Category Archives: Free Stuff

Pokémon Vs The Royal Botanic Gardens

I’m not going to lie. I was practically dragged out of bed last Sunday morning. “I just want to play Pokémon. That’s all I want to do. Yes I’m serious.”

And of course that old adage that would haunt me as a child every Wednesday night at Brownies and every Thursday night at swimming training – You’ll enjoy it when you get there – stings just as much now as it did then. YES, okay, I had a good time. And I got to play Pokémon afterwards when I got home anyway. Now leave me the hell alone.

As part of National Science Week this year, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney had an Open Day on Sunday 22nd August, offering guided tours of their labs and nurseries and collections, as well as self-guided tours around the gardens and other family-oriented activities. Having attended the Plant Pathology Tour, run by their resident pathologists, and the Herbarium Tour, which took us through the National Herbarium of New South Wales, I was so impressed by the organisers’ ability to cater to both kids and adults in their programming.

Sure, neither of these tours I attended were particularly suited to children, all but one of the four that showed up to the Herbarium Tour slipping out within the first ten minutes, but there was an entire hall filled with activities like plant mounting, botanical illustration and microscope viewing, plus an insect-themed self-guided mystery tour, and guided “bush tucker” and wildlife walks, so no one – not even this grumpy Sunday morning Running Ponies correspondent – could have been bored.

Honestly, how great does this look:

Hands on Science - Royal Botanic Gardens

Hands on Science - Royal Botanic Gardens


Having adults and kids simultaneously fascinated – that’s what Science Week should be about, but it’s a very tricky business to get right.

The Plant Pathology Tour took a group of six of us through one of the new labs at the Gardens, and we learnt about the disease cycle of chestnut rot, funguses, and how to extract, process and photograph DNA. The adults asked a lot of questions. I played it cool and asked nothing. #brainsabbath

Next I did something really stupid and opted not to line up for the sausage sizzle, all like, “Oh my God, there isn’t time!” The Herbarium Tour was in fifteen minutes. I’m not sure who I thought I was at that particular moment, but in hindsight I could’ve probably eaten about three before the tour started. (It was 2pm and I hadn’t had breakfast yet. Don’t judge me.)

I did get a charmingly eclectic sample bag though, its contents going progressively off-topic:

* Science magazines

* A magnetic waratah bookmark

* Stickers of a smiling water droplet

*A ruler with a T. Rex in space on it

* Toothpaste.

Irrelevance aside, it was definitely one of the better free sample bags I’ve picked up at an Open Day. At least this shit I can use.

The National Herbarium of New South Wales looks like this:

National Herbarium of New South Wales
National Herbarium of New South Wales

Thousands and thousands of plastic red boxes in rows and rows and rows containing 1.2 million specimens from Australia and around the world. It might look and sound a bit dull, and I’m not even that into, you know, plants, but they’ve got an art exhibition in the foyer, a library, and every one of those red boxes are filled with these, which are surprisingly fantastic to look through:

National Herbarium of New South Wales
Herbarium specimen mounts

And it’s all open to the public. I went in not knowing that the Herbarium existed, and came out seriously considering coming back and spending an entire day there.

We also had a tour of one of their labs and got an even more thorough walkthrough of the process of DNA extraction. We finished up and went outside and the sausage sizzle was gone. I panicked and wondered if they had food in the Gardens’ Shop. They did not.

National Herbarium of New South Wales
Herbarium bottled specimens

Like the Melbourne Museum, the Botanic Gardens have a great Science Week program. I would have stayed and done the self-guided tour because it was a stunning Sydney day, but I don’t keep biscuits in my bag.

Visit PlantNET – the Herbarium’s online plant identification site here.

– bec



Filed under Art, Events, Free Stuff, Insects, Science

Science Week Begins With Melbourne Museum Stealing My Heart

museum victoria qantassaurus


Melbourne Museum – I could totally live in you. I know that sounds like something a psychopath would say, but there’s no other way to put it. And it doesn’t have to be the whole entire building, just the Science and Life Gallery would be fine. And yes, both floors please. Just rope it off and everyone else can go crazy everywhere else. Quietly. I get the dinosaurs and the taxidermy and the insects.

Except you’re going to have to move the spiders elsewhere, particularly the live ones and particularly the live ones that aren’t even in boxes. What is that, MM? I honestly stood there for like five minutes straight trying to come to terms with the fact that there’s literally nothing except a giant room-sized web between those orb-weavers and us, and I know they aren’t particularly dangerous and have no reason to come out of their giant room-sized web and mingle with the humans, but that’s not the point. They’re still spiders, MM. You’re playing with fire in a giant room-sized web.

Science on Show

National Science Week - Science on Show

Science on Show - Mammology Display

National Science Week kicked into gear yesterday and Melbourne Museum was the absolute best place to spend the first day. And I’m not just saying that because that’s what I did and obviously have no comparison. But…

* Live insects

* Museum experts

* Australia’s best scientific illustrators

I rest my case.

I began with Science on Show, which involved half a dozen display tables filled with stuffed, bottled and boxed specimens, Australian megafauna fossils and a model crab the size of a curled up human child and so on, all manned by various experts from the Museum. I got to pat a taxidermied tapir and made some dumb comment about how it looks like it’s stuck in a really powerful wind tunnel with that posture (well it does), rifle through a trolley’s worth of poltergeist-esque sea creatures in jars, and get mad at the terrestrial invertebrates expert for holding up two huge bottled spiders and making me compare their fangs. DO NOT WANT, as they say.

Then I may or may not have rendered myself the creepiest person in the building by deciding I wanted these for my livingroom:

National Science Week - Science on Show

Science on Show - Ornithology Display

Yes. Rows and rows of tiny dead birds. That’s what I want in my house. Jesus. But it might come as less of a shock to you now when I tell you I want this room as my bedroom:

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Filed under Animals, Archosaurs, Art, Events, Fossils, Free Stuff, Insects, Museum Stuff, Science, Sea Creatures

Luis Buñuel: Fo (Sur)real!

Un Chien Andalou

I have fairly scattered memories of my three years as an undergrad, but this image right here from Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou, the one of a fucking razor blade cutting across Simone Mareuil’s eye, the one that sends shivers down my spine every time it pops into my head (which, surprisingly, is more times than would be considered normal), yeah, this one takes me right back into that Old Geology Lecture Theatre, where I spent hours watching a collection of the most influential and not-so-influential, strange and not-so-strange, extremely boring and not-so-boring films of the past one hundred years. I suppose it is a testament to Buñuel’s brilliance that out of the many hundreds of hours of lectures and the thousands of essay words written, he is the one person/subject that has not sifted through the sieve that is my ‘university brain.’ 

Regarded as the father (grandfather, brother and uncle) of surrealist cinema, Buñuel died in July 1983, leaving behind thirty-two films and one hell of a legacy. Un Chien Andalou, is surrealism in its purist, but Viridiana, is quite possibly my favourite of his films. The context and time in which it was made just adds so much to its fascination for me. After twenty-four years in political exile, Buñuel returned to Spain to make a film about a novice nun who visits her uncle before taking her vows, only to be drugged and raped by him. Needless to say, Franco was not happy (Jan)*. Somehow, Buñuel managed to create a social commentary piece on a country cut off from the rest of the world by its Fascist regime, in said fascist’s own backyard and then slip it straight past his censors. Some sort of genius, definitely. But I wouldn’t really expect anything less from a man who used to dress up as a nun, along with Frederico Garcia Lorca, board trams and then proceed to wink and nudge at male passengers.   

The Spanish Film Festival is paying tribute to one of the most important directors EVER on the 25th anniversary of his death, spotlighting his films for this year’s festival, including Un Chien Andalou and Viridiana. The festival is also presenting an exhibit that has me counting down till the end of the month when I can finally run across the road and get me some lunchtime brain food. The exhibition, Buñuel – Amigos y Peliculas, is (hopefully) a fascinating selection of  photos, letters and posters from the Centro Buñuel de Calanda in Spain.

So, if you too would like the image of an eye ball being sliced in half as firmly ingrained into your subconscious as it is in mine…

Buñuel – Retrospective is screening as part of the Spanish Film Festival at Palace Academy Twin (Paddington), Palace Norton Street (Leichardt) & Chauvel Cinema (Paddington) from May 6 till May 18.

Buñuel – Amigos y Peliculas is showing at Sydney Customs House from April 29 till May 24. 

Oh, and (dot) (dot) (dot)


Ra  xxx

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For My Sydney Wish List

Design Festa Gallery

After my recent three week jaunt, I’ve come to the conclusion that Japan is the single most awesome place on the planet. Even the Natural History Museum can’t compete with this corner of the world. Heated toilet seats to keep your bum toasty warm, vending machines EVERYWHERE selling anything and everything you could possibly imagine, insane fashion and technology, a polite, honest and friendly population and more culture oozing out of every temple and crack in the road that in a ten litre tub of yoghurt. God, I could holiday in that place forever. Sadly, reality is a bitch and the holiday is more than over. Luckily I have an infinite supply of memories and one of the highlights of the trip was definitely Tokyo’s Design Festa Gallery.

Tucked away in the back streets of Harajuku, this gallery only adds to Tokyo’s um, radness. Every single space in the gallery’s two wings and courtyard is an exhibition space, even the toilets. Everything is a canvas – the walls, vending machines, bins, ceilings, staircases…

Design Gallery Fiesta Recycle (Ra Lake)

The gallery was opened as an off shot of Design Festa, an international art festival held biannually at Tokyo Big Sight, that boasts to be the biggest event of its type in the world. 7000 artists and 2600 booths – quite large. Anyway, back to the gallery. There are 29 art spaces spread between the older West Wing, which used to house traveling gaijin like myself, until 1998, and the East Wing, which opened in 2007. The gallery also features 77 Wall Art Piece spaces. The cost for the artist varies depending on the size of the space and the length of time they wish to show, but the gallery takes no commission on any sale. You may not pardon the cliche, but this place really is an artist’s paradise.      

After wandering up and down stairs, in and out of exhibit rooms, conversing with the artists as they cooked with friends to the sound of a little bit of J-Pop and drawing us as egg people, we sat down for an Asahi and a short chat with Nigel, who wanted to find out about our experience at Design Festa Gallery. He quizzed us about Australia, what brought us to Japan, how long we were staying and how five girls from Australia even knew how to snowboard. At one point he may have asked us what we thought about the gallery. We even made it on to the gallery’s blog. Yes, I’m on the Japanese interwebs, I must be famous. What do they say? I’m big in Japan.

This rant really only leaves me with one question. Why is there no place like this in Sydney?* 

Egg People

* Correct answers will be rewarded with cupcakes. Or penny farthings. Whichever I have more stock of at the time.

Ra  xxx

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Filed under Art, Free Stuff, Japan!, Random Rants



Type the Sky | Lisa Rienermann

Type the Sky | Lisa Rienermann

Words. Where would they be without letters? Um, nowhere probably. We’d all be talking in 0s and 1s. And as big a fan of binary code as I am, a world filled only with 1s and 0s would just be, well, boring. Think of all the amazing glyphs we would be missing out in if our only form of written communication was a solitary straight line and an empty circle of no value. And don’t get me started on fonts – Franklin Gothic, Avant Garde Gothic Pro, MT Pop, Alchemy – my life would be so Times New Roman without them. 

Our generation has grown up with computer word-processing and most are probably oblivious to the hard work involved in creating fonts and types. To us, it is automatic. Just there when we need it. Unless you are a graphic designer or typesetter or typographist, the art of type setting is probably not something you think about. Typography is an old, old art form, dating back thousands of years. The Phaistos Disc, which is argued to be the first movable type printing mechanism, dates back to around 1700 BC, which is like, sometime between the dinosaurs and Jesus. In the past 2300 years or so, typography has come a long, long way. It’s pretty near impossible to escape some sort of type today. Just like STDs on Paris Hilton, it’s EVERYWHERE. Lisa Rienermann even sees it in gaps between buildings (letters, that is, not Hilton’s cooties). 

But, if you’re like me and sick of staring at the 5000 words of Arial in your International Political Economy essay or that lettering on the back of your Nutragrain box is becoming a bit stale, you’ll probably be excited to hear that Peer Gallery in Glebe are putting on a exhibit showcasing nothing but type based artwork. Nothing but pretty, artistic, shiny, colourful looking words. 

Curator Marty Routledge articulates my feelings better than I can:

“Typesetting was once a hailed artform. Today due to our need to evolve we
 restrict our alphabet to be purely functional, legible and often emotionless. This show is going to smash all limitations of everyday type and bring the uniqueness and identity back into type styling. “

The exhibit features Ben Frost,  Joel Birch, Dave Foster, Numskull, Edward Woodley, Roach, Damien Dlugolecki, Andreas Linnell, Josh Roelink, Ques, Mark Drew, Sytak and my favourite Sydney artist/photographer/designer, Beastman

Opening night is Wednesday 25th February. The exhibition also marks the grand opening of the gallery. There will be booze. There will be food. There will be tunes provided by Bad Wives. The exhibition is for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

GO FONT UR SELF* at Peer Gallery 153 Bridge Road, Glebe.

And if you want to learn more about this ancient art, check out John Boardley’s i love typograhpy blog. It’s kinda fantastic.

Ra xxx

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Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2008


It’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year time again at the Australian Museum, which is all very exciting for me because it features something very dear to my heart – ANIMALS!! The Exhibition features categories such as Animal Behaviour, Creative Visions of Nature, Animal Portraits, and Junior Awards, with the impressive fox image above winning the Ten Years and Under section. Stunning. You can preview the whole collection of photographs here.

This year’s overall winner was National Geographic photographer, Steve Winter, who, rather appropriately, entered his image of a snow leopard weathering a dark blizzard. On its own it admittedly doesn’t excite me that much, but a quick visit of his online gallery should be enough to convince you of his considerable talent.

But unfortunately it’s not all pretty foxes, creepy night griffins and sexually-suggestive reptiles (below), an upsetting cliché has managed to weasel its way into winning not only the Animal Portrait and also Visitor’s Choice categories. Yes, I’m looking at you, world-weary monkey! It seems like every goddamn wildlife photography competition ever held in the history of the universe has to feature some boring shot of one of these gross, overrated creatures. Ohhh look, it’s so pensive, so wise beyond its shitty chimp-features… Whatever. Wake me up when you’re done being so fucking played, monkey.

Entry to the exhibition included in regular admission and it runs till the 8th of March. Oh and when you’re done, you can go and visit my some of my other favourite things, DINOSAURS!! in the other room, and when you’re done with that, can you please pick me up a Velociraptor keyring from the giftshop, because my one broke? Thanks.


– bec

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Filed under Animals, Free Stuff, Museum Stuff

.Also Known As.

Also Known As

I was just thinking on the weekend about how I had not had my rad-art-in-a-Scandanavian-fashion-loft fix in quite some time. It had me concerned. Luckily, Swedish fashion boutique slash art gallery, Somedays, has a new group exhibition, AKA, on until the 2nd of February. Opening night is this Wednesday the 14th of January.  

The exhibit features Sydney artists Adem, Creon, Scribla, Volume, Bridge, Max Berry, Ears, John Doe, G’Lato and Beastman.

Get some art in you at  72b Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills.

RA  xxx

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