Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Come on a safari with me

Herds of wildebeest sweeping across a Serengeti plain, pods of dolphins frolicking in the wake of a cruise ship, a lone tiger prowling the ruins of Angkor Wat: nature is definitely boring, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s time to inject some excitement into your own portion of the ecosphere. The local park, playing field or hobo-infested wasteland down the road may be low on lions and monkeys, but it’s bound to be chock-a-block with some kind of wildlife. Rabbits! Grasshoppers! Odd wormy things that burrow in your skin and can’t be removed, even with a scalpel! You know why David Attenborough hasn’t made a TV program about your local wildlife? It’s because he’s a big sissy. Slip on a safari suit, borrow your creepy uncle’s binoculars, and let’s see what we can find.

Most wildlife expeditions set out to find a particular animal. It may be overly ambitious to choose a white-cheeked gibbon or a pangolin, so go for something difficult, but realistic: a three-legged dog, perhaps, or a pygmy elephant. Once you find your quarry, photograph and document it in immense detail. Record its behaviour: what does it eat? How does it walk? Does it have territory? Does it socialise with other animals? Remember, this is for posterity! If you can’t find the stupid thing, use the comments section to complain at length about the weather, maps, native guides and any wildlife ‘experts’ whose advice you’ve followed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Back in 1991, everyone wanted a piece of this previously unheard of little autocracy in the Arabian Peninsula. Now the rush is well and truly over, you can grab yourself a piece of Q8y action.

Get a street directory for your town and open it to a random page. Go to the coordinates Q8: what’s there? Probably not much. That’s your destination for today.

Treat this like an expedition to a far-off land. Remember to pack all the things you’ll need – bottled water, camera, comfortable shoes – and put your money in a safe place. When you get there, wherever ‘there’ is, take plenty of photos, pick up some souvenirs (some interesting leaves, a flier taped to a lamp pole, a catalogue blown into a gutter – whatever is available), and remember to send your family an email telling them what a great time you had.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The drifter

Maybe you’re on the run from the law or your old man; maybe you just had to leave that deadbeat town behind and hit the road, get yourself a piece of whatever’s out there. Maybe your wife (or husband) doesn’t understand you, so you and your hot little piece on the side are making the most of every moment you’ve got.

Whatever seamy reason brought you here, you’re checking into a down-on-its-luck motel on the edge of town.

Dress the part, act the part; if you have to, catch a Greyhound into town to get yourself in the mood. Hole up with a bottle of bourbon and a Raymond Chandler novel, put some Tom Waits on your Discman, tell your girl they don’t make dames like her anymore, and wonder how your life ever came to this. If you have to ask the receptionist what time they put out the breakfast bagels, don’t forget to call her little lady, and always avert your face: you don’t want her to be able to describe you to the cops.

In the morning, check out, iron your shirt and head back to the office.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Outdoor Alphabet

Whether you’re gluing together a ransom note or working on the Great American Novel, you won’t get far without the alphabet. You may not know this, but close to 100% of words are made up of letters of the alphabet. And yet how often do you stop and think, golly, aren’t letters nice? How often do you even really look at letters you see on the street?

Today (and probably for the next few days) you’re going to. Look at letters, that is. That’s because you’ll be collecting your very own alphabet, one you can treasure for years to come. As a side effect, you might also come to appreciate some of your town’s fine signage.

Traditionally, the alphabet starts with A, so that’s where we’ll begin. Head out onto the street and find yourself a letter A. Found one? Right: don’t steal it (I know it’s tempting, now you’ve seen how lovely it is). Take a photograph. Then look for a letter B. After that (you guessed it!), you want a letter C. If you’re only up to D and you see a particularly choice letter L, then go right ahead and photograph it, we won’t tell anyone.

Now you’ve got your alphabet, what are you going to do with it? You could use your imagination, or you could do as you're told. If you’ve taken Polaroids, you’ve just made yourself an art installation: spend the next few months convincing someone to show it. If you’ve used digital, then you’ve made yourself an alphabet you can use on your web page, on your mum's next birthday card or as the basis of that ransom note we mentioned earlier.