Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blowouts and blisters

If I could go back in time and give myself some advise before embarking on the journey of life I might say to myself... 'Now kid you're in for quite an ride, some of it will blow your socks off! Some will be a bit scary. Sometimes you're going to wonder if any of it was worth it and some days you'll think you've discovered Paradise and you just won't want to leave but remember! Things never stay the same and 'There will be blowouts!'

(Don't get excited I have no intention of continuing with any profound revelations in the rest of this blog post, from here on it's just an ordinary day in the life story about getting a blister and bursting a tire.)

Today the kids and I had a great time hanging out on the church lawn and scratching around in the Mulch Pit. There was a mob of people around as usual, everyone on their own trip, talking drinking coffee meeting friends 'networking' (OK that word shits me just as much as seeing it in practice but if the word fits...). Yes It sometimes gets a bit pretentious on our turf, sometimes it seems that "connectedness" has displaced friendliness but on the whole it's still an OK place to hang out on a Saturday Morning. Today the boy and I decided to venture back into the Mulch Pit, It's been a while since I'd attempted to do any physical work in the garden, the kids had been a bit of a handful over the past year so I'd given up trying to do anything beyond keeping a close eye on them. But Today was different! Today We Gardened!

I got stuck into it for a while with a crowbar, mattock and shovel, (digging a banana pit) only to find that after years of working in an office with very little sweat time... my hands had gone all soft like a girl baby! The callouses I had developed years ago when I did stuff, had dropped off and my hands which are now pink and soft, were vulnerable to blisters! So after only a few minutes of digging, I felt the skin on my finger rip as the crowbar tore open a blister that it had only just created! The sweat of my over fed, doughnut blubber, office-bound body dripped into the wound and I said "eowww!" I cried 'I've got Blisters on my Fingers!' but nobody sang along! (Some folks have no sense of humor... Or maybe they were never into John Lennon!) I am discovering just how frail my body has become. It all started when I learned how to use a computer! My body has atrophied to a shadow of it's useful self and I've become a helpless blob of cyber-space-cadet whose body has been drifting in zero gravity for over 10 years. This was bound to happen! I resolved to continue digging, but more carefully. I managed to get a few other things done and ultimately I felt good. It was a weak first start but at least there was sweat!

During the process of me recommencing manual work a fella turned up carrying a banjo, I think it was his girlfriend who had the harmonica, they were into gardens but not used to the heat and didn't want to sweat. I suggested they might like to sit in the shade and play some music for me while I do hard stuff and... they did! What a way to work; with the sound of banjo and harmonica to spur me on! I had this eerie feeling I was in a Coen Brother's movie. Now referring back to my first paragraph, this is what I call something close to paradise, blisters and all, the day was GOOD!

We stayed in the garden until the mobs had left Frilly's. Just as I was about to mount my bike there was a very loud CRACK sound a bit like a rifle going off. A jet of dust shot out from under the front wheel of my bike. It was a blowout! The front tire of my bike had a great split through the center of it! I couldn't believe it! It just went off! Lucky I wasn't riding down hill at the time it would probably have sent me off into the gutter or worse. I looked at the tire. It was yet another salvaged from the tip. I'd traded up a few times having found better profile tires, this was one I was quite fond of and not ready to part with. Unfortunately, even though there was still a bit of tread on it, the tire had actually perished a fair bit and needed to be replaced! I just wasn't ready to do it yet. That'll Learn me! The blowout only set me back a few minutes, I happened to have another wheel waiting in the wings, it had been donated a couple of weeks previously, I just pumped up the tire and threw her on and Bob's your uncle. I was mobile again!

 (There's a hole in the tire!)

(Best tire I've ever used and it was a gift left under a tree!)

Got home, went to the shed, reached in and pulled out a treat that spun my head! Magnificent tire full with tread,  left under a tree just by an anonymous friend!
It was given only a couple of weeks ago! A Schwalbe Marathon in closer to new condition than any of the tires I've ever had! I fitted the new tire and tube, filled the thing with air, stuck it where the front wheel is supposed to go, re-connected the brakes and took it for a quick spin. Unbelievable! I actually couldn't believe the difference in the ride! With a lot more pressure and slicker tread pattern, this tire made my bike feel totally different! Better! Much better! The problem now is I look at my bike and think. "You're not worthy!". A feeling of guilt or shame or something came over me. How could I put that beautiful tire on such a crappy, nasty old rattle heap of a bike! The darn tire's got me wanting a whole new bike to put it on! Or maybe I'll just have to get busy learning how to rebuild this bike properly! I can't wait to take the bike out for a reasonable ride to see just how great tire is, who knows I may even put the rear one on before the old one has a blowout!

Thanks Douglas! You're a champion!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A life choice dilemma

Finally I've arrived home after having spent about 4 and a half hours sitting on the locally manufactured bricks at Maningrida airport terminal. Although I am impressed that they make their own... I am not so satisfied with them as a day bed!

(Maningrida Bricks, Glad I didn't have to sleep on them!)

I've just spent a day at Elcho Island, where I had to go as part of my work. It kills me to think that I'm flying all that way just for one day! I'm trying to live simply and in the process reduce my carbon emissions, I ride my bicycle everywhere around town yet here I am jumping on a damned plane and flying across the country like some kind of jet-setting wanker executive! Or actually a lot more like the hundreds, possibly thousands of contract laborers, (and qualified tradesmen of course) who fly in and fly out of remote communities every week! It sucks and it kind of makes me sick to think about how ridiculous the situation is! Don't get me wrong, I do like flying and I really like visiting the people and staying in Arnhem land Communities but it's just not sustainable and besides my job simply isn't so important that it should require me to travel like this... yet here I go again! Anyway, I was on my way home this morning when the plane had technical difficulties and we had to wait for someone to come from Darwin to fix it. four hours later and we're wondering if we'll ever leave.
If the aroma of burning av gass and the sound of screaming engines turned me on then today would have been a real treat! Unfortunately I was kind of keen to get back to Darwin to see my wife and kids and to throw myself into sweat labor down at the Mulch Pit! It was possibly some kind of a blessing that I shouldn't complain about but I did have other plans and wasn't feeling terribly philosophical about the delay... at first.

Having recently read 'Radical Simplicity: small footprints on a finite Earth', by Jim Merkel (who happens to be an ex military weapons developer and trader) I am well aware that this trip alone has completely engulfed any fuel I would have used driving to work throughout the year...
The book is interesting but Jim lost me with all the calculations! Even if I was into maths I don't think I'd ever enjoy scrutinizing my consumption to the extent that he advocates. It just isn't fun! Anyway since I've read the book and now have a hundred formulas for finding out exactly how many planets it would take to sustain my consumption of resources. I am seriously reconsidering what I do for a living and how I can find a more acceptable way to put bread on the table.

There are several positive aspects to my work, which I shouldn't take for granted. I come in contact with some amazing and inspiring people.I have learned so much from them that I always balk at the decision to leave. It's a very peculiar problem... to leave would feel like deserting my family... actually because of the Yolngu system of adoption and Malk it would be exactly like deserting my family... and that is the biggest dilemma! So I guess I'll stick with it for a while.

cashew Elcho Island
(A very healthy cashew, hidden in a jungle)

The thing that has really been firing me up lately is my interest in learning more about growing food. How shared gardens can actually build resilient and caring communities! It might sound a bit mooshy but this is something that energizes me! Nightcliff Uniting Church has recently taken the extraordinary step of  employing a Permaculturist to coordinate activities at The Mulch Pit! I think that's an amazing and thing to do! A community that runs on the smell of an oily rag has deemed it's appropriate to employ someone to develop their permaculture garden! That's awesome!
I recently spent some time with Dan, and was instantly infected with his love for plants, soil and everything that lives in a permaculture system! I've always been interested and my minor involvement down at the The Patch gave me a sense of why I think it's such a special thing to do but now that I've been talking to Dan at the Mulch Pit, and having just spent 4 hours reading our mate Robbie Lloyd's book 'Going Walkabout through the Suburbs' (about creating inclusive societies) I'm thinking that now is the time for me to start studying permaculture.

Timothy @ the farm
(Timothy with his banana and sugar cane plantation)

Meanwhile back on Elcho this morning I was fortunate to spend time with the Community Minister, Timothy Buthimang, my Mari. Timothy is a devoted gardener and a Uniting Church 'Community Minister', although he can illustrate many things through the metaphor of gardening, he is a man of action and wisdom... a Worrier of the Spirit who is a living demonstration of the power of wuburr (sweat) to overcome adversity! His lessons provide real fruit! Timothy has maintained a garden of some description for many years. Recently Buthimang's farm/plantation was burned by a wildfire, but he showed me this morning that he has reclaimed the garden from the ashes and now has some very healthy banana and sugar cane growing in the ground. He has pots full of Pawpaw seedlings and various melon varieties as well. Having spent time with Timothy, I know what I need to be doing.

So here's to gardening tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A concept takes flight

More about the aircraft salvage operation.

A few weeks ago a mate of mine told me about a plan that another fella I know had to salvage some aircraft parts. Well the operation didn't quite work out and they were beginning to wonder if they'd be able to find what they were looking for.
Remarkably, coincidentally... whatever you want to call it, I happened to have something pretty close to what they wanted so the project was able to continue.

So without giving too much away I thought I'd post some more photos of the progress that has been made over the past couple of weeks. Conversion from trash into functional artistic creations of  beauty!

(Building an undercarriage of individually curved wooden frame for wings)

tail in mono chrome
(Cleaning and painting tail)

Transit lounge
(Fitting hand crafted woodwork to aluminium flight gear)

There is a deadline for this project so I imagine I'll be posting about it's completion soon. It's looking fantastic so far.

Reflections of ego... the road ahead

Another self indulgent naval pondering excuse for a blog post.
I have been wondering for some time about the purpose and reason for this blog. It's not specific, often full of personal rants with no real objectives and little to no research of subject matter prior to publishing.
It doesn't contain any useful information about how to make money, fix your car, pick up chicks, catch fish, grow your own vegetables or cook a souffle!
It does not provide inside information about corrupt political or business entities, have any suggestions for achieving Buddha consciousness, Nirvana, or reaching heaven or even describe personal encounters with any of these things.
Mostly it's so eclectic and vague and the over abundance of opinionated clap trap does nothing to entice the reader's attention or inspire further reading... So what is it for?

Well I have thought long and hard... (Well for about half an hour) and I am now sure that I do not know!

I've been at it for nearly 6 years now so I suppose a brief deconstruction is in order.
The purpose of this title is to let the reader know that the author of the blog views his world through the eyes of a Balanda. The word Balanda is a Yolngu word that is used generically by many indigenous people in the Top End of the Northern Territory to name non indigenous people... particularly Anglo. It is a word that was introduced by Macassan traders long before Yolngu ever set eyes on a White Man.
I like to use the word Balanda because it implies that there were important cross-cultural interactions between Indigenous people and those from other parts of the world long before Europeans arrived in Australia. It forces me to be consider my dominant culture experience of the world as only one perspective among many other world views. So Through Balanda Eyes means to me that although I am living here on Larakia Land I am not necessarily seeing things in a way that is natural for this place. Ultimately I am only a newcomer and have much to learn.

The Sub Text - 'A collection of thoughts and images usually scattered and disorganized that have now found a home... '

This pretty much explains the nature of the blog and I expect warns the reader not to look for form or any kind of reliable format to my writing... It's a mess!

Further Sub Text in Brackets - (Commentary from somewhere near the center of THE EMPIRE!)
This bit might be a little more cryptic. It is something I added after having listened to Eleine Pulos of Uniting Justice speaking about the bubble of contented ignorance that we live in here in Australia. Assuring ourselves that the world is becoming a fairer and better place to live, while our affluent lifestyles starve a growing portion of the worlds population into inescapable poverty, deplete the world of precious resources and create unprecedented environmental disasters and extinctions... I suppose it's a fairly standard Marxist perspective but these days we seem not to hear too much that really challenges the sense of capitalist, entitlement that allows us to justify any crimes for the sake of preserving our current way of life.... At the Center of the Empire.

Blog Format 

Well I've basically used a standard template but added a repeated background of bicycle sculpture... because I'm into bicycles. I have a list of blogs and stuff in the right hand column that I don't remember updating for a long long time. There is also some political, environmental widgets, and my flickr widget and some other stuff.

Blog Content
This is what it's all about and now I'm getting too tired to write about it. This is where I am stuck! I'm thinking of trying to take a more organized approach to my blogging but balk at the idea!
I could refine my subject matter and focus on particular subjects, but I have realized that some of the subjects I am most passionate about I never write about on this blog! They seem to be too serious for me to do justice so I just tend to leave them un-written! What is that all about? What should I do about it? I'm not sure yet.
I'm wondering if I should just choose only one subject per week and try to post about that at least once in the week. That might help me to focus. Maybe I could focus on the title of my blog and keep everything contained to the perspective of a non indigenous person... in order to prompt the reader to wonder how an Indigenous person might feel about the same thing... (I think that was the point of the title after all!) and how might we act if we cared about that?
One big problem I am concerned about is that by writing on too many subjects I risk appearing like a smartass pretentious know it all! I'll have to watch out for that one. It's not a good look for someone with as little knowledge as I have!
I'm still not sure where I'm going with this but it's too late in the day now to be interested.

Hoo Roo.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Flestering for a saner world!

Have you ever heard of 'Flestering'?
I don't think I had until my wife thought to point it out to me recently. She knows I like doing stuff with junk and when she discovered the word and art of Flestering she had to tell me all about it!

I couldn't find the word in the dictionary so looked it up online and discovered only a few references to it but what I found, I liked!

Here is a definition of flestering according to this site: (Go and read some of their theory, I think it's pretty cool)

"Flester (fles-ter), n.,flesta, -am; v.,flesto, -are, avi, -um.

Attributed to Uncle Flester, presumed timeless and ubiquitous.

1. n. Defunct, discarded, things; immediately redeemable. In the post-industrial age, fragments of formerly functional contrivances.

2. n. Any "thing" in so far as one ascribes a presumptive integrity to it, often the result of a visual prejudice.

3. v. The act of flestering, i.e. making proliferative and promiscuous use of what is at hand, closely related to the practice of Bricolage (See French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss: "The Savage Mind.")"

If you've ever seen the film 'The Gleaners and I' you might remember seeing some of the fascinating people in the film who collected junk from the street and turned it into something... artfully transforming trash into objects of curiosity and sometimes beauty. The creators of the River Cube project call this kind of transformation of discarded material Artful Trash Management (ATM) and also use the term Flestering to describe the process. I like it.

There's a satisfying feeling you can get when salvaging stuff, junk, and turning it into something useful. Whether it is intended as art or not, many things transformed in this way appear to take on a magical new quality and an odd beauty! I remember the farm gates on properties back home were often made from recycled beds or other iron, which had been welded and cut to fit. The latches too were crafted from recycled iron.

Darwin has it's own examples of Flestering, some of it I have found to be absolutely inspiring! I can't help being drawn to anything created in this way, it just sucks me in!

Here's a couple of local examples of Flestering that I reckon are pretty cool.

Creative Image Gallery Tin Shed Gallery
I don't think they're showing anything at the moment but you can check out Pedro's handy work at Casuarina Square, you sit on it! (Erratum - the link is to Tin Shed Gallery but the place I'm referring to is actually the Creative Image Gallery... Oooops!)

Darwin Fridge Festival
The event came into being last year. It is produced by Darwin Community Arts. Last year it was a basic exhibition of art done on, in and with discarded fridges (from the tip I expect), In one year it has grown enormously and now includes poetry and performance art! I believe there's still time to get your entries in.
The opening of the 2011 Fridge Festival was held last night at the Darwin Aviation Institute. An awesome open air venue, that absolutely reeks of Old Darwin Town! If you weren't there you have seriously missed out on something special! No dress code, free mangoes and plenty of room for the kids to run around!

If you're into a seat of your pants Adventure Flester check out Monsoon Dervish! If you scroll down you can see the awesome recumbent bike that local adventurer (not sure he'd like to be called that) Kris Larsen has created and ridden where most people fear to drive! If you're curious about his yacht or bike and would like to know how they came into being, with a capital 'B' I recommend reading his books.

As for me I've only tinkered with small stuff, re-using things that have been discarded, and mostly things I find on the side of the road while riding to work. (you'd be surprised how much treasure falls through the cracks in a wealthy society!) There is one project I am following with keen interest though. I managed to rescue some old aircraft bits before they were tossed out for scrap metal and they are now being transformed by a wizard of recycling and his conspirator. I'll try to post a progress report soon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Twilight Sailing

But first about - A Graduation Ceremony.
Before I get into the drama's of learning to sail stories I'd like to mention that today (oops technically yesterday now) was CDU Graduation Day. This year for the first time CDU graduated some very special people who have managed to complete the Mawul Rom Project at Galiwin'ku. This was a very special occasion, graduands received a Masters in Indigenous Knowledges! Congratulations to those who graduated especially those members of my adopted Gupapuyngu family who have worked so hard! I was proud to see you there today! I wanted to jump for joy and cheer you but of course the atmosphere required a little more restraint!

(Academic protocol doesn't encourage emotional explosions)


Over the past few months I've managed to complete two basic skills courses in Sailing and have even attended 4 Twilight races at the Darwin Sailing Club. It's been a real hoot! I love being on the water. Attending sailing classes has made it possible for me to experience some of the basics of sailing a yacht and provided some great moments bobbing around in the sea.

Today was the Darwin Sailing Club's final Twilight Series 'Non Serious' sailing race. This was possibly my last chance to sail until next year and I kind of spoiled it a bit by being a little too blase. Today there were no Pacer dinghies available and my regular sailing partner deserted me to crew on another boat so I had to take out a Pico. Actually I was looking forward to finally sailing solo and not having to share any of the boat with someone else but the rapture soon wore off! Picos are smaller dinghies than Pacers and the reduction in hull size means, surprise surprise, they're more cramped! With no jib to watch for my boat's orientation in relation to the wind, I soon discovered that it is a little harder to avoid the no-go-zone! Another problem which made things worse for me was the fact that the hull is more like a flat platform, which means there's not leg room. I ended up nearly dislocating my right knee 3 times!

It happened all to quickly! Directly as a result of two important factors... My lack of experience in these boats coupled with lack of concentration lead to me trying to quickly move from one side of the boat to the other during a Tack or a Gibe, resulting in my torso and everything else moving in one direction while the lower part of my leg is caught sideways under the weight of my body! The result of this unfortunate maneuver was the unmistakable shooting pain of two leg bones unwilling to maintain their relationship within the bounds set by my kneecap! I experience it as a deep pain stemming from a knee that will not bend in the usual way. It hurts, I swear, I thump the side of the boat and there's a sickening feeling like my leg won't straighten, but I try and then *POP* it's back in place. This happened three (3) times!!! Strangely now, just after midnight I can feel the pain in my hip joint! How odd!
Despite the physical discomfort and frustrating lack of skill at sea, I still managed to have a pretty good time. At least I was out there and it truly is beautiful to be propelled in a wind powered boat!

The sailing club is a new social experience for me. I found it quite a laid back and relaxing scene.When the race is over we all go back to the club and enjoy a bit of social activity and one or two free drinks from the esky. It's good fun actually but unfortunately the season is over which will mean I am at risk of forgetting everything I've learned before the season starts again next year. Looks like it's back to paddling around in the canoe with the kids.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What can be written?

It's been a few days since I've etched anything in these zeros and ones...
Sometimes there's nothing to do but leave it. Nothing can or should be Done!
I've had some moments along the way but a nausea has overtaken me when I've thought to write anything at all.. It's like the millions of repeated statements or thoughts are rotting at the bottom of a pit somewhere!When I look for words I find they've all been said. Any attempt to be authentic is futile. The stench of decay... generations of wasted words, gossip, chit-chat, slander, flattery, useless prose and failed poetry rises up and choke me. What is that stink? Am I wearing a suit of rotten fish and steaming crap?
Sometimes it's like that. Sometimes any attempt to tell or write about an insight or an experience can only reduce that special moment to cliche. Like every combination of words I attempt to join together, are recycled or borrowed and nothing original can be said by using any of what I think I know. Why say anything at all?

I have noticed so many 'coincidences' lately. Would it be fraudulent to even mention them? Sometimes to experience synchronicity is incredibly gratifying but it can also be a lonely kind of realization, like there are no discoveries or secrets only glimpses of kismet and so why tell what has already been told?

But No! There have been some divine moments lately... How can I express that? Would you feel what I feel if I wrote about it or made a list? Probably not! An idea can evaporate and moments are lost as though they never existed no matter how strong an impression they make at the time... So what?

the Joker's ball
(Joker's Ball with an Idiot Grin!)

Sometimes I listen to 80s Pop music and capitulate to nostalgia. I find memories easier to recapture through a tune or scent but struggle to grasp that idea in current moment. With word or by pen! So I won't even bother with that! Today I'll just tell some things I think are cool. Treasures I've stumbled across!

(Placards - Fundamentally good advise but... Did she have a particular God in mind? I should have asked)

Treasures I've found:

A Dugong passed beneath me as I was sailing last Friday afternoon.
Frangipanis are flowering and their scent is intoxicating and blissful.
A gift of two good tyres left under a tree.
Mangoes are ripe and ready to be eaten... Gleaned fruit tastes sweeter than bought!
The pearl shell I found on East Point Beach this morning is worth more than the days pay I traded for time with my kids at the beach.
'He who pays the piper calls the tune' I already knew this but was recently reminded of how important it is to remember.
The use of Academic Jargon is nothing more than pseudo intellectualism. Using it doesn't mean you know anything of any real importance.
Regurgitating Political / media Spin is even less impressive than using Academic Jargon.
Spring Tides in the buildup are immensely beautiful. (the beauty is not recordable as far as I can tell)
Solar Cars are cooler than V8s no matter what Territorians think.

Solar Car challenge Darwin 2011
(Solar Cars are cool)

Oops! I can feel the bile rising...
I actually would rather not post this but I have to do it! The compulsion not to write or talk is so strong that I feel I have to do something to purge it!

Lawson wrote The Rovers.  He knew a thing or two!

"... And when the world is crowded—
    ’Tis signed and sealed by Fate—
The roving blood will rise ...."

Sunday, October 09, 2011

How to fly

Last night my daughter had a flying dream. She seriously wanted to know if she's ever flown before because she thinks she can remember it...
Then she asked earnestly.
Dad... do birds fly from here (Tapping her head) or from here (with her hand on her chest). How profound!
I think she got the idea from a movie or something but it prompted a very serious question. How are we motivated? What is the cause for our striving? What elevates us to the greatest heights? The brain or the Heart?
She said when she flew in her dream it came from her heart.
My lack of originality and creativity is always trumped by simple and honest wonder of children. They are truly and purely Artists!

(Captain Flinn with his parrot, spider and boat)