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Posts from the ‘Ideas’ Category

You just lost the game

There are many reasons that we have not been blogging as frequently as we would like. The least likely and least accurate is this one.

We have been playing the game (I just lost the game).

I first found out about the game when I was looking for an anniversary present. I stumbled over a book (the title of which eludes me) about ways to avoid boredom. In this book, the rules of a game were written down. The game was ascribed to Cambridge students, though a brief search of online sources suggests this is as likely as not completely made up. There are three rules, as follows:

  1. Everyone in the world is playing The Game. A person cannot not play The Game; it does not require consent to play and one can never stop playing.
  2. Whenever one thinks about The Game, one loses.
  3. Losses must be announced to at least one person (either by using a statement such as “I lost The Game” or by alternative means).

Of course, this kind of thing is nothing new – but on a return visit to the bookshop, CIA ended up playing the game too (my verbal attempts to persuade her having failed miserably, nevertheless made my game-playing more straightforward). The result is surprise attacks, like this one:

The Game

And now? All I have to say is, although we will try to blog more regularly (if not frequently), you did just lose the game.


Photo by PJD, post-it note on the oven by CIA.


Between Christmas and New Year, we visited Canberra for a few short days. Among other things, we went bush walking in Woods Reserve.

Tree in Sun

We had meant to walk up to Gibraltar Falls, a walk we did many times when I was a child.

Burnt branches

But the 2003 bushfires had destroyed much of the trail.

Karekare it is not

So, we walked as far as we could, then turned back to the car.

Gibraltar Falls II

It was worth driving up.

Gibraltar Falls I

I wonder though, what conclusions you could draw from the respective formative influences on CIA and PJD, of Karekare and West Auckland beaches like it, and the dry hot landscape of Canberra?


Photos by PJD & CIA, Woods Reserve and Gibraltar Falls, December, 2012. We didn’t see any snakes.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Luxembourg City lies at the confluence of two rivers. The remains of the old city fortifications rise ominously above the Petrusse, allowing for great reflective experimentation. Across two days, we wandered above and below the walls, along and above the river.

In the photo challenge throwdown, the following tips were given by Jared Bramblett:

Tips: Think about using different perspectives and viewing angles to modify a reflection’s impact on your composition. For beginners: You can face a reflective surface head on to compose a creative self-portrait, or you can change your perspective so the reflection focuses on another part of the area around you. For advanced photographers: I’d also recommend playing around with the exposure of the reflections. For instance, if you use a wide aperture and meter an area in the reflection, you can creatively alter the appearance (depth of field) of the areas outside of the reflection.

As the photos we took were before the challenge was issued, the tips have little relevance on the outcome in our case. However, I think Jared (I hope he doesn’t mind if I call him Jared) wrote such excellent tips, that they were worth quoting. We will think of them in the future, especially as we get more tangled in this photography web.

Petrusse River and bridges

The viaduct in the distance is echoed by the smaller bridge in the foreground

Petrusse River, and fortress walls

The same bridge is seen from the reverse angle, showing its relationship to the fortifications

Trees, walls, river, reflections

I just like this one, that’s all.

And so, a fortress, reflected.


Photos by CIA and PJD, Luxembourg, Easter 2012. Isn’t Luxembourg just totally awesome?

Others reflect:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

Colour challenges are easy, in the sense that finding photographs with a certain colour in them is usually straightforward. But, that being said, the harder task is finding a theme that can bind otherwise disparate images together. And so today I am looking at the alliterative joy of green and gothic.

Incidentally and tangentially, I always grew up with green associated with envy; a German colleague of mine in the Netherlands told me the colour is associated more with hope. What else does green make you think of?


Photos by PJD or CIA or others, in diverse European locations. Today’s post was brought to you by the letters G and P, the number 11 and the colour green.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

As the Northern Hemisphere descends towards Winter, through the Fall, this image speaks to the renewal of Spring. CIA took this photo of the bulbs which spring up everywhere in the Netherlands as the snow melts, and the sun starts to make itself felt.

Mostly Daffodils, Leiden, NL


Photo by CIA, near Da Kooi; we were completely surprised when this otherwise ordinary stretch of public space was suddenly transformed into this verdant field of flowers.

Weekly Photo Challenged?

Forgery, Reproduction, Parody, Authenticity?

Authenticity is a fraught concept. Reproduction is a significant threat to the authentic, whether it comes in the form of fakes and forgeries, or even the authorised reproduction – in the form of a print, or a recast sculpture.

Writing in the 1930’s, Walter Benjamin discusses the effect that reproduction has on art, stating that:

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original.”

Mortimer Menpes (1860-1938), special war artist

Mortimer Menpes, 1860-1938 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In other words, a reproduction can never fully replicate the original work because any copy will lack the authenticity of the original.

A crucial question, then, is it possible for a copy to recreate any of the power of an original? The answer, always difficult, probably has to be emphatically no. But still, high-quality reproductions of famous European artworks, part of the collection of Australia, are going to be displayed in the National Library of Australia, 100 years after their creation. The paintings were created by Mortimer Menpes, who made them to provide access to the artefacts of High European Art to an Australian public which could afford neither the time, nor the fare of travel to Europe to see the originals. To the extent that there is value in displaying these replicas (fakes?) even now, suggests that even a reproduction can hold some of the cultural power and authenticity of its original.

Of course, there is also the question of undetected forgeries, which might pass for original art work. History is littered with compelling frauds, fakes and forgeries, the detection of some of which made their authors all the more interesting.

I am sure that the annals are Art History are filled with these, but I am not so familiar with the subject; literary hoaxes, on the hand, are more my game. Thomas Wise, a bibliophile, funded his collection on the sale of forgeries. Interestingly, these forgeries are now themselves the focus of many collectors, to whom the story of the fakes makes these copies as valuable as the authentic pieces they originally were purported to be. The Sokal affair demonstrated the potential for mischief in some circles of literary theory, and provides comic relief to all those crazy enough to delve into the depths of deconstruction and post-structuralism, among other evils. And in Australia, the non-poet Ern Malley proved that sometimes poets produce their best work when pretending to be someone else, out of spite.

Read more

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry isn’t always an inspirational subject. I remember struggling with trigonometry, eventually reaching a point where I could reliably get the correct answer, with absolutely no understanding of the mechanics underpinning the calculations. Geometry in photography though, is a much more attractive proposition.

The geometrically complex concert hall in Reykjavík, Harpa, provides a good setting for studies of geometry. The building itself, constructed of steel-framed polygonic windows was (and is) controversial. A product of the Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson, as well as Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið, construction began before the 2008 crash which triggered world-wide economic difficulties.

The expensive building was the subject of considerable debate in Iceland, before the Parliament eventually agreed to fully fund the construction of the building. I’ve been told there was some discussion that the foundations of the building should be left unfinished, to remind Icelanders of their economic folly, and as a tribute to hubris. We can, should, and must be grateful that things turned out differently, and that we have instead a beautiful, striking building which could be thought of as a Sydney Opera House (another exercise in geometry, budget overruns, and for which we can now all be grateful) of the North.

The interaction between the mirrored ceiling, the lights — which were designed to evoke the Aurora Borealis, and the optical-illusory nature of the various internal levels are astonishing. It is hard to imagine that the designers knew exactly what effect their design would have, but the building stands, gorgeously, as testament to geometry and architecture.


Photos by PJD, on a cold evening in early September, 2012.

Weekly Photo Challenged?

Glacier lake

It was very cold. The wind whipped around our faces and hands, eventually making our hands numb. The sun, what sun there was, was fleeing. The clouds loomed up ominously. None of that mattered, as my newest obsession established itself.

Jökulsárlón has seeped into my core.


Photos by PJD, Jökulsárlón, Iceland, 2012. As previously noted, these photos were made possible by the consummate driving skills of my good friend, who patiently showed me around his homeland. I am not sure he’ll ever really know how much I appreciated that.

It’s not Hobbiton…

I guess steep river valleys force you to be creative with space. Either that, or there are some hobbits in Luxembourg.

You decide.


Photo by one of CIA or PJD, ownership is in dispute. Does it matter? This is about hobbits. (The Luxembourg: An unexpected journey in more parts than expected. Movies can be like that too*)

*Oh, and Wellington is so the place to be for that kind of thing.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

This week’s photo challenge seems so simple.

There are so many big things out there, especially coming from Australia. There’s the Big Banana, the Big Merino, the Big Prawn, the Big Pineapple; New Zealand comes to the party too, with the Big Gumboot, among other things.

We’ve seen Big Ben, too.

But all these things seem a little too easy. A little predictable. Almost everything is big, if you put it next to something else. A fire ant is big, next to a black ant. A molecule of water is big next to an atom of hydrogen. So instead I’ve chosen a big undertaking, that produced a pretty big ship, and at the end, was a big failure.

As the kid’s probably don’t say anymore: Epic Fail.

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