Friday, November 23, 2007

Being Back

Home Again - Sydney

Been back a few weeks now - mixed feelings.

When you've been traveling six months, it kinda becomes the norm. And (often) you don't want that lifestyle to stop.

I stayed at least a month or two in most places and usually had a flat - one I'd furnished and stocked. Orchids seemed to be a must have!

Home Decorating - Manila Flat

So it wasn't a typical tourist stay - anywhere. I could do laundry. And cook in - for friends too.

Eating In - Manila

Tho I ate out a fair bit - usually local things I couldn't produce at home.

One thing that made it really like home was having the computer - will always bring it now. As long as there was a phone line, I could do dial-up - round $2 for a month in Manila. So email and blogging you!

I found I was much more social away - rarely being out alone. A sort of on-going daily party.

Local Restaurant for the Daily Lunch - Marilao

Of course I did sight-seeing stuff - all over the country as well as day outings from wherever I was. But it was mainly that the fact that I could, rather than I did.

There are things about being back that are great. But maybe another post - this one has been to give me the chance to look over my photos one last time!

Home - Sydney

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Being Funny about that Real Funny Activity


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Summer's Coming On in Sydney and Bod's Coming Out!

With hot weather so near, skin's out of hibernation. And my mind is turning particularly to blokes in swim wear - swimmers (Australia general, and US?), bathers (Melbourne-speak), togs (UK?), speedos (generic), trunks (where?), costumes (Sydney-speak) ... whatever.

I guess these must have looked really hot in their time - and some still do:


Early 1900's





1950 - No Comment!

1960 + - The Classic Speedos

1970's - The Thong

Now, the most serious and important development since speedos has been the male equivalent of the wonder bra - padded swimmers which promise variously to lift and separate, and extend and promote, even in very cold water.

'Wonderjock' from AussieBum

Though from all the photos I've seen I'm not so impressed. Maybe I expect too much, literally!

Anyway guys, which of the following nine current styles do you like best?

1 Regular Speedos

2 More Mini Speedos

3 Speedos with External Drawstring Bow

4 Gratuitous Speedos (Just a Very Cute Guy)

5 Boxer Style (Another Very Cute Guy)

6 Boxer Style with External Drawstring Bow

7 Designer Speedos (by Loaded)

8 Speedos with External Cum and Disordered Bow

9 No Speedos

Hope you are focused on the swimmers and not the blokes.

I didn't - and couldn't decide on 3 or 4 ... the guys, not the swimmers!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Recalcitrant Pumps

Yesterday, I saw simply the strangest thing.

There they were - almost waiting for me - on the way to my favorite Kings Cross cafe for a morning latte.

They didn't seem abandoned. They were far too organized. And perkily self-confident. I almost thought they would break into whistling a cheery tune as I passed. But they just smiled, quietly.

These rebellious black patent leather pumps appeared to have taken their destiny into their own 'hands' ... but then, inexplicitly, lost the vision of their future.

But were they, more ordinarily, only a performance work, installed by some students from East Sydney Art School, just a brisk five minute walk away? I refused to believe this mundane version of things!

I wondered if I should take them to the pound of the RSPCP or Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Pumps. Or let them roam free to find their 'way'.

Of course, being the kind of kind person I am, I decided on the latter course of action.

But not before I had a couple of snaps ... to prove to myself later that I hadn't hallucinated, or been suffering from dangerously low levels of caffeine!
Prehistoric Peat Bog People in Europe

Tollund Man - Denmark c. C 4th BC (C14 dating)

I've always been absolutely (morbidly?) fascinated by the peat bog people, individuals who died but whose bodies have been preserved to an astonishing degree in peat.

The 2400 year old Tollund Man is one of the most famous examples, having been discovered in Bjældskovdal bog in Denmark in 1950. It has been theorized that this individual had been hanged not as a criminal but as a sacrifice to the gods, evidenced by his being buried in the bog rather than cremated, the usual way of disposing of bodies.

Other examples of such sacrificial practice include Oldcroghan Man, discovered at Oldcroghan in central Ireland. This individual belonged to the upper classes of that Iron Age society, as seen in his manicured fingernails and Iron Age 'hair gel'.

Manicured Hand of Oldcroghan Man - central Ireland c. C 3rd BC (C14 dating)

In this Irish case, sacrifice seems intertwined with punishment.

The individual was possibly a political hostage, whose body, as an offering to fertility gods, was buried on the borders of tribal boundaries to ensure a good harvest of corn and milk through a king's reign.

The punishment was severe. This man
was stabbed, his nipples sliced and holes cut in his upper arms through which restraining ropes could be threaded. He was cut in half across the body and beheaded. ('Enjoy your dinner' - a very inaccessibly private joke!).

These instances of European human sacrifice have made me think of the horrified condescension with which similar killing in the Mezo-Americas is usually presented in Europe and America. Not that I am attempting to justify such practices anywhere or advocating their return (except in a few cases ... !). I'm making the general point that such practices have occurred far more widely than we care to admit. And in cultures intermingled with my own.

A peat bog in Scotland ...

A Peat Bog in Scotland

... to finish the post on a calm and tranquil note - if that's what you need!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Families - Acceptance and Influence

My Grandmother prior to her Marriage, as Matron of a Country Hospital in rural Victoria, Australia c. 1915

I read the following poem last night and experienced such overwhelming pain and sadness that this morning I felt I needed to write about my response. It's going to be that kind of post!

The poem was written by my grandmother and is about her re-reading, in later life, of well-wishing letters sent her on the eve of her marriage to my grandfather. And about her reflecting on the joys of being included in her husband's family.

After Many Years

Last night as I sat by the fireside, alone,
I unfolded a bundle of letters, with care;
And untied the blue ribbon - as often I've done -
So often indeed that it's starting to wear.

And each letter again whispered messages sweet,
Of welcome sincere to the family tree
And assured me of friendship and love, with the wish
That true happiness bless us - my dear on and me

Richly blessed have we been. And to those who are left
Of the dear ones who wrote me, I want just to say
I have counted as priceless the friendship they gave,
And deep in y heart it is treasured today.

Dear kind ones, your friendship has been very sweet;
Through the years it has ever stood - steadfast as steel;
I have been very happy to be one of you,
But I cannot find words to say just what I feel.

The distress I experienced was knowing how so very little she was accepted.

I particularly remember two evidences of this as a kid. There was the cold indifference shown her by my Great Aunt Arabella when she arrived in her huge black chauffeur-driven limousine to visit my parents. And seeing my grandmother always being required to eat in the kitchen, after having served my grandfather his evening meal in the dining room.

This condescension was along class lines - 'Nana' had been born into a degree of poverty in rural Victoria, Australia, and had married into Bendigo squattocracy, or landed gentry.

My Grandparents, Late 1940's

My grandfather died and my grandmother emerged. But it was too late for travel, her unrequited passion. So she embarked on inward journeys - a family history and a self-published book of poems 'Family Pictures and Memories'. In which I re-discovered 'After Many Years'.

After my initial emotional reaction to the poem, I began to consider the importance of the family/ies we 'marry' into. We tend to think only about how our partners affect and influence our lives. For better or worse.

But as the years of a relationship pass, their families, through involvements and obligations and mutually binding interests, can also subtly affect who we become, and in ways we can't always anticipate. Of course this affect can be reciprocal. Or non-existent - in any direction! Depending on all those involved. I guess what's key for me is realizing the possibilities (or lack of them) in each particular relationship and family.

So I now hope for acceptance. And then for mutually nourishing influence.
'The Three Prisoners' – A 1950's CIA IQ Entrance Test

The Three Prisoners Relaxing in the Goal's Music Room - Before They Hear about the Execution Idea!


The goal cell holds three prisoners. In the morning two are to die. The jailer is to decide which one is to live.

In view of the prisoners, our custodian takes five small squares of paper and on three he places a cross and on two a circle. He then tells the prisoners he will randomly select three of the pieces of paper and discard the remaining two. And that he will place one square to each of the prisoners’ foreheads. Each will be able to see what is on the others’ foreheads, but not his own. In fact the jailer secretly contrives to select only the three squares with crosses on them.

So each prisoner now has a square with a cross on his forehead. But while each sees a cross on the forehead of each of the other prisoners, he himself could in fact have a circle or a square attached to his own.

The jailer tells the prisoners that the one to tell what is on his forehead with the right reasoning will be freed. A guess, even if right, with the wrong logic will result in death.

One prisoner took less than five minutes to determine the answer. And gain his freedom.

What was his argument?


Let’s call the prisoners A, B and C, with A being the one who is freed.

A would say to himself 'If I were in fact B and saw a circle on A’s forehead and a cross on C’s, I (as B) would know I couldn’t have a circle because C would have seen two circles (one on A and one on me, B) and gone to the jailer and said he must have a cross because there are only two circles'. Thus, if B saw a circle on A's forehead he would use this logic to determine that he must have a cross. And so gained his (B's) exit. But because B didn’t use this logic, B must not see a circle on A’s forehead, but a cross. Thus A argued for his cross and gained his escape from prison!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Right- and Left-Brained Modes of Thinking

The human brain is composed of two hemispheres joined by the corpus callosum. In popular science, each hemisphere has been associated with distinctly different functions.

Things are not so clear-cut, though there is a certain division of mental processing functions, or ways of thinking, across hemispheres.

Left Brain Functions

Right Brain Functions

sequential simultaneous
analytical holistic
verbal imagistic
logical intuitive
linear algorithmic processing holistic algorithmic processing
mathematics: perception of counting/measurement mathematics: perception of shapes/motions
present and past present and future
language: grammar/words, pattern perception, literal language: intonation/emphasis, prosody, pragmatic, contextual

Integrative functions however (such as intuitive arithmetic, binaural sound localization, emotions, etc) appear more bilaterally controlled.

In the late 1960s, the American psychobiologist Roger W Sperry proposed there were two very different ways of thinking. One involving the right brain which is visual where information is processed in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other involving the left brain is verbal where information is processed in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at parts and then integrating them as a whole.

As such, people could be described as left- or right-brained, depending on their mode of thinking.

So which are you?

One indicator is handedness, earedness or eyedness. If you predominantly use your left hand, ear or eye, then you are right-brained. And the reverse.

Another indicator is which way you see the woman below turn - clockwise suggests you are left-brained and anti-clockwise that you are right-brained.

For me, she mostly spins clockwise. But sometimes the other way. And I seem to be able to make her change direction.

Not quite sure if I'm pleased about this or not!

POSTSCRIPT - This morning the dancer was mainly clockwising, but now she won't do other than the reverse! So I use different modes of thinking at different times of day?! How's she going for you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

C18 Chinese Buddha - For Endless Contemplation

If there was a fire in your home and you had five seconds to decide one thing to save, what would it be?

For me, no thought is needed, not even a nanosecond. It'd be an C18 Chinese Buddha.

A friend bought this bronze in Paris some years ago and phoned from Europe to say it was for me. I had been looking for a Buddha - the right Buddha - for a very long time. And so I was prepared to be disappointed - it was sight unseen. But she insisted it was absolutely the one.

And was totally blown away when I finally laid eyes on this crowned beauty.

It was many things. The wonderfully relaxed yet rigidly balanced pose. The way the hands gently gesture. The legs fold plastically over one another. And the robes simply but elegantly drape the body. But mostly I think it was the eternal inward-seeming serenity of the quiet downward gaze.

This most favorite sculpture sits near the centre of a C19 mahogany campaign desk - for endless contemplation.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

C19th Mystery Object

My grandmother gave me this mystery object when I was a very little kid.

I don't expect she thought I'd ever have the need to use it. But then again, maybe she was hinting at something. After all, I did like wearing her old high-heel shoes. But the truth is I never attempted period drag. Or in fact any kind after the age of five or six.

She had it from her mother so it's Victorian-Edwardian, I guess around 1890-1910. It's 8.5 cms long. And no sensible lady you would never be caught dead without one in her purse ... especially if she were sexually active, consorting with persons she fancied other than her husband and was outside the family home!

Okay, so any ideas about its function?

And what it's called? A clue - it's a six-letter word starting with 'g'.

Please have a couple of guesses first guys. And then all will be revealed in the next couple of days!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rochester Castle, Kent - Historical Romance, Time-Travel ... plus Pigs!

Rochester Castle engraved by H. Adlard after G.F.Sargent c1836

History really can fire my imagination - as does this medieval castle. Partly, it's that some of the interior has been restored and functions as a home again. So I like to think about exploring deep inside the ancient building, finding a dark secret passageway that leads to a dusty and cobweb-covered door, unopened for centuries ... you see what I mean!

Bishop Gundolf began building the present castle for William the Conquerer in 1087. It was on the site of a Roman fortification which protected the bridge crossing over the River Medway, a bridge for the main road from London to Dover. The three-storey Norman tower or keep was built in 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 1215, the castle and it's rebelling barons were under siege from King John. The monarch dug under the outer wall and set fire to a mine under the keep, bringing the southern corner down. This fire was fueled by the fat of forty pigs! After two months, the defenders were starved out.

The castle was successively rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I. And remained a fortress till the 15th century. Going into decline in the following century.

Etching c1620

... and when I managed to force open the old iron-bound wooden door, I was astonished to see a huge blaze roaring in the enormous fireplace of the room beyond. The table seemed not long ago to have served up dinner ... and was still littered with pewter plates ... and the remains of spit-roasted mutton ... silver goblets near drained of clove-spiced red wine ... .

And after a few moments, I heard people approaching. Heavy footsteps and muffled speech ... was it French? Probably. But such a strange French.

Enough, enough!

Four pounds for adults and two pounds for children. We ring a bell at 4.45 and you need to make your way to the exit ... .
Gary Larsen - Death Becomes Them + A Bunch of Dogs

I'm raring for another visit to 'The Far Side', otherwise known as Gary Larsen territory. Hope you wanna go there for a bit too!

Apart from the first cartoon, a sort of deliciously ghoulish 'death theme' seems to have emerged in the selection. Which was quite unintentional - or was it!

I love the bucolic whimsy of the last work. Set as it is on the vast open plains of ... perhaps Hampstead Heath. Or Le Jardin des Plantes. With its ferocious packs of indigenous poodles. And colonizing but now tentative giraffes, who are wondering to whom those bones once belonged.

Out of the five, which are your favs?