Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bush path up the hill

Alone, walking up the fire trail from Pearl Beach this morning, I marvel at the colours and the winter stillness. It takes about thirty minutes from the bottom to the lookout, more if you meander and take pictures.
Red earth path

Banksia flowers in bloom

And at the top, a view over the mouth of the Hawkesbury river to the sea. How could one ever tire of such a view?
Sailing boat on the Hawkesbury; Palm Beach in the distance
Sydney is having an unprededented warm spell. Twenty three days so far above 20C in May and it is to continue until at least 6 June. What will summer be like?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mezzo soprano Deborah Humble

Stephen Mould on piano, Deborah Humble singing
On Wednesday Deborah Humble sang lieder by Brahms, Wagner (Wesendonck Lieder) and a long lost song by Mendelssohn for an appreciative audience at the Verbruggen Hall in Sydney.

Lieder (= songs in German) show off a voice or show the imperfections.  Deborah is a mezzo soprano but I prefer the old fashioned term contralto which seems to me more fitting for Deborah's deep and expressive voice, a voice and quite up to the task of a whole evening's continuous singing.

Her concert was a real pleasure. Now she is busy rehearsing for her concert in Melbourne.

After the concert (from Deborah's Facebook page)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Coffee with music

Fancy silver coffee pots, once very popular and now found in antique and op shops, were the basis for these intaglio prints. These were printed in Dunedin in 2008 and have been sitting in boxes since.  I am retrieving them and making a 'coffee pot' collage series.

Intaglio print/ink
Intaglio print/ink/collage

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Coffee pots for my coffee shop.

I framed up a couple of intaglio print and ink collaged coffee pots for the wall of my local cafe this week  There is printed music on the pots which you can't see on these images as the pictures were taken after framing ... so not the best. Creating coffee pot images while listening to ABC Classic FM was a nice respite from budget politics.
Coffeepot 2
Coffeepot 1

Music on the coffeepot (just visible!)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gonski is a hero

There are heros in Australia as well as creeps (last post) and one of them is the businessman David Gonski. 

David Gonski is the gentleman who co-authored the 'Gonski Report' on education funding.  He says that he had thought when he began his research that the bureaucracies were responsible for education problems but when he met them he realised he had been wrong.

 Watch his video.

Gonski's report highlighted the big gap in funding between wealthy and poor schools in Australia and provided a path to recovery.  Julia Gillard was very keen to close the gap but Tony Abbott's 2014 budget will result in even greater disparities of wealth between schools.

Just plain 'yuck'!

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's minders must have had their job cut out making him look like a man you could trust.  After presenting a budget that punishes the poor, the young and the sick he is getting extra scrutiny and revealing his true colours. Australians are discovering he is much worse than they had ever imaged: a congenital liar, a sleaze and just plain yuck.

We hear that at uni he was a far-right misogynist thug who took pleasure in terrorising women.
"He was a very offensive, a particularly obnoxious sort of guy," said Barbie Schaffer, a Sydney teacher who was at Sydney University with Mr Abbott.

Abbott amused by grandmother's plight
Now a video has emerged showing he hasn't changed.   On a radio show a grandmother asks him how she was going to make ends meet after July when Abbott's budget cuts come in.

She said to pay the bills she works on a phone sex line, at which Abbott winks, smirks, giggles. Then he catches the eye of a minder and tries to look serious. He tells her he is getting rid of the carbon tax but she can keep the offset she received.

Can this be a Prime Minister? Not for long one hopes.

To quote the Sydney Morning Herald today:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Igudesman & Joo in Vienna

Australian budget ructions are gathering speed .... so a bit of musical humour hits the spot.

A concert with a difference...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

March in May: Sydney

A lot of people marched in Australia today to express their concern at the direction the Abbott Government is leading the country. People turned up despite the short lead time.
Marchers in Belmore Park, Sydney
 More than ten thousand people marched in Sydney they say. The crowd included lots of children and was a good willed group. They were there because they care.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Australia Tea Party

Australia is still in shock after a budget driven by vindictiveness and a pro-coal agenda. No wonder headlines such as this are being seen in the newspapers (though not in the pro-Abbott/coal Murdoch papers).

You read a lot about sociopaths (people unable to empathise with other people) doing well in business. Obviously they have done well in the Liberal Party too and are transforming it into an Australian Tea Party.  Problem is, they kept their Tea Party aspirations secret before the election. No wonder there is a back lash. Even the business world is rattled.

Demonstrations in larger cities are planned for tomorrow:  March in May

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lukáš Vondráček

He looks such a happy fellow, hair slicked down, walking rather shyly onto the stage, smiling a welcome to the audience.
Lukáš Vondráček on Monday night at
the City Recital Center in Sydney
Then he sits down, collects his thoughts, lifts his hands to the piano ... and suddenly the music just erupts from the instrument.

Lukáš Vondráček's concentration while he plays is extraordinary. I found myself thinking of what he must be seeing: piano keys, hands and nothing else. He plays as if his life depends on it. His audience feels the urgency and is dead quiet.

He plays Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Brahms.

When each piece is finished and Vondráček comes up for air he looks as dazed as we all feel.  He stands up, sways a bit as he collects himself, smiles sweetly again at the audience and walks in his lilting way out the door.

What a performer!

[I was so energised after seeing Vondráček play that I worked away online until past midnight ... as you can see from the time stamp on my Conchita Wurst post.]

Metgasco license suspended

Woman with teapot
(Dunedin Cafe, 2007)
This is how I am feeling this morning, over my cup of tea, having just heard the news that the Bentley Blockade has been successful. Rather bemused but very pleased.

The NSW Government has suspended the Metgasco license for an exploratory gas drill in northern NSW and has passed information to the corruption inquiry!

The licence was revoked because Metgasco had not consulted with the community adequately.

Margo Kingston, the citizen reporter who alerted us to the ongoing crisis in the north writes that she is "privileged to report an historic people's movement proving that citizen co-operation can change the world without violence."

Go Margo!

The Bentley Blockade (pic #lockthegate)
Margo had reported that senior police were worried that the smashing of the Bentley Blockade this weekend was a lose lose situation. They were right and the NSW Government is to be congratulated for seeing sense. Now the license needs to be cancelled.

It is a back down that will inspire many others who are threatened by fracking and coal mining activities.

If you want ot be inspired, listen to this woman talk about why she is taking action against the Whitehaven Maules Creek Mine:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Protesting rabble?

Do these people look like protesting rabble?

Well that's who the Government thinks they are. They are the farmers from the Bentley Blockade. Surveys show 97% of farmers in the area don't want fracking on their land.

They have come to Sydney to meet Premier Mike Baird, to tell him that the licenses granted to coal seam gas companies should be void since they were approved by corrupt ministers.

Do you think the Premier met with them? (Rhetorical question ... he didn't have the guts.)

Rather singers than cigars

Orchestras and choir at Notre Dame
Instead of listening to the 2014 Australian budget being read out by a treasurer who smokes big fat cigars,  I listened to the wonderful Berlioz Requiem Op 5, that was sung for Claudio Abbado in Notre Dame in Paris and broadcast by ABC classic FM.

It is such fantastic music produced by 220 musicians from two orchestras. Abbado was a nurturing and caring person and would have loved this tribute I am sure.

It is a pity the Australian Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey doesn't have even a little of those qualities.

Before the election he promised (cross your heart and hope to die) no cuts to health education or welfare. So what has he done? Cut health, education and especially welfare but also foreign aid, ABC, CSIRO. There are no cuts for the wealthiest, the carbon lobby, or defence. This tweet sums up the feelings of many. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Conchita Wurst and Wiener Würstchen

Conchita Wurst (from Eurovision TV)
So, Conchita Wurst (Spanish/German translation = chick with a dick) has won the Eurovision contest. Apparently she grew up a gay in a small Austria town and survived by creating Conchita Wurst.

I have just seen the online version of the song and I agree with those who are saying it sounds like a new 007 James Bond theme.

Austria is home of the Vienna Philharmonic, renowned for it's misogynist hiring policies and some wag has created a cute cartoon. .
(Cartoon from von heute auf morgen website)
The subtitle says 'There are rumours that the Vienna Philharmonic has been infiltrated by females.'

The inspector in the picture is saying "Aha ... and what is this??"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cecilia Bertoli as Castrati

Cecilia Bartoli
Sorely in need of a musical interlude, I am listening to the astonishing voice of Cecilia Bartoli, with the equally astonishing and vibrant Il Giardino Armonico .

I saw Il Giardino Armonico  perform in Maribor a couple of years ago and it was a performance I will never forget.  They were stunning. Many of the old instruments are more difficult to play than their modern equivalents but they make paying them seem easy.   Just like Bartoli, who sings without seeming to breath at all.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Just listen to this!

Audio from 2GB

Wow! Listen to what is happening in Queensland ... told by shock jock Alan Jones.

If you don't want to listen to the whole thing, fast forward to the interview with the journalist Heather Brown. She is worth listening to. 


Thursday, May 08, 2014

Blimey, what a pre-budget fracas

Forgive me readers for being off-subject, but I read that other artists have been equally distracted from their art by current political shenanigans. It is no wonder, as each day brings more alarms and bombshells.  Australians have always been proud of their fair-go society, but it appears that we are to be dragged into the age of 1% whether we like it or not. Government budgets are often fought over, but this year's Australian Federal budget is turning into a fiasco and let me tell you why.

Joe Hockey, Treasurer (from The Guardian website)
The Audit report commissioned by the Abbott Government to support their budget has turned into a political cluster bomb. The auditors were selected from such a narrow group of far-right people that the resulting audit is seen as a piece of political rhetoric, instead of an assessment of the nations finances. Those who have analysed the figures  are finding errors, gaps  and figures purposely misinterpreted to fit an ideology. The economist Ross Gittins says the audit report shows what sort of Australia these men envisage, an Australia following the USA down the 1% path.

The audit report was probably written to show voters just how hard budget cuts could be, in the hope that lesser cuts would not look so bad. The plan might have worked except for the environment in which this is all taking place, with the corruption inquiry (ICAC) in NSW showing that businesses (especially miners and property developers) appear to have been buying favours by donating to Liberal Party (currently governing NSW) coffers and that these (often illegal) donations have been deliberately disguised from the eyes of voters by the Liberal Party.  A Premier and four members of the Liberal Party in NSW, two of them Ministers, have had to step down and more are likely. It appears that politicians will do anything for a buck, sign off dodgy mining licenses and  property developments for example. All of this is being reported instantly via social media, especially twitter which has gained a host of followers who depend upon it to point them to  trustworthy news sources. (Our print media is largely dominated by the Murdoch Press.)

The money trail appears to lead right to Canberra and citizens are now calling for a Federal corruption body to investigate.

The Federal Government (also Liberal Party) has been lamenting budget black holes left by the previous government but in the meantime many people are aware that there was no black hole, except that created by the current government (ABC Fact check: Government has doubled the budget black hole due to their own policies).

The Government says they have to balance the books, but they have also just spent over 12 billion dollars on 72 new jet fighters. People are scratching their heads and wondering if the government thinks they are especially stupid. In addition, before the election Prime Minister Abbott repeatedly promised there would be 'no new taxes'. It was his 'core' promise, repeated ad-infinitum. His budget is to include new taxes and levies, which comes as a big shock to many who voted for him. Perhaps he thinks he can disguise permanent cuts to health, education and welfare by introducing taxes on the more privileged which he says are to be short term (but of course, now you cannot trust what he says).

Is it any wonder that people are turning off this government in droves? When  Labour self imploded before the last election it would have been difficult to believe that they would have a fighting chance winning back government after just one term.  Whether they have sorted out their issues well enough to actually win the next election is debatable (supporting a call for a Federal ICAC would certainly help) but in the meantime support for the Greens, the only party not touched by the corruption inquiry,  has soared.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Blackwall painting

Autumn light: the wharf at Blackwall
On Tuesday mornings the wharf at Blackwall is very quiet and the long carpark under the trees almost empty. It seems to attract people wanting exactly that quiet. When I arrived with my painting gear two cars were parked near the wharf, the drivers of both locked in an embrace on a backseat.

Although the view is pretty it lacks any focal point but I sketched the wharf  and road and pale autumn sky. Two more painters from the painting group turned up and the people in the amorous cars left.

View north to Woy Woy over Brisbane Waters
I walked down to the other end of the parking area for a different view. Just as I reached it another car sped in and out jumped two young men in very spivvy suits.They hung around a minute or two, then when they saw me setting up my easel they jumped right back into the car and sped off.

Painters are such a nuisance when they take over quiet spots.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Never underestimate the power of music

Ecopella Choir members arrested
Singers from the Ecopella Choir are being arrested after protesting to call on the government to protect Leard State Forest, the surrounding Maules Creek community and the planet from coal mine expansion.

 'Never underestimate the power of music to disarm and calm' comments a twitter respondent.

'Never underestimate the power of music to inspire to action', appears to be the case for the Ecopella Choir.

In the meantime we read that the head of corporate affairs for a mining company at the centre of an environmental dispute has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland's ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Sollima and the ACO

Giovanni Sollima
Sketched while he played at the
Maribor Festival, 2011
The ACO is touring with crack cellist Giovanni Sollima. I saw them last week and they give a concert you will never forget. If you have a chance to see them, then do go.

Sollima and his cello are the most extraordinary phenomenon, welded together they sing and cry and poke fun. You watch and listen, laugh and cry and fall into a swoon.

If you need more convincing, here is a link to Sollima playing a piece he wrote and plays with Monika Leskovar.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Leunig captures the mood

Cartoon by Leunig (taken from twitter feed)
The latest cartoon from Leunig reflects the mood of Australians right now.

They are watching their Government  turn into McCarthyites, arrest medics (below) raise taxes when they promised (many times) not to and dis their beloved (and efficient) Medicare sytem.

There is a program on ABC later today inquiring into whether we now accept that politicians lie, and if we do, what that means. One journalist has likened our current government to politicians in some 'developing' countries. He writes with dismay that you just can't trust what they say any more.

Do they think the population wont notice I wonder?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

85 - the new 69

Eighty five, it sounds so innocuous and reminds me of ladders for some reason. Perhaps there were 85 steps on the snakes and ladders we used to play as kids. I had not known 85's urban dictionary meaning 'Distortion of the truth way beyond belief and or An Absolute Avalanche of Bullshit' but in NSW this week it is a definition that is on everybody's lips because 'eighty five' is the name of the firm that was set up by State Liberal Party to funnel illegal funds into their party coffers. The ICAC inquiry is showing that illegal funds came from property developers amongst others and it appears that they were donating in return for favours. The choice of name for the slush fund shows just how cynical the players were (and are).
Doctor locked on to protest
The folk who set the company up and arranged for donations were no small fry. The NSW Premier has had to resign and now his ministers are falling, one after the other. The Minister for Police resigned today.  There are so many links between the corrupt players of both political parties that it is difficult to keep track, but the  ABC has created an amazing interactive web graphic to help interested observers.

These corrupted politicians were responsible for issuing the coal mining and fracking licenses that have so incensed the citizenry. NSW farmers and their supporters are saying all the licenses should now be withdrawn.

This morning a group of doctors and medical students have locked themselves onto rigs at the Leard State Forest development to protest development of the coal mine there.

GetUp campaign poster
The Federal Treasurer said on the radio the other day that he found the sight of wind farms that you can see from a distance from the road to Canberra ' deeply offensive'.   Suddenly the whole quagmire of corporate control of government becomes blindingly obvious.

The Green Party has long called for a Federal ICAC but they have been thwarted by both major parties in their attempts to get one established. Our democracy depends on unencumbered politicians and it is now clear that a federal corruption watchdog is needed as well as a discussion of how to fund elections.

One of the people who has helped keep us informed about developments in the bush is the citizen journalist Margo Kingston. She and ICAC might together be pivotal in turning Australia away from it's path of climate destruction to one of climate rescue. Go Margo! Go ICAC!

Addendum: the medics have been arrested...  arrested for trying to protect people' health.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Holley has her say

The Coal Seam Gas issue is dividing the community (mainly the financial elite from everyone else) and causing alliances to flourish between parties who had not had cause to work together before (farmers and the Green party).  Here's what 10 year old Holley says: