Meanwhile, in the Tetherd Cow Ahead laboratories…

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).


•150ml Glycerine
•100g KY jelly
•1 level tspn sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
•1½ cups detergent concentrate
•1 cup hot water
•Filtered water to make up 2 litres


•1 x 2 litre plastic bottle
•1 small bucket
•2 x 1 metre lengths of wooden dowel
•5m natural fibre string


Dissolve the sodium bicarbonate in the hot water. Carefully mix in ½ cup of the detergent, all the glycerine and the KY jelly. Stir until dissolved as much as possible. Pour about 1 litre of cold water into the 2 litre bottle. Slowly pour in the remaining 1 cup of detergent, taking care not to make foam. Very slowly add the warm glycerine/KY/detergent/water mix. Add water to bring to 2 litres.

Gently rotate the bottle until the contents are mixed as much as possible (there will probably still be undissolved NaHCO3 and visible threads of KY & glycerine – don’t worry). Leave the bottle to stand for 2 days.

Meanwhile braid the string into a loop about the size of a basketball and attach to the ends of the dowel like this:

After two days have passed, check the solution and make sure it is completely uniform – there should now be no visible traces of any of the individual ingredients.

Now, go to a park or a beach – somewhere sheltered and not too hot. Pour some of the solution into the small bucket and dip the string into it – make sure you get it nice and saturated. Now do this:

You might even be able to make one like this…

Science! Just because something isn’t imaginary doesn’t mean you can’t believe in it…


Bubble photos by Violet Towne.



I’ve become completely addicted to this little app for the iPhone called CameraBag. It basically lets you take iPhone snaps and apply various filters to them. It’s nothing you couldn’t do in Photoshop, and the quality is kinda crap, but there’s an immediacy and grit to the whole process that reminds me of my old Polaroid days. Except it’s about a billion times cheaper.

(Seriously! Does anyone remember how expensive Polaroid film was? I think for my treasured SX-70 Alpha I got ten shots for something like 15 or maybe even 20 dollars. And that was a lot more money in those days…)

WooWoo Beliefs – A TCA Educational Series: Episode #5

NOTE: I have replaced the images in this post after a legal challenge from Dr Emoto’s office, on the basis of intellectual property violation. You can read about it here. I note that images of Dr Emoto and his water crystals appear widely across the internet on sites that are supportive of his ideas. I leave it to you to make a conclusion about why he objects to them on my site…

Water Man

This is Dr Masaru Emoto. You might remember that some time back I had cause to mention Dr Emoto in relation to the improbable H²Om ‘vibrationally charged water’, for whom he may or may not have been some kind of spokesman.* I promised in that post that we’d examine him in more detail at a later date, so here we go.

Dr Emoto believes† that human emotions, through speech or thought, effect the behaviour of water, particularly the way water crystallizes.

To put it in the very simplest of terms (and trust me, there’s not a lot more to it than simple terms): if you think bad thoughts at water while it’s freezing it will make ugly crystals, and if you think good thoughts it will make pretty crystals. Does that sound daft? Yeah, well by any sensible yardstick, it pretty much is.

Dr Emoto has also come to the conclusion that even just the words that we use to convey certain emotions and ideas will affect water! He maintains that simply writing words on the containers used to freeze water will influence the kinds of ice crystals it makes. These are similar to some of the examples to be found on the Hado‡ website (a comprehensive archive of Masaru Emoto’s ideas):


Yes, that’s right – just the written words for the French, Japanese and English language expressions for the concept of ‘thank you’ create crystals as expressively different as those in these pictures. Remarkable! And is it just me, or does the French ice crystal look flamboyant and florid, the Japanese one precise and elegant and the English one ugly, coarse and ill-defined – classic, banal racial stereotypes. I bet ‘danke’ would turn out angular and severe, with no sense of humour.

Dr Emoto, by his own admission, is not a scientist. In his ‘experiments’ with water crystallization, he has suggested that photographers use their aesthetic discretion when choosing examples that endorse his ideas. As far as science goes, then, this is something more akin to an art excursion.

What’s wrong with Dr Emoto having a charming little eccentric idea about water caring what we think about it? Well, the problem is that Emoto’s notions have been picked up by just about every lunatic in existence who has some kind of ‘water therapy’ as their cause, and then been advanced by those people as science, either directly, or just by the omission of salient details. If you were unfortunate enough to have endured the inane ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ you will have seen exactly how Dr Emoto’s ideas are advocated: breathless slack-jawed wonder, without a shred of critical analysis (or even just common sense) in sight. Merchandizers like H²Om, who are selling nothing more than purified water, are quick to flaunt Emoto’s convictions (if it suits them) and homeopaths from here to Asheville NC, who are now clutching at anything that remotely even looks like a straw, are hitching their implausible beliefs to Emoto’s fantastical star.

And, as eccentric and, well, Japanese, as Dr Emoto comes across, it’s hard not to like him. Reading through his website you get the idea that he’s just a nutty old geezer who’s had way more attention than he should have, for an idea that is childlike and appealing in a very undemanding way. Hado is a cute, wide-eyed, uncomplicated view of the way things work – the ‘Hello Kitty’ of science.

Sadly, credulous people with little grasp of what science is actually about find the allure of Dr Emoto’s magical thinking all too seductive, and without even casually examining his process, take seriously what should properly be viewed as a quirky amusement.

As a parting thought, you might like to read Dr Emoto’s Happiness Poem at Hado. Its innocent pining for a simple solution to everything that seems ‘wrong’ with the world (by ‘fixing our broken relationship with water…’) bespeaks a guileless mind that does not want to concern itself even slightly with the complexities of the way things actually are.

If only it was that easy.


*It was kind of hard to tell. The makers of H²Om seemed to want to simultaneously align themselves with, and distance themselves from, Dr Emoto according to the usefulness of the context. A bet each way, it would appear.

†For a change, I really think that Dr Emoto is someone who genuinely does believe what he says, misguided though he may be. That puts him in a very obvious class of people, in my book – he’s just batty. He’s not as shifty and conniving as Jasmuheen, nor as smugly manipulative as Rael.

‡’Hado’, to rhyme with ‘shadow’ – apparently from two Japanese ideograms that mean wave and move.


I’ve been crazy busy this last week on my new project in LA, so not much time for The Cow, nor visiting you good folks. But a brief moment of respite today allows me to bring to you some more artwork. Not mine this time, but instead, some of the lovely cyanotypes that Violet Towne has been making.


(Click on the image and type ‘N’ for Next or ‘P’ for Previous. All pics copyright, please ask before using.)

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