Spring Around Here

ARTWORK OF THE MONTH: Selected drawings available on Ebay. A different selection every month! ** DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay

NEW SHEET MUSIC: Huete Dances vol. 3 now available for pre-order – ships early December

NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards

TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes

Also available: Music CDs * Sheet music * Greeting cards * New Zealand photography

In this newsletter:
 
*** Election Day
*** News and Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do: Carla Ribeiro

Election Day

For a brief moment there, I was positively hopeful that the recent national elections would end the recent period of unabashed greedthink, pandering up to a G W Bush version of Big Brother America which Big Brother America doesn't even any longer stand for, and erosion of what remained of social and public services – and put some people back in power who are advocating the kind of New Zealand I, personally, would like to live in. The New Zealand which I was led to believe I would encounter when I came here more than a decade ago. A country that upholds the values which New Zealand is so keen to project to the outside world: a tolerant, inclusive and egalitarian society, one that values creativity and thinking outside the box, and one that cares for its still comparatively pristine natural environment.

Not that the New Zealand I arrived in eleven years ago, was all that it was cracked up to be, as I soon found out. For a country that put "growing the arts and creative sector" as a chief priority on its government agenda, I found myself very poorly treated indeed as one of the artists who took the bait and came here in hopes of being able to contribute something of value.

But since then, things have been going noticeably downhill. In the past few years, the Wairarapa rivers – along with other rivers in other regions – have been so polluted by dairy effluent that they are no longer safe to swim in. Funding for Adult Community Education has been cut – an idiotic measure from every point of view, as it combines a rather small cut in government expenditure, with maximum damage. Then Learning Media went down the drain. Still didn't get the message? "We firmly deny the economic and social advantage education can bring, and we put our trust in staunch anti-intellectualism" (because that's what all the economically successful and socially advanced nations do, apparently).

The PACE programme – a government initiative to support people building a career in the arts and creative sector – which I was able to take advantage of, eventually, after putting up quite a bit of fuss, has now been abolished, and if the Enterprise Allowance Grant still exists, it has been reduced to something that is definitely not going to enable anyone but Superman to set up a viable business – it was already putting highly unrealistic expectations on its participants at the time I was on it in 2009 (just before it got butchered). Labour rights were weakened in the infamous Hobbit movie deal, which by now is being acknowledged widely in New Zealand as one of John Key's least glorious moments. But he got to pose with some movie stars and look cool – maybe that appeals to a generation who appear to see politics as some form of real world computer game.

Shortly before the election, Nicki Hager caused some substantial waves with the publication of his latest book Dirty Politics, in which he reveals all sorts of unsavoury machinations by people high up in the Key government's ranks, including the systematic spreading of untruth. The revelations in the book have already forced Justice Minister Judith Collins to step down. By Hager's account, these people aren't just your average corrupt politicians, they really are gangsters, with a complete contempt for their democratic mandate.

But last Sunday, the New Zealand voter spoke, and the New Zealand voter said: "we wholeheartedly embrace shortsighted greed, dishonesty, selfishness and prejudice as core national values". So another three years of gangsters in charge, it is. Not that I am really surprised: a democratic government reflects the attitudes of the people who vote for it, and this result resonates all too well with the experiences of dishonesty and greed, selfishness and prejudice, which I have had on a near daily basis for the last eleven years.

Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay

Waihi Falls, Southern Hawkes Bay

No wonder then that Kim Dotcom, the latest maverick in the New Zealand political landscape, chose this country: if he was looking for maximum political gullibility, what could have announced it more clearly than the spectacle of a crowd of computer tech people from Weta marching in the streets of Wellington, protesting in favour of having their own labour rights infringed upon, and offering Warner Brothers some nice big leverage on a silver plate, to squeeze the government for yet more tax dollars. That happened in September 2009, and Dotcom's residency was approved in November 2009, after he was basically allowed to buy himself into the country, despite having criminal charges pending against him in Germany, Thailand, and Hong Kong. The article on Wikipedia does not exactly cast a very positive light on the integrity of the New Zealand government officials involved in this process. Apparently, among other things, Dotcom promised the then major of Auckland to pay for some nice big fireworks.

However, when Dotcom was also indicted in the US for online piracy and money laundering, the New Zealand police suddenly changed its mind and went and arrested him, and confiscated some of his assets into the bargain. Later, he was released on bail and the seizure of property was declared invalid by a New Zealand court. John Key seems to have his usual selective memory loss with regard to these proceedings, which read like right out of a 1920's mafia movie – just in case you thought our current recently re-elected government upholds things like basic human rights.

Earlier this year, Kim Dotcom founded his own political party The Internet Party, whose party programme is, in essence, an emotional appeal to the concerns and anxieties of young hi-tech professionals, with a bit of hero worship for the WikiLeaks crowd thrown in. I might have been tempted to vote for him myself, if I thought his political agenda had any substance, and if I trusted to touch this guy with a ten foot pole. Which I don't.

A while ago the news went round that he owned an original copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf". At the time, it angered me because it seemed such a cheap shot at his German nationality, and why was it supposed to be relevant? Surely owning a copy does not necessarily imply that he swears by it. Besides, I well remember that Wellington business class where the tutor cited Hitler as an example of a great leader one could learn from, and the rest of the class practically booed me down when I objected. That did not earn a mention in The Guardian.

But after checking out Dotcom's election campaign, I am not so sure. Hitler, as I might remind you, did not win the enthusiastic support of large groups of often young and forward thinking people, by promising a nice war and to gas some Jewish people – but by playing on their economic anxieties after the global economic crisis of the late 1920's, and by delivering quite successfully on the promise to do something about the high rates of unemployment. By building lots of roads. Which, as it happens, is also an item on our current recently re-elected Prime Ministers's political agenda. Uncle Adolf seems to be all the fashion these days.

However this may be, Dotcom, as a non-citizen, could not run for parliament himself, so he has been collaborating with the established left wing Mana party, which gladly took his money, but ended up losing its one seat in parliament due to the fact that New Zealanders are obviously much happier to vote for their own homegrown fascists, than to let a German citizen anywhere near political power – whatever their political agenda.

Mana, along with Labour and the Greens and a bunch of people on my Facebook, is now happily blaming the disastrous result of the vote all on Kim Dotcom: John Key's National party very nearly achieved an absolute majority, with 48% of the vote, and now has more seats in parliament than Labour and Green combined – which gives them an even freer hand to make the best possible use of the next three years to fill their own pockets by selling off the country bit by bit. Hurrah! How handy to have a foreigner to blame. Of course, it could never be because of New Zealand's own failure to acknowledge and address the issues that need addressing in this country. Of course, it wasn't because nearly half of New Zealand voters decided to vote for John Key. Duh.

What Kim Dotcom is all about, I don't know. I highly doubt he is the guileless victim he likes to present himself as, but it also seems obvious that he offers a convenient scapegoat for a number of people whose actions and intentions aren't any purer.

The question is, what, if any, is his political and moral agenda? Unlike some of the hacker community – the Assanges and the Snowdens and the Mannings – who, whatever you may think of them, clearly act out of idealistic and unselfish motives, and have been putting their own safety and wellbeing at risk in order to do what they believe in, Kim Dotcom rather gives the impression of being in it for the dollar. Unless he does it for revenge – which, I must admit, I would be quite able to relate to.

The "ethic hacker" credo is to break into systems and show up security loopholes, so that they can be fixed: of course, he may be anything but ethic, or he may be simply naive – but if Kim Dotcom's intention was to show up a security loophole in our current democratic system, by hacking the New Zealand election, and showing up the massive extend of the corruption in New Zealand's political system in the process, then we do have one big fat security problem indeed.

Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa Spring in the South Wairarapa

Spring in the South Wairarapa



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News & Current Projects

The Christmas cards are ready! Nice and early this time, so you will be able to buy them in good time to do all your Christmas mail. I've learnt from the mistakes of previous years, you see. You can order them now – I have a date with the printer on Monday, so they should be ready to ship by the end of the week. You can also get a package deal and get a pack of beautiful tentacular Valentine's cards at the same time... for that special geeky valentine. And if you'd rather hang my art on the wall, both motives are also available as posters.

For my readers in New Zealand, I am now selling my posters, cards and CDs (not to mention potted plants, old furniture and vintage clothing) on Trademe: For the artwork, I have a trader account starsongstudio, and plants and other things can be found on my private account, asni. I've been selling a couple of poster prints over the last couple of weeks, which is a better cut than I've made on Ebay lately – and someone has just bought one of my periwinkles! So it's not just the elderberries that sell. If the plant sales continue to do well, I will set up a separate trader account for them eventually, but at the moment I'm just testing, testing – plus, busily growing more stuff I can sell.

But mainly, what I have been doing this month is work on my hares. I had to abandon the thought of trying to finish the whole book by the end of the month, but I now have approximately half of the plates – so there is hope that I will have it more or less done by the end of October. No finished pictures online until then, I'm sorry – but I'll keep everyone updated on my StarsongStudio Facebook page – which you are most welcome to "like". :)

The winner of the Key Colours contest will be announced at the exhibition opening in Hasselt tomorrow – that is, later today, by the time I send this out! I'm sure the winner will be announced on their website, if you care to check. The exhibition at the Stadsmuseum in Hasselt, Belgium, runs from 27 September to 5 November – if you are in the neighbourhood, check it out and post me some photos! Details of the when and where and how to get there, can be found on the Key Colours website as well.

I had a look at the list of previous winners, and every single one of them so far has been Dutch or Flemish, so I don't get up my hopes too much – I was very glad to be included in their shortlist and their exhibition, and it does give me a better bargaining position for approaching a publisher. Who knows, if I get really lucky, a publisher might even approach me! If I had a wish, I really would like to get a publishing contract for this book – I don't much care about winning prizes. :)

Tulip, by Astrid Nielsch Rucola by Astrid Nielsch Iris, by Astrid Nielsch Peach blossom by Astrid Nielsch

New garden paintings: Tulip * Rucola * Iris * Peach blossom

Since it is the springblossomy season, I have made sure to get some spring blossoms down on canvas: I've met my goal of two new oil paintings this month (though I opted for small canvasses that would take less time). I finally got round to painting my rucola (also known as rocket), whose blossoms have kept me company all winter – but now it is time to dig up the bed and plant something new! And I made the most of the one tulip I found in my garden.

As usual, these paintings are for sale: the dimensions (for both paintings) are 30 x 30 cm / 12 x 12 inches, which makes them nice and shippable.

They sell for NZ $ 150 / € 100 / US $ 120 each, and this time I can tell you the shipping rate: all of € 10 / US $ 12 for regular airmail, or € 20 / US $ 24 for tracked courier. Shipping rates within New Zealand and to Australia: please ask. Please contact me if you would like to purchase one of these paintings.

I am currently re-organizing my studio, and found a whole stack of A5 size watercolour blocks which I must have acquired at one time or another, with a thought of doing smallish watercolours for the purpose of having something to sell cheaply (and then promptly forgot that I already had one, next time I met one in a shop, ah the joys of scatterbrainedness.)

Nothing wrong with the idea as such, so I made a start this month with two watercolour paintings – an iris, and a peach blossom. I will do a couple more over the next few days, and put them up on Ebay as my ARTWORK OF THE MONTH. Trying to sell my archive of pencil sketches hasn't been an overwhelming success, so it is time I tried something new! View my Ebay listings here.

On Amazing Stories, I took a step back in time so to speak: Supernova is what comes before Black Hole, which was my last post in August. Seeing that the images in this blog verge distinctly toward the trippy, I thought it was a good time for an Interview with Fractal Artist Johan Andersson. I have featured his remarkable surrealist artwork here on this newsletter a little while ago, but felt that he deserved a proper interview in front of a much larger audience than what I get on this newsletter. At least, assuming that anyone actually reads Asni's Art Blog … The thing with blogging, as with all the electronic mass media, is that sometimes it does feel like one is shouting into a black hole, from where no echo comes. Then again, each time I feel that way someone usually sends me an email about one or other thing I have written here – which, I can assure you, is always much appreciated. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work

Asni's garden in August: pond works, new tree, new lamp, hard at work

If the winter was slow to come this year, it has also been slow to leave: there hasn't been as much work in the garden as one might expect at this time of year, and the fruit trees have also been slow: last year at this time, the best was already over and the lilac was coming out. This year, the pears and sweet cherry haven't even started to blossom yet, and the big ornamental cherry in front of the house is just getting there.

By virtue of extreme parsimony, I have managed to find some money in my budget for that sour cherry tree I have been going on about, which is now happily installed next to my back fence, among some hazels. I also found another spot to put a tree in – on the bit that used to be the old driveway, next to my shed – and spontaneously acquired an English greengage, to complement my collection of European plums.

I think I am about to reach my tree limit now: there is one spot left close to the pond, which I have reserved for a medlar tree, and I'm also waiting for a sloe which I plan to have for Christmas. I also plan to put in a couple more citrus trees: a grapefruit, a Seville orange for making marmalade, and perhaps a regular orange tree that will fruit at a different time of year than the blood orange I already have. But I won't be doing that until next year: I get such a kick from planting those trees, I need to space the pleasure out a bit, to last me longer. :D

The oxygenating water plants for my pond have duly arrived, and I have managed to dig in about 1/3 of the edges of the pond liner so far: blame the rough weather we've had for the slow progress! The local garden center said they're going to have water lilies come October, so I am sure there will be plenty of incentive to get the work done next month.

Meanwhile, I've continued to upgrade my flat with Ikea lamps: a parcel of them arrived in the mail some weeks ago, courtesy, this time, of my good friend Julie Comparini who kindly agreed to be my local Ikea representative in Germany. I think. I went for a balanced mix of Onsjö and Häggas lamps, one for each of the main rooms in my house. So far, I have only managed to instal one of the Häggas lamps over my dinner table, to replace the hideousness that has been lighting it so far. It looks – well, what can I say. It made me want to listen to Händel.

I have also had the electrician come by and check out my wiring, and instantly saved myself a substantial chunk of money when he assured me that the people I bought this house from had not, in fact, lied to me, and the wiring was up to speed. What's with the chronic mistrust and paranoia, you may ask? We may have a Prime Minister who is a proven liar, which doesn't seem to bother anyone much, but occasionally one still finds an honest person round here. Nice to know. Positively heartening, in fact.

More importantly, it means that I can afford to go ahead with that 110% perfect Swedish wallpaper I spotted the other day! That will be my project for the summer.

Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season

Asni's garden in August: springblossomy season



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Cool Things Friends Do: Carla Ribeiro

Carla is one of the several people whom I met on John Howe's internet forum – it is now ten years ago that I joined that group, hard though it is to believe. I stopped participating there quite a while ago, but I am still in touch with a surprising number of people from that group, mainly through Facebook and DeviantArt – and occasionally, even in meatspace. Several people from the forum have passed through Wellington at one stage, and I met up with a few others when I was in Switzerland a few years ago.

Carla is, as far as I am aware, the only Brazilian member on the forum – she may even be the single Latin American in a group which consists mainly of Europeans, US Americans and Canadians, and a handful of people from Downunder. I never knew that she had a particular interest in photography, until I noticed the stacks and stacks of photos she continues to post on Facebook. For all I know, she may have taken this up fairly recently, but lots of practise has a way of paying off, and her photos were getting better and better.

So I thought I'd do a feature here, of springtime in Brasília.

Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien Memories of Patrick O'Brien

Springtime in Brasília – photos © Carla Ribeiro 2014

Carla's main interest – as you can see – is in birds. Most of the photos in the series below were taken in Parque Olhos d'Agua, a city park in Brasília. The black and white photos above, on the other hand, feature some of Brasília's iconic architecture by Oscar Niemeyer, one of the pioneers of modern architecture in the 1950's. The capital of Brazil is a planned city, which was deliberately moved away from the Atlantic coast, where most of Brazil's population is concentrated, in a bid to draw people to the vast, and sparsely populated, interior.

I've never been to Brasília myself – and to be honest, my memories of living in Brazil when I was a teenager are a little faded – but looking at those photos, what it brings back most of all is the smell of hot earth, dry leaves and decaying vegetation. I also remember those big fat spiders! And the jabutí – the tortoise – and some of those trees, even one or other of those birds.

Carla doesn't have an online gallery (yet … ) and so far she shares her photos only on her private Facebook profile, but I know she is thinking of setting up a public page. I'll keep you posted if and when she does.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Springtime in Brasília – photo © Carla Ribeiro 2014 Springtime in Brasília – photo © Carla Ribeiro 2014 Springtime in Brasília – photo © Carla Ribeiro 2014 Springtime in Brasília – photo © Carla Ribeiro 2014

Springtime in Brasília – photos © Carla Ribeiro 2014