A lot of Australian aboriginal art is quite fascinating, with its own symbolic lexicon telling a history that has been passed down for tens of thousands of years. However, I have to admit, that it can feel a bit samey sometimes, at least to this white immigrant. This cannot be said for the work of John Mawurndjul. Using traditional materials, telling traditional tales, including traditional symbols, but with a unique and contemporary style, his works a quite something. Currently, on display in Sydney, I'm looking forward to his exhibition arriving in Adelaide in October at the state gallery. In the meantime have a look at a fascinating article on him in the Guardian here.
There was a rather poignant article in the Guardian last week in their 'that's me in the picture' section, written by the wife of Ferrari driver Peter Collins (in the beanie). The other driver was killed in an accident shortly after the photograph was taken. Peter Collins was killed a year later, three weeks after winning the British Grand Prix in 1958. His wife, Louise King (in the middle of the photograph) was married to him for only eighteen months, yet writes "it was the most joyous time. He was a wonderful man: a brilliant driver with a brilliant spirit. I feel so lucky to have been part of his life". Read the rest of the short article here. It was a very different era to today.
Anything from before we are born is ancient history and doesn't have have the same level of reality that something we remember has. I was born 26 years after the end of the second world war; both it and it's aftermath were always only history to me, but it is nearly 20 years since I was 26. I was born closer to the war than my kids were to me. None of which means anything, but it sort of puts time into a personal perspective. One of the things about getting older is you get a bit behind the times. So I give that as the explanation for my discovery of Monkey Swallows the Universe nearly ten years after their first album and many years after they split.
This is a sing-a-long sort of song, so it is foot-tappingly immediate in its appeal. Here it serves the dual purpose of nostalgia for me and introducing you (maybe) to the music of Nat Johnson. The sleeve notes say that it is "dedicated to everyone who has lived in, loved and left Sheffield", which most definitely includes me.
Back in 1990 the bands that became to be known as 'Shoegaze' started to take off. Despite the hideous moniker, this was a great time for guitar music and the record label at the centre of it was Creation Records. Home to the band that started it all, My Bloody Valentine, they also unleashed Ride and Slowdive onto the world, before being destroyed by the abomination that was Oasis. All these bands had a dense atmospheric guitar sound that I just loved and I got to see them all live at some time or another, Ride early on in the tiny "Take Two" venue in Sheffield (long since demolished I think), My Bloody Valentine later at the bouncy floored Ritz in Manchester (still going as far as I know) and Slowdive at the Leadmill. With the music dominating the sound, people often took little notice of the lyrics, My Bloody Valentine seemed to amuse themselves with some fairly filthy songs, check out "Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)", the title is a fairly big clue as to the content! Anyway, My Bloody Valentine, after almost bankrupting Creation, didn't make another record for a very long time, Ride moved to an increasingly 60's tinged poppy sound, but Slowdive continued to develop their sound in their own way, before calling it a day. Their members forming various bands, most notably Mojave 3, which had a very quiet country type of music, but retained certain of Slowdive's sensiblities.
All three of these bands have reformed, My Bloody Valentine briefly, a few years ago, releasing an album of songs that were largely written before their original demise; Ride and Slowdive more recently. From the released tracks Ride's album sounds like the last, rather unintersting records they made in the 90's, but the new Slowdive record seems to be rather more intersting, recalling key aspects of their sound 20+ years ago, but also the work the mebers have done since then. Anyway, the Slowdive record has just been released and on a first listen, I think it's really great! I recommend you buy it, or lListen to it on Spotify or whatever here.
A few weeks ago I did a 'webinar' for the AWRI. This basically gave the main results we've generated in the Wine Australia funded Vine Balance project that I lead (a collaboration with the NWGIC in Wagga Wagga). They've put it online, although it is audio and presentation only, no video of me you'll be relieved to note. Not exactly my greatest presentation, as usual, I didn't end up with much time to prepare, but it gives an overview of the work. We'll be doing a grower event in May/June, followed by a final report for the funders. In fact I'll be over in Tasmania in a couple of weeks, taking about this in conjunction with some other work. Really must start on writing the presentation....
I have long found it strange that those proselytising for minimising use of pesticides in farming are also the very same people campaigning against the technology best placed to achieve that goal, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are few people in the world now who would never have consumed a foodstuff made from a genetically modified plant and we're yet to see any negative effect, suggesting that the regulatory regimes we have in place are, at the very least, adequate to protect us from any potential problems with the consumption of GMOs. On the other hand, by not further utilising GMO foods we are ignoring a method to, not only improve farmland productivity, but also an opportunity to improve the diet of those with the least. Anyway, there is a new online petition, currently signed by 110 Nobel Laureates, amongst lesser scientists, such as myself, calling for support for the use of GMOs such as 'Golden Rice'. You can sign it too, here. When I was young used to support Greenpeace, but their fund seeking populist campaign against GMOs ruined any relevance or integrity in my eyes. If you are a Greenpeace support, demand that they end this ignorant, anti-science stance. There is quite a lot of information at the supportprecisionagriculture.org site, so if you are sitting on the fence, read the side of the story Greenpeace and the tabloid press won't give you.
So. Rather than leave everything to Facebook and all the anoyances that entails I have ditched my account and turned my old site into a blog. There are some rather old overviews of my past work, a few random pages on my interests and, by default, whatever random stuff I've felt like posting.