Fragments

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In this newsletter:
 
*** Fragments
*** News and Current Projects
*** Falling Apart

Fragments

June 15: When I was walking up the street with my sheep the other night, through the pastures among the dappled shade of moonlit Kanukas, there was a hint of spring in the air already. It's not even quite midwinter yet – we're just into the darkest couple of weeks of the year – but the Maori Matariki festival marks the beginning of the new planting season, and I suppose they had it right.

The signs are there in my garden, too: the irises and daffodils are sprouting, and my almond tree is already thick with new buds. It's not just the plants, either: the guinea fowl are noisier than usual, the ducks have started mating, and good old Big Mary is popping eggs again after well more than a month of having a backyard full of birds, and not a single egg to show for it. Hopefully the other hens will follow soon, and several of the younger pullets are getting old enough to lay as well.

The chickens and other critters have made a thorough job of cleaning up the overgrown vegetation on my patch – so much so that I now have to think about thinning out my poultry population, so the rest can find enough to eat! My pretty Orpington x silkie chickens have, alas, turned out to be young roosters all three of them, so they will have to go – probably in the pot, unless I manage to sell them with one of the Orpington x silver Campine pullets as a breeding pair. I will have to think hard about which hens to keep – they at least can be turned into cash on Trademe – and what to do with my too many ducks.

Killing one of my animals for eating is a bridge I haven't crossed just yet, but what is the point of raising chickens in my backyard if I don't? I do eat meat, and not being prepared to kill one's own animals, while buying and eating factory farmed chickens from the supermarket, is hypocrisy and cowardice, not kindness, in my opinion. Besides, I've lost birds and rabbits to predators and illness – and a castration gone wrong – so I could just as well have cooked them instead.

Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep Night walks with the sheep

Night walks with the sheep

June 20: Since I've moved to the Wairarapa, I don't get to the West Coast very much any more. But the other day, I had a couple of birds to pick up in Palmerston, so I made it a proper day out, and went for a mad dash up the Kapiti Coast. I'd planned enough time to stop by a beach – so different in character from our rocky East coast ones – and just let the soul dangle for a bit.

To make the most of my time and fuel, I'd arranged to meet the man I had bought my gorgeous Chinese dinner set from, along the way. He regularly lists items from his collection of Asian ceramics, and I have a mind to perhaps buy another piece or two in due time.

He invited me to stop by his enchanted house on the top of a hill overlooking the Otaki public swimming pools, which is full of all sorts of wonders. Like me, he is very frustrated by how the cheap stuff people can buy at places like The Warehouse undercuts the prices he can ask for his quality antiquarian pieces, some of which are very fine indeed. I told him that I had bought his dinner set precisely with a view of throwing out my Warehouse plates, finally.

I'd had my eyes on a couple of his Chinese vases, which would go well with my Scandinavian home design – besides, I don't really have anything to put flowers in, which is sad if you have a garden. After inspecting those and settling on a couple for possible future purchase, he showed me round the rest of the collection. Not that I know a thing about Asian ceramics, but those Japanese Satsuma vases which are the core of his collection look very fine indeed. My personal preference goes more toward the simpler white and blue Chinese pieces (they also have the advantage of being in my price range) – but it struck me that when I was living in Europe, I used to pay visits to museums to see things like what he keeps in his house.

Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast

Stopover at Kuku Beach, Kapiti Coast

July 25: I have now slaughtered and eaten two of my roosters. It was doable, but definitely not a task I enjoy, and I'm not sure how soon, if ever, I want to do it again. They fed me for a few days. But I would really prefer to get some eggs, and my chickens are extremely slow to get back on the lay after being on break now for a few months. I am beginning to wonder if it is some health issue I have in the flock, rather than just the season.

In fact, the animal thing has become a little overwhelming. There are days when I have found myself doing nothing but feed them, clean up after them, attend to animal emergencies, walk the sheep, and then the day is over. If this is my doctor's idea of a "healthy" lifestyle for a little old lady like me, I say thank you very much, but I really prefer to have time to work on my art! And to get back into gardening. My patch is now so thoroughly cleaned up that there is hardly a blade of grass to be found! I have now thinned out my bird population somewhat but may have to sell a few more. The property clearly does not support as many animals as I have had.

On the upside, I've inherited a little assembly of coops and hutches from someone who was clearing up an estate – I'd bought one for cheap on Trademe, and he offered me two more, delivered, for even less money. Said he'd rather see them used, than chuck them out. So now I have finally been able to kick my rabbits out of the house and set them up with an outside hutch and run. I still have Yin, and I have kept three of her babies (now nearly grown), plus a little Mini Rex I got as a mate for one of them – but it has been a nightmare, both for me and for the rabbits, to have to keep them in the house while at the same time also trying to redecorate my bedroom and studio. Having some decent cages and hutches does help, for all my reservations about putting animals in cages.

It didn't help that I've been struggling with tiredness and needing more sleep than usual, as well as being incredibly easily distracted, and short term memory loss. This is getting better too. I am now back to a sound eight hours of sleep a night (not ten!) and waking up in the morning again, and the brain cells seem to also be recovering themselves where they've been gnawed by the Lyme bugs. I find that I now can focus again and get things done, rather than spending half the day wandering about trying to remember what I was doing. I've started to work on my picture book layout, finally. There are a couple of deadlines to work to: The Wai Art Sale in Carterton in September, and the deadline for submissions to the Bologna Children's Book Fair in October. Time to stop playing at zoo keeper, and get back to work!

But the next most urgent task will be to sand my floors in the two back rooms, get some wallpaper hung, and move my bed back into my bedroom! That will make life a lot easier. The ceilings are already painted, and when I close this file I will pick up the phone and book the floor sander for later this week. I now have all the wallpaper I need for all of the rooms, so that will be one job I will be very glad to see finished. It would be nice to be able to celebrate my 50th birthday in a house that does not look like a construction junk yard.

Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard Greetings from the backyard

Greetings from the backyard



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Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston Wairarapa Art Sale in Featherston

Wairarapa Art Sale. Artists featured: Emma Jackson, Jean Russell, Howie Griffin, Stephen King, Emma McCleary, Heather Burgess, Sanne van Steensel, Andrew Turnbull, Gail Isaac, Astrid Nielsch, Jen Olson, Theo Janssen, Ngaire Kearney, Niko Thomsen, Raewyn Davies, Jacqueline Hocquard, Renze Bijker.

News & Current Projects

Featherston – now a Book Town – is becoming quite the cultural mecca. This year, some good people in town put on our very own art show. I am pleased to say that I found it a more interesting selection of work in a variety of styles – including the distinctly abstract – than shows I have seen in other parts of the Wairarapa, which tend to focus photorealistic paintings of local landscape and nature. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is a bit shall we say limited in outlook.

I am even more pleased to say that quite a good number of pieces sold. The show was a fundraiser for the local community centre, and the locals really pitched in. It's nice to see when the much flaunted "support for the local arts" expresses itself not only in rhetoric – and offers of "exposure" – but in money on the table that contributes to the artist's income. Which we all need, to be able to continue the work.

But the most pleased I was when I went to the exhibition opening, and there was a bright red dot next to one of my pieces. It's not that I've never sold a piece before, but I believe this was the first time I actually got a proper red dot. I should have taken a photo! I'd put in three images from my upcoming picture book about the hares – time to get the promotion rolling – and they found themselves in the company of three other pieces of hare art, so I guess I am, for once, riding a trend here.

The exhibition at Pukaha Mt Bruce has now wrapped up, and my Piwakawaka print also sold. I just got the money for it in my bank account. Small steps, but definitely going in the right direction! Time to make some more work.

Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit Peahen has a hissy fit

Who are you trying to impress?

On AMAZING STORIES, I have rounded off my Star Wars Popularity Contest series with fan art depicting Old Friends. Then to conclude on a real high note, I have delved into the extraordinary amount of Boba Fett art that can be found on DeviantArt. Matariki features mainly New Zealand artists. Then I have picked up the thread of my series on art inspired by real existing space exploration, with art inspired by the International Space Station, and the Space Shuttle – followed by a belated tribute to the late David Bowie, Ground Control to Major Tom. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

It will be good-bye from Amazing Stories for a little while: I'm going to take a break from the art blog until the end of the year, to make time to focus on more urgent things like publishing my picture book, and creating more art I can sell – now that the sales are starting to kick in. Posters, greeting cards and a small selection of original art are, as always, available from my Etsy store, as well as on Trademe.

The freshly reprinted harp sheet music editions are now available in my sheet music shop: Ribayaz: Luz y Norte, and the Huete Dances volume I and volume II, as well as the collections Baroque Delights and Medieval Tunebook.

Of course you can, as always, download my music tracks on iTunes, CD Baby or Amazon MP3. Some tracks are also available for streaming on Spotify, Deezer, and other streaming services – search for "Asni the Harper".



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Falling Apart

If this newsletter is running a bit late, it is partly because I've found it hard to write something. Reading my news feed these days is like watching with horrified fascination how Anglosaxonia is unravelling at a frightening pace. True, those of us who paid attention could see it come apart at the seams for quite a while, but I mean Donald Tump a nominated US presidential candidate? Despite the fact that several of the things he has promised to do are both unconstitutional, and in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Does the US have no constitutional protection mechanism to prevent him from running? I know Germany would. But the US probably doesn't, because they never thought it could Happen To Them.

And then Britain actually votes Brexit? I'm still in disbelief – and so are, apparently, most of the British, judging from the chaos and mayhem that have ensued. And if you thought this vote was about anything other than racism and xenophobia, then please explain how come there is immediately a spate of xenophobic hate crimes, committed no doubt by people who now feel they can stop lurking in the shadows, and boldly step into the light, because they realize they are not alone: doesn't a majority of the British population share these thoughts?

Where does the racism come from all of a sudden, my British friends ask, perplexed. Well, it's always been there. You've just refused to see it. Probably been too busy pointing fingers at Germany about the Nazis, to ever take a look in the mirror, eh.

Now I'm only waiting for New Zealand to have a referendum on whether or not we still want to be part of Planet Earth. From the vibe I get here, I can imagine the result. People are drowning in droves in the Mediterranean, and I can't adopt a rabbit from the SPCA, because some of my kind neighbours have reported me on account of my Sebastopol goose having curly feathers – true story! – and now I am on their register as having been involved in an animal welfare complaint. I sometimes wish I were an animal, people would care a lot more about my wellbeing, and my rights.

The SPCA people were very nice. It took them half a minute looking at my animals to realize that they were dealing with xenophobia and witch fear, not animal cruelty. They'd rather be getting on with their real work than assist in bullying people, I am pleased to report. I wish our local council would cut themselves a slice from that attitude.

From global politics to personal experience in one fell swoop. But that is precisely the point: politics is not something that happens Over There done by Some People Who Do Politics while the rest of us get on with our fairy paintings or our chicken keeping. Politics affect our lives all the time on every level, and we ignore that at our peril. I guess growing up in West Berlin, I've never had the privilege to have any illusions about this.

Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic candidacy for the next US presidential election is a much needed positive item on the news menu. But I can't quite muster the rejoicement I should feel on the occasion. There shouldn't have been any question as to who is the best qualified, most likely to be elected Democratic candidate in this election. Indeed, given the competition, there shouldn't be any question as to who should be the next president. Instead, we have witnessed a grandiose misogynic smear campaign leveled at her from the very people who should be supporting her, but who have instead chosen to "feel the Bern". Quite a few of whom, I am ashamed to say, are friends on my Facebook feed. Musicians, mostly – driven no doubt by nostalgia for the revolutionary 60s, when Music Mattered to politics.

This is not any more about wanting to see a woman as the next US president. This is about wanting to see someone who knows what they are doing and can carry on the good work begun by the Obama administration. Someone who focuses on actual issues and how best to solve them, and who sets a realistic agenda – an agenda, I might add, which is about as left wing liberal as any US presidential candidate has ever put forward. Someone who has the ability to change some things – not everything, just some things – and get stuff done, in that boring slow moving way that is real politics. Someone who knows where she has to compromise, in order to achieve those ends. Someone who does politics like a grown up.

But no, that's boring. Grown up, compromise, achievable goals, that's not cool enough. We want an old white man who makes it a point of pride that he hasn't changed his views in thirty years, to lead the Revolution and speak on behalf of the Poor Oppressed (women, non whites, the younger generation) and lead the Way Forward – maybe even Socialism, sounds cool eh? – because we believe in Santa Claus and he kinda looks like one of them Jedi Knights. They didn't have woman Jedi knights did they? Not in the old films at least, you know the thirty years ago ones. And while we're at it, we also want Bobby back and another Summer of Love.

It frustrates me enormously to see so many otherwise intelligent and reasonably politically aware people in my circle of friends taken in by the Bernie campaign. And this is not because I disagree with his positions in principle: although as far as I am aware the man has never yet come up with an actual political agenda – as in, a set of steps he plans to take to achieve those aims he has been proposing.

No one could possibly contradict a statement like "there shouldn't be any children going hungry" or "there shouldn't be any homeless people". There should also be World Peace, as any Miss World contest will convince you, but unfortunately being US President carries a little more responsibility – a little more need to come up with a plan and make some actual, hard choices – than being Miss World. At the same time, being US President is not the same as being the Wizard of Oz, and simply waving your magic wand to make those problems disappear. It is a position of power – but it isn't a position of all that much power.

Most of all, I object to the timing of it. Sander's campaign has been conducted as a barely veiled personal attack on Hillary Clinton, drawing off in reasonable numbers the very group of voters who ought by rights to support her. If you believe some of the more rabid Bernie supporters, you'd start to think voting Clinton is almost as bad as voting Trump. The recent events at the Democratic National Convention are really a fine example of how to conduct democracy: if you lose the vote, shout your opponent down, and stamp your foot in a tantrum worthy of a five year old, crying "Bernie or Bust". Be honest then and vote Trump already!

Because in reality, Sanders appeals to the very same sentiments that Trump does: finding a scapegoat – it's "The Immigrants" for Trump and "Big Money" for Bernie, both equally simplistic – making grandiose promises with no step by step plan on how to turn them into reality, and suggesting that there are easy solutions to complex problems. Which is precisely the one thing that Hillary Clinton does not do. It should give you pause when people say they honestly vacillate between voting Trump, or voting Sanders. Anything but a woman.

Campaign financing, really? It's been the way it's been done for like, a century, but we need to make this an issue now? Couldn't find anything else to stick on Hillary Clinton, seeing as she is about as much a paragon of integrity as any politician can ever hope to be. But when has blind misogyny ever cared about actual facts.

And Bernie Sanders raised his campaign money on Kickstarter? Well I tell you what – a little while ago I wrote about a Facebook scam where someone was targeting musician pages and selling them artificial Facebook "likes" – which turned out to be a computer program setting up reams and reams of fake accounts. If someone can write a program like that just to scam some out of pocket musicians, how much would it take to write a program that distributes say, a chunk of money coming from a source who prefers to remain anonymous, over a large number of small donations to their presidential candidate of choice? Has anyone ever questioned that claim, or dug into exactly where those grassroots donations came from?

Someone like the folks at Wikileaks, perhaps. Who certainly have the hacker skills to pull that off, and who have been doing their darnedest to torpedo Clinton and her campaign, digging up scandal after scandal only to find that she still did nothing wrong. How come they haven't released any of Trump's or Sander's private emails – or Trump's tax return, perhaps?

Holy Saint Assange, who I might remind you has been occupying another country's embassy for the last several years evading a rape trial, suspects Clinton of being responsible for trying to extradite him to the US over his release of hundreds of thousands of classified State Department diplomatic cables in 2010. His vendetta is entirely personal. And he clearly has a woman problem, which is blatantly evident from even superficially reading some of his statements, not only about Hillary Clinton but also, for instance, Lisa Shields at Google. His account of a meeting with the Google CEOs is rife with the unbearable arrogance that distinguishes pathological narcissists and Bond villains. No wonder Clinton wanted to keep tabs on the man.

Then there is Occupy! I used to sympathize with them, but they lost me when they morphed from an anarchic grassroots movement which addressed some very important issues, into a group of hysterical pop fans who "feel the Bern".

In a newsletter a little while ago, I wrote about how I helped occupy Wellington for a couple of hours. I had some good conversations with some good people, but when I was preparing to leave I was hit up by an older man who asked where I was going and then suggested that we walk together, back to the station. The way from the Civic Centre to the station is a very pleasant walk along the Wellington Waterfront, not the straightest line but one I always look forward to. When I started to make my way there, he said he was anxious to miss his train, and could we take the shortest way which is along a busy thoroughfare taking the brunt of traffic into the city centre from the motorway. Not what I would call pleasant, or a healthy experience.

Having already consented to accompany him, I grudgingly complied, and along the way he laid out to me with great enthusiasm how he thought Occupy! would be a great opportunity to bring back Socialism – or maybe it was Communism. In any case, he was clearly a remnant from a former age who saw his chance to hijack Occupy to promote his own agenda. And while I have much sympathy for socialist and communist ideals in principle, as a political system it has been road tested extensively during the last century, and failed rather spectacularly. We should learn from it but no, I don't think we should bring it back.

He then asked me how I got involved, and I mentioned that I'd been reading and thinking about some feminist writing. You could practically see his interest wilt. He said he had nothing against homosexuals. I said not everyone who reads feminist texts is a Lesbian. But it was clear from that moment on that our friendship wasn't going to last even all the way to the station.

I can't help but think of that man when I see and read and hear about Bernie Sanders.

Please vote wisely, those of you who have a vote.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Royal spoonbill in flight, Kuku beach Royal spoonbill in flight, Kuku beach Royal spoonbill in flight, Kuku beach Royal spoonbill in flight, Kuku beach Royal spoonbill in flight, Kuku beach

Royal spoonbill in flight