Saturday, September 29, 2012

Once again

my backyard becomes an unofficial site for

as I read a poem to the accompaniment & applause of a cross-section of the local birds who are gathered in the mango tree.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The 2012 Ig Nobel Awards

organised by Annals of Improbable Research and awarded on Thursday at Harvard University.
Psychology: Anita Eerland, Rolf Zwaan and Tulio Guadalupe, for their study entitled Leaning to the Left Makes the Eiffel Tower Seem Smaller.

Peace: The SKN company, for using technology to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

Acoustics: Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada for creating the SpeechJammer, a machine that disrupts a person's speech by making them hear their own spoken words at a very slight delay.

Neuroscience: Craig Bennett, Abigail Baird, Michael Miller, and George Wolford, for demonstrating that brain researchers, by using complicated instruments and simple statistics, can see meaningful brain activity anywhere – even in a dead salmon.

Chemistry: Johan Pettersson for solving the puzzle of why, in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden, people's hair turned green.

Literature: The US government general accountability office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

Physics: Joseph Keller, Raymond Goldstein, Patrick Warren and Robin Ball, for calculating the balance of forces that shape and move the hair in a human ponytail.

Fluid dynamics: Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer, for studying the dynamics of liquid sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks while carrying a cup of coffee.

Anatomy: Frans de Waal and Jennifer Pokorny, for discovering that chimpanzees can identify specific other chimpanzees from seeing photographs of their rear ends.

Medicine: Emmanuel Ben-Soussan, for advising doctors who perform colonoscopies how to minimise the chance of their patients exploding.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don Binney, 1940-2012

Kotare Over Hikurangi

"In the first years of the 1960s, there emerged from Auckland University's School of Art several painters who have since made considerable contributions to New Zealand painting. Amongst them . . . Don Binney.

"Binney works in an extremely hard-edged style that defines and makes obvious his forms. At first he used what he describes as a 'token landscape' to act as background to the birds whose forms were then his concern, but gradually the landscape, with the 'brilliant nervous quality' of its light, has assumed equal and often prime importance."
M.Y. New Zealand Art: Painting 1950-1967, A.H. & A.W. Reed, Wellington, N.Z. 1968

Tui Over Te Henga

from The Dead Presidents
pelican dreaming , 6/12/2004
I heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy whilst I was riding on the small bus that then crossed the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand from Whitianga to Thames.

A narrow road in a temperate rain forest. Most times only wide enough for the bus. Branches scraping the roof. Few passengers.

The driver had a little transistor radio. Reception was, understandably, crappy at best. Scratchy. But through it all, breaking into the music, came a severe & oh so serious voice. "Stand by for an important news item." Repeated. Then, "The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated."

Because of the dateline this was the morning of Saturday, November 23 in Aotearoa. Hearing the news anywhere would have caused shock, but to hear it in such surroundings was utterly bizarre. & distressing. Even to someone like myself whose politics were left of left, JFK was a figure of hope. Vietnam was still to move from S.E. Asia's equivalent of off-off-off Broadway. The Cold War was still the main occupant of the world stage. The Bay of Pigs was someone else's fuckup. The Cuban missile crisis had been resolved because of JFK's steely resolve & we were all breathing a little easier. Frank O'Hara was still alive. Kruschev was still coming on the right day!

We changed buses & headed for Auckland where we were to stay at the house of some friends who had gone away a couple of days earlier & who had told us where they'd left the key. Drove into Auckland to a main street dotted with newspaper billboards – yes, they still had afternoon newspapers in those days – that proclaimed PRESIDENT KENNEDY ASSASSINATED. Not many people around, only the billboards.

Caught a taxi to our friends' house. Went inside. First thing we saw was a newspaper billboard on the wall. AMERICAN PRESIDENT ASSASSINATED. Freaked out, totally & utterly. How, if they'd been away for the last two days, could this have got there? Moved closer. Found it to be a reproduction of the billboard announcing Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Did not breathe any easier.
The friends whose house we stayed at, Don & Judy Binney.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Getting your priorities right

One of the first acts of the recently-elected conservative Queensland State Government was to scrap the annual literary awards, using the excuse they couldn't afford the $244,000 the awards cost in administration & prize money.

Now, barely three months later, this same government has announced it is giving $200,000 to the production company behind the local edition of Big Brother.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Indicators of Climate Change #1279

The koël, a cuckoo that migrates south from New Guinea each year to go through two breeding cycles on the Australian continent, has arrived a month early this year, judging by the koël, koël calls I've started hearing over the last few days.