Ooky


Now that I live some distance south of the place where I spent most of my life, I find myself travelling a lot to visit friends & family and keep up with colleagues and contacts in the north. I sometimes fly, but if I have the time I like to take the drive. Driving is very relaxing for me – I get to chill out a bit, ruminate on the world and listen to all those podcasts for which I never seem to be able to find the time in my regular life.

Plus, I get to stop at truckstops for a bacon & egg roll and a chance to view the appalling, yet somehow grimly fascinating phenomenon which I call ‘Condom Art’

I don’t know if you ever see them anywhere other than truckstops (I never have) but the bathrooms always come equipped with a dispensing machine for condoms, and those machines are decorated with the most hideous advertising artwork known to humankind (and truly, that’s saying something).

Ah, the sexual vistas promised by those images: the Evening Magic of a desert island tryst or wild Rugged ‘n Ready adventures with a windblown gun-totin’ bikini clad cowgirl. I can’t help but envy the dashing lives of the truckers that buy these colourful super-studded latex wonders.

But brace yourselves! I’ve started off tame, dear friends, because the night is young.

Maybe a dusky native seductress peering from the pandanus is more your style? Or perhaps a rough ridin’ tousled biker chick with thigh boots? Whatever the choice, make sure you throw some ‘texture’ in there!

One thing I hadn’t known until I started paying attention to these artworks, is just how considerate truckers and travellers evidently are to their lady friends! It’s not just the ribbed condoms that your $2 will tempt from the machine: ‘Arouse her inner fire’ with ‘a ring of stimulating fingers’ promises Passion Plus! And prepare to be arrested for disturbing the peace if you use the Screamer (earplugs not included!). My goodness. I might have to sit down for a minute.

But my favourite by far has to be this:

No aspirational promises there – just a formidable medieval-looking device on a strident bilious yellow field. In yer face truckers! Ah, I am joyful with glee at all the wonderful things in this ad. First of all it’s called The Tingler, which immediately conjures up all kinds of confronting images.(i) Then it has the advantage of being able to glow in the dark because… well then you won’t lose your way, right? And I don’t need to tell you that ‘Boldy glow where no man has glowed before’ is the very pinnacle of advertising slogan achievement, second only to ‘In space EVERYONE can hear a Screamer!’ (I seriously don’t know how they missed that one).

I am humbled in the face of genius.

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Footnotes:

  1. Good advice from William Castle there: “Don’t be alarmed – you can protect yourself!” []

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You may remember that some time back I told you about the exceedingly odd Bleeding Tooth Fungus that grew in my backyard. Well now, after Violet Towne spotted the above seaweed-like stuff on our driveway the other day, I think I may have to start up a new Cow Category called ‘Weird Shit That Mysteriously Appears In My Garden’. There were dozens of clumps of it, and it looks just like something you might find on the beach at low tide.(i) Only we’re 20 kilometers away from the nearest ocean, and this stuff was still damp.

Turns out that this is the colony form of a rehydrated genus of cyanobacteria called Nostoc. Nostoc can be found pretty much everywhere in the world, and due to the bacteria’s ability to survive (and even thrive) in harsh environments it is even quite happy in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Most of the time the Nostoc colony goes completely unnoticed, but after a lot of rain, it may swell up into jelly-like blobs such as the ones in my garden. Its sudden appearance on the ground with no apparent cause has earned it the folk name of Star Jelly, as it was thought to have fallen from the sky.

Nostoc is also known (much more evocatively) as Witches’ Butter or Troll’s Butter and some species are in fact eaten, particularly in Asia where people seem to delight in gobbling down disgusting things. There’s no way I’m chowing down on it. For one thing it’s been found to containe Beta-methylamino L-alanine, a toxic amino acid that has been implicated in degenerative brain diseases.(ii)

I have a simple dietary guideline in this respect: Never eat or drink anything that looks or smells like some kind of biological excretion. It has served me well thus far.
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Footnotes:

  1. Or in a troll’s nostril. []
  2. Although I have to say that in my opinion anyone who would consider eating it is well along the degenerative brain disease path in the first place… []

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As you know, Faithful Acowlytes, I am quite fond of Halloween, and I like to do something a little… ‘spooky’, for you all each year as the holiday approaches. This year I have spooked even myself. Before you click on the following link, a warning: this is NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED. Are you ready?

OK, do it.

See, I told you. Please compose yourself and we’ll reconvene in the comments for discussion.



Sometimes you find some very disconcerting things whilst browsing in secondhand shops.


A man is in critical condition in Sydney after taking a dare to eat a slug, the ABC reports. The 21-year-old caught rat lungworm disease which is caused by Angiostrongylus cantonensis, a parasitic worm that is carried by slugs and snails.

Personally, I am all for letting natural selection take care of these things. Maybe he’ll come around here and lick my fungus.



Some years ago a tree in our backyard was cut down, and the stump cleared. Now, all through the year we have this weird fungus that keeps on growing up where the roots were. Violet Towne likes to ruthlessly lay into it with the mattock, but despite her best efforts, a little bit of rain and up it comes again.

It’s really quite an unsettling organism. It has a kind of a dead fleshy texture and colour… If you look very closely, it’s sort of brain-like. And recently it’s started to ooze something that looks awfully like blood…

If anyone actually knows what’s going on here, I’d love some more information. What is the red stuff? It seems very slightly oily… not particularly sticky. It washes off in the rain and you can quite clearly see little pits where it was – so it’s something that the fungus has evolved to do. It doesn’t seem to attract insects and I can’t for the life of me think of what it might be for (other than to conjure images to disturb my sleep).

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