Friday, June 29, 2007

Like a whirlwind or willy-willy

from w
Jo Chandler has written a thoughtful article in today’s Age newspaper about the Australian Prime Minister’s plan to send in the troops to Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory because of years of abuse of alcohol and family breakdown.
It is another ‘clean-up’ campaign from the top/experts/outsiders, just like Ramsi in the Solomons, just like the Interim Government in Fiji with its FICAC investigations, not using local knowledge and expertise, but bounding in to ‘fix-up’ a problem.

In the end such problems will not be fixed unless the manner of re-ordering the society/community is ‘owned’ by the locals. In Fiji this perhaps means ‘owning-up’ to a culture where some people are grossly selfish, tell lies, and steal what is not theirs. Instead of just being caught at nepotism and corruption, the local people come to realize that an orderly society means consideration for the rights of other people.

Here is the beginning of Jo Chandler’s article.
A fragile truce

Jo Chandler in Mutitjulu
June 30, 2007
IT RISES from the dust without warning, a vortex of earth and dried leaves and litter, three strides wide and spinning high into the air. It travels across the meeting place at Mutitjulu, scattering the skinny dogs, and makes straight for the last huddle of still-talking women.

They turn their backs and squeeze shut their eyes and let the willy-willy lash the air around them. They watch it move up the track towards Uluru, the great rock by now painted red and black for the tourists' evening show. Then in a puff, the dervish collapses and is gone, and the women look at each other and laugh, loud and dark. "Well, there's the message," one tosses over her shoulder as she waves goodbye.

So what is the message?

Dorothea Randall, the manager of the Mutitjulu community office — itself at the vortex of a national political storm, with Prime Minister John Howard's emergency taskforce having arrived on Wednesday — gives a very Aboriginal answer. One that wanders, uncaptured, around the question in the way that drives white officialdom nuts. "Sometimes it means trouble," Randall says of the willy-willy. "Sometimes it means there is just a lot going on."

In the Aboriginal way, the complex reality of a community such as Mutitjulu is nuanced, headspinning and even destructive — at least it can seem so to outsiders who want quick fixes for the welfare crisis afflicting many Aboriginal communities and for the widespread sexual abuse of children, new testimony about which galvanised this week's emergency intervention into 60 remote Northern Territory communities.

The problems are depressingly well documented, apparent in countless court cases and reports over 20 years. It's the answers that remain lost in the whirlwind.

Etc. etc. article in today’s Age newspaper.

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What is news and what doesn't make the news

from w
The Herald Sun reported a story, but not the Geelong Advertiser though it was a Geelong bound train involved and five hundred passengers on board, mainly heading for our city. Okay, a garbage truck crashed into a train going at 60k an hour through a Melbourne suburb. No-one was badly injured. Our youngest son was on the train. We had wondered why he was three hours late getting home and missing the kava party.

'Oh, our train had a crash! They wouldn't let us leave the train and be bussed home. We all had our names taken by the police. Cameras were flashing through the windows. Everyone was on their mobile phones cancelling meetings etc. But I didn't have a phone. But as no one got killed, it's not a news story I suppose.'

Here is a bit of the story as reported in the Herald Sun.
Train hits garbage truckArticle from:
David Hastie
June 30, 2007 12:00am
A TRAIN and a garbage truck collided at a level crossing in Yarraville last night, with locals saying it was an accident waiting to happen. The Maribyrnong City Council vehicle was hit by a V-Line passenger train, heading to Geelong, about 5.50pm. The driver of the truck and his passenger were taken to the Alfred with minor injuries. No one on the train was hurt….

Joanna Panagoulopoulos, who has lived in Yarraville for 44 years, said it was just a matter of time before a vehicle was caught on the tracks. She said the road became bottlenecked at the Anderson St crossing and vehicles were often caught on the tracks. "All you need is the lights to start flashing, the booms to come down and you're in trouble," she said. "Because of all the traffic and parked cars, it's been a problem for ages. It's been a fear of mine for years."

Marty Sanders, who was on the train, said he feared for his life. "We were travelling normally and then the train started tooting its horn for what seemed like an eternity," Mr Sanders said. "When it hit, it hit hard and people where falling all over the place."

Police Senior Sergeant Greg Hewitt said both the boom gates and level crossing lights were operational at the time of the collision. "The truck seems to have got caught up and stopped on the track," Snr-Sgt Hewitt said. "It's still early stages and we will need to speak to the drivers of the train and the truck."

Greens member Colleen Hartland warned the State Government last week in Parliament of the danger posed by the Yarraville crossing. "During peak time, in any one day up to 126 people illegally crossed the train line," she said.

V/Line spokesman Daniel Moloney said the 5.29pm service from Melbourne to Geelong was its flagship service and would have had up to 520 passengers onboard when it hit. "These trains operate at very slow speeds through the suburbs and would not have been travelling any faster than 60km/h," he said. Mr Maloney said the train sustained only minor damage. Buses and additional train services were provided to carry the passengers home, he said.

(The last sentence not true. The passengers - many in suits as it was a workers' train had to wait three hours.)


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cats and mice

from w
Peceli came back on the Air Pacific plane Tuesday night and it's been rather busy since. Fortunately today was a bit sunny but yesterday was wild and windy and he had to really rug up. Anyway there's not been much time for drawing but I did one pic of alley cats while he is talking with a friend and drinking kava, and found a manipulated pic based on a shop window drawing with a cat in it, and last week I sketched a strange mouse who looks as if he/she swallowed a cat. This was in the window of a gift shop.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

30th birthday of the Uniting Church

from w
Yesterday we celebrated a 30th birthday party at the local Uniting Church. Doesn't sound old, but the Uniting Church in Australia emerged from three historical churches - Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational churches in Australia which joined together in June, 1977. At that time many church buildings were sold as people formed one congregation out of three. We lived in a small Mallee town of Hopetoun at that time and our boys were primary school age. I remember the day we celebrated the launch of this new church in Hopetoun. Peceli was the minister there and we had a very happy life in that wheat-farming community.

The logo of the Uniting Church is based on the cross, the dove of peace/spirit, and the U as unfinished and open. So 'Uniting' is better than 'United'.

Yesterday we invited two sister churches to join us at Geelong East and we had a fine time, good music (not me at the organ this time but a young guy who gave me a copy of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' so that made my day as I couldn't get it at the local music shops), action songs, prayers, stories, a cake and hospitality. I met lots of friends I hadn't seen for a long time.

Some of the more traditional Christian churches in Australia are struggling with membership these days and tend to be composed of elderly and middle-aged people. Younger families and children are more likely to join charismatic type groups with more lively music and a warm inviting style. Not that we are noticeably oldfashioned! However, thirty years ago our church had very active youth and children's programs and we lament the diminishing of interest in recent years. Why is this so? I guess part of it is do to with lifestyle changes - Sundays are now filled with sport, shopping and other options.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Pulse Radio Station v. the ABC

from w
I got an email about the ABC wanting to start up a radio station in Geelong but they want to pinch the 94.7 FM spot on the dial which is being used by the Pulse - a local community radio station managed by Diversitat. Not happy about that one!

from the local Addie:

ABC coming to Geelong and after Pulse beat
Jeff Whalley 20Jun07

GEELONG will be getting its own dedicated local ABC radio station. The national broadcaster and the Australian Communications and Media Authority are investigating the move as a planned expansion into regional centres.

While the Government has fulfilled a 2004 election pledge to get services into Wagga Wagga and Dubbo, the planned Geelong service is now being undertaken by the federal bodies. It is understood the new Geelong service would be similar to existing services in Bendigo and Ballarat which provide local breakfast and drive programming plus news and sport coverage.

But there are concerns the introduction of the local ABC service could force local community radio institution 94.7 FM The Pulse onto another frequency.
It is understood the ABC is eyeing the 94.7 bandwidth as it is a particularly potent frequency able to reach distant regional areas.

Federal Liberal member for Corangamite Stewart McArthur said that the introduction of a local ABC should not be at the expense of The Pulse.``The Australian Communications and Media Authority is investigating the availability of a frequency in our area suitable for a Geelong local ABC radio service and The Pulse FM 94.7 frequency is one that is being evaluated,'' Mr McArthur said.

``If in future ACMA was to recommend any change they would need to consult the community and I would strongly argue in support of retaining the community radio service provided by The Pulse.

``The Pulse operates on a temporary community broadcasting licence and I support their request for a permanent licence based on the proven track record in delivering effective local radio.''

Mr McArthur said Diversitat's management of The Pulse had seen it become a crucial community broadcaster for the people of Geelong with a focus on local content and news and culture.``The Federal Liberal Party strongly supports local content on regional radio and we do not want to see the event where the only news, sport and community events broadcast are from Sydney or Melbourne.'' Mr McArthur's office said he would support The Pulse staying on the 94.7 frequency should the ABC try to claim it.

Head of Diversitat, the community organisation which holds the licence for The Pulse, Michael Martinez said he wanted to see the station stay at 94.7 FM. ``The station is doing really, really well providing a local voice for Geelong. We are just about to launch a major marketing drive and we need to deal with the issue of bandwidth. That should not simply be taken away,'' Mr Martinez said. He said the increasing profile of programs such as the fishing show had attracted statewide listeners on the powerful 94.7 bandwidth. ``We've worked hard and invested a significant amount in programming and the physical infrastructure around that,'' Mr Martinez said.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

The sound of silence

from w
I planned to spend four hours today in prayer and meditation with a group, but the program was cancelled due to lack of interest! Okay, if that sounds weird, well I just did some sketching in the city - an alleyway, King George statue in front of the old entrance to the Geelong Art Gallery with a giant Fred Williams painting and others on the outside wall, Greek columns and poinsettias in bloom in the middle of winter. Now that all seems even weirder to me.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eucalyptus tree at Drysdale

from w
This painting is too large for my scanner so it's divided into two parts. I'll try and find a way to get it into one picture sometime.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reining in the colour

from w
Twisted ti-tree at St Leonards beach alongside a wall painted in Aboriginal design caught my attention. I did not go overboard with colour this time.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Rotunda in the Park

from w
An oldfashioned rotunda is still in Johnstone Park near the Geelong library. Perhaps in earlier days the brass band played to concerts there. The picture here is part of a larger painting, originally a sketch in pink ink, I just added my new watercolour pencils and I was too lazy to fetch water so I just used my left-over green tea!

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Trying out watercolour pencils

from w
I bought some watercolour pencils at Lincraft today and have never used this kind of pencil before. So I just added pencil marks, a brush and water to a pen sketch I did yesterday - of the bell-ringers tables before the concert started at Wesley Church. Okay, okay, I exaggerate the colours a bit!

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Poetry reading at the Bush Inn

from w
I didn't listen too carefully to the poets reading their beautiful lines as I scrabbled about for paper to do some sketching. The jazz trio were wonderful - guitar, female vocalist and a double bass player who danced as he played.

I found an old program to draw on and a creditcard booklet then added colour at home.

Today I discovered a fabulous shop - a women's heaven - that I'd never explored before. I needed to buy light tan coloured vinyl for a patchup job on two armchairs so went into Lincraft. Not only did I get some PVA glue and vinyl (yeah, I said a patchup job - the real apolsterer would charge $1000 per chair to do it properly) but their art and crafts stuff was on special so I bought a few new pastels, watercolour pencils - which I've never used before, etc.

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with bells on their fingers, but not their toes

from w
I went to a concert in aid of the Leukemia Foundation this afternoon which I expected would be mainly pipe organ music played by Frank de Rosso, but to my surprise many of the items were by a group of bell-ringers. They uses bells of various sizes for the tones and had colour coded music. It must have been quite difficult to play in time etc. I did a few sketches from my pew seat. They played spirituals, classical music such as joining the organ in some Bach music and even Sibelius Finlandia. It's not really my kind of sound, those bells. One lady bell ringer sat out a lot of the time and I was wondering if she was a Bb or an F# or something. Anyway their leader explained that after each item she needed to shift the bells around and even the people. It sounded all very complicated.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Variations on recent drawings

from w
Using Photoedit I changed some of my recent pictures of shoes and shop windows.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shoes near the back door

from w
An artist blogger Andrea posts lovely, carefully drawn pictures of life around her in Wales, even one pic of her shoes. She uses biros and her work is very detailed. I tried, but just can't slow down. Here is a picture of my shoes near the back door - but there are a dozen other pairs of shoes nearby, guys shoes, even working boots, belonging to the family.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

John Bell from Iona

from w
Last week I went to workshops led by John Bell the Scottish composer/author and decided to sit in the choir stalls so that I could draw him with the stained glass window behind. In one session he was talking about humour in the Bible so I gave the man in the stained glass a smile - or perhaps a smirk.

One of the sessions was about private and public spirituality. However I think that John Bell emphasised his disappointment with modern technology too much. What do you think? Here are notes I made at the session.

Title - Going public in private; affirming the need for both public and private spirituality.
In our present day they are becoming confused about private and public domains - the edges blurring often inappropriately. For example on a train, a woman is speaking loudly into her mobile phone. She had been interviewing several people for a job and loudly she names and describes each person and their foolishness etc. One person in the same carriage is appalled. She is speaking about his friend. 'Hey, you're talking about a friend of mine!' Even when we hear only half of a conversation on a train, we listen in, making up the story, but it is none of our business. There is an obsession of self in a public place, without care of strangers hearing. I might be thinking quietly, praying, meditating and then I am disturbed by the loud voice on a mobile phone.

We are obsessed with telephones in our houses. It rings and we jump. No matter if we are in the middle of a family conversation, a crisis even, have visitors, but we jump up instantly and MUST answer that ring. Our quiet times, our prayer life, is being constantly interrupted. The telephone is an absurd instrument - it rings and we answer at once, just in case it might be important. We make ourselves incessantly accessable to people at all times.

We may be at a conference or meeting, or counselling someone, and then we notice that someone in the group is text-messaging, not listening at all.

Anthony Bloom said, 'Ring back later if engaged with God'. What does that mean? That might be a good answering machine message - 'Please ring back later. I am currently engaged in a conversation with God!'

Technology is morally neutral - it certainly can be used in different ways. A visitor comes to the house. As soon as the initial greeting is over, the guest opens up his laptop and says he must check his email!

What happens to domestic life with this instant messaging, emails, computers? The kitchen table is the last important item to buy in a house it seems. Two families are having a dinner party, but where are the children - not eating at the table, but in another room watching TV or playing video games. Private electronic life displaces family life. Earlier values were given to children by the parents, the community, the church, but values these days are provided by the television and computer worlds, and not always good values.

This has an effect upon children and their sociability. Without these items of technology, families would talk, argue, discuss things, show anger, sort things out, learn to disagree and think about issues. The world view is not controlled by the parents but by the world out there with all its emphasis on selfishness and the business of money.

In many homes there is as television in the child's bedroom. And the switch is on after parents go to bed. Next day the child is sleepy at school or disturbed, stressed and need calming down. Attention Deficit Disorder is a consequence.

Even important news may be conveyed by email. One story is about parents who received an email from overseas telling of the death of their daughter!

There is a passion for reality shows on television. We used to have circuses, freak shows, the fat woman, the rat woman, a man who smoked with his feet. Nowadays on television there are freak shows - private troubles in the lives of people put out there as entertainment. The psychologist's couch is not a place for public entertainment. Human vulnerability is not funny.

The best conversations come from trust and knowing one another.

People confuse private wishes, interests, with what is appropriate in public. In Ireland when a father died, the daughters talked about music for the funeral. His favourite song was 'Teddy Bears Picnic' and they requested that for taking out the coffin. The minister said, why don't you have a family get-together before the funeral, play the music, talk about your father, then at the public funeral, the music can be more general to suit everyone. Worship should not be held ransom to the musical favourites of one person.

And about weddings. If I am asked to perform a wedding ceremony and I know the couple have been living together for some time, I tell them not to follow the old medieval custom of a father giving away his bride (as property) to another man. Let the couple greet the visitors at the door of the church and welcoming them to the ceremony.

About private and public prayers. The early Celts had prayers for various times in the day, for everything even before churches were built as public places of worship. All the world was God's world. Worship is rich when the people already have a personal spirituality. The gospel and encouragement of private devotion. I know a woman who washes up her dishes as she prays for her children. As she does another domestic task she prayers for other members of her family.

When a busy young mother asked for help with her spiritual life, she was told to read about St Teresa of Avilon as a mentor and example. The woman did not relate to that though. Teresa didn't know the rhythms of the life of a young busy mother.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

The Choir of Hard Knocks and a Geelong singer

from w
Travelling to the airport the other night to put Peceli on the plane to Fiji, the radio was playing Leonard Cohen’s ‘Alleluia’, one of my favourite songs. It wasn’t a soloist but by a choir. ‘That sounds like the Choir of Hard Knocks,’ I said, and yes it was.

A Geelong operatic singer, Jonathon Welch, was inspired to form a choir of homeless men and women after reading about the Homeless Men’s Choir in Montreal. He did not have auditions but found people through charities, the streets, the shelters, the soup kitchens of Melbourne. He started the singing group nine months ago. A television series is currently showing in Australia on the story of this choir and now they have made a CD.

The choir's patron, a man no stranger to hard knocks, is Australian rock legend, Jimmy Barnes, and Reclink has given them funding.

Jonathan said, ‘I can’t drive around Melbourne now without looking at it very differently. The streets are, for a lot of people, home. You don’t see it as much in Geelong, but you probably don’t have to scratch the surface too hard to find it.’ He said the most profound change in the singers is a sense of belonging and pride and the group has become like a family.

Their website gives more information.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Karl Jenkin's fabulous music will be on in Geelong

from w
I don't really put advertisments on this blog, but this is a concert NOT to miss. Karl Jenkins writes that fabulous music that's sometimes on TV - words that are not in any real language but sound familiar. The notes are from the current Geelong Arts bulletin.

The Geelong Chorale Presents
The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins

This anti-war piece for orchestra and a powerful choir was commissioned by the UK Royal Armouries for the millennium. While written in memory of the victims of the Kosovo crisis, its theme is entirely relevant to our lives now. The Mass is based on a French secular song from the Renaissance: The armed man should be feared; everywhere it has been proclaimed that each man shall arm himself with a coat of iron mail. It uses the Christian Mass combined with other material such as the Bible, the Islamic call to prayer, texts by writers including Kipling, Tennyson and a survivor of Hiroshima. This strong work is "painfully relevant to the 20th century" (Guy Wilson, Master of the Royal Armouries) and is now widely performed internationally. From its opening - hushed marching feet with the shrill tones of piccolo - to its conclusion - words from Revelations, in full, soft choir and orchestra - the work is absorbing and immensely rewarding to hear.

Dates: 23 June 2007
Time: 8pm
Venue: Wesley Church, 100 Yarra Street, Geelong
Cost: Adult $25 Concession/Senior $20 Student $10
Contact: (03) 5223 3554 or (03) 5263 3855


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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A worldy woman meets Thomas Merton

from w

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice.
It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity
to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.

— Thomas Merton

Recently I have been pushed to think about quietness, meditation, alone-ness rather than being busy with the intrusion of the telephone, emails, constant interruptions. Then I found a page of pencil scribbles from a Thomas Merton workshop I attended at Wesley Church in Geelong a few months ago. (The monk who gained a huge popularity in the 60s and beyond.) I really agree with some of the things he wrote. So I typed my scribbled page up. The task at the workshop was to imagine a conversation with Thomas Merton and write without editing - just to write quickly and spontaneously.

M Look around you. What do you see, hear, feel?
W The noise of people even a rooster. Laughter. Running feet on the cement footpath.
M Now go past the intrusions. Look down at the ground. Take off your shoes and feel the grit.
W I like that. You used to walk barefoot didn’t you? Near your hermitage?
M Yes in the woods. We should feel the scratchiness, the pebbles, the broken sticks, the underbelly of a forest.
W Yes I agree with that, but I am atttuned to the busy city too. Isn’t it escapism, this notion of solitude that you suggest we all should have? Isn’t being with other people more important that this?
M Stop talking so much. Concentrate only on this thing under your feet. There are living things, moving things in nature here.
W. Ants. Certainly no frogs here - because of the drought. .Can we sit down now.
M Lie down, then feel the grass and earth on your arms and face. It’s all connected.
W Hmmmm. One thing I don’t like this talk of ‘nothingness’ in your writing. I’d rather you called it ‘fullness’.
M Ahah! But you don’t get it do you! Nothingness means being empty of ego that trips you up.
W. So you are a Buddhist at heart.
M. I don’t like labels
W A New Ager we call it. There’s a Japanese method of focussing on world peace, not buteko, that’s breathing exercises but there is a similar name. It’s an idea about all of nature as vibrating, as being connected.
M We didn’t say that in my time but it does make sense. A Frenchman was into that idea too. Tielhard de Chardin eh. Go back to where we started about the earth under our bodies, touching the grass, feel the wind.
W I can’t. The world is too much with us.
M I’ve heard that before. You’ve pinched those words somewhere. Break the chain of attachment.
W. Yes, you are a Buddhist then not a Christian!
M Not a Christian? Come on, come on!
W That’s the crunch part. You moved quite a distance from your Catholic peers, haven’t you? I bet you got into heaps of trouble with the conservatives. They couldn’t keep up with you.
M I disagree because there are many people who walk this walk. You too?
W Well I concede I do like your nature poetry.
M But you do not like the hard work of meditation and the monastic life eh? And you do like to always have the last word.
W Hmmm. (goes off singing ‘Touch the earth lightly’ by Shirley Murray, a New Zealand clergyman’s missus.)

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The danger of railway crossings in Australia

from w
I've travelled on the Swan Hill - Melbourne train numerous times and also driven up north to the Mallee over many years. I was invited a few nights ago to go up on the train next week for a reunion, but not now...

In Victoria there are over a thousand railway crossings with flashing lights and bells ringing but without boom gates. These days there are many huge semi-trailers on the roads because of centralization and they travel at 100 or more at times. I find them very scary if I'm in a car next to them.

There was a horrific accident yesterday when the Swan Hill train going south was hit by a semi who was possibly trying to pass a van and veered to the right. This happened about 6 k north of Kerang. Did the driver see the flashing lights? Well, it was a clear day and with an open visible area of farms. Eleven people have died and many others injured. Because we know many people from Swan Hill and the river towns we have been very disturbed about the accident and wondered if we knew some of the people. I rang my brother's home last night but no names had been released then. So far only a few names have been given as the people have to be identified.

The question raised now is how to make the roads and railway crossings much safer. Perhaps the speed limit has to be reduced drastically near the crossings.

It is such a tragedy for the families. Some of the deceased are young people who had just gone to another carriage to get food to eat. An awful waste of young lives.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

It's snowing at Bells Beach!

from w
The weather here has been quite crazy here in Geelong. First there was a very long drought when parts of the rivers became cracked earth, then some rain, even torrential, a landspout, a dust-storm, the hottest May night on record, and then yesterday afternoon about 6 p.m. it snowed at Jan Juc in the Bells Beach area! This is about 20 minutes by car from Geelong. It is really strange to have snow near the sea here. Perhaps it happens every fifteen years or so in Geelong.

The last time I remember it snowed in Geelong was the day after a Fiji relative arrived in Australia in her summer dress and flip-flops. The snow banked up alongside the church next to our house! Yesterday near the city area here there was flaky kind of hail so perhaps that was actually snow.

Our youngest son came back from Fiji last night and now he's bunkered down beside the heater as he finds even inside the house very cold.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Consumerism in High Street Armadale

from w
I was in Armadale, a suburb of Melbourne yesterday for a church music meeting and had an hour spare to wander along High Street and the King's Arcade, observing so many shops decorated with twee items, consumer goods to enhance already chockerblock houses and some amazing antiques as well. Metallic cats, stones, odd sculptures, giant rabbits, as well as many paintings. It is a suburban street that is so different from the Asian streets of places like Footscray or Richmond. I enjoy painting shapes and textures but when I looked at my pics I realized nearly all of the things I had drawn were of no real value and were just examples of the excesses of consumerism.

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