Bad love in the Riverina

Sharing another of the Wiradjuri stories recorded by Bill Gammage and discussing how the moral is similar to a famous story written by Shakespeare

Zoom is a threat to patriarchy

Okay, so the title of this post is kinda joking but seemed like good clickbait to lead into some observations

I've been late to using Zoom, the telecommunications software that's become popular as Covid-19 has disrupted a variety of social settings.

Last night I joined a communications circle and it was interesting to hear many of those attending saying how Zoom surprised them in overcoming the absence of a physical space.

I resisted Zoom for a long time but am now beginning to see that it has some benefits, although it wasn't a great substitute for actually attending a life-drawing class.

So there are two things that I've been thinking about with Zoom and how they both level the metaphoric playing field in terms of changing social interactions.

The first is that it forces people to listen to each other.

I haven't seen a Zoom argument yet, but wonder whether it's possible to shout down someone you disagree with?

The second is that laptop speakers and mobile phones are terrible for those deep, masculine voices which would normally evoke authority and promote physical dominance.

Thinking about these two observations led to some amusement for me in thinking that Zoom might have a bigger impact on society than decades of equal opportunity policies.

I've heard some observations from women over the years that they'll be in a meeting and put forward an idea, only to find there's no response until a male in the room says the same idea.

It makes me wonder if Zoom can change this phenomena.

Wiradjuri legend about the moon

Historian Bill Gammage recorded a Wiradjuri legend, which discusses the night sky and offers an insight into caring for Country.

Grape expectations

 I bought four packs of sultanas to compare and contrast

They were all around $5 each, except the $4.50 Turkish brand Fuel from Aldi.

The results varied greatly.

Those shrunken little Black & Gold brand fruit had bold flavour like a Shiraz wine for the intense acidity.

The Australian Sweet Vine fruit from Aldi were swollen and juicy in comparison, but the flavours weren’t as strong alongside the others (maybe I’d call it a Merlot).

That Turkish brand were nuanced and kinda mellow in comparison (like a Cabernet.

While the Woolies homebrand seemed to balance the sweet flavour in a fruit that was not too dried (like a blended wine, I guess).

Red Earth Ecology video

My partner Jo runs and ecology walk at Burning Seed, which is the NSW regional Burning Man event.

This year we've decided to create a series of videos that visit the site through different seasons.

Dry Paddock

Bought this painting by Elaine Heffer, who won the Paniz Prize last year

I've been making a habit of spending some of the money earned from my creative activities on artworks by locals.

This painting came to me via my exhibition at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery.

Music reaction videos

There's a tradition for music-lovers to dig through the crates, but I think one aspect missing from the discussion of reaction videos is how a generation of kids have almost the entire history of recorded music available to them

A couple of times recently my son has asked if I'd heard a particular band or track when I was his age, and I have to explain how seeking out new music involved weekly negotiations with a shop assistant to have them put on albums in a shop when I might only have money to buy one a month.

I wonder if reaction videos are to music videos, what reality television is to dramatic television? It seems as though these strip away the surreal imagery to provide a real(er) human face for music.

Then again, the whole rise of reaction videos suggests to me there are a lot of lonely viewers looking for a sense of connection. The Williams twins (shown in the video above) often have an unguarded and sometimes emotional reaction to some of the material they encounter.

Leeton Chinese takeaway

There are three Chinese restaurants on the main street in Leeton, so I thought it'd be interesting to compare and contrast their meals

Our takeaway order included sweet and sour pork, as well as chicken with cashews from each.

These two dishes seemed a good choice as one is something of a standard, while the other offered scope for interpretation.

Prices varied, from $31 to $38 for both dishes.

Before starting our meals, I weighed each package and was surprised to find that the cheapest meal was also the largest.

The cheapest restaurant was most popular with my kids, while the most expensive restaurant was characterised by complex flavours. (Particularly the sweet and sour had a distinct citrus flavour, while the chicken had a richness that reminded me of oyster sauce.)

The compare and contrast exercise was a satisfying activity for my family.

We all really enjoyed the roasted cashews, with that ingredient providing a distinct comparison in its presentation in each meal.

Each restaurant offers a distinct value proposition and I think that speaks to the ability of three Chinese restaurants to operate within a kilometre or so of each other.

Talk about Fivebough

There was a good crowd to hear about Fivebough Wetlands today

Due to social-distancing we could only have 20 attending and they had to be volunteers at the Leeton Community Op Shop.

Max O'Sullivan from the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists and Kathy Tenison from Murrumbidgee Landcare joined me to discuss the various functions of the Wetlands.

My introduction involved time travel as we discussed the formation of Brobenah Hills more than 400 million years ago and their role in delivering the water that collects on the gray clay at Fivebough.

I outlined some of how the First Nations managed the landscape for around 40,000 years and identified the roles of totems, including those now shown in the Wiradjuri Garden at Fivebough.

Max shared his enthusiasm for bird-watching and detailed the migratory birds that travel from Siberia to Leeton each year -- it really seems incredible the parents leave the chicks to hatch and they find their way here as soon as they can fly!

Kathy outlined educational activities and brought a kind of show-bag for those attending with bird guides and a calendar with beautiful photographs.

The talk about Fivebough was part of the exhibition displayed in the Shop's windows this month and aimed to give their volunteers a background briefing on the Wetlands to share with customers.

Many expressed their plans to visit the site after hearing the talk and were keen to know there are now public toilets on site, as well as improved walking tracks.

While spring is a time when a number of birds arrive, there's usually always a variety of species to observe.

Fivebough at the Heart of Leeton is supported by Create 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.

Better bread with science

Some months ago my son asked me to help him develop a science project

We looked over the suggested experiments and I gravitated towards those involving yeast.

We discussed ideas, he discussed them with his high school science teacher, and we settled on cooking multiple loaves of bread using different flours.

I liked the idea because using a bread machine would remove many of the variables.

It's now the second day of the school holidays and we've cooked almost half of the bread required for the report.

I'd assumed that hemp powder wasn't going to work and, although it required additional water, it seems it was too heavy to rise.

I've eaten some of it and it's okay with Vegemite, although very filling.

The big surprise just now was the result using supermarket's brand plain flour.

It's the cheapest flour we'll try and yet the result is comparable to the more expensive baker's flour, which contains higher-protein flour and also bi-carb.

The loaf is almost an extra-large size, despite being a large-size recipe.

In comparison, the Wallaby bakers flour didn't rise as high, but I guess the density is a sign of the protein content because it's definitely chewier and has a thicker crust.

Our final experiment is a blend of spelt and quinoa flours, which tasted great but didn't rise much more than the hemp powder. It was a lot tastier though.

Whitton scar

Our Riverina

A series of online videos produced with the Leeton Art Society explore the relationships between local artists and their landscapes

“I have a theory that being based in regional Australia gives artists distinct connections to their environments,” explained project coordinator Jason Richardson. “Each of the four Leeton Shire artists had landscape artworks to discuss and it was interesting to learn how their art-making had changed the way they see our region.”

Three-time Paniz Prize winner Lynne McQuillan discussed her love of the Murrumbidgee River, as well as the Impressionistic style that lends itself to representations of light falling through the River Red Gum forests on the banks.

Lifelong Murrami resident Dorothy Roddy outlined the inspiring landscape and the variations she can watch from sunrise to sunset.

Vita Vitelli shared her memories of her Father Frank Bruno Snr, living and working on the farm on Toorak Road, now Toorak Wines; and explaining how  picking up a paintbrush changed her outlook.

While longtime Leeton Art Society member Glenn Saddler reflected on the perspective he gained while studying and how it motivated him to become involved in creating opportunities for artistic expression when he returned home.

The videos will make the artists accessible to a wide audience but the original proposal was to run a series of exhibitions across the region.

“The Our Riverina project has adapted to the uncertainty we’ve all experienced in 2020, as well as the requirement for social-distancing. We’re hoping an exhibition planned for early 2021 will still go ahead,” said Mr Richardson.

“Viewing art is an opportunity to look at something through the eyes of another, so I hope that people will enjoy getting a fresh perspective on local scenes and learning something about a handful of the talented Leeton Shire artists.”

“I mention in my curator talk video that the environment has been a collaborator in my audiovisual works, so I was keen to learn how other Leeton Shire artists reflected our region. It proved to be a stimulating conversation topic as each shared details of connections to the countryside and how art had enriched their life.”

“Each was keen to see more people try art and discover the benefits for themselves and I appreciate the Leeton Art Society for providing opportunities for self-expression and supporting local art initiatives.”

The videos will be shared on the Leeton Art Society’s Facebook page during July, see

Our Riverina is supported by Create 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.

Fivebough at the Heart of Leeton

When Leeton artist Jason Richardson started discussing a collaboration with the Community Op Shop in 2019, they could not predict that 2020 would have other plans

After a delay, the result will be a display during July in the Shop’s main street windows on the theme of Fivebough Wetlands.

“A lot of people know Fivebough as a swamp and I get the impression that relatively few locals have visited it,” said Jason Richardson.

“It’s a beaut place to walk around and you can usually spot majestic pelicans and graceful black swans, as well as a variety of other birds.”

“The significance of the site is actually incredible and the Wetlands should be seen as a jewel in the Riverina’s crown. This project aims to raise the profile of the site and hopefully help Leeton find greater pride in Fivebough.”

That site has a global significance recognised by the United Nations’ Ramsar Convention.

In a comparison of 360 wetlands as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Waterbird Project, Fivebough recorded the highest number of waterbird species and it ranked second for the total number of species recorded in a single survey.

The display notes the Wetland is a “popular international travel destination” for the migratory birds it hosts and the human admirers who visit to see them.

“Back in 2019 when we began discussing developing an art project, we arrived at using the community at Fivebough as a metaphor for the role the Op Shop plays in the Leeton,” said Jason Richardson.

“There’s a proverb ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ and it prompted me to think how the Shop take pride in being a place for everyone in Leeton. In a similar way Fivebough hosts a diverse community too, with over one hundred bird species.”

Leeton Community Op Shop make their windows available for displays to promote our town and welcome contract via Facebook or phone 6953 5664.

Originally the Fivebough project planned to develop a display during the Easter school holidays to coincide with the street parade, but that idea had to be reworked for social-distancing after the emergence of Covid-19.

While the scale of the installation has shrunk, it will have a longer lifespan.

“As I was planning activities to coincide with the project, Kathy Tenison from Landcare asked if I’d considered using the display at Fivebough after it had been exhibited in Leeton.

“It shifted my medium from paste-ups to designing a banner that will be installed at the Wetlands and, when I liked the look of that, I ordered stickers to be printed as well.”

The vinyl bumper stickers will be available for sale at locations in Leeton for $2 each or you can contact Jason Richardson to order three for $5, including postage.

“It’d be great to see Leeton displaying their Fivebough pride because each sticker purchased will also be assisting with the development on local arts projects.”

Fivebough at the Heart of Leeton is supported by Create 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.

Matong Park after Red Earth Ecology

One year on from Red Earth Ecology’s urban regeneration weekend in Matong village and the park is thriving

In June 2019 Burners from Matong, the Riverina and interstate came together to revegetate private and public spaces using plants endemic to the area.

Here are recent images of the garden at Matong Park, which looks fantastic.

Thanks to the locals who watered and weeded to ensure the seedlings survived their first tough summer with very little loss of life.

The watering system installed by Coolamon Shire Council will benefit the area.

While Red Earth Ecology has had to postpone all activities for 2020, we will be back planting together in 2021.

Everyone deserves an arts degree

The other day I recognised a woman at the supermarket and decided to tell her how much I enjoyed a poetry event she'd run a while back

"Are you thinking about another?"

"I'm finishing year 12," she replied and I've been thinking about her since.

When I finished year 12 it was in the middle of a recession and uni courses were difficult to access. I ended up repeating the year and improved my tertiary entrance score by around 30% and got into an arts degree.

This year will see a similar increase in demand for degrees with the rise in unemployment and the Coalition Government have decided to raise fees, rather than invest in more university places.

I recall reading a piece that suggested that the state of the job market when you enter full-time employment shapes your earnings over your life.

It brings into focus that the current year 12 students might be battling to start a degree, saddled with increased debt for their studies, and will then continue to see those annual letters reminding them of how much they owe on their qualifications for decades to come.

I hope she continues to find some solace in poetry.

Hypnosis and The Lighthouse

Hypnosis (1904) by Sascha Schneider, which came to my attention from watching The Lighthouse (2019)

Robert Eggers, writer and director, has experience as a production designer and it was interesting to learn how much the artwork represented in the film also reflects other themes.

That's kinda satisfying for a former film studies major.

Here's a poster for the film showing how Schneider's image was interpreted for the story of two lonely men maintaining a large phallic symbol.

Painting with light

My youngest swirled a red and a blue torch under the full moon

I like the way the blue seems outside of the landscape, as well as the purple where they combine.

Image by Vadim Solovyov

Have you heard about

It's a beaut online exhibition curated by Dubbo artist Kim Goldsmith that includes a music video for 'Ghostly Melody' from my recent album SING, as well as a zine of machine-learning-generated poetry that I produced earlier this year.

Edit: After two weeks, Arteparties has now finished.

Hydrometer drinking

Sometimes drinking the hydrometer sample is tastier than the bottled beer

After my last beer meme got a big response in a brewing group on Facebook, I thought I'd make another.

Beer bubbles

Been brewing beer again recently and I'd forgotten the thrill of seeing the yeast spring to life

Meme template

Saw this cartoon this morning and thought it could be a good meme template

So here's a blank version for use at a meme generator.

Celebrate our goatse

Foretold by the stars

Got up early yesterday and looked for shooting stars

The Eta Aquariid meteor shower was described as "one of the best shows of the year" and I'd been looking for it during the week.

It was cloudy around 4am but improved by 5am, when I saw a brief red streak after standing outside for around 10 minutes.

Thankfully the weather has been warmer this week.

As I peed in the bushes I was impressed to see more than a dozen lights, each as bright as a planet, almost evenly spaced apart as they flew from the south to the northeast.

A dotted line across the stars.

It gave me a sense of wonder that I haven't felt in a while.

They weren't flying in the path that I usually see planes but that's how I described them.

I went inside and typed about the experience on Facebook.

Soon there was a flurry of comments telling me I'd seen satellites and it made sense.

On reflection I realised there hadn't been the flashing lights one sees under planes.

This morning I went and looked for the meteors again.

It's cloudy but I'm think I've identified that sense of wonder.

I'm reminded of a morning back in 2007, when I woke early and read the streamed descriptions of Steve Jobs launching the iPhone.

It gave me a sense of wonder of technological progress and a feeling that something remarkable has happened.

The comparison has been on my mind since.

For a while I had iPhones for work and found them almost irresistible, particularly for Words With Friends.

I've observed the way people will abruptly lose interest mid-conversation to look at their device and I still find it rude.

These days I sometimes get a surprised response when I tell people I don't have a mobile phone.

I see the impact the iPhone has had on lives and am now wondering about those satellites.

Is Starlink going to change the way I enjoy spending time with the night sky?

Mint and yarrow beer

There’s a lot of mugwort in the garden, so I thought I should brew

However, I’m short of bottles because there’s a huge stockpile from previous experiments.

Can’t remember when I brewed this one, which is marked as mint and yarrow.

Might’ve been 2018 and it tastes really good.

Dry bubbles with a mild refreshing tang.

Alcohol seems moderate.

Thinking I should brew with mint more often.

Butterflies love my mint

Some years ago I returned home from Burning Seed with a terrarium made from a plastic bottle and in it was a little mint plant

I’d built the terrarium at a workshop run by Di and Daryl at Mint Country Club, where they articulated the ten principles of Burning Man for an audience of mostly first-time Burners.

Di and Daryl are better known outside the Burner community for their attendance at country shows as First Light stilt walkers and they performed at Leeton’s show in 2019.

Anyway, I’ll cut a long story short, years later the mint now occupies a corner of my yard and is popular with a variety of insects.

As autumn begins the mint flowers are attended by bees, moths and an assortment of butterflies.

It’s surprised me how many types of butterflies flutter around.

At first I thought there were a few species, but after comparing my photos to Google’s search results, I think I’m up to around half a dozen now.

A photograph gives me the opportunity to identify their characteristics, like the spotted body on the Plain Tiger — which seems a misnomer.

And I didn’t know these small, bright yellow creatures are also butterflies.

I’ve said that nothing sorts out introverts and extraverts quicker than someone pointing a camera at them, and this seems to be true of butterflies.

The older-looking ones with faded and rough-edged wings will seem oblivious as I move increasingly closer to take photographs; while the pale ones are skittish and fly up over my head, sometimes circling around behind me to get back to the mint but other times continuing up over my house.

Another plant that seems to be popular with some insects is the basil I bought a supermarket

It’s worth getting a little punnet of living basil during spring, because if you treat it right it’ll supply you with fresh herb throughout the warmer months.

I found a caterpillar under one of the leaves this week, while picking the remaining leaves after the basil had flowered.

Love in the time of Corona

What will romance look like as social-distancing becomes part of life?

The impact of Covid-19 follows the conversation stirred by the #metoo movement about bodily sovereignty, which might be seen as a new beginning in recognising the negotiation of intimacy in western societies.

Now personal boundaries extend to within coughing distance of someone and a kiss might be construed as a serious form of assault.

Will flirtations retreat to the digital realm?