My people

Last weekend we had a farewell for a couple of local burners who died late last year

Those deaths were in quick succession and otherwise unrelated, but the effect hit hard.

I stopped writing my daily haiku, which has been a practise for a couple of years now.

The event last weekend included burning a small effigy and catching up with people from the Burning Seed community.

It was rewarding in its own way to see so many open-hearted individuals without the usual craziness of Seed.

The result reminded me what a great community exists as a result of the burns and the gentle shape they're given with the ten principles.

NSW election

Ever since I started making memes to promote the recent meeting to address the shortage of doctors and Leeton Hospital, I've gained some joy seeing people sharing them

Today I made this comment ahead of the NSW election tomorrow and it's been distributed by a few friends on Facebook.

Campaign for rural equality

Yesterday around 100 people filled the auditorium at Yanco Club for the public forum about services at Leeton Hospital.

It's been remarkable to see what happens when a post on social media in January gains traction. People recognised their own experiences weren't isolated.

In response we've seen a campaign promise for capital investment in the Hospital and, this week, Murrumbidgee Local Health District have created a role called a Career Medical Officer.

There's still a long way to go to restore the decade-long decline in services but it's been really incredible to see what a small group of people can achieve in a relatively short amount of time.

Big guitar

This week I've been recording Australia's largest playable guitar in Narrandera

It's been a goal of mine for a few years now to work with this unique instrument.

Last year I got the support of Narrandera Shire Council to develop a grant application to see the guitar tuned, possibly for the first time in decades.

Tuning was completed by Chris Kschenka of Custom Music, who suggested we tune it up to G to improve audibility.

Working with Wasabi Jones of Highpoint Studios, who grew up in nearby Matong, the recordings will be made available as a multi-sampled instrument to realise music that would otherwise be challenging to perform on the big guitar.

We've used a variety of microphones, including my Barcus-Berry contact mic, an AKG PZM and Jones' Earthworks condensers.

You can see the PZM was placed inside the body of the big guitar.

The instrument is in need of some repairs but I used tape that wouldn't leave residue to hold down the warped frets.

Jones will likely re-pitch some notes to fill gaps -- although we are considering keeping some bum notes for character.

We ran the monitor out on the contact mic into a guitar amp to aid audibility of the lower notes.

The big playable guitar was made from plywood by Robert Palmer in 1988 to promote the Country Music Club of Narrandera.

The guitar took more than 300 hours to complete.

Due to its size, two musicians are necessary and the instrument is tuned down about two octaves below a regular guitar.

With a length of 5.82 metres, width of 2.02 metres and strings humming over 3.98 metres, the big guitar was recognised as the World’s Largest Playable Guitar and included in the 1991 edition of the Guinness Book of Records.

This record stood until 2000, when a team at the Academy of Science and Technology in Conroe, Texas, constructed a guitar 13.3 metres long and 5 metres wide.

Narrandera’s Big Playable Guitar remains the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thanks to Wasabi Jones and support from Narrandera Shire Council, Western Riverina Arts and Regional Arts NSW.

This project 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.

Men's rights

One more provocation from Grayson Perry's The Descent of Man

Burn it all away

If I were Elton John, then Alicia Boyd might be my Bernie Taupin

I adore her writing, particularly the imagery and vulnerability.

When I was considering lyrics for a chord progression I'd found on my ukulele, I turned to her blog.

The piece that grabbed my interest described smudging, which is an activity my beloved has been indulging a lot lately.

Then I recorded myself singing Alicia's words:

The next day, I listened back and thought how unlikely those words sounded coming from my mouth.

So I decided to write lyrics that incorporated Alicia's writing, as well as my own experiences -- particularly the role of Burns, which is where I met Alicia.
Light the fire and fan the flame
I sense the heat to feel the pain
draw the smoke that fills the air
smudge the image that I wear
To hit the bare self underneath
cough while trying not the breathe
the sacred fire blurs our world
allows my spirit to unfurl 
Watch our world burn away
from ash we will grow again
in the embers in the coals
we know the spark that’s burning in our souls 
Our bodies mask how we appear
look beyond the flesh veneer
know that I am your own kind
in my heart I do not mind 
In the dark we’re free to dream
black charcoal makes us clean
naked branches without leaves
makes the space to grow new trees
(Chorus, first verse, chorus, end)

Then I recorded a quick demo to hear how they sound:

This week I used this video for the Disquiet Junto project, which involved glitching.

One for women

“Men commit 90 per cent of violent crime… What if female taxpayers decided they were fed up of paying for this? It the government can repeal the so-called ‘Tampon tax’, surely they could ask men to pay for the consequences of the violent chaos — chaos that they almost exclusively cause.” 
Grayson Perry, The Descent of Man

Stay classy Facebook

This is what Facebook looks like if you're over 40 and male


Had a nice moment at life drawing last night

We were listening to music and Elton John's 'Song for Guy' came on, which normally seems a bit overdone.

Usually I hear the drum machine and the flanger effect and the percussion and think the song is overcooked.

Last night though, I was able to feel more absorbed in my drawing and for a brief moment forgot where I was.

Interesting to read just now that Elton wrote in the liner notes for the single:
"... As I was writing this song one Sunday, I imagined myself floating into space and looking down at my own body."

Last night I had a dream about having an out of body experience.

Life drawing

Last time I attended a life drawing class was in 1991

So I took the opportunity to join in when a class was run in Leeton last week.

I have almost no art supplies, so I raided the kids crayons and found the colours produced a good result.

A woman named Carol took pity on me too, offering a piece of charcoal.

I'm looking forward to the next class.

Promoting climate change

I've read the job of a newspaper editor is to reflect the biases of the community, which leads me to despair for Leeton

Your editorial in Friday's edition of The Irrigator, that kids should stay in school to understand the science of climate change rather than protest against the lack of action to address it, conflates two separate issues.

The first point is that science is largely conclusive: temperatures are rising and climate change is a fact.

Some might argue about the causes but it needs to be recognised that the fossil fuel industry is actively supporting dissenting opinions, including organisations such as the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) -- who are shaping Liberal Party policies.

Just look at how many members of the government are also members of the IPA.

These opinions from so-called "think-tanks" aim to muddy the waters of debate and further delay actions to address a looming disaster.

It is heartening to see NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair recently said the "sands were shifting" in the climate change debate, while acknowledging his views differ from "many of my colleagues".

Farmers are already seeing the impact of rising temperatures and The Nationals need to act.

The second point is that protest is an established method of putting pressure on governments.

For a disenfranchised group like teenagers, who are seeing their future threatened by climate change, protest is perhaps the most civil method available to effect an outcome.

Non-violent protest has a long history of promoting change and is clearly needed to correct our ineffective government.

Back to the Futura

Everyone knows what a difference the tone makes when making a statement

Which is why I've been thinking that all road signs should use Futura font.

Just look at how much nicer it is to read the "Activate Signals" sign compared to the one above with "STOP HERE" in all capitals.

Changing fonts could change lives!

My music videos

Video isn't the obvious medium for a musician

Sure, it has been argued that "video killed the radio star" and that's a catchy line in a catchy song.

And, admittedly, I initially studied video production to broaden my skills in marketing.

However I ended up shifting to publishing my music in videos as a result of necessity.

The first prompt came in 2011, when I started a project remixing playgrounds and initial feedback from friends was that they couldn't link the sounds to the locations.

At first I began editing video to match the remixed results, which was a laborious process.

Within months I discovered that Ableton Live could handle video, and began preparing the material by exporting the videos to contain the contact microphone recordings.

The loops I made in Live would be exported (at a lower resolution) and then composited together in video editing software, such as Motion and Final Cut.

(In recent years Apple disabled Motion and I've been steadfast in refusing to be blackmailed into upgrading.)

The second prompt came when Soundcloud disabled the groups functionality.

I was sensitive to the destruction of online communities after Ninja Tune removed the forum from their website, which had been a part of my life since moving to regional Australia near the start of this century.

It led me to make the decision to no longer use Soundcloud, and the obvious alternative at the time was Youtube.

These days I find more traffic on Facebook, although both services have been playing games with smalltime producers like me.

Anyway, the result is that I publish on both platforms and have built a huge collection of videos.

This body of work will contribute an exhibition later this year.

Case study

The Disquiet Junto is a regular activity and one that prompts me to develop most of my material.

In fact, I'm surprised to see this is my 174th video for the Junto and you can find my Disquiet Junto playlist here.

This week I've sampled a video that I shot outside Canberra's Questacon of my son playing a concrete xylophone/marimba-style instrument.

I used a small Panasonic camera and the audio was recorded using the onboard microphone, so it sounds a little brittle but the levels are good.

For the Junto this week I've used a number of loops from that source video to create a piece of music that reflects the idea of concrete wallpaper.

Each loop was individually exported from Ableton Live, then composited together in Final Cut.

For a Junto project last year using a single tone to create a piece of music, I used the same source material in a different way.

You can see that visually it has a different look, with the individual loops treated with duotone effects in Final Cut and then layered on top of each other with transparency.

Rendering the video takes a while but otherwise I move fairly quickly.

Sometimes the track and the video can be created in a single day, although often the video takes longer than the composition of the track -- which is something I feel is a weakness in the result.

I'm trying to remind myself that it's good to have a day or two and return to a piece with fresh ears.

Sometimes I will revisit a track, usually before it goes on Bandcamp, but more often I will develop new music using older material.

Response to Leeton's mobility plan

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on Council’s policies regarding cycling in the Shire at the January meeting

As mentioned, the focus outlined in the Delivery Program Operational Plan (DPOP) to promote “active leisure” fails to recognise cycling has been primarily a form of transport for over 200 years.

The policy to keep bicycles off roads misses an opportunity to promote an activity that improves health and results in Council seeking additional funding to duplicate existing infrastructure.

Leeton Shire is a great location for cyclists with many wide roads and a mostly flat landscape, as well as good weather.

It would be good to see Council’s policies recognise the value of cycling and work to create a safer environment for the community to pursue this activity.

An early draft of the 2012 Bicycle Plan contained a proposal for a bike lane on Oak Street.

Bike lanes would be cheaper to paint on roads than building bike paths and provide a faster surface for traveling on.

It would also contribute to improving safety through raising awareness of cyclists.

(Incidentally, at Council’s January meeting I asked why that 2012 document is still referred to as a draft in the draft PAMP and my question was misunderstood. My memory is that it went before Council.)

The draft PAMP presented clearly is limited in scope in discussing cycling due to Council’s DPOP.

Furthermore, it is disappointing the PAMP does not address the need to make the Childcare Centre and Preschool in Valencia St accessible to pedestrians.

This seems an oversight and I would welcome an explanation why they are not considered as important as other educational facilities.

It would also be good if Council could explain why my comment on the footpath at the junction of Railway St and Brady Way is also absent.

In addition to the PAMP questionnaire I have raised the issue of that missing footpath crossing the rail tracks outside the Rice Coop in emails on 7 June 2017, 24 February 2015, 10 September 2014 and 14 September 2012.

I am still awaiting an answer.

I would like to provide further comment on the draft PAMP, however much of the document is difficult to read.

Are you able to provide a higher resolution PDF?

It does seem a fruitless exercise, given Council’s acknowledgment there is limited funding to meet the proposals in the draft PAMP.

As a result it would be good to see Council adopt a more sensible approach that works within the limited means available to ensure a safe environment within the Shire.


By Tomi Ungerer

We All Have Wings

For the next fortnight I have an art installation at the Leeton Community Op Shop

This developed after I met Narelle at the Western Riverina Arts networking event in Leeton last year.

She'd outlined her ideas to develop a mural and I offered to assist with writing a grant.

Later I visited the Shop and she gave me a tour, pointing out the windows and how they host displays from local organisations.

Then she asked if I was interested in displaying something and I couldn't pass the opportunity, although I wasn't sure what it would look like.

While considering ideas I remembered the butterfly brooches I'd started collecting at the Op Shop when I noticed they had a few.

I'm now up to six butterflies.

In another conversation she'd mentioned it would be great to develop a public art piece that would make people want to take a selfie.

Around the same time I'd seen Council's draft graffiti policy and the ideas began to coalesce.

The final piece was when I found a friend on Facebook who is living in Prague and we'd discussed INXS' film clips, particularly 'Never Tear Us Apart'

The line "we all have wings" spoke to me of the potential for personal transformation.

After that I started seeing butterflies everywhere, particularly in memes and places I hadn't considered (such as a symbol for transgender expression).

I recognised the rich symbol they provided but wanted to keep the meaning ambiguous, so that it might mean a variety of things to viewers.

The window display features the words "We all have wings" with a picture of INXS' Michael Hutchence.

These were cut from reclaimed cardboard and sewn onto an old sheet, as I'd decided the Op Shop display should use recycled materials -- both as a nod to the nature of the business and because I didn't have a budget and am currently not earning an income.

Invasion Day

With Matthew Flinders in the news and Australia Day again raising discussion of colonial history, I'm reminded of the advice proffered by the French Commodore Baudin

As he set sail to also circumnavigate our continent, he wrote to Governor King in 1802 and used fairly strong diplomatic language:

"If you would reflect on the conduct of the natives since you first settled on their territory, you will see that the distance they keep from you and from your customs was brought about by the idea they formed of the men who wished to live with them. In spite of your precautions and the punishments you dealt out to those who mistreated them, they were able to discern your future projects, but, being too weak to resist you, the fear of your weapons has made them leave their land, so that the hope of seeing them mix among you is lost, and you will soon be left the peaceful possessors of their birthright, as the small number of them living around you will not last for long."

Chilli cucumber pickle

I like this recipe for a summer salad that also tastes good in stir-fries and soups

Take six of the Lebanese variety or around three of larger varieties, score their outsides with a fork and then cut in half or quarters (original recipe says to scoop out seeds but it seems a waste of water), then marinate for at least an hour with red onion (and chopped chillis if you're inclined) in a quarter cup of white vinegar with a tablespoon each of sugar and sweet chilli sauce.

Original recipe suggests adding coriander and roasted peanuts prior to serving.

Local graffiti policy

My council asked for comments on their draft graffiti policy and I thought it is a good start but would benefit from further consideration

Fundamentally graffiti is more than "an element of youth culture," just look at what we know of ancient societies from the graffiti messages that remain.

Obviously not all graffiti constitutes thoughtful communication and the “tagging” that seems to have prompted the drafting of the policy is a distinct issue.

However, a definition that recognises graffiti is illicit as well as public is important in addressing the behaviour.

A definition for street art would, in turn, recognise a variety of activities for legal expression by the community in public spaces.

As a result, I think a separate public art policy should address the availability of walls for designs and the community engagement which will foster a sense of ownership for those spaces.

This public art policy could recognise a variety of media, from non-destructive paste-ups (shown in pic) through to permanent paint-based work — or potentially extend into sculpture and other installations?

It would also look broadly at resources within the community for engagement and the promotion of art.

Furthermore, a broader discussion of public art would promote the pathways available to develop skills and that such activity is not limited to a youth demographic.

Promoting graffiti would be at odds with the criminal punishment that activity.

Developing opportunities for the community to exhibit their designs and other thoughtful communication through public art would be a good outcome.

DANCE music

It's interesting time to release a new album

The tracks on DANCE have accumulated over the last four years or so.

There was a lot of material to consider but the biggest challenge was overcoming my preconceptions, because it's part of a bigger sequence.

Around 15 years ago when I released my first album SHAKES, I thought it would be interesting if the titles for my releases formed a sequence.


(The titles in brackets appeared under other aliases.)

As the album appears to be approaching it's end as a popular format for music, I feel I'm racing to get the last out while they're still sorta relevant.

I really like shifting my approach to plan for an album, as it involves revisiting older material and gauging if my skills have improved enough to improve the exported song.

Then I collect material and look for ways to incorporate elements, particularly when two or more tracks combine to create something bigger and better.

I've just been reading how Bach did something similar and incorporated earlier works into his later material.