A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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12 Jul 11 OMG I’m a GPS: 6 degrees of separation

Gillard's stepdaughter poses for 'Zoo Weekly'Some time ago (26th December 2008 to be precise) I published an article entitled “OMG I’m a gay porn star” The article was about the unforeseen consequences of Googling oneself. My search discovered that I share my name with another ‘Liam Alexander’ who is a model on a site called ‘originaleuroboys’; a gay porn service. In the article I wondered if “this Liam is a real person…; quite likely he was dreamed up by two guys fantasizing on the phone”. However, I learned that this Liam is a real person after receiving this comment:

“Liam Alexander the porn star is for real. I was the photographer that did the originaleuroboys.com photoshoot with Liam that is now on originaleuroboys.com. To add the the interest in Liam take a look at our studio website http://www.7bluestudio.com because Liam features on the homepage larger than ever! Ben Willis, Director”

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14 Feb 10 Shoes on a Wire: Love is the Drug?

shoe on a wireIn a previous post entitled ‘The postmodern dilema‘ I posted a similar photo of some high heel shoes hanging from power lines.  In the article I posed the question (rather naively as it turns out) “do people create such spectacles out of an innate need to produce art?”.  A reader subsequently informed me that shoes hanging from a wire is a clandestine indication that drugs are available nearby.  I have never been able to look at a pair of shoes hanging from the wires again in the same way; you can’t help but wonder, okay, where are the drug dealers hanging out?  Usually, of course, the shoes are a grubby old pair of trainers.

More than a year later, who ever strung up the stylish ladies shoe (featured left) continues to maintain this piece of post modern installation art.  What then is the cryptic significance of ladies heels hanging from the wires?  Is a better class of drug available in this location, or is something quite different available, ‘love for sale’ perhaps?

Since reaching the dreaded ‘middle aged’ milestone, I seem to have developed something of an obsession with shoes.  Scuffed old trainers will no longer do; shoes need to be carefully chosen and colour coordinated with a range of different styles of outfit.  The usual stereotype is women being shoe obsessed while men pay very little attention to this all important detail of any outfit.  Perhaps this is less the case with older men, or perhaps it’s just me.  Either way, I’m starting to develop such a shoe collection my friends are starting to call me ‘Imelda’.  It certainly seems a shame to me that otherwise well dressed men often resort to wearing an ugly pair of modern trainers as some kind of misguided concession to looking casual.  Modern trainers have all the style of a rocket launcher and don’t look good with anything, despite the delusion that many labour under.  Look down; you really never have seen anything more incongruous and UGLY!

Perhaps I would prefer not to be enlightened on the significance of ladies shoes hanging from wires.  I really would rather hold on to the delicious mysteries they conjure up.  Perhaps if more dealers advertised with a better class of shoes, they might increase their sales while setting an excellent example and performing a much needed public service:  grubby old trainers should never be seen, not even hanging from the power lines!

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23 Mar 09 Warhol’s comfortable numbness

Andy Warhol AnimationAs Paris celebrates a new exhibition of Andy Warhol’s celebrity portraits, I find myself wondering about Andy’s legacy.  Andy Warhol’s seemingly endless series of serial artworks made one of the most cogent statements of the 60s.  Works like ‘Saturday Disaster‘ (1964 shows a series of repeated pictures of a car crash) comment on the idea that repeated exposure to violent images in the media makes people less sensitive.  The ‘Desensitisation by mass media’ theory has been commemorated by an endless number of high school essays and articles by Marshall McLuhan (like this one, entitled numbness).  The repeated images of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans investigated the numbing effects of mass production and the interesting inconsistencies of low quality printing.  Warhol’s repeated images translate very well into celebrity portraits of people like Mick Jagger, John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neill, Blondie and Michael Jackson.

Does exposure to an increased number of disturbing images really desensitise people?  Today’s internet exposes us to many more images than the 1960s media could offer.  The exponential increase in the amount of information available does not seem to have lead to an exponential decrease in sensitivity.  If it had, surely we’d all be killing each other and eating each others’ children by now.  People still donate to humanitarian causes, more than ever in fact and manage to show a great deal of concern in general.  Does the desensitisation theory hold any water after all?

The answer might be that increased exposure to media mostly induces numbness to media if anything at all.  The options an internet user has in choosing what media they wish to be exposed to undoubtedly plays a part.  While many people read the news, not as many deliberately seek out disturbing pictures.  The popularity of black comedies like ‘Weekend at Bernies‘, where being dead is the main source of humour, and of course all the standard blood and guts might attest to the fact that people are now much more comfortable with death and violence on the screen. 

As a friend of mine recently pointed out; people who refuse to be confronted by disturbing images at all may make themselves less sensitive through a determination to be complacent and blissfully ignorant.  As pornogoraphy continues to be by far the most searched for content on the internet, we might expect to see more insensitivity to sex on a grand scale but as yet, this trend shows no sign of developing.  Judging by the popularity of the current Paris exhibition, no decrease in interest in Andy Warhol’s most cynical and most unashamedly commercial works is evident either.

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13 Jan 09 Dan Zanes at Riverside

dan zanes at riversideWhen I first noticed Dan Zanes’ music clips on cable TV, I remarked to my daughter; who is that hipster dufus?   However, it didn’t take me long at all to warm to Dan and his unique brand of psychedelic folk.  Dan has a warm and gentle personality and it really comes across in his music.  He comes across as a very genuine person, plays a range of instruments (including guitar, banjo, mandolin and blues harp) very well and writes a great many fun and entertaining songs.  Despite his understated performance style, Dan exudes charisma on stage.  When I heard he was playing at the Parramatta Riverside theatre as part of the Festival of Sydney, I grabbed tickets for my family straight away.

Dan started out playing music with a group of other  he had met in West Village playgrounds who were also there with their kids. These fathers playing music together eventually became The Wonderland String Band, which played at parks and parties and on a tape of songs that Zanes recorded at his home.  Dan is an inspiration to parents like me, proving parenthood does not have to mean calling an end to creative pursuits.

The New York Times Magazine, said, “Zanes kids music works because it is not kids music; it’s just music – music that’s unsanitized, unpasteurized, that’s organic even.”  Unlike many who make ‘kids music’, Dan Zanes feels no need to dumb down his music for his audience.  While kids may enjoy other performers, many parents (like me) find enduring them quite an ordeal.  Zanes music appeals to young and old alike; the parents at the performance I attended enjoyed every minute and just as much as the kids.  All are able to participate and dance and be completely involved.

The other members of the band Dan is currently touring with (colin brooks: drums, john foti: accordion, saskia sunshine lane: stand up bass and sonia de los santos: vocals, guitar & mandolin) are also very entertaining; excellent musicians with easy going, friendly personalities.  All made themselves available after the performance and chatted with anyone who approached them.  I bought a CD and have all their signatures.  Read more about the band members here:

If you want to introduce your child to a fun and enlightening musical experience, I can’t recommend Dan Zanes enough.

Details of Dan Zanes’ Australian tour here:

More Dan Zanes photos:

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26 Dec 08 Graffiti and public art

central station muralNSW Citirail has recently updated the murals in the tunnel that stretches from Devonshire Street to Broadway at Central Station in Sydney.  The old murals had been vandalised over the years and were looking worse for wear.  The new murals all have a railway theme, and while rather generic in style help to add some interest to what would otherwise be a long and tedious walk.  Despite their relative youth, the process of vandalisation by graffiti tag has already begun.

I am not against graffiti per se.  Many works of graffiti art show a great deal of skill and imagination.  Furthermore; it’s truly art of the people; not to be cloistered in some gallery for the dilletante elite or created for auction at Sotheby’s etc.  Graffiti art has come some way to being recognised as a legitimate art form, but defacing public art works, no matter how pedestrian does this cause little good. 

If graffiti artists and taggers were to confine their creative expression to faceless expanses of concrete, the majority of people might be a great deal more sympathetic.  When outdoor murals, public sculptures and historic architecture is thoughtlessly covered in spray paint it doesn’t brighten anyone’s day and entreches the view that graffiti is nothing more than a wanton act of destruction.

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26 Dec 08 OMG I’m a gay porn star!

liam alexander euroboyI recently googled my name just to see if my site was getting any kind of ranking…  ok, it was pure vanity; why else does anyone really google their own name?  As a result of my search I discovered that I share my name with the guy in the photograph on a site called ‘originaleuroboys’; a gay porn service; quite a surprise.

I am at pains to point out that this Liam and myself are NOT the same person, not that there’s anything wrong with that… some of my best friends… um err…

I’m not even sure that this Liam is a real person either; quite likely he was dreamed up by two guys fantasizing on the phone.  If Euroboy Liam is out there, by all means feel free to get in touch; I’m sure we’d have quite a lot to talk about.

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13 Dec 08 The birds and the environment fly South

=This image of some white ibis flying in formation over southern Sydney may be beautiful (if I say so myself), but it’s appeal masks a disturbing undertone.  During my childhood, it was rare to see these graceful birds in the suburbs.  They are now very common.  They can be found all over the city in great numbers, eating from garbage bins and making themselves dirty and ugly.  After pigeons, they are now referred to as the new flying rats; despised urban vermin.  Quite a far cry from the status these birds had in ancient Egypt where they were sacred to the god Thoth.  We have no right to malign them as it is our fault they are invading our cities.  Habitat destruction leaves them little choice.  Other threatened species can’t make the transition to becoming city dwellers so easily and simply die out.

Farmers are not the traditional allies of environemnatlists, but as the reality of climate change dawns and river systems like the Murray Darling dry up even they are changing their tune.  There is plenty of motivation to take climate change seriously when the changing environment threatens your very livelyhood.  The great shame is, even as attitudes to conservation begin to make a mass change, it may well be too late.

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11 Dec 08 The postmodern dilema

shoes on a wire

shoes on a wire

The ubiquitous pair of trainers thrown over a telephone wire has become a very common suburban sight.  To see a quite stylish pair of high heels hanging in the same manner makes a refreshing change.  At first glance, this might seem like a random act, but of course, it’s not.  Even to get a pair of trainers to hang from a phone wire would surely take several throws.  To get this pair of ladies shoes to hang from a wire took at least a little consideration.  They first had to be tied together and then carefully flung into position.

The question for me is; did the perpetrator consider this to be an act of ‘art making’?  If they just meant it as a random act of mischief, is it still art?  Perhaps no.  If someone else (like me) considers it to be art, photographs it, presents it, does it then become art?  Perhaps yes.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still fall?  (Can anyone be so egotistical they imagine things don’t happen if they don’t happen to be there?).  What is the sound of one hand clapping?  Swish swish swish.

Earlier modern artists (such as Marcel Duchamp) proved that art can be about anything.  ‘Postmodern’ artists continue to make art which is about nothing, which understandably alienates a great many people.  Perhaps art does not have to be the domain of an exclusive elite if the man in the street can make art by simply throwing a pair of shoes over a wire.

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11 Dec 08 Repossessed: dispossessed

There can be few things as melancholy as a repossessed house, especially one with forgotten Christmas decorations still displayed.  Presumably the family who put up the decorations expected to be in their house, at least until Christmas, but had to leave in a hurry.

We might think that banks and lending institutions should be a bit more compassionate and cut families a bit of slack, but then, our economy has never been built on compassion.  When one borrower defaults on a loan it will inevitably lead to someone else not recieving their payments and being unable to pay their debts.  If that someone else was you it might lead you to be a little less positive about compassion.

Which ever way you look at it, it’s still going to be a pretty miserable Christmas for a lot of families.

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