Sunday, June 5, 2016

So there!

Writer, Jeanette Winterson, who also teaches creative writing at Manchester University, was asked to comment on the accusation that all such courses are a waste of time.

Here's what she said:

"My job is not to teach my MA students to write; my job is to explode language in their faces. To show them that writing is both bomb and bomb disposal – a necessary shattering of cliche and assumption, and a powerful defusing of the soul-destroying messages of modern life (that nothing matters, nothing changes, money is everything, etc). Writing is a state of being as well as an act of doing. My job is to alter their relationship with language. The rest is up to them."

I want to enrol in HER class!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Earth from the moon (3)

I used to look at pictures of earth taken from space
and wonder why we think its important this
thing we call the human race. But deep inside
I also knew we count - we do - and I was
never really able to reconcile the two.

Then finally it dawned on me that the importance of a thing
is not what it brings in terms of size or how long it lives
but rather the reckoning of it God gives.

And He has made it clear through the giving
of His Son that He values the souls of the living
and the one who never departs from His
teaching will live with Him forever.

So yes, our souls are small in might but
they are indeed precious in the sight of Him
who has the power to deliver us from darkness
into His marvellous light.

Earth from the moon (2)

"Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that is is alive. [Neil Armstrong's] photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dry as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming, membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos….. It has the organised, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvellously skilled in handling the sun."

Lewis Thomas (quoted by Simon Winchester in "A Crack in the Edge of the World")

Earth from the moon

"What [Neil Armstrong] saw - and what we saw through his eyes, which we now perhaps take for granted - was a thing of incredible and fragile beauty. It was a floating, near-spherical body, tricked out in deep blue and pale green, with the white of polar ice and mountain summits, with great grey swirls and sheets of clouds and storms, and with the terminator line dividing darkness and light seeming to sweep slowly across the planet's face it turned into and out of the sun. It was a lovely aspect to contemplate. And it was a view that in time compelled mankind to take stock."

Simon Winchester, in "A Crack in the Edge Of the World"

Alas, that wonder dimmed I fear, and along with it, the "stock-taking". We've regained a sense of it now, but is it too late?

Friday, June 3, 2016

Here, now.

"Everest Base Camp now has satellite phones, internet connection, movies and comfortable lounge chairs. This takes the participants back to where they've come from, which is a bit sad, because they're not being present."

Greg Mortimer, quoted in Smith Journal Vol.19 2016, p33

Alone (and loving it)

"I have found with the passage of time a deeper and deeper satisfaction being in isolated, wild places. It's not so much a function of isolation but wilderness. It's that unrelenting, unforgiving, uncompromising sense of power you get in wilderness and the sense of humility that comes from being exposed to nature. It blew me away when I was a kid. There's almost an addictive quality to it: when you get used to one level, you want a bit more."

Greg Mortimer, as quoted in Smith Journal Vol.19 2016, p33

Grand Canyon, USA

Waaaay ahead of his time

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it."

Soren Kierkegaard (1813 - 55)

I'll never complain about a loss again!

Wow. This smarts.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New blog

I've started putting together a new project.

It's still being curated but you can follow progress here.

If you'd like to contribute a piece, email me!

Your equanimity... hard-won and precious. Protect it.

Dawn on the Swan

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The gift that keeps on giving

My daughter got me a year's subscription to Smith Journal for my last birthday.

What a treat to receive a plain brown envelope in the post, rip it open... and find a fresh new edition!

Which reminds me EP, it's my birthday again soon :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The making of art

Ragged is the edge of creation, blindly feeling
In the dark the gains are made, yet unseen
By human eyes there is no sense, no order

But slowly bonds are forming, joining up
The dots are spaced wide, seemingly unrelated
To each other they mean nothing, but to the whole,

Finally the puzzle solves, the last piece clicks
Into "place" the artist arrives, no longer feeling
"Lost" is now forgotten land as at last the work is

The camera or the pen?

If I was to be exiled to a desert island and could only take one…

It would be a tough choice.

But the camera would win.

Reflection on the Swan River, Perth

"The good old days"

Every generation says that. 

Which of course means there weren't any.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sarah Moon

This short video is the best articulation of the agony and ecstasy of art I've seen.

"I, who spend so many hours for one second."

Photographers, these little books are a no-brainer!

They're A5 size, printed on quality paper and delivered to your door, cheap, from the good folk at The Book Depository.

What I really like is that there's no fluff - just the pictures and captions, presented "photo album" style like this.

My growing collection sits on my bedside table. I find it very relaxing last thing at night to look through and ponder the images, undistracted by any text.

The old guy in this photo is Eugene Atget, a Frenchman who didn't take up photography until he was forty years old in 1897, but produced images with a strength and clarity that looks contemporary today. Way ahead of his time.

I'm off the coffee

I went through the cupboards this morning and ditched the lot. 

I've been noticing for some time that it's not helping me.

Then I found this.

I know there are more recent studies identifying some potential benefits of coffee but, to my mind, drinking it to reduce your risk of Parkinsons, kidney cancer etc is a bit like living in a cave all your life so that you can't be hit by a meteorite. You'd have to question the trade-off!

This jar is the only one that survived the throw out because it's unopened.

Free to a good home :)

The only Michelin stars I'm familiar with are the blokes at the local tyre shop

So my cooking experience is limited. OK, it's non-existent. But I feel the time is right to do something about that. I thought I might enrol in this. If you're also a middle-aged bloke who knows how to use a can opener but not much else, join me!

Nah, it's all good (oops!)

When I was in the US recently, a chap said he wasn't keen to come to Australia because "you have too many things that can kill you".

I assured him it was more hype than reality.

Hope he doesn't read this (!)

The bit that really made me laugh was the wife saying they could either burn the house down or move to NZ but she wasn't going back inside :)

The getting of wisdom

The older I get, the truer Mark Twain's famous saying becomes:

"I've been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."

PS….his real name was Samuel Clemens. "Mark 'twain" was what the depth sounders on the Mississippi riverboats used to call out. Clemens decided it would do for a pen name!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nothing like a good Monday morning pick-me-up

Oh, the delicious irony of a hoon driver losing control and crashing into HIS OWN HOUSE!

The genius of repetition

Life boils down to identifying certain key actions and just getting up every day and repeating them.

Or as Woody Allen puts it"90% of success is turning up".

Art is all around

We just have to learn to see it. 

I went to the cinema and used my phone to take this picture of the top of the seat in front of me.

The white rectangle is the movie screen.

I just tilted the camera a bit to create the interesting angles.

The key to taking shots like this is learning to see in 2D instead of 3D.

"Don't think, DO!!"

It was only a football match but John Kennedy's impassioned speech really goes to life itself.


Sometimes a story just stops you in your tracks. This one did for me.


These two chums were on a ferry in America. 

The Golden Retriever was very sanguine and simply thumped his tail on the floor every time someone approached.

The white one was the opposite: very nervous, burying his head in his mate's side if you got too close.

I felt sorry for the owners. They must have explained the dogs' life stories a dozen times on that journey! No one could resist them.

There's no such thing as a bad dog in my experience. They have something in their DNA that makes them incredibly loyal to humans. That's why it's so tragic when people mistreat them.

Love dogs.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Americans

Photographer Robert Capa produced his famous book, "The Americans", in 1958. 

It was black and white and showed the gritty realism of American life in a way that hadn't been done before.

I'd like to produce an "Americans" book too.

But it would be in colour.

And it wouldn't show people, just things.

Things that somehow speak about this people.

Red, white and blue things.

Shiny things.

"American" things.

Speaking of fire (see previous)

Last night we had the gang over, sat out on the deck* and had dinner around a blazing chiminea.

It was a cold night so we put sheepskins on the plastic chairs and issued everyone with blankets.

One of the gang said "why would we sit outside when we can be more comfortable inside?". But I noticed he was the one who probably ended up enjoying it the most!

After dinner we toasted marshmallows (corny I know), took turns at putting wood on the fire and looked up at the stars in the clear sky.

And all right here in the 'burbs!

* This chiminea is the only one safe to use on a deck. The clay ones can split, dropping the fire onto your deck and the cheap metal ones have holes in the bottom or are made of sections and can therefore do the same. The Aussie Heatwave is one solid, cast piece - the fire 'aint goin' nowhere!


Buying a chiminea was the best thing I've done for a long time.

There's something wonderful about a real fire compared to gas. It's only when you get one you realise how much you've been missing out on.

If you are going to get one though, spend the extra bucks and get this one.  All the others are toys by comparison. You'll hand this one on to your grandchildren!

Speaking of sleep (see previous)

Arianne Huffington (founder of The Huffington Post) has basically made it her crusade.

She talks about it in her book - ie that learning how to sleep properly basically saved her life and brought her to a realisation of how crucial it is to health.

Sleep is basically when the body does its repair work. Interrupt that and problems become inevitable.


I like Chris Kesser. 

He's a living example of his own philosophy of wellness.

And as he himself admits, it's not rocket science:

a) move
b) eat properly
c) do something to manage your stress
d) get restorative sleep

As he says, do these four things and the body heals itself.

"I am wonderfully and fearfully made"  (Psalm 139:14)

The human foot works just fine

Sport shoe companies have convinced us that the foot is "broken" and needs "support". 

I believed this too and did all the usual things to try and get rid of my chronic foot problems: podiatrists, special shoes, orthotics.

And then I found these.

I've thrown away all my support shoes and orthotics and wear nothing but Vivo's now.

And my foot problems have disappeared.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Smiling inside

What's the difference between a smile and a grimace? Physically, nothing.

Simply, simplify!

So said Thoreau. It's such an important thing and we have to be doing it constantly. Additional stuff is coming in all the time so we have to be shelving it out just as fast (preferably faster) if we're to stay sane. "Do not make your affairs as one or two thousand, but as one or two" said Thoreau. Sound advice.

Write blind

No, not drunk - I mean with the screen turned off. I just discovered this technique and love it. No more being distracted by the words appearing on the page. You're free to just "imagine and go". Sure, there's heaps of typos but you know what you meant and can easily fix all that later. For first draft writing I think this is going to be DA BOMB :)

Thursday, May 26, 2016


"Leadership is the art of creating greatness in other people.

From what I've read, Julius Caesar wasn't a very fearsome dude in person. There were plenty of other men under his command who could easily, easily beat him in single combat.

Ditto with Alexander. Ditto Augustus. Ditto Napoleon.

But of course, it doesn't matter.

It's not a leader's job to be great at whatever. It's the leader's job to make the people under him/her great at whatever.

Which is why, in old school Chinese martial arts, a master is not judged by how good his kung fu is, the master is judged by how good his/her students' kung fu is.

That's cool, right?"

Hugh McLeod, Gaping Void

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


I've always felt drawn to the writer's life. Then I read this book.

Yowzer! They're all crazy! Seriously, this is very sobering reading for anyone contemplating dedicating their life to the written word.

And you know what the REALLY scary part is?

That you can now buy the complete works of Tolstoy, Dickens or Twain (or whoever) for a buck!

Yep. You can get a Kindle version of the complete works of these guys for a dollar.

Or even FREE in some cases!

A lifetime's work now worth a brass razoo.

As I said, sobering