Chimney cats in the last days

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

chimney cats (07 May 2015)

Today (14 May 2015) is the last day for Avid Gallery’s limited edition of the Chimney Cats made to celebrate Bronwynne Cornish’s exhibition of work currently showing at The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt.

Originally intended to guard chimneys from witches coming down them, the first group of Bronwynne’s chimney cats appeared 1982.


Christmas tree 2014

Christmas tree (16 December 2014)

Christmas tree (14 December 2014)

On a very busy 16 December 2014, I somehow managed to post this image on my Facebook page, together with the following text: “The Christmas tree went up about five days ago, and I’ve made several attempts at photographing it, but none of my shots are outstanding. I like this one, taken on 14 December 2014.”

Year by year, my ideas about my Christmas tree have evolved, and my collection of ornaments has grown. The majority are blown glass, but there are also items made from wood, paper, and cast plaster. And the tree itself is a cleverly woven cone of bamboo strips wound with a length of synthetic pine – something I’ve been able to re-use, year after year. Readers might recall my taste for eclectic, East-meets-West décor.

This year’s budget for new items is already over-subscribed, but I’ve a hankering for a few touches of gold to warm up the restrained palette I’ve favoured over the past few years.

PS: Here’s a nice Better Homes and Gardens video about decorating Christmas trees.



Reality: too obvious to be true

Banksy and Baudrillard

untitled (Banksy and Baudrillard) (detail)

Nothing is wholly obvious without becoming enigmatic. Reality itself is too obvious to be true. (Jean Baudrillard)

In hand, a bunch of diverse quotations, most of them having at least some bearing on the nature of reality. The Baudrillard piece seems to have appointed itself chief amongst them, but Einstein can be heard muttering in the background.

Not unexpectedly – given the two words, ‘obvious’ and ‘enigmatic’ – Google Images quickly finds a picture/text version of the Baudrillard quote. But more interesting by far, I think, is this Banksy art piece with which it is teamed up on the Particulate Matters blog.

Clearly, both Banksy and “cosmicdebris” (proprietor of Particulate Matters) are saying something about the teachings of the Christian Church – particularly, it seems, in relation to the indoctrination of children. Look elsewhere on the Particulate Matters blog and you will find links to other ‘indoctrination’ stories: for example, Monsanto indoctrinating kids at the zoo.

Actually, I’m inclined to suspect that indoctrination is integral to every aspect of living – and that everyone is routinely doing it and/or having it done to them. And it wouldn’t necessarily qualify as either brainwashing or catechism. Let’s put it more simply: we’re all inclined to push our ideas on others – and we call it marketing, persuasion, instruction, education, or teaching.

Be that all as it may, it is not really the main point of my post.

A few months ago, on |cross-ties| – the blog of “The Other” – there was a bit of back-and-forth about the nature of reality. A piece titled Taking a cycle trip led one reader to discuss Derrida’s ideas, noting that in language there is a gap between words and things. I would take this further, asserting that there is a gap between what we perceive and what is actually the case.

A similar gap yawns between the words of every witness and the occurrences they describe – what we thought we saw, the way it seems to us, what we believe to be true, and everything that is ‘obvious’. (And, by the way, since it’s that obvious, why can’t everyone see it our way?)

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus begins with the proposition that “the world is everything that is the case” and ends by reminding us that “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Wittgenstein isn’t saying there’s stuff we can choose not to talk about; he’s actually pointing out that there are some things nobody can put into words.

Albert Einstein asserts that “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Elsewhere, he declares, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.” He is not saying that nothing is real; what he means is that everything we experience as real is invented. “The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things.” (Albert Einstein Essays in Science (1934), p27)

The way science talks about reality and truth is sounding more and more like the words of the ancient religions. For example, Geshe Rabten Rinpoche, a notable teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, says: “The ultimate truth of all conventional truths is their being void of inherent existence. Conventional truths, ie empirical phenomena, exist dependently upon causal conditions, parts and imputation; they have absolutely no existence apart from these conditioning factors.”

But “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true,” wrote Francis Bacon (1560-1626). Called the creator of empiricism, “[Bacon] established and popularised inductive methodologies for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method, or simply the scientific method.” (GoodReads)

Ultimately, then, as Baudrillard says, whatever seems obvious is, in reality, the superficial manifestation of a profound mystery: the deeper you go into it, the less you are able to say about it.

In Poetry: This Death Is Incomplete (part one of an essay on poetry and death), Amy King talks about “spinning yarns to name things and claim power over them” – which, she reminds us, is not a new concept. In explication, King points us to Alice Notley’s The Book of Lies. The opening lines are especially apt: “Do you believe this stuff or is it a story? I believe every fucking word, but it is a story.”


An ever-changing draft of this piece has been in my editor for months. There’s so much more I want to say, but it is long past time I got something posted. 


But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

The Hobbit: 3 days to go

“Hobbit stamps, Hobbit coins and Hobbit markets are all in the works as the city of Wellington, New Zealand, prepares for the world premiere of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ on Nov 28.” (Mark Johanson, writing in the International Business Times, 10 Oct 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #1 (25 Nov 2012)

“The film is the first in a trilogy, with director Peter Jackson returning to JRR Tolkien’s novels after his hit adaptations of Lord Of The Rings.” Subtitled ‘An Unexpected Journey’, the film stars British actors Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen. (BBC News : Entertainment & Arts, 08 Oct 2012)

I snapped these shots this morning on my way to work. (The Embassy Cinema, on Wellington’s Cambridge Terrace, is just a few minutes’ walk from my apartment.)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)

3 days to go #2 (25 Nov 2012)


Did it occur to you, at any stage, that “A Twisted Pair” might somehow relate to the double helix of DNA? … and to “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company”?*

Reading that this blog explores the “twinfulness” of the writer, did you consider implicating Mercury/Hermes, messenger of the gods and ruler of Gemini, the astrological twins?



Which brings me to the reason for today’s title. The symbolism of the caduceus “represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. (from the Wikipedia article, Caduceus)

The article also points out that “The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.”

The US Army Medical Corps’ confusion notwithstanding, a liberal table of correspondences might well relate both to “the crucified serpent” – an alchemical symbol for fixatio – and to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal those who had been bitten by snakes (see the Book of Numbers chapter 21). 

You might also want to read about Nehushtan (literally, a piece of brass).  

Connecting closely with this, it is interesting to note that John Donne (Sermons 10:190) uses “crucified Serpent” as a title of Jesus Christ – who, according to the Gospel of St John (3:14-15), said: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As Walter Burkert asserts, Mercury’s caduceus is “really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition”.

* The definition of twisted pair – “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company” – comes from 

Knight on a plough horse

Daily rituals are important … and there are several I try not to miss.

In the morning, a glass of pomegranate juice helps me swallow the meds and supplements – after I’ve lit candles and chanted Christian and Buddhist prayers.

And every day – usually in the evening – I write.

Knight of Pentacles (Rider-Waite version)

Knight of Pentacles (Rider-Waite version), artist Pamela Colman Smith; from the actual 1909 deck, no longer under copyright.

Drawing Tarot cards is not generally part of my daily routine … although, over the past few days, I have done it several times.

This morning’s card was the Knight of Pentacles. The knights all represent work, effort, and responsibility, but this one (in the words of Biddy Tarot) “is engaged in the often toilsome, routine efforts required to realise the dreams of his heart.”

Biddy describes the Knight of Pentacles as methodical and rigorous – meticulous, or even a perfectionist – ascribing to him such qualities as patience, reliability, responsibility, and commitment. “Though his visions may not be earth-shattering, and his methods are certainly not original, the Knight of Pentacles sees that everything he undertakes will meet with nothing but success.”

Biddy talks about “[the] need to follow a routine to ensure that an important task or job is completed from start to finish at the standard expected.

“You are in ‘implementation mode’,” she adds, “and are committed to getting the job done, even if it requires hard work along the way.”

Doesn’t this sound like she’s talking directly and specifically to as us writers?

I don’t actually need reminding that I will “make sure that everything is planned and executed down to the finest detail … will never leave a job half done … complete all assigned tasks and projects to a certain standard and … follow through on [my] promises.”

If you’re still in doubt about your role as a knight on a plough horse, read Biddy Tarot for yourself.

Ghost riders

ghost riders (01 June 2011)

ghost riders (01 June 2011)

More than fifty different artists have recorded versions of Ghost Riders in the Sky, according to a website called The Music Book. Among the versions to hit the charts, it says, were those by Vaughn Monroe, Bing Crosby, and Burl Ives. Other versions were recorded by Roy Rogers, Frankie Laine, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy, and Peggy Lee.

Written by Stan Jones in 1948, the Country & Western classic features on numerous websites, including Wikipedia’s (Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend.

There’s a vividly illustrated version of the lyrics, with a story about how Stan Jones came to write the song, on The Music Book site:

Ghost on the wall

The phantom bill-paster meets
the ghost in the machine;
the moving finger writes,
and having writ …

No deus ex machina here,
where agile fragile taggers clamber
and stagger, upstaging
one another …

The writing’s on the wall, Belshazzar!

ghost on the wall (06 May 2011)

ghost on the wall (06 May 2011)


If you’re interested:

The writing on the wall

Ghost in the machine

Deus ex machina


Because The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa was open on Good Friday, I took the opportunity to revisit “Brian Brake: Lens on the World” (23 Oct 2010 – 8 May 2011) — a marvellous exhibition of the work of New Zealand’s most renowned international photographer.

untitled (boulder 024) (22 Apr 2011)

untitled (boulder 024) (22 Apr 2011)

The extensive forecourt to Te Papa features three large boulders, which “symbolise [the museum’s] commitment to New Zealand’s land and people.”  

The image here is a detail of the middle stone, which represents Papatūānuku (Earth Mother).