In the 1860s Tower Hill in South Western Victoria was a thickly wooded area, but clearing and agricultural use over the following century left it a devastated wasteland. A project was launched to remediate the area, but faced a key problem: nobody could remember what it originally looked like. They found a solution in a creative source: the landscape painting of Eugene von Guerard.

von Guerard was an Austrian-born failed gold-digger who came to fame as a landscape artist in Australia in the 1860s. The National Gallery of Victoria currently has an exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre showcasing his work, most of which is astoundingly detailed and realistic.

So realistic, in fact, that it has assisted science on several occasions. Most recently, his painting of Mount Gambier’s crater lakes was used to assess changes to the water table, measurements of which nobody thought to record at the time.

It’s easy to forget that only a century ago obtaining detailed and realistic images was almost impossible, apart from the work of talented artists like von Guerard. In today’s digital world we all have the ability to record reality with the push of a button or click of a mouse. Even so, the next time you post a photo on your wall, or upload it to Instagram or Flickr, you just might be the one helping researchers of the future with their work.

A view from Daylesford towards the Pyrenees


Inside the Carri-On store with three customers standing at the counter with products being displayed

car·ri·on noun \ˈker-ē-ən
dead and putrefying flesh; also : flesh unfit for food

Also a travel luggage store found in Sydney airport. Might be a bit hard to get this one past quarantine.

When you’re brain storming up catchy names for your new brand, the last thing you want is some negative nay-sayer pooh-poohing ideas and holding up the whole process. Having said that, it never hurts to consult a dictionary before going beyond the creative stage.

Water near Biddlecombe Falls

It’s 6am and I’m perched next to a waterfall on towering, creamy yellow rocks, high above a verdant river valley, watching the sun creep over cliffs opposite and spread across the terrain.  I wash the stickiness of the warm night off in a crystal clear pool, lingering in the cool lazy waters for a minute before preparing for the day’s walk.

It’s day 4 of a trek along the Jatbula Trail, a 58km hiking route linking Katherine Gorge with Edith falls in the Northern Territory. It winds through diverse habitats, from sparsely vegetated cliff tops and rocky escarpments to lush, marshy valleys filled with pandanus palms, ending each afternoon in campsites next to picturesque rivers, waterholes and waterfalls.

Spending four nights on the trail is the best way to enjoy it, allowing time for a leisurely pace during the mornings then relaxing afternoons at the four main camping areas, Biddlecombe Cascades, Crystal Falls, 17 Mile Falls, and Sandy Camp. The walking is not challenging, but the heat can be punishing for hikers unaccustomed to it, and keeping hydrated is a constant priority.

Crystal Falls

Five tips for getting the most out of the trail

1. Book early! Because the trail is only walkable in the dry season, spots fill up fast. If you miss out and happen to be in the area anyway, it’s worth checking on the morning of the day you’d like to depart. At the moment there is no incentive for hikers to turn up so they get a lot of no-shows.

2. At each campsite, explore the surrounding areas. You might find some rock art, secluded pools or spectacular waterfalls just a few hundred metres away.

3. Use a good insect repellent. Trying to sleep in a warm tent with excruciating insect bites is not fun.

4. When setting up camp, check the ground for excess leaf litter, and move away from those areas. Large bats inhabit trees around some of the campsites and are very active during the night, dropping branches, nuts and fruit, excreting, and flapping about noisily, rendering sleep almost impossible.

5. When we passed through, Sandy Camp had no toilet, so the constant traffic has left the more secluded areas away from the water packed with little surprises for the unwary explorer. If you do have to go, avoid digging up a landmine by looking for spots where people have been kind enough to mark their territory with sticks.

Paradox aka Alaska is one of the more slept on producers in drum and bass. The YouTube videos of his tracks languish with view counts in the hundreds, and he often produces under aliases, making it difficult to keep track of his work.

It’s unfortunate, considering the quality of his production. The sound is spacey and clean, yet the drums still crunch and there’s a soul to the music that is missing from many other super-technical drum and bass tunes. His latest offering is The Mesozoic Era, under the Alaska moniker, and it’s stunning.

My favourite track on this right now is Viola. Suitably nervous drum patterns, eerie, nightmarish synths, with a blanket of warmer sounds underneath tying it all together. I’m fiending for the next project – another collaboration with Swedish producer Seba.

Northern Territorians are an interesting bunch, possessed of a unique blend of high disposable income, burning competitiveness, and sheer batshit lunacy. These three characteristics combine with particularly spectacular results on 1 July every year – Territory Day. This is the one day of the year when it is completely legal to buy, sell, and set off fireworks, pretty much wherever in the Territory one desires. The day when Territorians celebrate the commencement of self-government in 1978 by blowing some shit up, and setting some other shit on fire. We’re not talking standard firecrackers here either, people drop serious cash on all kinds of fireworks for the occasion.

Leading up to the event, I’d heard an acquaintance describe the day as “the scariest experience of my life,” and several others recommend staying home and locking the doors, so I was ready for anything and expecting some serious carnage. We found a great vantage point on the cliffs near East Point, with a clear view across the bay to the official fireworks, and right in the middle of several large groups setting off rockets roughly every two minutes.

There is something truly liberating about rushing giggling around in the dark, diving for cover as explosives misfire in all directions, watching grandparents frantically stamping out spot fires in picnic rugs. At one point some friends arrived and ran towards us through the thick smoke, explosions going off around them. I was just waiting for someone to drop to their knees with their hands in the air, a la Willem Dafoe’s Sergeant Elias in Platoon.

In a country like Australia, where it feels like we are wrapped up in cotton wool so much of the time, a day like this is a reminder of simpler times, when burning fingers or singing off eyebrows were acceptable side effects of a good time. I loved it.

The biggest story of the NBA playoffs this year has to be the failure of the Cleveland Caveliers, holders of the best regular season record, in the second round. Doom-sayers all over the world declared it the defining moment of LeBron James’ career, a statistic-collecting, highlight-producing, regular-season-MPV-winning machine who “just doesn’t know how to win.”

The worst part of all this is smug Laker fans pounding their chests and claiming incontrovertible proof that Kobe Bryant is better than LeBron James. It’s possible that he is, but you can’t really make that claim until both of them have retired and we can fully assess their performance.

There seem to be three main arguments here.

1. Bryant is a better individual player than James

Kobe is unquestionably a better three-point shooter. He’s also less prone to turning the ball over, and more effective from the free throw line. But LeBron shoots a higher percentage and scores more overall, and has a clear lead in rebounds, steals and blocks. At this point James has the statistical edge, although Kobe has proven himself more than 1,000 games. Let’s check back when both their careers are over.

2. Bryant makes his teammates better than James

This argument is pretty subjective. Sure, Kobe has played in and won more NBA titles than LeBron, but he also has had far stronger supporting casts for most of his career. There have been reams written about Bryant’s difficult personality and selfishness, whereas James seems like a fun guy to play with and does average more assists, but without actually being in the locker rooms of both teams it’s difficult to make a call.

3. Bryant wins championships, James does not

You can’t argue with the facts – Bryant has four titles, James has none. However, for three of Kobe’s titles, he was playing with one of the top five centres of all time, in a team coached by probably the greatest coach of all time. Let’s face it, LeBron hasn’t had those kind of opportunities, being hamstrung by poor coaching at the very least.

The harsh reality is that if James plays with mediocre teammates for the rest of his career and never wins a championship, he won’t go down as one of the greatest of all time, and Kobe deservedly will be regarded as the better player. For now though, I wish NBA fans would save their breath and argue about something else.

Following their collaboration on Damian Marley’s 2005 record Welcome to Jamrock, God’s Son and Bob’s Son (shouts to the Kid) recently released a full-length album, Distant Relatives.

Nas is one of the greatest rappers of all time. After dropping Illmatic in 1994, he embarked on a series of albums and career choices that at the time seemed questionable. Certainly many of the underground hip hop fans he won on his brilliant debut were confused, but in hindsight he has always stuck to his principles, his rhymes reflecting his personal beliefs, never dropping songs to chase fame or whatever the industry perceived as hot at the time.

On this album, Nas stays consistent with his body of work, his rhymes meshing almost perfectly with Damian Marley’s singing and chanting. The subject matter is largely similar to what you might hear on roots reggae tracks by artists like Sizzla, but where many Jamaican roots artists’ songs feel slapped together and scattergun in terms of topics, the music on this album is conceptually strong and obviously prepared with some forethought as to the overall effect.

Some may cringe or take a cynical view of the strong themes of righteousness on this album, or question the intentions of the performers, but there’s no denying it is consistent. To me, it feels right. While this kind of subject matter enjoyed brief popularity in the 1990s (Nas has touched on many of these ideas before), it’s way out of step with current trends in hip hop, and probably won’t earn either artist any new fans.

Unsurprisingly, there are weak tracks. The lowest point of the album, the attempted anthem “My Generation”, has a real cheesy “We Are The World” feeling about it, and features Lil’ Wayne trying valiantly to drop knowledge. Sadly, he merely proves he’s not in the same league as the emcees he’s trying to emulate here.

However, when the production and performers come together, it’s a real pleasure to listen to. Slow, bass-heavy head nodders “Patience,” “Leaders,” and “Friends,” really hit the spot,  “In His Own Words” is joyous, and the raucous “Nah Mean” brings a hardcore feeling to the record.

Overall, this is definitely worth a listen. I’m just glad an album like this can get made in today’s music industry, even if it does end up being misunderstood by the vast majority of the mainstream.

There are some days when I really feel like I live in paradise. Dripstone Beach is fifteen minute bike ride from my place, and it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen. Sure, most of the time you can’t actually go in the water, but walking along the shoreline in the evening is a wonderful relaxing way to end the day.

As a kid growing up in Melbourne, I had limited exposure to pre-made ice coffees. Big M, and later Ice Break and IC were the only options around, until the glorious day that Farmers Union invaded from the west and became readily available in supermarkets and servos across Victoria. I thought it couldn’t get any better, but I was wrong.

According to Wikipedia, Paul’s Ice Coffee is the second most consumed drink in the Northern Territory, and for good reason. It has a narrow edge over Farmers Union in taste, and has the added cachet of exclusivity – you can only buy it within the borders of the Territory. I’m taking orders if anyone wants a delivery.

Located about 80 km north of Darwin, the Tiwi Islands hold an annual Grand Final and art day, when visitors can partake in the culture of the indigenous people as well as take in a football game of a reasonable standard. The event is held on Bathurst Island, the second-largest of the group.

Several galleries across the Tiwi Islands show their wares and give some insights into the production of the various carvings, paintings and textiles on sale. While the openings have the feeling of warehouse sales, they are definitely not places to find bargains. I suspect a dedicated collector would be better served doing their research and negotiating with artists separately.

With only 2,600 people, a huge proportion (35% according to Wikipedia) of the islands’ population play in the local Tiwi Islands Football League, a competition with a distinctive free-flowing playing style, spawning numerous AFL players. The rest of the population are fanatical supporters of their chosen team, little old ladies and young children screaming encouragement and abuse from behind (and sometimes on) the goal line, brandishing empty two litre Coke bottles and flags bearing team colours.

On this day the Imalu Tigers took on the Tapalinga Super Stars, with the Stars opening up a wide margin by the beginning of the final quarter, showing silky skills and more discipline than their opponents. At that point the Imalu players appeared to decide that if they weren’t going to win, at least they would put a few Super Stars in hospital, with some bone-crunching illegal tackles and shirtfronts setting off brawls seemingly every minute. While it was a disappointing end to the action on the field, the crowd was whipped to fever pitch, creating a manic atmosphere of fun for the spectators.