(Un)Usual activity in Lismore

Recently I had a week in Lismore to collaborate with my friends at RealArtWorks on events that formed their festival

I've been working with the renowned heroes of postdisability arts for around five years and been part of their exhibitions as a result of being invited to join them on excursions in the Northern Rivers and Riverina.

When I arrived we discussed some possibilities, including developing art for their vending machine and recording Spinks Park for the Trail of Light and Sound and curating sandwiches.

There was also an instrument they hoped contact microphones would make possible to play live.

Within a day we'd expanded ideas to collage posters for display in the Lismore CBD, which gave me the opportunity to work with Matthew Daymond.

I've been a fan of Matt's surreal collages and it was awesome to be part of a frenzied process of unrolling advertising and identifying potential material.

It took me a draft to loosen up my designs and embrace the ridiculous.

"Fresh germy fabulousness" was my third attempt.

I recorded Spinks Park twice, then had a few attempts at revealing the music that resides within the play equipment.

Their vending machine gained digest versions of my book Earthwords, complete with covers made from repurposed firehose.

And I was stoked when I friend shared this picture from the networking event that I was unable to attend.

You can see that RealArtWorks identified a variety of ways for me to contribute and it's an interesting process to reflect on, as I feel I've learned something about my own creative practises.

200 Junto videos

Small milestone on the weekend as I uploaded my 200th video for the Disquiet Junto.

The (Un)Usual

Short video I've made to promote Real Art Works' event in Lismore.

Scars Have the Strange Power to Remind Us that Our Past Is Real

"Scars Have the Strange Power to Remind Us that Our Past Is Real" by Kader Attia


One of the highlights of Burning Seed this year was seeing Red Earth Ecology establish itself on the paddock

Jo’s been developing this project for years, undertaking activities around Matong and introducing Burners to the local ecology.

I’ve seen the crowds for her bush walks grow and in that time she’s been joined by a number of people with expertise — particularly Brian Jones, Ash Blackwell, Diego Bonetto and Peter Ingram.

There’s a good level of interest from visitors wanting to know more about the environment in Matong State Forest and many years have seen additional walks added to the program.

This year we were awed to see around 60 people show up for the walk.

It was also exciting to see Jo’s art project start to take shape this year, after she struggled last year before being taken off site in an ambulance.

GEO//GRAPHOLOGY uses the Cut-up Technique to reveal hidden meaning from local histories and, as someone who has worked as a curator at a local museum, I feel there is a need for a fresh perspective in this area.

Orwell famously wrote that “history is written by the winners” and it’s increasingly clear to me that reconciliation in Australia will require a truth-telling, much like the hearings that took place in post-apartheid South Africa.

It’s desperately overdue as more Australians identify as Aboriginal.

Jo has been using the Cut-up Technique in local exhibitions for a number of years and it suits her conceptual approach to art-making.

It’s a great way to review and reinterpret historical narratives, hopefully prompting a reevaluation of meanings drawn from records — which at times used euphemisms to hide the extent of the Frontier Wars in the Riverina.

That’s a small part of a much bigger picture but an important one given the Wiradjuri drove almost all the Europeans out of the area west of Ganmain in the mid 19th Century.

Jo's activity of selecting fragments from histories and pasting them together is a social one.

Really enjoyed being part of the conversations and making art with friends.

Looking forward to seeing Red Earth Ecology continue to develop on and off the paddock.


Spotted this coolamon-shaped scar on a tree outside Coolamon

Banned again

I posted this image of a hand resembling Hitler and was banned from using Facebook for a week

Apparently it constitutes "hate speech," which led me to wonder if Mel Brooks has a Facebook profile.

The situation is ridiculous.

Posting an image of a hand resembling a Nazi does not seem to infer support for the extreme views propagated by right-wing organisations.

However, blocking that image does seem to protect Nazis from ridicule.

Sunday nights

On Sunday nights I force my family to sit together in front of a single screen

We share turns picking a film to watch and sometimes I bribe my kids to sit with me by buying snacks.

It’s not always easy but it’s great sometimes.

The film has quickly become secondary to sitting together.

It’s good to throw my arms around the kids.

And it’s magic when I lock eyes with Jo and feel surrounded by love.

Considering musicals

Two of my kids saw a production of Legally Blonde at Griffith Regional Theatre earlier this year as part of their high school excursion

My son has been involved in a number of large musical productions and didn’t say much more than “it was okay.”

I didn't really pick up at the time that my daughter Neve said it was her first musical.

If I had I might’ve been prompted to remember seeing Pirates of Penzance while in primary school and adoring the songs.

By year seven I was acting in a high school musical in Canberra, which won a peace prize and was attended by the Governor General.

Anyway, last week I noticed Neve was watching Legally Blonde on Youtube and it turns out she's been watching it a lot.

This led me to realise how little opportunity local kids have to see a variety of arts in regional NSW and appreciate that Griffith City Council are creating opportunities for students outside of their shire boundary.

Neve and I have been talking over the weekend about musicals and last night she asked “What does it mean when people break into song in a musical?”

The magic realism of those moments — music realism? — led me to remember the wonderful musical episode of Buffy, in which a curse means the characters can’t help but to express their innermost thoughts through song.

Within the musical genre music is a method of exposition that is part of a tradition going back to the choruses of ancient Greece.

I wonder if musicals also illustrate the creative expression that people often describe as a benefit of the arts.

This leads me to remember this wonderful observation about poetry from Harrison Young:
Poetry is full of metaphor, and metaphor is where one thing means another, it is saying two things at once. And this to my mind is like reality, there are often two aspects. Or more.

The role of the arts seems to be diminishing in contemporary society and I worry it will be to the detriment of our abilities to hold a range of views and see issues from other perspectives.

Art has an important role in building empathy as the viewer assumes the perspective of the artist.

Holding the front page

Years ago I was excited when they ran my photos on the front page, so I was stoked to find myself on the cover this week

You can read their story about the Big Guitar recordings here.

Another good piece on that project was on this German website.

Fathers Day

Another year as a parent and I'm prompted to reflect on my role as Fathers Day passes

Many years ago I learned that to be a father was more than donating biological material to a child.

I'd had this idea to write a sensational article about the opportunity to donate sperm and even pitched it to the editor of the student newspaper as important because educated donors could raise the IQ in the general population.

She wasn't impressed, telling me that was eugenics, but encouraged me to write the article.

It was interesting experience and a little unsettling when the hospital told me my sperm count wasn't high enough for them to accept my donation.

Then years later when I fell in love with my partner, I convinced her that we should have children.

The results have been amazing but I won't dwell here on our offspring, because I am convinced that it is an important step in personal development.

There's a shift in one's thinking to accommodate others, that leads to letting go of some ego and opening the heart.

There is also a profound shift in revisiting experiences of the child-parent relationship but this time as the parent.

For me that has involved shifting a lot of resentment that developed in my teenage years.

Those experiences where I felt slighted and even neglected took on a scale proportionate to my self-centred young mind.

In more recent years I've been able to look back and reconsider what might have been going on for my parents at those times.

They were separated and doing what they could.

I can see that my father's emotional distance might have reflected his own relationship to his father.

And now I find myself kinda marvelling at how calmly he managed various situations.

Goatse for yourself

Couldn't help but see goatse in this drawing

from Circe by Madeline Miller

Loved this writing, so I made this meme:

“If my childhood had given me anything, it was endurance. Little by little I began to listen better: to the sap moving in the plants, the blood in my veins. I learned to understand my own intention, to prune and to add, to feel where the power gathered and speak the right words to draw it to its height. That was the moment I lived for, when it all came clear at last and the spell could sing with its pure note, for me and me alone.” 

Ansell condoms still suck

Made the mistake of buying Lifestyle brand condoms

Some time ago I posted about buying a bad batch, which mostly seemed to break.

A few weeks ago I missed the detail that these "fun" condoms "might" be flavoured.

Seems the whole pack is flavoured and my partner is not willing to consider having that within her.

You'd think they could print it on the front of the packaging, rather than use some sort of semiotic code in the colours.

High Coup

For my exhibition I'm thinking about self-publishing poetry

Sometimes there's a snobbish attitude about self-publishing poetry but I've got an idea that needs to be realised.

While reading back over more than 1000 haiku, I found myself annoyed at the opportunities that had passed each day.

I'm looking for 60 or so poems for the book and there's a lot to choose from.

However, while considering my challenge to write a haiku each day, I found myself remembering the observation that it'll often take a second poem to feel like I've warmed up.

Usually if I spend the time writing a second draft, I'll get a much better result.

So, while looking back over the results of around three years of daily haiku, I started wondering about missed opportunities.

Wet weather

It's been raining today, which stirs a satisfying feeling

Rainfall has been below average in recent years, so I feel there's a deep longing for it.

The smell is an improvement but I think the sound of it conveys much of the pleasure too.

I commented "Good rain" to my partner today and reflected on how it's an expression I've learned since living in the country.

Country people like agreeing on the weather, whether it's good or bad.

Would watch Rob the robotanker

Twitter redesign

I've been dipping into Twitter for about 10 years but in recent years I began to consider closing my account

I almost stopped using it, then started again when I began a role that used that service.

Now the Twitter redesign has left me feeling I can stop tweeting.

It brings to mind the confected outrage when Facebook would change features.

I'd guess that FB learned to make only small cosmetic changes and it's a lesson that Twitter could heed.

The redesign of Twitter is drastic, with a new dark colour and changes to the content of a user's timeline.

Part of me knows I can adjust, but another part welcomes the feeling of alienation as a way to kick the habit.

It was good for a while.

I've enjoyed the opportunity to converse with people who I don't know and meet some too.

And, when my kids wanted to join social media, Twitter was a good option as it'd send me an email when certain things happened with their accounts.

Now my kids have ditched Twitter and I feel the news and entertainment it offers are distractions that I no longer need too.

Mugwort smudge stick

A friend shared this graphic about the role of different smudge sticks

I hadn't seen mugwort mentioned before and, since it hasn't died back yet in the garden, thought I'd try making my own.

Blue-ringed octopus

Haikubot writes

As someone who writes a haiku each day, I couldn't help but be amused by the poem that accompanied an email for an online order

And, on the subject of haiku-bots, it's been interesting the read the poems generated with Talk To Transformer for Naviar Records recent projects.

Planting natives in Matong

Matong was the site of a working-bee on the June long weekend, as local residents were joined by visitors to plant around 1200 native seedlings

Around two dozen people worked to develop the landscape at the park in town and surrounding properties, with a number travelling from Melbourne to lend a hand.

The initiative was a partnership between the Matong Community Group and Red Earth Ecology that was assisted by Coolamon Shire Council.

"This was the fifth event we've held in the Matong area since 2014," said Jo Roberts of Red Earth Ecology.

"Our landcare group started at Burning Seed, where I've run tours in the State Forest to help visitors recognise features in the local environment."

"Locals had knowledge to share, particularly the late Brian Jones, and we've revegetated paddocks, as well as undertaking weed removal at the Burning Seed site."

Sonya Spencer and Dave Currie's property has gained a number of treelots in previous years and Ms Roberts worked with them to coordinate the recent plantings.

"In recent years I've met a number of residents in Matong," said Jo Roberts.

"I was able to meet with them at their homes and identify native plants for their gardens and properties."

Locals were pleased to receive the plants from Red Earth Ecology.

"The enthusiasm of the community was demonstrated in their hard work and it will be exciting for visitors to see when they return for Burning Seed in spring," said Ms Roberts.

It was the first of a number of urban revegetation activities planned by the Matong Community Group and Red Earth Ecology.

Photos by Mal Evans and Sonya Spencer

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Started reading Ocean Vuong's great American novel and didn't get far before I paused to ponder

I'd first heard Vuong's poetry when a Junto project stirred a response by Detritus Tabu, a member of that online community.

He recorded an interpretation of a poem, using it as lyrics for a guitar part accompanying the sound of my fridge.

So it seemed natural for me to recognise Vuong's paragraph as belonging within these lyrics I'd recently written.

I've recorded them today and hope to incorporate them within my song.

Open the door to democracy


The way the hashtag #Notallmen quickly became a joke shows how much gender divides communities

Earlier this year Clementine Ford wrote “Men of Australia, it's time to pick your side” and called for action to address “the very real, ever present, issue of men’s violence against [women].“

I found myself feeling frustrated because men are more likely than women to be violently assaulted.

While around eighty percent of reported violence is the result of male perpetrators, it is a fraction of men responsible for these crimes.

If you accept Ford’s argument, then you would likely agree that Muslims need to stop terrorism.

Yet anyone with a basic understanding of Islam would recognise that it is a small section of extremists who engage in terrorism.

Many terrorists seem to be radicalised through being marginalised.

I wonder if there’s a need to address radical masculinity in our society?

Perhaps we could look at how traditionally male roles have quickly changed and ponder whether marginalised men are becoming fanatics?

Maybe there is a role for some men to help change the attitudes of other men, but I feel it is everyone’s role to address sexism.

As a man who has been assaulted, I found there was no support.

I want to stop violence but I don’t feel it can be done by trying to correct the attitudes of those who could abuse me.

I hate seeing myself lumped in with my bullies.

The influence I have on other males, particularly my sons, is to model a masculinity that values non-violent expression.

Men of Australia, it's time to pick your outlet and to make a practise of reflecting on what triggers your emotional responses.

Passage of time

Revisiting old songs and found lyrics I hadn't recorded

Here's the original recording, which didn't include the singing as I wasn't confident my voice could carry the melody.

Yesterday I rewrote the verses after the chorus and created a new backing track, so that I can include the song on my next album: SING.

Someone once said that time is like a river
because even if you stand in the flow
you just can’t go
back to that sliver of river again

My father likes to say that time is the fourth dimension
as everything exists in at least four ways
height, width, depth and when
then again

I think everything exists in history
whether it’s the thoughts of you or me while we all breathe
it’s context bringing us together
and then

it’s times like these that we share more than the air
because no one really cares how much you know
until they know how much you care
so share

Light fades from day
Time runs away
These words are past their date to use
even if I could choose
to stay with you

Don’t think I recognised the window in your chest
now there’s a tightness in my throat
describing letters that you wrote
and the beating of my heart is on my breath

It’s not like we’re alike in not liking
the same kind of times
as though they were different lives
our stars will align to glow in their sign again

The moral of the story is it’s a moral story
that’s now cliched and boring
put to music I’m performing
filling the air that we share with my care

Knowing the movement of the stars feels like a kind of curse
but when the power comes along
I can right this minor wrong
let’s put the universe into reverse with song

Day forms from light
shadows hiding night
intentions on new moon
taking form in verse and tune
our time passed too soon

Songlines everywhere

Pic by Ajita Cannings

Art by Libby Harward


Carved from a piece of sweet chestnut burr by artist Bill Prickett

Milkshake brings RoboCop to my blog

Milkshaking continues to amuse

Or, as I recently read, the activity can be described as "lactosing the intolerant"!

Image by Happy Toast

Guitar gent

How is that 'cat lady' is a thing but 'guitar gent' isn't?

Milkshakes as a statement

Entertained by the trend for throwing milkshakes at right-wing politicians

Gives me an idea for a story about a radical scientist who uses time-travel to throw a chocolate thickshake at a certain younger Liberal in Engadine Maccas during 1997.

Image by HappyToast

Relationship advice

Democracy sausage at stake

This Federal election has seen a record number of pre-poll votes

Currently around 10% of the population has cast their ballot ahead of polling day this Saturday.

The trend threatens an Australian institution: the democracy sausage.

Barbecues at school hall-based polling stations have been a method for P&C committees to raise funds.

If electorates aren't visiting the schools to vote, then they won't be buying snags.

This Yellow Box rocks

Short video about a magnificent Eucalyptus melliodora outside Wagga

It's surprising what you can learn climbing a tree.

This Yellow Box offers a fun climb and a great view of the landscape.

Addressing Leeton's doctor shortage

The Leeton-based Campaigners for Regional Equality is using the Federal election to spark conversation around the issue of the town's shortage of doctors.

Breaking news

Narrandera's newspaper wrote a story about the project I'll be launching next month

My aim is to make Australia's largest playable guitar the most-played guitar in the country by offering a free sample set of the instrument for use in productions.

Read more about the recording session with Narrandera's big guitar here.

Long arm of the law

A few years ago I had an idea for a story in which the Police used an automated program to analyse photos, identify whether a law was being broken and issue a fine

Now wondering should I have thought about a start-up company?

Baking with spinach

In the last week I've tried a baking spinach in a couple of doughs

The bread almost collapsed, in part because the spinach has a lot of moisture.

Last night I tried pizza dough, which is forgiving and my kids seem to like it soggier.

I also like it soggier, as it's easier to roll.

And it means that spinach is non-negotiable with pizza!

At present I'd guess that each cup of spinach requires around 30ml less water.

Both the bread and the pizza bases had around two cups of blended spinach, with their recipes calling for 3.5 cups and 3.25 cups of flour respectively.

The spinach was added and did not substitute for flour.

I also add a tablespoon of chia seed and two tablespoons of hemp seed, as well as a heaped teaspoon of dried oregano.

Writing haiku

I've been writing haiku poetry for years and feel I've been improving

My interest in the short, constrained verse was sparked when I got a mobile phone.

Back in the day the limited number of characters that could be sent by SMS suggested the format would be good to send poems to my friends.

The title of this blog came from one of those haiku.

A few years ago I decided to challenge myself to write a poem each week.

The following year I began writing one each day, a practice I've largely maintained -- although there was a slip last year.

The little I know about haiku comes from following Naviar Records' haiku challenges and the poem shared today came with this insight from Masaoka Shiki:
He advocated realistic observation by “sketching” (shasei) poems and going out into nature with notebooks, thus abandoning the traditional subjects of haiku of the time. His advice for an aspiring poet was, “Use both imaginary pictures and real ones, but prefer the real ones.”

It's an approach that makes sense to me, as I've been writing haiku in response to nature photographs more and more since late 2017.

That was when I collaborated with Naviar Records to develop the Crossing Streams exhibition.

For that Dr Greg Pritchard to run a writing workshop, as he had contributed to the Slow Book Haiku exhibition that I'd invited to fill the other room at the Narrandera Arts Centre.

In his workshop Greg introduced the term 'ekphrasis,' which is a creative response to an artwork.

I'm looking forward to exhibiting my haiku with the photographs the respond to, as well as music I've made, as part of an exhibition at the Griffith Regional Art Gallery later this year.

Grizzly Beat from Yellowstone

Earlier this year I remixed a recording of a grizzly bear for Cities and Memory

There's this discussion of my track 'Grizzly Beat' on the Cities and Memory website.

I was interested to learn:
These sounds were recorded with a cell phone by an experienced Bear Management Technician, Dan Bergum, during recent fieldwork involving capture. The bear was recorded during the few moments that it was contained inside a large, culvert-sized trap.

My track was made entirely from the recording, including repitching the growls but also shaping transients to create the percussion.

The dream I mentioned was discussed on this blog last year.

My first cerveza

I started a new brew today after bottling the mugwort porter that went sour

Opened a cerveza extract that I'd bought heavily discounted and added lemongrass, as well as mugwort.

This one has 1kg dextrose, which is the first time I've tried it.

Suction cups

May the fourth

It amused me to see a church-based opportunity shop adopted a story heavily indebted to well-known Christian narrative as the theme for their forthcoming sale

Facebook's community standards

I ran afoul of Facebook's community standards today when I published this pic of Hitler with bunny ears

Maybe I should be grateful they didn't ban me for a week like last time this happened, but I am surprised that the pic above was deleted.

At this time of year I share Easter-themed pics and memes, so I was a bit annoyed to break the run that I was curating on my News Feed.

However, I find some solace in adapting this Marie Kondo meme to comment on Facebook's heavy-handed interference.