Monthly Archives: November 2017

Pictures. Storm clouds on the MTB trail.

Was out yesterday afternoon riding my mountain bike – usual itinerary which is about 20 kilometres of highway followed by 30 of dirt track. Pretty good ride and happy to say that each time I do it I’m walking less of the steep uphills.  Stopping at Bruce’s Cafe in Woodford for a coffee, Bruce is a MTB freak himself, before taking on the dirt part of the ride, I noticed the western horizon had turned  near Prussian blue but the oncoming storm appeared to be moving slowly so thought I could outrun it down to Glenbrook and that if not, it would swing around the top of the mountains and follow the deep valley south of the ridge along which stretches the ‘Oaks’ fire trail.

MTB at Bruce's Cafe on the Great Western Highway, Woodford. new South Wales, Australia.

Bruce’s Cafe in Woodford – if you looked the other way the sky was turning Prussian Blue.

For the first few kilometres of trail the storm was hot on my heels but as I climbed higher it appeared to dissipate indicating that it had gone for the valley route rather than climb above the ridge from where I got a few pictures with the point and shoot I always have in my backpack.

Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen. Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen. Storm clouds over The Oaks fire trail, Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

 

The great enemy of Truth.

The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

John F. Kennedy.

[Commencement Address at Yale University, 11th June 1962]

 

There would be few things I like better than a debate and few things that irritate me more than an adversary whose arguments are nothing other than a reiteration of the popular opinion, myth or cliché of the moment. People who do not construct a view based on life experience, research and study but rather just mouth off the opinions and views that came included with the prêt-àporter identity of their choice. LGBTQI activist, environmentalist, white supremacist, communist, religious fundamentalist, feminist. Etc. It’s the quick and easy path to achieving a sense of self-importance and place in society. Declare yourself ‘gay’ and you will never have to think about a social issue ever again. Every question has a preset ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ answer. It’s just re-inventing religion.

A few thoughts on visual literacy and the usage of symbols in the visual arts.

Funny how visually illiterate people are becoming today but not so funny is how this increasing ignorance is facilitating can I say a renewed persecution of artists? The Bill Henson affair here in Australia is a good example – Bill, a photographer, takes a picture of a naked teenage girl and winds up having half the nation calling him a child pornographer. The then prime minister Kevin Rudd included – he said in a television interview that he found the picture revolting. In the photograph the girl is standing and covering herself with her hands. Few if any realized the photograph was in many ways a rip-off of Edvard Munch’s ‘Puberty’. Would Kevin, the bulk of the Australian media and most of the population find ‘Puberty’ revolting? Probably not because it is not realistic enough for them to read beyond it being a chick on a bed with a big splash of black paint on the wall behind her.

Henson's controversial picture of a teenage girl.

Bottom part edited out by original poster.

Painting by Munch of a girl sitting naked on the edge of a bed.Later Rudd’s replacement as prime minister Julia Guillard – Kevin was ousted as a result of wanting to make the mining companies pay a realistic amount of tax – on her way to Japan declared she would raise the issue of Japan’s alleged production of child pornography. Aside from the insult to the Japanese nation she also made evident her inability to read a visual text beyond its literal meaning. She was most likely referring to YAOI, a genre of Japanese comic strip that are stories about ridiculously beautiful teenage boys in a sexual relationship with each other and handsome adult men. Often a teacher at an exclusive English boarding school or similar. What Julia missed entirely is that these stories are in Japan mostly created by women and consumed by a majority female audience. So why are Japanese girl’s comics full of boys bonking? As was the title of an essay written by professor of [edit] sociology and cultural history Marc McLelland (Wollongong University). The answer is symbol as in that where the image may denote a boy being seriously plugged by an adult man it connotes a relationship that in being same gender is stripped of male and female social conventions. The female reader projects herself as the boy and therefore can enjoy the fantasy of a sexual relationship which does not imply being forced by social convention to wash the guy’s smelly socks.

Manga style image of two males kissing.

Example of typical ‘YAOI’ style manga image.

Aside from people in marketing and advertising who have high levels of visual literacy, today’s western artists are for the most part illiterate and rarely capable of producing a work that does anything much beyond and if the subject is an apple for example, making the statement ‘this is an apple’. Wow. Worse still is when past art forms are copied, such as expressionism, impressionism, pop or whatever, because as copies of a past artistic expression they are meaningless facsimiles, always inferior to the original no matter how expertly executed and walking around the local shopping center with a long beard and beret on the head will not transform an artist’s work from 21st century copy to 19th century original. Warhol’s tins of soup for example were entirely relevant to sixties United States. Campbell tomato soup was what a home-maker wife with the standard five kids would serve up at dinner time. The can of soup is a metonymy for middle America and its conservative values and made by a corporation and by a mechanical process as was the painting. A great work that made effective use of symbol.

Of course there are great abstract works but again there is a level of knowledge needed in that color and form are like notes and chords in music which itself is the most abstract of all the arts. I doubt a recording of a child loudly banging at random the keys of a piano would ever be top of the pops contemporary or classic.

The present day inability to read a work beyond what it denotes and in many cases the inability to create a work beyond a literal representation of the subject or a clumsy expression of an emotion allegedly felt by the artist has resulted in what Oscar Wilde in his essay ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ said is the worst of situations for the creative artist. That his or her work is subject to the judgment of the ignorant masses who in a democracy have the power to make a presumably educated man such as prime minister Rudd declare a picture ‘revolting’ when in fact there was nothing revolting about it to anyone visually literate. You may not like the picture and I’m not a great fan of Bill Henson’s work but just as I might find the style of a particular author wanting even if the subject of his written work is important.

There have always been taboos in art and always will be for as long as there will be people with ill-informed opinions. But there are ways around this situation and again through the usage of symbols. Take the Caravaggio below for example, what does the painting denote? A young guy playing the lute with a few decorations thrown in such as flowers, a violin and sheet music? Not much to get upset about until you read the image as it was meant to be read. The boy playing the lute is in love but his adult male lover is absent as we make out from the violin sitting unused on the table and reinforced by the closed bass part of the song the boy is singing which itself is an old Italian song ‘You know that I love you’, we can read the score. Caravaggio also says the absent adult lover is a silly bugger because the beauty of his young lover will not last as is suggested by the bunch of cut flowers. It’s a good thing the strings of the lute are not broken because that would signal the imminent death of the boy and there is possible salvation in the fruit somewhere but the pears are beginning to spoil so the message to the man is hurry up or the little Phaedrus whose white shirt of innocence is spread open, he wants it and now, will go off and find someone else to sing to.

Caravaggio painting of boy playing the lute.

You know that I love you.

Will mankind destroy itself? Michio Kaku on ‘Big Think’.

Physicist Michio Kaku’s discussion fits in well with the ‘big filter’ theory which says the reason we never see any sign of alien life is because, so far, no advanced civilisation has managed to survive technology and greed. They either polluted their planet to the point of it no longer been inhabitable or they blew themselves up with nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. As a species humans are now about to take the test and discover whether we are the one species – or one of the very rare – which has the intelligence needed to put primitive instincts aside and survive to become the species that will propagate itself throughout our galaxy and maybe even beyond.

 

It’s a ‘yes’ and other things.

Same gender marriage passed with a 61.5 percent ‘yes’ vote with a participation of 80 percent of eligible voters. How that remaining fifth would have voted is something the far right and other conservative groups are probably trying to figure out. Were they so opposed they threw the ballot paper in the bin or are they all people who couldn’t be bothered walking to the post box? If for the most part ‘no’ sayers then the result would have been different or at least a lot closer had they voted. I’d guess Australia is split down the middle on the issue and this same-gender marriage went through because a lot of the against didn’t vote.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation news was happily reporting statistics on participation rates by age group forgetting this was supposed to be an anonymous survey. It appears some were right in being suspicious of the bar codes on the ‘anonymous’ yes or no only form and the government has collected data on how each individual voted.

The yes camp also said there would not be any further social consequences to a ‘yes’ outcome such as gay and lesbian issues being introduced into primary school classrooms. Wrong again – yesterday, the day the result was announced, a mother contacted me saying her 9-year-old son was put in the ‘wrong’ group in a classroom debate on same-gender marriage. Influenced by an ultra conservative Catholic grandparent, he said God made marriage between a man and woman.

The federal senate as I write this, is debating the bill that will legalise same-gender marriage and the issue is freedom of religion, guaranteed in the constitution, and freedom of speech, itself implied but not guaranteed in the constitution. Should a priest be able to refuse to marry a same-gender couple on the basis that marriage is a sacrament in which God himself joins a man and a woman? On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news this morning a person looking as though her day job is schoolboy impersonator, said that would be ‘discrimination against LGBTQI people’.

Etc, etc and we are now just a day into this and already two basic tenets of democracy, the right to speak one’s mind and the right to religious freedom, are under attack. And we haven’t started on the kid issue yet. Anyways, as Bill Clinton said at the funeral of Helmut Kohl, “we must also let the young make their own mistakes”.

Myself, and as I’ve said before, I support the right to marriage for all but I also support the right to free speech, the right to religious freedom and the right of children not to be dragged into highly emotional adult debates. It’s called believing in democracy and anyone who has a problem with that is welcome to fuck off to countries like North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

The other ‘good’ news is that the Australian soccer team will be heading to the World Cup in Russia next year. Great game last night in Sydney with the Aussies defeating the Hondurans 3 – 1. I’m not a great football fan but the World Cup is a different matter. National pride.

OK – have to also mention the sale today of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for 400 million US dollars. Aside from all the issues related to social equality this raises, I also could not help but wonder why a single painting is that desirable? It’s like it is a piece of the very material from which the most successful culture in the world was built and laugh out loud, it’s also a painting done by a dude who would be in jail and/or subjected to the reporting conditions of a sex offender were he alive today and lived and created as he did five hundred years ago. Says a lot about what actually created western culture as we enjoy it today – so far.

Drawing of the young boy 'Salai' by renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci

Salai, Leonardo’s ‘life companion’ was such a pretty thing…

 

Neutered gays.

Result of the gay marriage plebiscite will be known tomorrow. Sad thing is I can’t think of any guy I’d want to marry and that I know for sure to be alive. Anyway, all this social engineering bullshit distracts from what we should be most worried about and that is of course avoiding the sixth great extinction, if that is still possible.

A few recent pictures including one below I took at the ‘yes’ march in Sydney. If you read the Paglia interview you may remember how – back in 1995 – she described the mainstream, gay activist “ACT UP” style, “When I look around and I see the kind of ACT UP style, with the short shorts and the combat boots and a kind of skinhead look, I think, first of all, how childish, and secondly, how desexualized, no matter what people say, how utterly neutered.” Well, nothing appears to have ‘changed’ much in over twenty years. Reading Paglia’s comments I remembered a picture I took at the ‘vote yes’ march parade in September. See below…

Photograph of adult male dressed in cut-off jeans shorts, tShirt and boots at gay marriage protest march in September in Sydney.

So what’s different from Paglia’s description of twenty years ago?

OK, not a great comparison but let’s compare the above to Caravaggio’s ‘Amor’ painted circa 1600 (below) and which Robert Hughes described in his “Shock of the New” art documentary as “the victory of sex over culture”. I don’t agree with Hughes but it has to be said he was Australian and the product of a sex-adverse Australian culture particularly at the time when he made that documentary. Sex is front and centre of course in Caravagggio’s painting but the painter would have acknowledged his painting of Amor is in agreement with Mann’s “Death in Venice”. The beautiful Tadzio (below Amor) is Amor and Aschenbach, like Caravaggio, is the artist who bows before divine beauty as made visible to us by the gods in the form of the boy beautiful. This was gay culture at its highest and how it existed up until I’d say the immediate post-Stonewall period when and as the ‘yes’ march photograph clearly shows it became a sad, childish and neutered parody of what it had been.

Caravaggio's 'Amor Victorious" circa 1600

Love’s victory over all other human achievements.

The beautiful boy 'Tadzio'. Still from Visconti's film adaptation of Mann's novel 'Death in Venice'.

‘Tadzio’ the boy beautiful as represented in Visconti’s screen adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel “Death in Venice”.

And a few recent pictures of mine and such as they are…

Man with baby daughter.

A friend with his baby daughter.

Black and white night photograph of back of buildings and graffiti in Katoomba, New South wales, Australia. Photograph by Paul Nyssen.

Many of these pictures are taken with a small point-and-shoot whilst out walking to the shops in Katoomba.

Night black and white picture of light cast on wall and that gives the impression of church windows.

Felt a bit mystical. lol

He put his hand on my butt!

Watching the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news this morning and of course the big story is the increasing number of Hollywood sex scandals. They, the ABC, will run this for days, weeks and even years if a sufficient number of women and past junior employees are willing to take a deep breath, stand up and declare, “Fifty years ago HE put his hand on my butt and, and my life, career, self-esteem, ability to water the garden is be ruined!” It’s an insult to the real victims of sexual assault.

I mean like, Spacey sexually assaulted an eighteen-year-old man in a restaurant? Ever heard of “Hey – you’re holding the wrong dick buddy…” It happens, if in the Spacey case it did indeed, and anyone who was a good-looking teen boy or girl can tell you of a few incidents where they have had to slap a meandering hand. If it never happened to you, you were probably shit ugly or mummy never let you out into the backyard without a chaperon. You poor thingy.

The funny part of the ABC’s story this morning was the cross to an interview of a woman whose name and position I missed but who enthusiastically launched into a diatribe about how ‘our’ stories are told by men and therefore there is a need to eliminate as many men as possible from Hollywood, etc. The interview was abruptly cut short and the (female) news reader with a ‘you fucking dumb bitch’ look on her face, moved on to the next story. Too late.

There is no excuse for sexual assault but unwanted sexual attention is just part of the life of the young and beautiful. You learn to deal with it and if you don’t know how then speak to your grandparents who probably know a lot more about sex and human failings than you could ever imagine because they have lived, loved and know there is a difference between life and some abstract concept of a perfect society itself often motivated by sexual envy, financial greed, ambition and chips on the shoulder.

The other damaging aspect of this current trend to rush to the media and make allegations of sexual misconduct, usually against a person with sufficient cash in the bank to make the lie worthwhile and the best lies are, as said a friend whose uncle was an expert con artist, substantially true, is that the targeted person suffers a loss of social standing and career before even having the opportunity to deny or tell their side of the story. This is extra-judicial punishment a person suffers for what could well be spurious allegations made maybe out of spite for the celebrity putting his hand on a teen-boy’s butt and not that of his mummy. It makes all the more shocking the airing of these unproven allegations that journalists, and ABC journalists especially, should know the first question you ask someone who approaches you with dirt is “Why did you come to me first and not the police?” If Spacey had sexually assaulted a teenage boy then his mother, if the boy is too shattered to do so himself, should have gone to the police first and when the allegations have been investigated and charges if any are laid, then and only then call a press conference. As things stand now, Spacey could not expect a fair trial and even if this doesn’t go to court the damage is done, down goes another male creator of culture.

The result of this trend could be unexpected by those driving it. Maybe that could be that no man in his right mind would work with a woman or young person of either gender without insisting on the presence of an independent witness? Constant video recording? Maybe worse still, that these women get what they want and men are driven out of what to date we find they do extremely well; create culture. I can’t imagine western culture without its male contributors and the best amongst them are and have always been for thousands of years those whose sexuality did then and still does today, raise a few eyebrows. Ladies be careful of what you wish for because it could quickly become a put up or shut up situation your daughters find themselves in but by then it could also be too late. We will have a culture but one that is mainstream in all its mediocrity.