Sunday, January 23, 2011


It was either last year or the year before that my sister came home from art at school and promptly introduced me to the artist ‘Banksy’. After we checked out some history on the guy we learned more about his stencil-based works and origins. Banksy is from Bristol, and there are a lot of his works in and around the city of London. There was a few in Sydney and Melbourne a couple of years back, but they were buffed, so you can’t find them anymore.
I’m in London. So, in short, I went looking for Banksy pieces this week.

I should probably take a moment here to express my opinion in general about graffiti.
It started more as a coping mechanism than anything else. I mentally divide what I see into two groups.

The first group I classify as graffiti. This includes general vandalism, ‘tagging’ and slogans designed specifically to offend some group or tell the rest of the world about someone’s conquests or the contents of their pants. I don’t really like these. They are frequently messy, and do little to make the environment a better or more interesting place.

The second group is ‘Street art’. These guys take more than thirty seconds to create and usually less than three beers. They house signs of intelligence behind the piece and show pride in the work. It’s usually evident that more than three brain cells went into producing whatever it was. Also, street art is often relevant in some way to a current issue.
Banksy pieces fall into the ‘street art’ classification for me.

Seeing Banksy stuff was cool. Like, they were actually there. Where the directions said they were. They existed and you could see them. It’s significantly cooler than looking for a Van Gogh or Monet in the National Gallery because even though you still search for it, there are an infinitely larger amount of things that can happen to a piece of street art/graffiti over the same period of time. And the local council doesn’t try to paint over a piece of post-impressionist work because of its location.
I’ll admit; this can be considered a hard point for councils to argue. Leaving a Banksy means you would have to leave all the graffiti. I don’t want to leave the stuff about someone’s pet goat because that is offensive but then, I’d have to define what is ok and what isn’t, and in the end, we have double standards. Double standards, along with Facebook, large parties and trash-mag-journos don’t seem to work very well for governing bodies. So in reality, it means that it is up to the owner of whatever-got-attacked to decide what to do with it. Sometimes they try selling it on eBay. I have heard of a lot of people going so far as to remove walls or doors to sell pieces, frequently for thousands (of whatever currency you please. If we’re talking yen then it’ll be in the millions.). That isn’t very fair, in my opinion, because the contributing artist gains no monetary benefit from the work.
But then, this guy could go into business if he wanted. It’s highly possible that he gains some benefit from the escapades, since he can so obviously maintain an agent, however anonymous he might be to Joe Public. But that would involve becoming part of the system – dancing because the man wants you to, not because you wish to step outside of the box.
I like metaphors.
Anyway. Where were we?
Over the course of the week, I researched what pieces were still in existence, scribbling notes down from a combination of internet and a book I’d picked up from the Tate Modern. Its nickname is ‘BLT’ (Banksy Locations and Tours, volume 1, from Martin Bull). So, I’d flick through the book, looking for the status of the piece. The tours are pretty much obsolete, since so many pieces have been either removed or flogged off on eBay. But I scribbled down the ones that were.

Directions kinda looked like this:

So I’d set off in the morning with my notebook, a compass the size of my thumbnail, and my tube map that was literally marked with several ‘X’ points – tube stations I’d disembark from. Maps weren’t easy for me since they’d either be too vague or too direct. Instead, I’d walk in a cardinal direction until a bus stop turned up – they would have a local map and that would be the method for finding the piece.

This method was fun. An adventure, if you like. I would frequently get lost, walk to a bus stop, check the map and head out again. There was a lot of walking involved, but walking was kinda what I had not done so much of since getting a driver’s license last year. I would seriously stake that fitness in young kids goes down once they are able to drive – no more walking places (!). Anyway. Lots of walking. I enjoyed it because the shoes were able to take it. And there was sun, in spite of the cold (you know, enjoying a high of 7 degrees – that sort of thing.). Tips? Don’t panic. Use landmarks rather than ‘take the first right, then the third left; diverge to the south and take the second exit on the roundabout’ (Give me directions like this and I’ll nod dumbly, knowing that the info is going straight in and straight out.) I will gladly take ‘keep going past the chicken shop’ over that any day. Even pointing and vaguely saying ‘it’s that way’ will work better.
Initially, progress was slow. My first day saw a grand total of two pieces visited. Admittedly, I didn’t head out until late morning, but once the method was better defined, searching became a lot more fun.

What became interesting as the days of searching went on was that my mind became more aware of wall-scribblings that I passed. On more than one occasion, I passed a piece not on my list and wondered idly if it might have been a new piece that wasn’t yet listed.

This little guy was on the other side of the road from the ‘Tesco’ piece. At the bottom of the art deco cinema. And it was unmistakeably an art deco cinema. I had my doubts as to where the building was when I first entered the street, because it wasn’t immediately next to the station I had listed in the bearings. And then I started looking around and on sighting the…thing…it became clear, without a shadow of a doubt, that that was the art deco cinema. It wasn’t so much a ‘light bulb’ moment as a confirmation of perfect clarity. Because there was absolutely nothing else on the entire street that was as tiled or as gaudy.

Of course, not all of these finds were in tiptop condition. Workplace hazard, I guess.

Of course, there was also the Gas Mask girl.

Kathy (my aunt) and I encountered her in Brick Lane, post-leather-jacket adventure that was Saturday arvo. We were walking towards a bus-stop, and suddenly as we walked over to the corner I realised what the slew of black and white was.
Me: “Hey! It’s the Gas Mask Girl!”
Kathy: “What?”
Me: “The Gas Mask Girl. It’s a Banksy. It’s like, the only one left in Europe or something. Just gimme a sec here. (Takes photo)
Kathy: “Well I’m glad you knew what it was ‘cause I had no idea.”
I hadn’t put Gas Mask Girl in my shortlist, simply because the information that went with it from the BLT read like this:
“Status: Extremely faded and often attacked by the remanets of fly posters (July 2010), but it’s the only example I know of in the UK, so it might just be worth a visit if you are desperate.”
I wasn’t desperate. I didn’t even know that it was in Brick Lane. But it was rather cool to stumble across it, even if it was almost unrecognisable.

BTW This is my photograph; the one up the page
is from a googlesearch.
So you could see what she looked like.

A couple days ago, I started putting pen to paper over the idea of graffiti. I’ve not been in the middle of it, but there were taggers in my year. I knew them and ‘who’ they were and what they did, since I’d often see it around town, or, back when we were in school, I’d hear them talking about what they’d done the night before. Back then, I asked them how they developed a tag. They had explained that there were two things you did.
The first was that you found a word to become your ‘tag’. It had to represent some part of you – it was, after all, yours. It also had to be short and simple – a logistics point, so that you could throw it up quickly. The second part was choosing how it looked – usually involving finding a font on the internet you liked or simply developing the tag over time. That was it.
Well, almost it. My headspace was placed somewhere in between these massive pieces of street art and the simple science of scribbling part of your essence on someone’s wall. So, I started thinking about the logistics. This is what happened after that.
“It seems to me that graffiti is, essentially, a point of identity. No human wants to go from the cradle to the grave unnamed. Each of us, as individuals, seems to house an innate desire to be recognised as a person. As someone who mattered.
Graffiti is one of those outworkings – I was here. I was here. I existed. I mattered. I want to matter.
In this way I see God’s character reflected, as oddly as it may seem – that this scribbling has manifested as a desire to see individual character and existence recognised.
One of the reasons I have come to appreciate some street artists is because they are akin to…how do I say this?, if this was the Matrix, they’d be the ‘glitches’. The little things to give us evidence that the Agents are up to something. Some sort of black-humour reality check. All is not well; that somewhere in the system over our heads, something is going on.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Binary Dates and Princess Lime

This is something I realised a couple days ago. And by a couple of days ago, I mean a couple of months ago. I left it to stew, and had left it as an unpublished post. Now that I have completely formed the idea, Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the theory of Binary Dates.

Every century, there are thirty-six binary dates that occur.

Since binary is composed purely of zeroes and ones, this means that all these dates are squeezed into the first eleven years of said century, of which only four years contain them.

Each year that will have a binary date ends in '00, '01, '10, or '11. There are nine dates in total - three in January, three in October and three in November.

Understanding Binary

Binary comes in a sequence of eight digits, each of which can be a zero or a one.


Each of these placements indicates a different number, starting from one and doubling eight times. A one in the sequence of eight indicates one of those numbers, which can be added to other ones in the group. The highest number in this string of eight possible is two hundred and fifty-five.

Simply, read it like this.

128  64  32  16  8  4  2  1            (Base 10)

  0     0    0    1   1   1  1  0            (Base 2)

0+0+0+16+8+4+2+0 = 40

And that's how you learn binary in five minutes.

I had been working on this since last year, when I realised that the date set out would be binary in nature.

And since I was awake with a flat iPod on the way out of Paris on the Eurostar just over a week ago, I decided to write up the dates and do the maths.

I didn't have anything normal, 80gsm paper to write on at the time. So it's scribbled on a tissue.

I'll type it all out anyway because that doesn't look like the most legible stack of numbers ever written.

Binary Solo!

2000                    2001                  2010                   2011

00010100            00010101          00010110           00010111
00100100            00100101          00100110           00100111
00110100            00110101          00110110           00110111
00011000            00011001          00011010           00011011
00101000            00101001          00101010           00101011
00111000            00111001          00111010           00111011
00011100            00011101          00011110           00011111
00101100            00101101          00101110           00101111
00111100            00111101          00111110           00111111

Okay. I'm beginning to feel a little weird. Typing lots of zeros and ones does strange things to the inside of your head. Anyway, I'm pretty sure this happened when I wrote it out the first time too. What was freakier was when I started translating those dates into numbers.

(oh, and BTW Blogger doesn't do columns. So if my formatting starts getting weird you'll at least know what's going on.)

2000                    2001                    2010                    2011

  36                        37                        38                        39
  68                        69                        70                        71
100                      101                      102                      103
  40                        41                        42                        43
  72                        73                        74                        75
104                      105                      106                      107
  44                        45                        46                        47
  76                        77                        78                        79
108                      109                      110                      111

For all my non-numerical friends or those who are starting to think I should start on the medication, hang in there.

The numbers for a year don't line up. But the same date over the course of the years escalates the number. I was honestly weirded out by now.

Post Eurostar, I had not done any more of this work. After all, it's all translated from Binary. Tempted to thread it into an ASCII chart though.
(What the heck, I'll do it anyway.)

Understanding ASCII
ASCII is a little easier for people to understand I think. Most people have encountered ASCII art at some stage. After all, the little emoticons we create every day - :) :( XD :P - are all ASCII art.

If you are having difficulty seeing the image, move your head back further from the screen. Make sure you come back to see where this goes, because I don't know what the ASCII-filter will do.

Anyway. ASCII is the code that computers use to generate letters and characters. They can only comprehend binary, so what happens is that a number is attached to each character typed and the computer can respond to that number.

For example, the number 65 is a capital A.

You know what? I can't explain it that well. I'll just assume that if you're still reading, then you understand what I'm babbling on about. If not, then accept that ASCII is a code. Like Binary. This number = this character.

Let's do this.

2000                    2001                    2010                    2011

$                          %                        &                         '
D                         E                         F                          G
d                          e                         f                            g
(                           )                         *                           +
H                         I                          J                           K
h                          i                           j                            k
,                           -                          .                            /
L                         M                         N                         O 
l                           m                         n                           o

Formatting doesn't work. Woop.

Well, that was anticlimatic.

I mean, what meaning can you pull from that?
I've got HIME (Japanese for princess)
and LIME.

There's our century, folks.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Moot the Owl

In 2008, my sister and mother went to Japan for a school excursion. It was a whirlwind tour and covered most of the country.

One of the things they brought back for me was a small blue owl they had bought at a markets. I named him Moot (following a conversation at school about Moot points) and he was my 'locker pet' for the duration of my final year at school.

At the end of 2009, I went on a family trip to New Zealand.

On the morning of the day we left to go, my sister bustled into my room (I have two sisters. This is the one that gave me the owl in the first place.), and said;

"Hey Brooke, do you have any Maccas toys lying around?"

Me: "What?"

Prue: "Well, when Danielle (one of her best friends) and her family went to Dubbo, they got this Maccas toy that was an orange, and they called him Orange and took photos of him everywhere and I think we should do one too."

Me: "Uh...(I looked around, and suddenly spied Moot sitting on my vanity), I've got Moot. Will he do?"

The rest is history.

Moot went everywhere I did over those three weeks. I took photos of him sitting next to flowers, rocks, beer - you name it. Well, no. Don't name it. But it was in the land of the long white sheep that Moot rose to legendary status as the Photobombing Owl.

His activity in general dropped off a little at the start of the new year - we got home and had three weeks to move house, and from that there stemmed the chaos generated by turning a house into Box City.

Moot still travelled from time to time. Family trips saw him surface occasionally, and he started living in the bottom of my handbag. I began to converse with him as though he was my own personal Wilson, and often engaged in arguments. It was really a form of self-therapy. I still do it.

He went with me to TAFE, and when I worked at a cafe, more than once.

He even formed part of the inspiration for my end-of-year Dress project at TAFE, appearing in the freeform lace that is my specialty.

Everywhere I went, if I met someone who looked at the plum-sized beanie quizzically, I'd tell them him story and what he did.

Now that I am in London, and previously in Paris, he has surfaced in my photographs, although last night I had to aknowledge that he had been putting the the miles, and was beginning to show wear for it. He's got a small abraison that, if left untended, will turn into a hole, and was looking a little dirty.

Wanting to dish out some TLC, I gave him a spongebath.

I think he's shrunk.

On the other hand, I won't have to sew as much of a patch on the abraison as before. But he's still significantly smaller.

I think it will mellow over time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Music. Again.

Music just seems to be such an integral thing to my identity that sometimes weird things just happen.

Take the other day for instance. I'm in London. There's a TV in the kitchen of the folks house I am staying and it is currently playing breakfast tv. We know how this goes. About five stories on rotation for four hours.

That's not the point.

The current intro music is Florence + the Machine's 'Howl'. It's only about ten seconds, but I can still ID the music.

There's another ad that plays frequently that is for an airline. The theme for it is Muse's 'Feeling Good'. It's about thirty seconds long.

I was watching 'Night at the Museum 2' yesterday. They use Coldplay's 'Life in Technicolour' in the final minute. Spotted this when we were watching the film in the cinema.

Do I know my music too well?

In other news, I broke iPod.

Had been treating it as an ipod, and also as an 80g memory stick from back in the days when Tank the Laptop was around with his 30gig hard drive. Knew that it was going to go wrong one day.

That day was Sunday.

Anyhow, I am slightly missing the days when it was just me and the discman and about fifteen CDs. They weren't fussy and didn't require pushy pushy software. And they didn't suddenly remove all their memory.

It's only when this sort of thing happens that you wish you'd backed up all your data.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Somewhere in between the 29th and 30th of December, I had a rather monumental epiphany regarding blogging. (FYI)

It started when my Aunt took me for a wander once I'd arrived in the UK. It was the first day I was there, and I was still heavily jetlagged from crossing eleven time zones.

We went for a walk to the 'High Street' - the street with the most shop-based activity in the suburb, where she bought things and I experienced...not much. When you are as heavily lagged as I was, it is as if you experience the world through a haze. Nothing really makes sense and everything is too loud and all you really want to do is find a couch to drool on (which is what I ended up doing that evening).


It was on the walk home that this epiphany began. I took this photo.

And as a result, my half-conscious brain started clocking over one little fact.

My brain is never gonna comprehend all of this.

The more my drooling brain processed this fact, the more I realised that it was true whether I was lagged or not. Human brain is just not built to process every single little detail. No matter how hard I try, my memory of an image like this in real life will be more like this:

Because you can see the original image, you can tell what has changed. But the truth remains.

We can only process and remember a tiny part of the whole image. Even that tiny part will be distorted from reality in some way.

Why was this pivotal?

Most of the time, when we try to write a blog post, it's more about what I did. I went to this place. I ate this food. I saw a cow walking on its hind legs. (I didn't really see the cow, but you get the idea.)

This type of blogging is what I've tried, and it has two fundemental issues.

The first is that, like the first image, I try to record everything that is happening at the same time, or the details occuring during the day. It doesn't seem to work, because talking about an entire day is hard. It'd hard to make every nuiance exciting. You won't want to hear play-by-play details of the Smash Bros duel I had with my cousins because it won't hold much relevance. Even if it does, then it's only an appeal to a minor group.

Therefore, it is much easier to write like in the second image. I can only process and focus on one small part of the image, so it doesn't make sense to try writing about all of it. In this circumstance, writing about the facts slightly differently or exaggerating some bits for effect is also helpful and/or funny.

For example,

Winter in the UK is colder than Australia.

This is true. But wouldn't you rather read,

Comparing winter in Australia to that of the UK is like a joke. A really bad joke that involves llamas. It isn't comparable. It's on a whole different level.

In this case, both statements are true. But the wording in the second phrase is more interesting, more colourful and nicer to read.

The second fundamental issue stems from Rule 3 (The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need - Daniel Pink) (By the way, I highly recommend finding and reading that book. It did wonders for my final year at school.)

Anyway. There were six rules in it.

Rule I: There is no plan
Rule II: Think strengths, not weaknesses
Rule III: It's not about you
Rule IV: Perseverance trumps talent
Rule V: Make excellent mistakes
Rule VI: Leave an imprint


Way too often it's easier to talk about what I'm up to. But it's more interesting if the pronoun is reduced and I tell you the story the way I'm thinking rather than as if I was telling you in a manner akin to a seven-year-old.

In closing, I wish to offer my impressions of the Parisian subway tubes.

Subways are like the veins of the city. They transport literally millions of people, everyday, from place to place. They are tiled, and have air pumped in a re-circulated until you are pretty much breathing in what you breathe out. Upon exiting the Metro tube, and breathing the relatively fresher air, it's easy to realise how regurgitated the atmosphere is. You know you've been breathing something less than primo when the street smells fresh in comparision.

Because of the high-density population, we saw a lot of poor people and beggars in the interim tunnels. The first one we encountered scared the pants off us, since we rounded the corner and almost trod on his sleeping, motionless form. Honestly, Manik and I were unsure whether the guy was dead or not.

It was partly because of the recirculated air, and partly because of the homeless people, but the tube was rather smelly. It wasn't just your slightly stale smell. The air reeked. Manik took to the urban ninja look in order to ward it off.

The smell was her impression of the Metropolitan tube.

Mine was the posters.

There were posters everywhere. I suppose when you look at it from the perspective of companies, it's a lot of prime advertising space. The rest of us, however, end up with something like this:

Which I found a little disturbing. It seemed to be a small thing at first, until we started catching tube stations en masse. It was like Bob Sinclair and his funky white headphones were stalking us. He was everywhere.

Every stop and Bob Sinclair is ten-feet-high with his gold suit and stupid headphones and chinstrap beard and waxed chest and HE'S LOOKING AT ME.

It honestly got freakier and freakier the more stations we visited.