Mai Long at the Salon des Refuses. Wynne Prize, Sydney Australia 2008

Mai Long (a friend of mine) entered the Wynne Prize (which is part of the Archibald prize) for best landscape painting of Australian scenery, or figure sculpture this year. Although Mai didn’t get into the main exhibition she was invited into the “Salon des Refuses” for the work below.


 Here’s Mai’s artist statement that goes with the work:

Pondering the discovery of a baby in a box outside the local supermarket, Aqua Mutt is beginning to doubt Dag Girl’s robotic rhetoric about immaculate conception.

How much is really known about this baby in the box? And who the bloody hell is Pho dog?

If you want to know a bit more about Aqua Mutt and Dag Girl click here and if you would like to know who the bloody hell is Pho dog? click here

If you would like to see the Mai Long paintings that I own click here

Life is too short to eat humble pie here in the first world

My mother saw the picture of the lorikeet yesterday and in response she emailed the photo below that she took on the weekend with the words: “you have the parrots and we…………..still have the ice in Hamilton harbour”.


When I used to live in Canada I used to think about how hard it must’ve been for the first Europeans who settled there back in the times of no central heating or imported out of season vegetables. Just goes to show how grim life must’ve been in Europe at the time for the peasants.

Every now and again I almost feel spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing things like what to eat or places to go to. When it comes to food, I’m not a fan of offal and every time I see offal for sale I think about how in the old days the average peasant (my forebears) wouldn’t have been able to afford to eat the better cuts of meat and that they would’ve had to resort to eating “humble pie”.  Now I know that some kinky types have developed a love of innards but all I can say when confronted with a plate with guts on it, is “get that crap away from me!”

I feel the same way about Canada in the winter. In this day and age of first world wealth where the average employed person living in a developed country can, without having to scrimp and save for a long time, buy a ticket to anywhere in the world, I find it difficult to understand living in places that are uncomfortable and unpleasant most of the year. Call me spoiled, but one month of nice days does not a good year make. In my parent’s defence, they live in the nice part of Hamilton near Battlefield Park (the site of the Battle of Stoney Creek), and Ontario does have good and free health care.

Manfed, Mum, engogirl and my sister visiting the actual Battlefield House in the park

On a side note, I can’t understand how Canada has a higher standard of living than the US, (which has the biggest economy in the world), and still be able to afford to provide free universal health care which the US doesn’t even seem willing to consider. I wouldn’t want to be poor and sick in the US.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to why some people, here in the developed world, feel trapped by fate in some kind of living hell like working a grave-yard-shift in a factory or being in a bad marriage. Some people claim that they don’t have any choice. Pish!  We’ve all got the ability (unless one is physically incapacitated) to change our situation and all it takes is the courage to make the decision to take action and then act on that decision. Back in the early 1980s  Direct Action used to gafitti the following equation all over Vancouver:


My wife and I have been thinking about going on a cycle trip down the Rhine and Mosel rivers next year and we were given a guide book to Germany by our neighbour Sandra. As we were looking through the guide book we though it might a good thing to find out what the regional cusine specialities were in the areas we are interested in, with a thought to trying them when we visit there. We were both very disappointed to note that every place we wanted to visit had offal based food as the regional speciality. Oh well, we’ll just have to live on swartz veldt kirschtorte (black forest cake).

Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

I was having breakfast in my backyard as usual this morning when the lorikeet in the photo landed in the ficifolia (red flowering gum) about 3 metres (3 yards) away.

two more reasons to be cheerful

Over the last few years my wife and I have landscaped our backyard from a sterile and sun-baked wasteland of lawn into a beautiful oasis of colour and calm. I have my breakfast outside nearly everyday and my wife and I eat outside about two or three times a week throughout most of the year. Even in the cooler weather we light up the chiminea and sit out and enjoy the enviroment we have created for ourselves.

Recently I’ve been counting my blessings (doing the old “be here now” thing) and I feel that I’ve got it made. I’ve got a lovely wife; a great circle of friends; a nice little house that’s nearly paid off; my freedom and I live in a prosporous stable country. I think that the mood of Jamiroquai song “Corner of the earth” from the album “A Funk Odysseybest describes how I feel when I’m blissed-out about such things.

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I’ve also been thinking about Epicurus lately and how what he has to say has so much relevance to my life. He is quoted as saying ” It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly (agreeing ‘neither to harm nor be harmed’). And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”

Epicurus promoted ethical reciprocity (treat others as you would like to be treated) 300 years before Christianity appeared and started to claim credit for such a concept. He also came up with a very useful little list (for this confusing consumerist, status driven, hero worshipping world we live in) of what is necessary

  • Freedom
  • A life free of pain
  • Shelter
  • Friends
  • Food

unnecessary but nice

  • A big house
  • Meat every day
  • Wealth

and what is totally unnecessary

  • Power
  • Fame

If you’d like to know a little more about Epicurus and a few other philosophers I like to recommend the following book by Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy

Easter long weekend at Tallong. NSW, Australia

Over the Easter long weekend my wife and I with our friend Peter went down to my in-law’s holiday home at Tallong (it’s about a two and a half hour drive south of Sydney).

view from the dinning room

It’s a beautiful house on a hundred acres of mostly wild bushland over looking the cliffs that run along the Shoalhaven river. It’s quite the view in the morning. My in-laws even have a spotting scope set up at the window for watching the kangaroos and wallabies that often come by to graze.


On Saturday we went to Canberra to the folk festival and had a good time checking out the various acts and the people that they attract. 

even hippies are facinated with mobile phones

Although the folk festival has many traditional activities such as morris dancing and fiddling workshops there quite a few acts that are taking folk music into new territory.  

A young sacrifice for the maypole

The best acts I saw were the very entertaining Wheeze and Suck Band (check out the amazing song “The Flash Lad” on their website), Skirl and the very talented Spooky Men’s Chorale (good crazy fun). 

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On Sunday we intended to fly our kite but there wasn’t enough wind so we tried out our new water propelled rocket.

Engogirl with rocket

The pump that came with the rocket was a little too small and fragile to give what we thought was enough pressure so we hooked it up to an air compressor. 

Peter gives the rocket a bit more gas

Much faster. Much better!

Andrew. 1988

I took this shot of my cousin Andrew for a college (art college were I studied photography) assignment where we had to take a portrait that showed character. To get the look in the photo, I asked Andrew to think about his childhood.


I always felt close to Andrew as though he was the brother I never had.

Andrew had a very bad up-bringing at the hands of his neglectful and violently abusive mother who used to savagely beat him for no good reason. As a kid he was always dirty and dressed in shabby clothes. By the time Andrew was 14, he beat up both his parents and ran away from home. Although his childhood was tough and he developed a taste for fighting, Andrew is a very smart and funny guy who’s no threat to anyone who means him no harm. He’s a great guy to party with and it’s amazing to see Andrew around kids, they love him because he connects so well with them. I guess he relates to children in a way that is the opposite of how he was treated when he was a kid.

Conversation at the Ekka bar with the man from Ironbark. Brisbane, Qld, Australia. 1988

The Ekka is the nickname for the Queensland Exhibition which is an annual agricultural fair with a midway of games and rides held in Brisbane. The Ekka is a big event for a lot country people (known locally as “cow cockies”) who don’t get to come to the big city very often.


The two guys were deep in conversation and I took the shot without asking for permission (which I used to do lot back then) and the smaller guy, who heard the click and noticed what I was doing, got quite angry with me. Fortunately I was with my cousin Andrew who’s bigger than I am (I’m 6ft) and who’s love of fighting (he worked as a bouncer) is obvious to anyone who rubs him the wrong way. When the guy who was getting stroppy saw that Andrew was up for some action, he backed off. Which was a good thing because after I bought them some drinks as a way to apologise for my rudeness, we got to know them and they were good guys.

When I was younger I used to love the sort of photography that used to be seen in Life magazine as practiced by the likes of Cartier Bresson and Alfred Eistenstadt. I loved the way they captured on film, people unaware they were being observed and I used to try and do the same. Now that I’m older, I don’t think it’s right to just take people’s photos without asking them. Sure, it doesn’t lead to the same sort of photography but I think that it can lead to equally interesting images of people engaging with the viewer rather than just being observed.

I took the shot with an 18mm lens which I absolutely loved using. I particually like the way how such a wide angle lens puts the subject into a context rather that isolating them like a telephoto lens does.

One of the reasons why I wanted to take the photo was because of the the fellow on the right with the bushy beard. He has a look that would be familiar to any Australian who’s ever seen a picture of Ned Kelly.


I found that as I was looking at him I was reminded of the famous old Banjo Paterson poem, “The man from Ironbark”.

It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
He loitered here, he loitered there, till he was like to drop,
Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber’s shop.
“‘Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I’ll be a man of mark,
I’ll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark.”

The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
He wore a strike-your-fancy sash, he smoked a huge cigar;
He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee,
He laid the odds and kept a “tote”, whatever that may be,
And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered, “Here’s a lark!
Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark.”

There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber’s wall.
Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all;
To them the barber passed the wink, his dexter eyelid shut,
“I’ll make this bloomin’ yokel think his bloomin’ throat is cut.”
And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark:
“I s’pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark.”

A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman’s chin,
Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in.
He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat,
Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim’s throat:
Upon the newly-shaven skin it made a livid mark –
No doubt it fairly took him in – the man from Ironbark.

He fetched a wild up-country yell might wake the dead to hear,
And though his throat, he knew full well, was cut from ear to ear,
He struggled gamely to his feet, and faced the murd’rous foe:
“You’ve done for me! you dog, I’m beat! one hit before I go!
I only wish I had a knife, you blessed murdering shark!
But you’ll remember all your life the man from Ironbark.”

He lifted up his hairy paw, with one tremendous clout
He landed on the barber’s jaw, and knocked the barber out.
He set to work with nail and tooth, he made the place a wreck;
He grabbed the nearest gilded youth, and tried to break his neck.
And all the while his throat he held to save his vital spark,
And “Murder! Bloody murder!” yelled the man from Ironbark.

A peeler man who heard the din came in to see the show;
He tried to run the bushman in, but he refused to go.
And when at last the barber spoke, and said “‘Twas all in fun—
‘Twas just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone.”
“A joke!” he cried, “By George, that’s fine; a lively sort of lark;
I’d like to catch that murdering swine some night in Ironbark.”

And now while round the shearing floor the list’ning shearers gape,
He tells the story o’er and o’er, and brags of his escape.
“Them barber chaps what keeps a tote, By George, I’ve had enough,
One tried to cut my bloomin’ throat, but thank the Lord it’s tough.”
And whether he’s believed or no, there’s one thing to remark,
That flowing beards are all the go way up in Ironbark.

THE MAN FROM IRONBARK by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

Published in the The Bulletin, 17 December 1892.

De gustibus non est disputandum. Tokyo, Japan. 1976

I saw the guy in the photo below eating some pineapple on a stick that he’d bought from a street vendor.


It was a hot day so I went and bought a piece for myself. I wish I had’ve known that the Japanese put lots of salt on their pineapple. Japanese taste is so different to what I’m used to.

I used to live in Canada with a Japanese woman that I met when I lived in Japan and the lunches she used to make for me were always a surprise. The lunch that sticks in my memory (or should I say throat) was banana sandwiches with lots of hot English mustard. She must’ve thought it was the closet thing we had in the cupboard to wasabi.  What we take for granted in the west as “normal” flavour combinations are not so normal to the Japanese.

De gustibus non est disputandum is Latin for “there is not to be discussion regarding tastes” or more simply but less literally “There’s no arguing taste”