The Olympia Milk Bar: Dracula’s Den or Parramatta Road’s Treasure?

When passing by, your eye might be caught by what some would deem structurally unsound, but for others the Olympia Milk Bar is a step back in time to a place when milkshakes were only $2.90. Catherine Williams reports:

Day by day commuters pass through Parramatta road, completely tuning out to the history that sleeps within the concrete standing either side of the road. For those who reside in Sydney’s west, this decaying old world is just another part of their journey. Walking down Parramatta road is like wandering through an industrial suburb in China Town. Each store is large in size, bright in color but completely vacant. Amongst these warehouses, there lay the other decomposing buildings that together form Sydney’s varicose vein, Parramatta Road.

At 190 Parramatta Road, squats an old decrepit milk bar waiting to drift away with the wind. Either side of this demolition zone sit abandoned stores, both with optimistic ‘for lease’ signs. Lodged in between, the Olympia Milk Bar appears to be steadily deteriorating; its exterior is timeworn and the building looks to be abandoned. If you were not too absorbed by the store’s external appearance, you would be able to see through the window a frail old man, waiting patiently inside. Bruce Zhang, owner of the Annandale Friendly Grocer located directly across the road, notes that the shop “[is] always open. No weekend, no public holiday, every day open at 9 and close at 10.”

The shop window that once offered a view of the counter where a delicious milkshake might be mixed, is now held together by recycled cardboard and covered in old chocolate and soft drink advertisements, dating back 30 years. Upstairs are the remnants of what was an old hair salon, The Olympia Salon. This is believed to have belonged to the owner’s wife.

Rather than the promise a milk bar would usually hold of soft drinks, chocolates and of course milkshakes, the Olympia instead lay dormant. No energy, no excitement, not even light. Bruce Zhang pointed out, “He never turns the lights on, [not] even at night.” The milk bar is dark except for the far left back corner where a fluorescent light globe remains lit. The advertisements that circulate the store’s walls and windows create the darkness that absorbs the rest of the room. “No people, no lights. When people, lights!” exclaims the owner. Could this then mean that there are no people coming to visit him, if so, does he want visitors?

No one nearby knows much about the milk bar and its owner; whose name is a toss up between Nicholas and John Fotiou, his brother being the alternative to himself. A worker at the news agency across the road commented, “Everybody asks who, I don’t know nothing, what can I do?” A lot of locals believe his name to be Kirie, whilst others call him “Dr Death” or “Dracula”.

Those brave enough to enter ‘Drac’s Milk Bar’, would be greeted by a short, very pale, silver haired man with homely eyes that hide the story of someone saddened by misfortune. He smiles attentively; his teeth show signs of aging and traces of gold from heavy dental work. This man, although he may appear to be a frightful creature of a dark den, is a quiet, almost cheeky but indeed friendly man. If game enough to try a milkshake, one would only be charged $2.90. Should chocolate be your desire, then you’ll have to wait, for the owner informs that he is “just waiting on an order to come.” By the appearance of the empty discolored chocolate display boxes that wallpaper behind the counter, the customer will be waiting a long time.

Bruce Zhang heard that, “A long time ago, he and his brother opened the shop. His brother died. He promised his brother he would stay open.” Whereas Chris Brailey heard “a rumor [that] his wife died and he never recovered from it.” For a derelict building containing a business that attracts few customers, on a street that has seen better days, the Olympia Milk Bar is surrounded by gossip and misconceptions, all unconfirmed. Brailey has been watching the Milk Bar for the past five years; he jokingly admits, “I started to think maybe it was a drug den or a really classy undercover brothel, or even the missing part of the matrix, a portal to somewhere.”

The interior of the shop is spotless although it feels as if there should be a layer of dust over the entire space, for its age and original state would suggest otherwise. When he is not cleaning, Mr Fotiou is staring out the window. The owner of Timeless Vintage on Parramatta Road, observes, “Sometimes you’ll see him out the front sweeping.” Owner of the Marco Polo Café, located next to the vintage clothes store, comments, “It was very nice, clean place.”

Mr Fotiou’s milk bar is in its absolute original state with its stainless steel counter tops and vinyl floors that would have once shone brightly of green, yellow and red, but now only hint of those same colors. At “this stage he doesn’t care.” Confirms the café owner. Yvette, an Olympia Milk Bar Facebook fan believes, “his brother’s last dying wish was that he keep the shop open as it is, to not change anything and so that’s why it’s still running.” The café owner claims to have known “Dr Death” and his brother for over 45 years. He adds, “[his] brother was [a] nice guy, they[‘re] both nice guys. I never had any problems with them. Very quiet people.”

The building in which the Olympia Milk Bar stands erect was built in 1911, this same structural skeleton remain intact today. It was in 1937 that the bottom floor of the building was turned into a milk bar. A hair salon and theatre had been opened in previous years. All three businesses ran under the heading ‘Olympia’.

In 1964 two men, John and Nicholas Fotiou, took ownership of the building and the small businesses that came with. However today, there is only one man who stands in the milk bar; of the others only shadows remain. The Olympia Milk Bar has been attracting the attention of intrigued by passers for years. In mid 2007, a Facebook group was established and since then has gathered no fewer than 700 members. There is a bus stop directly outside the store that could be to blame for the small but obsessed group of followers. Whilst waiting for a bus, they may have noticed the oddness of the Milk Bar.

Although not many words are exchanged, one would leave the Olympia Milk Bar feeling sympathetic for old Mr Fotiou, for it appears he just wants to be left alone. He commented, “I wait for the pension, then I go!” A man who should clearly already be on the pension did not specify where he would go, but there is an implied message. He is just waiting…

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What is Art?

Director of the Metropolitan Mueseum of Modern Art in New York, Phillipe de Monsello commented that “art has no consensus.” It cannot be translated nor explained. Art historian Robert Rossenblum stated, “The idea of defining art is so remote [that] anyone would dare to do it.” So if we cannot define art, do we at least know how to differentiate art from actual and just not?

In the 80’s Jackson Pollock did something different from what was then thought to be art. He created an art form or application of art that was not considered traditional. By using traditional mediums of paint and canvas, he created a transversal line: a painting of what my father would call “something a child could do.” But if you actually look closely at Pollock’s paintings, it is not just paint splashed allover a canvas, but what he explains to be all part of a ‘process.’ There are shards of glass under layers of paint, cigarette burns all throughout the canvas and the remnants of cigarette butts.

'Blue Poles' by Jackson Pollock

More specifically it is interesting to see that society has taken Pollock’s paintings and given the paintbrush over to you. Yes, there is a website that allows you to paint like Jackson Pollock (minus the cigarettes, glass and over all ‘process’). From his evolution of painting, we now have a new media and way of painting – digital painting. (See www.jacksonpollock.org to have a go)

Switching over to a more contemporary line of flight is the inclusion of media technologies in art. Looking specifically at Italian post-conceptual artist, Maurizio Bolognini who uses human interaction with media technologies to create art. His most recognizable work was his use of “computers to produce endless streams of random images.”

In 1988 Bolognini produced ‘Programmed Machines’, an installation where he uses computers that have been “programmed to produce limitless flows of random images and left to function indefinitely.”

'Programmed Machines' by Maurizio Bolognini

Funnily enough in attempts to define art and artists, we are left with Bolognini who comments, “I do not consider myself an artist who creates certain images, and I am not merely a conceptual artist.” He explains that his interests towards ‘Programmed Machines’ is “in their flow, their limitlessness in space and time, the possibility of creating parallel universes of information, made up of kilometres of images and infinite trajectories.” He continues, “My installations serve to generate out-of-control infinities.

Whether the art form or take be traditional, it remains close to or impossible to define art. As art historian, Thomas McEvilley confirms, “More or less anything can be designated as art.

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It All Points to Science

The answer is just ‘science’. Everything and anything can be linked to and from science.

Elizabeth Pisani’s article in The Guardian discusses data sharing – more specifically within science. She explains that “shared data will mean more and faster progress” within new scientific discoveries.  John Wilbanks too points at data sharing as a potential ‘investment’, he write in his article for SEED online, that “we can maximize our social investment in science by making sure it can be read, understood, and used by the network culture.

An article ‘On Science Publishing’ mentioned, “Science holds the greatest promise for ensuring the continued and widespread growth of our civilization” Science, scientific discovery, science transfer, science knowledge, what ever it is deemed, are all slow developments and that’s because as Wilbanks mentions, science is “paper-based.” By this he explains that it is all done on paper in print format and its distribution is limited and barriers put up against the public. Paper based means that the information is also not shared amongst other researchers, which in effect causes duplications, huge bills and a slow process as Pisani observes.

This all relates to Lawrence Lessig’s theory of “The Naked Transparency,” which essentially means that publics want to become more aware of everything by making it all available and ‘transparent’. Apply this to science and all scientific research and you’ll have what Pisani draws attention on: the sharing of data within genetic research. In the 1980’s it was made compulsory that all researchers share their findings should they have wanted to receive funding. This made all findings and research on genetics available to everyone and anyone – movement and results occurred as researchers were able to expand on from the work of one another. A possibility has finally (it was in the 80’s after all) arisen of applying this data sharing theory to all research today, making everything “transparent.”

To make something ‘transparent’ could mean publishing it online. The Internet as a media technology would distribute this to everyone, creating new media opportunities and explorations available.

Let us wait and see.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Pisani, Elizabeth (2011) ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing>

Wilbanks, John (2011) ‘On Science Publishing’, Seed, <http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing>

Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’<http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0>

Seed (20110 ‘On Science Transfer’, Seed <http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/on_science_transfer>

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Can We All Govern?

When the government is being overthrown by social networking websites, where are the futures of our political leaders going to end or are they going to have to reconstruct?

Australia, a common law, democratic governing country is not nearly as suppressive as other countries like that of Egypt. The revolution that is taking place over there is an absolute revolution in itself, that is of government control.

Because of blogging – the transversal relationship between newspapers and the Internet – a massive repercussion has occurred. The Egyptian population managed to cultivate and collectively form protest meetings, share ideologies and essentially kick-start the revolution that is now taking place. This in end (or beginning?) has given the world an insight into what was previously and currently taking place there. They have streamed live videos, posted photos and blogs all about the current government turmoil. Paul Mason explains that through media, “technology has expanded the space and power of the individual.” He makes reference to the blog of an Egyptian Leftist who writes “in dictatorship, independent journalism by default becomes a form of activism, and the spread of information is essentially an act of agitation.

As it appears that media and social networking sites are becoming the new source of information, how do we know what is correct and has or has not been censored? Do we want to know it all? Lawrence Lessig discusses the potential risks associated with what he calls “the naked transparency” of revealing all truths in government. He argues that people don’t have the attention span to learn about everything they read and can thus be mislead. “The public is too smart to waste its time focusing on matters that are not important for it to understand.” Whilst Mason believes that “people know more than they used to,” and because of the unlimited access to information those of us in Australia have, governments are struggling to retain power.

Can we all govern? Catherine Styles explains that if we all want to govern or have input into how the government is run, we need exactly what Lessig fears, his idea of “the naked transparency.” Styles comments, “In order for people to answer the question ‘what do you want a say in?’ we need to be able to peruse the full set of government functions.” I am then inclined to ask what Lessig mentioned, will we? Will we actually peruse all government functions with the attention span that we as humans all possess?

Regardless of this fear of the unknown or known, the blogging sphere and social networking sites are paving way for you to govern, for me to govern, for all to govern; but again I restate, can we? If our current parliament is a representative of the people, then this questioned shouldn’t even be raised. People should feel that their lifestyle is a result of their choices, yet it seems they don’t. That’s probably why we are turning to blogging…

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Mason, Paul (2011) ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.htm

Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’<http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0>

Styles, Catherine (2009) ‘A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’ <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>

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Framing AND Transversality?!

There are two concepts, two ideas and they are meant to conflict, in fact I think they conflict but I am hoping by the end of this blog, I find reason as to why they don’t. Lets talk about them….

Andrew Murphie explains that transversality is “a line that cuts across other lines”. (Murphie, 2006, Fibre Culture Journal) Essentially, its this fabulous concept which is meant to break the barriers of media technologies – does it brake the frame? The answer being NO. This is because frames don’t break, they are always in place and always in existence. Just because a line of flight occurs, does not mean there is no frame in place. A frame is almost immediately established for this new transversal. Let us set an example with music because it seems to be the most applicable and probably easiest way of understanding this.

Madonna, yep Madonna. So here we are in the 80’s, think about it, you are just coming out of the 70’s, everyone is still bangin’ on about the Bee-Gees and how great they were (they were pretty great huh). And suddenly, line of flight. There is this woman with crazy hair, fish nets, fuchsia lipstick and a whole lot more sex appeal and pop sound than the Bee-Gees. For perhaps a split second it was like what? And then its was FRAME, FRAME, FRAME. You leave your house and guess what, there is crimped hair and lipstick everywhere!

There is almost of a case of who came first, the chicken or the egg – do we have frames so transversals can defy them or do we have transversals as a result of framing?

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Murphie, A 2006, ‘Editorial’. The Fibreculure Journal. Issue 9, viewed 11 April 2011,
<http://nine.fibreculturejournal.org/>

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That’s Actually Virtual.

Is virtual reality actual? Well what is virtual… and actual? Andrew Murphie explains how the virtual is potential and the actual the result of that potential, or in end the lead up to the actual being virtual. [1] Confused? Me too. I think what Murphie is trying to say and what he does explain is that the virtual is the past in the present. [2] For example, my mother hates butter so I never had it as a child. Upon growing up, I tasted butter and I was not disgusted. But, because my mother has explained numerous times about her dislike of butter, something inside triggers me that I don’t need butter even when it is readily available – I’ll always say no to having my bread buttered.  Memory – an example Murphie gives – is not real because you can’t really see it but somehow you can draw upon it if need be. [3]

Essentially the human construction and form (memory, personality and presence, etc) are a compilation of what happened in the past to make what is present before us – being the actual. But because this past no longer exists, it is virtual. Mother told me butter is disgusting – past – and I figured out it is not however past still reminds me that I don’t want butter – present. “The virtual therefore possesses its own reality.” States Murphie in reference to Massumi and Delanda 2002. (Page 90/121) [4]

So is the virtual real? Chris Grayson stated “when it comes to virtual reality, I’ve had a mantra that none of this will really take off until we’re in there, versus looking at there.” [5] Looking at there…like looking at a screen? But one does not look at a screen but rather become involved with what is going on beyond the screen. For example a Nintendo Wii is just a console in which you connect with your television. However, Wii games ask you to become present in the virtual world… You are given a control (with sensors), and with this control you are asked to move, physically move in order to play. Murphie explains how you need to “think of the virtual as potential waiting to be actualized.” [6]The game being virtual, your physical movement being the actualized action. Its all quite overwhelming but when you think about how much time you spend in another space – on a bus reading your emails off your phone (virtual office?) or talking to someone on skype (its almost real right?) – you really do start to question if the virtual is actual…

 

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Murphie, A. ‘Is the virtual real?’, 2011, Arts3091 on NewSouthBlogs, Available from: < http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> Accessed 29/3/11.
  2. Murphie, A. ‘Is the virtual real?’, 2011, Arts3091 on NewSouthBlogs, Available from: < http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> Accessed 29/3/11.
  3. Murphie, A. ‘Is the virtual real?’, 2011, Arts3091 on NewSouthBlogs, Available from: < http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> Accessed 29/03/11.
  4. Murphie, Andrew (2004) ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Pg 121, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring
  5. Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html> Accessed 29/03/11.
  6. Murphie, A. ‘Is the virtual real?’, 2011, Arts3091 on NewSouthBlogs, Available from: < http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> Accessed 29/03/11.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Murphie, A. ‘Is the virtual real?’, 2011, Arts3091 on NewSouthBlogs, Available from: < http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive> Accessed 29/03/11.

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html> Accessed 29/03/11.

Murphie, Andrew (2004) ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Pg 121, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring

 

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Don’t Forget

There seems to be a certain focus on memory and media. This is to argue that technology more specifically rather than media is constantly updating, and because of this the human body and mind are adapting to this change also. However this change appears to be more of a connection of the mind and environment.

Memory is no longer necessary or is no longer as advanced as it once was because of technological development.  To think, a whole skill and function – memory – is slowly decaying away because of technology. Bernard Stiegler explained that technologies can be simple objects too, like a spoon used for cooking or a pen used for writing. [1] However a more developed technology, like the mobile phone, is one that is contributing to the decay in memory function. David Chalmers explains how “a lot of stuff that used to be done in our mind, is now done with iPhone.” [2] Chalmers along with Andy Clark discuss a topic they deemed, ‘the extended mind’, in which the mind becomes exterior through exposure to the environment. Interactions with exterior objects like iPhones ask the mind to co-exist so to speak. Active externalism explains Clark and Chalmers is when objects in the environment operate as part of the mind. [3] For example, the iPhone stores phone numbers, which is what the mind did too, well that was up until mobile phones in general.

Essentially by relying on technologies so much and giving them more and more information about ourselves, we are slowly and steadily decreasing human functions. In the article, Anamnesis and Hypomnesis, Stiegler gives an example about how the further and more advanced cars become, the less and less we need to know about driving them, and basically how to drive at all. [4] In fact only a few years ago, Lexus produced a car that can parallel park itself! (See YouTube clip to watch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsLNNkfSoYI)

Alva Noë discussed how life is an experience and how it does not just happen but rather as a result of a temporarily extended involvement. He explains how the mind and body are extended through technology. [5] This is similar to the theories of Andy Clark and David Chalmers, in which human interaction with the environment creates an external mind. Clark further discusses how open we are to learning, how we like to engineer and re-engineer everything. This is only capable through mind extension. [6]

Therefore skills like memory are decaying from technology. What about the new enhanced skills we are learning from new technologies.  To explain, the spoon was not always there and we have had to learn how to use it, just like storing our phone numbers in mobiles. We have had to learn to go to phone book and add new.   Stiegler states that just because we are losing capabilities like memory through mind extension, doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing.  [7]

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesi>

[2] Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

[3] Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

[4] Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesi>

[5] Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain>

[6] Clark, Andy (2010) ‘Natural-born Cyborgs? Reflections on Bodies, Minds and Human Enhancement’, <http://vimeo.com/16717229>

Bibliography:

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesi>

Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture<http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain>

Clark, Andy (2010) ‘Natural-born Cyborgs? Reflections on Bodies, Minds and Human Enhancement’, <http://vimeo.com/16717229>

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