Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Art of Stalking

I spent last weekend with my new (to me) digital camera, Annie Dillard's Pilgram at Tinker Creek and a dilettante attitude under a gorgeous Moreton bay or Port Jackson fig at Orleigh Park, West End. I read and photographed, lazed and wondered. I promise to spend more days like that, rather than like this.

I had been reading Annie Dillard's treatise on how she discovered the art of stalking a musk rat. I followed her advice in a loose way - or at least was inspired by it (at p 184):

In summer, I stalk. Summer leaves obscure, heat dazzles, and creatures hide from the red-eyed sun, and me. I have to seek things out. The creatures I seek have several sense and free will; it becomes apparent that they do not wish to be seen.
Annie Dillard speaks of losing herself in the stalking (at p 198 - 199):
[The muskrat] never knew I was there. I never knew I was there, either. ... My own self-awareness has disappeared. ... I wonder if we do not waste our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves.

And so I tried to stalk a willy wagtail. There were other people at the park: a couple on another bench under another fig, a sole young man with his swag and a group of people having a picnic. All were absorbed in their own business but I could not evade my awareness of my slow and occassional halting to follow the willy wagtail with a camera. I'd stop where I thought I was just close enough and then cast a look about me to see who had been watching my creep towards the creature. I felt as an exhibit in Monty Python's Silly Walk museum. Invariably the casting about would lead to the willy wagtail flying to another perch and wagging its tail in a taunting, happy way.

This picture was taken while lying on a park bench engrossed in my reading of Annie Dillard's wondrous book. The willy wagtail flew to within inches of my nose and then landed on the grass, wagging a few teasing times. I extracted the camera from its case, pointed and shot.

If you have a interest in the world around you, read Annie Dillard. She sparks and amuses and her writing is nothing short of meditiatively incandescent. I feel as a child - renewed and wondering - when reading her work.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nguyen Van Tuong

It angers and saddens me that this young man's life has ended.

It angers and saddens me that comments I have read from the "Asian Online Community" are so misinformed. I did not join the forum to comment - I am not a member and I do not particularly like net forums. I will not link it here because I do not wish to repeat the inanities.

One should not die for a mistake. One should not die for any crime. Whether you are Saddam Hussein (yes I am talking to you Mr Howard, oh prime minister mine) or a young ethnic Viet Australian, the message the death penalty sends is not: "Young people beware drugs" (I paraphrase) but: "We do not value human life."

The right to life is the most basic and most fundamental of human rights.

There has been no convincing argument that the death penalty as deterrent is any more successful than imprisonment.

People in prisons - the world over - are usually the most disadvantaged, the most marginalised and the poor. They will also be the ones most likely to die for crimes relating to drugs or violence if death is the mandated penalty.

The system makes mistakes.

I am yet - and hope never to be - convinced that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for any crime.

Nguyen Van Tuong's death was a waste. My heart is with his family and friends. I know the unreality of losing a loved one to senselessness. But my mind is with Amnesty International. I wish them success in their campaign to end capital punishment all over the world.


In little more than a week I will be flying to Viet Nam.

It is almost unimaginable. I alternate between excitement and forgetfulness. My first trip overseas from Australia will be to my 'motherland'. Those racists sure will be glad that I'm finally going home.

We are flying into Ha Noi and out of Ho Chi Minh city (Sai Gon). Our itinerary includes a tour of Ha Long By, Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An. From Ha Noi to Hoi An, we will be staying in four star hotels - cushioning ourselves from the culture shock that will be going to a developing country.

After Hoi An, we join my mother and father in Sai Gon where we will visit the remnants of my family in Viet Nam - one sister of my mother's and many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins of my father's. The family live in the south Mekong delta area and we will spend a decent week exploring, reminiscing and teeming with emotion. I expect my sister to deplore the hygiene and lack of amenities. I expect to be confused, lost in the language and unable to suppress my reactions - whether of horror or joy - to anything. I am most afraid of the last.

Currently, I am trying to set up a photo gallery on a free web based photo hosting site. At present, it is not working to my high Blogger expectations. I can't see what I am getting straight away. I have to have my postings filtered. I have to wait.

In any event, the searching has spurred me to using a Creative Commons Copyright License on my work.

Creative Commons License
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