Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 42

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Tuesday September 16, 2008 (diary, drinks, politics)

A bright blue sky awaits me as I wake up this morning. Later in the day some white woolly sheep are starting to float overhead.   During the dry season the empty skys produce predictable and somewhat boring sunsets. But from about August onwards things change dramatically in this part of the world. Irregular cloud formations in all shapes and sizes produce the most spectacular sunsets, totally different every night.
Very soon large formations of mango geese, gliding like multiple kite tails gracefully all over Darwin and its hinterland, will add an extra dimension to these wonderful evening spectacles.

Since returning to Darwin I afford myself the luxury of mixed drinks from about 5 pm. I change, depending on my mood, between my usual brandy and dry (ginger), my favourite in Spain Cuba Libra (Bacardi, coke and a slice of lemon, the lemon neutralises the syrupy sweetness of the coke) and a good old G&T. Schweppes produces these days a "lemon flavour infused" tonic water which I find very pleasant as mix with the gin.

As I sit on my veranda, with a G&T this evening, the Head of the Night College phones me. "Chris Knight is held up by a job today and will be 15 minutes late for your class" he says. "Fine," I reply "then I can finish my G&T at leisure". "Have another one on me" he suggest, which I do after he rings off.
Panorama van Mesdag
I very much enjoy the Photoshop course by Chris and learn something new every time. One of the very exiting things of these is how to make panoramas. I will need to buy a plug-in for my Photoshop Elements application but this should be well worth the investment. I have several projects in mind, most of all of course the 360° Panorama Mesdag next time I visit Holland and The Hague.
When I return from my night class I hear on TV that Malcolm Turnbull has replaced Dr.Brendan Nelson as leader of the Australian Liberal party.
I have greatly admired Brendan Nelson these last few months. Despite being attacked and ridiculed from all sides (especially by TV presenters over absolute trivia bullshit, trying at nauseum to milk out a catchy newspaper headline. Will these guys ever grow up and start conducting constructive meaningful interviews ?) he behaved with enormous poise, tenacity, dignity and calm throughout. He is a highly intelligent, honest and wise man, but Australia is unfortunately not yet ready for such a quietly spoken, even tempered, sophisticated leader. I can see why his wife is so immensely proud of him.

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Wednesday September 17, 2008 (diary, painting)

Mango geese Yet another cloudless morning to start the day. A large flock of 30-40 magnificent mango geese fly over our farm, then make a smooth U turn and disappear again. I can almost hear them thinking "Not ripe yet!!" But they will be back. Later in the day clouds start to appear and humidity kicks in.
There is a most essential difference between a dark grey cloud covered day in the colder countries, like Europe and wintery Southern Australia, and the tropics. In the colder countries it directly affects your mood, you quickly become rather depressed, especially when it starts raining too.
In the tropics this does not happen, your mood does not change (or, if anything, slightly improves as it probably has become slightly cooler), and when it starts raining you experience always a sense of exhilaration. The only thing which really affects you in the tropics is the humidity, but this affects your physical condition rather then your mood.

Oil pastels over acrylic Disregarding the various scribbles I made as a child or at school, this is the first painting I ever did as an adult. My daughter Babette rather likes it and has it hanging on a wall in her home ThreePonds.
Looking at it again I realise that this picture rather neatly reflects the way I am and look at the world. Restless, impatient, always in a hurry, I see everything around me not in great detail but in a rough overall encompassing conceptual way (the oil pastels) and always engulfed in a specific and distinct mood (acrylic background).

I did this painting 14 years ago (on August 3, 1994) during a painting course in Noosa. The 6 weeks course was conducted by the owner artist of the local art supply shop and showed what one could do with the various art media and materials. There were about 8 of us in the course, I the only male and only totally rock bottom beginner. Every session I was literally scared shitless. I just did not dare to put pen, brush pencil or whatever it was on the paper. The others, all experienced in their art, had a ball and kindly tried to nudge me into it.
Finally at the 5th and second last lesson, we got into this technique of first laying out some rough background colours in acrylic, then drawing and painting over it with pastels. I liked it and suddenly got into it, greatly to the relief of my teacher. Why had I been so scared before ? I had enjoyed the company of these lovely ladies, they had not intimidated me I believe. No, it was pure (what the Dutch call) drempelvrees, fear to step through the open door into a for me new world.

I had a very similar experience with music, when studying at the Jazz College in Adelaide back in 1984. One of the first exercises our teacher Eric Bryce (well known music educator and long time arranger and composer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, now long retired) gave us during our Arranging Class was to rewrite a simplified melody line of a Jazz standard in syncopated form.
I sat at home, looking at the sheet, and just did not dare to touch the paper. This was written by somebody else, quite famous, how was I possibly allowed to change it ? I pencilled something in, then hastily rubbed it out again. Finally I most hesitantly managed to complete the exercise. Again it was a case of drempelvrees, a new medium opened up to me and I had to overcome a distinct fear to enter it.
I have observed similar fears with many of my private improvisation students who entered that medium for the first time. Through my own experiences I knew what it was and have been able to help them across this mental barrier and on their way to unencumbered progress.

Acrylics and pastels A few years after my painting course in Noosa I joined a "do your own thing" painting group conducted by a young artist in the garage of her home in Perigian Beach (also on the Sunshine Coat). Within a few months I produced a large number of paintings, many copies of well known artists (which I enjoyed doing), all in the same pastels over acrylic background style. Then I suddenly dropped it again and have not done a single painting since.

As I write this I suddenly get an idea why this is so.
We all like to, and certainly should, add our own thoughts, ideas, creations, as memes to the "memes pool" (combined knowledge and creative culture) of humanity, and by doing so influence the ones around us and hopefully those who come after us. I personally have this feeling and need very strongly.
Painters, sculptures and other visual artists can have an enormous influence on us. But this influence is subject to the unique reaction each of us has to it. We "contribute" so to speak to the painting by superimposing our own interpretation onto it. The Dutch sculptor Piet Slegers told me (back in the 1950s) he never gave his creations a name or title, so that the viewer is entirely free to make up his/her own interpretation of it.

In music, and especially improvised music, the listener can still have his/her unique interpretation, but I feel that it is just a little bit more constrained than a painting. The listener is pointed in a certain direction by the song's title and perhaps lyrics. On top of that the improviser expresses his own feelings and mood through his interpretation (as well as his facial expressions and body language in life performances), which are quite likely to be captured more precisely by the audience.

In writing however (as in plays and movies) there are no ifs, no buts, no maybes. When I express something in words, it is quite clear cut. You can take it on board or leave it, but that is it. Certainly you can move your mind around what I have said, and perhaps take it as a jump off point for a new thought or idea, but my statement is and remains a clear and fixed reference point.
This is I think why I enjoy writing so much, teaching new ideas, face to face, online or for an audience. You present a concrete idea, an unambiguous reference point for future development. You also take a risk by doing so. You can either accept it or shoot me down. And that is how it should be.

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Thursday September 18, 2008 (diary, opinion)

Another fine day today. And surprise surprise in the afternoon we even get a nice downpour of rain. Only for 15 minutes or so, but just enough to freshen things up a bit. Like so often in this region, the rain is very localised, a few km down the road they did not get anything at all. Yet, more is to come according to Andrew.
In the evening I play bridge at Palmerston with Freda who has more or less recovered from her 2 weeks of flu. Everybody around here has suffered from it.

This financial meltdown going on around the world sends an important message I believe. If even these supposedly conservative banks can get it so totally wrong, then one should (as I certainly do) be very skeptical about many of the publicly accepted "truths" or "beliefs". Poorly founded dominant majority opinions or trends appear to be the Achilles heel of Western civilisation. The ill founded assumptions about the cause for Global Warming for example, or the consistent beliefs in the outdated traditional religions are other areas of great misconception. That is my view in any case.
The human mind has one very important thing with computers in common. No matter how (supposedly) intelligent a human brain may appear to be, it is just like a computer : when you feed rubbish in, rubbish will come out.

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Friday & Saturday September 19 & 20, 2008 (diary, opinion, book)

Let me elaborate on the last sentence I wrote yesterday : "Rubbish in, rubbish out".
Taking the present banking crisis as example, rather than following sound banking practices and common sense reasoning in their business pursuits, banks and related financial institutions have been following a policy of (more or less reckless) greed and copying what the competition was doing.
Global Warming too is by many (including our present Labour Government) according to prominent scientists around the world, totally misunderstood, at potentially very high future cost to our country and the world.

At a personal level, from a very young age (see February 5), I have always tried to find my own answers, seeking out the best possible resources I could find, rather than following Public opinions or established general trends.
In other words I have always tried to feed my mind not with rubbish but with valuable, relevant and as far as I could judge truthful information. By doing so one is more likely to arrive at a meaningful outcome (rather than the "rubbish out" scenario). Of course such judgement is always subjective and depends on one's intelligence and to which degree one has been influenced (biassed) by parents, schools, religion etc. But it is the best one really can, and I believe, should do.

Peter Costello, former Federal Treasurer of Australia I therefore try to listen to quality news programs and read quality papers. I also seek out books by world leading thinkers at the very frontier of human knowledge and understanding like Brian Greene ('The Fabric of the Cosmos'), Richard Dawkins ('The God Delusion'), etc. to give my mind plenty of value input to come to meaningful conclusions and opinions.

In this context I also picked up a copy of The Costello Memoirs (published by Melbourne University Press), released to the public earlier this week. I am reading through it at the rate of knots and find it very entertaining, highly readable and above all most informative about the politics (especially those concerning finance and tax) over the past 16 years.   There can be no doubt about the outstanding credentials of Peter Costello. He has been the longest serving, most experienced and probably best Federal Treasurer in Australian history, and his innovative new measures have been acknowledged and applauded worldwide. I believe his memoirs will stand the test of time and remain a valuable historic document for many generations to come.

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Copyright © 2008 Michael Furstner