Friday, December 14, 2012


When I was growing up teasing was seen as a way to toughen up children to prepare them for life. It was only later when I was living in Europe did I realise that teasing was not universal and that societies without teasing produced more secure citizens. When you think about it rationally humiliating children is bound to have deleterious effects.

Prank calls seem to be most prevalent in societies where teasing is rife, societies which also have the biggest problem with bullying. Australia is trying to deal with bullying in schools but I think the tragic results of the recent 'prank' call shows that we need to tackle the issue on a whole-of-society basis.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The so-called 'prank' call

When I was in Slovenia in September the economic downturn was biting and an art dealer told me that everyone would prefer to live in Australia. I looked around at the Slovenians sitting in the relaxed but arty coffee shops or wandering along the picturesque streets and was at a loss to explain that it wasn't all roses in Australia. Now the so called Kate Middleton 'prank-call' has provided the explanation for me.

Several years ago a barista making my coffee in Sydney's Hyde Park told me he used to work at Sydney Airport. I told him how much I liked the coffee at the Italian coffee shop there and he said “It used to be good I know but it has changed. All the shops have been bought by Canberra politicians."

Those were the years when John Howard was Prime Minister and Max Moore-Wilton was head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Some time later I read that Moore-Wilton had become CEO of Sydney Airport and I remembered the words of that barista.

Sydney Airport became a place everyone wished they could avoid. Passengers were (and still are) forced to walk for miles around cosmetic/alcohol counters before boarding their flights, stale food (I have friends who have become very sick after eating it) is served by harried and obviously low-paid worker and short term parking areas for those picking up incoming passengers was abolished and replaced by threatening men in fluro-jackets who forced everyone into astronomically priced parking stations. It became the worst possible welcome to Australia for overseas guests and Sydneysiders were very unimpressed.

Now Moore-Wilton is in the news again as Chair of Austereo which owns 2Day FM, the Sydney radio station that played that so-called "prank" that has caused the death of a British nurse. 2Day FM management vetted and approved the 'prank' call. Local radio shock-jocks, the type of people who put out mis-information (many are climate-change-deniers) and encourage others in their prejudices, are not only tolerated here but are popular and have been able to push the boundaries of good-taste with impunity.

There are a lot of Australians who are embarrassed and now appalled at their behaviour. When I voted in a Sydney newspaper's poll about the 'prank' (before the nurse's death) I was one of 61% who said they thought the hoax was silly and juvenile.  This large swath of the population who finds such 'humour' distasteful has been disenfranchised.  You are regarded as a poor sport if you complain and are bullied into silence. (Try ringing up one of the shock jocks to put a reasoned point of view and you will see what I mean.) Let's hope this changes but I am not very hopeful. Commentaries in the newspapers find the death tragic but are being very quick to point the finger at everyone but themselves ... the hospital ... the British Press ... etc etc.  The chip on the shoulder mentality is alive and well.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sydney by NIght

Sydney Opera House (left) and Harbour Bridge at midnight

Yesterday was very windy but by midnight when the host of a Christmas party I attended took his guests onto the rooftop of his apartment building to look at the view the wind had died down. The evening was balmy, the view spectacular and we remaining guests lounged along the railing watching the lights of a huge ocean liner as it moved along the harbour.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

A new laptop

My laptop died. It was bought in 2007 so some people would say it was old .... but not me. In the interim I have been using my travel EeePC. You can do a whole lot on these little machines, but they do have their limits.

Last week I got a new laptop a Dell Inspiron 17R Special Edition that reviews said has whizz bang insides in its rather old fashioned exterior. Certainly it is enormous and you wouldn't want to carry it far. It is also fast ... and hopefully can deal with video editing software reasonable well. We shall see.

EeePC (left) and Dell 17" (right)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Brisbane Waters

I made a card from a recent painting of the Brisbane Waters. Not that anyone buys cards any more because postage has become so exorbitant it makes you think twice about sending cards. Perhaps I should figure out how to make my own e-cards. Now there's an idea.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Port Navalo .... in 1981

 I have just found a couple of little sketches I made in 1981 in Port Navalo in France. We spent a very happy family holiday there.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sydney by night.

Sydney Opera House
This is where I have been for the past three days - and late into the night. The Sydney Opera House is a wonderful place to work, especially when you come out at night to a view like this.

The photos were taken on my Android mobile phone. It is amazing what sort of quality these small devices can produce but you have to  keep still or you just get lots of lines of lights.

Photographs of city lights usually make me feel a bit lonesome because that is how I view skyscraper cities but I know and love Sydney  so when I look at the photo below I get conflicting  messages. Weird.
Sydney at night .... view from the opera house

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Photographing Chickens

Photographing chickens is worse than painting cats .... they move faster thqn you can click the button.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Richard Wagner Greeting Card

Next year is Richard Wagner's 200th birthday and I have been working on some Wagner-related art for a 2013 exhibition. I also made some Wagner related greeting cards from etchings I made in Dunedin.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Maribor Musicians online

It took a little while but at last my paintings of the 2012 Maribor Music Festival are online.
See them at
Thomas Demenga plays Cello
in the Aloysius Church in Maribor
Painting in Maribor (Photo Dejan Bulut )

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Simon O'Neill sings Puccini's Nessun dorma

If you paint a portrait of someone they become part of your life. I have pictures of several of my portrait candidates hanging in my studio and view them with affection.

One is a portrait of the tenor Simon O'Neill.   He has a wonderful voice (see the video) and as you can see in the film about him understudying Placido Domingo at the Met in 2003, he is friendly, outgoing and humble . Just a really nice fellow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Historic Clifton Gardens

Not many parts of historic Sydney have managed to save themselves from the wreckers ball but one small gem that remains is the historic wharf at Clifton Gardens. There is a cupboard sized cafe there and live music on Sundays. The perfect spot to relax away from the madding crowd.
Clifton Gardens Beach Cafe
Beach Cafe

Clifton GArdens Beach

Friday, November 09, 2012

Bottom of the rainbow

It is raining hard here but in bright sunshine, so we must be right at the bottom of the rainbow. Now where is that pot of gold?
Bright sun, rain

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Hooray, the Kookaburras are back!

They sit in the big gum tree next to my bedroom and laugh before the first rays of dawn peep over the horizon. Then after dusk but before it is completely dark, there they are again cackling away in their tree.

Kookaburras - watercolour
Kookaburras are a variety of Kingfisher and it is said that although they don't migrate but they do expand their range in winter to find food. I am happy to have them in my neighbourhood again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Yachts on Brisbane Waters

Tuesday's Central Coast Art Group 'paint out' was at Empire Bay where the only shade was at the table fishers use to gut their catch. Even that shade was disappearing fast, so rather than start a new painting I decided to add some yachts to a painting I'd started around the bay at Wagstaff several months ago. The result is an amalgam of both places but very typical of all the bays on Brisbane Waters.

There were two fishers sharing the shade and they discovered a large turtle camouflaged among the water weeds near the shore.
I heard one of them say to the other, "Good bit of bush tucker eh?"

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Melbourne Cup, 2012

I went to a 'paint out' with a local art group this morning but instead of the usual 10-15 participants only one other person was there. Ah, the Melbourne Cup!

It reminded me of my first experience of Australia on the first Tuesday in November. I was in Sydney city and wondered why the streets were suddenly so bare. Could there have been a national emergency? Then I discovered that Australia grinds to a halt at 3pm once a year for a horse race. Today an outsider won the race so there was a good payout and no doubt its backers will be partying all night.

On the way to victory

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bravo Jim Cooper

Jim Cooper has just won the Portage Prize, the premier ceramics prize in New Zealand. Congratulations Jim!
Jim Cooper (photo from the Otago Daily Times)
I thought clay was boring until I had Jim Cooper as a teacher. He is not only a wonderful ceramic artist, he is an 'original';  a man who does things his way, who is more generous than anyone I have ever met and who taught me a lot about art while I was messing with clay. I learned to look at art differently in Jim's class. I realised that art can be whatever you want it to be.

USA super storm

Watching the East Coast of America with bated breath. So where are the US election voices talking about climate change?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tiny potatoes from the no-dig garden

In August shortly before leaving home for 5 weeks I created a no-dig garden (newspaper laid on the grass covered by some compost and blood and bone, then lots of mulch) behind my garage and planted some potatoes. Early in October when I got back home I was pleased and rather surprised to see that the potatoes had sprouted and were still alive despite the drought.
Tiny potatoes .. smaller than they look here
I had not had much compost so they were growing on whatever the worms could create for them under their mulch blanket. Some plants died early and today I gathered up the tiny baby potatoes that had formed under one of those plants so I could plant some lettuce seedlings. I cooked these tiny potatoes, some only a couple of cm long and as I peeled them I thought how only the very wealthy or the home gardener would get to eat such tiny-potato deliciousness.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Real flowers

What is it about fresh flowers that is so captivating? Some artificial flowers are so realistic nowadays that you have to touch them to see if they are real but if they are artificial there is always a sense of disappointment rather than admiration for the copy. Perhaps living things are especially attuned to other living thing?
Sunflowers in Cafe
You could tell at first glance that these sunflowers in a Hamburg cafe were real.That was probably part of the attraction of the cafe. Real flowers, real coffee.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Installing new door handles

The handle of the bedroom door fell off soon after I moved into this house nearly two years ago and I have been meaning to get new handles ever since. A couple of weeks ago the local Aldi store had door handles for sale, so I bought a pair thinking that I could take them back if they didn't fit or were too difficult for a novice to install. But a bit of puzzling, a little filing to make the screw-hole in the handle slightly bigger, lots of fiddling to get the long screw to fit into the cap on the other side of the door and hey presto, I have a new door handle.

I was so impressed by my prowess in fitting door handles that I bought a second pair for the other bedroom door. They are well secured and I am much more comfortable knowing I will not be inadvertently locked into one of the bedrooms with a handle in my hand. The new handles are slightly retro, just like the house.
Old door handle

New door handle

Monday, October 22, 2012

Technical wobbles

My computer died two months ago, not sudden death but in stages. The first warning that something was seriously wrong was the 'blue screen of death' and an instruction to use the recovery disk. It took time to locate the recovery disk amongst all the other accumulated techie clutter but I eventually got the computer working again, stored the disk back in its plastic wrapper and carried on working as if nothing had happened.

Resurrected computers don't live forever and it wasn't long before I had to get the recovery disk  out again. This time I could only manage to get the computer working in 'safe mode' so I decided to do what I should probably have done long before, I backed up everything on DVD. I made a second backup of important documents (a book manuscript) on USB. This was really overkill as I had an external hard drive which had been plugged in intermittently and which was mostly up to date As I backed up on DVD and USB I thought how ridiculous it is that we keep so many copies of things nowadays, even things we have in hard copy.  There are whole power stations that are dedicated to maintaining the server farms that store our documents in perpetuity and I decided that using DVDs was probably a better option than storage in 'the cloud'.

It wasn't long before my computer developed a terminal illness, a short circuit which sent me to the recovery disk and back in a perpetual loop and I was left to work on my small travel eeePC or a very old laptop, over ten years old. That's when I discovered the flaws in my strategy.

Unbeknownst to me the external hard-drive that was my 'fail-safe' back up was not fail safe. It had not backed up properly and had only old drafts of my manuscript.

"Whew, thank goodness for my multi-back ups," I thought.

Then I realised that the eePC doesn't have a DVD disk drive and the very old laptop doesn't read DVDs. That left me with the USB backup as the sole usable source. I loaded my manuscript onto the eePC from the USB with my fingers tightly crossed. Luckily it worked and I am now back out of the woods and don't have to wait until I get another computer to see if the DVD back ups were successful.

The moral of the story is that you can never have too many back ups. I hope the cloud-farm people have a back-up strategy that is more robust than mine. My own strategy of multi-backups was only successful due to good luck. I was given ample warning but technology is tricky, doesn't always work and is often incompatible or outdated. Nothing seems to beat plain old paper copies.

In the meantime I discover lots of things that I failed to back up properly, like online bookmarks.

The Beach on Saturday

Run, jump, chase the seagulls, splash. There is nothing quite like the beach.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wagner at Christmas

On 11 November the NSW Wagner Society is having a Christmas party at the Mosman Art Gallery and their poster features a sketch of Lisa Harper-Brown that I did at a Wagner Society early in the year.  Come along if you are interested in hearing songs sung by two wonderful singers.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee with a heart

In Umina at Ruby's Cafe and Books. Good coffee, lots of books (you can read them there or take them with you) and engaging staff. A good recipe for success.
Ruby's Cafe and Books
Lurv coffee

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What we know

From the book I am currently reading:

"The older I get the less I know. When I was younger I thought my knowledge would increase with the years, that it was steadily enlarging like the universe. A constantly widening area of certainty that correspondingly displaced and diminished the extent of uncertainty..I was really very optimistic. With the passage of time I must admit I know roughly the same amount, perhaps even slightly less, and not all with the same certainty as then."
Silence in October by Jens Christian Grøndahl

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Folk music at Patonga Pub

On Sunday afternoon local folk musician met at Patonga Pub. Its a good venue to have a play-along.

Tom Flood plays
Folk musicians at Patonga Pub

Musician  at Patonga

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Music among the cabbages

Yesterday afternoon students of the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music played at Kariong Eco Garden. They played Vivaldi's Spring among other pieces, standing amongst beds of cabbages and fruiting strawberries. Very appropriate.
Central Coast Conservatorium musicians at Kariong

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Siegmund's cheek

When I left home late in August I left my large painting Siegmund (portrait of the wonderful New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill) sitting on my easel so that when I came back in October it would be the first thing I saw and I could decide if I liked it.
Siegmund's cheek

Now I'm back and I like the painting so much I have hung it on the studio wall. What is it that I find so appealing? Perhaps the painterly quality and colour balance?
Studio wall

You can see a close up of the painting at artsmitten though unfortunately it doesn't look nearly as good in the photograph as it does in real life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Go Gillard!

For so long now women in Australia have been watching the misogynist political discourse in the Australian Parliament with mortification. Now the Prime Minister Gillard has had her say and if you want to watch a Prime Minister with guts, have a look at this.  Brava! Great performance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Marketing spin vs ethical frameworks

"In shopping-mall design, the Gruen transfer is the moment when consumers enter a shopping mall and, surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout, lose track of their original intentions" (and become impulse buyers). (Wikipedia.)

The TV show Gruen Planet investigates advertising spin and in the past I have sometimes found it  amusing. The other night though they talked about Alan Jones and his recent nasty, sexist and demeaning comments about the Prime Minister and her recently deceased father. I was amazed that the participants didn't seem to have the guts to come out and say such gutter-comments are unworthy of a civilised society. Instead they dissembled and skirted around the subject, commenting instead about how Jones's audience is reacting.  It was almost as if it is un-cool to have an ethical framework and stand up for it.

Perhaps I should not be surprised as they are marketing people after all but I wonder, has everyone in advertising been so indoctrinated that they have lost their moral fiber? I wont be watching the program again if I can avoid it. I guess I am not very interested in a world where everything is spin.

Monday, October 08, 2012

'Permeate Free' Milk

Australian Commerce: Some big milk producers start adding permeate (cheap waste product from cheese making) to milk to stretch it; then the word spreads that milk has been 'watered down' with permeate and those producers who don't use permeate start using the 'permeate free' nature of their milk to advertise it. Everyone is confused by now and the milk manufacturers add to the confusion by throwing brick-bats at each other. Another good reason to buy organic unadulterated products.

It is difficult to find unbiased coverage ... but here a good article about the milk industry.

Daylight saving

If you have jetlag and hour makes a difference. Luckily for me NSW changed to daylight savings last weekend so now I wake at 5:30 instead of 4:30 which seems much more acceptable.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Australia is expensive

It is nice to be back in a place that makes the strong bitter coffee that I prefer but I gulped when I had to pay nearly eight dollars for a coffee and friand at my local coffee shop yesterday. I had become used to the much lower European prices.
Coffee and Cake in a Hamburg Cafe

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Spring flowers in NSW

It is spring on this side of the globe.  It has been a dry September and the grass on  the road side verges is brown but all the trees are flowering. The red and yellow Bottle Brushes are particularly bright.

Yellow  Bottle Brush
Red Bottle Brush

Dry ground, red flowers

 But not only bottle brushes, a whole lot of other trees are in flower. These ones look like flowering cherry, but only from a distance.
Pink flowers blue sky