History is our story

Leeton Shire Council recently asked for input in "activating" local heritage and it has prompted me to look at connections between the past and present.

Heritage, like history, reflects stories about the past that continue to be meaningful in the present. The Shire's existence is tied closely with the development of the MIA. There are many links to explore, possibly via the people who made it a success.

One underappreciated example is Jack Brady, manager of the Leeton Cannery, who promoted rice as a crop. This was significant in making the irrigation scheme viable and continues to be relevant as Leeton is the home of SunRice.

Another example is the name Whitton comes from John Whitton, who oversaw significant developments in rail. This seems particularly timely with recent discussion of new inland rail connections and the surprise announcement of billions dedicated to this project in the recent Federal Budget.

The Shire's links to the Griffins elevates Leeton to an international standing, recognising developments in urban planning as well as the lofty ambitions of the Modern age. If you consider Walter Burley Griffin's inclusion of a bandstand and parks within the town design, you see how architecture recognised roles for culture and nature within society.

One more significant story comes from prior to the Shire, when early settlers in the Yanco (Yonco as it was called) region coexisted with the original inhabitants of the land. The Wiradjuri people fought to retain this landscape and there is increasing interest in the so-called Frontier Wars, such as the wreath unofficially part of the ANZAC ceremony in Canberra this year.

In the interest of promoting harmony as discussions continue to promote constitutional recognition of Australia's indigenous and possibly treaties, it would be great to recognise how a European negotiated an early treaty in what is now Leeton Shire.

Yonco was particularly significant in presenting a narrative of tolerance and respect. In 1838 it was the one remaining white settlement in our region during the Frontier Wars.

Historian Bill Gammage suggests the tolerance of both the Yonco land manager and local Wiradjuri links these events on either side of the carnage and that it is likely a form of treaty was negotiated. This seems particularly relevant in light of the recent push for a national treaty to follow the one that has begun in Victoria.

The trees shown in the photographs here are thought to be Wiradjuri scar trees that are currently unlisted in Leeton Shire.


Love these whimsical enhanced photographs.

Toasted Vegemite sandwich

Vegemite is an Australian icon and the salty paste has many applications, stock in curries for example.

My favourite place for Vegemite is on toast with olive oil but my collaborator Ben, who publishes music as Kelp, suggested I should include it in my next toasted sandwich video.

For a while I pondered what would go well with the black flavour, then my friend Ash proposed beetroot and it made sense. Australian hamburgers sometimes feature sliced pickled beetroot (or pineapple but not both, it's a contentious issue).

The result was tasty but I think there might be a better flavour combination.

Resistance is fertile

Been reading how electrical resistors became a symbol of protest in Poland.

When the Solidarity movement was getting started in Poland in the early 1980s, any obvious public display of sympathy with the nascent union was dangerous, and immediate arrest (perhaps with a beating) was certainly a possibility. Media were suppressed, tanks guarded television stations, propaganda and lies were the party line, and the very word ”truth” was bandied about in a meaningless Orwellian polit-speak. Taking back the language was as big a piece of the movement as was the trade union. The Solidarnosc badge having been banned, union supporters took to wearing a small resistor…an electrical resistor…the way we might wear a campaign button. According to a Finnish reporter, “School children removed electronic resistors from old radios and attached them as visible badges on their clothes.” Add to that, the symbol of the disassembled (silenced) radio. Add to that the fact that movement leader Lech Walesa was a shipyard electrician, so the “electrical connection” (sorry!) meant something as well.

I love the complex symbolism that comes from such a simple signifier.

It's great that it continues to be a cultural artifact, such as these earrings that I found via Etsy.

Elsewhere I read about people picking resistors based on the coloured bands.

Why stroll when you can roll?

One of those unfinished ideas on my desktop was a short tour video to show the size of the museum where I worked up until the start of the month.

I added a piece of music to it and it seemed to go much faster, even though I'd sped up the footage. Then it occurred to me that it's a bit like the first music video I made about 12 years ago, featuring a bike ride outside Wagga Wagga but without the dramatic ending.

Black day

Sad to read of Chris Cornell's passing, particularly now they're reporting he took his own life.

Songs like the one above are open about depression and that's why the song still resonates with me around 25 years after I first heard it.

Cornell singing seemed effortless and the way it maintains that fry up to the high range is really distinctive. Watching this recent version of 'My Wave' brought to mind memories of jamming this song with the Pongrass Bros in the mid '90s. I still love how the track opens with a part that comes in on the offbeat, so the first time when I heard the drums come in it really messed with my expectations.

Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger album was among the first CDs I bought with money from Christmas in 1991. It's still a phenomenal album and I expect a lot of people will now also revisit it.

The band had been one I'd wanted to hear since seeing 'Hands All Over' on Rage.

I loved that slow riffing of Soundgarden, like when I bought Badmotorfinger 'Rusty Cage' left me wondering if I was going to return the album, before hearing 'Outshined' and 'Jesus Christ Pose' -- which seemed incredibly heavy at the time and grabbed the attention of many liking thrash metal.

I saw Soundgarden play at the Big Day Out in 1994 but only for a few minutes as I was desperate to get a good spot for Primus, who were playing in the Hordern Pavilion.

My memory of the band was watching Cornell playing guitar and simultaneously hitting notes that seemed on the edge of a male vocal range. I recall thinking "how is that even possible?" before being left speechless while watching Primus as they dropped Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' into the middle of 'Pudding Time'.

Another musical highlight at a Big Day Out was seeing Rage Against The Machine play and Cornell would form Audioslave with members of that band, leading to the beautiful lament below.

Tom Morello's guitar work is exemplary too -- I think he's the Hendrix of our age.

If there's any message or meaning to be taken from Cornell's passing, for me it's that now is a good time to check in on the friends who I used to listen to Soundgarden with and ask how things are going.

Twice as many toasted sandwiches

See this toasted sandwich maker in action here!

The advantages of being a regional artist

Saw these observations from the Guerrilla Girls and thought some of it was relevant to regional artists.

The advantages of being a regional artist:
  • working without the pressure of success
  • not having to be in shows
  • having an escape from the world
  • knowing your career will involve doing something else
  • being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled “unique”
  • being stuck wherever you are
  • seeing your ideas adopted by other artists
  • running workshops to help people understand your work
  • getting a university degree so you can apply for a grant
  • being invited to talk at morning teas and community group meetings

An We -- cut-up poetry

Observe the result of moving around the words in half of a famous Australian poem

4000-year old dentistry

This image of very old dentistry fascinates me.

There's something about adorning teeth that's both functional and aesthetic that's both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Just yesterday I was talking with a neighbour about how people respond to teeth and remembered the glamour that seemed to affect me like a spell when she got her false teeth.

Put man back in jail

One of my final activities in the role of curator at Pioneer Park Museum was to promote the return of the man in the jail.

Earlier this year I noticed a visitor had made an unusual request in the Visitor Book. After raising the topic at morning tea, I was surprised to learn there was a history of a mannequin scaring people who look in one of the two jails at the Museum.

It's a simple thrill and one that the volunteers added to their list of projects.

The video embedded above also nicely rounded off my time representing Pioneer Park Museum on Instagram, marking the 300th post.

Spicy light and sound

Around 3000 people visited Pioneer Park Museum last Good Friday but only a few dozen saw the sound-activated projections I ran during the afternoon.

Enzo Ceccone's motorised mincer

In recent years the Italian tradition of making salami has gained increasing attention in Griffith as a result of the Festa della Salsicce (Festival of the Sausage), which is held at Pioneer Park Museum.

It is a laborious process to mince pork and then pack the meat into salamis. Usually it requires a full day, including butchering a pig before dawn.

Enzo Ceccone contributed to the preparation of hundreds of salamis, an activity which increased when he commissioned Yoogali Engineering to build an electric meat mincer during the mid-1970s.

“Dad used to do all his own salami-making,” remembered Nevio Ceccone. “Usually the machines are hand-cranked and he had one converted to electric. It saves a lot of time.”

“He used to go out and help others during the salami season,” which is during Autumn and early Winter. “Every weekend it was usually one or two” appointments to assist other families to prepare their salamis.

“As far as I know, he was they only person to have an item like this designed and made.”

On Facebook Denis Faganello remembered the machine “making salami with my dad”.

“He made salami for us year after year,” recalled Wal Snaidero. “I remember that mincer as a young kid.”

Nevio Ceccone recalled that his father Enzo would be “booked out for a month and a half” to make salamis in the region. His role in assisting other men to cure meat developed from the late 1950s and into the early 1970s, when the hand-cranked machine would be used.

The Ceccones had a routine that involved loading two tables onto the back of the EH Holden utility, as well as an array of knives and the meat mincer.

The collection of knives donated to the Musuem includes three which were replaced after many years of sharpening, as well as a homemade sharpening stone wheel that was used to hone the blades.

Family recipes for salami are guarded secrets. Nevio reveals only his father made pork salami with salt and some herbs, “but we don’t talk about them.”

Around six to seven pigs would be slaughtered to make salami for personal use, with another one to two each weekend slaughtered while assisting others.