Thursday, September 29, 2011

The scent of rancid coconut

There is a foot on my head and laughter at my back,
Nothing I do will release me from this trap.
Run around, jump, spin, stagger and fall!
Trapped in a spastic dimension,
Like a clown in a glass box.
Jump, spin, stagger, run around again
You can struggle and strive if you like.
To all ends, No difference made!
You will be greeted by more of the same.
Try to make it work but some things never change!
No talent, No chance, nor music or art,
Just these spastic jitters and a crumpled heart.

I lit a fire to calm my aching soul
Smoke billowed through the yard and the street
A few coconuts for fuel, and their rancid fumes filled the air
Peace torn apart in the smoke and choking stench
Dark birds gathered to pick over burned offerings
My wretchedness exposed
Ready to be devoured like flesh from scorched bones
No time to ponder or chance to grieve
Back to bread labor put away your dreams!

Sometimes every effort is met with calamity, shame and ridicule...
I take comfort, to laugh heartier, louder than the din that surrounds me!
Not hollow or empty but maniacally in Zen.
All is ridiculous, Lets not be serious!
The Gods of Olympia might scoff and scorn but to this life I was born. And so will proceed, whither my headstone does read, Here lies a joke, mock him while he sleeps!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Don't dream it.... be it."

Apologies to the writers of Rocky Horror, this post has nothing to do with the Rocky Horror Picture Show and I probably could have saved that quote for something related to the play or film, whatever. But the catch phrase really fits this situation.
The following video offers an alternative to how things are and shows how the Dutch have successfully realized a dream.

Introducing the Dutch Cycling Embassy!

Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

This video dispels any myths that might exist about Holland always being bicycle friendly. They were headed down the same path as every other industrialized country! Cars begun to dominate the Streets of Holland's major cities just like everywhere else in the world. Holland didn't just happen to become a bicycle friendly country... They chose to respond to the negative social and environmental impacts of motor vehicles by deliberately creating bicycle friendly infrastructure for the sake of their citizens!
We can do the same in our cities... If we wish!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Family for Family

The culture of Darwin is constantly in a state of flux. When I arrived here only 15 years ago there was a sense of togetherness and community that I hadn't experienced in other places I'd lived. Such a large proportion of the population had originally come from somewhere else. Folk would often gather for BBQs, strangers were welcomed and there was a general sense of openness and acceptance of others from all walks of life. It was fun! 
People I'd met who had lived here a lot longer than I, would tell me, that it's nothing like it used to be and that  Darwin used to be much more easygoing, that people were more connected before. Well maybe gradually that easygoing lifestyle is shifting, but the spirit still exists. Many of us who have experienced that special hospitality are determined to keep the spirit of welcome and acceptance alive. 
Old Darwin Town lives! We will reject oppressive laws, we will reject inhumane policies, based on fear and xenophobia, and we refuse to condemn and fear our neighbors. We live too closely with the indigenous people of this country to believe that we are entitled to call ourselves Owner! We scoff at the attempts by Government to dehuhumanize those seeking asylum. They are just like the rest of us who have come here from elsewhere and we will reach out to them with the same friendship as was offered us when we arrived.

If you're in the Darwin area and are looking for something to do with your family and would like to show your support for those families who have been locked up from the moment they asked for asylum, then maybe you'd like to join the party outside the airport lodge.

Family for Family - Asylum seeker support BBQ and concert

This will be " afternoon of picnics, games and live music to show support for children, adults and families
in detention in Darwin.

When: Sunday 25 September, 2011
Where: On the big block of land opposite the Darwin Airport Lodge
Time: 3pm onwards
Why: To send a message to those living in detention to stay strong and let them know they are supported.

Bring: Your family, friends, food, music. (Musical instruments)"

For more information or are interested in helping checkout the DASSAN website or contact: Cat Beaton

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Softening up

Back to the Xtracycle rebuild!
I posted a while back that the Xtracycle had blown bearings in the center bracket, worn breaks, cracked saddle vynil a busted gear shifter and probably some other things... Well I fixed it all up a few weeks ago and managed to 'soften' up the ride a bit by changing some components. 

OK I better clarify one thing first. 'Rebuild' is a bit of a misnomer. I didn't turn my wreck of a bike into an all purpose all terrain, 'pimped' to the max (I hate that word, pimped, but you get where I'm headed with this right?), urban utility bike. No I didn't really fix her up nice or spend hours rebuilding the bike with expensive custom parts that shine and make lovely click sounds when shifted into position. But I did get her back on the road and and a bit more comfortably than she had been before.

Total cost.... ? Not sure I think it all cost me about $10 and about 2 hours work.
Here's what I did.

simple indexed gear shifter
(Shimano SIS 6 speed shifter $0 10 minutes work)

I ripped out the old twin leaver rear gear selector with the complicated mechanism and replaced with a basic 6 speed Shimano SIS gear selector. This item cost me nothing, Cheep mountain bikes are all fitted with this style of gear shifter, I just ripped it off a wreck that was laying around. It works perfectly and now I can change gears! I could have got another of those complicated ones from the tip shop designed for a 7 or 8 speed hub but I couldn't be bothered fiddling around changing the gear cassette, besides I'd rather ditch the complicated shifter!

(Second hand Biopace chain-ring & second hand replacement axle and bearings)
For $10 I bought an old mountain bike minus the wheels for two reasons.
1. It had a biopace chainring.
2. The frame was large and I thought it might become my new Xtracycle

It turned out that the seat post had become fuzed to the frame and I ended up ditching it. I did however keep the chain-ring. I really like Biopace. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons, I know some people think it's crap but my old Shogun road bike has biopace and I've always found it easier on my knees than other bikes. Biopace may not necessarily provide more power but it does seem to 'Soften' the experience of riding on my knees!
The Biopace chain-ring did not protrude as far as the original chain-ring so I needed to find an axel for the center bracket that would match it... (The original one was just as worn as the one I'd been using on my Xtracycle bike (Raleigh). I pulled apart one of my old Giant Road bikes and used the axle and bearings from that. I scavenged the best of the bearings from all three sets, crammed in a bunch of grease and fitted it all to the bike. With a few adjustments I managed to get the axle to turn quite freely without too much lumpiness... (Well there is a little bit of a notch but what do you want from a set of bearings that have come from three different worn out bikes?)
I threw the chain-ring on having no idea if it would fit, or work (I don't get the maths, geometry or physics of what I'm doing I just look at stuff, size it up roughly, throw it together and hope for the best). It worked! There's only a couple of milimeter's gap between the smallest chain-ring and the frame, which means the front derailleur can't reach the small ring but I'm happy being able to use the two larger ones.
Now I'm running a Biopace chain-ring on my Xtracycle! Mock me if you like. I'm happy with the result. 

brake pad - bicycle
(Replaced brake pads with a little more tread)
I pulled some flash looking brake pads off an old bike at the Tip Shop. I think I paid a couple of dollars for them. Too much really they aren't very good but at least there's some rubber and my bike will stop.

flat peddles
(Flat surface peddle belonging to a Giant Hibrid bike)
Second 'Softening' agent I applied to the bike were these standard Giant Hibrid peddles. I had been using some pretty decent metal peddles which had good bearings and great grip but they were chewing up my thongs! I usually ride in thongs or bare feet and rarely wear shoes, the grippy spikes in the old peddles had already worn holes right through three pairs of thongs, including a couple of emergency replacements I'd scored from the side of the road! I've been riding on these peddles for about two weeks now and the bottom my thongs are completely in tact!

Having replaced these few items with stuff that cost me next to nothing my bike is back on the road full time! The net result of my efforts is that I now have a softer ride.

Long bike

Major points of softness I have added:

1. Gear shifter - I can change gears... ergo it's easier to peddle than when I'm stuck in top gear.
2. Biopace Chain-ring - Biopace eccentricity reduces the pressure needed on down stroke while maintaining constant drive to the rear wheel. Resulting in less pressure on the knees of rider.
3. Peddles - I don't do hard core BMX or mountain-biking. Flat peddles are fine for urban cycling on a heavy bike. These are softer on my footwear and softer on my feet.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bikey Boy rap...!

The family went out without me on Saturday night. I had a busy day and came home to an empty house!
I'm pretty sure it was the first time in a couple of years! I could have done anything but I wasted my time on the computer again..! Well it wasn't a total waste of time, I did manage to play my own choice of music on the sterio... through the speakers! As loud as I wanted! YEH!

Sam took the kids to the NT Schools concert IMAGINE. They were bombed out when they got back so we put the kids to bed and Sam told me all about the show. Apparently there were plenty of great performances but what the kids really liked was. The Bikey Boys from Nyirripi!

She was sure I'd like them and insisted that we look them up on Youtube straight away. We did, and I do!
Check out their video it's very cool!

Bikey Boys From Nyirripi

Some great lyrics in this song, fun dancing but, strangely, the Bikey Boys only have one bike between the lot of them!

"My bike is a bird, I fly around town.
Looking for food, crawling on the ground.
Watch out because it might be you.
There's no tellin what my bike bird could do"

Or how about this line?

"...It's me, My bike, and the dirt road!"

The beginning of the song reminded me of a section in the middle of 'The Brothers Cup' by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, a little bit.

What is the message in this song?
Rap On Boys.. and get yourself some more bikes!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Singing hypocricy

On Friday I attended my child's School Assembly.
Wow! They've changed a lot since I was a kid! The Children are actually involved in running the school assembly, there are awards, and performances and it's heaps of fun. The principal still addresses school discipline issues but there is an amazing amount of collaborative work involving the kids as well.

Anyway I'm straying from the issue I wanted to raise. During school assemblies, everyone stands to sing the National Anthem. I have to admit I haven't even heard it for years, we used to sing God Save the Queen.
We did sing Advance Australia Fair during my last years at school but... well... I wasn't there that often! I don't recall ever going past the first verse anyway. I am sure I've heard it before but a lot has changed in this country since I heard it!

So we're standing at attention... I sing heartily for the first verse... then "La da di da da da dada, da da de da da daaaaaaa" (I tried to keep the tune but didn't really have a chance so I just shut up and listened!)

And was horrified to hear these words...

"...For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair..."

I don't often think of myself as a particularly patriotic person, I tend to oscillate between various states of mind when it comes to the role of obtrusive political systems, Governments, nations etc... For practical purposes though I do understand and respect the role of nationhood. The Laws, and the significance of documents such as our constitution, a flag under which we might affiliate and an anthem which reflects the spirit of the people of the land we belong to. I get why we might need such things as a means of cooperating and unifying etc... These are the structures that allow us as individuals to align ourselves with our countrymen under a code of honour of sorts. We respect the basic tenets of our society. And that's why Constitutional Law is taken so seriously, or to deface a National Flag is considered to be extremely offensive.

So how is it that we have allowed our Government to pervert the laws of our land to such an extent that they can change them whenever the law does not suit their own agenda, in this case their anti Refugee Policies?

If Nationhood means anything. If it is expected that we, as free thinking individuals, should willingly stand in obedience to the symbols of our nation and sing a National Anthem; then surely the words contained in this song must have meaning!

As I watched my child proudly singing I felt a deep sense of shame! We have sold our children a lie and they are loyally singing it to us in their morning devotions! Whatever shall we do about this terrible treachery?

Change the National Anthem?

"For those who come across the seas...
We've not a crumb to spare.
Steel bars and razor wire,
are all, that you'll, find there!"
If I advise the School that I do not want my child to sing the National Anthem it is not because I don't love my country! It is because I cannot bear the thought that our children are being used to propagate a myth!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beautiful Bike Art

Back in November last year I thought I'd search the internet for articles about cycling in Darwin. That was when I first read an article by Mike Rubbo on his blog I think he actually came all the way to Darwin just to find out about our bicycle culture and what it was like to ride a bike in the only state in Australia where cyclists haven't been hit over the head with draconian Helmet laws. I was surprised to find that he had actually done a bit of research, provided some statistics and even created a short documentary film to share his experience of cycling in Darwin. See Darwin Shows the Way.

Mike is a Sydney based cyclist/blogger who happens to be an advocate for the mode of cycling he calls Sit-up cycling. It's a kind of attitude toward riding or a philosophy of normalizing the bicycle as a legitimate urban transport option. You can read his blog if you want a detailed definition of this.

(Riding with a guitar by Mike Rubbo)

Mike also happens to be quite a good artist and he specializes in, You guessed it... BICYCLE ART!
Now there's a whole heap of great propaganda Art around the bicycle activist scene, a lot of what I've seen is related to event posters, either hand drawn and reproduced or art produced using fancy graphic art computer programs. Mike's art is quite different to everything else I've seen. He uses three main mediums, Rubbings, Lino-Cuts and Solar-prints. The effects are absolutely beautiful! I love the swirling scratchy lines he produces particularly in the rubbings. They have such a soft and mystical feel. People and bicycles communing with the elements of wind, light and movement. All aspects are linked with flowing lines that barely separate the subjects from the their backgrounds. It's as though the person, the bike and the environment are somehow all united. I really love this stuff. If you're into Bicycle Art (does such a genre even exist) Check out his Bicycle Art Blog. It's well worth taking a tour through his amazing images.
These images allow me to dwell, if only for a short time, in a kind of transportation Utopia. A place where cars are scarce and people have more time to enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors as they cycle contentedly about their daily business, to work, shops, school or just having fun.
I am reminded of H.G Wells quote:
"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Clean up Day at Rapid Creek


On Sunday as I cycled along the bike path between the horse stables and the creek, I was still oblivious to the fact that the banner I'd failed to read on several other passes was promoting something that I was actually interested in....
However when I rolled toward the 'Red Footbridge' near the freshwater barrage I realized my foolishness for not having read the sign!

As the bridge came into focus, so too did a pile of white and yellow bags filled to the brim with rubbish, discarded bottles, cans and those inflatable foil wine bladders!

(Rapid Creek Landcare Member - with bags - Name omitted due to my shocking memory)

The sign was promoting the Rapid Creek Clean-up Day and I had made other arrangements! I remember saying on previous years that I would definitely help...
I rode past under a cloud of shame as others were dutifully collecting all the trash bottles and debris produced by the abundance of human apathy. (hey I really love the creek OK!) Most of the stuff had been left there by local drinkers, too pissed, ignorant or just plain sick to clean up after themselves. (A complicated series of problems that we could probably find strong correlations between the health of the people and the state of our natural environment but let's not go there now)

I had a brief chat with a couple of the people there but had to keep on moving, promising I'd lend a hand if they were still going when I returned.

By the time I got back to the Clean-up Base Camp most of the volunteers had gone home, but a huge pile of bags filled with trash remained leaning against a tree. Tara the organizer of the clean-up event was still there. I apologized for not paying attention to the sign and missing out on the clean-up to which she replied, "There's still plenty of rubbish lying around" Then I was asked which colour bag I'd prefer to use... Lucky for me I wasn't looking for excuses!
They'd already cleaned away a massive amount of trash but with so much there is always some remaining. I was pointed in the direction of a patch that may have been missed and off I went, bag in hand.

I have to say walking along the banks of Rapid Creek on my own and collecting rubbish turned out to be quite a special experience. I was only out there for about an hour but in that time I removed a huge variety of plastic bags, bottles, a bicycle wheel and even a blanket. I also got to explore parts of the creek that I don't usually see. As I walked I began to slow down and listen to the environment around me. Even though I wasn't very far from the road, I could still hear the traffic, but there was a serene quietness around me that I found quite soothing. I saw several species of birds and sat in the shade of a majestic Milkwood tree. Once my bag was full and I'd cleared, what was a reasonable amount of junk away from the creek, I headed home feeling somehow more content and happy, more centered than I recall feeling for a while.

(Sample of what can be found along Rapid Creek before the Land Care Group does it's thing)

Over the years my relationship with Rapid Creek has swung from being particularly concerned with the future of the creek and it's amazing riparian habitats, to one of detachment as I felt my concerns for environmental degradation tearing me up inside until I had to step back. I have always enjoyed the creek, riding along the cycle paths, paddling on the ocean side of Trower Rd, the unusual fermenting smell of the mangroves even the hoards of fruit bats that rise from their roosts in the evening. Somehow though after having collected rubbish on Sunday my concern and desire for a connection with the creek have once again grown into a need to actively love and care for this very special space. I love the paperbark swamps that drain a pure cool and clean water, filled with small fish, crustaceans and all kinds of micro and macro invertebrates. I love the shady banks, the gnarled roots and the delicate ferns they support. I love the deep straight channels of fresh water flowing strongly through swamp box and the cool dark riparian undergrowth full of frogs and forest birds. I love the wide inlet where fresh and salt waters mingle and I love the abundance of life that flourishes around the mouth of the creek as it releases it's fresh water into the open sea. 

I have shared all these things with my children who have come to know this water too. For them it is normal to watch egrets wander between the horses and cows at Rapid Creek Stables, or look down from the bridge to see garfish swimming against the tide. They know to expect a kingfisher or two on their way to the park at Jingli and that if they're lucky maybe a tree snake or the occasional Shell Duck on the footbridge. These are all part of life when you live near Rapid Creek.

It's time to commit to the glorious Rapid Creek while it still possesses all those magical qualities that other urban creeks and rivers have been robbed of! It's time to make a firm commitment to care more deeply and intentionally for a creek that has already given so much to me!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Balancing the message

Have you heard of the Ginger Ninjas?
If you search them online you'll find a few staggered blog posts, a pretty cool website, maybe some photos of their South American human powered musical tour on bicycles with some pretty radical bikes (Xtracycles, they're awesome!) and you should be able to find a variety of doco style short videos.

I followed their progress through US and Mexico but there were many breaks in transmission... and I thought they'd given up but actually it turns out they were just absorbed in the actual experience of doing it and... well succeeded in unplugging from the virtual world for a while.

Anyway they're trying to release a video of their 2007 tour, which I think will be pretty awesome to watch because they are a band who carry all their gear on bicycles and uses their bikes to generate power for amps electronic instruments etc... and they Ride Xtracycles... and they're just doing it!
Apparently the mad idea to 'Ride to Belize' came up when someone misinterpreted the words of one of their songs! Someone shouted it out and all of a sudden they're packing their gear and cycling away from California on a wild adventure across Mexico headed through some pretty rough and hilly terrain for Belize!

You gotta see it.

I have to thank Adrienne from 'Change your life Ride a bike' for posting on this one first Here. I've subscribed to the Ginger Ninjas blog for ages but their posts are so irregular that I kept thinking they may have come to grief out on the Big broad Highway of life. Nahh They're just out there somewhere doing what the rest of us only dare to read about.

I hope they are able to complete this film, I'm sure there will be plenty of drama to keep us enthralled but honestly I'd watch it just to see them dragging all that gear through the mountains on their bikes!

Drama Sells!

"How did we become like this?"


"Well... more like Fascist state of Italy during WWII than a free egalitarian democratic country of swaggies, larakins freedom lovers and lovable misfits like we want everyone to think we are."

"Oh... That! It's all about Marketing!"


"Well it goes something like this. People make money by selling stuff. All electronic media sources such as TV, Radio and even the Internet are able to operate without charge to the end user because they provide advertizing space for people who want to sell stuff to the listeners, watchers, browsers, 'The Audience' right?" 
"Yeh right...."
"Well in order to secure lucrative advertizing they have to attract an audience."


"Human nature, is kind of predictable! We are drawn to controversy... Drama. The marketing guys have us all figured out. You could try to get on the Telly and talk about love and peace but people get bored with it. It doesn't sell. 
Drama sells... Drama is not confined to those convoluted programs labelled as 'Drama'. Drama is all the stuff that happens in peoples lives that the media make a living by telling us all about.
However we are at a new phase in media/news/current affairs, they 'produce' drama. And they refine the art of Drama until you get what we have now. Radio and Television programs full of manufactured 'conflict' because conflict is the essence of drama and drama sell; so conflict is a marketable commodity. People will listen to some over opinionated bastard spewing hate on the radio. Feeding ignorant fear, justifying resentment and preparing the audience to condone retaliation against perceived enemies. The best part about this style of media is that those who don't like them listen too, feeding fuel to the outrage! What happens then is the worst of all! The half baked issues concocted and manufactured for the purpose of creating drama for the sole initial and primary purpose of making lots of money for celebrity presenter and shareholders then become matters of 'public debate' and are considered the issues of significance to 'The Public'. The citizenry has been duped! Informed discussion and decision making highjacked and the pillars of our democracy exchanged for the facade of the set of a cheep TV fiction.
Everybody's listening, everybody's watching and most of us are buying it!
The more conflict produced the higher the drama content, the more listeners the greater sales value and on it goes. 
This is not The Media providing information to the citizens of an informed democracy! This is a Marketing machine producing anxiety, fear and paranoia.... Drama. Inventing enemies, manipulating the perceptions of it's loyal trembling Consumer Audience. (A Consumer Audience Minion Army)"

"Oh.... And that's why we don't watch television anymore?"


"Oh, yeh... Right"
It just rained on my yard for the first time in months... The rain on the earth smells just like Bali! It's beautiful.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Week of thoughts

"I've been contemplating...."
"You know... like thinking only... more deeply, possibly less strenuously but kind of making enough space in me for the bigger ideas to get in"
"Oh......"  "You always were full of shit!"

OK don't ask what I've been contemplating, It doesn't matter. I think I'll write on my blog. Some of the ideas we've talked about like the Myth of Retirement or Needs vs Wants and why it seems so hard for people to tell the difference. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting but it can tend to lead to necessary excesses of what you Don't Need or in the end even want...

Maybe I'll just write some of the simple lines of thought we've been playing with and leave it at that. The conversations have entertained me enormously lately.

Like when we were discussing insatiable desire for more.... and how even so called spiritual leaders seem to require all the very best of modern comforts and consumables... and you said we don't 'NEED' Money!

We live our days in the Mary Poppins school of thought when it comes to having lots of cash.... We are occupied usefully and we get enough to do the things we like and as Mary Poppins said "Enough is as good as a feast..."
Hey and didn't Sheryl Crow sing "It's not have'n what you want, it's Wanting what you have..." Or something like that?
And right now we do. Hey that's right... we do.