Our Lady of Peripheral Indulgence?

I went for a walk at lunch time on Friday, taking a slightly different route back to the office. In so doing, I came across an item of cultural ephemera not half a block away from a private Catholic school.

Relax, sensationalists, this isn't The Telegraph, and it's still school holidays. It could be any wastrel dumping their spent jollies-delivery-unit in the street.

Still, made for some nice photos that I couldn't help but share:


Parramatta, you bastion of kulchar you!


In context


Still [life in the back streets of Parra!] more context



Of course the comments on Instagram and Facebook waxed nostalgic for the vintage equivalent from their youth:

"A step up from the Orchy Orange Juice bottles of the '80s ... Just." - nickhadleydarlo

(Orchy had the monopoly on single-serve bottled juice back in the day.)

The coming of the lord?


Come on. It must have looked funny on the architect's plans, before they'd erected it.

In a perfect world, celebrated pianist Dick Hyman would record a compact disc of organ music here.

It's a church in Dixon, Illinois, whose slogan is 'Rising Up', that looks from above (courtesy of Google Maps, Gawker, Christian Nightmares, DListed and Boing Boing) like a penis.

Of course, if this blog post were an episode of Blackadder, it'd have to end with, "I find that quite ironic, because I have thingy shaped just like a church…"



Pimp my head (yes, it's for realsies)

Dom hairy

"Now," he smiled; producing like a magician a lump of modeling clay with which he replaced the broken-off nose. "What sort of nose did you have in mind?"

What else: Irish, she wanted, turned up. Like they all wanted. To none of them did it occur that the retrousse nose too is an aesthetic misfit: a Jew nose in reverse, is all. Few had ever asked for a so-called "perfect" nose, where the roof is straight, the tip untilted and unhooked, the columella (separating the nostrils) meeting the upper lip at 90 degrees.
V. - Thomas Pynchon

Dom bald

Photo finish


Let me begin by explaining that this photo was taken in the afternoon on Wednesday 30 December 2009, and admitting that it would have been better if I’d taken the time to switch the ‘date and time’ setting on. But I have to add that I was taken the photo on the fly; I’d already been admonished for taking photographs in this shopping centre.

Point is, it’s a large shopping centre, and I’ve only seen this sign once, in one place, on Wednesday 30 December 2009. I’m not going to rant about hypocracy – “What, smoke free? Is the tobacconist closing? Will the supermarkets and newsagencies cease selling cigarettes?” – but I will suggest a couple of options of what the sign is actually saying. Like, perhaps:

Nope, we still haven’t twigged that the day after 31 December 2009 is in fact 1 January 2010.

Or maybe:

Yes, we’ve spotted the typo. We’re just too cheap to bother correcting it.

Or perhaps it’s not a typo; perhaps the shopping centre ceased to be ‘smoking’ in January 2009 and they’ve only just started getting the signage out now. This would also explain why they still haven’t put any other signage saying, ‘this shopping centre is non-photogaphing from the date of a certain unfortunate up-skirting event’.

Frankenstein on the Beach?

The heading’s a Philip Glass reference and it won’t make any difference whether you get it or not – although your cultural and intellectual life would be that much more enriched if you were familiar with his work, particularly the bits that swirl, orchestrally, while choirs chant ‘Who?! Huh?! Who?! Huh?! Who?! Huh?! Who?! Huh?! Haaaaa! Haaaaaa! Haaaaaa! Who?! Huh?! Who?! Huh?! Who?! Huh?! Haaaaa! Haaaaaa! Haaaaaa!’ over images o traffic congestion, teeming hordes of pedestrians and other elements of modernity running amok.

Now imagine those same images in the back streets of those suburbs just north or Manly, where Harbord meets Freshwater, a block or two from the beach. Impossible to conceive of it – moreso if you know the area. Quiet, sleepy seaside suburb.

I wonder if there are any suburban goths in this area, so close to the sea. Cos you never really see goths on the beach.

But if they were in any of these beachy Many Warringah suburbs, I know where they’d be: somewhere they could find the stuff that turns them on.

Not the quiet, leafy streets within earshot of the calming, crashing waves, surely.

Well, maybe one street.

In fact, one corner in particular. One corner, at the other end of the block that leads to the parking area just in front of Freshwater Beach. It has gore.

Not just a modicum of gore, mind. Not just any amount of gore.

A considerable amount of gore.

More gore, if you will, than any other – that doesn’t prove to be the address of an abotoir or some hitherto unknown abode of a serial killer.


Shop (s)talk


“Don’t you remember?” My mother reminded me. “There was that teacher who was caught taking ‘up-skirt’ photos with his camera in a shopping bag…”

I don’t care what anyone says – no guy’s upbringing is so liberal that it isn’t even ever-so-slightly weird to hear your mother casually use the phrase ‘up-skirt’. In context. Over dinner.

Before I could double-take or mug to the non-existent camera and deliver a sorely needed bon mot in the style of Groucho Marx – (“you think that’s bizarre, get a load o’ this insertion…”) – my sister added that “there was a more recent case – a guy standing at the bottom of the escalators, photographing women above…”

This discussion had begun when I happened to mention that our local shopping centre had banned photography. I had discovered this a mere few hours earlier. At our local shopping centre.

Here’s what happened:

I had just taken a photo on my phone. I was on my way to the bank, but before I got there, a shopfront had caught my eye – a fairly new one, I guessed, because I’d never noticed it before – and I decided I needed a photo of it. So I took a photo, and as I was putting my phone back into my pocket, the figure of a white-shirted security guard, rapidly bearing down upon me, caught my eye.

“Sir, did you just take a photo?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, for I had, and I’d been none too surreptitious about it: no camera concealed in a loaf of bread; no hiding behind bushes or a pylon; no newspaper with the eyes cut out of the front page photo of somebody else’s face. I’d brazenly and boldly pulled the phone out and taken the photo. I suspected it might be out-of-focus, but it would suffice.

“This shopping centre no longer allows the taking of photographs,” the security guard informed me.

“Oh, really?” I asked, genuinely surprised to learn this. I knew you weren’t allowed to photograph train stations, but I didn’t know other public places were also banning photography now.

“May I ask what you took a photograph of?” the security guard asked.

“Um…” I said.

I’ll often stop and snap a quick photo if something I see sparks a thought, particularly if it’s something I might want to blog about. But this wasn’t one of those things.

“This is actually a bit embarrassing to admit,” I said. “I recently made friends with someone called Louise. Her nickname’s Lou Lou. She happens to be a lesbian. I wanted to photograph the name of that shop and send it to her. I thought she’d get a laugh out of it…”

Whether or not Louise was going to get a laugh out of it, the security guard certainly did. “You’re alright, mate,” he said, shaking his head at me. “Off you go.”

“Cheers,” I said, and headed to the bank.

“What was the name of the shop?” my sister asked.

I told her. Everyone laughed. And I realised this was now one of those things I was going to blog about.


Bat for Flashes
(Hangin’ with the Photobat)

I had a very busy Thursday a little while back.

It began mid morning, when I interviewed Shane Mauss over brunch, in Paddington.

A quick cab ride later, I was at my lunchtime appointment with Kara Kidman on FBi Radio’s Out of the Box.

A pleasant walk took me from Redfern down to Chinatown until I met up with Alan Moyle, AKA Photobat, not quite at the prearranged corner we’d intended. Alan was in Sydney to serve as one of the judges of the Canon Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) Australian Professional Photography Awards (APP), as he explains in his blog. We’d arranged to catch up, have a coffee and maybe take some photos. (He'd be taking, I’d just be in ’em. Possibly.)

We kind of had a vague idea of a ‘dodgy’ photo we’d intended to take with me in it – but in the process, Alan was taking other photos ‘for pleasure’ (that is to say, not as part of a commission). The theme for these ones was decided by his followers. I mean, he’d posed the question either on Twitter or his blog or FB – I can’t remember which – and went with an idea put to him; I’m not suggesting he’s started a cult.

You’ll notice I’m being deliberately vague here – I don’t think I should be giving more details about Alan’s methodology than he does, unless it’s via an interview that he’s consented to take part in.

Not that he’s got anything to hide.

We weren’t taking photos of embassies and government buildings or anything like that. Not to my knowledge. I know you’re supposed to check now according to that government ad, because ‘not knowing’ is not a good enough defense anymore, but we weren’t on holiday. Well, Alan was, technically, but only interstate. And there are no embassies where we were – or at least there didn’t seem to be. Not that we were specifically looking. Or even deliberately not looking. We were neither looking nor not looking for official, government buildings or nondescript office blocks that might house espionage agencies.

We weren’t doing anything like that.

But if there was some sort of adventure aspect about this that I’m currently withholding, rest assured, either Alan or I will blog about it soon.

Or after we’re released, if it comes to that.

(No, I promise, that last sentence was just a joke. Your Honour…)

Anyway, we wandered the city – from Chinatown to Darling Harbour then back to the CBD – and in the process Alan decided he could improve upon his initial idea of the dodgy shoot. So, in his words, we “had a chat, had a walk, had some coffee and came up with a little idea for a photo. So we did it.” It took place in one of those streets in the south-eastern part of the CBD, just before the city gives way to Surry Hills and the Eastern Suburbs.

I’ll either blog in more detail about the shoot – or just as briefly – but with another link to Alan’s Batblog, when he’s processed more of the photos. For now, enjoy this one.


Deep Image

The AWA Tower, Sydney CBD 02

I was flattered to discover on my Flickr page, a request that a photo I took (with either my phone or a none-to-flash digital unit I’ve had for about five years) be added to an online ‘Flickr Group Pool’ called Modern Times: Modernism in Australia. Chuffed, how could I refuse? It's this image of the AWA Tower on York St in Sydney’s CBD, seen, I think, looking back from further south along York St.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of the AWA Tower, although it would have been after stepping off a bus at Wynyard – something I only started doing as a way of life in 1990, when I started going to university in the city. Until then, trips to the city were few and far between, and – apart from trips in with school friends to visit all our favourite secondhand and import record stores one day during each set of school holidays – would have mostly been made by car, avoiding that part of the city altogether.

The infatuation with this tower atop its art deco building, emblazoned with the AWA logo, relates back to a childhood memory of the same logo on the side of a big box, in our garage. The box must have once held a television, though not ours. The first one I remember us owning was a black HMV model, the letters standing for ‘His Master's Voice’, with the standard logo of ‘Nipper the Dog’ paying attention to a gramophone horn from which a high fidelity reproduction of that sound must have been emanating. That was eventually replaced, in the late 80s, with a colour Rank Arena model. So how the box came to be in our garage is anybody’s guess.

Under the logo were the words Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia), which itself seemed interesting and mysterious. I’d never heard of, and so had no concept of, amalgamation or Australasia. I do also remember a couple of television advertising campaigns that I linked back to that box: AWA/Deep Image ads for television sets, with a jangly pop jingle of some kind. Later on there was an ad for the utter chaos society would descend into if all the AWA devices suddenly disappeared. I can’t remember what they all were apart from perhaps radar devices, in whose absence, a ship got lost, and utter gridlock as all the traffic lights malfunctioned. The same result would ensue in this part of the city if all drivers were as inexplicably infatuated with the AWA Tower as I am. I certainly think of it whenever there is a reference in the press or online of Australian Workplace Agreements, as they’re always followed, in parentheses, by the phrase’s initials: ‘(AWA)’.

Spied a spider

Spider Web_04

I suppose I’d better offer some background. My dad worked in the construction industry. He had a tractor equipped with a back hoe and a front-end loader, which he drove around on the back of a big International tip truck. He’d often be hired to clear land, dig footings, pools and driveways when a house was being built, or to cart the rubble away when it was demolished. As a result, there was loud earthmoving equipment around our house that would make noise from the early hours, before work, and late into the night after work when repairs were required, or teeth or buckets had to be replaced on the back hoe.

Thus, despite a garden full of fruit trees, we never had cicadas around our house in summer – all scared away by the vibrations and noise. (Flies and mosquitos still thrived, rest assured.) Once the old man retired and sold the equipment, the bugs teemed. A follow-on effect was a multitude of spiders. Sure, there was always a redback in the proverbial woodpile, the odd funnel web surfacing to make a more obvious nest if something big was left on the front lawn, and heaps of ‘garden spiders’ that thrive in the summer. Now, however, we have a cicada breeding ground.

cicada 01


And during the spring and summer, every day presents a different, elaborate spider web. Or one arachnid empire that contiues to grow!

spider web empire

I usually grab the digital camera and take a quick snap of the web, knowing full well that even were I to manage to keep the right things in focus, it’s still not going to look anything as impressive in the photograph as it did in real life. So when I recently transferred about a year’s worth of random spider and spiderweb photos to my computer, only a handful came close to looking good.

Spider Web_03

Spider Web_02 Spider Web_01

The post script to all of this is that, after processing these images late into the night, I of course was plagued by dreams, bordering on nightmares, of encounters with spiders, the one I awoke from involving an extensive network of webs in and around my computer and desk, heaving under the weight of nasty looking spiders. Which, metaphorically at least, is now exactly the case.

Some pun about not giving a fig…

Fig Tree Bugs_01

The leaves of the fig tree in the front yard were looking eerily translucent… obviously of no value to Adam and Eve had they been created in the Romeo garden in North Manly (as opposed to Eden) and coerced by me mum (rather than the Serpent) to eat the fruit of the blood orange tree (in winter) or the mango tree (in a non-drought summer when the cockatoos would be feeding elsewhere, and the fruit could grow beyond the size of a plum without being gobbled) instead of an apple.

Fig Tree Bugs_02

Closer inspection revealed that something had in fact been eating of the leaf of the fig tree… the creepy, crawly, caterpillar larvae of some insect or other…

Fig Tree Bugs_03

Despite my instictive reaction of wanting to squish or spray the lot of them, I hold back; they’ll most likely feed the cockatoos. And if not, who knows what manner of insect they grow into? It’d be a real pity if there were a multitude of these on the way, and I put an end to it all.