The public fascination with celebrity is a symptom of the emptiness of a consumerist lifestyle.

When Elvis and John Lennon died, I was shocked and saddened to hear about their deaths and I can remember well the circumstances of when I first heard the news.

Whacko Jacko is another matter. I’ve always thought that Jackson was an ineffably sad person and a classical example of how talent and intelligence don’t necessarily go hand in hand. He had so much talent and so little nous.

It still mystifies me why we the public are interested in the opinions of celebrities about matters that are outside of the entertainment industry. Why aren’t the real geniuses outside of the entertainment industry as lauded and courted by the media?

That’s actually a rhetorical question, I know why.

It’s because most of the public in this fat consummerist first world society we (who have computers) live in, are dissatisfied with their lot and want to live vicariously, the lives of the rich and famous.

As John Cooper Clarke once said in his amazing poem, “Beasley Street”;

The girls are on the shelf
Their commom problem is
…that they’re not someone else

Here’s a video of the whole poem.

[youtube 37QUUwp9xIs]

I’ve got wood. Fnarr! Fnarr! Chortle, chortle. The Sydney woodworking show. NSW, Australia

In an effort to explain why I’ve been so tardy with my postings lately I’d like to tell you about the latest thing that is distracting me.

Last week I went to the Sydney woodworking show with my good friend Paul. The woodworking show is basically porn for carpenters and as such, when discussing it, double entendres come easily and uninvited to my mind and it makes me feel like Finbarr Saunders.

Finbarr Saunders

It’s hard (I’ve started already!) not to have some ribald fun with sentences like, the men lovingly held their tools while they fantasized about what they wanted to do with their wood.

Or perhaps,

They stood in a circle, almost salivating, as a man in the centre rubbed oil all over his wood until it glistened. Every eye followed his skilled movements. Back and forth he went with a smile on his face and as he worked on his wood. Every man in the crowd couldn’t wait to get back home and try the same technique on their own wood.

Anyway, enough of that childish nonsense!

My wife, Engogirl would like me at some stage to make a solid wood table from one piece of wood. I’ve always thought that it would cost too much but I was very surprised to see that large slabs of seasoned wood are very reasonably priced and I’m pretty sure that next year I’ll buy a large slab of wood and give it a go.

Solid pieces of timber

All this recent talk of wood got me motivated to use my tools again. Over the last week I’ve begun making a cabinet (L 2000mm x H 800mm x W 500mm or 6’6″x 32″x 20″) to put our TV on and to hold all our CDs (we have about 600) and DVDs (about 100).

I started off in carpentry making sets in the theatre in Vancouver many years ago. I never really trained in carpentry but an old friend gave me a job and taught me the things I couldn’t figure out for myself. So in short, I’m not really a very good carpenter in a technical sense but what ever I make usually looks pretty good… from a distance and you don’t look at it too closely.

My trouble is that I tend to rush things. I’ve never really been a fan of process. I’m more interested in the end result. Which of course means that I always build things that I could’ve done better, and it bugs me! So for this latest project I decided to take a deep breath and take my time.

This will be a new experience for me, as I usually take the bull charging a red flag approach.

I’ve decided to make the cabinet out of plywood that will be custom veneered with figured sycamore and edged with solid wood. The veneering service alone, is going to cost $132 a square metre! So I’m going to have to take my time as I’ve spent about $1000 already on materials. I got a quote yesterday for the lacquering and it’s going to cost about $500 just to get it painted.

Here’s an illustrated mock up of what the cabinet should look like with the TV etc in and on it.

Hopefully it will look like this

I better do a good job or Engogirl won’t be very pleased if the money I’ve spent is wasted.

As usual, I’ve bitten off more that I can chew and I’m chewing like crazy! Here’s a video of a dovetail joint using a jig that is similar to the one I will be using to give you an idea of what I’ve gotten myself into.

[youtube L_dw_iV6-0E]

Little girl playing Skeletor. Oakville, Ontario, Canada 1984

Every time I look at this image I can’t help thinking about how unhealthy the iconography of the toys are.

It’s a mystery to me, why a little girl like this, and other children for that matter, think that skulls and satanic symbols are cool. Even more puzzling is buying such messed up things for kids. I know that children pester their parents for all sorts of things but surely no good can come from such capitulations.

More stuff I just don’t get.

Danny and Angus at the Newcastle Ocean Baths Canoe Pool. NSW, Australia. 2009

My wife (Engogirl) and I went to Newcastle for the long weekend holiday (Queen’s birthday). Although Newcastle is only about 150kms north of Sydney, it was until this weekend, terra incognita to both Engogirl and I, so we thought we’d make ourselves familiar with the city over the holiday period.

Newcastle is the sixth largest city in Australia with a population of just under 290,000 and it is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. The fact that Newcastle is a mining town had put me off going there for so long and I suspect that many other people in Sydney have shared my misgivings about going there. As it turns out, Newcastle is a real gem of a city as it’s very cycle friendly, has excellent beaches that are walking distance from downtown and the people are very friendly.

The funny thing about everyone I met in Newcastle, who I told that I thought they lived in a beautiful place, is that they all said the same thing; “shhh! Don’t tell anyone”.

As the sun was going down while we were walking around the city, we came across the old Newcastle Oceans Baths Pool and this is where we met Danny and Angus.

Danny and Angus

Danny was out walking Angus, a friendly English Staffordshire terrier (not to be confused with American Stafforshire terriers also known as pitbulls). Like the rest of the people in Newcastle we met, Danny was very affable and easy to talk to and he told us about how the pool had a mosaic of the world under the sand that had filled the pool during a large storm years ago.

The light was turning that magic gold that advertisers love to use to sell cars, life insurance or superanuation plans, so I asked to take a few shots. Afterwards, Danny said that if I liked this pool, I should check the next one nearby as it was a beauty. So I did and I’ll put my shot of it in my next post.

Casablanca cruising with Bazza. Morocco. 1982

When I used to travel, it was usually on a shoestring budget. At the time it was common for travellers like myself to meet up with other travellers and before long, share hotel rooms with them to cut costs.

When I was in Morocco in 1982, I met up with two other Australians, Bazza and Cazza (not their real names), and we travelled together for a couple of weeks sharing a room. Bazza and Cazza were primary school teachers from the same school and were on their annual leave. Now don’t get the wrong idea, there was nothing “going on” between any of us. Cazza wasn’t attracted to me, Bazza was gay, and I’m straight.

Cazza was travelling with Bazza because she wanted to go somewhere that was exotic and wanted to have a travelling companion without any complications. Cazza just didn’t get Morocco, she’d topless sunbathe on the beach and then get pissed off that she was attracting a crowd of sexually starved locals.

She would’ve been better off at the Club Med in Tahiti.

Whereas Bazza had come to Morocco because he had heard about the stereotype that most Arab men were homosexuals and because he was looking for some action, he was hoping it was true. It was true, in so far as the Moroccan men that Bazza got involved with, were into being the daddy and always wanted him to play the mummy.

If you catch my drift, that is?

One of Bazza’s pet peeves was that the Moroccan men (the ones he was intimate with at least) wouldn’t admit to themselves that they were gay. Bruce hated the idea that he was being used as a surrogate woman until the real thing came along. He told me the same thing had happened on his holidays in the Philippines. 

Ahhh men…..

all over the world, they’re all heartless and selfish bastards!

Both Bazza and Cazza were a lot of fun to be around and I enjoyed my time with them greatly.

One night in Casablanca I decided to go out and take some night shots and Bazza asked if he could come along. “Sure” I said, and I was glad of some company.

Bazza was not only a promiscuous slut, he also had a great sense of humour, plus he was a very interesting and intelligent guy. We wandered around the streets in the muggy night, effortlessly shooting the breeze, with me occasionally taking a photo of whatever caught my eye.

not so easy rider

After a few hours of trudging around we decided to rest our feet and buy some gelato at a cafe.

As we were sitting at our table eating our gelato, Bazza, sitting opposite me, started to purse his lips and make kissing gestures my way. I knew that Bazza knew that I was straight, so I knew the kisses weren’t for me. I slowly turned around and a few tables away was a thin; well dressed; late thirty’s; Moroccan man, blowing kisses back at Bazza.

Bazza waved the Moroccan guy over and so he came and introduced himself to us, shook our hands and joined us at the table. Bazza just stared our new friend with a shocking undisguised lust and this open declaration didn’t seem to be causing any discomfort in our guest. I just didn’t know where to look. After a couple of minutes of this weird staring thing, acknowledging that I was the “third wheel” so to speak, I excused myself from the table, and bolted for home, not expecting to see Bazza for some time.

Within ten minutes of me getting back to the hotel room, Bazza stormed in, all in a fit of rage, and started throwing and kicking things around. During his tantrum, Bazza was ranting, over and over, “all he wanted was to try and sell me drugs!” After a few minutes, Bazza calmed down and explained that as soon as I left, he had asked the Moroccan to go to the Moroccan’s place, which turned out to be a room above the cafe. Once inside the room, Bazza made his move, only to be rebuffed and to have it explained to him, that the Moroccan wanted to sell cocaine to him.

I’ve thought about this incident over the years many times and a few things have occurred to me.

1.Who in their right mind would smuggle cocaine into Morocco, which is not only further away than America, but it’s population of people rich enough to buy coke would be infinitesimal? Obviously it was a scam.
2.What was going on with the blowing the kisses thing? What did the Moroccan guy think? That’s the way in which westerners communicate non-verbally when they want to buy drugs?

Ahhh… life’s rich tapestry!

Thank You Mask Man by Lenny Bruce

A recent experience has made me re-evaluate why I maintain this blog.

The original reasons why I started this blog were to write about some of my more interesting life experiences and to rekindle my interest in photography.  For years my wife had been telling me that I should write down the stories that I’ve been regaling my friends with; and boring her with, to get them out of my system and perhaps produce a book.  The book could even be illustrated with my old photographs.

I knew when I started blogging that there wouldn’t be very many visitors so I just plugged away at my stories, howling away in the dark , as it were, hoping that I might build up some kind of readership.  For about the first six months I never received more than about 70 visitors a day but then all of a sudden I noticed a huge jump to about 1200 visitors a day and that’s when I started getting my first notifications from my ISP (I’m not on the WordPress server) that I was beginning to exceed my allocated bandwidth.  Something seemed to be wrong because I wasn’t getting any comments.  I was beginning to question what was going on here. 

Were the 1200 visitors a day, all lurkers?

My wife being the brainiac that she is, suggested that I start using Google analytics to analyse what the WordPress visitor stats actually meant. Thanks to Google analytics I found out that most of the traffic I was getting was from people looking for images and those execrable scraper sites.  I was getting about a thousand people a day just looking at two images; one of the punk, and one of bare breasted woman with tattoos. The picture of the punk is not a particularly good photograph but it does capture what a punk from the early 1980s looks like. Sure enough the posts about the punk and the tattoos used to get comments but they were more along the lines of, “punx not dead!! punx rule!!!” or “tatoos are great and you suck!!” All of this was not what I was hoping to achieve with this blog, but it did to help me crystallise in my mind what I was subconsciously hoping for.

Not only was I putting my efforts out on display, I guess I was also looking for approval, dialogue and a sense of community.

Yep I’ll admit it, I do like the odd pat on the back but I also appreciate a conversation that goes beyond motherhood statements, with like-minded people.  In an effort to dissuade people coming to my site merely to steal my images and my bandwidth by linking to them, I changed many of the image filenames to initials so they couldn’t be searched for by their name.  I also added the anti-leech plug-in to this blog so those shit bag scraper sites couldn’t lift my posts and use it as their own content or steal bandwidth by linking to them.  Another thing I did, was instruct my ISP to stop the search bots from looking at my images so they didn’t appear in internet image search engine results. 

These changes to my blog made my statistics drop right back down again and over the last couple of years I’ve seen them rise back up again to a point where I was quite often getting between 700 and 800 visits a day.  According to my WordPress statistics I’ve had over 300,000 visitors and I can tell you that my id and ego really liked these figures. My super ego had the crap beaten out of it by my id with a wine bottle and it is crouched in a corner, quivering, too scared to to make its presence known let alone offer an opinion. 

I still wasn’t getting very many comments but I put that down to the fact that I’m not particularly good at cultivating a community like Pat Coakley (who I learn from every day in so many ways) and I took heart from bloggers such as Shane Adams and Cafe Selavy who produce high-quality content but hardly ever get any comments. 

I told myself that Pat, who is a trained psychologist, basically has a fifth degree black belt in ego wrangling and therefore is very adept at putting people at ease, making them feel comfortable enough to make comments.  I, on the other hand, know that I can be a bit prickly and what I have to say is not to every one’s taste. I don’t avoid confrontation and as a matter of fact I think I have a self-destructive urge to seek it out, which of course can make some people feel wary. This of course doesn’t encourage people to leave comments. I just contented myself with the fact that I was getting quite a few visitors.

Last week my fragile little temple of delusion came crashing down.

they dont love me anymore

All of a sudden I was only getting about 40 or 50 visitors a day. 

I did some searching on the Internet and came across an article about how Google had changed their search algorithm because of all the black hat spammers out there.  I suspect that this new Google algorithm has affected how people come across my site. 

With this sudden crash of my visitor statistics I was hit with a crisis of confidence. Luckily my ego is like a shield of steel (4 years in art college will either toughen it up or crush it) and I have constructed a new delusion for myself, to help me cope, and it goes something like this; ” oh those old stats only reflected low quality visits from people searching for free images and now the new stats reflect the high quality visitors I was really trying to reach in the first place”.

Oh well, it works for me. 

One thing though, this crash in my stats has made me think about, is the nature of approval and my need for that approval.  One of my favourite bloggers, Robert Krzisnik wrote a great post about why we might all be doing what we do, when we blog.

Since I’ve been discussing the whole “pat on the back thing” I thought you might all enjoy this little animated sketch from that comic giant, Lenny Bruce.

[youtube 1tjWYEMQ70w]