Wednesday, November 26, 2008


As someone who lives on the semi-rural outskirts of a provincial town on the opposite side of the world I seem to pay a disproportionate amount of attention to what happens in The New Yorker. Among my private pleasures is trying to sort out the message - if any - behind the illustrations that adorn their cover every week. The issue I've just found in my letter box (November 24 - The Food Issue) shows what looks like shelves in a fruit and veg shop.
It's a bright, cheerful display but there seems to be a subtext. The trays on the middle shelf have labels from parts foreign and sunny. So this is either a wistful comment on the onset of winter in the US. Or a subtle reminder of the town's reliance on food grown in other parts of the world and therefore the 'food miles' issue.
Either way, given that the tray at the centre of the cover is branded "AUSSIE LAND" I boldly suggest this is the first time the word Aussie - or possibly anything Australian - has appeared on a New Yorker Cover.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


After a spell of downtime to have a bionic knee installed, my brother Jonathan has returned to the photographic fray. For a person of polar obsession and peripatetic instincts, living in suburban exile in Kansas City with a bung leg has been a steep ask. So it's heartening to report he's regained his liberty. And this time he's in northern Canada hot on the trail of polar bears. There were days not that long ago when the Earth's Poles and the creatures that lived there seemed unbelievably remote, as well as totally removed from what we humans could do to this world. Not any more.
By some strange correlation, as the ice melts, the world shrinks. And I'm not talking about the land that disappears under water. What I mean is, our fate is now ever more clearly linked to all sorts of phenomena, all over the world. So if a polar bear no longer has a floe to go with, then that's something for people on the other side of the globe to ponder too.
You can follow Jonathan's progress at a new blog:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Just in case you need to know why a walk in the bush makes your prefrontal coretex feel so spiffy here's the answer:

Attention Restoration Theory (ART) provides an analysis of the kinds of environments that lead to improvements in directed-attention abilities. Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish. Unlike natural environments, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically and additionally requires directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative.We present two experiments that show that walking in nature or viewing pictures of nature can improve directed-attention abilities as measured with a backwards digit-span task and the Attention Network Task, thus validating Attention Restoration Theory. (For more info go here.)
In other words our animal brains need the gentle prodding we get mooching about in the shrubbery. Though you have to wonder what happens to this soothing restoration process if you step on a snake.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Back in September the Wilpena Resort changed hands after 50 years in the Rasheed family. Now the famed Arkaba Station just south of Wilpena Pound is going under the hammer on November 14. Another branch of the Rasheed family - Dean and Lizzie - have been at Arkaba for 24 years. They undertook a major program to rehabilitate the property and its buildings. In recent years they have played host to visitors staying at their homestead and B&B accommodation. When I visited them last year Dean & Lizzie were generous with their time and clearly very attached to this country. And with good reason. Arkaba has always been one of the most atmospheric and significant properties in the Flinders. The towering Elder Range looms overhead but there is real beauty - and diversity - across all its habitats, including the glorious rolling hills that merge into the Moralana Valley.