Monday, March 24, 2008

Two steps forward, three steps back

Turn 90 degrees and photograph whatever you see

How many different ways are there of seeing the place you live? Abandon all control of your destiny and find out.

Here’s what you’ll need: a friend or two, a camera, a bag, a watch and a sharp eye. Each of you should start in a different place in town and follow these instructions.
  • Walk towards the sun for three minutes (try to stay in a straight line as much as possible). Note down where you are.
  • Look around you: can you see something the color of the sky and small enough to pick up? Pick it up and put it in your bag, then keep walking in the direction you walked to get to it.
  • Stop when you see a sign. Photograph the sign.
  • Think of a number between one and 60. Pretend you’re standing in a clock and turn that many minutes, then start walking again.
  • Keep walking until you see something beautiful. Photograph it. Then turn 90 degrees and photograph whatever you see.
  • Walk straight ahead, counting your footsteps, until you have taken 143 of them. What song is in your head? Write it down.
  • Look directly at your feet. What’s there? Pick it up if you can, or photograph or describe it if you can’t.
  • Turn 45 degrees and walk for another three minutes in a straight line: then take the first path, street or alleyway on the left, then the next one on the right. Walk along that for one minute, or until it runs out. What is in front of you? Write a haiku about it (one line of five syllables, then one of seven, then one of five; they don’t have to rhyme).
  • Now take a photograph of yourself and go home.
When you get home, compare experiences with everyone else who has done the exercise.

This is just a short version of a game that could run all day: feel free to write a set of instructions that would work well in your town.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wish you were here (instead of me)

'Workers' lunchroom | Laverton'

Just because no one else makes postcards of your hometown is no reason you shouldn’t. Or maybe you live in a popular tourist town that’s flooded with postcards, but you think they’re all pretty stupid. Take your camera for a trip around town, photographing anything that you think really captures the spirit of your home.

Get 4x6" prints of the best ones and grab yourself some postcard backs (you can get these at craft stores or off the web), or make your own by gluing thin card to the back of your snaps. Give each postcard a caption (‘Drunks ogle female passersby, Blarney Stone, Yarraville’, 'Pile of discarded rubbish grows mouldy, Badwell Ash', 'Witty grafitti tells it like it is, Pierz') and send them to friends, telling them what a great time you’re having and expressing your wish that they were also here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Something beginning with 'C'

Getting there is half the fun. Playing ‘I spy’ is 67% of the fun of getting there, thus making it 33.5% of the total fun. Why cut yourself off from so much pleasure just because you’re stuck at home?

Come on: when was the last time you had a ripping round of ‘I spy’ at the office? With so much to spy, why wait another day? If you feel like movement is integral to the game’s success, whip up a game on the train to work: that first response may take a while to come, but once your fellow commuters get started they won’t be able to stop.

If ‘I spy’ just isn’t your speed, perhaps you could get your work team, tutorial group or knitting circle into a feverish bout of ‘I went to market and I bought a…’. Shirkers might be brought into line with a stern warning that memory games are a proven (and fun!) way to ward off Alzheimer’s.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cut off from culture

Language isn’t the only barrier when you’re visiting another country. Even when they speak English, the shared experience that a people has of local news, television shows, ads, childhood toys and favourite foods can make you feel terribly excluded. Imagine, for example, coming to America and trying to have a conversation with someone when you’ve never heard of Lucky Charms, Saturday Night Live, ‘Where’s the beef?’ or Mouse Trap?

You’ve probably never noticed just how often you refer to popular culture, especially in conversations with people you don’t know that well. While there’s no way to wipe every Monty Python sketch or Simpsons episode from your mind, you can experiment with cutting yourself off from culture. You’ll find it doesn’t take long to feel the effects.

Here’s what you do: for two weeks, don’t watch TV, read the paper or look at the internet. That’s it. OK, now try and have a conversation at the water cooler, with your car pool, at playgroup or waiting for class. Good luck!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hungry for heritage

Going to Thailand without gorging on the country’s cuisine would be like going to India and not seeing the Taj Mahal; that is, it would be stupid. You’ve been hanging around your hometown for who-knows-how-long, but have you ever really tried the local food?

No, no: not Hungry Jacks! Not even the great fish and chips from the takeaway up the street. We’re talking about seriously local food, the food the locals used to eat back before everyone started eating all the same stuff. You know—paperbark-wrapped turtle steamed in a ground oven, goanna cooked in the coals of an open fire, or dry-roasted bogong moths. Aboriginal people had limited access to brie and spring rolls, so they had to work with whatever walked through or grew in their surrounding region. You might be surprised at what passed for ingredients before Coles hit town.

You can find some bush tucker recipes on the internet, though you might have to do some face-to-face research to find recipes for your own locality. Once you’ve tried out a few dishes, invite your friends around for a dinner party. If you need to fill out the menu a bit, have a look into what the first European settlers in your area ate too. And don’t forget, a dinner party is the ideal forum for boring people with the slideshow you made in ‘more photos than you’ve had hot dinners’.

(Thanks to Wombalano for the photo.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get lost

‘One of the great joys of Prague is finding yourself completely lost.’ ‘You don’t need to know where you’re going; wandering aimlessly is one of the best ways to see New York.’ ‘The winding alleys of Toledo will have you lost in minutes, and you’ll love it!’

Admit it. Every day you take the same bus to school or drive the same way to work. You see the same old things so often that you don’t even see them anymore. When was the last time you ditched the routine and risked getting lost?

It may cost you some time, you might have to get up a bit earlier, and it might sound like stating the bleeding obvious, but next Wednesday, you should go a different way. Walk a different way to the bottle shop, catch a different bus in the morning or get off at an earlier stop, get off the freeway and hit the city streets. It’ll get your brain moving. Go on, give it a try.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

More photos than you’ve had hot dinners

Where do people get this idea that their photos are in any way interesting or important? Who decided that blurry pictures of drunken bridesmaids, dripping babies in long white frocks, fat cousins on beaches or off-kilter European churches should be shown to all and sundry? It’s a conspiracy, and it’s time it was stopped.

Your life is worthy of photographic documentation. Don’t be bullied by your vacationing, event-loving acquaintances: Just because you’re stuck at home with no plans to get married or born again, doesn’t mean you’re not special. You’re life is, in fact, endlessly fascinating. All you need are the photos to prove it.

What’s your favourite thing? Shoes? Dinner? Reading? Watching DVDs and TV? Your dog? Every day, for one month, photograph it. Photograph the shoes you wear each day. Photograph, every day, your dinner, or the last page you read before bed, or the screen of whatever you’re watching or your dog when he gets up in the morning. At the end of the month you’ll have 30 pictures of shoes (or dinner, or books, or…) that your workmates will be just dying to see. (If you’re really the vindictive type, host an old-fashioned slide show.)

And don’t forget: commentary is the most important part of any viewing. ‘Oh yes, I remember this dinner! Oh, it was fabulous! See that cheese sauce? Well, there was a part over near the left-hand corner of the dish that got quite coagulated during cooking, and I was worried for a while it wouldn’t come off in the dishwasher. So I said to Derek, ‘perhaps you should put your plate in the sink to soak for a while’ and he said…’