Bin Hokers – a ha!

31 08 2008

Following up to my last post about the mad bin hoker I’m pleased to say that yesterday the same friend was in the same park, with the same dog, on the same lead and a policeman walked slowly past, watching the dog and did not say one word!

So that’s doggies -1, bin hokers – 0.

Ha ha, ya boo sucks - hoker! Dog gets a treat.

Ha ha, ya boo sucks - hoker! Dog gets a treat.


Down among the Bin Hokers

29 08 2008

I’ve had to change my cafe and internet habits these days as the hard wooden chairs have pinched something way down deep in my backside (google search results for that one please!) and my foot is tingling as a consequence. So less internet time for me, and less sly gazes at passing males. Too bad. I love the way the cafe here has produced a microcosm of society – but at what point do you start talking to someone when you see them every day? I’ve managed with the staff so far but the customers it’s a bit trickier. One guy always smiles at me and kind of nods his head in a ‘oh, you again, me too – how embarrassing we’re here every day’. But I can’t get close enough to chat as I think the waitress is heavily flirting with him and she gave me a frosty greeting earlier. So that’s that. Then there’s the odd couple who sit here ALL day with two bottles of water between them, seriously I’ve seen them at 10.30 am and then 6pm as I’ve walked past back from town. I’ve tried speaking to them but I really only got grunts back. So that’s that. Any time I do speak to the waiting staff I always get the giggles, really badly. I don’t know why, I can speak to them in German fine but then I get all hot and flustered because the temperature varies from freezing, brass monkey in one end of the room, to tropical balminess by the counter. And with my useless pale skin I know I’m going bright red from the heat and bright red from the embarrassment of speaking to someone with my garbled language and confusing ‘where do you come from’ for ‘what do you want to drink?’.  I then end up saying  ‘So, how much do I owe?’ and ‘how embarrassing!’ and running off. 


So here’s a repeat of a conversation I had with a bin hoker yesterday. It was all in German but I’ll write it in English:


SCENE: Reasonably well-dressed woman in pink sports jacket and new looking trainers is hoking in the bins in the park. I’m playing dogobee with my friend and his dog. Dogs are allowed on the lead, but not off, the dog is on the lead. Lady approaches with shopping bag, starts pointing a gnarly finger.


BIN HOKER: Dogs are not allowed here, this is a ‘lying place’, people lie here. The dog pisses and shits here and children play here. You will get fined 180 euros.

ME: Actually it says dogs are allowed when……

BIN HOKER: This is NOT for discussion, dogs are not allowed here!

ME: Well, the sign says that dogs are…


ME: Ok, then let’s not discuss it.

BIN HOKER: THIS IS NOT FOR DISCUSSION!! The Police will come and fine you 180 euros!!



Bin hoker exits.



ME: Jeez…


We continue playing with the dog. Bin Hoker approaches again.

BIN HOKER: Are you English?

ME: No (half a lie)

BIN HOKER: Do you speak English?

ME: No (whole lie)

BIN HOKER: I gave you ONE SECOND to disappear! Dogs are not allowed, this is a protected area since 1987.

ME: Actually dogs are allowed…


ME: One second, really? That’s a bit quick.

BIN HOKER: There are police behind you and in front of you, they charge you 180 euros. I told you to disappear.

ME: Did you find anything nice in the bins?

BIN HOKER – stumped silence, gaping mouth.

BIN HOKER: I gave you ONE SECOND! People lie here, the dog pisses everywhere.

JACKSON: WHY ARE YOU BEING SO RUDE? (that was in English)

BIN HOKER: I’m going to the police and they will control you and you will have to pay a fine.

ME: Well I’m sure they know you down there already.


BIN HOKER walks off mumbling.




Bin hoker explanation

Bin hoking in practice

This is now a new title for this blog

24 08 2008

EDIT: umm, don’t try any of the below if you really want to get f*t quickly. My search engine results show me some strange things people are looking for and getting directed here. So please don’t actually do anything I recommend, ok, thanks.
That’s now in bold so you can’t not notice my disclaimer.

Before I write this I’m pleased to announce that Starbucks has finally turned off the endless loop of head splitting nu-jazz that it usually plays and instead Van Morrison soothes my ears. Jackson’s dog loves Van Morrison, she’s such a class dog! Van Morrison and Johnny Cash calm her down and she particularly loves Cash’s ‘Daddy Sings Bass’ song – awesome!

How dull is it these days to decide if you are a pear, apple, boy-ish, curvy, upside down wine glass, classical vase? I’m talking body shape and I think putting these as identifying snippets on your Myspace page alongside religion and orientation might soon be a possibility. Oh right, you can already do that. Myspace, schmyspace.

Anyway, that’s boring. I have moved between all of these shapes over the years, except pear – I’ve never been a pear but I’ve been atheletic, curvy, boyish and apple (at my worst, after spending a year in Austria gorging on Quarktasche, schnapps and pasta, but at least for six months before that I was also atheletic, skiing down the mountains and all that). Now I don’t know what I am, but basically I don’t care. However…I will share my advice on getting F*T in just a few hours. If you want to bulk up, or rather swell up just visit Ikea! I experienced the weirdest sensation a couple of days ago when Jackson decided he needed to fix the hillbilly plastic bags on the bedroom window and pop down to Ikea for some curtains. The neighbours are looking at us a bit suspiciously and we figure it’s because they think we’ve brought some sort of trailer park trashy bedroom design to what is overtherwise a classy neighbourhood. 

Curtains were not to be found, so the hillbilly plastic bags are staying. My other motive for visiting Ikea though was to satisfy a craving for chips I’ve had recently. I’d feel a bit of a scummer just odering chips in a restaurant so I thought the anonymity and unjudging blue and yellow eyes of Ikea would do. Hmm chips! Chips that I laced with salt, only to be told post-salting by Jackson not to put any salt on as they were salty enough already, yup salty enought to draw all the water out of the North Sea and swamp Ikea back to flat-packed misery. Ok, well I like salty chips so I pushed on anyway. About 4/5ths into the chips I’d had enough, I shoved them away and then forgot to eat for another five hours, in which time I just swigged down some black coffee. Caffeine, salt and sugar kind of made me a feel a bit funny so it was time to eat proper.  So I got another craving – Thai food! I love Thai food: it’s nutrious, tasty, satisfies my tofu needs, the peanut sauce is great, it’s easily available round here and cheap enough. I forgot about the presence of that pesky Monosodiumglut-what’s it though. More salt! Great! It all went down my gullet. Until the overload of salt and MSG kicked in, so what do I do? Well surely the happy balance of Ying and Yang means I should counter salt with sugar, right? So I crack open the chocolate covered marzipan (potential suitors note: I only really like dark chocolate, ok? Although success there is limited, I sit in cafes most days and no one comes along to talk to me – A BOO HOO HOO. Although a guy strangely took a picture of me and the dog the other day on his mobile.). Down it goes. A delightful mix of salt and sugar, counter balancing each other. And then the weirdest thing happens – I swell up. Right there, lying on the sofa I suddenly don’t fit my dress anymore. I was BURSTING out, not just the uncomfortable feeling of over indulgement, I was bursting! Everything just got bigger. Feeling the cold evening set in I also decided to put some jeans on – couldn’t do them up. Not the button, not the belt – I just had to lounge around, bosoms and belly out, clothes undone in all my swollen up glory. So if you need a quick fix to bulk up – eat chips! The next day the swelling be gone but at least you had the fun of amazing your friends with your instant weight loss. 


I feel slightly ashamed though at my blatant revelling in food indulgement, I do burn a lot off though walking the dog and not having a kitchen means I can’t cook up many feasts these days, but mostly what I fancy goes in. I’ve just read two blog posts about the olympics, one about watching them and one, amazingly, from a friend who has decided to train for 2012 in Tae Kwon Do. I’m sure he can do it, he’s trained for years and he even once trained me! He’s that good he could even get me to stand on the spot and POINTLESSLY spin my arms round and round in circles, believe me – it BURNS. I also had to punch those bags really hard, which is quite difficult if you’ve the upper body strength of a sparrow; still I was told to imagine the bag as someone I don’t like, so of course I chose any rival for his affections. In the end one training session was enough for me and I went back to water polo – the funny caps, wearing two swimming costumes in case of rips, the underwater pinching, the bitchiness and the scathing looks were such an incentive! I must be as much as a glutton for punishment as a glutton for salt, afterall. So I’m no sporting fiend but it’s all ok because amazingly we have an Olympic GOLD MEDAL in our family! That’s up there with winning an Oscar, or a Nobel prize, right? Ok, it’s kind of extended family, a couple of times removed but STILL FAMILY! Sadly though I missed the triumphant win, it was during Sydney and because we hadn’t received the email in time telling us to turn on the TV, instead by chance my sister and I came home from the pub drunk, turned on the TV, ate greasy snacks, watched the running and then before it was all over, switched off the TV and probably zoonked out in our beds straight away. What a tribute for us to pay to our olympian relative. Rubbish.

I’m going to aim for a Nobel, much less pain, no shin splints and I get to sit in my armchair whilst working and swell up on salt.

Mr. Photo!

19 08 2008


View of South Chicago from the Sears Tower

View of South Chicago from the Sears Tower

Thought I’d put up a couple of pics I took of Chicago to link to my last post about the Jeff Wall exhibition I saw there.


Short Cut - The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

Short Cut - The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL


View from the Sears Tower

View from the Sears Tower


Ahh Chicago: thank you cheap dollar for allowing me to buy everything half-price; thank you Chicago, for serving me my first Pomegranate Martini, I am now a convert; thank you also for serving me a sweet potato with brown sugar on top, it was the best sweet potato I ever had. No thanks, Chicago, for having two airports and tricking me into going to the wrong one before flying over to NY; no thanks also for the big gusts of wind that kept blowing my skirts up. But I’m sure the tourist’s mistake brought a smile to someone’s face, eh??

Geoffrey Howell, Jeff Goldblum and Jeff Wall

18 08 2008

What’s the connection then between those three names in this post’s title? A-ha! They are all variations of Jeff or Geoff; the name being Old German and probably meaning ‘God’s Peace’ or ‘Divinly Peaceful’. 


  But I have uncovered another link between these three names: Geoffrey Howell was the name of the character in Invasion of the Body Snatchers who was the boyfriend of the character Elizabeth Driscoll, Jeff Goldblum played the part of Jack Bellicec in the same film and Jeff Wall is an awesome Canadian photographer who has produced some epic scale images during his time. Donald Sutherland, however, is a dishy man who wears a long rain mac in both Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and Don’t Look Now. He has nothing to do with the other three.

  So….? Their names just connect them together? Yes  – but also something else. I think Jeff Wall is unconsciously influenced by the film (particularly the 1978 version) Invasion of the Bodysnatchers

  I was extremely lucky to catch Wall’s exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago last summer, who’d have thought a conference would have yielded such an opportunity? But I wasn’t underestimating Chicago, I was just genuinely excited to get to see Wall’s work in such venue and see it all in huge proportions rather than miniature versions on the internet. 

  Much of Wall’s work is staged, he utilizes actors, lighting, props and directs them in the same way you would film or theatre. He then reproduces the images with skilled technique to generate larger than life images, often displayed against huge lightboxes to give a cinematic impression and bring the photographs closer to large-scale paintings. As far as I have read, his influences come from many angles – events or movements he’s witnessed himself, represented later in the photo Mimic, or from literature – such as Odradek, which was influenced by the hidden ghoul of Kafka’s The Cares of a Family Man. Wall’s pictures seem spontaneous but most have taken months to prepare for and the thought and attention given to each one is easily forgotten by the viewer who is just left to take everything in, in one huge eye-opening image. 

  So where does Invasion of the Body Snatchers come in? Well, when I visited the photography exhibition it was my supervisor who pointed out how many of the people in Wall’s photos are in motion, walking mostly, briskly or sauntering, and he manages to capture this movement exactly – the heel just off the ground, or the toe; and if more than one subject is present he manages to capture all their movements in almost exact timing, and the images are not blurred or out of focus despite this movement.


  Now Wall was born in 1946, and would have been around 10 years old when the fear of Communism was still gripping North America. Ok, he’s Canadian but I’m sure at least the newsreports would have reached that far, right? McCarthyism, witchhunts, the ten year long entertainment industry blacklist, film such as The Red Menace, I Married a Communist, Them! and the original 1958 Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Such films represented the threat to humanity upheld by a Communist system which threatened to turn victims into soulless replicants, but it is the imagery from the film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers which I tentatively and quite ridiculously think seems to be present in Wall’s work.


  But isn’t photography just like such an invasion? Our living, breathing selves turned into flat, dead replications, trapped inside the boundaries of the photography? And it’s a long held belief by some ancient tribes that being photographed will steal the soul of the subject. A lot of photography of course avoids the flat, dull and lifeless subject, it aims to precisely bring emotion to life within the photo, and yet despite Wall’s work being centred on human subjects, their emotions, although present, seem slightly distant and reserved. Often the subjects have their faces turned away from the camera, or there is little communication between them, such as with Trân Dúc Ván. But it’s the footsteps and nature of motion which reminds me so much of Invasion. I’ve only seen the 1978 version but has anyone else noticed how much attention is given to the inhabitants of San Francisco walking in step together, replicants walking in tune and mirroring each others’ motions? Those parts were so creepy to watch. There were a lot of camera angles favouring the feet and footsteps and following shadows of the replicants, and as my supervisor pointed out, feet stepping in motion seem to be largely present in Wall’s work. So is Jeff Wall unconsciously influenced by Invasion

  Take a look at the images on the Tate Modern’s website here and tell me what you think! Look especially at Mimic, Odradek, and Overpass. Even Volunteer reminds me of the cleaner/janitor figure working in the Public Health agency featured in Invasion.

  So how about it? Jeff Wall was born during the last ten years of large scale Communist fear, his name is coincidentally linked to characters and actors in Invasion, and his photographic subjects are replicants of their living selves. Or, perhaps I am way too far off the mark and my speculation is solely that. It doesn’t matter, Jeff Wall is an incredible contemporary photographer and if you ever get the chance to see his work up close – go for it!


Body Snatchers - replicant fear


Overpass - Jeff Wall (2001)

Overpass - Jeff Wall (2001)


Chuckles galore – Family Fortunes

16 08 2008

This site just made Jackson and I veritably wet our scanties!*

And made me look like this!

No one has cruised past for me to smile at today.**

*Might not be true, but might have been close

** Probably due to above*

An insight into a dog’s world

16 08 2008

As you can see from the pictures posted previously, there is a new dog living with me and Jackson. She’s not really mine, I’ll get my own one day, and probably before then also a cat. We’ve both been training Panther Paws as she seems to have missed out on this in the past. Luckily she’s dead clever and picks things up pretty pronto. However, not only are we speaking English to her, when she’s heard German for the last couple of years, she also can’t really understand us. I’ve always thought that my pets and other animals can understand me, being a veritable Doctor Doolittle, or perhaps a Horse Whisperer but less rugged looking than Robert Redford (did anyone else cry their eyes out when they read the BOOK, not the film, the book?). So I’ve always thought my cats could understand ‘hey baby waby woo. What have you got there? Is it your toy? Where’s your mouse, do you like that catnip perfume rubbed around your ears? Or that Panther Paws understands ‘Get your head out of the laundry basket NOW, you panty thief!’. Although for some animals it’s best they don’t understand because I do have a first hand account of someone over-hearing a Ken Loach-type child stroking a cat murmuring ‘oh you little tosser, you little fucking knob’. Gritty social realism still exists in England. 


With training a dog then, you have to associate the sound of your voice and a hand signal with a specific action. So it doesn’t matter if this is in German or English, but the tone, the intonation, hand and raised eyebrows can convey the meaning. Eventually the dog will associate the sound with the instruction and if a treat is given each time, the Pavlovian effect will kick in and if your dog is like ours it will probably drool all over the floor. 


Anyway, apart from proclaiming that the best dog ever now lives with us, this is leading onto a short film we watched last night as a special feature on the DVD for If. It’s called Thursday’s Children and was directed by the same director of If, Lyndsay Anderson. At first we sat appalled thinking that this short documentary was another 1950s special education film, instilling the values of good, solid and divided gender roles in little children. The voice over by Richard Burton starts narrating with lines such as ‘Rosie is playing with her dolls. She is bathing them and Brian fetches the water for the baby’s bath’. Then there were shots of the children around a mocked up dining table with newspapers, and the little boys smoking pretend pipes. We clapped our hands to our foreheads and rolled our eyes in despair at the stifling gender roles of the 1950s. We soon lowered our hands in slight embarrassment as we realized that this was in fact a documentary of what was probably one of the first schools of its kind for teaching deaf children. Their education enabled them to firstly associate pictures and actions with words, then read words, read lips and eventually make sounds extremely similar to those in the hearing world, despite never having heard such sounds themselves. 

The slow and patient work of the teacher and the tenacity of the children was quite humbling to watch. It made me quite cross at the same time though, momentarily remembering how bad the state of schools are at present, and the clear reluctance of a large swathe of children not to learn despite having the best opportunities available to them since ever before. As with speaking to animals, and indeed those with hearing ability, the deaf children of the film at first lack any understanding of what words even are, the associations and connotations and as the narrator described, would have no ability to cognitize the world around them, make sense of their experiences, and even lack emotion as we understand it, other than perhaps the most primary ones. As the film develops the children are shown how to associate the words with pictures and actions, and then through the use of a rubber ball, pick up vibrations from the teacher’s spoken words with their hands until they can make the sound and vibrations with their own mouths. Eventually come words, sentences and amazingly, interaction with each other and their teacher, expressing feelings and demands. 

Schooling for deaf children has changed hugely since the 1950s and I’m quite sure Thursday’s Children helped advance the recognition for specialist education and eventually mainstream integration, and as I found out today the film won the 1954 Academy Award for ‘Best Documentary Short’. I’m glad also that stories of ‘Little Sambo’ are also now off the curriculum; tales of Sambo and Mambo told to the children were at an age before political correctness arrived but are nevertheless uncomfortable to watch today. Having heard all sorts of horrors from my parents who were also schooled in the 1950s – left-hand writers having their hands tied behind their backs and forced to write with the other hand, young girls lining up in assembly to have the backs of their legs slapped by the headmaster (many of whom were ex-Army officers, holding the correct ‘discipline attitude’), suet pudding – I’m glad I had the luxury of being taught in the 1980s and 1990s. I think that probably was the best time to be at school, maybe the 70s can be included there too, but I’m sure before then the discipline, rigour, fagging/scumming (how British!), the leather slipper did not contribute to ‘the best years of your life’. Now, well I think metal detectors at the school gates explains enough.


Of course, I am not suggesting that training a dog is any way similar to teaching deaf children – I was just interested in the formulations of language and the processes by which we all come to associate written words and spoken language to our lived experiences. I speak both English and German and it’s interesting to think about how arbitary the sounds of words and their written forms are at first, sounding quite like gibberish, and how they can eventually be learned so as to generate understandings beyond the simple – eg Hund = dog – towards more complex understandings of meaning and feeling. 


Weirdly one of the production crew of If had the same name as my old headmistress (see, times have changed since the 50s!), and the song sung at school assembly was also the same as our ‘unofficial school song’.

All together now!

“He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent TO BE A PILGRIM.”


I was recently surprised to learn that English state-funded schools, since the 1944 Education Act, must hold Christianity as their dominant ideology with a statutory obligation to hold collective (Christian) worship. Hmmm….