Saturday, November 29, 2014

The State of Victoria Changes Government

In Australia the State of Victoria has just voted and is making history by changing government after only one term. The toxic federal Government is being partly blamed for the more than 3.5 - 4% swing to Labour but there have been lots of local issues as well - including the reignited and very polluting fire in a coal mine in Morwell where the people feel forgotten by their government and where there was a >13% swing against the government. Both major daily newspapers in Victoria told people to vote Liberal/National, but the people have obviously not listened. Many are probably like me and, facing increasing right wing stridency in the main stream media, have migrated to online news.

Not only has the government been changed (from Liberal/National to Labour) but the Greens are in the lower house of parliament for the first time. At the moment it looks as if they have won at least one and perhaps two inner Melbourne seats after a campaign based on climate, public transport and fairness. That is a significant win in a 'first past the post' system like ours.

Greens candidate  Ellen Sandell has just commented to cheering supporters: "You have told us you don’t want an $18 billion toll road ripping up our city, you want a 21st Century Public Transport network"
Kissing reluctant baby
The most commented photo of the election has to be this one that is being shared around twitter. It shows the Foreign Minister, Liberal Julie Bishop and Victorian Liberal State Premier kissing an unimpressed child. Ms Bishop is known for her pre-political career as an aggressive lawyer fighting against those seeking compensation for asbestos poisoning. One of the first things she did when becoming Foreign Minister, before even being sworn in, was to rescind  Steve Bracks position as consul General in New York. He had been Premier of Victoria for eight years and was eminently suited for the job. It was a portend of things to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

'Brian Wood' jug with nectarines

White ceramic 'Brian Wood' jug with nectarines
Acrylic on Canvas
30 x 40 cm

The Otago Art School in  Dunedin  (NZ) has an excellent ceramics department with original and inspiring teachers including, when I was there, Jim Cooper and Maddie Child.

The white jug in this painting was made by Brian Wood who was a ceramic expert and curator even before he was an art school student. I bought it at a final-year student sale.

It has an unusual and graceful form and although it is not completely waterproof  I have kept it and admired it ever since. It is an art object but I use it as an  utilitarian object - I keep my paintbrushes in it. (Eat your heart out, Peter Voulkos.)

Jug with brushes

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Classical music lovers among those weeping

Governments don't like to be criticised and both sides of politics have sweated under the even handed but critical reports of our national broadcaster. Well, even handed until now - at the moment the ABC seems to be frightened of contentious issues.

I love our #ABC T-shirt
I love our #ABC T-shirt
A report written under the Howard liberal Government (not immediately released) said that the ABC is efficient but underfunded. The current Government had a report written too (unreleased), but it seems, despite all assurance before the election that they would never cut ABC funding, that they had already decided to  do so.

Now millions are going to be docked from the ABC and SBS budgets, a move that is being reported as pure vindictiveness. The much loved ABC is set to loose hundreds of workers and this weekend thousands of people have been out of the streets protesting.  Some of them will be classical music lovers who, like me, have their radio dial permanently tuned to ABC Classic FM, a station reportedly about to be severely cut

 It beggars belief, but one Cabinet member started an online petition to save the ABC Adelaide office (his electorate) and several other members of the government have gone public about saving the bit that they like.

I hope the tidal wave of disgust at our current leadership washes all of them away (especially the member for Adelaide) at the next election. It can't come soon enough. In the meantime, I'll get the T-shirt.

Addendum: there are so many cuts, including Bush Telegraph and lots of regional positions. It is confirmed that Classic FM will cut back on concerts, meaning if you can't go you wont hear them.
I feel so sorry for all ABC staff in this toxic political climate, not only the 400 (one in ten) staff and their families loosing their jobs just before Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Forty One degrees

Forecast of 41C on the NSW Central Coast tomorrow
I remember about 10 years ago hearing a talk on the radio about high temperatures. A woman from Alice Springs was asked what temperatures of 40C felt like, and we in Sydney listened in awe as we had never experienced such temperatures.

How times have changed. Last year we had a day at 40C and this year we have already had 42C and it is only November. Tomorrow is forecast to be 41C.

The Australian Liberal (actually Tea-Party) Government is clinging desperately to coal as the world finally gets into gear to tackle climate change. I would leave the whole cabinet out in the town square tomorrow and only supply a water hose when they came to their senses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Mantovani (and others)

Waiting for Jean-Efflam Bavouzet
I subscribed to the Sydney Symphony International Pianists  series this year and wondered as I did so whether solo piano  would maintain my interest. I realised  during the first concert (Alexander Gavrylyuk) and that piano is entirely sufficient when you have an expert at the keyboard. Each of the four concerts has been very different and each interesting

Last night we heard Jean-Efflam Bavouzet play Beethoven, Mantovani and Ravel.

The Beethoven (three Sonata's including the Apassionata) was wonderful, but then I am always a sucker for Beethoven.

Mantovani is a friend of Bavouzet and wrote the next piece we heard,  Le Livre de JEB, especially for him.  I remembered a friend's records of  'Mantovani (b.1906) and his Strings'  which I had not liked but the music of Bruno Mantovani (b.1974) bears no resemblance to that of his namesake. Le Livre de JEB was astringent, descriptive and altogether enjoyable. In his excellent pre-concert talk, David Garrett had told us the piece was not only written for Jean-Efflam Bavouzet but was a portrait of him. Is it as confronting having a musical portrait written as having a visual portrait painted I wondered?   As I listened to this volatile and changeable piece I couldn't help thinking that it would be.

The last piece was Ravel's Mirrors and what can be better than a Frenchman playing Ravel? It was like hearing Ian Bostridge sing Benjamin Britten's music.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ceramic pots with hibiscus

Ceramic pots with Hibiscus
This is the same painting at different stages - the background morphed several times in the painting. First it was light, then the shelf under the pots was dark (bottom photo), then the background was all dark. I painted in some foliage in a vase at one stage, then painted it over. Nothing seemed to work with these pots.

Finally I added a Hibiscus from the garden.

 I have now rearranged the shelf next to my easel so there is enough space for me to create an arrangement before painting it. It's my little 'Margaret Olley' corner. I should have done it before I started my current spree of painting domestic items, but better late than never.

I have put my recent 'porcelain paintings' online at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Anthony Marwood's Serenade in Sydney

Anthony Marwood playing Enescu

A concert hall was a good place to be in Sydney yesterday with temperatures of 33-38C forecast and listening to star-violinist Anthony Marwood play with the ACO was a particular pleasure.

They played Stravinsky, then a very beautiful Serenade for Strings in E Major by Dvořák. Truly a serenade.

The second half of the program was the Octet by Enescu. Marwood is championing music by Enescu and when you hear the Octet you understand why. It is romantic and dramatic and well worth a place in the repertoire.

Marwood and the ACO are playing around Australia until the end of November.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Journalist whistleblower

The respected journalist  Dr Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor of one of Germany’s main daily publications, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has written a book accusing the media of being 'bought'. He gives some examples in the interview in English (below) from German media coverage of the Russian/Ukrainian issue.  (His interview in German is much more detailed and gives many more examples. See it here)

Dr Ulfkotte details exactly how journalists are corrupted into telling lies. He has long been under pressure not to reveal these secrets, but has finally had enough. He wants to save his country from another war.

"I don't care what happens to me", he says, "I have had two heart attacks and I don't have children. And I am sick of the lies."

Brave man.

What he says about media-bias makes sense to me because a German friend told me in September that she just didn't understand the current media bias against Russia.

"Germans and Russians understand each other because we are so similar," she said. "We both carry the worries of the world on our shoulders. We cry easily and tend to be maudlin. But the press is acting as if  the Russians are completely different from us."

If you listen to the video below you will see why the media does not reflect reality.  You can also see why people have drifted away from the mainstream media. If what they are reading does not accord with their own experience, then they will look elsewhere for their information.

The issue of media bias against Russia is pertinent in Australia today, with our Prime Minister Tony Abbott one of the first to blame the Russians for shooting down MH17. Later he said he would 'shirtfront' Mr Putin when he sees him at the G20 meeting. In Beijing this week told the Russians they should apologise and offer compensation. What information is he basing his actions on I wonder.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The green 'Ampelmännchen'

Twenty five years ago since the Berlin wall came down, and I celebrate with a photo of a green  'Ampelmännchen' - little walking green man. My version is a rubber, bought in Berlin in September, but the real versions help people cross streets safely. 

The Ampelmännchen is from East Germany and was designed in 1961.

It was replaced by a western designed 'little green man' when west and east were integrated but then brought back because of nostalgia for things lost and because pedestrians find the East German version of the walking (or stopping) man easier to read than the one designed in the west. Besides which the East German version is charming!

East German Ampelmännchen were re-introduced into Berlin in 2005 and they have become a city icon.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Vale Gough Whitlam

A memorial service for the recently departed Gough Whitlam was held Sydney's Town Hall yesterday.  It was an emotional day for many because although he was Prime Minister for only three short years (1972-1975), in that time he changed the face of Australia.

These are the words Gough Whitlam specifically asked that we be reminded of:

 “That grand vision to promote equality, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land, and to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Australia Piano Quartet

Rebecca Chan, violin
Last night the Australia Piano Quartet played at the university of Technology Sydney in collaboration with journalism students who presented their work on asylum seekers. The students were engaging and how refreshing it was to hear asylum seeker issues
presented in an informed manner.

The Quartet played Bordersongs, a new work by Pozniak between student presentations. It was impressive and complemented the spoken texts well. Then we heard Strauss' Piano Quartet in C minor written when Strauss was 19 years old.

Australia Piano Quartet
(promo photo (Eamonn McLoughlin)
The concert made me think that we could do worse than to give the running of the nation over to young idealistic Australians. It would make a very nice change from the current mob.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Tognetti's Beethoven (and Greenwoods' Water)


The Sydney Opera House was full today for the concert Tognetti's Beethoven.  The concert was a winner, delighting the audience. (And for those who wondered what that extraordinarily touching  encore was, it was Janáček ‘Goodnight’ from On an Overgrown Path.)

One of the pieces featured in the concert was Water by multi-talented Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, a piece which got great reviews when it was premiered in London a month or so ago.

Personally I loved the Beethoven, all three pieces played: Coriolan – Overture, Symphony No.1, Triple Concerto.   If I had to choose between them, I would choose the Triple Concerto which I found very moving. The instrumental 'conversation' between violin (Richard Tognetti), piano (Yevgeny Sudbin) and cello (Timo-Veikko Valve) was inspirational and I kept thinking how much fun it must have been to practice.

Below is a great little video of Tognetti talking about the Beethoven and then the Greenwood collaboration.

And here is an ACO blogpost about Greenwood and the ACO

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Ceramic pots for spices and herbs

Blue/black spice jars with eggs
Acrylic on Canvas
38 x 76cm

Spice jars seem to have gone out of fashion, perhaps because people use so many different spices now and plastic shakers are easier. Herbs and spices are better kept in the dark though so ceramic pots might make a come-back.

I have had these pots for a very long time and have carried them with me on every move. It was only when I started making ceramics myself that I realised that a lot of the small items I treasure are ceramic ... like these pots.