Love Wins

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I took this photo last month in Broadmeadow while on my way to catch the train for a trip to Sydney. It was complete happenstance that I came across it but I had to stop and take a quick shot.

I thought I’d post it today as I think it sums up how so many Australians have felt throughout this survey and are feeling today. Love is love and I’m so, so happy that we’re almost there. Fingers crossed our parliament passes marriage equality before Christmas.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2017

Nobbys Lighthouse at Night


I watch the stars shine
Over the ocean
While waves crash
And the wind roars

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago while on a photowalk in Newcastle. I’d started to pack up my gear after getting a few shots of the sunset over the Newcastle ocean baths and with night setting in, there didn’t seem like much point hanging around.

On my way back, though, I stopped to look at Nobbys Lighthouse for a while. I’ve always liked the lighthouse but whenever I’ve tried to photograph it I’ve often struggled to get a photo I’ve been happy with, one that feels unique.

Looking at the scene now though, with the stars out and the water reflecting the light, I thought it looked quite striking and might make for a really interesting and different photograph. So I quickly set up my tripod to take a few shots.

Shooting at night, particularly with a moving subject, is often tricky as you need to balance quite a few factors to get your composition and exposure right, most notably your aperture and ISO. I find it takes some experimenting to get it right and it took me quite a few shots to get the effect I was looking for.

I like the result though. The colours and the contrast with the dark sky really make the image pop for me and I find it very peaceful, which was what I was hoping to capture. I’m definitely glad I stopped!

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2017

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

Q&A #2 – Writing, Zombies, Creationism and Batman

I had planned an interesting post for today but it’s been stinking hot in Newcastle – it passed 39’C where I am – and my brain has kind of shut down. I tried waking it up but it just went “nope stupid human, not gonna happen, come back tomorrow” and went back to being lazy. So I don’t think that post is going to get written today.

Instead I thought I’d do another Q&A as I enjoyed doing the last one and I had a few questions left over. I hope you enjoy them and if you want to suggest any for the future, feel free to in the comments.

  • What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to write?

I think the best advice I ever received is to never stop enjoying writing and that’s the main thing I’d pass on. There will be days where everything flows and writing feels amazing and there will be days where nothing works and you want to smash your keyboard or throw your pen at the wall. And sometimes there’ll be days where it all just feels kind of, well, meh. The best thing you can do is to try to always enjoy writing no matter what because as soon as it starts to feel like a chore, or you feel like you’re writing just because you have to fulfil some deadline, then it becomes much harder and you’re less likely to finish it or to produce something of quality. If you write because you love to write then it doesn’t matter if no one reads it, or if everyone you know hates it, or if it’s never published; as long as you’ve enjoyed writing it, that’s what matters. And to me that’s what being a writer is all about.

The other thing I’d say is that if you want to write, you have to read. A lot of people seem to think that the two are separate but I’ve never believed that. Reading, and reading regularly, keeps your mind sharp but more importantly it teaches you the tools of the trade. Reading improves your vocabulary, expands your knowledge, and teaches you different styles and approaches to writing that you might not otherwise be aware of. And most importantly, reading reminds us of why we wanted to write in the first place, to tell our own stories that will hopefully touch people in the same way. In my opinion the best thing a writer can do is read. And read a lot.

I’d also suggest that it’s a good idea to keep your expectations in check. Anyone can be a writer; all you need is a pen and paper. Being a published author is different and there are a lot of factors which go into it that you cannot control – you may be an excellent writer but never be published and that’s just the way it is. Having unrealistic expectations will not help you and may actually stop you from listening to people and taking advice. Don’t misunderstand me: by expectations I don’t mean desire. There is nothing at all wrong with wanting to be published and wanting to be successful, and aiming and working towards that goal. Just don’t expect it to come to you on a silver platter because you think your novel is the Greatest Thing Ever I guess is what I mean. Like anything it takes hard work and I’m still trying to get there myself after 15 years and a number of small publications. But again, I write because I love it, and to me that’s the most important thing.

My last piece of advice: be careful with adverbs. I hate them and think they are a sign of lazy writing. If you ever find yourself writing “he said angrily”, stop and think if there’s a way you can show us that anger instead. Trust me, your writing will be much stronger for it.

  • Do you think Tony Abbott will ever be Prime Minister again?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: I know some of Abbott’s supporters are convinced he’ll have a chance to be Prime Minister again at some stage but I can’t see it. I think a lot of this comes from the idea that Turnbull is some kind of bandaid fix for the problems that afflicted the Coalition under Abbott’s time as PM; that Turnbull’s popularity will get them through the next election but eventually dissipate and then Abbott could regain the Prime Ministership. I’m sure that Kevin Rudd’s return probably gave them heart too.

The problem is that Tony Abbott is not Kevin Rudd and thinking that Turnbull is a temporary necessity also ignores the problems with Abbott’s leadership. Kevin Rudd still had public sympathy on his side from being dumped as PM in such a harsh way and it made a return to the top feasible; Abbott though was consistently polling disastrously and while there is some public sympathy for him, most people don’t want him back and would not be happy if the Coalition positioned him as a potential leader again.

The main problem with Tony Abbott is that he (and by extension his government) was perceived as out of touch with mainstream Australia and not listening to what people wanted; like his strong opposition to gay marriage, the knights and dames situation, climate change, his way of often politicising issues and giving them a religious context (again like gay marriage but also things like the state of science in schools and how that plays in to creationism and intelligent design), etc. He lost trust and popularity and so when Turnbull prevailed, the reaction was more relief from people than anger or surprise. And so I just can’t imagine the Coalition being able to justify returning him to power.

I can see Turnbull losing popularity at some stage, particularly if people become frustrated with him not being able to deliver the changes they assumed they’d get under a Turnbull leadership, but if Turnbull was to make a substantial misstep I imagine Scott Morrison is the one who’d be positioned to take over. And even then Julie Bishop would be a formidable contender too. I very much doubt it’s likely to happen any time soon though, if at all.

The best thing for people to do is to accept the truth: Abbott’s leadership is over and he won’t be returning. After the election, perhaps he could return to the cabinet as his experience would be useful, but that’s a long way off yet. Really people should just move on and let normal politics resume.

  • Speaking of that – do you think creationism should be taught in schools?

I think there is a place for talking about creationism in schools but no, I don’t think creationism and other ideas should be taught and particularly not alongside evolution in a science class.

Evolution is a theory, yes, but a theory in scientific terms isn’t the same as a theory generally: we might think of a theory as like an educated guess but in science a theory is an actual explanation or statement for why something exists that has been repeatedly tested and confirmed through observation and experimentation. For instance, if I looked and said “ my hand has five fingers”, I am making a statement based on what I can observe and verify.

The same is true for the theory of evolution; it has been tested and reconfirmed many times and is the best explanation we have for how human beings came to be, based on our current understanding. It has stood up to scrutiny for a very long time but that does not mean it cannot be proven wrong, or refined, just that it is what is scientifically verifiable and correct right now. Something like creationism however is not and has in fact been disproven by scientific methods, like radiometric dating showing the age of the earth.

I understand creationism is important to people but I don’t believe that belief is reason to teach something in science classes that is thoroughly unscientific. If we did then it would be potentially misleading and confusing to students as presenting creationism alongside evolution would seem to give the idea a scientific weight it does not have.

This does not mean that creationism should not be in schools at all. Personally I believe it should be mentioned in detail as part of a theology course. But science classes are for science and creationism is not science.

  • How long do you think you’d survive in the zombie apocalypse?

I’d like to say quite a while but honestly I doubt I’d make it more than a few days, if that. I’m not the fastest runner and I think my fitness would hold me back. So yeah, zombies would be feasting on my yummy brains in no time.

My best bet would be to join a group and try to contribute through information and knowledge rather than strength. With a good group maybe I’d last a little while, who knows? Hopefully I’ll never have to find out!

  • Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

So with Batman v Superman coming out soon I’ve discussed this with a couple of friends recently, who all thought Batman. I just don’t get that. Superman is basically a God amongst humans; he has super strength, speed, can fly, is practically invulnerable, has heat vision, etc. I just don’t get how Batman is supposed to go up against Superman and win.

If Batman had time to prepare for a fight, sure, he could get a special kryptonite suit or something to even the odds, but even then all Superman has to do is fly away and use his heat vision. The only way I can see Batman winning is if Superman is completely unprepared and taken by surprise. Which isn’t really a fight then, is it?

So for me it’s Superman. I’ll be interested to see how they do it in the movie. Hopefully it makes sense.

  • What’s your favourite album?

My favourite album is probably also the first album I ever bought. Tina Arena’s Don’t Ask.

There are other albums I love too but listening to it always gives me the feeling of coming home. And there are some great songs on there, like Chains, Heaven Help My HeartSorrento Moon and Wasn’t It Good?.

If there was one album I’d want with me on a desert island and would never get sick of, it’s this one. Don’t think you can really ask for more than that.

Sydney Tower in Black & White

Sydney Tower in Black & White

Oh! To stand as tall
As a skyscraper
And weather
The winds of time

I took this a couple of months ago when I was in Sydney for a few days. It was a lovely day and I liked the contrast between the clouds and sky and Sydney Tower juxtaposed against them.

I thought it would make an interesting black and white and I like the end result… slightly old-fashioned but modern too, which was the look I was going for. Rather like Sydney itself.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2014/15

Santa Matey (an Aussie Christmas song)

I didn’t feel like doing my annual Aussie Christmas song last year but I decided to do it again this year. Santa Baby was one of the first songs that came to mind. It’s such a fun, cheeky song and I could immediately see how I could make it more Australian.

So this version is called Santa Matey. It was a lot of fun to write and definitely helped to make it feel like Christmas again. I hope you enjoy it. And Merry Christmas 🙂

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Santa matey, leave a beer under the tree
For me
Been a really good bloke
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa matey, maybe a gift voucher too
Or a few
I’ll stay up for you champ
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Think of all the work I’ve done
Think of all the times I could’ve been having fun
I’ve really been very good
So won’t you leave me an Xbox One

Santa matey, I wanna Ford
And maybe I won’t get so bored
Been fair dinkum all year
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa ripper, there’s something else I’d love to see
A TV
To watch the Swannies next year
Santa matey
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Santa beauty, and stuff my stocking with a new phone
And tones
I’ll text you every day
Santa beauty
So hurry over Sydney tonight

Come and try my Christmas cake
It’s just like my mum used to make
I saved a slice just for you
I hope you saved something for me too

Santa matey, there’s just one other little thing
Some bling
Like a gold barbeque
Santa matey
And hurry over Sydney tonight

Hurry over Sydney tonight
Oh hurry over Sydney tonight

Cenotaph at Christmas

Bronze soldiers
Monuments to war
From another time:
We remember

I was in the Sydney CBD yesterday, looking at the Christmas decorations and doing some late shopping. The crowds were awful, particularly in the shops, but the atmosphere was quite festive and pleasant and I actually had a lot of fun walking around, taking photos.

I took this photo in Martin Place, outside the Sydney Cenotaph, where people were leaving Christmas cards and flowers in remembrance. The cenotaph was constructed in 1927 to remember the fallen from World War I; it is used extensively in the ANZAC and Armistice Day dawn services each year, drawing thousands of people.

As of December Australia has approximately 3,000 personnel stationed overseas, 1,500 of which are in Afghanistan. 2011 has been a horror year for Australian casualties; of the 32 deaths Australia has suffered in Afghanistan, 11 have been this year alone.

Please keep all of our soldiers and their families in your thoughts this Christmas.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

Coogee Memorial

Blue ocean
Holds my heart and tears
Reminds me of you
So far away

Today is the ninth anniversary of the 2002 Bali Bombings. The bombings killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and Bali is often considered our version of September 11, the moment when our part of the world changed forever.

Many of those killed and injured in the attacks came from Coogee, very near where we live in Randwick, and this memorial was erected in 2003 as a place of remembrance and reflection. It’s a beautiful, quiet spot overlooking the ocean and I often find myself spending time there when I’m in Coogee… I can’t think of a better tribute to their memory. I actually took this photo a few months ago, the day after Osama bin Laden died, and I thought I’d save it to post today.

In many ways it’s hard to believe it’s only been nine years since the bombings as so much has happened since. But even with Amrozi gone & so much time passed, it’s amazing how quickly the memories come back. I still remember that day so well… hearing about it on the news, seeing the fires burning, reading the names of the dead and missing in the local paper. Those memories will be with me for the rest of my life.

When I think about Bali I’m mostly filled with sadness now; for the suffering that was caused; for how the world has changed. But most often I find myself thinking of this memorial and what it represents, a place of peace and reflection, and I find myself hoping that one day, perhaps, the whole world might be as peaceful… that would be the true memorial.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

Update: I wrote this poem as well for the fifth anniversary. I thought I’d share it again in case anyone would like to read it.

10 Things I’ve Learnt This Month

Favourite Pen

Image: A Writer’s Best Friend ~ © CJ Levinson 2011

Been busy writing the last few weeks, so haven’t had much time for an update until now. The novel’s coming along quite well; I’ve had to rethink how to approach it a bit as some of it wasn’t working but on the whole I’m happy with how it’s progressing. Looking at having the first draft finished around late-June with a little luck.

The main development is that I’ve settled on a working title at last. At the moment I’m calling it The Forgotten Kingdom. Not sure if that will be the final title yet but it suits the story quite well. I’ll be posting a new video about the novel in a few days – the title will probably make more sense then.

Unfortunately I’ve been struggling with writer’s block and staying focused as well, so that’s made the writing go a bit more slowly than I had wanted. I was expecting to run into a few problems though as I haven’t written anything this long before, so I’m not too worried about it overall. Actually one of the good things is that it’s let me try out a new writing exercise that’s helped a lot and I’m very happy with.

The idea’s quite simple really: every time I find myself stuck, I stop and try to think of something new I’ve learnt that day. It can be anything – an interesting fact, a funny or personal observation, a joke, a unique thought – as long as it’s something I learnt or realised that day. Then I write about it; sometimes just a short description, other times a short story or a poem inspired by it. The length isn’t really important; it’s that it distracts me but still allows me to keep writing so I don’t lose the flow and when I come back, I feel much more focused and the writing seems easier.

I’m not sure how well it would work for other people but it’s worked very well for me so far. And as a bonus it’s given me a list of all the new things I’ve learnt each day as well, everything I’d normally just end up forgetting.

So as I haven’t posted in a while I thought it’d be fun to share some of them. I won’t post any of the writing samples as they’re too long but these are are some of the more random things I’ve learnt and thought about during the past month. Some are obvious, some are just fun or silly observations, some are things I’ve learnt about myself, and others are just interesting facts I’d never heard before.

I hope you enjoy the list. I might even turn this into a monthly feature. So what have you learnt this month? 😉

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