Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Bird Lady of Rockingham

I think I’ve turned into a Bird Lady. No, wait, I mean THE Bird Lady. You know, the one that keeps lots of feathered friends and can be seen at parks throwing bird seeds.

Let’s do a head count (birds only):

6 budgies (parakeets to my American readers)
2 weiros (cockatiels)
2 brown hens (Alice and Bella)
varying numbers of Japanese Quail
flock of regular visiting Wood Pigeons

Back in Ireland, in 2008, I incubated and hatched dozens of fertile eggs bought on eBay. We ended up with 90 chooks, the place was swarming with them. We kept them in 5 homemade sheds, and they were brilliant at putting themselves back in at night. The only problem was, my idea was to keep the breeds separate so as to be able to offer purebred chicks – we had Marans, Araucanas, Light Sussex, Dutch Barnevelders, Silkies, Orpingtons, Australorps, Sumatras – but because they were freerange, it soon became obvious that their offspring were mutts. Adorable, fluffy, feathery mutts. It didn’t help, of course, that a lot of Musical Sheds was going on at shut-in time.

The downside of this experiment was that over half of the chooks were boys. Noisy, raucous, crow-at-sparrow’s fart boys. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much sparring going on, but the din at dawn proved too much for us and off to the market they went.

Fast forward to 2012 and Australia. No more large scale poultry farming for me. We bought 2 cute little chicks, named them Alice and Bella after the Twilight girls, and now our fridge is over-run by their eggs. Alice is a Serial Escape Artist, and every morning my son Jack has to catch her and throw her back into the enclosure.

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We also bought a trio of Japanese Quail, ostensibly to keep the floor of the budgie aviary clean. Well, they weren’t much good at that, so we bought an A-frame wooden hutch and bunged them in there. I knew they wouldn’t sit and hatch their own eggs, so on Boxing Day 2012 we drove 25 miles north to another Bird Lady’s equally unkempt home farm (ahem! I’m creative, I can’t be tidy at the same time), and bought 20 just-ready chicks from her.

From the 20 and our own 3, we got lots of fertile eggs. I bought a cheap plastic Chinese incubator (I regret having sold my incubators in Ireland before moving to Australia, they were Brinsea Octagons and excellent incubators). And before long, we were running awash with new chicks of all shades from yellow to brown to russet red.

Chicks grow fast, so hubby was put to use making up 2 large walk-in aviaries. Before this, the 20 quails had been in a large cage. With the walk-ins built, the 20 found room to stretch and fly. And the new chicks, once feathered up and hardy, went into the aviaries too. (Newly hatched chicks have to spend their first 3 weeks or so under a heat lamp. I keep them in a cardboard box with a 60 watt light bulb over).

Again, the problem with males. When it became apparent which ones were males (the ones that crowed, humped the females and each other, and didn’t lay eggs), I placed ads for them on Gumtree. FREE. I managed to sell some through a couple of our local pet stores too.

When numbers dwindled due to sales and freebies, I would whip up another batch of chicks in the incubator. And so on and so forth.

Call me a crazy chick, but the experience of keeping birds and breeding them is also a lesson in business and economics.

Our 2 weiros, Angus and Julia, were bought off Gumtree in 2011. They were named after the artists Angus and Julia Stone, whose song “Big Jet Plane” was playing on the car radio as we drove to collect the weiros. Angus the weiro clearly isn’t doing it right, as 4 times now he and Julia have tried hatching their own eggs, and each time they have proven infertile.

Anyway, I will leave you now with some videos and photos. One video shows Bella laying an egg, with a cameo appearance at the end by a curious Alice. The other video is of a live Japanese Quail hatch.

Bella Lays An Egg

Japanese Quail hatching live

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T2

No, not Terminator 2, much as I love that movie franchise. I’m talking about the chain of shops called simply T2. Their hashtag is #gentea, which stands for Generation Tea. Their website is http://www.t2tea.com and their blurb says:

T2 is cherished by tea devotees all over the world – it’s the tea that thousands of people start and end the day with. With 50 stores nationwide and in New Zealand, T2 is Australia’s leading tea retailer, offering the country’s largest range of premium, fragrant tea and tea wares from all around the globe. A select range of T2 teas is also served in some of the best restaurants and cafes throughout Australia while packaged T2 tea can also be found on the shelves of leading food purveyors. T2 has unfurled and blossomed over the last 18 years, and now sells enough tea per month to make 9 million cups! The iconic brand is beautifully packaged up in an experience that is both unique and immersive; a celebration of the centuries-old art of tea-making.

 

And now T2 has spread its wings and opened its first branch in Shoreditch, London, UK. Its founder is Maryanne Shearer, who discovered a niche in the market in a world of coffee drinkers, ironically whilst sipping a cup of tea in her homewares stores office. Read about Maryanne’s epiphany here.

Going to T2 is quite an experience.  It isn’t just a shop where you pick up a packet of tea and head off, it’s a place where you linger to smell, taste, feel and savour the whole experience.  And THEN buy a packet of tea or three.  Or a teapot, or a teacup and saucer, or try some new flavour combinations at the T2 Brew Bar.  Free tea, anyone?  There’s even jams, honey, biscuits and sugar cubes for sale in their stores; sometimes the jam becomes part of a new concoction which is then trialed on unsuspecting customers at the Brew Bar.

There is even a T2 Tea Society, a loyalty programme where members get notified ahead of time of events, new products, gifts, discounts etc. If you can’t find a T2 store near you, fear not, you can order online and the freight is free. There are even T2 videos on the various types of tea available, how to brew them, little tips and trickson the ary of making that perfect cup of tea.

I make it a point of taking snapshots of the displays whenever I visit my “local” T2 stores, in Booragoon or Perth CBD, and these photos make their way into my social media albums as photographic art. I have 3 T2 teacups, 2 are in my display cabinet while the 3rd, an eBay purchase, is in the post. I have my eye on a couple more, to add to my stash for my photography projects.

I know you’ll be wanting to hit the T2 website now and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.  So I’ll leave you here with a few photos that I took of the displays the last time I visited a T2 store.

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Giving It All Away for Free

I was reading Issue 9 of Renegade Collective magazine just today, and one particular article struck a chord in me. The article was called “The Art of Stealing”, and it was about one Lukas Renlund’s project called “Steal My Photograph! (SMP)”. Essentially, it is an Art movement where Lukas hangs framed prints of his photography on a wall in the street, with the invitation to simply take what you like. It started in Copenhagen, where the Finn was living and working, but now Lukas has taken his project to Barcelona, London and Cape Town, and is now preparing for a global tour. Each “exhibition” is filmed by hidden cameras installed behind the photo frames to capture the art thieves in the act of stealing.

Here are the videos of the Copenhagen, London, Barcelona and Cape Town “exhibitions”. Copenhagen Oct 2012, Barcelona Aug 2013, London Oct 2013, Cape Town March 2014.

The premise of Lukas’ social experiment is simple – steal a framed photograph, hang it anywhere you like, take a photo of it and email it back to Lukas. I love the idea.

A similar concept was hatched by my favourite Assemblage artist, Michael deMeng, called “Art Abandonment“:

Art Abandonment is a group designed to encourage random acts of art, left in various locations around the globe. The idea is that folks can make something and leave it for a lucky unsuspecting person to find. Artists can then post locations and photos of abandoned goodies…and finders can let everyone know that they are the lucky finder! O’ sweet abandon! So leave some art. Leave a contact email for the finder…and if you get notified share the message with this group. If you prefer you can use the contact email: i.found.artwork@gmail.com we’ll be checking it often and share the results.

Here’s an intro page on Typepad for full explanation:http://michaeldemeng.typepad.com/art_abandonment/   

Have fun!

The Art Abandonment Project is now also a newly published book by Michael and Andrea Mateus de Meng, available on Amazon.  I’ve just sent off for my copy, which I will share with my friends and hope that they will join me on this…as I  intend to give away some of my Photographic Art for free.

Actually, I’d come up with a very similar idea last year, which I mentally called “Random Arts of Kindness” and involved me giving out free art at subway stations, with the instructions that the recipient takes a photo of the piece and emails it back to me. Then last December I resigned from my workplace, which meant I was no longer commuting to the Perth CBD every weekday, so the idea went on the back burner. I did toy with the idea of having a Flash Exhibition at the Rockingham Library…but then quailed at the logistics of transporting the pieces and hanging them up and then the whole event being the world’s shortest exhibition lasting under 5 minutes as a flashmob of varsity students stole my Art during their tea break and I never heard back from any of the recipients. But now, perhaps, as a member of Michael deMeng’s Art Abandonment Project, I might be more motivated to get my arse into gear and actually practise what I preach?!

 

 

 

Gyotaku “Fish Rubbing”, and my very clever cousin

I’ve always liked the Chinese and Japanese paintings of fish, specifically Koi and Goldfish.  But I must confess I’ve never come across Gyotaku before my talented cousin shared his catch on Facebook.  He’d caught a whopper of a fish and several smaller ones, and, sharing the same artistic bent that I do, decided to “print” it as a permanent record of his catch.

From Wikipedia:

Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo “fish” + taku “rubbing”) is the traditional method of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid-1800s. This form of nature printing may have been used by fishermen to record their catches, but has also become an artform on its own.

In the earliest nature prints, inks or pigments were applied directly to the relief surface of leaves and/or other relatively flat natural subjects in order to capture images of their sizes, shapes, surface textures, and delicate vein or scale patterns. Typically both sides of a leaf were coated with ink and the leaf was then placed inside a folded sheet or between two sheets of paper. When rubbed by hand or run through a printing press a mirror image was produced of the topside and underside of the same leaf. Often the prints were done in black ink and the flowers later painted or drawn in by the artist. In other cases a flattened, dried leaf or plant was coated once with black ink and then repeatedly printed in a printing press. The initial dark print was used as a work copy or proof print. The subsequent prints, with fainter traces of ink, were hand colored to more closely resemble the appearance of the real subjects. This methodology is generally applicable to making a print from a fish. They also used wood and carved images into that.

But, back to my cousin, Tan Hau Meng. He calls this project “Mulloway feeding frenzy on Yellow Tail Baitfish”.  I think he’s done a marvellous job capturing the details and nature of the fishes in question. Here are the photos he posted up on his Facebook page. I was so impressed I told him I’d be writing up about it and about Gyotaku. And, being the clever guy he is, he used food colouring ti “ink” his fish, so he can still eat them afterwards. Genius!

And here it is:

The Big Fish : Mulloway
The Big Fish : Mulloway

 

The Little Fish : Yellow Tail Baitfish
The Little Fish : Yellow Tail Baitfish

 

The secret ingredient : Food dyes.  This way you can have your fish and eat it too!
The secret ingredient : Food dyes. This way you can have your fish and eat it too!

 

Mulloway prints all done
Mulloway prints all done

 

Close up of Mulloway print
Close up of Mulloway print

 

Look at the superb detail - the eye, mouth, scales.
Look at the superb detail – the eye, mouth, scales.
Big and Little Fish all printed
Big and Little Fish all printed

 

Hanging up on the wall
Hanging up on the wall

Project Alice

Just a quick one today to let you all know about my preparations for my latest project “Project Alice”. Ever since I first read Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass when I was a kid, my fascination for all things Alice has never abated. It may have been on the backburner, other things may have drawn attention my away from it, but now and again, Alice sends me a gentle reminder that she is very much alive and kicking.

Suffice to say that my new project will be photography based, and right now I’m gathering the right ingredients for it. Basically, it will involve teacups again (as a hark back to my Madhatter’s Teaparty series), but this time I will also use other props such as white rabbits, playing cards, tiny bottles containing mysterious liquids, macarons (yes, seriously)…oh hey, why don’t I just share my Notepad with y’all right here:

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I have the teacups, white rabbits and chess set. With the playing cards I’m just narrowing down my selection on Etsy. I don’t need a whole set, just the suit of hearts or maybe even just the Royal Flush? The charms I can get from my local craft shop. I also have an Alice charm bracelet from Etsy coming in the post. I can get tiny corked bottles from my local discount store, and fill them with glitter and write “Drink Me” on them with a Sharpie pen.

It’s the macarons that might just be my downfall…I might have to buy a few boxes of them as I’m afraid I might not be able to follow the “shoot first, eat later” rule! :D

Incidentally, one of my favourite film characters is also called Alice, from the Resident Evil franchise. In the films Alice is portrayed by supermodel-turned-actress Milla Jovovich. She is Dark Alice.

My Steampunk character for the upcoming Perth SupaNova (I will tell you about that other fascination of mine later) is called Darker Alice, and she’s a combination of the two Alices mentioned above.

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How to Paint your Cat

Boo is our cat. He came with the house we bought 2 years ago. We like to joke that the house was free, but the cat cost over $300k. I first met Boo when we were viewing the property; he sat on the back doorstep and let me scratch his chin. I wished he could be mine there and then.

The people who sold us the house said they would leave him behind for us if we liked. Of course we liked. They said Boo was more of a community cat than anyone’s. He liked to visit other houses. Once the dust had settled, literally, Boo started showing up at our doorstep looking for his breakfast. He wasn’t too put off by us having a dog, Scruffy. Scruffy had grown up in Ireland best friends with our old cat, Murphy, a curmudgeonly black fella with yellow eyes. He took to Boo immediately, and would greet him enthusiastically with a lick or two on his ears.

When we got our American Staffy – Mastiff cross puppy, Shelagh, a few months later, Boo fell right in with her as well. He didn’t seem to mind the dogs’ “loving ministrations”, as long as he got their food, and a rug or cushion to sleep on inside the house. And lots of chin scratches and belly rubs too, of course. The Kid’s belly is Boo’s favourite kneading post. The Kid doesn’t mind, and Boo is happy.

Anyway, this post was meant to be about how to paint your cat, and I’ve talked for too long. So, let me just show you in photos instead my favourite technique of getting a painterly effect on an image. You didn’t really think I was going to take a paintbrush to Boo, did you ;-).

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This is Boo atop one of my cushion designs. (You can buy the cushion from my Society 6 page. Shameless product placement lol).

The following 5 screenshots show what I did to Boo’s image using the App “Repix” on my Samsung Galaxy S4. I used the brushes: Drips, Chalk, Hollywood, Freshen and Undoer. The Undoer brush is my favourite, I just love the element of surprise when revealing the image beneath the layers I’ve put on.

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Quite simple, really. I then used the App “Smoothie” (another favourite app) to tweak the image further until I was happy with it.

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Isn’t he gorgeous!

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Battling The Beast Again

…and this time The Beast won. (For the uninitiated, The Beast is my Epson Artisan 1430 printer, we have a love-hate relationship).

I had planned all morning to make a beautiful piece of artwork 1×2 feet long to stick onto one of my cradled wooden panels. It was going to be a triumph: 1) I was getting The Beast to print me a banner-style print 1×2 feet long, after discovering how to do it (see link), 2) it was going to cover all of the cradled wooden panel this time, eliminating the need for Washi tape borders, and 3) it was going to have colours that absolutely popped and zinged. I was going to use my favourite insects, butterflies.

Unlike Damien Hirst, murderer of butterflies, see link, no animals are ever harmed by the creation of my Art. That’s one of the best things about mobile photography art, or just plain old “phoneography” now, it’s CLEAN. No inks, paints, brushes to wash, nothing to clean up afterwards. And if it doesn’t work out, just delete it from your device.

It’s clean until I decide to marry the world of Real Art with that of Virtual Art. By this I mean the creation of a real, tangible object that a collector can walk away with. It has the essence of the original digital design, but now it also has form, texture and weight, and it can be hung up on a wall or displayed on a mantlepiece. The Virtual part of creation is clean; the same cannot be said of the Real part. However, in marrying the two, the sum is greater than the parts. (I’ve always wanted to say that).

So, where was I. Oh yes. The Beast and I, we fought long and hard this afternoon. I’d loaded up a 1×2 feet long sheet of baking parchment stuck to my canvas carrier sheet of the same dimensions. So far, so good. I pressed the Print button on my Mac. The Beast promptly spat out the sheet I’d just loaded. Back into the feed. Press the Print button. Again with the spitting out. Feed. Press Print. Spit out. Feed. Press Print. Spit out. WTF.

I think I tried a dozen times before conceding defeat to The Beast.

In the end I decided to print a humble A4 sheet instead. And that came out with all the colours totally wrong. My butterflies were bright jewel blues and hot pinks…The Beast presented me with yellows and reds, and black ink smudges all over the place. Bad, bad boy!!

So I ended up turning to Beauty instead (that’s my other printer, the Canon Pixma MX870). And like a dream Princess, she delivered the goods perfectly the first time.

Here’s the image I’d prepared for printing as a 1×2 feet print.
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And here’s the one I resized as an A4 print.

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This is what Beauty printed out for me, that I’ve now stuck onto an A4 sized cradled wooden panel, and varnished. It just needs some black paint round the sides. At least I did get 1 thing out of today’s adventure – the colours really pop and zing, and the butterflies look almost alive.

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Ta dah!! (In case you’re curious about the butterflies, they are from Perth’s Natural History Museum, and yes they are taxidermy examples and long dead, but in defence of the Museum, they were collected with the scientific purpose to educate, and not for profit or personal gain).

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More Banner Printing on the Epson Artisan 1430

So, yesterday’s experiment was to see if my Epson Artisan 1430 could do banner or panoramic printing. It could, and did. Albeit I misconstrued the paper size and the photographic print came out smaller than expected.

Today, I decided to give it another whirl. This time, I chose as Paper Size 300 x 900 mm. For the borders, or un-printable sides, I kept everything at 0.

And here are the results.

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Here it comes! Nice, right?

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(Note: the dark rectangle behind the printed baking parchment is from my previous first attempt, where I printed directly onto the canvas. I’ve used the same length of canvas as a carrier sheet).

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As you can see, from the close-up above, The Beast has again presented me with some unexpected inclusions. By this I mean ink blots and streaks. Ah well…shit c’est la vie. Chalk it down to an idiosyncracy of this particular printer. If I had a dollar for every time The Beast produced an inclusion, I’d be filthy rich by now.

Anyhow, here is the print, prepped to be stuck onto my handmade DIY cradled wooden panel of 2×1 feet. There’s bits left over on either side of the panel, but I’ll cover that up with Washi tape. I’ll also Washi tape the top and bottom, to neaten things up.

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Here I’ve gessoed the panel and brushed gel medium over it, and I’ve stuck on the print while everything was still wet. I smoothed the print out as much as I could, removing any trapped air bubbles. As The Beast had given me serendipitious ink blots on my print, I decided to counter this by placing gold flakes over the print at random but also surreptitiously over the bigger blots.

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I’ve sprayed gloss varnish over the print. When that has dried overnight in the morning I’ll give it the Washi Tape treatment. I’ll also paint the sides of the frame black. A few more layers of gloss varnish et voila! The finished product, ready to hang.

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Happy Days!

Next, to test out other types of fabric, possibly with a view towards creating my own scarves? Hmmm…interesting idea.

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Banner Printing on the Epson Artisan 1430

I used to wonder about The Beast’s (my Epson Artisan 1430) ability to do banner printing, for panoramic photos. I looked online, and also on Epson’s own Manual, but all leads seemed to point to a “User Defined Dialogue”, which, try as I might, I couldn’t find on The Beast’s print dashboard on my Mac. Scratch head.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps it was no longer called the “User Defined Dialogue”, but something else. So I threw away my preconceived notions and looked at the print dashboard with fresh eyes.

If you, like me, have been wondering how to do banner or panoramic printing on an Epson Artisan 1430, here is the key.

Simply follow the pictures below, or:
In Preview, go to File > Print > Manage Custom Sizes > Paper Size.

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You’ll have to play around with your paper size until you find one that suits you. As it was my first time, I mistook the Paper Size to mean the actual size of the image I wanted to print. Which is why you can see I pegged it as 300mm wide and 500mm long, or 11 inches by 19.6 inches.

You can set the “Non-printable” area of your image too, by tweaking the Top, Bottom, Left and Right margins. Note this is the only part that bears the words “User Defined”, however it relates not to setting up the paper size but rather to setting up image borders. I haven’t quite figured out how these translate in real terms, so I shall simply have to progress by trial and error. Hopefully I won’t run out of canvas before I get it right…

Oh, Eureka! Face palm. A thought just hit me. Of course…I should use my canvas roll as a carrier sheet and print instead onto my favourite medium, baking parchment. That way, if I run out of baking parchment, it’s only about $3.50 for a roll anyway, no biggie when compared to over $25 for a roll of primed canvas. Do the math.

Maybe I should’ve experimented more with the sizes before printing, but I was too eager just to see if The Beast would actually take a roll of canvas that was Not a standard A3 size. So, for this particular experiment, it mattered not if the size of the image wasn’t quite as expected…what was important was to to see if I could get The Beast to co-operate today.

First try: after a lot of churning, the “eejit eject paper” light came on and I was forced to press the button, whereupon my roll of canvas, which was about 300mm x 900mm, was summarily spat out by The Beast.

Second try: paper misfeed. The Beast grabbed one corner of the canvas roll but not the other, so it got skewed up and jammed.

Third time was a charm. And here you can see the resulting print as it came out The Beast’s maw.

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As you can see, Yes, I got The Beast to do a banner or panoramic print for me. And No, the dimensions are not quite right.

But at least now YOU know how to print a banner or panoramic photo on the Epson Artisan 1430. No need to Google “User Defined Dialogue”, as it does not exist!

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Is Your Coffee Crap? No Shit!!

I’ve drunk good coffee and bad coffee. I’ve made terrible coffee for myself as a kid, after observing my Mum but somehow still neglecting the all-important step: filtering the coffee grains before drinking it. I’ve tasted the supersweet coffee from Malaysian “kopi tiams”, where condensed milk is the main ingredient. I’ve had tasteless watered down coffee at posh cafés, and excellent brews at cheap fast food outlets.

I like the idea of my coffee being dispensed by means of forcing hot water through tiny capsules. Okay, I can’t afford a real Nespresso machine so mine is a cheap purchase from Target, but hey it takes the Nespresso capsules, so I’m happy with it. And I do like a few of their blends, especially the strong ones: Ristretto, Arpeggio, Descafeinato Intenso.

So, naturally I’ve heard about Kopi Luwak. I won’t pull any punches and I’m telling you it’s shit. No, really, it is. It comes from the crap of an Indonesian civet cat called the Luwak. The Luwak ingests coffee cherries but can’t digest the stones or beans, so it passes that out its digestive tract and goes on its way. Meanwhile, that pile of crap is lovingly collected, washed and dried and sold to discerning coffee drinkers as the “rarest and most expensive coffee in the world”. I’m not shitting you.

I came across this article written by Tony Wild, the man who first introduced Kopi Luwak to the world. A man torn by remorse, who regrets ever bringing back that first kilo of Kopi Luwak…a man who recently in September 2013 decided that he should take responsibility for the repercussions of that one act of his, and campaign to end the extremely lucrative Kopi Luwak trade.

Kopi Luwak has turned into a burgeoning industry along the lines of paté foie gras. Yes, there are some “coffee plantations” that use captured and caged wild Luwaks and forcefeed them nothing but coffee cherries. Battery hens have a better deal than these poor caged Luwaks.

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(Photo is of a caged Luwak in Surabaya, courtesy of theguardian.com)

We’ll all heard or read about the plight of bears caged and milked for their bile. Now there’s the Luwak. And it gets worse…because now there’s not just the Luwak. “Enterprising” companies have introduced “coffee” derived from the excrement of other animals such as Thai elephants, Brazilian Jacu birds, Bonobo monkeys, Peruvian Uchunari. All vying for the title of “most expensive, rare and luxurious coffee”.

Has the world gone mad? What’s wrong with drinking real coffee made from real coffee beans, the good old-fashioned way i.e plucked off the tree, dried, then roasted and ground? What next for the human race – “celebrity coffee”? Please, it’s time to cut the crap.

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