Out taking pictures and boring in Sydney.

Been down to Sydney a few times recently researching and photographing locations for the comic strip and stumbled across the ‘Creative Sydney’ poster below and that caught my eye because of the picture it made when combined with graffiti and sandstone wall. All three elements form a snap shot of the state of creativity in this nation with the sandstone wall referencing tradition and past nation building, the tagging (graffiti) arguing ‘creative Sydney’ is illegal street art even if the tags themselves are stylistically a decades long process of copying a long lost original and then the poster itself which is pegged down well within the boundaries of the acceptable. None of this would be a real problem were it not for the fact and as seemingly understood by who or whatever commissioned the poster, that ‘creativity’ has dollar value. Will this poster contribute in any significant way towards the goal of making Sydney a powerhouse of creativity with billions of dollars pouring into the State’s coffers ?

Creative Sydney poster tagged and behind sandstone wall.

Not sure the city authorities understand what creative people need.

Walking around the city center looking for something, anything, that could be of some use to my comic book project the more distance traveled the more I wanted to puke. As a city Sydney is sanitized and made appropriate and inoffensive to all including the children of millionaires with now a lovely playground sitting right next to the fountain in Kings Cross where previously the homeless, rent boys, prostitutes and drug dealers hung out. OK – nice, clean and the locals living in their multi million dollar flats can now park their Ferrari’s and designer bicycles in what were once-upon-a-time dark back alleys without fearing they being vomited on by drug-fucked and homeless ‘losers’. The poor, the homeless, the artists, the musicians, the poets and that essential demi-monde have been pushed out and I doubt a poster can fill the void.

 

Bike riding in the suburbs a few days later I actually found a location that could be useful. Horrible cliche though – you know – the urban decay and graffiti thing but has potential as a backdrop for some depravity or other gratuitously violent action. Below are a few pictures taken as part of my search for locations.

 

mountain bike leening against wire fence that surrounds abandoned commercial centre along parramatta road Sydney

The trusty MTB bike. For sure it will be immortalized in the comic strip.

black and white of abandoned petrol station on Parramatta road Sydney.

Had some fun in RawTherapee and Gimp with one of the pictures taken at the abandoned commercial center site.

Railway pedestrian tunnel at Lawson railway station Blue Mountains New South Wales Australia

In the Blue Mountains town of Lawson and not Sydney but could be useful.

On the topic of art and culture it appears much today is part of this now mainstream social engineering trend and nothing of the past appears to be beyond re-interpretation such as below Australian photographer Max Dupain’s famous ‘Sunbaker’ taken in 1937 and used here in an anti-racism poster. Right or wrong in intention I think this takes away from Dupain’s work which was about the sun baked, free, democratic and prosperous Australian lifestyle. Anyway, had a bit of Gimp fun with that one as well.

max dupain's 'Sunbaker' in anti-racism poster.

He is not dreaming – he is living it.

Blessings.

Journalism and achieving the void.

Listening to professor Sora Park of the University of Canberra this morning talking about ‘fake news’. As much as many don’t like Trump, they can’t resist his setting the subject of discussion. Wasn’t it Trump who first came up with this notion of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’? Anyway, not mentioned by the professor was story selection as in if there are twenty possible stories on a given day, which ones are selected ? As worrying as fabricated news, I find, is the fact news services have lost their impartiality even if they can claim not manufacturing ‘fake news’. If I gave you a subject such as climate change, mass migration out of Africa or gender pay equality, I don’t need to read ‘The Guardian’, ‘Daily Telegraph’ or ‘The Australian” to know what they would have to say. News organizations identify their audience and simply feed back to that audience what they are already thinking by selective content and biased interpretation of stories that cannot be avoided.

Adding to that is of course which way the news service leans politically. For example, Trump’s bromance with Kim is reported extensively throughout the world but barely gets thirty seconds of cynical mention on France 2 because the French government is upset with Trump’s trade tariffs. No expert commentary nor analysis despite the meeting possibly marking the beginning of the end to the Korean war. Another example, and this time television news, would be the commercial Channel Nine reporting on a drop in temperature as an ‘early winter snap’, or something to that effect. The truth is all this year temperatures in Australia have been consistently and worryingly well above average and up until that recent cooling which itself was probably caused by fluctuations in the very disrupted southern jet stream. Channel Nine in the same bulletin then went on to describe a power outage that never actually happened but was severe enough to make the point renewables cannot be relied on to provide baseline power.

The French by comparison and to their credit when reporting on their current flood crisis – which by the way has not got a mention on any news service here in Australia as far as I know – did bring in an expert who clearly explained the ongoing floods are the result of climate change. No Australian news service, public or private, would have done the same when reporting on flood events such as the recent one in Hobart. Rather the focus would be and as a distraction from the cause, the heroic first responders and that the locals are tough because they are from [insert region here] and love each other immensely.

We hear all the time and especially from our two public broadcasters, that they deliver quality journalism, are unbiased and seek diversity in the news room but clearly that is not the case. Again story selection and extent of reporting as for example the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) giving more coverage in one recent bulletin to Serena William’s pectoral muscle problem than the Fuego Volcano eruption in Guatemala. With diversity, the common assumption is that it is achieved by replacing white males, especially older, with men of color and as many women both of color and not of color that can possibly be squeezed in even if that means creating as is the case again with the ABC, news and commentary shows that often simply replicate each other and repeat the same stories with the same footage and sources. As Kovach and Rosenstiel wrote in their book “The Elements of Journalism”, true diversity in a newsroom is diversity of opinion not diversity of skin color and gender because the later assumes that women, people of color, and today you could chuck in LGBTQI people, all share the same opinions and views. The opinion of one woman does not reflect that of all women anymore than a single Aboriginal man can claim to speak for all Aboriginal people. If true it would follow that only white heterosexual males are capable of independent and original thought which is of course a ridiculous proposition.

 

Latest on my side is that the comic strip project is progressing but has slowed down somewhat because thinking through not just details of the narrative but also the context within which it is told. I identified a need to spend more time working on all that is not narrative and to say what I feel and want to say and not what I learned at university are the ingredients of every great story. Lesson actually learned from Kurt Vonnegut who said – I apologize if I get details wrong here – that when he set out to write ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ he had fame, fortune and big Hollywood studios in mind and was getting nowhere until his wife said he should tell it as it was and not fluff up his prisoner-of-war experience. He and his peers, as Kurt said, were not ‘heroes’ whose story is worthy of a blockbuster movie but rather just scared boys in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

Other than the project, it’s the battle against the resurgent diabetes problem in which I’m now tracking blood glucose levels against stress as I have a strong suspicion the two are linked and that stress can actually trigger or be a major contributor to the onset of type 2. I’ve found research papers that discuss that possibility and in cooperation with my local general practitioner am trying to find a treatment that minimizes medication and is more focused on diet, exercise such as mountain bike riding and stress reduction activities such as trying to increase the length and frequency of Iaido practice. On that last one I’m again going back over Miyamoto Musashi’s ‘Book of Five Rings’ as I have done many times over the past thirty years but this time and only a short while ago, I put the book down having realized it has taken this long to begin to really understand what the old samurai was on about. I can’t explain it, the only way to experience this yourself is to get a copy, buy a boken or sword if you can afford a proper one, read, study, think, practice and with time and patience a crack in the wall will appear but even then it might take another life time, as I fear is my case, before you achieve what you set out to achieve which – this I can tell you – is the void. Substantially nothing.

“In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness”.

Body and (great) art.

About the boy.

I know, I know, I bang on a lot about ‘the boy’ and some I know question my motives for doing so. The simple answer could be that I just like upsetting people but that would not be true, the question is important with regard to culture and society and so much so Greer wrote a book and made a television documentary on the subject of what she called the ‘beautiful boy’. On the back jacket of the book she declared her intention as follows, ‘I’d like to reclaim for women the right to appreciate the short-lived beauty of boys’.

The book and television documentary drew a lot of criticism with Australian tabloid newspapers accusing her of being a ‘once great academic who was now just a silly old woman’ when they did not outright call her a pedophile. Pedophile I don’t know but great academic she could arguably be and there had to be good reason she identified the ‘beautiful boy’ as something important to female equality. She suggests one reason herself – the boy, she writes, is the most ubiquitous representation of the human form in western art from the renaissance up unto, she claims, the nineteenth century when mysteriously he disappears from art gallery walls. In a well-received essay I wrote over ten years ago, I argued the boy did not disappear in the nineteenth century as a result of women gaining access to art galleries as Greer claims but rather disappeared in the nineteen seventies and as a result of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) been run over by the feminist/LGBTQI movement. Visconti’s 1971 screen adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novelette “Death in Venice” is probably the last major work of art which discuses and celebrates art and culture as embodied in and informed by the ‘beautiful boy’.

This is where the interest, mine included, lies; western art and culture in all its exceptional manifestations is undeniably based on the young male aesthetic and that not just since the renaissance but since antiquity. Many have pointed out the high points of western civilization are also the periods when the most statues, paintings and written texts were created and that celebrate the beauty of young males. Any alien scientist studying the human species would make that observation and declare there must exist a connection between freedom to appreciate the beauty of young males and the creation of great art. Greer made that connection but where she could well have been a ‘silly old woman’ was in the belief that right could be reclaimed (implying it was previously denied) and women would go on to produce works equivalent to those of the best of the male-created masterpieces. She got it all wrong in focusing on the gender and sexual aspects of the issue and she suffered the consequences of that mistake so easily made by someone who does not understand what s/he is trying to discuss. Greer and all those who only see the sexual should read / reread the following passage in Death in Venice,

Ashenbash has received a letter asking him to contribute to a discussion on ‘a certain important cultural problem’ and one Mann writes, ‘that is close to his experience’. Ashenbach, (a famous author in the book and musician in the film) sits down at a table by the beach to write a response – Tadzio, the beautiful boy, is as usual loitering in sight of the writer.

“And what he craved, indeed, was to work on it in Tadzio’s presence, to take the boy’s physique for a model as he wrote, to let his style follow the lineaments of this body which he saw as divine, and to carry its beauty on high into the spiritual world, as the eagle once carried the Trojan shepherd boy into the ether. Never had he felt the joy of the word more sweetly, never had he known so clearly that Eros dwells in language, as during those perilously precious hours in which, seated at his rough table under the awning, in full view of his idol and with the music of his voice in his ears, he shaped upon Tadzio’s beauty his brief essay – that page and a half of exquisite prose which with its limpid nobility and vibrant controlled passion was soon to win the admiration of many.”

In brief and pulling no punches because I and others are getting sick and tired of having to continuously explain ourselves to the most ignorant and prejudiced people God ever breathed life into, if you don’t understand how style can follow the human form in what is its most uncompromised expression then please go fuck yourself or – male or female or as yet not classified – go jerk off to the best of your Kylie video collection.

Being a lad in the early fifties. Sex, violence and no poofters.

Looking through some pulp and comic strip publications of the late forties and early fifties I found the advertising gives us a good idea of the expectations placed on young males. Surprisingly huge body image pressure, ability to successfully mate and ability to earn as much money as is never enough. The other thing I found was how gullible and naive the target audience must have been and also going on advertising, that girls must have been regular readers of comic strips primarily targeted at a young male audience. The advertisers must have found that girls also loved war, crime, cowboys and as much sleaze as could make its way passed the censors. Below are a few examples taken as screen captures from my document reader and sorry for the bad quality.

First up this piece of utter garbage made up of a photograph of a boy with the totally anatomically incorrect chest I would say is a clumsy airbrush job. The little line-art frame with the two scantly dressed females whispering behind the skinny boy’s back they will ‘pass him by’ is a direct attempt to use sexual angst of the young teenage boy as the main selling point. I could not imagine such a thing today and especially if the gender roles were reversed.

Fifties ad for body building program with image of young male with grossly exaggerated chest and arm muscles.

Head is a photograph but body is a stuck on and rather poor quality airbrush job. No photoshop in those days.

 

Below is another example of the same thing and this time – hey, hey, hey – no less than Charles Atlas as your personal trainer. What sort of teenage boy would not want Charles Atlas taking personal care of his body? Especially a Charles Atlas dressed in those superman outside undies. Wow. Again the line-art little comic strip uses sexual angst but also this time the ability to belt the crap out of other boys. BTW – studies (today as in 21st century) show that teenage boys are the most frequent victims of violence. Notice also that in the strip section of the advertisement violence between males is rewarded with sexual advantage.

Phew – those superman inside-out undies!!!

Pimples – a curse on teenagers then and now and, here’s something I observed as a youth worker, I have never seen a happy teenager and that had bad acne.  Just an observation – I’m not claiming acne is always linked to poor mental health.

Nothing new about pimples either.

Here’s another interesting ad and that points to what was expected of young males back in dem good ol days. Prestige among peers for in this case being the proud owner of a tin coin box that – wow every child’s dream – lights one of six pictures every time you put a coin in the slot. Battery and light bulb included it says in the ad. The purpose here is a rather clumsy attempt to bring together parent approval and child want. Pretty sure the manufacturer would have gone broke. No child would waste precious paperboy money on the exhilarating experience of seeing the same boring six images magically light up over and over again. Unless s/he had been smoking fried banana peels as kids did in those days.

The speaker was quality painted on the tin coin box. Whoopee!

Speaking of novelties and life expectations check out the page of advertising below. Body image and masculinity once again (poor skinny teenage boy of the fifties), education, business and how to hypnotize! Now that’s a solution to all your access to the mysterious opposite gender problems – hypnotize the bitch and have your way with her you skinny boy wimp! And now that you are that evil hypnotizer of young and beautiful girls you must absolutely have the skull ring also advertised on this page and coincidentally just below the evil face of the evil hypnotizer! I wonder how many teenage girls pretended the hypnosis worked… Hmmmm…

 

Conning children into buying an ‘adult’ product. Notice top left , where you start reading a page, the boy in raptures with his new watch, mum and grandma behind him giving approval and the other background figures are adults who use that very same watch in their exciting everyday lives of action and adventure.

What the ‘F’ would you do with the ‘world’s smallest ball point pen”? Unless of course you have the ‘world’s smallest fingers”. Surprised they didn’t throw in ‘shaped just like space rockets’ and ‘writes in any language”. Love also to know in those times when internet was the stuff of science fiction, how the swing-out weather forecaster worked?

 

And not forgetting women who then as today are always after a quick fix to the problem of getting fat but this one must be by far better than anything Jenny Craig came up with. Basically just chew gum instead of eating and I wonder how many females reading this are right now googling “Kelpidine Chewing Gum”.

Free Sexy Outfit to any young woman who manages to chew gun for twenty five days instead of eating Mamma’s good tasty meals.

Once you, teenage girl of the nineteen fifties, got that sexy dress you’re next concern was how to score the hottest, highest-earning-potential, big ‘muscle’ boy? That need is addressed as well in your brother’s copy of ‘Man Comics’. “How to write thrilling love letters”. Now here’s a suggestion for the great-grandma’s who might still have a copy in the attic and who are living on the minuscule old-age pension. The grannies who picked the wrong boy at the school dance – the real prize was skinny boy, yep the one who bored everyone with his stories about future ‘micro-processors’ replacing then state-of-the-art tube valves.  Anyway, drag out your copy of ‘How to write thrilling love letters” change that to “How to write thrilling emails to your chosen life partner and with bonus section on sexting”. List on Amazon and Smashwords and your financial worries are over.

Not recommended for suspected gay boys whose bedroom is searched by parents on a regular basis.

And with near all men of the time been veterans of either WWI, WWII or even both, there were huge problems with what we now know to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  which could lead as we would understand today, to substance and alcohol abuse and psychotic and violent behaviors including domestic violence which very often was directed at boys as the image below correctly identifies as been the case. It takes according to research, three to four generations to completely breed out the emotional damage caused by war. The veteran father damages the son who then  becomes a dysfunctional father himself and that goes on until grandson or even great-grandson of the veteran. Unless of course there is another war which sets things back to square one.

The ‘true story’ correctly identifies a violent home as a major cause of juvenile crime.

Fresh water and life’s latest.

First up the latest post from professor Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa. His youtube channel and website are a good source of reliable climate information. The one below, his latest, is about fresh water.

 

My life latest is that I was supposed to have a stress test at the local hospital, check the old ticker is working properly, but when the cardiologist saw me walk in with a bike helmet and I told him I regularly do 70 plus kilometers of trail riding, he decided I didn’t need one. But, further into the discussion he wanted to slam me into a hospital bed telling me my efforts to beat diabetes by natural means have not been entirely successful. When I declined the offer of free meals and accommodation, he then listed all the shocking and horrible things I could look forward to and whilst he was reading out the shopping list, I was mentally ticking them off as already happening. Not good. So in a few months (yes – that’s a short wait for an appointment) I’ll be back in the endocrinologist’s office and with a little luck s/he will be able to give me the precise information I need to plan for the years ahead. Diabetes today is not as big a deal as it used to be, a death sentence, but from my perspective it could mean a major upset in the planning department. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep plodding on looking for an income and working on the comic strip. Who knows it might even be successful and if not, who cares – making it is fun enough to justify the time and effort.

Yep – it’s a comic strip.

Despite being superstitious about sharing details of a project I think it won’t draw evil upon my current project if i share a few screen shots and words about the why , what and how.

Basically as all reading this blog over the past few years would know, I tend to be like a kid in a toy store when it comes to projects and in particular anything related to the visual arts and story telling. I have a few roughed out books on my hard drive sitting beside a few short near-completed animations and plenty more of the same begging exit from the creative section of my brain. I’m one those people who dive into something and when the creative process is completed and it’s no longer fun and games, I get bored and look for something else to play with. Either that or I go into one of my recurring bouts of clinical depression and select all and delete. I’m sure many can relate to that and the bit where later you find yourself madly going through files on the external hard drive hoping there was a backed-up copy you had forgotten existed. To be fair to myself, some projects are beyond what a person can create by themselves.

Problem is I’m not getting any younger and would like to actually complete a major project and so and summing up what I know and my skill portfolio, I decided a comic strip would be the best option even if figure drawing, the most important skill in comic strip creation, is something I have not done for well over a decade. As my father used to say ‘there is no such thing as the perfect circumstances to start something’, and he was right, at some point if you burn to do or create something then just jump in and get started. Sort out the problems as you go along.

So with no small amount of self-doubt I dragged out from the dark corners of a back-up hard drive a script previously written for an animation based on actual life events experienced by street kids I worked with in the past and went about re-writing it as a story that could be told in drawn frames and speech bubbles. When that was done and there no excuse left, I fired up Krita, the open source paint application, and after a first test (previously posted on this blog) to get a feel for the software which I rarely used before, started roughing out page number One.

I can confirm from that initial experience that drawing people is difficult if there was any lingering doubt in anyone’s mind but as I progress through this work a new problem is becoming apparent and it is that like the proverbial ability to ride a bicycle, long lost figure drawing skills are beginning to return which means I will be going back over the already sketched out pages. My work method is from the written story I sketch out a rough and entirely hand drawn version of each page and then work up a version that is still a pencil sketch but closer to what will later be inked, painted with speech bubbles and text added in the end.  What I’m finding is that the second pencil sketch done using for example Blender 3D to assist with tricky perspective is not as alive as the entirely hand-drawn rough. Below is an example where this difference is apparent. The second version is more detailed and has some obvious background changes but clearly relying less on intuition and spontaneity is I think not as good as the original could be when my confidence returns and I can work with at most a perspective grid.

screen shot of the intial pencil sketch.

Initial sketch that to me communicates the character’s emotional state better than the second sketch of this page (below) which made greater use of software in the drawing process.

Changes to background with computer assistance in drawing the main character.

 

Letter to the Americans from Michael Curry. (bishop)

Loved the sermon of bishop Michael Curry at the marriage of Harry and Meghan for a few reasons.

One that he spoke at length about Love and what Teilhard de Chardin had to say about it – chapter five (from memory) of de Chardin’s book “The Human Phenomena”. (Le Phénomène humain).

Second were the reactions in the attendance such as Elton John looking as though he had just had a spoonful of cod liver oil poured down his throat.

Third and best of all was the reaction of my house mate who is a refugee and hero of the Uruguayan communist resistance. No – her name is not Michele. I said Uruguayan and not French. A communist, words such as Christ, Jesus, religion, faith, etc have a weird effect on her atheist gland and minutes into the bishop’s sermon she was wailing in agony, pleading for the torture to stop and when it didn’t, she resorted to burying her face in the sofa and pulling a cushion tightly over her head and ears, she vocalized loud and repeated La – La – La – La – La – La – La’s to drown out that which a communist cannot stand to hear. The spectacle reminded me of a film about a little girl whose head had this tendency to spin around.

Anyway, things returned to normal after the sermon but if anyone had any doubt it is past time Australia became a republic then one look at the people sitting in that church should suffice to change their minds. No offense intended to the young couple as it’s not Harry’s fault he was raised by a family of inbreeds living in public housing.

Curry’s sermon was I think in no small measure intended for his home audience with yet another school shooting and those ongoing problems of race and migration. A good start for fixing the shooting epidemic would be changing the culture of fear and resorting to violence as a first response to any problem that may arise. Check out any so-called action movie, the hero is a typical patriotic United States citizen, a nice person minding their own business and enjoying a happy and loving environment and then something bad happens. What does this person do? Break open the box where all the weapons are stashed and after a sufficient body count has been reached our hero rejoins his or her loved ones and with greatly enhanced hero status. Should we be surprised that monkey do as monkey see?

There’s of course the problem of the news media who just love scaring their audiences into madly emailing politicians demanding tougher laws, penalties and more cruelty in the way the monster-under-the-bed is put to death. Again reinforcing the culture of violence as first and often only response.

Not that we are immune to fear and cowardice here in the great southern land with just days ago police given the power to stop and demand identification from anyone who doesn’t take their fancy. Asked by journalists why we need yet another loss of civil rights here in the land of the fair go and mateship our prime minister simply and flatly said “We live in dangerous times”. A Syrian, Yemeni or citizen of the Democratic Republic of Congo would laugh but the best bit in all this is that carrying identification is not compulsory in Australia. That’s probably next on the governments ‘to do’ list.

Blessings.

Erwin Schimitzek murdered.

Mug shot of gay man in Auschwitz concntration camp.

Was deeply moved by this picture of Erwin Schimitzek, a homosexual young man who was just 24 years of age when he died in Auschwitz concentration camp. What I found most moving is not that he was a victim of human scum but that better than his oppressors he stands with dignity, pride and his spirit undefeated.

The ‘abominable crime of buggery’.

Was happy this morning hearing the Northern Territory first minister acknowledge the harm caused by the territory’s ‘buggery laws’ which were in place as late as 1983.

‘Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned for life with hard labour.’

In his speech the NT first minister said,

“The brutality of that language. More so, the brutality of the message: You are not worthy. You are not welcome. You are an abomination.”

As an older same-gender-attracted person I can say that is precisely what young gays had to endure but worse still was the resultant choice gay youth were forced to make – that been that to be accepted and loved by family, friends and community a same-gender-attracted young person had no choice other than to self-hate. The results were often disastrous and long-lasting because a person long socialised into self-loathing will make choices that are self-loathing, including trying to be like everyone else and going out with and even marrying a person of the opposite gender. This can lead to dangerous situations where the denied self will seek expression in any way available and possible as I think is the reason the Catholic church has experienced high levels of sex abuse problems. A Polish priest who a few years ago ‘came out’ and introduced his Spanish manfriend said that in his opinion about half of all priests are gay. I think it correct law is upheld but also that greater compassion should be shown to people who themselves are the victims of their wrong belief they could live a life that is against nature. Unfortunately we still live in a cruel self-righteous world and even if this initiative of the NT government is welcome it remains there is still a long way to go and there is a danger we are not becoming a freer more accepting society but rather one where the LGBTQI community has simply been admitted into the ranks of mainstream oppressors and so neutered as a movement that could challenge limitations on freedom of expression for example. As the saying goes – there is no free lunch and gay males may find one day that same-gender marriage was an overpriced hamburger from Greasy Jill’s takeaway.

Below is a link to a video of Harry Hay (founder of the first American gay rights movement) speaking on the subject of gay youth and self-hate.