... 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