SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

White Night Melbourne

I woke up crazed and exhausted this morning. I'd been tossing and turning and didn't get to sleep until nearly dawn. And no wonder. 
Last night at 11pm, with our friends Cathie and Ken, we were de-canted from the sedate surrounds of Hamer Hall, where we had been attending Victorian Opera's gala concert, into the White Night wonderland that the city had become in our absence.
From now on, one night every February from 7pm until 7am, the respectable dowager that is Melbourne gets to throw off her corsets and pearls, wash the blue-rinse from her hair and exalt in her alter-ego - a navel-baring, pierced and tatooed rager.   

Part of Electric Canvas' installation in Flinders Street

Sedate and harried Flinders Street morphed into Fantasyland in the hands of the Electric Canvas group. Building after building emerged from dull night-time grey into brilliant colours as thousands of admirers jostled for the best positions to capture this marvel on their cameras and phones. Electric Canvas was also responsible for one of my other favourites, which involved huge pictures of its masterpieces being successively projected on to the exterior walls of the National Gallery of Victoria. Sitting on the edge of the moat watching images slither up and down the walls was mesmerising.

View of the Spiegel tent from the NGV moat

The NGV had heaps on offer inside too. 
I was intrigued by the churning white foam installation of French artist, Michel Blazy.

White foam reaching up to Leonard French's iconic stained glass ceiling

The sculpture below of Indonesian fishermen packed a real whallop. Made entirely of clothing and boots but with no bodies, you could see right through their forms. It left me with a queasy feeling that I'm still trying to make sense of.

Indonesian fishermen

Just across the road from the NGV on Princes Bridge, we stood gasping with thousands of other locals and tourists at the amazing artistry of From the Deep. Laser light and water combined to transform the Yarra into a marvellous aqua extravangza. 

From the Deep on the Yarra river

In the end, even though we hung out way beyond our usual bedtimes, there were heaps of things we didn't get to do. We didn't zumba or boot scoot or salsa under the mirror balls suspended above Federation Square. We didn't take a Ghost Tour to scare ourselves witless trying to discover the Phantom of the Theatre. We missed Cat Empire. And sadly, I didn't hear John Safran, the well-known comedian and radio host, preaching a secular sermon on 'Unrest'. Though on second thoughts, as he was scheduled to speak at 6.30 this morning, there were probably lots of insights I could have shared with him on that particular topic from the vantage point of my own tangled sheets. 
But thankfully, with this exhilarating first taste of raging, there's no way the dowager (Melbourne or me) will pass up the opportunity next year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Latin Glamour

Hooman and Dalena last night in 'Latin Heat' at Rio's Brazilian Restaurant

I'm an unashamed groupie. Anywhere our dancing teacher, Hooman Ebadi, and his partner, Dalena Leggieri, are performing, you'll find us there. And last night was no exception. After all, groupies get a lot of perks - simply boasting at the door that we were friends of the stars assured us the best seats in the house. There we were, up on the balcony, with a great view of the dance floor.

The view from on high

We didn't just spend our time sitting up there in solitary splendour either. With our friends, Cathie and Ken, who met on a dance floor, we spent a lot of time meringue-ing, cha cha-ing and salsa-ing down in the thick of things. And I'm delighted to report that there were only one or two glasses of wine needed for Dutch (or perhaps that should be Brazilian) courage before we hit the floor, and no disputes once we got there.
But back to Hooman and Delana:-
We loved the show because it featured many of the styles we struggle with in class at their beautiful best.  The Cuban rumba, the pasa doble from Spain, the infuriatingly difficult salsa, the lambada and naturally Rio de Janeiro's own stunning samba all took centre stage. We also particularly enjoyed the show because, as well as being its stars, the talented duo created, directed, produced, choreographed and led the troupe.

The troupe in action

As you can see, I've (finally) discovered photo shop. Because another of the perks of being a groupie is that it gives me ample opportunity to practise my photography. Shooting moving subjects in conditions of low and variable light is always a test of my fledgling skills.
Something I forgot to mention in listing Hooman and Delana's talents is that Delana designs and makes all the costumes herself. Which not only includes sewing on hundreds of sequins, but even welding the frames for the head gear.

Yes, Delana made them all

When the stars visited us before the show, I was intrigued to hear more about Delana's creativity. She obviously has a great eye for colour and fabrics, though of course some costumes require a lot less fabric than others.
My interest in the design and creation of costumes was intensified recently when we discovered the wonderful HBO series Treme. 
Set in post-Katrina New Orleans, it introduced me to a group I had never previously heard of, called the Indians. An exclusively New Orleans phenomenon, involving an amalgamation of free American slave and First Nation customs, the Indians are one of the highlights of the annual Mardi Gras.
Exclusively men, the group spend the year making the most exquisite, elaborately-embroidered and feathered costumes. And when Mardi Gras time comes around, they dance, sway and chant to the accompaniment of African drumming and to the delight of the parade's crowds.
One day I'm determined to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras just to see them live.
I've no doubt the Indians would greatly approve Hooman and Delana's passion, artistry and creativity. I know their groupies do.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Multicultural Melbourne

I love Fitzroy pool. I walk past it every Saturday morning on my way to yoga, which is right next door. In winter, I am in awe of the stalwarts who plough up its lanes, appearing and disappearing beneath the mist that shrouds the pool. And yesterday, with the early-morning summer sunlight sparkling in the water, it looked so beautiful that I couldn't resist taking a photo.
I love Fitzroy pool because 'we' saved it. In 1994, this unique inner-city oasis, just shy of its centenary, was scheduled for demolition. A petition with 14,000 signatures was handed to the council. And a huge protest, including a six-week long occupation (when a hard-core group of locals chained and handcuffed themselves to machinery) saved the day. I'm still buoyant about it.
And finally, I love Fitzoy pool because its most well-know feature - its warning sign: Danger Deep Water Aqua Profonda - contains an endearing mistake, and a multicultural one at that.

Aqua (Latin) Profonda (Italian)

Back in the 1950s, nearby Carlton's population was 30% Italian. The claim was that, living there, you could do all your shopping in Italian, no English required - though clearly that didn't apply to signage. The other claim was that after Athens and New York, Melbourne was the next largest Greek city in the world.
I'm sure that's why, as a young Australian travelling in Europe, I felt such a strong sense of familiarity - especially in Italy. One whiff of pizza in Florence and I was back in Lygon street.
Our city has continued to be blessed, as waves of immigrants (at least those the government favours) have made it their home. And as well as their wonderful cuisines to flavour our lives, they bring their music.
Walk through Melbourne's CBD any day and within mere metres of each other you can be entertained by West African Djambe drummers, Andean pan pipers or Russian violinists.
Last night, when I heard from my sister, Jane, that the nearby Fairfield Ampitheatre was host to a free concert entitled 'Basque in the Sun', I rushed to pack the picnic basket. Because we love Spanish music. And the Basque region and its surrounds is one of our favourite parts of Spain, especially for walking.

Basque countryside - a walker's paradise

As it turned out, the concert didn't really feature Basque music. Performers were from all around the globe and the music was eclectic, but great fun. The passion of flamenco reverberated up the tiers of seats:

Karavana Flamenco

There was a French jazz and burlesque group, whose curvaceous heavily-pregnant lead singer amazed me by performing in staggeringly high heels.
The final act was a 'Euro gypsy dance band'. We were too chicken to join in, but lots of kids and some brave adults danced wildly on the bluestone dance floor. The woman below was a fabulous mover:

Dressed to impress

Fairfield Amphitheatre

Throughout the evening, the MC asked people in the audience to teach the crowd a few words in their own language. Volunteers from the Basque region, Korea, China and elsewhere shared their version of "G'day". As I sat beneath the gum trees in view of the marvellous Yarra, surrounded by my sister's friends who hail from so many different parts of the world, I felt very grateful to be living in multicultural Melbourne.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Tastes of India

Glorious Glenda (Lindsay) inspiring fellow swappers at yesterday's food swap

The first Saturday is one of my favourite days of the month. That's when I meet up with fellow home-grown food and sustainability enthusiasts to swap food and yarns. Yesterday I realised all over again why I enjoy it so much.
Glenda is a real force of nature. You can see her (above) exhorting us to join her later in the month (Sunday 24 February) for the Fab Feb Food Gardens Foray, where we will cycle from planter box to guerilla garden to shared public plot throughout our neighbourhood. There we'll be greeted by people who have decided not to wait on the slow grinding gears of officialdom, but have taken food security into their own hands by transforming unused public spaces into edible gardens. And there's a lot of it going on across Yarra. 
Glenda is the 'go to' person about all things food, and that's exactly what I did yesterday. Bemused by the unfamiliar luscious green vegetable that appeared on the swap table,  I asked her what it was. Glenda instantly recognised it as amaranth, a great addition to stir fries and a handy, vitamin-packed substitute for spinach. 
Amaranth has a particularly noble history; it was lauded by the Aztecs as 'the food of immortality'. Old history student that I am, I just love cooking food that I know is much the same as that prepared by people in ancient times and far-away places. It's easy to imagine them standing by my shoulder, perhaps nudging me and suggesting I add a pinch of salt. 
Amaranth is still treasured today as a staple in parts of the world as far apart as Greece and India. Not bad for something often dismissed as a weed.

Fellow swapper, Jo, delighted with her amaranth
Jo (above) and I decided we couldn't head home without it. 
I was particularly keen to give it a try after Glenda explained that one of our shared heroes, Vandana Shiva, the renowned Indian environmental activist, is a passionate advocate of the humble amaranth plant. It just so happened that our monthly games night was on at our place last night. And we had already decided on Indian food.
Dashing home, I consulted the internet, where I discovered a recipe for Indian amaranth dahl in coconut milk with star anise and cinnamon. What better complement for our chicken curry centre-piece? 

Delicious amaranth - so redolent of history!
I must confess at this point that the decision to have an 'Indian' Games Night was not entirely motivated by culinary considerations. It's true we are particularly partial to curries, but it wasn't only the food I was show-casing. 
My sister, Jane, who works all around the world, at my request, had kindly bought me a salwar kameez in Kuala Lumpar for my last birthday. I think salwar kameezes, with their skimming tunics and loose-legged, light-weight pants are the most gorgeous, comfy inventions and  ideal for hot climates. But regardless of all these virtues, Anglos like me are often too shy to wear them in public. So I decided that as we were at home and among friends, last night was the night for the launch. 

Stirring the curry in comfort, in my salwar kameez
We had a lot of fun and games as ever with our group. 

(Clock-wise from left) Anne, Jean-Marc, Viv and Bob 
Anne and Jean-Marc had lucked on a new game for the princely sum of $2 in an op shop. It is called Man Bites Dog, and players have to come up with the most creative headlines from the small number of cards they are dealt. It's amazing what you can do with cards like MP, Naked, Linked with ...
I'm delighted to report that the Indian food, and my salwa kameez, received rave reviews.