... al the Best MaX

Saturday, December 25, 2010

They're killing our Cats

CityCat ferry service picks up and drops passengers along the inner-city reaches of the Brisbane river. We love our Cats. Shining white. Bright blue and yellow detailing. Perfect alternative to traffic-jams and land-locked highways. Except for Gootcha, catamaran number sixteen.
No doubt Judy Watson’s award winning artwork Shoal looks grand as a wall feature, but smothering our newest Cat like so much World War ll camouflage net translates as graffiti.
Lord Mayor Campbell Newman explains council’s ‘long-standing practice to use indigenous names for CityCats’. And that ‘Gootcha is a head-turner’. If so are we are looking in the wrong direction? Backwards. Others promote this as ‘a floating canvas’ to represent sun dancing on water, fish nets and fish scales. Art and bureauracy gone mad I say. 
CityCat sixteen looks like a dog’s breakfast. Fish scales? More a cat’s dinner. Bad pussy!  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Jade Street trader

 "Life is a library - and the books are only on loan. Miss McNally, Cecilia - Cec to friends - dealt in jade, old gold and antiques. A leading light right along Australia's eastern seabord she adored her trips to Hong Kong and sometimes I went along for the ride.

Miss M chose to stay at the Y adjacent to the Peninsular Hotel. I stayed at The Pen. Through a flurry of white liveried bellboys she would enter The Peninsular, greet friends, and exit via a side door into the Y. "Why spend on big hotels - the YMCA is quite safe. Buy jade and finance your next trip."

The lady travelled light, jade jewellery in her handbag being the ticket to London should she decide to trade and travel on. "Westerners undervalue jade. The best pieces in Hong Kong are from Australian deceased estates. Tomorrow, we go straight to the jade market - early, six-thirty on the seven one two bus. If you see a chemist I need bobby pins." Hair pins are central to this story.

Street barter has its moments. Scribbled numbers on old newsprint proffered by a gummy Chinese trader. Cecilia breaking eye contact to turn to me - the decoy, "Satisfied?" She would pivot back to harangue the seller. "This is not old jade. This is new jade. Not good jade." He would look suitably offended. I'd disappear into the bitumen. A thousand eyes watched. 

At a precise moment McNally would reach into her untidy French roll, withdraw a trusty bobby pin and scratch the bottom of the jade carving. "See! Very bad jade. Soapstone." Feigned concern by the vendor, then his toothless grin,"Oh Kay." 

Cecilia to me. "Show your money and pretend to leave." Money exchanged hands as a jade trinket gift slipped to Cecilia from an appreciative vendor. "No matter how low you go you will never beat China in a deal. There is always something left in there for them." True, bless her.  more on jade

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Outing orchids

Orchids photograph better in natural environment and capturing them in exotic locations is a bug that bites deep. Even in your own back yard natural settings create more powerful pictures. Let them breathe open air when you take your shot. 

Soft early light is all the camera needs to weave a magic spell. Unlike night-blooming cactus that shuts up shop by sun up orchids are awake and awaiting your arrival at first light. There is a genuine rush of good feeling as orchids come tumbling through the camera lens. "Take me! Take me!"

You need to be up early to bag a really good orchid study. Cold starts and pre-dawn wake-ups aside and (while acknowledging the difficulty in shinnying up palm trees in half light) the silent morning scenario pays off big time. You may be unexpectedly bushwhacked (lying belly up in mud for the sake of good angles does not present a pretty picture) but dawn starts promote healthy habits. Photographing orchids is inclined teach humility, patience, and perseverance. And ever tried growing one?

Occasionally, very occasionally, the reward in first light is a vision so unforgettable that you carry the image for life. Pick up the digital and let’s go bag some blossom.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Touching on Tai Chi

Tai Chi practice, Wuhan, Yangtze River, China
There is no photograph of that foggy dawn In Beijing when, as mist lifted, I found myself in a vast arena of people, silently swaying, forming one enormous flow of humanity. Each appeared centred on self, but united into a massive swirling ocean of accord. My first encounter with Tai Chi in China, and on a scale so overwhelming I failed to lift the camera - decision being to let the experience burn into memory for all time. It would be more than two decades later and many trips to Asia before I hesitatingly began to practice the form myself.

It was mesmerising to be witness to that early morning sight in Tiananmen Square and somewhat reassuring, a decade later, ferrying along the Yangtzse to Chongquin in small boats, watching Tai Chi morning ritual right along the great river and in every single Peoples Park at the village stopovers, soon to disappear. China was preparing to dam the Yangtzse.

Hong Kong, Guangzhou's Pearl River, Shanghai waterfront, the garden city of Suzhou, the splendid mountain scenery of Guilin, wherever – Tai Chi was ever present as part of the fabric. It is the way of China. My feeling was to join in, but fear blocked the way - fear of looking foolish - of intruding -  until now.

It is important to wait and find the right teacher. Now I have found mine. For one gold coin every Monday and Friday at 8am we are found as a small group in my local home town park. Beside Cooroy creek. Beginner yes, and awkward still. But a world opens and I walk through the door. Stay tuned.    MaX

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The wooden spoon award

Botanists and adventurers have climbed Mount Kinabalu since mid nineteenth century. It soars 13,455 feet above sea level - the highest peak between New Guinea and the Asian mainland. Orchids grow there. Cool. Cool growing that is.
Ever chasing orchids along the pathways to Asia and the Pacific I found myself in a bus load of tourists screaming along the shores of the South China Sea heading up the mountain - following an angle on group travel for some magazine or other. Sweeps of sacred lotus streamed by and it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel to stop for the shot but (like most pre-determined package deals) ever onward and upward. No lotus stop. Learn to avoid tour groups.

Passing clouds misted the forest and soaked us to the skin while we anticipated lunch - wrong season. Not a solitary flower to be found. I raced around searching alternative landscapes and, suddenly, fainted dead away. No lunch and no orchids. Lack of oxygen and hyperactive. I should have known better.

Coming to after a little R&R I noticed an honesty box beside a few rough hewn wooden spoons. Twenty cents each and lovingly hand made. The local craft shop. Rough, but real. The spoon was well worth the coins I dropped into the box.

A lesson learned  Shop close to the source where money does most good. AND a good lotus shot beats a fanciful orchid hunt any day. Just remember to jump ship when when the Sacred Red Lotus starts flashing.    MaX

PS  Twenty years on, the spoon still makes a great stirrer.

Go where the wild things are

Rainforests are richly fertile environments - beautiful but perilous places to dwell. Hazardous mountainsides, dank undergrowth, impossible heat and humidity, darkness - everything struggles for light. Strange and often dangerous plants and animals, malaria and a host of other tropical diseases are waiting in the wings. Compare creativity and electrifying big city living to that same steaming scenario. Push comes to shove in the attempt to reach tree tops. Hostile climate. Social climbers. Shy violets. Weeds. Short fuses and tall poppies. Win/lose, law of the jungle prevails. Mind-set works in the same way. 

It takes self-assurance and awareness to dumb down and write an important speech in a language that all understand. It takes self-determination and confidence to dam the flood of fear you feel preparing to sway a live audience. Writer, actor, artist, only the singularly sure footed succeed. Courage friend, there are ways to live in sunlight, breathe fresh air, and arrive at a peaceful place. The orchid in the canopy of the dense evergreen forest does just fine. 

Be the orchid. Adapt to climate change. Find an environment that works best for you. Science reveals orchis has flourished for a hundred million years, doing its own thing. Similarly, I write in midnight hours when locals are asleep but my world is awake. By day, I play the mechanic oiling works. To each his own. 

ps. Henri Rousseau was a self-taught artist who began painting in his forties. He was unique and unaware establishment artists considered him untutored. People said he painted like a child. Rousseau's paintings have humour, and mesmerizing, eerie beauty. He said, "The landscapist lives in silence". He never left Paris to paint his jungle scenes.   MaX

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gazinias brighten Noosa home front

Long after the orchid collection vanished from the igloo dazzling little Gazinias continue to brighten the home front at Cooroy Gardens in the Noosa hinterland. The flowering cycle continues as we make our farewells to the garden – and no doubt will rally as a welcoming sight when new owners move in (July 31). However, gardeners should be careful which way the wind blows. Airborne, the seeds carry far. South Africa's dazzling Gazinia is now classified as one of Australia's most noxious weeds and does untold damage to the local flora – especially on the Sunshine Coast beach front. Let's recognise it as the cane toad of Botanica.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

White Ibis save the day in Noosa hinterland

For three weeks in Feburary/March monsoonal rains drenched the lush Sunshine Coast hinterland, then a plague of nasty lawn grubs invaded the lawns surrounding Cooroy House near Noosa. Mercifully a flock of up to 100 White Ibis arrived to save the day. Shining white they flew out of the west to earn the respect of Sunshine Coast gardeners and playing field groundsmen alike. Natural pest control – no toxic residue. City dwellers who refer to White Ibis as tip trash need to rethink.

These new-found friends stayed but two days and a single night. Then vanished. I worked furiously to catch the moment and bring the scene safely into my computer.

Friday, April 9, 2010

healthier, happier – all thanks to you jon kabat-zinn

I found my way into a little book called Wherever You Go, There You Are (well, the title tells you the story before you turn a page. Love it).