Out on the Wharf

Seagull

Out on the wharf
A solitary seagull
Watches our lives

Pass by

We had gale force winds around Belmont yesterday, so strong they were blowing the bins around outside. Thankfully they eased a little in the late afternoon and I went for a walk along the lake to get out for a while.

I wandered out onto the wharf and just as I did, the winds started to pick up again. They still weren’t quite as bad as before but wow, were they cold! Think I turned into an icicle in about three seconds flat.

In any case I managed to get a couple of photos while out on the wharf and I was happy with how this one turned out. The seagull seemed happy enough to pose for me, although he seemed disappointed I didn’t have any chips to share. Sorry Mr. Seagull. Maybe next time.

From the Wharf

I quite liked this photo as well. The boats were bobbing up and down and I think it captures a little bit of that motion in the choppy water.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Belmont Sunset

Belmont Sunset

Nature’s beauty is
Impossible to describe,
Like love’s gentle touch

I took this by the lake, near Belmont Wharf, on Sunday, a few hours after I took the photo of the kayakers.

The light was beautiful and the sun’s dying rays gave the scene a slightly eerie quality, like everything was on fire.

It was a beautiful scene and a nice way to end the day, as well as a lovely way to start the new week.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016

Kayaking on the Lake

Kayaking on the Lake
Oh! To be on the water 
With the birds
And my thoughts
For company

I took this down by the lakefront in Belmont yesterday afternoon.

It was a little windy and the kayakers were a little hesitant getting in but soon were on their way and looked more comfortable once on the lake.

I snapped the shot just as they were pulling away. I was trying to time their strokes and it worked out pretty well in the end.

It definitely looked like a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Some Thoughts on the Election

Like a lot of Australians, I’m still digesting the results – or rather lack of results – from Saturday’s election. I thought I’d share a few thoughts while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

  • At the moment we still don’t know the final result and won’t know until Tuesday at the earliest, probably later. Right now the most likely outcomes look like being either another hung parliament or possibly the Turnbull government just hanging on by the skin of its teeth and forming a slender majority by one or two seats. Either way it’s not what most people expected.
  • My overall impression of all this is, well, what a mess. The prospect of another hung parliament isn’t something I particularly relish; while the 2010 parliament did actually pass some good legislation, the whole process was so chaotic and there were so many wasteful promises that in the end it just seemed incredibly disorganised and unstable. Likewise the Turnbull government being returned with a tiny majority doesn’t seem very workable either as Turnbull would have to keep his entire party in line and that seems unlikely to say the least after this result.
  • Personally I was hoping that, whoever won the election, we’d get a clear result to end the chaos we’ve seen in the recent past. But now it looks like the only way to get that would be through another election, which would be expensive and after such a long campaign already, there’s very little appetite for that. And even if another election were held, there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t end up with a similar result either. So, yes. It’s all looking like a pretty big mess unfortunately.
  • To be honest, though, Turnbull only has himself to blame for this result. This should have been a fairly comfortable victory given his popularity after replacing Tony Abbott last year. But that support disappeared and then the Coalition’s entire campaign felt lacklustre and uninspired – we barely even heard about the main premise for the election throughout the campaign, the government not being able to pass its ABCC legislation, when you’d expect that to be one of the main issues. And that’s just one example. Likewise Turnbull seemed strangely disengaged, like the whole process was taxing and something he was simply enduring before getting back to the main business of running the country. Add a clever campaign by Labor built primarily around Medicare and this is the result, a government that may be on its way out after only one term.
  • So what went wrong? Honestly I think you’d have to say that most of this result is due to people becoming very frustrated with Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition in general. When Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as PM there was a feeling of relief in the community, like Turnbull would be able to change direction and align the government more closely with public sentiment on issues like climate change and marriage equality. But the Turnbull who emerged as PM was not the one people expected; he was hamstrung by the right faction of his party and it gave the impression that he stood for nothing and had sacrificed his convictions to become PM. In the end it seemed like very little had changed, just the face of the government, and when you add in the disappointing campaign performance by Turnbull and the Coalition as a whole, it’s not that surprising that people turned to Labor and the minor parties as their trust evaporated.
  • To be fair to Turnbull, much of the public expectation when he became PM was unfair. He was never going to be the PM they wanted, not just because the right would go after him if he even dreamed of trying to be, but also because that simply isn’t who he is as a person or as a politician. He is a pragmatist and realistically the best chance Turnbull had to change the government’s direction was after the election, by winning with enough of a margin to claim a mandate and to slowly move the government more towards where he wanted them to be over time. The irony though is that he’ll probably never get that chance now as the result means he’ll have to be even more beholden to the right to survive – saying he can survive after this result.
  • While the Coalition’s campaign was lacklustre, I also don’t want to take credit away from Labor either. Labor did extremely well in the campaign and Bill Shorten performed extraordinarily well as leader. He transformed himself into a true alternative PM during the campaign and his enthusiasm and enjoyment for the process was infectious, which was particularly impressive given it was such a long, exhausting eight weeks.
  • Looking objectively, Labor ran a very professional campaign, particularly at the grassroots level, and they successfully presented themselves as a party with new ideas for the country. It’s no surprise that they emerged reinvigorated and that is the truly good thing to come out of this election; at the very least it’s shown that they’ll be a strong opposition and as any democracy is only as strong as it’s opposition, that’s a good sign. And they look capable if they do somehow claim government too.
  • The one thing I didn’t like about the Labor campaign though was the Medicare scare campaign. I thought they pushed it way too hard, particularly in the last week of the campaign. I don’t think it was accurate or necessary to go so far as to suggest that the government was thinking about privatising Medicare when there was little evidence of that; there was already enough concern over GP co-payments for Labor to make their case about health and Medicare and it took their campaign into negative territory which I didn’t like at all. But it worked and ended up being one of the biggest issues for them, so I can’t really argue with it, I guess.
  • Labor did very well but I think the big winner, though, was Pauline Hanson. At the moment it looks like One Nation has secured two senate spots and may end up with as many as four. It’s a remarkable resurrection for Hanson and will give her much of the balance of power in the senate.
  • I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am to see Hanson not only back but potentially wielding that much power. As far as I’m concerned One Nation is a party based on fear and ignorance and I despaired when I saw the result. Listening to Hanson today, it seems One Nation wants to abolish the Family Law Court and will be pushing for royal commissions into the science of climate change and to examine whether Islam is a “religion or a political ideology”. All of which sound utterly bizarre to me.
  • One Nation’s views don’t surprise me – it’s the same old ignorance, just with new targets – but I guess I am disappointed that, after twenty years, people continue to not be able to see through them as hollow and xenophobic. But to be honest One Nation’s success is not unique or even that unexpected, if anything it’s just another example of the continued rise of far-right parties and figures that we’ve been seeing around the world over the last few years. The same fears about immigration, muslims, the economy and the decline of the working class that drove the Brexit outcome and are behind a lot of Donald Trump’s support are the same reasons many people voted for One Nation too.
  • Given that trend and how many votes One Nation received in this election, you’d have to say that the main parties have good reason to be worried about the growing power of the far right fringe. It’s becoming harder to dismiss that support as just a small number of people; it’s a growing and very vocal minority that is very dissatisfied with the political system and wants to shake it up or overturn it entirely. I’m not sure what the parties can really do about those people either except to try to find a way to reengage with them, which would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible at this point. Either way, it gives a voice to some of these kinds of views for at least the next few years and will make negotiating with the senate a nightmare.
  • So how is all this going to play out? At this stage I really have no idea; the election is so close that pretty much anything could happen. I think the most likely scenario is a hung parliament with the Coalition getting about 74 seats but I honestly do not know how it would play out from there. If that were to happen I’m not sure I could see Labor securing enough crossbench support to form government, and while theoretically the Coalition could, I’m not sure how workable it would be or how tenuous Turnbull’s position would then become, particularly given the senate.
  • If I had to guess I’d say that I think the Coalition will just manage to form a minority government but I would not be at all surprised if it all falls apart very quickly. I also wouldn’t be surprised if neither party can form government and we have to have another election. Which honestly no one would be happy about but I think would probably be the fairest outcome at this stage.
  • Either way I just hope we get a result soon and that somehow, some way, whoever forms government manages to provide some kind of stability. The chaos has gone on for far too long. But I doubt it unfortunately.
  • What a mess.

On Newcastle Beach

Newcastle Beach 25/06/16

Coarse sand, crashing waves
The smell of salt in the air ~
The ocean is home

I went on a group photowalk yesterday afternoon. There were about eight of us and we wandered around Newcastle Beach and the ocean baths for about an hour or so around sunset, taking photos and talking photography.

It was absolutely freezing and very windy but it was a nice afternoon and I enjoyed taking photos as part of a group. It feels different to taking photos on your own and makes for a nice change.

This is one of the photos I took. I particularly like the contrast between the gritty textures and soft colours, and the way the lines lead the eye toward the ocean.

As you can see, it’s a beautiful spot and the ocean baths in particular are very historic. I’ll have to go back with my tripod at some stage for some long exposures as walking around gave me a few ideas I’d like to try.

I’ll post a few other photos from the walk once I’ve edited them. Will have a new poem to post soon too.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2016

Belmont Lions Park

Belmont Lion's Park

I went for a walk along the Belmont lakefront yesterday afternoon and ended up near Belmont Lions Park, which is a small grassed area and playground for kids down by the wharf.

It’s a very nice, peaceful area, with a beautiful view across the lake, and so I sat there for a while, thinking and taking a couple of photos.

The sunset was lovely and there were a couple of children on bikes cycling round and a few people walking dogs or jogging. A few of them smiled at me and said hello as they passed. There was another photographer as well and we nodded at each other while eyeing our respective cameras.

It was all wonderfully ordinary and suburban and it was a great place to sit and think for a while… about writing, photography, love, and life.

I kept thinking how in many ways, with beautiful, friendly people going about their lives, it could have been a scene in pretty much any country, any place in the world – like Orlando.

How ordinary families just like these ones are grieving a terrible loss and how it could so easily be any of us, any of our friends, any of our loved ones.

The massacre has upset me a lot and I was grateful for the quiet time by the lake to think. Grateful for the peace and beauty the lake offered.

I hope you like the photos and my heart goes out to all of the victims, their families and to everyone in the US.

Playground

Playground equipment

Looking across the lake

Looking across the lake

Across the lake in Black & White

Looking across the lake in black and white

Photos © CJ Levinson 2016

Q&A #3 – Citizens, Superheroes, Books and Antarctica

  • When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

There were a few things. I remember when I was 8 and had just seen Jurassic Park that I wanted to be a paleontologist and was quite serious about it – I’m still very interested in archeology and paleontology and in another life I might well have done something like that. I also wanted to be a tennis player and an actor for a while.

The main thing I remember saying consistently, though, was that I wanted to be a writer. I was writing stories from when I was six and I remember the school librarian asking my class one day if any of us wanted to be writers and my hand going up right away. I loved writing and it just seemed natural.

When I went to high school I started thinking seriously about a career in journalism or possibly teaching English and writing novels on the side. Neither worked out unfortunately but the novel side continued. Which is where I am today. 🙂

  • What do you think it means to be a good citizen?

I’ve discussed this with a few people recently, particularly with all the recent talk about whether people have a moral duty to donate part of their income to help the poor. It’s an interesting topic but I think some people tend to confuse the idea of being a good person with being a good citizen and that’s where I make a bit of a distinction.

I think being a good person is trying to live a good life without needlessly hurting other people. That doesn’t mean living a selfless life, or a life without conflict, because generally speaking I believe that goes against human nature. But someone who works hard, loves their family, tries to stay true to their morals and tries to help other people where they can, I think that is a fair way to describe a good person.

Being a good citizen, though, is not the same thing. You can obviously be both but I think being a good citizen is much more about nationality than personal identity. It’s about how you relate to where you live, about being a good neighbour to people and a good member of your community and potentially about doing what you think is best for your country or community even if that might prove unpopular. I also think it requires a willingness to be aware of what is going on and to stay informed so that you understand what is happening in your country and community.

So I guess I would describe a good citizen as someone who stays informed, votes, tries to be a good neighbour when they can, respects the rights of people and is prepared to stand up when they think something is wrong, even if (perhaps especially if) it is not the popular thing to do.

In that way I would say the person looking after their next door neighbour’s cat or carpooling to help with peak hour traffic is a good citizen, as are many bloggers and journalists who draw attention to issues that the public deserves to know about, and whistleblowers, etc, too for opposing corruption. They may or may not also happen to be good people but I think that’s separate from them being a good citizen.

Personally I’d consider myself more of an informed citizen to be honest, which is somewhere inbetween. Which is probably true for a lot of people, I’d imagine.

  • Do you think there are too many superhero films being made?

It does seem like there are a lot of superhero films being released, doesn’t it? In fact, by the time 2016 is over, there will have been seven all up!

I tend to think of superhero movies as being their own genre now though and if you think of how many dramas or romantic comedies are released every year, seven actually doesn’t sound like that many. I think the problem is more that they need to feel different and distinct and to be spaced out more to help reduce viewer fatigue.

I think eventually superhero films will lose some of their popularity, a bit like Westerns did, but with such large fanbases I think they’ll always be popular. Personally I’d like to see more as series on Netflix – I think that format suits them better and would help to reduce oversaturation too.

  • You’re about to go to Antarctica for a year and can only bring five non-essential items with you. What would you bring?

I’m going to say that a phone, computer and wifi are included as essentials in this day and age, so I won’t include those. So I’d choose a camera with an all-in-one zoom lens, a kindle with a good selection of books, a photograph of my family, peppermint teabags and lots of chocolate. Because I don’t think I could last a year without tea and chocolate.

  • What are you reading at the moment?

Most of my books are in storage but I brought a few with me when I moved. I’m reading The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin  at the moment, which won the Hugo Award last year. It’s very good. I plan to read Lock In by John Scalzi after that.

  • iOS or Android?

I’ve never really got the fuss about comparing iOS and Android… I know a lot of people are very passionate about one being better than the other and debate it endlessly but I’ve used both over the years and think they’re both great.

Personally I use iOS these days but I don’t think it’s ‘better’ than Android or any other operating system, it just suits the way I use my mobile devices a little better overall.

I do like the Android cameras though – I’d love to see an SLR running it one day.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask for a future post, feel free to leave them in a comment. 🙂

I’ve Started a Facebook Page

Just a quick note. I’ve just started a Facebook page for my photography and writing in case anyone would like to follow it.

I’ve mainly started it as I tend to get quite a few friend requests from people who have just found my blog and want to see more of my photos. While I’m usually happy to accept, I also get a lot of spam and I thought it would be easier to have an actual page to direct people to instead.

I also only share a fairly small selection of photos on the blog due to time and other content and I thought having an area to share some of my other photos and to tell some of the stories that go with them would be fun.

I’ll be using it to share some of my writing and poetry from time to time too, as well as thoughts on life and politics and things like that.

So it’s really a bit of an extension of this blog, just with more random content.

If you’d be interested in following, you can follow it here or by clicking on the badge below. Will have a new blog post finished later tonight as well. 🙂

Painterly Sunset

Painterly SunsetI took this image a few evenings ago near Belmont wharf. It was a lovely sunset but I’ve shared several similar photos recently so I thought I’d try one of my more artistic edits with this.

Basically what I did was edit it normally, then I edited it again to strip out most of the detail, resulting in an image a little more like a painting than a traditional photo. It doesn’t always work but I like the effect here and how it accentuates the colours and the calmness of the water.

I’m still trying to think of a name for these kind of images. They’re not really paintings but they’re not traditional photos either. At the moment I’ve been calling an image a “painterly” but I’d appreciate any suggestions?

Image © CJ Levinson 2016