This is what we like to see: Putpockets

Visitors to London always have to be on the look out for pickpockets, but now there is another, more positive phenomenon on the loose – putpockets.

Aware that people are suffering in the economic crisis, 20 former pickpockets have turned over a new leaf and are now trawling London’s tourist sites slipping money back into unsuspecting pockets.

Anything from 5 to 20 pound notes is being surreptitiously deposited in unguarded pockets or open handbags in Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and other busy spots.

The initiative, which runs until the end of August in London before being rolled out countrywide, is being funded by a broadband provider, which says it wants to brighten up people’s lives in unusual ways.

“It feels good to give something back for a change – and Britons certainly need it in the current economic climate,” says Chris Fitch, a former pickpocket who now heads TalkTalk’s putpocketing initiative.

“Every time I put money back in someone’s pocket, I feel less guilty about the fact I spent many years taking it out.”

London’s police have been briefed about the plan, which will see about $250,000 given away.
Link Here

Sceptial Alert!

sign up

for NZers :

Greenpeace is mounting an important and increasingly popular campaign calling on the government to meet emmision reductions of 40%.

Almost 100,000 people have already signed up which should be enough for the government to start taking notice.

Its simple and heres the link.

Cuba: Gardening its way out of a crises

Sunlight brightens the paved streets and historic buildings of Havana, Cuba, bouncing off the tents of vendors and the tin drums of a street band. Once stricken by poverty and inequality, the city has slowly blossomed as a result of the bustling enterprise of urban agriculture. Between buildings and behind street walls, in every green space available, locals have cultivated crops, utilizing the techniques of sustainable urban farming. After years of isolation from the United States and the former Soviet Union, Cuba has independently fostered development of urban agriculture and now provides an environment of growth and structure for its economic, social and political policies.

Cuba is the only country in the world that has developed an extensive state-supported infrastructure to support urban food production. Functionally, this system was established in response to acute food shortages in the early 1990s, which occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the island was forced to find an alternative manner of cultivating crops. Havana has established and expanded on this innovative model since this time, and it continues to lead the island nation in its quest for self-sufficiency. The increasing prevalence of urban agriculture benefits the economy, environment, community and health of Cuban citizens.

Press Release: Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Freerange two!….coming shortly

Freerange two: Violence and Gardening, is currently undergoing its finishing touches.  Here is the introductory text we sent out a few months ago to wet the appetite.

“One of the lofty goals of Free Range is to consider what it means to be human today, living in cities as most of us do. When considering a problem or a set of relationships it is often beneficial to return to first principles.

When solving a technical issue this means going right to the base of the problem and building up our problem solving from any initial information. Similarly social issues can be studied and traced to seemingly unrelated activities. What are the first principles of the issues we are discussing in this form? Where do we start from when we ask ‘What does it mean to be a human living in a city today?’.  Feel free to join in me in some speculation around this idea.  The starting point which I am frequently drawn to is the precious images of the earth that emerged in 1968 from the first Apollo missions to the moon. The stunning pictures of an earth seen in a single glance that provided a visual proof to the thought great philosophers had been telling us for centuries; to be human is to share the planet with each as our home. Arriving back to earth late in 1968 the timing of these images could not have been more auspicious.

An Introduction to Free Range II
Barnaby Bennett & Tania Sawicki Mead

In 1968 when Nina Simone sung the haunting line ‘“What? Gonna happen now? In all of our cities?”. she was raising the spectre of the significant protest and civil unrest that affected America in the 1960s. The line is both a warning and a call to duty.  In the same year that saw the rise of the civil rights movement and the fall of Martin Luther King, the empire that was unable to contain the peaceful force of Kings message, had through the power of its technological might, gifted humanity one of its most consciousness altering moments. The first full view of Earth came from the moonbound Apollo 8 mission, during the waning days of the chaotic year of 1968. Because of the distance needed to see the entire circumference of the earth only 12 humans have ever witnessed it. The American Astronaut Bill Anders, who photographed the first famous pictures of the round blue shape in space, commented “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”
Continue reading Freerange two!….coming shortly

Save the Victorian College of the Arts

I am angry.

My art school is about to be administered out of existance.

This year I am studying puppetry at Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, an amazing specialist art school and the only place you can study puppetry in the southern hemisphere. It is the only art school in Australasia where so many artforms can be learnt on one campus; art, music, acting, film and tv, puppetry, music theatre, dance and production. The VCA was taken over by Melbourne University in 2007 after the Federal Government pulled its funding and now Melbourne Uni are planning on introducing their Melbourne Model. It is a copy of the american five year degree structure; students do a three year general fine arts degree and then can specialise in their artform at postgraduate level. Essentially student’s training will be reduced to two years instead of three and the specific changes brought by the Melbourne Model mean that practical training will be reduced by over 50%.

You can read more about it here: Save the VCA

I won’t go into detail about it all here because you can find more accurate information on the website. But what I want to write about is how this situation is symptomatic of a real problem in the education sector in Australia and New Zealand. To my eyes these changes have very little to do with pedagogy and everything to do with management and administration. The current attempt to force all tertiary education into a university format is resulting in dilution and homogenisation of eduction in Australasia. Not all education should be academic. I will use the arts as my reference here but I think that it applies to many other sectors.

The main argument that is being put forward for the imposition of the Melbourne Model is that students need to study broad based degrees and that specialised training is an outdated approach to education. I find this attitude patronising, it assumes that students at the VCA are not capable of being broadminded without the university giving us the courses to teach us how to be.

Here is an a quote from our new Dean Sharman Pretty (an administrator who won’t talk to us about our concerns). I’m embarassed for her…

“I am astonished at how siloed this campus has been,” she says. “It’s siloed in its programs, it’s siloed in its narrow little degree programs, and it’s physically siloed to the point where there are people who have worked on this site for many years together who have only recently got to know each other.”

Producing elite dancers that only become ballet dancers, or actors that only act, is no longer appropriate in Australia, she says.

“The only way people are learning to sustain a real career in the theatre, for example, is if they can write the play, act, make their own costume and sell the tickets.

“If they’ve got a whole package of skills there’s a very good chance they will be able to find a niche and sustain themselves. The idea of someone being a specialist is a very old view.”

Personally I think that we should be aiming for excellence in our craft, whether that be art, or teaching, engineering or chemistry. Aiming to be an all rounder is to aim for mediocrity.

In theatre matching the mode of performance to the content is essential. Integrating the set, sound, costume and lighting design with the style of performance and ensuring that it all contributes to the communication of meaning and content in a show goes a long way toward creating magic on stage. The same should go for education. The mode of teaching should suit the discipline. Architects learn how to design by designing, historians learn to research by researching, doctors learn how to treat patients by treating patients. At the VCA we are all learning how to be artists by practicing art. Thats why we are at this school, all we are asking is to keep the school the way it is. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

I’ll leave it at that. If you live in Melbourne come and support us next Friday, we will be marching to parliament and celebrating all that wonderful things we love about VCA. We are taking our art out into the streets!


Follow some other intrepid Freerangers as they make an art-fueled exploration of the the middle east, europe and who knows where else.  For many esoteric and practical reasons they are riding under the name of Triangulation.  Have a look: Otherwise known as the journeys of Mark, Callum, Eloise and other friends found along the way.

Its hotting up!

With the critical Copenhagen meeting coming up soon the debate about global warming and the appropriate response is finally reaching the intensity it deserves.  In New Z, the current Minister for the Environment is leading the government to a very mild commitment of 15% and appallingly this is been sold to the population based on incorrrect and misleading data.  This tactic shows either a remarkable willingness to deceive the public, or a embarrasing lack of understanding of what is probably the most important issue of our lifetimes.A fantastic analysis by Keith Ng of Public Address of this can be found at:  Public Address

Over at the Guardian, George Manbiot has taken aim at one of the commonly cited complaints from Climate Change deniers that they are being censored. “One of the allegations made repeatedly by climate change deniers is that they are being censored. There’s just one problem with this claim: they have yet to produce a single valid example. On the other hand, there are hundreds of examples of direct attempts to censor climate scientists.

Read the Guardian Article here.

I’m still dismayed by the popular response to the dangers coming our way.  We were more than willing to fight for Civil rights, Womens liberations, end to wars, and even saving the whales…

Why now when the biggest danger we have known is staring us in the face we are unable to muster a good strong response? Is it because there is no easy enemy apart from ourselves?