Tuesday, March 17, 2015

the bird in the fireplace

Today a noisy miner was rescued from our fireplace. It squawked as it flew away from our window, objecting vocally to the indignity of being bodily grabbed, transported, and defenestrated by the pest control guy. After at least two days trapped in the dark, the only light being from my torch as I tried to identify it, I imagine it would soon have forgotten its complaints and gotten to the business of food, water, and being a nuisance. These birds are protected because they're native animals but they're as pervasive as lantana or cane toads. Still, it's a living creature that was saved from a lonely end, and the salvation of which saved our apartment from putridity. All's well that ends well, I guess?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

blake 12 ii - the painter

The Painter

I’m on a ferry from Manly
and as the sun’s last rays sink
the city shines.
The fine lines of the Bridge,
the Tower and the towers dissolve,
blue, orange, white stars flare and
gems are strewn luxurious across the bay.
My faith says
God paints glories
in the glories worked by hands.
He made us, we made
the night bejewelled.

Afternoon, I approach the city
crossing from Pyrmont over the old bridge,
a young sunset
sets all glass ablaze
as I walk below the peach golden blue sky.
Though buildings anticipate vermillion,
the water delights in each delicate
shade of sun’s evensong —
gentle colours dance, play
in a millionfold-subtle masterpiece.
My heart says
God’s own hand paints glories
in humble pastels.

- Iain Hart

blake 12 i - the curiosity of my soul

You may remember (unlikely) that I submitted some poems to a poetry prize in 2010 and posted them up here when they weren't successful. Well, this post and the next are last year's attempts! Enjoy.

The Curiosity of my Soul

I died,
and my soul lingered a while.
It looked over my body,
remembering adventures,
tears, smiles,
praise and censure;
felt tension at the parting,
but only as discarding
a too-worn favourite coat.
It turned slowly,
regarding the world it would leave.
Detached already, caring still,
but curious more;
powerless eyes immune to lies
taking in the first sight of truth.

It saw my murderer,
with smoking gun in blood-stained hand,
brandishing his strongest weapon
in the dullness of his eye:
Indifference to the blood he’d shed,
taught him by his father’s fists
and midnight trysts with Jack.
His mother’s wounds ran real and deep
and sore, then numb; and through him too,
as dumbly he stood by. A boy
without a chance to cry or try. The man,
now turning, walking from his kill,
had shot not my body in the night,
but his father’s shadow on his soul.
Turning, walking,
shadowed still, and ever on.

My curious soul,
unburdened of its physical concerns,
followed the man,
watching his gait and his nonchalance.
It conversed with my killer’s conscience,
“Why me? and why tonight?”
And as the man stepped
from the alley into the bustling street,
the reply came:
“Why not?
All will die, and all deserve to.
Didn’t they teach you that in Sunday school?
I just helped you there.
And tonight... well... someone, somewhere, had to die.
I just didn’t want it to be me.”

Pausing, turning,
my soul saw those walking past.
Bowed heads all,
hiding from each other the shame
shining like flames
in their eyes,
the innermost storm.
That man there lied, that girl will,
those children kill, the old man steals
and all of them hide the hope —
the tiny, glimmering diamond of a hope —
they will never be seen.
My soul,
now grieving for the world,
was yet powerless,
so I left.

- Iain Hart

Thursday, January 10, 2013

musical mind-games

During my study of music at uni, I picked up an appreciation for musical experimentation. I heard, and participated in, musical expressions which played with more than just notes and rhythms and instrumentation — music which rearranged the concept of music itself as a part of its performance. This was music which was more often described with words than with traditional notation. Or perhaps not even described at all, just existing as the result of a process.

One of my favourite examples was a piece called "I Am Sitting in a Room" by Alvin Lucier. You can find a description and a recording here. Basically, Lucier recorded himself reading out a script in a room, then recorded a playback of the recording in the same room, and repeated the second step many times. By the final repetitions, you can barely hear his voice anymore; you can only hear the resonant frequencies of the room corresponding with the rhythm of their production in his voice. It's not exactly pleasant listening, but I find it fascinating.

Another which I was quite impressed by was "Dripsody" by Hugh Le Caine. It uses the sound of a drop of water falling into a bucket, re-recorded on tape at different speeds, to create something astonishingly complex.

From the sublime to the ridiculous... I found this today: "Call Me Maybe Acapella 147 Times Exponentially Layered" by Dan Deacon, obviously based on "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen.

If you can get past the unfortunately original-sounding beginning, and the fact that the ludicrous lyrics are repeated ad nauseum, you can find another iteration of what intrigued me about the two more serious pieces above. When you mix sounds in unconventional ways, you can hear things you did not expect. The formerly-prominent elements sink into abstraction, while the background sounds take on new and unrecognised forms, somehow bigger and more elaborate than you thought they could be. I know it's based on one of the worst and most insidiously catchy songs ever, but I do admire the kind of musical mind-game that this, and the more venerable works above, are playing at.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

surrounded by knowledge

Mmmm distraction
I ought to be studying right now... I'm considering this blog post to be writing practice essential to my academic success. I am sitting in Fisher Library (University of Sydney) in one of the top levels, with row upon row and shelf upon shelf of books to my right, and a late-afternoon-slash-early-evening skyline to my left. This is my favourite place to study; it's quiet and removed from the bustle of uni life and all those noisy first-years (not that that's a problem right now, as it's holiday time), while at the same time it provides enough curiosities to stop me getting too bored while I study.

In general, I am quite a fan of


for a number of reasons. On a superficial level, I enjoy the ambiance. It is a relief to know that the society in which one lives values knowledge enough not to burn it, though I think the presence of so much recorded knowledge in one place accounts for only part of the appeal. Fact is, the books themselves are aesthetically appealing. The feel and the smell of a book is a tangible bonus to the abstract acquisition of knowledge. Sometimes it's even more satisfying than the knowledge acquired, if the book is rather terrible or just a bit weird.

Another reason I like libraries is that they contain such a ridiculously broad range of books. They cater for every experience from "This is exactly what I was looking for and was expecting to find here," to "I didn't even know that was a thing!" Take this for example:
If I recall correctly, it's about the


Clearly I couldn't remember what it was about. I started writing this post in early July, faltered, and ultimately failed to complete it. But anyway, here it is! I still really like libraries.

P.S. I think it may have been something about Jesuit monks and a hospital. First one to find the book and tell me gets a high five.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

how cool is the universe

Here's something that I think is awesome:


Space is amazing. It's one of those things on which I can spend hours trawling through Wikipedia pages, or hours flicking through Astronomy Picture of the Day pictures, or other such things. It just fascinates me no end. At the time of writing, APOD has a picture of the sky over the sea near Buenos Aires which shows Venus, Jupiter, the Pleiades, Aldebaran, an asteroid named Vesta and a dwarf planet named Ceres. I read, through clicking through to another page, that Ceres was the first object found in the asteroid belt when they were looking for a planet between Mars and Jupiter. See, I never knew that but it's fascinating. A bit more distracted reading and I find this diagram of trans-Neptunian objects and their orbital inclinations, which also shows a whole lot of other tiny objects floating around the outer solar system. This stuff is nuts. Also, it reminds me of the existence of an asteroid known as 87 Sylvia ('sif that's not named after someone I love dearly) which was the first asteroid known to have two moons. It's a freaking asteroid with a diameter smaller than Tasmania and it has moons!

At this point I could talk about the tweet I saw this week from some bloke, retweeted by a more famous bloke, which said words to the effect that the religious person's admiration of the universe is limited by the notion of God, but that the atheist person's admiration of the universe is infinite... I could talk about that, but I'd prefer to spend my time being amazed by Orion all over again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

clipped wings

My car
has been at the mechanic for the last week, and before that it's been out of action for the better part of a month, and before that it had been unreliable for quite some time. I really miss it! Now I know that you don't generally need a car when living in a city, and I have been able to manage fairly well without it. But I miss being able to drive. I miss it to the point of being whiney about it in general conversation, and even to the point of writing a whiney blog post after I'd determined not to be too whiney anymore. Dang it, I just want to go driving somewhere.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

a solution to such a day

I had a rather flat kind of day today. I accomplished very little, after a number of days of accomplishing very little, such that the feeling of having wasted the day was compounded. Not even my procrastination was useful. Which is why I'm very much looking forward to


on account of how it tends to provide a fresh start in a new day. I need it; life (thesis, wedding planning, organisation, finding employment, laundry, etc.) doesn't live itself in one's absence.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

home again

There is nothing quite like coming home.

The new Barneys building

is finished, and we're settling in and inviting friends around and it all feels very home-like already. Which is excellent. We've been away from our site for six years, so that wasn't necessarily going to happen so quickly. Being away so long has been an excellent way to learn and re-learn that a church isn't a building but a gathering of Christians in any old place. But it's really good to be back, and we're all really thankful.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

and you may ask yourself

I was travelling on a bus today and I overheard a couple talking with the driver. The driver was pulling out from behind another bus, a very tight manoeuvre in this instance which he managed well. The couple congratulated him quite sincerely, told him they were impressed he could drive a bus in wet weather, and asked him if it was difficult. They thanked him for driving so well and said they always try to say thank you to their bus drivers. So my happy thought for today is

Nice people.

I wrote this while watching Rage. People are strange, but if they're also nice, all is well.

Friday, June 15, 2012

capturing moments with contraptions

In my defense, I only missed a day because I didn't sleep the night before and I was exhausted and then I had the more important things of the day to worry about. But now, behold, I write.
This is a box. It contains a deconstructed Zenit E single lens reflex camera built in the Soviet Union in 1976. I am repairing it. Well, I mean this in an ad perpetuum kind of way. This photo was taken in May 2011 and I have made approximately 1 repair since, and I don't really know how to put it back together so that it works again, and all the repair manuals are in Russian. Anyway. My happy thought for the day is


because I quite like them. And not just the newish, take-good-photos kind. I like the old, take-cool-photos kind as well. And I liked them before liking them made you a hipster.

See, what I like about cameras is how they are quite plainly machines, but their purpose is artistic. What's clear from that photo is that an old camera is a very mechanical device. Too mechanical for me to put it back together easily, but also more mechanical than one thinks about when seeing the pictures it takes:
(To be completely honest, this photo was taken using a Zenit 12XP from 1986, a successor to the E and slightly more advanced electronically - i.e. it has electronics - but very similar mechanically. It was also fitted with the lens from an E).

Basically, cameras are awesome for both sides of the brain. They're like music that you can touch. When I don't want to capture little bits of the world on even smaller bits of celluloid, I can be trying to fix something, and that also makes me happy.
Take this Falcon vest pocket camera for instance. Syl found this on Etsy, and when we bought it, it wouldn't even open. After we gradually prized it open, we detached the shutter mechanism at the front from the bellows. Syl did a great job of cleaning the bellows and making sure they didn't stick together much, while I got the shutter firing again. A deceptively complex mechanism. Pushing the shutter lever about 6mm moves a plate with a hole in it. The hole is then lined up with the opening at the front, but light is blocked by a second plate. The two plates are connected by an angled spring. When the first plate is moved, the spring is contorted to exactly the right point at which it decompresses itself by rotating. As it does so, it also rotates the second plate. The second plate has a sausage-shaped hole in it which passes past the opening at the front of the camera. The length of the sausage-shaped hole and the spring constant of the spring determine the length of time it takes for the hole to pass the opening at the front of the camera, and hence the exposure time. Basically, all of that goes into making a photo like those you saw here. Fixing up this camera has been a great little project for Syl and I, especially since we got to take photos with a camera made sometime before 1941. Yay!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

water in the form of droplets

Woo! Blog makeover. Feelin' fresh.

I feel slightly slack for today's happy thought because it makes so many people's days unhappy. But there's something about

from under the umbrellaRain

that I find soothing and relaxing (unless I'm drenched in it, and sometimes even then). Take the scene on the right for example, which I snapped the other day. It's hardly idyllic, because it's all rainy and grey and such, but it's serene. And I respect that in an inner-city park next to Broadway.

awesome storm on 365 ProjectYou know how different it is to walk around an empty university or school after nightfall, when it's all lit up differently to how you're used to and when nobody is about to spoil the silence? Rain does that to the entire world. It balances out the usual busyness with an enforced and temporary calm. And when it leaves, the world looks and smells fresh. I really enjoy that process, whether I'm in it or watching it from a cosy glass-shielded vantage point. In my younger, more emotionally frought days I noticed that rainy days calmed me down, as though the world's empathy with my depression was a balm. I still feel that, but I also just enjoy rainy days for their beauty.

While I'm talking about water from the heavens, I'd like to mention fog as well. I grew up in a town renowned for its fogginess, and the experience left me with a healthy appreciation for having one's head (and body too, for that matter) in a cloud while one's feet are still planted firmly on the ground. The reason I like it, in spite of its obvious detractors and dangers, is that it makes the world look both amazing and surreal.

If, by some chance, I've put you in the mood for a rainy day and yet such a day is not forthcoming (unlikely to be a problem in Sydney for a while), try going to http://www.rainymood.com/.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

get lost (in a good way)

Today's happy thought of happiness:


I currently have 15 books (plus a bible and a diary) stacked on my bedside table. Why? Because it's more fun to read books than to put them away, of course! I think I've read more novels in the last year and a half than in the previous 5 years, and I'm loving it. So many stories, so many mysteries and adventures, images and intrigues. And so many of which I'd never read before.

The Day of the Locust was utterly bleak, with its portrayal of a Los Angeles where everyone is acting and even the houses are superficial. To Kill a Mockingbird was perfection. Pride and Prejudice was a lot more accessible than I'd imagined. I've gotten wrapped up in Wimsey mysteries and the Liveship Trader fantasies. I've thoroughly enjoyed Chandler's Marlowe crimes, both for the hard-boiled grit of the stories and the surprisingly natural description of their settings. And I've laughed at the tropes-before-they-were-tropes of Dracula.

I feel almost like I'm discovering something new in books, but I'm not — it's a rediscovery. I used to read so much I'd be late for my ride to school. I think I just wore myself out reading The Lord of the Rings seven times over in fairly quick succession, leading to a twelve-year dry spell. But it sure is good to be back with my nose in a book, losing myself in another world, letting my imagination roam again.

My current read, a mystery called The Floating Admiral, has chapters written by fourteen different authors. It's not the most coherent story, and the authors keep subtlely venting their annoyance at the frayed ends left by those writing before them, but it's quite interesting and not a bad mystery. Next up is another Chandler. After that...

Monday, June 11, 2012

why opinion fights are uncool and tea is brilliant

About four months ago I finished a photo-a-day-for-a-year project that took me fifteen months. You can find this project here if you so desire. I quite enjoyed it, though it was hard, and for the most part my photography skills turned out to be below what I hoped for. Still, it made me view the world slightly differently, and that can be a good thing. And it coincided with Syl and I starting a vintage camera collection; these two are from a Falcon pocket camera we restored. Syl worked on the bellows and the finish, while I got the shutter working and opened the camera mid-roll to give it that old-timey feel. I'm such a n00b.

I enjoy writing, but I don't do much of it. So I'm going to do a similar thing. I'll write a bit each day for a week, and see how it goes.

Yesterday I finally finished playing Portal 2. I say "finally," not because it took me a long time to play it, but because I just didn't start playing it for months after I got it. Brilliant game, should have played it sooner. I thought the ending credits song was a bit weaker than in Portal, but since "Still Alive" was sheer brilliance I think I'll let it slide. The Portal games have such an excellent mix of fun, puzzles, dry wit and satire. Yep, quite enjoyed it.

Watched the first episode of Dollhouse on TV tonight. Thought it started a bit weakly, but it drew me in over the course of the episode. Looks like another piece of Joss Whedon magic, just a bit more serious.

And here's a thing I'm noticing: I have very little to write about here. I've been thinking about doing this lately, and going over old blog posts, and it looks like I used to care about things in general a lot more than I do now. Maybe it was when I realised that the people who engage in debates on internet comment streams aren't actually solving anything... there's something singularly unappealing about opinions thrown in a public arena like armed robots in a ring. It's not that I don't care about stuff, but that I can't be bothered engaging in arguments like that. They contribute nothing to human intelligence or reason because nobody listens, everybody shouts, and the sum total is a hundred million little balls of interconnected anger strewn around the globe. So I really don't want to write about my opinions, or start arguments, or talk to the intarwebs about deep and intellectual topics. Not with anger anyways, and not without respect, smiles, tea and civility.

So I think, each day, I'm going to share something happy. A happy thought. And today, my happy thought shall be:


Tea is brilliant stuff. I've been having a lot of tea lately, a lot more than usual, because for one reason or another I've not been drinking as much coffee as I normally would. I have discovered that English Breakfast Tea is actually The Bees Knees. It's mild enough that weak little me can drink it black and unsweetened; it's also brilliant with honey and lemon. I like it. Tea is definitely a feel-good drink. It's exceptionally good at warming the cockles of one's heart on soggy winter days, particularly when taken with bara brith and good company (thanks Syl). In fact, I think I may get myself another cup right now and curl up with a book.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

albums you’ve probably almost forgotten #1 – Savage Garden (self-titled)

Savage Garden’s first and penultimate album holds the auspicious honour of being the third CD I ever bought. I bought it in Canberra for $10 from some little second-hand record store, and it was awesome. The songs I’d heard on the schoolbus were even better on my still-new CD player, that technological marvel. Mine just so happened to be identical to my mate’s CD player, on which I’d first heard Savage Garden in full. It’s amazing the things you remember... like my mate explaining to me how profound “Santa Monica” was. You really could pretend to be anyone on the phone, he elucidated.

I can’t help but be a bit fond of this album. Savage Garden’s simple format of a guitar, some synths and a kid who learnt to sing by mimicking Michael Jackson didn’t stop them from churning out a solid attempt at a pop album, and it’s still mostly palatable after fourteen years. There are a few pieces of mildly funky electro-pop stuck in the middle which are getting a bit cringe-worthy, but they’re made up for by the smoother, deeper tunes which book-end the album. Like everything from the 90s, this album tries a few too many fusions for its own good. But some of it just works, unlike a lot of Australian pop music from this era. Even after a thousand plays, “To The Moon & Back” is still an emotive song, and “A Thousand Words” can still get you deep enough into its groove to make you overlook glaring arithmetical exaggerations.

Probably among the least embarrassing of Australia’s cultural exports of the 90s. Chances are that you or someone in your family already played it until you were sick of it. It was that good at the time, and it’s still kinda got it.

Stand-out song: “To The Moon & Back”
How did we stand this stuff: “Violet”
Still surprisingly decent: “All Around Me”