Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Freo Street Arts Festival

30 March 2013
Fremantle (also known as Freo) has an annual Street Arts Festival - this year, it coincides with Easter weekend.

Just a note about Freo as a nickname - somehow heaps of things here in Australia have nicknames, and some of them end in "o" - like "doco" for documentary film.  Or the Pengo Café, instead of the Penguin Café.  Other items end in "ie" - like breakfast is brekkie, or biscuits are bikkies.  Postmen are posties, biker gangs are bikies.  You get the idea.  So, Fremantle being such a long same, it gets shortened to Freo.  Because Fre-ie is just too weird.

Okay, so the Street Arts Festival - all kinds of street performers and buskers are scheduled for a variety of locations across the town.  Street artists (as in graffiti artists) are assigned walls.  Mimes and statues are assigned streets.  Musicians, acrobats, singers, dancers, all scheduled into time slots and locations.

It was great fun!  We found that most of the performances today were either on the main street (South Terrace, dubbed Cappuccino Row) or in the park by the waterfront - and we actually knew the two areas.  

We made a huge loop to be able to maximize our performance viewing - we started with very good Spanish guitarists; moved on to this creative angelic statue (he/she was handing out glitter to the kids); there was some funny music/mime troupe; then the rope/sash acrobats, where I caught a mime in the audience; more statue people; a Spanish singer and two tango dancers; rides in the park, including a huge Ferris wheel (and no, we didn't go on); and a show not yet open, robotic life-size dinosaurs!   

There was also an area dedicated to various ethnic foods - we skipped that, but I loved the giant paella pans - they were large enough to feed a small village!

We had dinner by the marina, a lovely fish and chips meal.  We went with the senior special, so it included tea or coffee and a small cup of gelato - such a deal, along with this beautiful view!

Then we headed back to the train/bus station, walking along the beach walk - all kinds of odd sculpture.  There was this funny dog made out of disks of metal, looking like he was waiting for his person.  And over by another concert, I found a strange plastic squiggly sculpture - I don't know how to describe it, squiggles looking like recycled glass (but really plastic, I checked) hanging from a grid and attached at the bottom of the grid - looking more like a kelp forest than anything else!  Just, kind of strange!

We didn't get to see any of the graffiti artists or street painters.  We agreed to make it an early night, since we leave on the train for Adelaide tomorrow morning.

But it definitely was a fun event!

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Colorful Day in Perth

29 March 2013

It's Good Friday, and just about everything is closed.  All stores, all government agencies, just a few restaurants open.

So we took the train into Perth.  Sunday and holiday schedule, but at least it got us there.

We initially planned to go to King's Park, but with the crazy holiday transit schedule, we were running a bit late.  So we decided to just head down to the waterfront esplanade and walk around for a bit.

We  first walked through a park near some government and justice buildings - with this crazy sculpture of giant pen nibs.  They were incredible, just giant pen nibs with incised and relief ornamentation, sticking in the ground, creating almost a fence entrance to the justice complex.  All kinds of possible meanings there - I'll leave you to ponder on what you think the pen nibs may represent.

Perth is split by the Swan River, which forms almost a huge lake in this area - we walked along the area facing South Perth, so I guess this was the south side of North Perth - if that makes sense.

This part of the Swan River is HUGE, and it barely seems like a river!  There's a very narrow channel that runs from the ocean (down by Fremantle) that comes all the way  into this area, and the Swan River feeds into this - so it might be some kind of bay, or harbour - but on the maps, it just calls the entire area Swan River (which I find quite confusing).

Anyway, there are various sculptures, beautiful palm trees where the various parrots and lorikeets and such roost at night (we could hear them chattering away, and see various flashes of green and red as they flew from tree to tree and settled in for the night).  There are walking paths, bike paths, and the cars drive along on the other side of the green belt.  It really was a very pretty and peaceful place for an afternoon stroll.

We headed toward town, hoping to find a restaurant or café that was open - no luck there.  But we did find all kinds of other interesting things - a fabulous larger-than-life sculpture of several kangaroos, doing their normal kangaroo things but in a more artistic composition.  And backed by the court building, which changes color!  It was crazy - as evening fell and the street lights came on, the sculpture took on a whole new life, and I had fun trying to capture the changing colors of the court behind the kangaroos!


And then, just because it was that kind of night, when we got back to Rockingham and walked back from the bus stop, there were fireworks!  All coming from the area by the medical center!  Absolutely no idea who had the fireworks, or why - I don't think anyone celebrates Good Friday with fireworks?

But it was a gorgeous ending to such a colorful day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Penguin Island

28 March 2013

Okay, this was my Mecca.  My Utopia.  Not to be disrespectful to anyone's religion, but this was like a pilgrimage for me.  I think I've become a registered pengophile.  Well, I've always loved penguins, been fascinated by the little guys.  But the little blue penguins are something special - I don't have to freeze to see them.  They have so much personality packed into a little body that's barely a foot tall.  They play and argue and cavort and are just too cute for their own good.  They hang out in New Zealand and Australia, instead of Antarctica.  And they're BLUE!!!  How can anyone not love little blue penguins???

There's a little ferry that goes from Penguin Road, Rockingham, out to Penguin Island.  It's a five minute trip out to this island that is solely a penguin and sea bird rookery.  No one lives there, no one is allowed on the island after 4 PM.  The island is dedicated to the sea birds.  
And some 1200 little penguins call it home.

We saw crested terns (the ones on this upside down thing) - they have crazy black crests that float upward, sort of the Donald King hairstyle.

Huge white pelicans, diving for fish.

Large gulls screaming overhead, fighting, arguing, and getting ready for their own breeding season.  (I was nearly attacked by a gull who was screeching overhead - took me a moment to realize I must have been a bit too close to their nest, and I quickly moved away.  Didn't want to be attacked by a gull!)

This was our first excursion out into the Indian Ocean, short as it was - and the day was perfect.  Cloudless blue sky, and the water so crystal clear we could see the shadows of birds floating on the surface.  It was the beautiful aqua of tropical water, fading to deep turquoise and then rich blue as it got deeper and deeper.  Water so clear it looks like you could drink it, except for the fact that it's salt water.  Gorgeous and clean.
Like most of the penguin rookeries we've visited, boardwalks have been built that crisscross the nesting area.  This way, people can walk around and look at the penguin burrows without disturbing the burrows or the penguins.   

The boardwalks also provide some shade for penguins who, for whatever reason, stay home for a day - maybe they're moulting, or have chicks too young to be left alone, or whatever.  Under the boardwalks seems to be a popular gathering place for the penguins.

I walked all around the island, the entire boardwalk trail and the beaches on both sides of the island.  (And, having no idea which way the island is oriented, I'm not sure if the beaches were east and west or north and south - just, both sides of the island.)
I didn't see a single penguin on my walk, but I certainly heard them!  They make a weird sound that's somewhere between a loud purr and a screech.  I don't know how else to describe it, sort of a loud shrill hum or thrum or something.  (It sounds almost mechanical - definitely a metallic edge to the sound.)

Anyway, I didn't see the little guys, but I heard them.  Found out later from the rangers that the yearly moulting season is over, and breeding season is beginning.  So pairs are building their nests and decorating them properly (this seems to be a major little penguin pre-occupation, decorating their nests with seaweed and twigs and such).

The rangers go out for a daily penguin count, and I met two who had young women rangers who had just returned from the count in their sector.  They said there were quite a lot of penguins on the island today, busily working on their nests, and that yes, I definitely would have heard them as I walked around.  (If I could hear the penguins above the screeching and screaming gulls!)  This is a busy penguin time, so they often don't fish for a day and just work on making their nests perfect before the female lays her eggs.

Actually, I think I saw/heard an argument between two gulls and a penguin - two gulls were standing outside a penguin burrow, looking in and doing the gull screech, and I definitely heard the penguin shrill thrum sound - I have no idea what they were saying, but the gulls seemed to have lost the argument because they finally left.

Oh, a funny story - as we disembarked from the ferry and walked along the boardwalk, one little boy commented on all the "bird poo" on the boardwalk and stairs.   His mother, to reinforce his comment, agreed that yes, there was a lot of bird poo all over the stairs.  The older sister, all of seven or eight years old, said in a most disdainful voice, "Well, when you visit a bird island, OF COURSE there's going to be bird poo" as if only she could figure that out.

It just made me laugh.

And for the coastal geomorphologists among our readers:  There's a long sand bar that looks like it connects Penguin Island to the mainland.  Every so often people try to walk or swim from the island back to the mainland, or the reverse.  But there are hidden drop offs, as well as strong waves and currents, and it's very unsafe.  In fact, there are signs all over trying to prohibit people from attempting this.

Richard and I have decided that this probably isn't a true tombolo, since the entire sand bar isn't really totally above water, except possibly at a super low tide.  (We really did have a discussion about that.)

So - the stars of Penguin Island - the little blue penguins.  The Discovery Center is home to penguins who are rescued - some get tangled in fishing line and can't dive for food, and are rescued at sea.  Others might be injured and need medical care.  Still others might be orphaned while they are too young to go out and fend for themselves.  So the rangers at the island take care of these rescued penguins, and try to return them to the wild.  But often, an injury might prevent their return to fishing for themselves.  Or their rehabilitation might take too long, and the rescued penguin might become to accustomed to being housed and fed.

A few of the penguins at the center are much older than the average penguin in the wild - the one (confirmed) female is nearly 16 years old, while in the wild the average life expectancy of a little blue penguin is around 7 years.

Plus, of course, this way people get to see the little guys, who are just too funny.

Some of the penguins insist on being fed a certain way.  Others prefer to "catch" the fish that are tossed into their pool.  However, these fish are frozen and thawed - the rangers tried live fish once, but the penguins have become so used to the not-live fish that they really didn't know what to do with the live fish!

So each penguin has their own name, and their own personality, and their own feeding pattern.  One likes to nibble on a finger before accepting a fish.  Another prefers to grab the fish over his shoulder.  Another needs to be coaxed up the stairs - he's the baby of the bunch, just recently rescued, and he hasn't quite figured out the routine.

Some of the penguins were as curious about the human visitors as we are about the penguins!


And all too soon it was time to leave Penguin Island.  The last ferry leaves at 4 PM sharp, and all visitors are expected to be off the island by then.

There was an unexpected bonus for me on the other side - right by the ferry "terminal" (really, just a little dock, by Pengo's Café - seriously, that's the name of the café, Pengo's!) there was a mosaic with little blue penguins!  An artist received a community grant to design and execute this mosaic featuring little blue penguins!  Students assisted with the project, and it really is beautiful - and such a lovely tribute to my new little pengy friends!

It was another wonderful day Down Under!

New York City, Western Australia

NOTE:  Not my photos - online images of some of the photos we saw.

27 March 2013

We went to Perth, to the Art Gallery of Western Australia.  The director of the museum was formerly the director or curator of MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  So the two museums have become partners, sharing exhibits back and forth.

This exhibit, "Picturing New York," is the story of New York City, portrays the development of New York City in the Industrial Age, through photographs by names such as Alfred Stieglitz, Richard Avedon, Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham, Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, Lewis Hine, Weegee, Cindy Sherman.

And at the same time New York was being memorialized as a city, photography was moving from being a new technology to being an independent art form.

This exhibit chronicles both: how photography recorded New York and portrayed the city to the world, and how New York shaped the photographers who recorded it to create a new art medium.

It was incredible.  The photographs spanned the late 1800s through to current photos.  Imagine seeing welders on the frame of the Empire State Building.  Or the floats for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade being filled during wartime, so that the taxi going by is driven by a woman.

Like the Impressionists, these photographs capture a moment in time, a moment in history - but they also capture the mood of the city, the people, the place, the sights, the sounds - everything but the tastes and smells of New York.

There were the usual architectural landmarks, like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building.  Even the United Nations building.  People like Mayor Fiorello kissing a baby, or the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on a visit to the city.

And there were moments in time, caught on film - the collapse of a building, a subway accident, workers saving artwork from MOMA after a fire.  The Yankees beating the Dodgers in the World Series.  Willie Mays sliding in to home plate just as the catcher caught the ball.  A full beach at Coney Island.  Anonymous revellers at Times Square on New Year's Eve.  Moments that are forever caught on film.

I didn't recognize my parents in any of the photos, though they were in the city for the time frame of some of the photos.  Richard and I both recognized places, streets, locations, the feel of the city.

It was wonderful!  We had a great time, both of us.  Absolutely wonderful!  Sort of nostalgic, while also being informative, artistic, familiar, unfamiliar - just one of those times when all elements of an exhibit come together to make it fun and interesting and personally meaningful.

And interactive!  We had the opportunity to have our photo taken with a New York City backdrop, and of course I had to do that.  Not that it's a great photo, but it just fit.  

We also started chatting with one of the docents at the gallery, and ended up having a wonderful dinner with him.  He was very interesting, very nice, we had a great time talking and sharing stories and experiences.  Plus we could ask all our stupid American tourist questions, such as are there koalas and kangaroos anywhere around Perth, other than in the zoos and sanctuary parks.  

Just because life is uncertain, it took us two hours to get home.  Well, maybe over two hours.  One of those things when the commuter rail line was being worked on, we had to take a bus to a different station, then wait for that train, the schedule was all messed up and delayed - that kind of thing.  But the good part is that we commented on the mess to someone sitting near us - and we recognized him as our bus driver from the previous day, the nice patient driver who explained the best route, the daily pass to get the best price, the weekend pass to save money - he was as confused as we were, and he was heading to Rockingham too, so we had a nice time chatting with him.  Amazing - four days in the Perth area and we already have two friends!

It was a fabulous day - we both had a wonderful time!