Fragments in the shallows: digital communication and us


Hey, saying by just while their worth truly something … huh? I’ll rewind that later and start again by going back:

Hi D, K here. I got your number from A I hope that’s ok. How are you? Do you want to go out sometime?

No-one had ever sent a text to ask me out. More than a hundred characters too. I agreed to a drink. By text. It seemed heavy-handed to expect K to lift the phone as far as her ear just to hear me say ‘friends’ and I didn’t want to say yes in case talking on the phone was misinterpreted as an escalatory signal.

Two weeks later K texted me to cancel what was, by then, our twice-rescheduled rendezvous. She was dating someone else. It is a simple fact that we haven’t spoken since we saw each other at a friend’s dinner party a few days before her first message.

The episode was like a dream where part of your life unfolds in a different reality to the one you know and you realise, when it is over, that something good in the world has died. Continue reading

Berlin-Spandau Canal

Berlin-Spandauer Canal-1

The photos this week are of the Berlin-Spandau canal. They were taken over a few weeks in late Winter along a twenty-minute walking stretch in Wedding, where I lived for three months last year.

There is nothing remarkable about the canal other than what there is to find ordinarily along it. There is almost no reason to visit it as an attraction, or to stop and consider these scenes by day, when the ubiquity of light makes every tedious detail visible; but this is not to deny its industrial beauty by night.

In fact the scene that shows the junction of gravel walking paths amongst some trees is impossible by day. Continue reading

Log-off before you’re carbon dated

Chagall-Lovers of Vence 1957

Marc Chagall, Lovers of Vence, 1957

As anyone unwillingly single bites down on their resolution of getting together with someone they like this year, on-line dating sites are advertising themselves across the commercial networks.

On-line dating is, of course, an oxymoronic convenience of modern communication that debases humanity. It starts by keeping people apart, and tries to convince lonely hearts that the best way to find someone to love is sitting with a computer or that other oxymoronic convenience, the smartphone, rather than sitting with someone else.

On-line dating starts with the obvious irony, which not many see apparently, that it connects people with the one common interest that keeps them apart in the first place – the Internet.

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Tindarra in Black and White

Morning Sun-portrait

Tindarra was the farm I grew up on in New South Wales, just west of Muswellbrook. When I explain to people in the city, and to many outside Australia, that 500 acres is not enough to make a living on, they are often incredulous; but the soil was poor and the area had its share of drought and it was just enough to keep about 80 beef cattle. My parents chose the name Tindarra because it was an Aboriginal word meaning place of shallow water: the creek never went dry, but it barely flowed outside flood or heavy rain.

When we moved there thirty years ago it rained enough for farmers to plant wheat and oats and milo and lucerne as rotational cash crops or for hay. Wheat was my favourite, sprouting out of the Autumn plough ruts to grow through the Winter and ripen in Spring.

Everyone hoped for the rain to stay away in the weeks before the harvest to keep the kernels hard and stop them from sprouting in storage, and then for a big storm straight after so there would be fresh grass for their stock over summer. We never had crops, but some seeds would get caught in the wind and every year you could find one or two wheat stalks growing near the house.

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San Francisco – I walk like someone waiting

Grace Cathedral-2

I walk from my hotel to a park on Nob Hill, steep above the city, where a three-hour walking tour starts at one o’clock. It is a fogless day and the sun is burning.

The park is opposite Grace Cathedral, a hollow pastiche of Middle Ages architecture with Norman towers, Gothic arches and a copy of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth inside a flamboyant Gothic doorway that mimics Florence’s Baptistry and faces east, not west. Its bells peal off descending semitones over three mournful octaves. I walk away.

The guide comes and after three days of walking I’m relieved she is fair skinned, greatly overweight and wearing a shadeless Florentine hat thing that flops on her head like gathered velvet. Then the eighty-year old Richard and his sexagenarian partner, Richard, from Palm Springs shuffle up and we spend most of the afternoon walking downhill in the shade.

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San Francisco – I walk and I walk


San Francisco

“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” Gertrude Stein, born 1874 in Pittsburg, raised in Oakland.


I walk and I walk and I walk and I walk.

I walk on the steep carved hills. I walk to the tops of the hills and over the tops of hills. I walk down the hills. I let the busses go past. I do not get on the streetcars. I hear the cables whirring below the tracks. I cross streets of black veined tar that fills the fault lines of tired and rubbed out roads.

I walk on the pavements and pass by many people. I walk along long streets of three-storey houses, their walls conjoined, their textured and coloured facades and the shapes of their windows all different.

I walk into the cafes on Columbus Avenue that make thick syrup espressos and listen to the talk of animated men getting older. ‘Can you imagine having Eugene O’Neil as a father-in-law? Holy shit.’ The best coffee is made by quiet men in black cotton shirts.

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