council  this month on the side of their Chambers, opposite Wollundry Lagoon.

Here's a short video of how it looks:

Women's rights symbolised with male

The Washington Post Express admit “We made a mistake on our cover this morning and we’re very embarrassed. We erroneously used a male symbol instead of a female symbol.”


I've watched this three times now while showing it to various family members.

Without wanting to give anything away, I think the story is about our escapist tendencies. You've got two characters on an alien world performing strange feats, just so they can escape their reality for a moment. Reminds me of many activities.

Surprisingly tasty sandwich

Pine Trees against a Red Sky with Setting Sun

Hadn't seen this Vincent Van Gogh painting before today.

'Pine Trees against a Red Sky with Setting Sun' was painted in November 1889, which surprises me as the colour looks like summer. It could even be a local setting with cypress pines on a dusty day during harvest, when the sky gets a bright yellow quality.

For many years I didn't understand the popularity of Van Gogh's art. Then I visited Chicago and stood in front of a few of his paintings at the Art Institute. Then I went back and stood there again. And then again, thanks to Grandma's membership. It's quite easy to get lost in those hypnotising brushstrokes.

There's something like a Japanese woodcut about this image too.

Devices versus people

A lot of people are sharing variations of this video where Simon Sinek discusses "Millenials."

One version of the video literally frames the discussion with the text "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS GENERATION !!"

Talking in generations, like "Millenials," always feels like a generalisation to me. So Sinek seems to make generalisations about generalisations. Or at least, that's how he's being represented.

I think there's merit in his identification of the addictive nature of digital devices and social media but wish it was framed in another conversation as it's relevant to a wider audience.

One friend has been delighting in responding with images of people with their heads buried in newspapers, demonstrating that social media and its distracting nature has been with us for centuries.

My response has been that a newspaper doesn't usually interrupt my conversation with a friend. I still find it rude to be talking with someone and have them answer a call without acknowledging that they're doing so.

I've written and spoken about 'digital capacity' but maybe it's time to think in terms of 'digital incapacity'?

Another friend recently returned to social media after taking a fortnight break over Christmas. He wrote about the experience as a "reset," which seems like a good approach to dealing with a potentially addictive behaviour.

Not in my library

Crumby outcome seen on Twitter

Ada Cummings

Around 100 years ago this woman became a pioneer of business and fashion in the western Riverina.

Ada Cummings arrived at Bagtown with two children in 1916. Her son Stan would later recall he had his first ride in a motor car that day, when Micky Cush drove them in his Model T Ford from the train stop in Willbriggie.

The family had not seen Mr William Cummings for a year, since he found work with the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in 1915.

The photograph shown was taken in Rutherglen circa 1915 and prior to her move to Bagtown.

Stan recalled that his mother Ada saw the front window of the house they were to live in and thought it would make a little shop. Fifty pounds worth of stock was ordered from Melbourne, taking three weeks to arrive via Cootamundra and Temora.

The opening of the Bagtown store saw the building packed with customers, as women had previously relied on the two general stores for their requirements.

A former Bagtown resident commented of the shop, “It was unexpected to find it contained such nice things.”

Around a century later it is difficult to imagine how few women ran their own business.

William Cummings would build the shop that was located in Griffith's Banna Avenue in 1920. This shop was enlarged in 1922 to accommodate fitting and dressmaking rooms. Mrs Cummings sold about 90% of the wedding dresses worn at ceremonies.

Ada Cummings sold her store in 1935 after William had a heart attack and she retired to look after him. She died in 1963 and is buried at Griffith Cemetery.

The photograph shown was taken in 1947.

You can visit a replica of Mrs Cummings' Bagtown store at Pioneer Park Museum, which was built based on Stan's recollection.

Trainspotter delights at Museum

Griffith Pioneer Park Museum was recently visited by a Railway Heritage Adviser who almost could not believe what he saw.

"I found the Goolgowi Railway Station and related documents absolutely fascinating," said Phil Buckley. "I have never seen such a complete set of rail paperwork from any one location like that before. I had seen some at other museums I work at in rail heritage but not of such detail."

Goolgowi Railway Station is a popular destination on 'Action Day' each Good Friday at Pioneer Park Museum, where a train collects visitors for a tour of the grounds.

The Station was constructed from cinder-concrete slabs in 1923, as part of the extension of the Griffith-Hillston line. At the time it was anticipated the site would become a major station, as agricultural experts envisaged the area would be one of the biggest producers of wheat.

106,569 bags of wheat would be shipped from the Station during 1935 alone.

As road transport overtook rail for moving people and goods, Goolgowi Railway Station was closed in 1979. In 1983 Museum volunteer Mick Coombe, a retired ex-railway employee, noticed the abandoned building was being considered for demolition.

The Museum wrote to State Rail in June that year and formally tendered the sum of $10 for the building, learning in November of their success. Volunteers and a group undertaking community service orders relocated it to Pioneer Park Museum, where it was opened to the public in 1984.

The Goolgowi Railway Station is one of 42 historic and recreated buildings at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum. These provide detailed snapshots of the lives of early residents of Griffith and the surrounding region.

It's a view that was appreciated by Mr Buckley. "I immensely enjoyed my few hours at the Museum," he said. "There is superb preservation of rare and fascinating buildings. It really showcases to me how amazing our pioneer heritage is and how diverse too."

Like many visitors, Phil Buckley enjoyed reconnecting with his own history during the visit. "My mum lived in Hillston in 1940-60s, so she would of passed Goolgowi station many times on her long trips to Sydney."

As befitting a railway enthusiast, Mr Buckley traveled to Griffith from Sydney by train on the Sunday service.

Photographs shown here by Phil Buckley. This was published here.

Outside Four Walls

Outside Four Walls is a blog that reflects the interests of my friends Michael Gooch and Louise Nicholas.

These two self-described "nature nerds" have become increasingly obsessed with birds, plants and animals in recent years.

While they always seemed keen on the outdoors, I think a turning point was buying a 20-acre block outside Clunes in regional Victoria. They've named it Finches Gully and undertaken a variety of rehabilitation works.

Saw this great photo of a Peaceful Dove on their Facebook page.

A moment of symmetry

Among the many ideas stimulated while reading Ghost Empire was an 'a-ha' moment about Islamic art.

While I haven't seen much Islamic art, I've seen a lot via friends. One mate recently traveled to Iran and posted many pictures on Facebook of the insides of mosques. Another friend, Abre Ojos, uses geometry in his audiovisual work.

Richard Fidler writes:
There are no images of God, Muhammad or Muslims saints: Islam forbids the creation of such images. The visual allusions to Allah are purely abstract; tiles form swirling lines of Qur'anic text and complex geometric patterns, displaying the Islamic tradition of finding the sublime within calligraphy and mathematical perfection.
The idea of taking inspiration from one source and representing it within another medium appeals to me for many reasons. At times I've argued that that's an essence of art.

However, the idea of religious inspiration is somewhat foreign. My Quaker upbringing means I tend to look inward for spiritual guidance. I think I'm also somewhat meditative in my approach elsewhere, which is why the trance-like aspects of electronic music appeal to me.

A quick google on the subject of Islamic mosaics offers:
the repetition within many of the designs evokes the nature of God, with a small section of work mirroring the pattern of the whole piece. In the same way, a small part of God's creation on Earth reflects his divine and infinite nature.
I know it's a leap but for me the idea of pantheism is interesting. It's suggests that you can find the divine in the everyday as well as the exceptional. I guess there's a sense of finding the right outlook.

The sheer scale of mosque mosaics is incredible but their long history is also amazing:
By 1453, architects had started designing walls with perfectly overlapping quasicrystalline tiles. Quasicrystalline patterns never repeat, but are completely symmetrical. A dizzying example is on display at its medieval best at the Darb-i Imam shrine in Iran.
Western science couldn't describe the same pattern until the early 1970s, when English mathematician Roger Penrose introduced his famous "Penrose" tiling system. 
My 'a-ha' moment was seeing the creative constraint faced my Muslim artists wishing to represent the divine. In my music-making I've reveled in using a limitation as a springboard, particularly after reading an idea from Brian Eno that you need to establish parameters to focus on developing a piece of work.

Over the last four and a half years I've enjoyed the creative prompt offered by the Disquiet Junto, "an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making space in which restraints are used as a springboard for creativity."

Not to belittle the religion of Islam and it's long tradition of mosaic art but, while reading the quote from Fidler, I could understand it through my own experience.

Scarfolk Council

Dark at times but very funny.

See the Scarfolk Council blog

Constantine is 666

Reading Ghost Empire brought to mind the graffiti that sprang up around Canberra like a textual disease in the late 1980s.

The words "Constantine is 666" began to appear with increasing frequency and I recall asking my father what it meant. He explained that Constantine was a Roman Emperor.

There are many stories and theories about why Constantine adopted Christianity and promoted it within the Roman Empire. This morning my partner was telling me about an idea that it sold pacifism to Christian enemies of the Empire, creating a situation in which they could be amalgamated.

Constantine's role in creating the Council of Nicaea is significant:
The Council of Nicaea is the first major attempt by Christians to define orthodoxy for the whole Church. Until Nicaea, all previous Church Councils had been local or regional synods affecting only portions of the Church.
The result unified the Roman Empire. Anyway, enough of the ancient history lesson.

I haven't found online an explanation of the graffiti in Canberra "Constantine is 666," but there's reference to it in this letter to The Canberra Times from June 1989, which was found here.

My memory was that the slogan became increasingly common but it wasn't until the Prime Minister's residence was defaced that the Australian Federal Police appeared to put significant effort into catching the culprit.

The Lodge is the Canberra home for the (so-called) leader of Australia and it has curved white walls about eight feet high surrounding it. These days it has extensive security measures but in the late '80s there was probably only someone at the gate and maybe another guard positioned inside.

I remember seeing the words "Constantine is 666" were spray-painted on the wall and thinking it was a significant achievement. When you consider that most graffiti tags these days is barely more than a scribble, I think it says a lot about the determination of the guy to promote the message.

It's less clear to me why he promulgated the view that a Roman Emperor was Satan, just as I'm lost for his identity. Think I'll ask a few Canberrans to research it for further discussion.

2017 ain't so bad

From The Running Man

ANU Bar memories

Just been enjoying revisiting my memories of the ANU Bar after reading Bree Winchester's piece.

There are quite a few experiences for me, as a volunteer photographer for BMA Magazine and sometime contributor to The Canberra Times during the '90s.

I remember meeting Nirvana backstage at their infamous Canberra show and regret not getting Kurt's guitar pick rather than one from Krist.

Also, I remember getting kicked out of the pit after photographing a hole in the Refectory ceiling that They Might Giants made with a cannon that shot confetti.

One more highlight was US band Fishbone and I hope you'll indulge this reminisce.

I was somewhat addled when I decided to talk my way into photographing their show and for some reason it was the only time I've seen the pit at the front of the stage closed at both ends.

Their tour manager had explained that after the usual "first three songs, no flash," I'd sneak across the stage when the lights dimmed.

As I climbed onstage in the dark and began to make my way to steps leading offstage, I found my path blocked by a dark figure.

The lights came back on and I saw it was a band member and Fishbone launched into their next song.

I looked around and saw the band were dancing, thought I'd better dance too.

Then the singer said something like "There's only one way off -- jump!" and I had my first experience of stage-diving.

A sea of hands rose up and carried me to the back of the audience and it was glorious.

Sums up why I blog

Petrol prices

Making a bed today and I noticed this petrol price on the doona cover.

It reminded me that as the Australian dollar continues to drop in value against the US standard, petrol will likely increase in price. This is a concern for me as I use a tank of fuel each week commuting from Leeton to Griffith for work.

While it's been a while since petrol cost as much as the price shown on the doona, the decision by OPEC last year to reduce production was the first in a while that led to an increase noticed in the price at my local bowser. At least, one other than usual increases during school holidays.



My kids have introduced me to many Youtube channels, including danisnotonfire.

Dan and his friend Phil make engaging banter but it's kinda lost on me, aside from a good line in self-deprecation. I can't help but note his channel has only been running since 2009 but has around seven million subscribers, whereas I've had a channel since 2006 and have around 150. Clearly it's a younger person's game.

Anyway, my daughter draws lots of cartoons and among them are representations of Dan and other Youtubers.

This sketch caught my interest as she's taken a creative leap and drawn Dan as a female with whiskers.

I note Dan describes himself as a feminist and hope this doesn't hurt his felines. (Sorry, dad joke.)

Dan, if you're reading, I'd like to know what you'd have on a toasted sandwich.

Cicada shells

Judging by the cicada shells at the park this morning, there's a lot of breeding going on after recent rains.

Guess this will flow on to increases in the bird and reptile populations too.

Cicadas shedding their shells seem like a good metaphor for New Year's day.

Ruby Saltbush in old Grey Box

Saw this groundcover growing off the ground.

Leaping into 2017