'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Bristle Fly

This tiny, rugby-jerseyed, bristly creature (Trigonospila brevifacies) is a fly I don't think I've ever seen before. It is an Australian introduction, brought over to New Zealand to help control leafroller caterpillars. The female rests on leaves during her quest looking for her prey. When she finds one of the little leafroller caterpillars (that often curl up my orange tree leaves) she lays her eggs on it. Then it's the usual rather gross story: when the maggot hatches it eats the caterpillar. My Andrew Crowe book says that unfortunately we don't know the impact T. brevifacies is having on the harmless native leafroller moth.

You can see why this group of flies is called bristle flies. Maybe it's the insect equivalent of designer stubble. Except on females.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Corker-lyser Man

When the Christmas wine comes out of the fridge, out of the drawer emerges a frightening figure. Object of my daughter's childhood fears, and invented, aided and abetted by her brothers, this nasty creature comes alive. His face is menacingly blank, he waves his arms up and down, his shoulders are prickly, and his one, shiny, sharp leg, can drill holes in your skin! So, beware, here comes the CORKER-LYSER MAN to get you!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Grapes Competition

In September last year I reached 20,000 viewers on this blog and was so pleased that I ran a little lottery-thingy. Very belatedly, I should let you know that it was won by Robert rhymes-with-plague Brague and my oil painting of grapes he and Ellie picked (above) was duly dispatched. Recently he mentioned that they have had it framed and I'm delighted, albeit a little embarrassed that I hadn't announced the results.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Christmas Walk.

The Te Waihou Walkway was a very pleasant walk to do on a warm Christmas Day afternoon.

The Blue Spring at the top gushes crystal-clear water at the rate of 42 cubic metres a minute, and the walk alongside the swiftly-flowing river travels over stiles, past farmland and through gorges.

At perfectly-timed strategic intervals there is a 'bio loo' with a bag of sawdust hanging inside. (You sprinkle a handful down the loo over your contribution, and there is absolutely no unpleasant odour, and only some excellent compost to be removed at occasional intervals.)

The water, that fell as rain between 50 and 100 years ago, is a delightful 11ºC when it emerges from the earth. Just perfect to cool my hot Christmas-decorated toes.

Kotare, or the sacred kingfisher (Halcyon sancta vagans), pants on a post in the heat.

Poplar tree fluff makes snow underfoot.

A very English, New Zealand scene.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Day: It was sunny and warm and we opened our presents and then after lunch went for a walk along the river bank. Pics tomorrow. It was as perfect a day as one gets.
Happy Christmas to all my fine blogger friends!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Rendering Synthetic Objects

When TV first came out my family had other plans for our money. But later on, the box came into our lives, with all its rubbish... and wonders. We quickly became blasé about 'special effects' like people appearing and disappearing (you could often see the tiny slippages of the other cast members as they tried to stay still while the camera was stopped to allow the object person to leave the scene), and a favourite was 'twins' or people talking to themselves, positioned on either side of a 'line' in the background somewhere. And we quickly grew tired of the corny 'people driving in cars but actually it's the the background moving' effect.

But occasionally there'd be something quite spectacular that would cause my Mum to say Her Line: 'So how did they do that then?' to which my Dad would respond 'fishing line' or 'model' or some such. We knew this as Trick Photography.
These days it's all so wonderful. Star Wars was clever and brought us Blue Screens and CG, but then the LOTR* brought us motion capture, realistic CG water and flames, and computer generated 'mass' behaviour for crowd scenes, and goodness knows what else.
Kevin Karsch's PhD project takes the manipulation possibilities of the likes of Adobe Photoshop for still images, and superimposes objects, plus movement, plus incredibly good colour and lighting, to the level of the astonishing.

You can't believe your eyes. Not 'you won't', but 'you can't'.

* Lord of The Rings

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Ceanothus Bush

Ceanothus bush, Queenstown. November 2011

At our first house, the little white stucco bungalow in Napier Road, there was a ceanothus bush like the one above. It had such sweet, soft-smelling, wonderful blue flowers, and when I squeezed them, the leaves had a pleasant scent too. By the time I was six or seven it was quite a substantial size, and the way the branches grew, arching down almost to the ground, made a secret room just right for me to crouch and believe that no-one knew I was there. When I was cross with my parents I would run away and hide there, hoping that I would be missed and then that would show them!

One night I was sent to bed for some misdemeanor and was so seethingly resentful I decided to run away properly this time - all the way to Napier! I knew the way there, as a few times a year we made the thirteen mile journey to the aquarium or museum. I decided I would be able to walk it and be there by morning. I opened the drawers under my bed, arranged clothes so I could feel for them in the dark, and left each drawer open an inch so they wouldn't make any noise and alert my parents who slept in the adjacent room.

After some time my mother came in to kiss me goodnight, bright and jolly as always, as if nothing had happened. She had probably forgotten the incident but my mind was made up and my head was still furious with her. She would miss me when I was in Napier and then she'd be sorry!

As she turned to go she noticed my drawers were all slightly open, and so, quickly and efficiently, push, push, push, she closed each one up with little bumps that made my bed bounce, cheerily wishing me goodnight and leaving me alone in the quiet darkness.

I lay there. I could probably get my clothes without anyone hearing, but then I thought I might not go after all. She was quite a nice mother really, and it was nice and warm in bed. I could always go next time. If I was really mad at them.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Amazing Giant Weta of New Zealand

The UK telegraph recently starred the astonishing New Zealand Giant weta (in Maori: wetapunga - 'God of ugly things') as its picture of the day.

The article (you can read it at the link above) is a little misleading however, as it gives the impression that an American entomologist discovered this insect:
'Adventurer' Mark Moffett has found the world's biggest insect...after two days of searching...on Little Barrier Island'.

In fact this island has long been known as one of the last outposts of the giant weta.

For me, the interesting thing is that wetapunga has been able to survive alongside the small polynesian rat kiore, which was brought to New Zealand when the Maori first came. Although kiore eats the nymphs, the adult weta are too large and also find safety in their tree-top habitats. However neither species has been able to hold out against the European rats of mainland New Zealand, and so share the Little Barrier, from which the European rats have been eradicated.

It should also be mentioned that carrots are not generally on the menu for wetapunga. Your veggie gardens are safe.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Flowering Cherry

Summer's here in the land of the Zeal. But just to back-track a few weeks to spring, I spotted three of these delightful flowering cherries, of all places, in the car park of the Warehouse in Morrinsville. I was newly released from Academic Toil and had time on my hands, so enquired of a staff member out smoking around the back if she knew the name of it. She hadn't even noticed them (how could one not see such gloriousity!?) but directed me to another staff member who had been working there a long time but who, when I asked, also had never seen them. When she had been out to have a look, she announced that she was fairly sure it was a 'blossom tree'. Sigh. Can anyone help? I confess I don't know much about flowering varieties of peaches, plums and cherries, but I'm almost certain it is a double 'flowering' cherry (as opposed to the fruiting varieties).

Friday, 25 November 2011


At my Post-Graduate examination exhibition a few weeks ago, I was pleased to be able to hang my work in a really excellent space in the St Pauls Gallery, Auckland. This was the final configuration, and although not exactly how I had planned, it was OK. After 6 hours of arranging and re-arranging and another headache pending, it was the closest to the average of your suggestions that I could manage. I removed some works and added some others at the last minute!

Images should enlarge if you click them.

There was some lovely natural light available from a window, as well as good directional lighting above:

Here is Martin with the work, to show the scale:

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


This stencil has apparently been seen around the place in New York, on streets and on walls. Sorry, can't find the name of the maker.

But I did find a lot of great work that has been done by the Friends of the Earth in Manchester to promote the benefits of biking over taking the car.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


About fifteen minutes ago I posted online my last assignment. I've been up all night getting it finished and I'm ready for breakfast and bed. I feel as spaced out and as free as this rocket image I took on Nov 5 three nights back.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Hunt

Acoustic guitar from Australian Tommy Emmanuel. A reflection of my year just been.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Warning: Shell's 'Fishing Competition'

I like entering competitions.

I bought some petrol and with the receipt they gave me a 'Fishing Licence' with a number. I went on line and played a silly 'fish catching' game and got 8 chances to win 7,ooo bucks worth of groceries. All good so far. They wanted my phone number and address. Hmmm. Ok, then, Greed got the better of me. Then you have to tick the 'I have read the terms and conditions' box.
All the conditions were the usual - about employees of the company not being eligible etc... until I got down to No. 16. I was so gobsmacked at the implications, I just had to share it with you.
I'll just give you a moment to read it. You may have to click on the image if you are hard of seeing like me...

OK. So. What do you think!?

Have I misread it?

It seems to me that if I enter this competition (not even WIN) I 'Waive all rights' (ALL RIGHTS!?) for '..an unlimited period of time...'!!!

Good Lord.

Surely that's not legal?

Additionally, they can 'modify any of these conditions'...' at any time' and not be liable!

Needless to say greed did not drive me to sell my soul to the devil.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Flying high.

Dragonflies... The last residential is over... the weight is beginning to lift from this blogger's shoulders.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sea Monkeys

When I was young my extended family, especially a strong-minded maiden aunt, would inquire about my reading habits. Their reactions to various responses ensured I learnt from an early age that the classics were heartily approved of. (I actually enjoyed them, and I think my vocabulary was certainly extended beyond most kids my age).
However comics were not really considered suitable.
But I had a draw-card: I was a sickly kid, thin and pale, and when especially ill they could be quite indulgent. I always asked for colouring-in books or comics. I generally received Disney cartoons and I still remember the day I met the best Disney character to my mind: The light-bulb friend of Gyro Gearloose.
But later illnesses turned up much more exciting heroes like Superman and Batman and... joy of joys: 'The Phantom'. When the bad guys had been caught and were in jail and being angry through close-ups of their gritted teeth, all that was left was to peruse the strange and wonderful adverts on the back pages. They were all from America of course, and that could have been on the moon to us in New Zealand, but the best things were the 'Sea-Monkeys'. Oh I so wanted a real sea-monkey for a pet, so I could play with it and train it, and it could be my friend!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Hanging my Art. - your opinion requested!

Some of the work I have recently completed:

Close-up of above.

Who a bee interacts with in a swarm (discovered only to be about 5 neighbours):

Varroa bee mite

Scouting and collecting behaviour of bees:

Rules when swarming:

Google search results for 'honey bee':

Umwelts (Other Worlds):

Dance patterns:

Well, you all did a brilliant job of confiding in me your insect likes and dislikes a few months ago.
As you can see from the above art, I settled on honey bees to be the focus of my research and have been busy as the proverbial, and am nearly there, despite migrainus interruptus.

But, here is another request from me folks.
It's time to hang my art work for the end of year examination. But how should it look?
So you know what it's about, it is, briefly, more about the ways we know bees (science, childhood memories, instinct eg. love of honey, etc, etc.) than what we know about them. Although the 'what' is linked of course to how we found it out... Got that? Never mind.*

I have devised a way of mocking up a little gallery (you can go to the last image to see what it really looks like) so I can try out arrangements of placement.

Would you tell me which one(s) you prefer? They are numbered. It would be great if you could say why too. Thank you!

Notes: a. You can assume all pieces are to be hung perfectly straight.
b. the 'head with bee' is probably the pivotal piece of the group.
c. This is not a 'series' so much as a single 'work'. The only way I can think of to make it so, is to hang them very close together. But if you have another suggestion, please offer it!
d. Please make all comments in safety! I welcome all, no matter how 'way out'. A wacky or unusual suggestion may spark another idea for me or someone else.
e. If you would rather not go public, please don't let that stop you. Just email me.
f. If you don't like any of these hanging formations, but can describe another idea, please do.
g. Many of the pieces have writing on them. That's the main reason I can't go too high. (Most of the work invites close inspection).
h. The 'floorboards' are drawn to scale and are a metre (3 feet) wide.
i. All the images should be clickable if required.

11. (This next one has removed the black works completely.)


*If you are really interested, my project abstract is:

The Umwelt of the bee.
This project asks what is the 'Umwelt' (Other World) of the bee and explores Jakob von Uexküll's theory that each species on Earth effectively inhabits a different subjective universe based upon its needs and senses - its biosemiotic interpretation of the world.

It seeks to invite the viewer to reflect on their relationship with bees.

Using drawing-based art media, and by means of contrasts between figurative images, quasi-scientific visual conventions, and abstraction,
this project attempts to meld this theory with objective methodologies of science, and uses the combination to peek into the hive.

PS. This way of making a decision is the same way that bees make their decisions: By lots of individuals 'voting'. This method is therefore also part of the research project!