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


#Notallmen

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

Tentacular!

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.

Broccoli pizza

I like that my son likes broccoli on pizza

This might've resulted from my toasted sandwich videos, where I challenged him to add something he wouldn't normally consider.

You can see there's also spinach on there and the base contains chia and hemp seeds.

Kimchi

Made a new batch of kimchi today

Mugwort porter

I've put on a new brew now the weather has cooled

This is a mugwort porter and the recipe is:

  • 18 litres water
  • 600g molasses
  • 1kg brewing sugars
  • a few inches of ginger
  • about half a dozen small lemonbalm leaves
  • one of those bags used for fruit and veg stuffed full of mugwort

I've submerged the mugwort in the wort, using a cotton bag weighed down with mugs.

The nettle porter last year worked well but had a bit much of alcohol for me.

Update: seems I've pushed my luck too far and the wort is infected. Guess it might've been the tea bag (an old flour sack) weighed down with three mugs.

Life drawing

Had another class last night and was happier with the results

We had a different model this time and some of the poses were more difficult to draw.

I usually start with the head and, when it wasn't the highest point, it seemed harder to figure out where to begin.

Also, when she lay down it seemed more difficult to judge proportions for the page.

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 
(Chorus)
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

Transcending

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.