22 February 2013

Saving the World

What an entertaining evening of Environmental Action – well, other people acted, I just watched from a safe distance on the sidelines.

First up, a stirring speech by Senator Christine Milne at the opening of the 2013 Weld Echo exhibition at the Long Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre.

I didn't have time to do any work for it this year, but I was able to assure Jenny Weber from the Huon Valley Environment Centre that they'd done a splendid job without me. Some really terrific sculpture there this year, as well as plenty of painting, prints and photography. Didn't have time for a good look, but I'm working at the SAC on Saturday so will take my time then.

Christine and Peg Putt went to visit Miranda Gibson for morning tea in her Observer Tree last week. They were hoisted up to her platform sixty metres up a eucalyptus tree where they enjoyed a pleasant tea with a magnificent view across the southern forests. Then they had to come down again. You have to step forward off the platform, Miranda explained. Otherwise the ropes get twisted. More used to braving political challenges in the Senate than swinging through the treetops, Christine found this – well – terrifying. However, once safely back on earth she felt more than confident to step forward off the platform when facing a press conference on environmental policy the next day.

If you haven't heard of Miranda Gibson and The Observer Tree, here's a link to her blog.

Christine began by saying she was pleased we were here rather than listening to a talk by Climate Change Deniers at the university, and she may have been right, but dear Lord Monckton's address wasn't until seven thirty, so I had plenty of time for more wine and cheese after the senator's speech before driving down there.

The Flat Earth Society, clad in their preferred medieval garb in recognition of their favourite historical period, the medieval warming period (not particularly coincidentally a key period for climate deniers), was ably represented outside the Stanley Burbury Theatre at UTAS. Somebody told me this venue was hired without revealing to the management precisely who the speaker would be, but this is only a (probably malicious) rumour and shouldn't be repeated in public. At any rate, the Flat Earth Society members are delighted by Lord Monckton and rather hope he will join forces with them.
Lord Monckton congratulates members of the Flat Earth
Society on their garb, thanks them for their support,and
invites them to come in and listen to his talk

More than sixty people turned up to listen to him, and the Flat Earth Society was busy handing out leaflets declaring that not only Climate Change is a myth. They decry the conspiracies of Governments, mainstream science, NASA, Google maps and other agencies that deny the earth is flat and publish fake (probably digitally manipulated) maps that DO NOT SHOW the ice wall surrounding the earth AT ALL.

We should all support them wholeheartedly. After all, everyone knows the weather is controlled by dragons.  If (and I say IF) there is global warming, it’s nothing to do with human activity. It can only be due to dragon flatulence, and I defy your muddle-headed scientists to prove me wrong.

I didn't consider it necessary to pay $25.00 to hear Lord Monckton's talk. Surely a Viscount has a much better idea of what is really happening and far more credibility than someone who only has titles after their name, and then only because they spent a few years at some university? No class, that kind. No class at all. And anyway, I'd looked at his presentation on line last night. Here.

back inside to preach to
the converted
You can make your own decision.

18 February 2013

Playing the nyckelharpa

How does the music-loving daughter of musicians rebel against her parents' expectation that she follow the family calling? Josefina Paulson fell in love with a traditional folk instrument and music that was popular two centuries ago. 

Josefina Paulson at the Old Beach Studio
Thanks to modern communications the Swedish keyed fiddle, the nyckelharpa, is gaining popularity world wide, but it is still unfamiliar enough in Australia for the novelty of the instrument rather than the quality of the musicianship to attract attention. That is, until you meet Josefina.

If you attended the Woodford Folk Festival you might have seen her performing and you are probably still glowing from the enthusiasm and sheer joy of her music.

Roger Joseph from Arel Media Management
 welcomes the audience and
 introduces Josefina
Last night I had a rare treat as one of a very small and select audience at a House Concert at the Old Beach Studio. About thirty people, at least half of them musicians, arrived early for a barbecue with Josefina Paulson in the garden overlooking rolling fields below Gunners Quoin with a view down the valley to Mt Wellington.

Feeling happy and well-fed we made ourselves comfortable on bales of straw in the converted garage and were soon tapping our feet to some lively polskas.

Josefina composes and teaches music, and has received some prestigious awards for her musicianship. Her introductions and explanations added greatly to our enjoyment, but in the end it was the music with its percussive beat and haunting tonality that kept us spellbound. It is impossible to describe in words, so you should visit her website to see a splendid video.

Many of the audience members had also attended a music workshop with Josefina on Thursday night; in the privacy of this garden setting they were astonished and delighted to have the privilege of a “hands-on” nyckelharpa experience at the end of the performance.
Midj Jones, fiddle player with the Hobart Old Time String Band,
 tries out the nyckelharpa

Josefina Paulson's visit was arranged by Arel Media Management.

Arel Media Management website  for information about visiting performers and future House Concerts.

10 February 2013


A disclaimer: although I live on an island, my ignorance of things nautical is abysmal. However, I can't pass up a good party, so as soon as my drawing lesson finished this morning I launched (pun, folks) myself into this year's Wooden Boat Festival. Not for the first time I felt smug about being gainfully employed right there in the thick of it at the Salamanca Arts Centre.

I am not sure when it first happened, or who made the decision, but the Festival is now timed to coincide with the annual Hobart Regatta, which has been held somewhere about the first weekend in February for rather a long time. Better still, there are no admission fees, so the waterfront was definitely the place to be, with crowds enthusiastically roaming the usual Saturday morning market at Salamanca Place and hurrying around the wharves from one attraction to the next.


I am constantly amazed by the dedication and perseverence of people who take the time to discover and restore beautiful old things, whether it be furniture, machinery, vehicles or whatever. Historic boat enthusiasts are out in force at the Wooden Boat Festival.

Admiral is claimed to be Tasmania's oldest boat; this is what she looks like today, and here is a photo of her being launched in 1865 .

Preana (the name is an aboriginal word meaning "spear") is one of my favourites. She is a luxury steamer, built late in the nineteenth century for the Gibson family, who owned a large flour mill in Hobart. 

The Gibsons built a house on the Esplanade at Lindisfarne, where they had their own jetty.

Preana was always flagship at the Lindisfarne regatta and Mr Les Gibson used to dress up in uniform, with plenty of gold braid on his captain's cap, and gallantly escort guests aboard. Alas, she was eventually sold, allowed to fall into disrepair and there was little more than the hull left when she was finally rescued.

I liked the contrast here with a few less elegant vessels. The Preana.org website will give you  more information

Another miraculous rescue is Terra Linna, built as a racing yacht (28ft class) in 1880 at Sandy Bay, and the ninth yacht registered with the Derwent Sailing Club (later the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania). 

There are some big gaps in her history, but in 2001 she was rescued by members of the Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania in a very sorry condition.

Now she is looking beautiful again.


Boat builders and boat building displays are an important part of the Wooden Boat Festival. 

There are competitions for school children to build their own boats; this year they experimented with fabric over a lightweight skeleton.

The ancient British coracle was constructed from animal hide stretched over a wicker framework; it was practical, portable and easily repaired. Now Peter Ingram-Jones of Otago Bay uses synthetic fabrics and hand-crafted Huon pine in a modern version of this very ancient technique. His tough, useful but seemingly ethereal vessels double as lampshades, if you are short of storage space.

Here he is with one of his boats – weighing only six kilograms. Yes, he really is lifting it up with just his little finger.

You can see some fabulous photographs of his creations on his website.


If you can't find an old boat to rescue, you can always build a reproduction of one.

Teepookana is a reproduction of a west coast Piner's punt built by members of the Wooden Boat Guild of Tasmania. Piner's punts were used to harvest Huon Pine; for this a short, easily-manouvered boat without a keel is required. According to the Wooden Boat Guild this specific design is unique to Tasmania, and probably appeared in Port Davey before 1890.

Of course, there are people who are not satisfied with something this small.

How about your very own Viking longboat?

This is Russich, built in Russia and working her way around the world. 
It looks pretty good, but on closer inspection -

Since when have Vikings politely asked for donations, or raised some extra money painting souvenirs for tourists?

Now THIS is Notorious - an amazing reconstruction of a fifteenth century Portuguese Caravel.
(You can see some much better photos of it on their Facebook page)

Its builders, Graeme and Felicite Wylie from Western Victoria, were inspired by the legendary Mahogany Ship said to lie beneath the shifting sand-dunes of Warrnambool. 

They spent many hours and much money and built Notorious over ten years using only salvaged timber.

That really is impressive.

Yes, she looks like a pirate ship, and there were plenty of pirates to be seen around the waterfront.

Other entertainments

Some of them were pretty good singers, too:
The Gilbert and Sullivan Society perform a Pirates of Penzance/Pinafore mashup

There was plenty of music about:

Gamelan 101 in the Indonesian display marquee

One small audience member couldn't resist the foot-tappin' tunes of the Hobart Old Time String Band in Mawson Place
Sailor's Hornpipe - Gangnam style

Other stuff (in no particular order)

don't mess with Sea Shepherd, OK?

the Navy's there to look after us

who hasn't always wanted a photo of a seaplane taking off in front of a  bouncing castle?

or a young chap playing noughts and crosses with a
submerged  diver?

An old sea-dog. No, I don't know why his paw is
bandaged, what his name is or why he's there 

Landlubbers can content themselves with reading about it

in the end, I think that says it all.

About the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, 2013

07 February 2013

House Cleaning Project - The Old Man's Head

Clearing out parents' house; they have moved to a retirement home. Forgotten objects come to light; others take on new meaning when considered out of the familiar context. As we go along I will feel compelled to share my observations; I hope it will be fun.

This is The Old Man's Head.

It is a humidor, in which gentlemen could keep their tobacco.

Nobody in our family knows now where it came from originally, but for as long as my mother can remember it stood on the bookcase in the corner of the dining room. When she was very young she found it terrifying.

My grandfather smoked a pipe, but I don't think The Old Man's Head ever contained tobacco. Instead, it was a repository for spare keys, packs of cards, pipe cleaners and other bits and pieces

My grandparents' dining room was dark in the way rooms were dark in my childhood. When they set up house in the 1920s Grandpa ordered hand-carved blackwood dining chairs, dining table and the huge, glass-fronted blackwood bookcase. All the woodwork in the room was dark brown. Over the years the walls, whatever their original colour, had been stained dark brown by smoke from the fireplace and the gentlemen's pipes. Heavy curtains and dark brown Holland blinds protected furnishings and carpet from the afternoon sun.

To me, the Old Man's Head was one more dark brown object in a dark, brown room.

Years passed. My grandparents died; Mum inherited both the furniture and The Old Man's Head, which was no longer scary at all. It remained on the blackwood bookcase in our house and it remained a repository for spare keys and broken pencils, but things were stacked around it from time to time and nobody worried too much whether it was knocked or bumped. The years were not kind to it.

Late last year my mother moved into a unit. She took the glass-fronted bookcase with her, but left me The Old Man's Head. She still doesn't like his eyes.

Not long after taking custody of him, I was listening to a radio programme in which colonialism and, inevitably, racism were mentioned. Disgust was expressed at the insensitivity of colonial overlords who actually owned humidors in the shape of the heads of so-called inferior races. Horrifyingly racist. You what?

I rushed off to consult The Old Man's Head. He looked rather confused and perhaps a bit startled by it all, but hardly inferior to anyone.

Until then, it had never occurred to me to wonder which "race", if any, The Old Man's Head is supposed to represent. It was brown, because everything else in the room was brown; it could just as well have been green or purple.

Although it's comical and slightly grotesque a high degree of skill has been lavished on the detail, suggesting it may be a portrait of a specific person. Was it then the acceptable representative of an entire nation, a generic face like that of Gwoya Jungarai, model for the stereotypical aborigine?

With no idea of its original context, I have always accepted The Old Man's Head as merely another ornament; now I have to worry about whether I am perpetuating a racial stereotype. By keeping it in a conspicuous place in my lounge room do I run the risk of insulting my friends?

Would it still be racist and offensive if it were green, rather than brown?
Is this stereotypical Toby Jug (made in Japan, sold in Australia) just as insulting to Englishmen? 

Perhaps it is! Alas, racism seems to be like sexual innuendo – start looking for it, and you can find it everywhere.

Having said that, I expect some of the nineteenth century Englishmen who owned humidors in the form of human heads did have attitudes towards other people that I would find totally offensive. But I rather like The Old Man's Head, so I prefer to imagine that it is its association with the filthy, disgusting habits of tobacco addicts that is offensive, not the object itself.