Good luck, little bird.
A family group of swallows has taken to nesting around the boat sheds at Back Beach and we have been watching the babies fledge and get their insect-grabbing wings over the last couple of months. Unfortunately one of them had been downed by unseasonal southerly gales and sat huddled on the road, dazed, possibly with strained wings and definitely just moments from being run over. Luckily R saw it and carried it home, from where it was delivered to the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital. A big shout out to the DOC weekend operator who went the extra mile and picked it up for us. Fingers crossed that it just needed a couple of days to rehydrate and recover.
Good luck, little bird.
R was trimming the weedy vines coming through the ivy in the front yard, and an hour or so later noticed this fucking monstrous stick insect hanging from one of my tree aloes. Stick insect doesn't really cut it- it's more of a log beast. It's the biggest one we've seen and after consulting the literature, about as big as these things actually get. They are utterly harmless, but life in the tropics has left me with a lasting reluctance to tangle with anything larger than my hand possessing more than four legs.
It's a lady Argosarchus, because the males are far less impressive and, in some populations, entirely absent; parthenogenesis renders them obsolete. Lady Argosarchus have it sorted- if a male tried any shit with this big bitch, she'd just stamp him into a paste and go back to munching leaves. Sounds awesome, doesn't it?
The detail and accuracy of their mimicry is astonishing. This is just one of the rewards of going spray-free, so please consider it in your own horticultural practise. We returned her to the remaining vines, and found another species wandering the yard a wee while later, so perhaps we should all be a bit more circumspect when we're hacking away at something.
I stumbled over this shit on some other totally unrelated website. For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Primitive Technology is a nameless Australian guy running through various practical experiments in the bush with well, primitive technology, to achieve basic levels of anthropoid comfort and functionality. He makes a kiln, simple forge, baskets, prawn trap, pottery and various huts etc. from the modest resources of his northern Queensland bush setting and if that doesn't sound especially riveting it's because you've never experienced his delivery.
It is minimal. Silent. Unsmiling. Largely devoid of eye contact or indeed any of the extraneous and highly execrable elements now sadly synonymous with Youtube presentations.
There is no calculated self-aggrandisement; no desperately studied tattoos, no chicken dos, no notice-me piercings, no branded items. Primitive Technology man wears crap board shorts and a series of inexpensive haircuts to get shit done. The episodic demonstrations are like plunging one's face into clean meltwater after extrication from the synthetic ooze that is the rest of the internet (by and large, present company excluded). His delivery rides the line between meditative and ruthlessly purposeful and I find myself watching the episodes over and over in bed late at night. R doesn't even mind. I think he's a little bit in love with him too.
Having grown up in Arnhem Land, I guessed where he was from the eastward shift in the otherwise similar birdsong, especially the Peaceful Doves warbling away in the background as is their charming/fucking incessant wont. I've lit friction fires. Whittled poky things from those white-wood saplings, constructed coil pots from the slippy clay gouged out of riverbanks, made bush cubbies and hardly ever worn shoes. All this is tremendously significant and formative and Primitive Technology really plucks that atavistic string. If you've never done any of this stuff you have never really contacted your inner feral. It's my contention this constitutes an important deficit that many more people should concern themselves with. In the absence of other, more explicit causation, it might just be why you're having those panic attacks and eating your feelings. I'm not joking.
Against all those nobler considerations I will admit to finding Primitive Technology more enjoyable for being shirtless and well-made, because I am a hopeless voyeuristic hobag.
The sight of a semi-naked idiosyncratic sort of person glowing roseate in the light of a hand-built forge or mutely treading clay in the middle of nowhere moves me deeply. There is something oddly fetching and completely un-gratuitous about that stoic, rain-shaped thatch of possum-coloured hair, silty fingernails and robust architectural pallor, especially whilst demonstrating that most erotic and beguiling of all personal qualities: competence. Together they are a slutty primal bush-pig banquet. I don't know how Primitive Tech man would feel about my unseemly objectification but that just sprinkles his sexy mystery with more sexy mystery.
Primitive Technology: would, hard, repeatedly. Highly recommended.
These guys are all accustomed to human interaction and lead pretty enviable lives outside the show ring on farms and lifestyle blocks. None seemed unduly perturbed by proceedings, something you might be able to ascertain from the pictures we took. Another encouraging trend was the appearance of organic drenches and insecticidal agents on the sales table; birds both wild and domestic are subject to parasites, and the fanciers' world was previously awash in hardcore toxic compounds. It's great to see them being relegated.
Chickens come in a dizzying array of shapes and sizes with Bantams representing the smaller end of the spectrum and heavy breeds being the largest. Confusingly, some breeds come in two size versions so a trip round the various cage lanes can make you question your relationship with the physical universe as identical birds appear to shrink and expand every time you look away.
How big is a chicken anyway? A small Game-type bantam may be scarcely two hands high on tiptoes and so closely-feathered and elegant that it looks more like a tiny bipedal dinosaur than a bird, while the largest breeds are huge pillowy beasts with spangled bouffant manes and massive day-glow headgear. We'll try to name the breeds depicted here but will undoubtedly get some of this shit wrong, so apologies in advance for our ignorance. ABOVE a fine Chinese Silkie Bantam rooster with his alluringly gelatinous lilac wattles.
The white earlobe is apparently the mark of a good laying breed (although Rosecombs have an uncertain reputation in this respect); in life it has an intriguing and tempting textural quality, looking exactly like a squashed milk-bottle lolly or expensive marshmallow. I wanted to touch it quite badly.
But a lot of them responded to positive attention and particularly liked the shiny lens glass, examining it closely.
ABOVE I think this is an Old English Game Bantam. We were impressed with the hard-feathered lizardy Bantam varieties and will possibly end up getting some for our place, something we've been procrastinating about for a couple of years now. While researching the various breeds I came across this piece on OEG bantams, with references to the inevitable cockfighting association and the tremendous peanut-headed secret-society bullshit that surrounds this moronic practice. There are a few lulzs to be had. BELOW A fabulous Sussex breeding trio. Swaggy.
ABOVE I think these guys are Appleyard Ducks, another first for us. They were placid and enormous.
BELOW the highly glamorous Cayuga. Their plumage is like opalescent moiré satin.
Another chicken interlude. ABOVE LEFT silver Sebright Bantam. The hand-painted effect is called lacing.
ABOVE RIGHT an impressive Dorking rooster. This is an ancient, possibly Roman breed ideally possessing five toes. His comb speaks his truth. BELOW not sure about this guy... some sort of bantam; a Silkie variant?
BELOW the Leghorn. They're an Italian laying breed; I thought they were American meat birds, lol. Durr.
BELOW THEM a ginger Buff Orpington rooster. We were hugely impressed by this breed; so buxom and bouffant.
Pigeons, which we know even less about than we do chickens. Or ducks for that matter. These are the 'fancy' breeds, bred for their exaggerated lines and jewel colours. I do know that these puffy birds directly below are Pouters.
Another Rosecomb. Look at his comb. Look at it.
ABOVE I think this superior creature is a lavender Orpington rooster. He glowed with otherworldly significance under the slightly creepy tungsten hall lighting and expressed the tranquility that is a breed hallmark.
It was nice to see so many contented and highly appreciated animals. The decline in fowl-keeping was generally attributed to people abandoning rural lifestyles and to industrial egg and meat production, but I'd like to add that the hostile demeanour of certain factions of the bird-fancying establishment has been a problem too. We've gotten attitude from overly-proprietary stalwarts at shows in the past despite our enthusiasm; possibly not an ideal approach to recruiting interested newcomers. So while we were too busy taking fifty thousand chicken pictures to talk to many people, it was encouraging to hear from Tenoch that the NZ Bird Association members were very friendly and helpful and represent a great resource for anyone thinking about keeping birds. You only need to watch a few Youtube posts by chicken enthusiasts to understand how the habit takes hold.
New Zealand NZPPCB page HERE South Island NZPPCB page HERE Dunedin Association page HERE
The show definitely renewed our chicken intentions.
David was just the person who knew about all the things that moved me as a child. I can't remember the first time I became aware of his existence. I didn't know who he was or where he'd sprung from; it didn't even really register that his strange way of talking was a nobby British accent. He was neither father nor brother nor friend. When I think about my idea of David Attenborough, it strikes me that he represents quite a unique sort of concept; not mundane flesh, not quite humanised abstract like a conventional schoolteacher and yet not exactly disembodied mentor either. I'm having a lot of trouble articulating exactly what I thought he was and I had no fucking idea how he knew all that stuff in the first place. Just that it all seemed to make sense, that I should definitely listen, and that it was really fucking important. Life on Earth was my scripture, an explanation cleansed of the shabby anthropocentric shite that was so patently and distressingly fictitious. What a relief it was to find out I was a primate, not a fucking catholic.
While he was of course informed by a gifted and unprecedented network of naturalists in the field and emerging technologies, full credit must be given to the unique personal imperatives that made David Attenborough midwife to our understanding of the natural world and our relative place in it. Without knowing me from a poop on the ground, he has told me more vigorous truths about myself than everyone I've ever known mushed together. My creativity is a blood-sister to all that David-purveyed revelation. R and I are incredibly lucky to have experienced his benign, heuristic ubiquity.
R's always been a DA devotee (along with the rather more scurrilous and um, earthy, Gerald Durrell) and knew a lot more about his origins and personal life than I did when we met, pointing me toward his autobiographical accounts and unwittingly introducing me to Hot David- shirtless smoothie, Madagascar-bound khaki enthusiast, tranquil gorilla whisperer. But reading such stuff is also a rueful exercise these days, laden with reminders of everything we're losing; extraneous curiosity, broad access to a decent fundamental education, functional literacy, societal equity, the appreciation of merit, authentic and effectual idiosyncrasy.
"In the past, we didn't understand the effect of our actions. Unknowingly, we sowed the wind and now, literally, we are reaping the whirlwind. But we no longer have that excuse: now we do recognise the consequences of our behaviour. Now surely, we must act to reform it — individually and collectively, nationally and internationally — or we doom future generations to catastrophe." DA, 2003. We know, thanks to him; to act on that knowledge is our individual responsibility and privilege.
David Frederick Attenborough, thank you.
Why does it have to be like this? The financial insecurity of so many talented people is fucking outrageous and a cancer on every society that tolerates it.
- Isabella Blow might have briefly been the wormhole between worlds that sucked McQueen into the one containing notoriety, but she was also a controlling attention-seeker, dramatic leg-dragger and bottomless psychic vampire who probably did as much harm as good with her toxic nuttiness. We've all met them. She blew through the kind of (entirely undeserved) opportunity that truly capable, productive people would have killed for, and to hear her whine incoherently about her self-inflicted predicament from her husband's historic country house makes me want to stab something with a fucking fork. I don't credit her with much in regard to McQueen's output- he would have done all of that shit anyway- and find the hyperbolic posthumous homage distasteful. Bona fide patronage is important but all these overprivileged do-nothing bitches who want mad props for wearing hats can fuck right off.
- After learning that he was routinely expected to produce ten collections a year by various parties, most of whom were in a much better position than McQueen to know exactly how sisyphean that task would be, I am prompted to dump a shitload of credit in the lap of his production team. Like, 80% of the damn credit. Anyone involved in practical creation knows just how much unglamorous piecemeal drudgery and desperate last-moment expedient genius must have been poured into those frocks by a gifted support crew. So massive claps and flowers to all those nameless techs and interns and cutters etc who were the ribs and femurs of his operative giant.
- I think my favourite McQueen show overall was Horn of Plenty (2009, above), because it had everything; awesome staging, consistently brilliant technical accomplishment and that shit was ready to wear, motherphuckas. Everyone loves Voss and Widows of Culloden and they are both the shizniz in their own ways, but to me they lose points for... I dunno... resorting to emotive, slightly gimmicky staging. They lacked the utterly unassailable coherence and fuck-you assurance of Horn, which was all about the clothes and pulled completely clear of art skool stunting. Each piece was an entire world within its greater universe and I doubt we will see its equal any time soon. See also: Dante (1996) for the nasty spectacle, Joan (1998) for the slick lines and sanguine, pro-femme symbolism, The Overlook (1998) for its nonpareil goth-o-rama and The Girl who Lived in a Tree (2008).
Another something beautiful: Bird Attack by Meghan Howland.
I bought this enormous print some time ago and had to wait for a year to summon the courage to have it framed because it was so spookily evocative and well... personal reasons. Now I just regret I didn't do it sooner. Thanks to Tenoch at Mariposa Framing for a nice job.
The camera has a bit of a hard time exposing it correctly in our dark bedroom, which annoys me because its delicate tonality speaks volumes. You can see the original web image here.
Meghan's work is powerfully transcendent. But don't take my word for it- visit her site.
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons
As a rebuttal to the violence so recently exemplified in France, and wherever it occurs (let's remember this shit happens every day in a dozen other countries), this week @ The Blackthorn Orphans will be exclusively devoted to beautiful, meaningful objects and images inspired by the natural world. By spirituality and individual experience of the divine instead of religion. A celebration of those tangible physical truths that seem to so offend brutal fucktards everywhere.
Sometimes I need to remind myself, hard, that we aren't all just a swarm of gibbering bloodthirsty monkeys going batshit because there are far too many of us. This idea haunts so much of my writing and private rumination already, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
So let's stick our fingers in our ears and go la la la la with the help of some Homo-genic wonders.
First off- beauteous moments from Japanese art as currently presented at The Met.
You can see more in the NYT.
And something from Björk, because we can all do with more of that.
Monday slash Tuesday: Fuck moderation- treating oneself with handmade New Zealand chocolate because who could be more deserving slash shut up stupid pancreas.
* It takes 7000 extra calories to create 1 kilo of onboard lard. This is nowhere near that amount. Edumacation- never a waste.
Chilling at home as midwinter rolls around needs a little something to take the stabby edge off. I'm a veteran chocolate whore with surprisingly high standards and a few years of professional tasting under my belt so all this was inevitable. In my commentaries about weight loss I discuss why you shouldn't expose yourself to binge cues, but let's just stuff a rag in that shit's mouth for a moment and rip the postbags off the goodies my onboard Satan ordered online. First up- a few small-scale delights from Shoc Chocolate including these gorgeous marzipan fruits.
I picked up a block of their (Shoc) white (judge me all you like) + cardamon. See it below left. Pretty good; smooth, quality fats, nice mouth feel- not at all waxy, excellent ratio of chocolate to spice and the fragrant pounded pod bits were exactly the right size. We were a little less enthusiastic about the dark chocolate-robed apricots; you need really great fruit to support this simple treatment and the quality was mmm... not quite there. We ate them, alright, but they were a 6/10 sort of thing.
In my extensive experience they're often full of inexpensive gack no matter how high-end you go.
Whatever Patagonia puts in their truffles sneaked past my Cerberus tongue and pleased the rest of me greatly. They were so utterly delicious that I forgot to photograph their innards so... I don't know... just imagine someone else biting into a fucking delicious handmade chocolate right in front of you and really enjoying it without offering you any.
No decent caramel = no dice. The Patagonia Caramel Peak was crammed with silky old-school condensed milk home-made-type goodness. Like tonguing a sylph. A sylph who's been stuffed full of sugar and suspended over a gas burner for some time.
(I buy all my own review items @ full retail and have no association with any of the suppliers mentioned.
This is more gratuitous oversharing than a review anyway lol.)
This week I think the Lovely R is writing something about photography on a budget; which gear and why, where to start etc. He knows what he's talking about and he's cheaper than a cold pie so I'll just let him get on with it.
* Reading the latest Book serialisations but missed the start? Read it onsite here * Photoessays *
If you need more reasons to treasure our home watch this lovely visual by Dmitry Pisank.
How distressing to see our webby orange infrastructiure crawling over so much of the planet.
But the great oceanic voids and the blank cloak of night- beautiful still.
Without Eucalypts, I very much doubt our populations of Tuis and Bellbirds would have recovered to their current extent. Wish people would consider that before poisoning and felling them just for the hell of it.
The Lovely R took these. He's a good boy.
So many people assume exhibitionism when they see a creative personal presentation, but that can be such a misunderstanding. You can see her strangely beautiful effects H E R E
See the rest of it H E R E
THE NATURAL WORLD
flora fauna culinary
celebrating glorious deviation in the land of the long white cloud
- New Zealand -
B L A C K T H O R N
O R P H A N S
What is freedom, when it is
all that remains to you?
In exile two brothers pursue an anarchist's trajectory, from an old world into the new, from East to West, subject always to the pleasures & horrors of an enduring flesh, to the ironies of karma & impunity. Love bears thorns, the lost return & the dead are haunted by the living.
E P I C D A R K F I C T I O N
T H E
B L A C K T H O R N
O R P H A N S
O N S I T E
exaltation semicoherent speculation
& raw ingredients
& original sources
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A Thing Of Beauty
Blackthorn Rose Review
Cacti & Aloes
Hostile Witness Film Reviews
Make Up Review
Photo Du Jour
Places & Things: A Blackthorn Review
The Lovely R
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