Thursday, October 30, 2008

Could 'Blackie' Here Be the Einstein of Birds?

How to Avoid the Neighbours ... Without Really Trying

Sometimes you just don't wanna see people.

But you really can't say 'I Vanna Be Alone' - cos that's been well and truly done (Greta Garbo 'Grand Hotel', 1932).

There is another solution - the deer butt hole door bell! Of course, other animals do equally well.

Now, the only people who are likely to press you 'buzzer' ... may well be just the kinda people you do VANNA see!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'Nature Magazine' - Best Fauna Photographs for 2007-2008

Got the bit between my teeth with nature photographs - so I thought I should to a fauna post to go with the flora and landscape one.

The last photograph should always be a super cute one, don't you think ?!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Beauties of Nature

Sometimes even the most hard-bitten cynic is moved by the beauty of the natural world.

My travel bags are out ... and half packed!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Calculations and Ideas

This exercise is fun - I hope you'll enjoy it.

There is a set of
maths calculations below. Just work your way through them.

you'll be asked a question. Please try to answer it immediately - don't think about it - just write down the first thing that comes into your mind.

The Set of Maths Calculations

How much is:

15 + 6 ?


3 + 56 ?


89 + 2 ?


12 + 53 ?


75 + 26 ?


25 + 52 ?


63 + 32 ?


I know! Calculations are hard work but it's nearly over.

Come on, one more!

123 + 5 ?


The Other Part of the Puzzle

Think quickly of a COLOR and a TOOL.

Now scroll down a bit.

98% of the people seem to answer a RED HAMMER after doing these exercises.

2% of people answer differently - and seem to have a different mind set.

How bout you? Which group do you fall into?

A couple of website posts that explore the reasons for this phenomenon:

Website 2

Did you like it? (Also said after I just got a blow job from my last sex partner!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Annie Oakley (1860-1926) - Sharpshooter and Superstar

It's only every so often that a legend 'emerges' from history - thanks to the true magic of newly discovered old film footage.

Born near the western rural border of Ohio, Annie Oakley early in life gained a local reputation as a shotgun sharpshooter.

This led her to join traveling shows, culminating in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1885.

With increasing fame, she left the States to perform in Europe. In front of Queen Victoria. And then for the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, shooting the ash off his cigarette. Leading a wit to claim that, if she'd shot the Kaiser rather than the ash, she would have prevented World War One!

Of her many skills as a marks woman, she could shoot five holes through a playing card flipped into the air - before it reached the ground.

And here's the 1895-ish footage of the woman herself doing two of her routines: shooting all the whatever shatterables off a board, and blasting to pieces things thrown in the air.

Film Footage of Annie Oakley (c 1895)

Annie Oakley spent her not insubstantial fortune by the time she died - on various causes and charitable ventures. I'm impressed!

Monday, October 13, 2008

'Infamous' (2006) - Complexity in Truman Capote ... and Elsewhere

Sitting round a Saturday evening post-dinner party table with more bottles of red still to consume seems to be a good venue to sort out reactions to a controversial film, play, whatever.

So the subject was 'Infamous', the recent other film about Truman Capote's development of the ideas and the form for his novel 'In Cold Blood' - a 'reportage' (or fictional reporting) of the events in Kansas surrounding the murder of the four members of the Clutter family by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith.

Dick Hickock and Perry Smith

And debate round the room was crystallizing into a discussion of whether or not the author had simply used the two men to generate material for his project or was genuinely empathetic with them ... on some level. And in particular, whether or not he was imagining the potentiality, in other circumstances, of some kind of real and reciprocated relationship with Perry, and this was in fact driving his interest.

The Avedon photos of Truman Capote and Perry Smith

This 'either or' approach to me seemed to miss the point entirely - and mask the psychological complexity in Capote ... and people in general.

It seems most likely that the author was developing an attachment to Perry AND that he was delighted by the great novel that was emerging from these circumstances AND that he was more than pleased to have a source of such delicious tit bits for the delectation of his New York 'swans' or women society friends.

People are complex and contain such seeming contradictions - here I am not talking about what life should be but what it is.

Truman Capote by Robert Mapplethorpe (1981)

In 'Infamous', writer and director Douglas McGrath intelligently and with real psychological truth explores this complex (and daring!) proposition.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Did You Ever Dress Up As a Kid?

Did you dress up as a kid?

I did ... but I reckon He has much better props!

So how bout you? No fibbing now, we're friends!

And remember dressing up can be all kinds of things - like wearing Uncle Dolly's leather fetish gear. Or ... ???

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ute Lemper - Unique Interpreter

Every now and then you see a performer who has an absolutely unique expressive style.

Born in Munster in 1963, Ute Lemper is not only a powerful musical theatre presence, with credits that include 'Cats' (Vienna), Lola in a recreated 'The Blue Angel', Sally Bowles in 'Cabaret' (Paris) and Velma Kelly in 'Chicago' (London revival) ... and 'All That Jazz'. But she is also a supreme cabaret interpreter of the songs of Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill, Fredrick Hollander, Stephen Sondheim, and the torch songs of Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf ... and ... and ... and!

She is also a film actor ('Pret-a-Porter'), a widely exhibited painter in a neo-classical style ... and ... and ... and!

I saw her in Sydney a couple of years ago in a one-woman show, and then her theatre piece in Paris at Le Chatelet in 2003.

At an Elizabeth Taylor gala, she presented a jazzy version of Brecht and Weill's 'Mackie Messer' ('Mack the Knife'), which I love, but I still prefer her more traditional version ...

... which is so much in keeping with Bertol Brecht's own original interpretation ...

... which is not to say that music shouldn't and must be reinterpreted 'as time goes by'.

So here is her new take on 'La vie en rose'.

It gently caresses ... and lets me contemplate, in a wonderful repose, the meanings of the lyrics.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Living Animist Tradition in the Philippines - Offerings and Incantations for the Spirits of the Forest

You don't imagine in your travels that you'll see a living animist tradition. With its practices in tact and still being conducted.

A couple of years back, I was traveling round the Philippines.

I took a bus north from Manila to Bontoc. From there, I caught a jeepney to Banaue on the edge of the world-famous rice terraces ...

... and then rode a motor tricycle ...

... to a point where I walked over the mountains on a dirt track ...

... and down into a village called Batad:

On the outskirts of this tiny village, I came across this old anito - a statue used as the focus for offerings to the spirits of the forest at the time of the rice harvest.

Returning to Australia, Filipinos from Visayan island of Samar told me of similar practices in that region of the country. And they are probably extant throughout Micronesia.

Food and other offerings are usually set out on a nearby three-tiered square wooden platform, each tier with offerings for a different type of spirit.

The offerings would include various foodstuffs (fish, meat, bananas), and the first rice of the harvest. These foodstuffs could be cooked – but this must not involve salt. There are often other kinds of offerings, such as wine and cigars.

To begin, incense is lit and blown in the direction of each of the four major points of the compass – north, south, east and west - to attract the spirits of the forest.

The farmer would then intone:

O spirits of the forest - spirit of the east, spirit of the west, spirit of the north and spirit of the south

Come here and eat

We have prepared these offerings in good faith and as a sign of respect. They are clean and there’s plenty for you

Thank you for looking after the crop and keeping away danger

Thank you for giving us a bountiful crop

This is my family so when you see them don’t harm them. This is my son, this is my wife … .

If they step on you or bump into you, please forgive them

Chatting to Philippinos back in Australia, I'm told that each day when moving around his property, a farmer would say to the spirits:

Excuse me, I’m just passing through

And when traveling through the forest:

Please can I pass by?

I guess, living in an industrial urban environment, I am more than a little intrigued by the otherness of such long-gone cultural and agriculture practices - rooted as they are in the life of the land.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Clear-Eyed Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch is one of the few actor-singer-performers I truly admire - totally her own person, surprisingly unpretentious, ballsy, iconoclastic, witty with a killer timing, gifted but alcoholically flawed - and all wedded to a scary degree of self-awareness.

I first really appreciated her in the documentary of her one woman show 'Elaine Stritch at Liberty', in which, in this snippet, she explores her early years as an acting student along with Marlon Brando:

Stritch famously produces one of the best versions of the searing social satire 'The Ladies Who Lunch' of Stephen Sondheim:

The performance has all the savagery and bite it needs!

Has anyone seen her live?