The Big Picture and other Art.

Road Trip Day 6: 28th May 2007

Rose has so much on her must see list that we decided to stay another two nights in Broken Hill. Unfortunately our motel couldn't extend our booking so our first job was to pack everything back in the car. The town has plenty of choice for motels so we left finding a new motel room for the end of the day.

Today and tomorrow is all about galleries. Broken Hill is famous for it's art scene and this was actually the main reason for our trip here. Some of Australia's leading artists are based in this region, Pro Hart and Jack Absalom to name two (though we'll be visiting their galleries tomorrow).

First up was a trip to 'The Art Directory'. A good first stop on any art tour in this town. The Art Directory is a gallery that exhibits samples of work from a good percentage of artists in the region. Each artwork is given a number that links it to a map of how to get to that artists gallery or studio. Just pick the artists that catch your eye and grab a map and your away. A great idea.

Just up the road was 'The Silver City Art Centre'. This is a MUST if you want to see the worlds biggest painting on canvas. Known as 'The Big Picture', by artist Peter Anderson, it is 100 metres long and over 12 metres high at its highest point.

What makes this artwork special (apart from the size) is that it is an artwork 'in the round'. That is you walk into a circular room and the artwork surrounds you (or more precisely surrounds the viewing platform which is a kind of 'look out' that frames the view). It is literally like walking into a painting. As it depicts a good slice of the local landscape in panorama format it really is like being in a painted version of the real environment.

From there we drove to the main street for look in the Broken Hill Regional Gallery. This is a great place to see a range of local contemporary art as well as some impressive classical art from the the later part of the nineteenth century (I think).

The main street does have a few galleries. Rose and I stopped to look in another two before heading up to the Visitor Information Centre/Cafe and Minors Memorial that sits on top of the 'broken hill' that the town is named after. From here you can see spectacular 360 degree views of the entire region and enjoy a very good lunch or dinner. Rose and I had a very enjoyable late lunch.

Our intention had been to look through all the galleries today but time once again got away from us. So we settled for the first one on our list, Howard Steer.

Howard's gallery is also his studio and as luck would have it Howard was in and more than willing to discuss his work (and give advice to an emerging artist such as myself). If you've not seen Howard's art he paints mostly in oils and is known for his quirky bush humor. You may know about his 'Flying Doctor' artworks in which he paints a black suited doctor with with fairy wings flying around the bush delivering all manor of medical help.

Rose is a big fan of his art and asked if he was putting out a book. The good news is that he is. The bad news is that it's not available yet. Still in the process.

Howard is a self taught artist and he gives this advice to artists that have been to art school - "Whatever they told you at art school, do the opposite". Which is to say that he doesn't have much faith in art teachers as he explained. "If they knew what to do they wouldn't be teaching."

Our day ended with finding new accommodation. Our first pick was The Duke of Cornwall Inn. We had no trouble getting a room in this two storey heritage building. Carting our luggage up stairs to the room looked like it was going to be fun. Fortunately the motel staff were more than willing to lend a hand.

I'm currently writing this from the balcony of the motel which gives you a nice view down the main street on a rather pleasant evening. Tomorrow is our last full day in town. We'll be up early...we have to be...breakfast is between 7am and 8am - it comes included in the price of the room so we're having breakfast! A few more art galleries and then Wednesday we'll be on the road again.

Mad Max Four and Silverton.

Road Trip Day 5: 27th May 2007 (Afternoon)

The town of Silverton, just north of Broken Hill, is one of the most filmed towns in Australia. Most known for Mad Max 2 (just on the outskirts of town was the location of the film's fortress) other films shot here include, Dirty Deeds, Razorback, A Town Like Alice, The Craic and more.

In particular, the Silverton Hotel has not only been featured in many films but also appeared in many TV commercials. It's name has been changed so many times it must be hard for locals to keep track of when visitors arrive; "Can you tell me where the Mundi Mundi Hotel is?". If you ever visit the Silverton Hotel, there is a list on the wall telling you all the names and for which film or commercial the name was used for.

It's not just the exterior of the hotel that has been filmed either. The interior is 'classic' Aussie Pub too. Perhaps that's why it's been used in a number of beer commercials?

If you want to know exactly what Silverton's film history is just visit the Hotel and browse the film memorabilia on the walls. There's photos of Mel Gibson and the Mad Max crew actually in the Pub.

An interesting newspaper article pinned to one wall from 2002 talks about Mel Gibson's production company, Icon Pictures making Mad Max Four in Africa because they were unable to get studio space in Australia (at the time most of our major studios were booked out with the second Star Wars Trilogy). I don't know what became of Mad Max Four. Never heard of it going into production but I hope it does some day.

I know the focus has been on Mad Max (what can I say I'm a fan of those films - especially number 2) but, just before I change topic, I can't not mention the replica of Max's car in film number 2 that is permanently parked out the front of the pub. The car looks like it has seen better days and one could almost believe it is the, some what beaten up, car from the film.

Silverton, whilst being a very empty town with a population between 62-82 people depending on which brochure you read, is home to a number of Australian artists including, John Dynon and Pete Browne. Rose and I visited both artists galleries.

John paints bright Australian landscape images that are spectacular to say the least. He seems to have quite a sense of humor too, which is reflected in the exterior of his studio where a prominent, occupied, out door 'dunny' greets you at the gate.

Pete Browne has a wicked sense of humor too and appeals more to my taste. His work is cartoonish and illustrative but definitively 'Aussie'. He's developed a particular type of emu character that recurs throughout his cartoons, oil paintings and sculptures. Outside his studio you can see and old volkswagon decorated with the 'Pete Browne Emu' (see photo)

Whilst his paintings and sculptures are the centre of attention in his gallery there are the occasional panels with Pete Browne quotes that enhance his off beat humor. One such panel reports that he has lost his space ship and if found please return it so Pete can go home.

The rest of Silverton is equally interesting. There is the Old Gaol Museum, The Coin Carvery, Horizon Gallery and a very nice cafe where Rose and I stopped for a late lunch.

We finished our day by heading out to the Mundi Mundi Lookout (otherwise known as the Mad Max lookout). From this lookout you can see the site of the Mad Max fortress (though not much remains since they blew it up). What is more impressive is that you can see the horizon for such a wide expanse that you can actually notice the curvature of the earth.

Silverton is easily a day trip if you don't want to rush seeing everything. It's far from the 'ghost town' that the brochures describe but it's about as close to a ghost town as you can get with people still living there.

As a failed mining town, with many of its original buildings either falling down or having been transported to Broken Hill years ago, it feels isolated and forgotten. However, as a tourist attraction, the locals are working hard to keep the town alive.

It really is a town with something for everyone.

White's Mine and Doll & Bear Display.

Road Trip Day 5: 27th May 2007 (Morning)

Kevin White's Mineral Art and Living Mining Museum and Betty White's Handmade Doll & Bear display is an unlikely pairing of themes and subject matter but makes for an interesting experience for the whole family.

Located in Broken Hill, a slight detour off the road to Silverton, visitors are greeted and then directed to view a short video that covers the history of mining in the region (up to 1983... leaving you to wonder if some of the future projections made in the video have come to pass). The video gives a good over view of the Broken Hill story to a trip to the town could easily begin at White's Mine.

Betty was our guide for Kevin's replica mine museum. She did an excellent job pointing out the contrast between early mining and the mostly machine driven, push button technology used today. She made the point that when people talk about the 'good old days' of mining, the only thing 'good' about them is that they're gone. Such was the appalling conditions early miners had to work in.

A feature of the mining museum is Kevin's mineral art. Images made entirely from finely crumbled mineral rock. Kevin has, what seemed like, hundreds of artworks created this way ranging from mining scenes, to iconic Broken Hill buildings to important events and stories in Australian history.

An unusual feature of this museum is that you are encouraged to take photos of the exhibits. Betty and Kevin understand that there is a lot to take in so they are happy to let you snap away.

Betty's collection of Home made dolls and bears is exceptionally large, filling up the other half of the museum. Her collection consists of dolls she has made and dolls she has collected. There are dolls of all sizes and made to many different themes from wizards to barber shop quartets.

The White Museum also has an extensive gift shop featuring a number of unique mining souvenirs that you can't buy elsewhere.

Day Dream Mine and the Titanic Monument.

Road Trip Day 4: 26th May 2007

The plan today was to head out to the outback Ghost Town of Silverton (NSW), the site of more than 140 Films and commercials, including 'Mad Max II'. On the way we decided a side trip tour of Day Dream Mine would easily fit into our day.

Unfortunately we got off to a late start and never factored in the 12 kilometres of unsealed loose dirt, winding road that you need to negotiate in order to get to the mine from the main road. By the time we got to the mine it was 12:25pm. Rose and I then had to wait about thirty minutes for ten minutes to go by until the next tour of the mine (i.e. Gary, our guide, said the next tour would be in ten minutes. Thirty minutes later... In all fairness Gary was waiting for the previous tour group to finish).

Not that we were standing around. There was plenty to look at around the cafe/gift shop, as well as in the cafe its self. We even had time for a cup of tea. Whilst waiting Rose and I took the opportunity to take many photos.

The tour of Day Dream mine takes you around one tenth of the total mine and is both above and below ground (with some fairly low ceilings and a few rocky slopes to navigate below ground). Gary, explained that the mine was operated by Cornish Miners (below ground) and Irish workers (above ground) who processed various metal deposits with the main one being silver. The mine dates from 1882 and was one of the original mines around Silverton. It was abandoned in 1887.

The tour takes about an hour and is very interactive in the sense that Gary gave plenty of opportunity for us to suggest answers to his questions such as; "Why do you think the miners slept sitting up?" (I won't tell you the answer but who'd have thought sleeping could be a life or death affair for your average Cornish Miner?). Gary also notes that many of the miners were in fact minors - boys 12 years old and younger.

The end of tour below the surface of the mine was quite interesting in particular as Gary showed us the relationship between the areas we traversed below ground with what can be seen on the surface. It's not so easy trying to get your bearings when Gary asks his first question "Which direction do you think we walked at the beginning going into the mine?"

On the way out Rose and I stopped at the first gate you come to driving to the mine to take a few photos of the landscape. In the picture to the right you can see just how isolated Day Dream Mine is. Off to my right you can see some of the road we drove along.

By the time we left it was 3:20pm. Not enough time to continue to Silverton. We decided to leave that for tomorrow. Instead we drove back to Broken Hill and snapped a picture of something you wouldn't expect to find in an outback Aussie Town, a monument to the band that played on board the Titanic (yes the famous ship that sank).

Quite a nice gesture by the town's own band group who wanted to recognise the bravery of the Titanic's band members - who played on, even as the ship was sinking.

Gunning for Broken Hill.

Road Trip Day 3: 25th May 2007

Today is the day that we would be arriving in Broken Hill. No more distractions. Well, almost. First Rose and I did a quick walk around the Burra town centre, visiting the Gas Light Coffee and Second hand bookshop (where Rose added to her book collection).

Next we stopped in at the Burra Visitor Information Centre. The man behind the counter told us it would take five and a half hours to drive to the town of Broken Hill. A final stop in the local IGA supermarket to buy camera batteries and other supplies then we were on our way. 11:20am.

The drive to Broken Hill, along the Barrier Highway, is long. After about an hour and using about half of our remaining half a tank of petrol I decided we probably needed to fill the tank. Thus our first stop was at Oodla Wirra, BP Service Station.

Just up the road, coming the other way, is the Quarentine Station where everyone intending to drive any further into South Australia are relieved of any fruit or vegetables they may be carrying.

It's hard to describe the landscape on this trip. It changes from hilly areas to vast open space. Much of the time the road is straight and goes on forever. There are plenty of trees dotted around - particularly around homesteads but the trees never get dense enough to be called 'forest'.

During the drive, before we stopped for lunch, we passed the Channel Seven, Sunrise Weather Bus which was pulled over at the side of the road at Yutla (I think). Probably getting supplies before continuing in the same direction as us. I think they were on their way to Broken Hill too.

Towns along this stretch of road are small. The larger ones have a Post Office, pub and service station. The smaller ones may have just a pub or road house. Most have just a few houses. You could almost walk through some and still miss them.

At 2pm we stopped for lunch at the Manna Hill rest area. Manna Hill has a Pub and a Police Station. For quite some time the road had been running parallel to a railway line and string of power poles. Manna Hill also has a historic railway station.

We stopped just in time to snap a goods train passing through then wondered why it stopped so that the end of the train was level with the railway platform. Five to ten minutes later the Indian/Pacific Passenger train came through on route to Broken Hill and beyond. I would have snapped a picture of this train too only I was busy taking other pictures and didn't see it coming until it was too late. (It came up behind the other train which is why I didn't see it).

Whilst we were lunching the Sunrise Weather bus caught up and passed us by. This is why I think they were headed to Broken Hill. We never caught up to them again and there aren't any sealed road turn offs between Manna Hill and Broken Hill.

3pm and we set off again after having a bit of a photo session around the rest stop. My shoulders and neck were starting to ache a little by the time we crossed the border into New South Wales at the unfortunately named town of 'Cockburn' (though I'm sure it is pronounced 'co-burn' just like the suburb of Perth, Western Australia, that has the same name).

From there the landscape definitely changed from large open space to more rocky and hillier terrain. Eventually we passed a sign that said 'Welcome to Broken Hill' but it was another ten minutes or so before we actually entered the town. 4:30pm

All up we made the trip in five hours from Burra. Four if you exclude the hour lunch break. For the most part I stuck to the maximum speed limit so I don't know how we managed to knock over an hour and a half off the the time given to us by the Burra Information centre?

In Broken Hill we are staying at The Lodge Outback Motel, which is a beautiful old Victorian Stone building that was constructed in the early 1900's and is one of the largest houses in the town. Unfortunately our room isn't in the house its self, rather it's one of a series of purpose built units adjacent to the main house. However it's still a fairly nice room that we're in.

We will be staying in Broken Hill for the next two to three days. Tonight we're planning our itinerary.

Miranda's Bedroom and Searching for C. J. Dennis.

Road Trip Day 2: 24th May 2007

Rose and I didn't make it to Broken Hill today as planned due to the elusive nature of author, C. J. Dennis or, more correctly, a statue dedicated to the famous Australian Author.

Rose had seen a picture of the statue in one of our travel brochures and wanted to find it for a photo opportunity (having previously snapped a picture of herself with a statue of Australian author, Colin Thiele, on a trip to Eudunda). You would think Auburn, being the birthplace of C. J. Dennis, would be the location of the statue but no.

Auburn has a replica statue of the former Auburn Hotel (since demolished) where C. J. was born but not the statue we were looking for. We did enquire at the local internet cafe/tourist info centre and bike hire shop but the owner there couldn't tell us where the statue we were looking for was.

The brochures we had said that C. J. had spent much of his youth in the township of Mintaro, just north of Auburn. Perhaps the statue was there?

Mintaro is the location of Martindale Hall, the authentic 19th century Georgian mansion, used as the 'Boarding School for Young Ladies' in the Peter Weir film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'.

Our visit to the hall was certainly worth while even though you are pretty much left to your own devices in wandering around the rooms of this very impressive home. It is a real look back in time at how extravagant some members of Australian society lived in the later part of the nineteenth century. Originally built as a home for entertainment and sporting activities for 21 year old sheep farmer, Edmund Bowman Jnr, later it was sold to the Mortlock family and is still in nearly original condition.

The home was staffed by one butler and 13 female servants and was designed so that the servants could move around the rear section of the building (on both floors) without intruding too much on the front rooms where the occupants lived.

Whilst it was mainly the exterior of the building and the grounds that featured in the movie 'Picnic at Hanging Rock', one bedroom, known as 'The White Room' was also used as Miranda's Bedroom. Miranda being the lead character of the film and one of the school girls who vanishes mysteriously. [Note: After writing this post I watched a DVD Rose purchased of the film and discovered considerably more of the interior is featured however the home's own brochures only make a note of this one room appearing in the movie.]

If you're holidaying in the region it is worth knowing that you can actually stay as a guest at Martindale. All the bedrooms are still used (though fortunately there is modern bathroom and toilet facilities, noting that this home was built at a time when servants used to empty the commodes). As well, the hall hosts special 'Murder Mystery' weeks, 'Incident at Martindale', a role playing game for 10-12 players. Everyone plays a character from the past and the game is played as part of your stay in the grounds.

Unfortunately, C. J. had nothing to do with Martindale so, no statue. Rose and I headed back to the Mintaro township and drove up and down the main street looking for parks that may be ideal for a statue. Nothing. Not even in the Timandra gardens, a 'must see' European style garden that was very nice but no C.J. statue.

We asked the garden tour guide at Timandra if she had any idea as to the location of the statue? She did try to direct us to a statue that she knew of (though she didn't know what it was of). Somewhere along the way we kind of lost track of her directions so we gave up headed off to the town of Clare. Another place we wanted to see.

I thought that was the end of our search for C. J. but a brief stop at the Clare Valley information centre turned up a lead. One of the staff said she knew of the exact statue in the brochure and told us it was located in the town of Laura (another place where C. J. had lived). Odd considering the picture of the statue in the brochure was alongside text talking about Auburn and Mintaro?

Laura was a little too far off track on our way to Broken Hill so we decided to visit the statue on the way back, on our way to the town of Whyalla (our other major stop before heading to Perth).

By the time we got into Clare it was getting quite late in the afternoon and obvious we couldn't make Broken Hill before dark. Over a late lunch at a local cafe we decided to drive as far as the town of Burra and spend the night there.

Approximately 54 kilometres and a fairly scenic drive later we arrived in Burra at 3:50pm. I've been to Burra before on a research trip to the Burra Regional art gallery. We knew the gallery shut at 4pm but managed to have a quick look around as other people were still doing the same. I was a little disappointed that the main exhibition was quilts. Not because they weren't great quilts but because quilts isn't really a creative medium that I've ever wanted to try. Hard to be inspired by something that is outside your creative interests.

Before checking in to the Burra Motor Inn we drove up to the Township and Burra Mine look outs for a quick photo session of the sun setting on the open mine walls.

Tomorrow we will definitely be gunning for Broken Hill. There's not much to see between here and there so hopefully we won't get distracted.

The search for C. J. will continue another day, however, whilst in the motel tonight, I looked up the town of Laura in another brochure we had. Guess who's photo is on the page? If you thought C. J. then you're correct. Not only is his picture on the page but the picture is a picture of the very same statue we were looking for with the caption, 'CJ Dennis Statue, Laura'.

At least we're certain that we know where C. J. is.

Wrong Way Already!

Road Trip Day 1: 23rd May 2007

Taking a wrong turn before you've even left your home town is probably not the way you want to start a road trip between Gawler, South Australia and Perth, Western Australia but that's what I did. Can you tell I don't actually drive much around Gawler?

Perhaps it was because Blonde Rose and I had so much to do in the two days prior to leaving. Maybe my brain was a little bit fried? I simply thought a road went somewhere that it didn't thus, Rose got to see a bit more of Gawler that she hadn't yet seen.

For regular visitors to this site who haven't made the connection in previous posts, Blonde Rose is my sister. She's been on holiday in Gawler South Australia for the past 3 months. Hence all the sight seeing blog entries. Now we are both heading back to Perth by car, sight seeing as we go. If you drive straight from Gawler to Perth you can do it in about four days. Sight seeing included, we'll be on the road about two weeks.

We left quite late in the day (somewhere around 2pm) after having made a detour to get some tyres changed over. The goal was to get to the town of Clare, passing through Auburn (with a stop to look around) and a side trip to Mintaro to visit Martindale Hall (a building featured in the classic Aussie movie, 'Picnic at Hanging Rock').

Unfortunately the light was against us so we settled for stopping in the historic town of Auburn for the night. Auburn was originally a farming town but became a furoughfair for copper transportation when this was discovered at the town of Burra, to the north-east.

Auburn has a number of significant examples of heritage style architechture and was the birth place of C. J. Dennis (born 1876) whom was one of Australia's greatest authors. He is best known for his book, The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, published in 1915.

Tonight we're staying at the Auburn Shiraz Motel located at the southern end of the town. I'm not a seasoned motel visitor so I don't really know what makes a good motel, however facilities at the Shiraz seem to cover everything you need and the beds were certainly comfortable.

Tomorrow, the goal is to make all the spots we intended to visit today but didn't. Then we'll try to finish at our first major stop, Broken Hill.

Girl Problems.

My partner's daughter sometimes has sick days from school for, what is described to me as, 'girl problems'.

Now all you blokes out there will know that we sometimes have 'girl problems' too but somehow haven't managed to wrangle a way to make them a justified excuse to take a 'sickie' from work.

Oh, wait, our 'girl problems' are not the same kind of 'girl problems' that girls have? Ahhh...now I see... oops.. probably didn't need quite that much information... ewwww!

Do boys have 'boy problems' and can we use them as a generic excuse to take a 'sickie'?

No wait, boys have 'man problems' surely? (he says beating chest and growling in a very masculine way... ouch that hurt my chest!)

Man Problems. Tell your work mates you're having 'Man Problems' and can't come in today. If nothing else it's sure to spread some rumors around the water cooler...

"I didn't know he played for the home team?"

Painting "Socks" the Cat

Behind every painting there is a story however, with my latest artwork "Socks" (the cat) there really is only something of a rant. In creating "Socks" I wanted to demonstrate that any half decent artist can stand in front of a blank canvas and paint 'something'.

In painting 'something' I mean painting an image with no pre-planning, deep thought or preliminary sketching what-so-ever. In simple terms, the artist just starts painting and sees what emerges from the marks made as the painting develops. So many artists seem to be creating work like this now.

I suspect this has come about with the pressure on professional artists to earn a living from what they do. Working in this format allows for a high turn out of art thus creating a larger inventory for sales. However in doing so, I feel that the artist compromises their talent by producing largely, forgettable art.

The most thinking I did for "Socks" was that I planned to paint something based on my existing style of cat characters. After that it was paint until I could see a finished cat. I didn't even plan that this cat would be sitting, looking like he's pulling up his socks. That's just what emerged, two hours later, from the brush strokes I began with.

"Socks" will never be remembered as a 'great' work of art (if, indeed, he is remembered at all).

Non artists may look at "Socks" and think that it is a pretty good painting. As an artist I look at this kind of work and think... "yeah, it's okay but it's not really the best I can do."

There's not much skill and very little craft involved. I'd like to know when these two elements of creating an artwork became so less important in comparison to the spontaneous emotion, experimental exploration and fleeting impressions that seems to dominate contemporary creative process.

I'd like to aspire to something greater. I'd like to view art that encourages me to do so. I want to be inspired by new ideas rather than past masters. Do artists really need to churn out art like a machine or would you pay a little more for art that is obviously more thought out and crafted?

I want my MP3.

Remember the Dire Straits song, "Money for Nothing"? It started with the phrase "I want my MTV" referring to (depending on where you live in the world), the TV show "MTV" or the TV channel of the same name. MTV stood for 'Music Television'. These days it's not Music Television but Music Players (or MP3 players) that people want. Hence the title of this article "I want my MP3".

One wonders if you have to explain a pop culture reference is it then really a part of popular culture? A rhetorical question... let's get on with this article.

I finally have my very own MP3 player (see the picture right). At last I can join the 21st century where people wander the streets encased in their own extensive music play-lists. Listening to entire libraries of MP3 songs completely oblivious to their surroundings and any real need to interact with other people.

My player's even cooler because it can play videos too. Sure they're the size of a postage stamp (I'm not joking the screen is the size of a postage stamp) but still surprisingly watchable. An audio and visual distraction. An almost complete escape from the real world. I am a 21st century digital boy!

I've been wanting a video MP3 player for quite some time. Not really to play music on though (thus rendering the title of this article even more inappropriate). I wanted certain features. The ability to play video and the ability to record sound, particularly my voice.

The video feature is easy to explain. I want to optimize my YouTube videos for portable device viewing i.e. small screens. Having a really tiny screen to design for presents another challenge and another level to creating videos.

The voice record function I wanted so I could record ideas and other notes to myself any time I want. Especially when I'm out and don't want to carry a pen and notepad. How modern am I?

I haven't really got into using my new MP3 player yet. Presently it only has a couple of test voice recordings and one test video loaded onto it. However like anything new it always takes a while to make it an integral part of your life.

I really like this new addition to my life. I can see why people do want their MP3s.

Eudunda. Birth place of author, Colin Thiele.


South Australian author, Colin Thiele's three most well known books are 'Storm Boy', 'Blue Fin' and 'Sun on the Stubble'. Well at least those three are the ones I know.

A visit to the town of Eudunda, South Australia, is pretty much a celebration of the man and his life (Colin passed away in 2006) with the local site seeing trail highlighting important locations from the author's past.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Eudunda has little else to offer in the way of historic displays but the town's Family Heritage Museum puts a rest to that. There is much more to the town's past than the famous author.

The museum reveals a wealth of personal histories of many of the town's families and the lives they lead. It's possibly one of the biggest historical artifact collections within the region. Some of the life size, figures are clearly, lovingly home made by not so skilled artists however they give the display something of a more personal touch that might be missing if professionally constructed manikins had been used.

Whilst there isn't a lot to see in Eudunda, it certainly is a picturesque town that can cater for a pleasant morning or afternoon of sight seeing. Don't let anyone tell you it's not worth the trip.

Crucifix anyone?

The cross pictured at the right is the main feature of the Eden Valley lookout at Eden Valley, South Australia. A plaque at the site indicates that the lookout is still under development so there could be more to come however there is no explanation anywhere as to the significance of this rather ominous looking cross? Crucifix anyone?

It's a very sturdy looking structure surrounded by a few strategically placed picnic tables. One can only wonder as to what it means. Likely it has some religious significance but I don't know what... could be some secular minority practicing some long forgotten Pagan rituals perhaps?

If you happen to live at Eden Valley and know what this cross is all about...please show me some enlightenment with a comment.

The Lego Man - He's got all that!

Who would have thought that owning one of the worlds largest, private Lego collections could take you so far. Tom Lucieer of Angaston, South Australia, not only has met the Queen (of England) but is a frequent guest of her majesty and family when they are in Australia. He's also met Prince Charles, Lady Diana and Camila Parker-Bowles. Not only that, he grew up with TV Vet, Dr Harry, and is a friend of the Irwin family (yes, that's Steve Irwin's family).

Tom will happily tell you all this as part of the guided tour of his collection, which, aside from Lego, includes much railway memorabilia and colourful anecdotes about days gone by, his achievements and more. Frequently he will finish each particular monologue with the phrase, "Have you got that?", just to check that he hasn't confused you because, as he points out, his display and the stories behind it are a lot to take in at once.

In the photo you can see Tom holding a special award, which I think is for being the toy retailer of the year for 2004 (I'm not entirely sure, too much to take in). He explains he owns the Toyworld store in Nuriootpa - adding it's a great place to buy Lego. Obviously he is very proud of this award as it was by his prompting that I took this particular photo.

Tom's Lego collection is vast going right back to the days when Lego sold wooden toys (before they invented the plastic bricks). If you have followed my site for a number of years you will know that I'm something of a collector of Lego. I still have the very first sets I was bought from as early as 1974. Based on what Tom told us about the value of some sets, from periods later than this, I reckon I could be sitting on a collectors gold mine.

For example, Tom has a complete set of 'Fabuland' characters. These came out in the early to mid nineteen eighties and are no longer available. Tom's set is valued at around $4000 dollars. I've got a few Fabuland sets, still in very good condition.

One of the first sets I was ever bought was Sir Charles Kingsford Smith's 'Spirit of Saint Lewis' aeroplane which is in Tom's collection. I think it was released in 1974 but I'm not quite sure.

Aside from early Lego sets, Tom has all the latest sets too. He gets them even before they are released in the stores including all the latest Star Wars, Harry Potter and Batman sets. There is also has a good collection of working Lego trains, based on actual trains, which he demonstrates for you.

If you're a Lego collector of any level, Tom's display will be of great interest. Be sure to look him up. His details can be easily tracked down through local tourist guides or from one of the regions visitor information centres. It's probably a good idea to call him first, just to let him know you're coming. Set aside about an hour for the complete tour.

That's a BIG Rocking Horse.

I don't have much to say about the big rocking horse at the Toy Factory in Gumeracha, South Australia. It's big. You can climb up to the top of the head. Great view.

I took the photo on the right whilst seated, waiting for lunch to arrive in the Toy Factories cafe. Nothing like the view of a horses as... behind to go with your lunch. Actually I chose this photo to show you because you can get the other photos I took on just about every postcard featuring the toy horse available. Thought you might like a different view.

The Toy Factory is a good place to stop for lunch. The cafe and grounds are pleasant and afterwards, wander around the 'free entry' wildlife park where you can feed the animals if you wish. The Toy shop its self is worth a look too with some fairly unique wooden toys not seen much in the age of electronic gadgets for kids.

Me and the Lawnmower.

I've written about our families lawnmower before in The Lawnmower and I. This time I haven't let a little thing like grammar get in the way of putting me first in the article title!

The last three or four times I've used our lawnmower everything has been fine, aside from a little cleaning of the spark plug just to get the thing started. Today, however, I was rushing to get the lawn cut before rain settled in for the rest of the week. The sky looked liked the showers would begin soon so I skipped breakfast to get started earlier.

I cleaned the spark plug, filled the fuel tank and tried to start it. The lawnmower kind of fired but not enough to start. Few more tries... rip cord breaks, right at the handle end. How unoriginal.

Fortunately the cord didn't disappear into the housing. Some remained sticking out. I was able to pull the cord out, retie it to the handle. A few more pulls of the cord later and it starts. Front lawn gets cut, no worries.

Cutting the back lawn required stopping the lawnmower because I needed to wheel it over deep gravel. This done I attempt to start the lawn mower a second time and... it works! Okay, good, looks like this will be a breeze. Should get the lawn cut before the rain starts.

Half way through, the lawn mower is getting clogged with long, ankle deep grass, that is still damp from rain we had over a week ago. I needed to unclog it because none of the grass is making it to the catcher so... I stop the lawnmower and unclog it.

This time I attempt to start it. Nothing doing. A few more pulls on the cord... cord breaks at the handle and this time disappears back into the housing. Crap!

Now I've got to get the housing off to retrieve the cord. The sky looks like the rain could be getting closer. Having already gone through the experience of removing the ripcord housing (see previous article) this wasn't a big job but still time consuming. Twenty minutes later the mower is back in one piece.

I attempt to start the thing. It takes a few tries but success. Off I go. Finishing the back lawn without so much as another hitch, almost. A bit more of the mower's back wheel fell off. It's no longer a full circle but still usable.

Now perhaps this story isn't quite so humorous as my previous article. I'm a bit steamed because I skipped breakfast and the lawnmower caused delays when I was in a hurry to beat the rain. However the story doesn't quite finish here.

Not only did it not rain but the sun came out for the rest of the day. This article may not be that funny but some one up there sure is laughing at me!

Discussion Retrospective.

One of the oddities of internet forums is that discussions can be preserved long after the interest of the participants is over.

My partner and I met up with some online forum friends recently at a local restaurant. Most of them we've known for years but hadn't met in person until now. At this event I was reminded by two people about a forum discussion that I remember having but couldn't for the life of me remember the actual details of what I'd said.

However, it must have been profound and informative because three people recalled it and at least one had thought it interesting enough to copy the discussion and show it to people not involved with the forum. I still couldn't remember the exact details despite the subject being a pet topic of mine.

Afterwards I went home and looked up this discussion on the forum. It took a little bit of finding because it was buried in the archives. Turns out this was a discussion that took place nearly two years ago. No wonder I couldn't remember the details.

It's quite an interesting thing to do, looking at old discussions. Especially if they're about topics that really fire you up (as this one did for me). At the time I sounded really informed about the subject (which I was) but now, if you raised the same issue, I doubt I'd sound even half as informed.

Reading your discussions retrospectively, years later, is quite different from reading discussions in which you did not take part. There is a personal connection to the dialog. For me I wonder how did I get to be that knowledgeable? How could I be that fired up and make the connections I did?

Not only that, but to have someone still remember what I wrote nearly two years later with me having next to no idea what I said.

Most of the time discussions are lost. Forgotten. However the internet is a really big thing. I wonder how many discussions of mine could I find if I looked?

Emo Spider-man what a loser.

This isn't a movie review, it's more of a movie reflection. My thoughts after seeing Spider-man 3 on the cinema screen. I'm assuming, if you're reading this then you have seen the movie. I'm not going to do any kind of story outline or worry about giving away plot details. If you haven't seen it then don't read further.

Before I get on to the movie... WTF is with the movie's official site? Trying to find a cast and crew list is next to impossible, none of the photo galleries have captions and there's precious little text to read outside of the film's blogs. It's a sad day when you have to visit sites not directly related to a film in order to get information about cast and crew. Thanks to Premiere for your great article.

I think it's time director, Sam Raimi, turned his attention else where. Spider-man, the first movie was excellent. Spider-man 2, not too bad. Spider-man 3, it's all gone back to being a cartoon. It reminds me of Joel Schumacher's catch cry on the Batman 3 and 4 sets - "remember we're making a cartoon!" A catch cry that would ultimately doom the franchise for years because Joel didn't take the material seriously.

My biggest criticism of Spider-man 3 lies in the editing. There are several sequences in this movie with a lot happening yet at many points time seems to be suspended for dialog. Case in point, the scene with an out of control crane in which Spidey rescues Gwen Stacy by breaking her fall out of a sky scraper. Cut to the ground. The crane is still out of control and Spidey is talking to new Bugle photographer, Eddie Brock about who is Spidey's official photographer. Err...crane out of control - when you have a moment Spider-man.

This kind of editing happens a lot in the final big fight sequence too. The action elsewhere appears to be suspended whilst we wait for some important dialog between the current protagonists on the screen.

The plot lines are not interwoven well at all. Everything feels to be happening one after the other rather than concurrently (like it should be) in many places.

So lets get onto the whole 'black spidey suit'. Some, unexplained, black, living alien goo crashes to earth in a meteor shower. Not only does Peter and MJ not notice the bright flash of a meteor landing (exploding!) near his motor scooter but the alien goo gets no further explanation as to it's source (and no one back at the science lab where Peter takes a sample of the goo ever questions where it came from?).

The goo when combined into a Spidey suit is meant to enhance the existing powers of the wearer through symbiosis? Okay. This is fiction so I can buy that. Why then does Eddie Brock become the 'anti-spider-man' 'Venom' with all Spider-mans powers when he wears the suit? Eddie Brock doesn't have Spider-man's abilities. Am I supposed to assume that the alien goo absorbed some of Spidey's powers and gave them to Eddie?

Throughout the film, Peter Parker wears the black suit under his street clothes and becomes 'Emo' Peter. At least that is what is implied by the 'emo style' fringe and darker wardrobe. Yet at the same time the suit is making him more confident and self assured. Very un-emo like. Worst scene. Peter Parker dancing, Travolta style down the street thinking he's the coolest thing around. It was meant to be funny (given the reactions he got from passers by) but it just made me cringe like a lame joke told badly.

Getting on to other characters. Harry Osborn (a.k.a. the Green Goblin Junior.) played by James Franco must be the most miscast character of the franchise. He's unconvincing in virtually every scene. He's got a brooding face that looks like a smacked babies behind. Bugs the hell out of me. Aside from that, Goblin and Spidey fight sequences - play it up for the computer game. Boring and predictable. Just like the Pod races in Star Wars, Episode 1. Computer game written all over it.

Sandman. What were they thinking at that particle physics lab? Even the police and their dogs got through that fence to look at whatever that particle generator thingy was? Maybe they weren't too concerned about security because the machine couldn't actually kill you, it would just turn you into a super sandman with incredible strength and an ability to fly with the wind? I hope they had a permit for that thing.

Sand "I've got to get money to save my daughter" man was the most pointless of bad guys in the film. Nice effects to create him though. How gullible is Peter Parker? Every time he was told a new version of his uncle's death he believed it without question? Sandman said he didn't mean to kill Peter's uncle. Sandman is an escaped convict who thinks turning to crime is a rational solution to raise money for his daughter (ever heard of a fund raising dinner? Getting a Job? Applying for a loan?). Everything he says must be true.

Eddie Brock doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would go to church for any reason let alone to ask God to kill Peter. Yet he does after being humiliated by Peter Parker in the work place. He seems more like the kind of guy that would've got plastered at the nearest bar then confronted Peter in a drunken rage later in the day.

However, Venom has to be the most interesting bad guy of the whole series. Shame he's only there in the last two acts. I thought the effects to create him were spot on and incredibly menacing. Even if I don't understand why Eddie gets Spidey powers? They should have scrapped Sandman and Green Goblin and just done a Spidey/black suit/Venom film. Could've been way fiercer and far more edge of your seat.

Instead the only edge of your seat stuff we have here is various characters at various times potentially plummeting to their death - yawn. Didn't that happen in the other two Spidey films?

My final gripe for this article (I could go on) is, what is it with Spider-man's mask? In all the movies Spider-man ends up fighting without the mask on. Particularly in the major, concluding fight sequences, where hundreds of onlookers, including people that know Peter, are watching. In Spider-man 3 everyone in the crowd at the end is either taking photos or filming for the TV news. How could they not get a picture of Spidey without the mask? Doesn't the TV news own a zoom lense?

I've been knocking this movie the whole way through. I will say it wasn't a bad experience. It was worth going to see. I just hope they do a re-cut for DVD that makes the whole thing flow better. It was the editing, more than anything else, that let this film down. Everything else I can say - well it's fiction so it doesn't have to always make sense.

I'd still by the DVD for the bonus features and Venom.

Gorge Wildlife Park: Cuddle a Koala!

Yes you can cuddle a koala at Gorge Wildlife Park located at Cudlee Creek, South Australia. In fact here is a picture of myself, Blonde Rose, and a fairly nonplussed koala who is just happy to eat leaves whilst being passed around by his keeper. Cute huh?

Gorge Wildlife Park is much more than koalas. There is so much to see that you could easily make a day of it. We were only there for an afternoon and I managed to take 137 photos.

The whole park is very much a hands on experience. You can buy a bag of peanuts or a packet of biscuits to feed all manner of different animals ranging from Australian native animals such as kangaroos and wallabys to more exotic species like the various different types of monkeys. Beware of the Peacocks though as they are the 'seagull' of Gorge Wildlife Park, persistently following you for peanuts.

I would love to post all my photos but I'll stick with just a couple that I thought might be of interest.

The park has a surprising number of albino animals, particularly of Australian wildlife. Pictured here is possibly an albino kangaroo in the foreground and two albino wallabies in the background (though feel free to correct me).

Other albino animals I saw included peacocks, a magpie, a wombat (though technically he was actually cream) and even the chairs and tables in the kiosk were white!

Pictured below are a whole group of fruit bats. These were a highlight because I'd never seen these up this close before. Though you do have to be careful being this close as they have a tendency to randomly urinate in no particular direction. Seemingly no regard for hitting other fruit bats or people viewing with their spray.


This park is a great experience all round. I've never been a big fan of wildlife parks but I quite enjoyed wandering around this one. Perhaps it you're in the region you should stop by too.

It's oh so quiet...

Many people describe themselves as being 'quiet' in real life social situations but as it turns out 'quiet' is a relative term.

I describe myself as quiet in real life. However, when I tell my internet friends that I'm quiet many of them will say 'oh really, me too' thinking that they're just like me in social situations.

No you're not like me. I've never met anyone who is quiet like me. I'm so quiet it's deafening. People notice that I'm quiet within a few seconds of meeting me (apparently).

In some situations my 'quietness' even makes people feel a bit uncomfortable (I think) as the urge to talk can be quite strong - even if you'd rather not speak first. I'm quite comfortable not speaking. I'm used to my own company. I'm an artist.

I'm not good at social gatherings because I think I have a moral obligation to wait until someone has finished speaking before I talk. No doubt you probably agree. However when someone is talking to me, I listen. I'm not formulating what I'm going to say the split second this person finishes their final sentence.

Apparently others do. I get next to no time to think and respond before someone else has started speaking and I've missed my opportunity to contribute to whatever the first person was saying. Now I have to wait until the second person has finished speaking...no time to think because now the first person has started responding to what person two just said... oh dear, they're going to think I'm 'quiet'.

My brain just doesn't work like that. It isn't inspired to recall stories of past high jinx based upon whatever story is being related to me... "oh yes, how we all laughed...that reminds me of the time we..." Doesn't work like that.

My brain just absorbs information then makes important connections an hour or so later. It stores stuff that may later be useful in creating... something.

So, 'quiet' is a relative term. You may think you're quiet compared to your friends but compared to me. I bet you seem... well... normal. No more quiet than anyone else meeting new people for the first time. Once they get to know you, you probably become more out going. Once people get to know me... nup - still quiet.

Oh well. I'm used to being quiet. Oh so quiet.

Celtic Festival, Kapunda 2007

My first visit to Kapunda, Australia's oldest mining town, was to experience one day of a three day event, the 32nd Annual Kapunda Celtic Festival. Blonde Rose and I attended the second day which was a Saturday.

As far as Celtic Festivals go, this one had a Celtic flavor but my impression overall was that this could have easily have been a Town Festival. Largely because many of the market stalls and some of the performing artists weren't specifically 'Celtic' themed. That said, I didn't get to see all of the Celtic performing artists such as dancers, singers and more. Perhaps if I had I would've been left with more of a Celtic experience.

Don't get me wrong, I was not disappointed with the festival at all. Kapunda is an exceptional town with a lot to see. Which is why I didn't see all the entertainment. Too busy looking in local art galleries and exploring the excellent basement Kapunda history display at the Visitor Centre, as well as the basement museum display at the Kapunda Bakery. Even without a festival there is plenty to do.

click image above to see larger version.

What we did see at the festival was Honorary Town Crier and Honorary Escort Town Crier (to the City of Salisbury) Tom and Daphne Benny. Tom is something of a regional icon for his Town crier abilities and he was in fine form at this event, welcoming guests to the town and announcing the various street performances.

An Ghillee Mhor and the Border Celts was the only truly Celtic act I saw. Unfortunately I only caught the last half of their spirited dance routine that involved a bit of shouting and a lot of hitting together of, what looked to me like, bamboo poles.

click image above to see larger version.

The Creole Cowboyz, a six member band of blokes, playing music inspired by Creole French traditions, were a highlight. They seemed to be putting on a show intended for kids and families but, with a lack of younger members, persevered with an older audience that connected well with their humor. A particular highlight was a very young audience member enjoying dancing around like a chicken to the bands 'chicken song'.

Later in the afternoon we caught the Henna nights Bellydance troupe. They put on a great demonstration with three different performances - two group dances then a solo dancer for the finale. I'm not exactly sure how 'Celtic' belly dancing is but the performances were very well received and added much colour to the festival.

We finished off the day by taking a drive around the historic sites of the town that included some excellent lookout points for views of the surrounding country side. I must do this tour again some time because we were chasing the setting sun. Trying to see everything before we ran out of light.

I quite enjoyed the trip to Kapunda. A town that should certainly be on your itinerary if you happen to be in the region.

Hazel Dooney: Inspiration for Independence.

I don't care much for Hazel Dooney's Art - at least not her recent artistic style of lead pencil, ink and watercolour that she's presented since 2006. I think it's important that I mention this as a preface for this article.

It's not the dark themes or graphic, sexual content of some of these works that turns me off. I really have no problem with this kind of subject matter. What bugs me is that, as one artist looking at another's work, her current style just looks too easy.

Which is not to suggest it is easy at all. It just looks that way. It looks like experimental works ripped out of her visual diary and called 'finished art'. They look like paintings still in the planning stages.

Ordinarily I'd go for her more expressive style in other lesser known artists. Usually this style is a break from the monotony of landscapes and rural settings I see in the various regional community galleries. Someone who isn't inspired by yet another tree with sheep grazing in the distance. However Hazel is something of an Australian icon. Perhaps I expect to see something more... 'crafted'.

Excuse me while I choke on the word 'crafted' (a word more obscene than anything Hazel creates and calls 'art').

Now that I've finished this lengthy preface lets get to the point of this article. I aspire to achieve something like what Hazel has achieved with her career. Independence.

Independence from galleries, art dealers, and the whole traditional career path that chokes the life out of many emerging artists before they even get a start. It's said that artists are the last people that should promote and sell their art but look at Hazel... she's doing alright.

In an interview she gave to penseyeview.com Hazel revealed some very scathing opinions about traditional galleries and their system of promoting art...
I think one reason why I've worked so hard to be free of the traditional, institutional and gallery system is that I have always viewed it as a parasitic business that eventually leeches not only artists' souls but also their independence. I felt I'd sold my soul when I first exhibited.

I've exhibited in galleries many times since, but my relationships with them nowadays tend to be one-off and always at arms length. I have been very, very successful without them, handling my own sales, inventory management, client and public relations, and so on. These days, I almost resent paying even the modest commissions I negotiate with my exhibiting galleries: I look at it as renting space. I don't think they do much else for me. They don't have a clue about actually selling.

I loathe the environments of most commercial galleries and nearly all art institutions and museums: most are so sterile, too similar to one another, and badly laid out. I like my shows to be multi-dimensional, like a good, non-stop party – I hate the pseudo-reverence that most galleries try to foster towards art.

Hazel also threw a few punches at Australian Galleries and the Australian art scene...
Australia is parochial, mean-spirited and most of its publicly acclaimed or awarded contemporary works are knock-offs of far more original overseas works. Australian institutions and galleries also lack a deal of originality – and certainly they are more interested in having control of artists than nurturing and encouraging them. In the context of Australia's suburban homogeneity – it defines what Americans refer to as 'white bread' – any kind of risk, but especially creative risk and originality, are actively discouraged. And we haven't inherited our Anglo-Irish forebear’s tolerance of eccentricity.

I'm reluctantly subscribed to Hazel's online newsletter. I really don't care for her art but I admire her determination to get to where she is today. Whilst I probably wouldn't agree 100% with her views on galleries (I think she goes a little too extreme in her summations) they do reflect my own thoughts about why I have no interest in being represented in galleries.

My ego thinks that galleries would be falling over themselves to represent me if I would only show some interest. The reality is, my art is probably too 'crafted'. Not only that but people think I'm more of an 'illustrator'. My work should be in children's books. Which means it probably lacks personal expression and is too accessible (like you lot have any clue about art!).

If Hazel Dooney can do it then so can I. So can you. If you're an artist then read her interview, visit her web site and subscribe to her newsletter.

I can't guarantee you'll learn a a lot but so long as you know Hazel is still being independently successful, you'll always have someone to inspire you to do the same.

Drawing a Mustache on Brett Whiteley.

Forgive me if I blow my own trumpet in this post (especially since not only can't I play the trumpet but I don't actually own a trumpet) but I need you to visit my web site Gallery and Shop.

Why? I'm glad you asked... well I could see you were going to ask. Okay, so technically I asked for you but if I had been standing right there saying "I need you to visit my Gallery and Shop," you would've said "Why?"

Writing isn't the only thing I do. Yes, I know, I was surprised too. Being male usually affords the luxury of only being able to do one thing but fortunately that only means 'one thing at a time' not 'one thing for all time'. I digress.

Art, yes art is something else I do. In fact I was (and still am) an artist, before I ramped up this writing gig. My art is said to be uniquely my own - though it's me saying that so maybe you should take a look - I could be lying.

I may have just copied everything Brett Whiteley ever created and simply drawn a mustache on it. See now you're going to have to visit my Gallery and Shop just to make sure I'm not ripping off an Australian, Artistic Icon.

I'm talking about my art because owning a print of my art is something you may like to consider. Gifts featuring my art make great conversation pieces. Can't you imagine all your friends coming over, seeing a print of one of my artworks hanging on your wall. You know they're all thinking what exquisite taste you have in art but one blurts out...

"Oh my goodness how hideous!"

Don't ask me? They're your friends!

Sharing my art with your friends. Think of all the conversations you could have. Browse my Gallery and Shop today. I'm guaranteed not to ask...

"Would you like fries with that?"

Now that's an Awesome Ringtone!

I saw this phone (pictured right) and thought to myself that must have the most awesome ringtone. Then I thought a bit more... kind of gives a new meaning to the concept of putting someone on 'speaker phone'.

My imagination ran wild, quickly moving on to the idea that this must be the kind of phone those car nuts with the pimped up stereo systems and the 'doof, doof' music would love in their house. A 'doof, doof' phone!

Turns out none of these things even come close to what this phone is. In actual fact it is one of six similar phones that make up an art installation called O Telephone by artist, Don Ritter.

It's an interactive work featuring six modified 1960’s telephones within a darkened room which randomly ring with a distinctive sound. After a ringing phone is answered by a viewer, “om” is heard through the handset and through the speaker in the body of the phone. When viewers answer other ringing phones, the resulting “om” sounds will pan through all the answered phones. The telephones will eventually begin a composition comprised of the ringing and “om” sounds if they are not answered by viewers. [ source: aesthetic-machinery.com - O Telephone by Don Ritter ]

Check out the link for pictures of the installation and, if you have either the Real or Quicktime video plug-ins, video of the work in action.
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