Friday, September 23, 2005


Cat Sparks, guest blogging

I turned 40 a few weeks ago. I had a big party and friends gave me heaps of cool presents. But I have to admit there was one gift I was especially looking forward to. Kaaron couldn't make it on the day, but she'd been dropping hints that she'd bought me something special. She'd even casually let the price tag slip: two bucks fifty. Kaaron and I are into the same sort of stuff, and what you pay for this stuff is important. Its like cheating if you pay too much. The last thing she'd given me had cost a dollar: a lacquered slice of tree trunk depicting a shack and palm trees on a tropical beach. Anything with palm trees works for me – I knocked a new nail into the feature wall for that one. It hangs in pride of place above Dimitri, my 90 per cent proof Metaxa 'Greek dry apertif' bottle shaped like an Athenian guardsman in national dress – carried back from Cyprus for me by archaeologist buddy Helen after a dig. Another time Kaaron gave me a copy of 'Power of a Praying Wife' by Stormie Omartin. That sits well next to the Spanking Encyclopedia, vol II and a Carter Brown paperback, The Bump and Grind Murders'.

These treasures and many others are features in what Deb refers to as my 'Wall of Shame'.

I collect disgusting artefacts from around the world: nodding dogs, chocolate cigarettes, wailing mosque alarm clocks – I have three of those. Airline ashtrays, Leonard Nimoy poetry, nekkid lady playing cards, snow globes where it snows in strange places, like Bethlehem and Alcatraz… The oldest piece in the collection is something I purchased as a small child on a trip to the Blue Mountains in the Scenic Railway gift shop. It’s a plastic shrunken head with stringy nylon hair. The pencil itself has long gone but it had the words 'Sorry I lost my head' stencilled up the side. My younger sister confessed many years later that she was bitterly jealous of it.

I've got a plastic donkey cigarette dispenser – guess where the cigarette gets dispensed from; a Gautier cognac bottle shaped like the concord; a light-up venetian gondola, a Virgin Mary pickled in Lourdes holy water; a Sadaam Hussein fob watch and silver scud missile earrings; a 'Master Piece' port decanter in the shape of Mannequin Piss -- guess where the port gets dispensed from. A row of assorted edition James Bond books, a Walther PPK replica cigarette lighter; 'The Outlaw' Automatic presentation set:[The modern Automatic pistol is favoured by the detective and secret service agent for its compactness and ease of concealment…] This particular toy comes with 2 guns, red plastic bullets, BP gun oil and a cleaning brush.

And then there's Cuban cigars, opium spoons, 1920s venetian glass cocktail ornaments; Nymph ladies razor blades, a Skylab souvenir ashtray, Star Trek Ken and Barbie. Deb gave me a Laverne and Shirley LP one year (with the $6 price sticker proudly in place). The album is called 'SING' but the lettering is so unclear that every time I walk past and see it, I read the word 'SLAG' instead… And then there's the ones that got away: precious treasures that for no apparent reason I neglected to purchase when I saw them and now they're gone forever: a talking Peewee Herman, a pineapple ice bucket, Boy George and Michael Jackson dolls.

One time I returned from Kaaron's place utterly frothing with envy because of her British Royal family pop up book. You pulled cardboard tags to make the Queen's corgis jump, Charles and Diana kiss & on the balcony, Princess Anne drink… Rob managed to score me one of those on Ebay for six bucks.. which was just as well cos I was pretty much ready to break into Kaaron's house and steal hers.

So what did Kaaron give me for my 40th birthday? It kinda defies description so here's a photo.

One thing I love about kitsch is the knowledge that somewhere out there is (or was) a factory pumping out the stuff. Just imagine that your day job is sitting on a production line cracking open the moulds of lurid plastic imitation carnival glass buddhas mounted atop roaring dragons. Or maybe you're the dude who gets to add the musical device or the gizmo that makes it light up.

Cat Sparks, Sept 2005

(Cat Sparks runs Agog! Press. She is also a writer, graphic designer, photographer and desktop publisher. In 2004 she was a graduate of the inaugural Clarion South Writers' Workshop in Queensland. She was awarded the Aurealis Peter McNamara Conveners Award in 2004. She has just returned from Writers of the Future, where she was a 2004 prize winner.

Cat lives in Wollongong and collects horrible things.)


At 1:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cat: Wall of Shame was a Freudian slip. What I *meant* to say was 'dear god who broke into your house & left you all this rubbish you poor thing you'.

Sorry for the misunderstanding! ;)

(My sister never forgave me for giving you those orange ceramic cats ... )

At 2:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know *exactly* what I am giving you next time I have an excuse. How late do you accept birthday presents?

At 2:52 AM, Blogger TansyRR said...

I had that pop up book as a child! Also Princess Diana paper dolls... Didn't sensibly keep them at the time, though. If only I could have foreseen ebay!

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leonard Nimoy writes poetry! You don't happen to have an example, do you?

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,
Your sister should be grateful I got the cats -- now the whole world gets to see them!

Hi Gillian,
there is no statute of limitations on additions to my bar.

Hi Tansy,
Princes Di paper dolls... sigh... I have John Wayne paper dolls...

Hi Clare,
You don't want to read any of lenny's poems. trust me...

At 3:54 PM, Blogger Sidra said...

Have you seen the Nimoy "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" music video?


At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

er... thanks Sidra... I'll just pop off and check that one out!
Lenny's vocal rendition of 'If I had a Hammer' is also particularly nasty.

At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remind me when we are both in the same city. And remind me to tell you the story behind it. It is from Lake Charles, LA, which is currently being flattened by Hurricane Rita. It is made of resin. It is very ... decorative.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Cat, you would LOVE my future mother-in-law's house, it's loaded with all sorts of... delights.

Maybe I'll send you some!

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sidra and Cat...right, I checked out that Bilbo Baggins thing.,,It is not a thing that should be attempted last thing at night. Urgh... He is swinging his head, smiling, and wearing slacks. Not the Vulcan I knew. I don't know how I'm going to sleep now, frankly.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your 'horrible things', Cat, and your rule about price. My mother collected horrible things, but they were expensive, and we had to sit in them, etc. I used to read on the floor under my bed as the only place that was mine (and clear of those things) in my horrible-thing-decorated room.

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for immortalising that mouse! Can you believe the op shop woman had the hide to charge me $2.50? I have a collection of John Laws poetry that my sister gave us for a wedding present. It cost 20 cents. It's called 'Results of Love'. Do you mind if I quote?

A bell rings a bed squeaks
a man moves on his way
a bird sings the sun peaks
a door opens on the day

Tansy, I can't believe you let the Royal Family Pop Up book slip through your fingers!

Tell us some more of your horrible things, Cat!

At 1:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaaron -- Seriously, I think we might be twins separated at birth!!! I was going to post some John Laws poetry alongside some Nimoy stuff and have a showdown. Only reason I didn't is cos I was busy spit polishing my opium spoon collection all day...

Aimee -- gimme gimmee gimmee! I want all of Rick the Hick's Momma's stuff!!!

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaaron, as well as Lawsie poetry, I happen to own a copy of 'Motivatin' Man', an LP record of John Laws' truckin songs.
Tracks include: Tombstone Every Mile, Sam the Tricky Truckie, See You in the Windshield and Truck Drivin' Cat with Nine Wives.
The back blurb is by someone identified only as 'P.S.' P.S. says: 'This is the great talent of the man John Laws, that he can transport you from Darwin to Port Augusta with his soul'

At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like a chinese store!! :-) From what I heard, their stores have clutter all over for good luck. Perhaps you are subconsciously putting into action something you picked up years ago...
Well, let me share this collection: exhibit photos of the works of Lino Tagliapietra and Dale Chihuly!
These are articles on art glass and Carnival glass.


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