Musica est

Every once in a while I must go to a concert. I realise that the performance may be “just Okay”, but live music is like a medicin. Whatever the actual quality, live music beats any studio recording.  And sometimes it all just fits. Musicians on full alert, instruments and amps tuned just right, audience vibrating. Yesterday was one of those. Just perfect. 

The first time I was introduced to Steven Wilson he was a lesser known virtuoso playing around with his band Porcupine Tree. At that time I already thought it was top of the bill. Not understanding that whatever level you are playing at, you can grow. He did. Man, did he grow. 

The funny thing is that it is not about all the techie stuff. It is rather about the focus, the commitment to perform to perfection. Without losing the “live” in the act. Putting your mind to it doesn’t mean the end result is “perfect”. Some dissonance makes for a wonderful experience. 

Oh … it is about emotion. Of course. And with modern performing arts, music and visualisation go hand in hand. Who would think of dropping a veil between the band and the public to super impose video on it. Spooky. Trippy. 

Simple.

Effective. 

Yesterday’s concert was great, perhaps in the top three of what I ever experienced. Notice the “perhaps” … it just depends on what measuring stick you use. Perhaps I just try to say that it was … top. 

Sunsets

Snap shots
Snap shots

The sunsets here in CBD (Central Business District, Melbourne) are amazing. I’m sure it has to do with the actual light, but also with my being happy in this strange city. A population of 4,5 million people and it feels like a bunch of villages linked together.

From day one after having arrived here in August 2015 I have the feeling that there is somehow more light, more oxygen, more energy than in the Netherlands. And part of that is true, as Melbourne is about as far from the equator as Gibraltar or Cyprus is in the northern hemisphere. That should mean that the sun is higher up in the sky. I read somewhere that the light is comparable to Southern California.

However, the sun is ferocious: it can be 21 degrees Celsius in the shade and one step out of it and you need a hat, long sleeves and sunblock. No kidding. About 30% of the Aussies have or had some form of skin cancer. No fun at all.

But beautiful sunsets.

Religion

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I am not religious. Not even a bit. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that the world around me is in one way or another. Looking at Islam, Christianity or Buddhism I do also see that some base principles are similar. I guess that, next to being an anchor and a mirror, religion can also be seen as a set of base rules. Meant to ascertain that we live together without killing each other.

Hmmm. Perhaps I don’t get the real meaning, seeing that it is actually used quite often to justify murdering whole groups of people. 

What I do know, is that I like to visit churches. Not each and every one and certainly not every week, but sometimes. It surely has something to do with the spaciousness, the arches and the way the seats form lines that disappear in the gloom.

Makes for some terrific photography opportunities. 

Although it is not my thing to be on my knees, I don’t mind someone else finding solace in prayer. It is all a question of respect. So I ensure that nobody is in the picture.

Which again adds to the impact of the photo.

Who keeps the lights on


Australia is an amazing country and Victoria is a really nice state. And living in Melbourne is … well, what can you say about a city that has been deemed the most lovable city in the world for six years in a row. I agree. And I’m not really a city person. But then again, Melbourne feels more like a big village. 

But I have some concerns. It started with just looking around and seeing all the beautiful buildings and how clean the streets are. Everything well kept. The Melbourne star, a giant Ferris wheel merrily turning from 10am to 10pm, all lit up. Everybody unconcerned and happy. The smallest building project surrounded by friendly staff warning you of dangers and stopping traffic to ensure you cross safely.  

Set against an increasing unemployment rate, now around 6%, I suddenly wondered how they paid for it all. So who is keeping the lights on?

I just filed my first income tax declaration and was stunned about how quickly that was done and dealt with. I received my returns in the bank on the day I received my final statement and approval. All within a few weeks of filing. Interestingly, there was an accompanying letter, explaining where my tax dollars went. And here things became … weird.

Some 40% is spent on welfare. Okay, I get that. That’s what you see when you look outside. And slightly less than 20% on health. All good so far. 

Around 8% of income tax is spent on defence. Wait … WHAT? That can’t be true. But it is. I understand that I should look at the GDP number (more like 2%), but this looks like quite a bit of cash being spent. 

So how do they pay for all the other stuff? And how do they keep on doing that? I mean, this is a massive country with a very small population. So even when you compare all the numbers to EG the Netherlands, you’d have to factor in that everything here is bigger, further away, less easy to reach. 

I’m going to read a little more about this, as this is really interesting. Everything points towards a serious breakdown, like we had in Europe. Banks, mortgages, salaries, all way out of whack with how I perceive reality.

It must be me, not understanding. It can’t be them, can it? 

CBD energy

 

Docklands: I can hear the crowd yelling, 60,000 strong. Etihad stadium is about 1 k away and the wind is not favouring the crowd. Still, energising. Like a wave. It reminds me of the place we used to live, Wellington Crescent, on the east side of CBD. It was a rotten apartment, but we sure had some fun in the neighbourhood. 

Right after we arrived in Melbourne we were invited to go to the “footy” in the MCG. Our first Ozzie adventure. And as we lived right around the corner, we walked. It was a warm evening, September being spring. And the closer we got, the more I had the idea I was watching Star Trek or some other sci fi movie. Everything was vibrating, shimmering, out of focus. Lights and colours and noise and … overload of impressions.

Of course I brought my iPhone, it being my camera of choice. And right when we crossed the railway tracks I suddenly saw what I felt: a space ship arriving.

Click …

Simplicity

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I remember my first camera, a grey and black plastic thing that had only three settings for the light available. With a crick crack handle to move the film forward. I can’t remember any photos I took with it. But at some stage, I think a birthday, I suddenly owned a real Canon 35mm camera. And I certainly remember all the captures from that one. Already playing with light and looking through what was obvious.

Then I lost it for years, to pick it up again during a trip to Costa Rica. With hindsight I should have spent some more money on that first new camera. But I was switched on.

And I slowly moved from entry level to more or less professional, at least camera wise. And I worked my editing skills to perfection. Reading stacks of books and articles. Even had two photos selected into a Leica year book. Bodies, lenses, tripods, Photoshop CS, Lightroom, an 8 colour printer and the best paper I could buy to be able to mount some of the nicest photos on the wall.

Then I got bored with it. 80% of the people around me couldn’t give a damn about it and the rest turned out to be pixel peepers. What should be creation became process monkeying to some kind of perfect standard. So I quit.

Im not sure when it started again, but I know my iPhone became my camera of choice. No more expensive SLR’s, no more fiddling. Just catching that moment or that special light, minimally working the photo became my trade. With one signatory addition: the white frame, based on the old Polaroid. Slightly more at the bottom. With a scribble to add some flavour.

And sometimes colour is enough, without anything to really capture your eye.

Simplicity.

The light fantastic

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The 15 minute walk back home at the end of the working day is really something special for me. I’m used to having to battle myself through traffic jams, losing up to 90 minutes one way on average. And although the first year in Melbourne was already a terrific change with me taking the tram most of the time, the move to Docklands was the best thing we did in a long time.

Imagine: you literally leave the hectic life of CBD behind you and walk through what is almost a time tunnel to the calm of the marina. Some wind on my face, kayaker bullying their way across the open water, people sitting on benches and enjoying the last sunlight.  And the light is almost always superb.

I think I could take a picture every day without ending up with one double. Which is not a bad way of ending the hectic working day.