Comparative mythology

This piece by Detritus Tabu for the Disquiet Junto this week is very funny and a beaut discussion of comparative mythology in how the conversation drifts from Christmas to Star Wars. Makes me wonder about the significance of the blockbuster openings at holiday times.

It's also a beaut for capturing one those conversations with kids where the sense of wonder and digression is surprising.

My response to the Junto was to accompany sounds from my neighbour's party with samples of festive music.


Visitors to Australia during summer will often ask the origin of the drone heard in bushland. Cicadas make a buzzing drone to attract a mate, after sometimes spending years buried as grubs.

Here's what a mature adult cicada looks like and here's the exoskeleton they leave behind during metamorphosis.

Earlier this year I offered my haiku poetry to Marco at Naviar Records and he selected a poem about cicadas.

I was stoked to hear musical interpretations, such as Lee Rosevere's, as well as improvising my own piece about the soundtrack to an Australian summer.


Oscar sings BitFinity

This year it was fun to start recording with Oscar. We recorded a few Smooth McGroove-style covers of videogame soundtracks and, yesterday, this video based on BitFinity's Waluigi-themed Carol of the Waa.

Haiku over screen door

My interests in music and poetry come together in different ways. Sometimes I write haiku and sometimes I write music responding to haiku and sometimes I write lyrics for songs, which I consider a form of poetry.

Last week I had an idea to write lyrics in the form of a haiku for a Junto project. It followed from a week where I'd written a haiku most days and my partner sang the verse for me, accompanying a melody played on the bass.

The Junto version (below) ended being a bit of a mess, but the remix (above) turned out good. Both use an old and previously unused recording of a screen door from another Junto.

Level up

We're nearing the point of looking backward, so I thought I'd comment on a couple of things that changed for me in 2015.

In previous years I've felt somewhat dismissive about the funding of artists. It was an opinion that developed from conflict with people who felt their art was important because they got money from the government to make it.

I've never wanted to put myself in a position where something external to me determines the enjoyment I get from making music and the like, so I'd always taken the view that if I couldn't do it with the resources I had then I wouldn't do it.

Then, earlier this year, there was an opportunity to apply for funding for a project and that was successful. And, soon after, I was knocked back from attending a workshop and realised I could organise my own workshop if I sought funding.

This week I heard that this funding application to run the workshop in 2016 was successful, so I can see there's been a significant change in my attitude towards funding.

I think it's important since I will be looking to develop more funded projects through my role at Pioneer Park, which was another significant development for me this year.

Julie Montgarrett at Wagga Art Gallery

Julie Montgarrett's exhibition at the Wagga Art Gallery has many beautiful pieces lurking in the semi-darkened room, including the piece that reminds me of passing cars that was at the Grong Grong Creative House in 2013.

Portrait by Jo

Review On Common Ground

Last October RealTime Arts asked I write about The Cad Factory's On Common Ground, an explosion of art in Narrandera's Common.

That review is now online and here are photos from the Saturday night performance of The Haunting and the sculptures on the Sunday. Please see the file names for artist and title details, cheers.

2015 on Bassling's Youtube

Excuse me but this is a quite a good collection of music videos, if I do write so myself. I'm pleased with the diversity of styles and instruments, as well as visuals since watching disembodied hands can start to feel a bit weird.

Not in my name

This haiku by Murakami Koji was shared by Naviar Records and was an opportunity to record a song I'd been thinking about since Easter.

The lyrics reflect on a sort of paternalism, linking the personal to the political:

When you see injustice
when you feel pain
when conflicted in a way
with feelings of shame

Don’t steal for me
Don’t kill for me
Not in my name

All it takes to acknowledge
and to step away
make it clear you are not at fault
take a step to clear your name

Don’t steal for me
Don’t kill for me
Not in my name

When your country claims a right
when your friend starts a fight
can not stand by unmoved
support inaction proves

Trans-Pacific Partnership favours US corporations

After years of secrecy Australians are now able to read the text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. One of the key concerns for our democracy is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, which allow our country to be sued for policies that harm foreign business interests.

Despite the claims of Andrew Robb, Minister for Trade and Investment, there is no exemption for public health from ISDS litigation. Article 9.15 of the investment chapter explicitly makes such matters dependent on their conformity with the TPP itself:
"Nothing in this Chapter shall be construed to prevent a Party from adopting, maintaining or enforcing any measure otherwise consistent with this Chapter that it considers appropriate to ensure that investment activity in its territory is undertaken in a manner sensitive to environmental, health or other regulatory objectives."
That is, unless Australian health regulations are consistent with the TPP, they can be subject to a lawsuit brought about by a multinational corporation under ISDS.

The result will be that corporations will pursue litigation and add to their statement of claims that the policy change they are seeking compensation for is inconsistent with the TPP.

Australian policy will be further limited by the annex on expropriation, meant as a guide to what can be the subject of ISDS processes:
"Non-discriminatory regulatory actions by a Party that are designed and applied to protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety and the environment, do not constitute indirect expropriations, except in rare circumstances."
The TPP is an assault on Australian democracy. Once again I ask that our local member Michael McCormack ensures that the Productivity Commission are able to review and report on the text of this agreement in advance of it becoming law.

Scenic view in Griffith

Griffith’s Scenic Hill is a patch of bushland elevated above the city.

On my first visit I saw the Hermit’s Cave where Valerio Ricetti retreated from a society that had left him disillusioned. Not much remains of his solitary settlement but a cave that smells faintly of urine and a view of acres of citrus as well as encroaching suburbia.

The next time I saw Scenic Hill was from the air. A myriad of reddish dirt tracks cut through dark, sparse bushland.

More recently I’ve begun to drive up the Hill a few times a week to my new workplace at Pioneer Park Museum. After driving much of the way between Leeton and Griffith at 100 kilometres an hour, the winding roads through Griffith feel sluggish at 50.

While the distance between the last house on the Hill and the Park near the top is short, it’s not uncommon to see a kangaroo.

After parking my car under a Grey Box tree, I walk through the large iron gates and past the various historic and recreated buildings I can see more Box and Cyprus Pine. My arrival at 8am means I am usually alone in the car park. It allows me to remain in my own thoughts but also to look around and appreciate the landscape.

A month or so ago there was a complex fragrance on the soft breeze. The sweet of the geraniums in the Park gardens but a spice like anise too. I was excited to find native flowers, a Chocolate Lily and an Austral Bluebell as well as many Sticky Everlasting Daisies. There were also many feral Poppies adding a different shade of green, contrasting on the red dirt.

At present the rains of a wet winter and a wetter than usual spring have given the understory of weeds below these native trees a similar shade of green to the kikuya grass on the lawn outside Myall Park Hall, where many local festive occasions are celebrated — including the popular salami festival.

Last Monday there was a beautiful mist hanging in the trees, either low cloud or evaporation as the sun beamed onto the soaked Box bark. The rains this week revealed new stones in the unsealed road around the Park, as well as shifting red dirt down them toward drainage points.

One of the joys of arriving to work is hearing the local birds singing their morning songs. As Griffith is about as far west as I’ve travelled in New South Wales, these songs are often unfamiliar. There’s one that rings one note like an old telephone, the usual excited chirps of Sparrows and the bullying chatter of Apostle Birds.

The other sound is the wind-powered water pump groaning with each rotation. It’s a sound heard in my dreams soon after starting work here a couple of months ago. Some days I hear it long after I’ve driven down the Hill and through Griffith toward the turn to Leeton. I catch the drawn-out squeak echoing in my subconscious and force myself to listen to the sound of the car until it disappears.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is undemocratic

Seeing our local federal member promoting the value of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) raises the question why the text isn't available to the Australian public?

If it's so good for Australia, why has it been negotiated in secrecy -- unless you're a US corporation?

Australian politicians have only had access to a draft of the text if they sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is undemocratic in my opinion.

If Michael McCormack is so sure it's a good deal, how about he ensures the Productivity Commission are able to review the document in advance of it being voted on?

Those who watched as the US Free Trade Agreement was pushed through Parliament with undue haste will be watching to ensure the same process is not repeated. That agreement has been shown to have offered very little benefit to Australia.

Tricks and treats this Halloween

Leeton’s Lillypilly Winery is teaming up with local musician Jason Richardson to host a Halloween party from 7pm on Saturday 31 October.

“It’ll be fun for all ages with creative pursuits, music and a spooky story,” said Mr Richardson.

“Traditionally it’s the time of year when spirits visit our world and Lillypilly are very kindly offering a complementary wine tasting for visiting adults, which should help raise spirits.”

The event will provide a venue for people who want to dress-up to mark the occasion.

“As a parent I know how much kids want to get into a costume and roam the streets in search of sugar. It got me thinking that it would be much better to provide an event where families could gather and share the thrill.”

Entertainment will include stories, hands-on activities, a movie and more.

“In previous years I’ve screened a silent movie in town as well as projecting my music videos and the film for this event will bring together both, with a silent film suitable for kids that I’ve created a soundtrack from music written and recorded in the last year or so.”

‘The Lost World’ is a classic film from 1925 that is based on a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, better known for writing the Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s remarkable for being the first feature to use stop-motion animation, as well as being the first film to be shown to airline passengers.

“I’m also looking forward to telling people about the troll that once lived in Leeton,” said Mr Richardson. “It’s a little-known fact that he was directly responsible for the creation of Fivebough Wetland.”

Learn more at Lillypilly Winery from 7pm on 31 October.

Burroughs adding machine

Over a century ago Burroughs were the biggest name in 'adding machines'. These days they're better known for the grandson of their inventor, author William S. Burroughs, who was one of the most "culturally influential and innovative artists of the 20th century".

The family fortune ensured he received a Harvard education but activities like heroin and homosexuality led him to associate with Beat Generation writers and '60s counterculture, while collaborations with bands like Nirvana showed his continuing influence up to his death in 1997.

The 'cut-up' technique made popular by Burroughs remains potent, with musicians like Beck and Radiohead using it to great effect. Pretty cool story for a calculator, hey? Gave me a thrill when I found one at Griffith Pioneer Park Museum.

The media could not be played

Given the fractious relationship that the previous prime minister had with ABC journalists, it seemed somehow ironic to see this message as the new PM approaches the end of his 'honeymoon' period.

Weddings across time

This week Pioneer Park hosted a wedding and I also helped Heather Waide install a new exhibition in the Roundhouse that features a wedding dress made for Jessie Hogarth (nee Mather) in 1958.

Griffith seamstress Myrtle Crockford of La Vogue worked without a pattern to create the dress, based on a photograph Jessie had from a newspaper.

Heather has contributed many hours to Pioneer Park over the years, including restoring a number of dresses that feature in the National Dress Registry.

It's been great learning about their restoration and conservation from her.

Peanut butter and jam muffin

This muffin is reputedly free from gluten and tolerant to vegans, as well as being gluttony inducing. I've had three this morning.

Pioneer Park

Started my new role as Curator at Pioneer Park in Griffith this week.

It's a fascinating museum with a diverse collection, including dozens of historic buildings that allow you to literally step back in time and a number of dresses on a national register. There's also an array of agricultural machinery, which underscores the incredible effort that went into building the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

The site also features trees with scars from indigenous pioneers, such as this outline of material that was probably taken to build a canoe.

When I first visited the Park I had mixed feelings about some of the replica buildings. On one hand I could see they showed a perspective on the past, but on the other it seemed inauthentic to present a scaled-down version.

Then I heard the story about the first building brought to the site when the Park was started in 1971. Ray Rathbone brought his grandfather's home from Victoria, which includes an in-ground pantry and other features from pre-Federation Australia.

The house was built in 1872 and, nearly a century later, was carefully deconstructed and shipped piece-by-piece to be reconstructed on the hill above Griffith.

Vandals burnt it to the ground.

I'd imagine the loss of the first building for a proposed museum was a major blow. Yet the pioneers of Pioneer Park were not deterred.

Using the detailed notes kept by the removalists, they recreated the homestead.

The result is a replica of an old home and I think the story illustrates how the tone was set for Pioneer Park's presentation of the past.

I think I'm going to enjoy exploring this history and sharing the stories I learn.

This is not the validation you are looking for

Sometimes I end up on social media writing shit for attention. Those times I with I'd thought longer about those words.

I like the idea that 'a friend's eye is a good mirror' but their Facebook wall is not.

Farewell from Elm Street

For a few years I've been meaning to take a photo at Leeton's Elm Street that references the horror movies that share this name with a nightmare.

Learning today that Wes Craven had died motivated me to put on my Freddy glove and wave goodbye to the horror movie director.

I remember first hearing about the Elm St movies from a friend. It wasn't until 1989 that I was 15 and old enough to see the third film in the cinema and it gave me nightmares. I saw the earlier films later and then, when studying film at university, I began to think about the 'return of the repressed' theory.

This idea suggests that at the centre of horror movies is something even more sinister. A reading of the film Psycho would conclude that Norman Bates' relationship with his mother is even more troubling than the murders attributed to her.

With the Elm Street movies it was the inference that Freddy was killed by a vigilante mob for doing something very disturbing to kids.

I don't know if I've got the Freudian-influenced film theory right, but Craven showed his understanding of the horror genre masterfully with the Scream movies. These took the 'slasher' film cliches as a textbook for explaining the genre to the audience, while thrilling them with the visceral joys of being scared shitless.

It's no surprise to learn via Craven's wikipedia page that the director also worked in porn, as the genre shares with horror a visceral reaction in viewers.

Numbered for the beast

Things don't look good when your video upload stalls at 66.6%. It came through in the end though.

Sexism in Wagga

Frightening to whom? Not only is it a bad headline but both it and the subheading are sexist. The Daily Advertiser needs to try harder.


The reach of Instagram continues to surprise me. At work our annual report this year showed a massive increase in the audience and, when I was provided with a mobile phone, I was encouraged to use the service to promote our activities.

This week I was surprised to discover the local newspaper had used a couple of images from my personal account on their website. These were attributed to my account name, yet it felt like a violation of sorts -- particularly the pic of my daughter. So I've set my account to private.

A friend tells me that Instagram's fine print for using the service includes claiming copyright of all images uploaded and potentially profiting from their use as stock photos. So I guess I'm lucky the media gave me any credit, especially since they haven't when I've sent them photos in the past. Then again, I've used their images occasionally without attribution too, which is a violation of copyright I believe.

Anyway, the practice of old media collecting material off social media to re-package as their own content is the beginning of the end for journalists. Since they've been re-writing media releases and given up researching stories, they're now going to be replaced by automated content.

The question is how long before the readers that pay for this content realise that they're also supplying it?

Richard Flanagan doco

Richard Flanagan: Life After Death from Jack Cocker on Vimeo.

My friend Anna recommended this documentary about Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan and it's beaut.

I've only read Flanagan's essay on Gunns for The Monthly, which is discussed around halfway, and it's got me interested in reading more of his work.

My burning idea

Many Burners know that empty feeling after returning from a Burn.

It’s a longing felt on return to our “real” lives, after the joy of being surrounded by people partying and embracing the 10 principles as a way of life.

It’s no wonder that “decompression” events are popular in many cities to reunite Burners but how else might we stoke the flames that are kindled with each Burn?

In the following I’ll outline a few thoughts and propose a way to promote the principles in our lives.

For many attending a Burn it is a transformative experience. Transformative experiences are sometimes described as Rites of Passage and traditionally mark a shift such as that from childhood to adulthood. The term is an Anglicisation of rite de passage, which was the title of an influential work by Arnold van Gennep.

Gennep identified three phases in a rite of passage: separation, liminality and incorporation.

Attending a Burn requires travel, which separates us from our daily lives. Liminality is often associated with an inversion of norms and I suggest that experiences at a Burn fit this description, whether it’s one of a range of activities or simply experiencing the gift economy.

For me the gift economy was a pivotal moment at my first Burn and one I’ve observed in others. That moment when you’re surprised by being given something creates good will and a desire to return the favour. Such unbalanced reciprocity is usually only is shown between people who already have a close relationship and has the effect of breaking down barriers between attendees at a Burn event.

It seems to me that Burn events would benefit from recognition of the last of the three stages: incorporation.

The traditional view of rites of passage, such as customs for recognising adulthood, saw the experience as fundamental to human growth. A child would leave their family, undergo a custom that reinforced key beliefs of their society and return to their people, who would recognise that a transformation had taken place.

The final step of incorporation is obviously not something we can expect from our “real” lives but it is one that can be promoted at a Burn event. At present those attending a Burn are greeted but often not farewelled and I think this would be a beneficial addition.

What I propose is that a group of ‘farewellers’ would encourage Burners to take the positivity of their experience back into their communities, particularly the gift economy.

I think an ideal mechanism for this would be farewellers arming each Burner with a variety of vegetable seeds and encouraging them to grow produce for a meal to share with their neighbours as a way of building their local networks and continuing to incorporate the Burner principles in our lives.

The idea would be that Burners go home, grow food and invite their neighbours over for a meal. This would encourage the growth of local communities, building trust and support among those who are geographically close to us.

This would promote some of the 10 principles in our ‘real’ lives and, I hope in doing so, keep the flame alive after the Burn.

Racism in Australia

Adam Goodes is a footballer who didn't back down when confronted with racism, so it's surprising to see the level of denial that has rippled through Australian society as a result.

I think Neel Kolhatkar has a wry perspective on this debate. I'd like to see him live but I'd want to be close enough to see his details. He's a funny guy.

Open hearts

Whenever I tell a woman I’m in an open relationship they often ask “Does your partner know this?”

It’s a weird assumption as it was my partner who initially changed our Facebook relationship status to read ‘Open’.

I remember feeling uneasy when it first happened. After she went away one weekend and I found the computer was still logged in to her account, I changed our relationship to ‘Engaged’ and was entertained by the mixture of congratulations and disbelief. She was very annoyed when she came home and changed the relationship status back to ‘Open’. It was, at the time, a minor disagreement but one completely in harmony with our relationship, which often doesn’t conform to expectations.

A bit over a decade ago, when she fell pregnant with our first child, I proposed to her and was surprised that it took a few days to get an answer. She explained that marriage would undermine her feminist principles. As a feminist myself I respected her decision and came to love her more for it, as I appreciate her perspective can be challenging at times. In fact, when we first met her views scared me. I’d never met anyone as far to the left on the political spectrum as her, despite going to a metropolitan university during the ‘90s.

During our courtship she pursued me for months and I still remember, after I was finally conquered, the electricity of brushing her smooth soft skin and knowing she was ‘the one’.

The idea there might be more than one is a reasonably popular one, judging by the number of people who have affairs. I mean, in previous relationships I’ve strayed. At one point I was juggling a few relationships, which was exciting but time-consuming and inevitably led to conflict and heartbreak.

I’m fortunate enough to be found attractive by a few people and, in part, it’s the idea that temptation can be enhanced by sneaking around that underscores her logic to make it an option to see other people.

Another attraction for her is resisting the social expectation of monogamy and it’s this non-conformity that makes my partner all the more attractive to me. She’s an original thinker and one who continues to inspire me.

Couples often quote Kahlil Gibran in their commitment vows, such as “Let there be spaces in your togetherness”.

It is clear to me now that our relationship takes a very liberal interpretation of his subsequent lines: “Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.”

I think our love transcends the constraints expected of relationships and, in many ways, it exemplifies our belief in valuing ethics over morals.

Nothing Is Useless outside Wagga

Spent the weekend in Oura working with Realartworks on a new exhibition of their Nothing Is Useless project, which will be in the Wagga Art Gallery in October.

Last year I traveled to Lismore and experienced the Useless workshop which developed work for the first project and, in 2012, I contributed to a soundtrack that accompanied an earlier exhibition in Wagga.

There were many inspiring people involved and I really enjoyed jamming and conversing with the other musicians. This braille-writer instrument was really cool and percussive in a flatulent sorta way.

Also enjoyed this device for scanning and speaking text. It was very musical as the pitch could be adjusted to tune a heavily reverberant voice into a kind of resonator effect. When the speed was increased and the keyboard input was overloaded it glitched in a glorious way.

I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes together with a TARDIS-like console currently under construction for exhibition visitors to explore the various pieces of hacked and surplus gadgetry, while reflecting on obsolescence and consumerism within our capitalist society.

Memories were meant to fade

This morning I was musing on Facebook's Memories function. I really despise it every day when it suggests I have memories to view and share.

My sister calls it "Facebook's memory replacement service". I don't know why it bothers me but I concur with the sentiment in the film Strange Days (1995), where Mace says "Memories were meant to fade." It feels backward-looking to want to emphasise memories. I think it's a function of Facebook pandering to people's narcissism but maybe it's an extension of their data-mining?

The scene above from Strange Days above also features the "Right here, right now" used by Fatboy Slim to great effect, see below.


When I first attended Burning Seed there were a few hundred people. Then when I last attended Burning Seed there were a few thousand people. So it was fun to attend the Queensland regional burn event, Modifyre, earlier this month with only a few hundred. Above are some highlights.

Feather and Leaf at Roxy Gallery in Kyogle

On the way to the opening of Feather and Leaf, an exhibition led by Rebecca Tapscott which also features work by friends, I reflected on her exhibition in Wagga Wagga nearly a decade earlier.

Tapscott’s paintings share bold use of colour and landscape, often as backdrops for wry observations. In the artist statement on the wall in Kyogle she commented on the blend of colour and light, offset with an insight.

For example, at the 2007 exhibition at Charles Sturt University’s HR Gallop Gallery in Wagga there was a painting of a Bali scene in which a topless tourist shared the frame with a topless Hindi goddess. It captured a clash of cultures in a view still poignant from the bombings of 2005.

In the Kyogle exhibition this year there’s a painting of a large mob of crows flying above a landscape that reminds me of Wagga. In the artist’s statement Tapscott linkd this murder scene to the tally of women killed this year as a result of domestic violence.

Birds featured in the work of Tapscott’s friends and co-exhibitors Sonja Karl, Christina Reid, Jill Runciman and Erin Nolte. Painting dominated but other media were used, such as print. The greatest variety of mediums was demonstrated by Tapscott, who worked with ceramics in mugs and broaches, as well as a beaut metal cockatoo.

In her opening address, Ruth Tsitimbinis spoke of the local arts throughout the hills and valleys of the region. The diversity and variety in the birdlife in the exhibition formed a vibrant menagerie. The range of representations was highly stimulating.