Thirty Thousand Streets

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You know you're working in an ad agency/design group when..

There's a copy of that Dilbert strip that takes the piss out of advertising.

There's a humorous Pantone 'tea' swatch chart sellotaped to one of the cupboards in the communal kitchen, while on a nearby cupboard there'll probably be..

..An A4 sheet instructing people to please keep the kitchen tidy, on which will be grafittid typographic markups (bring up to line above, close up etc..) some wag might even have inscribed 'stet' next to one of these.

You're in Soho.

That's about it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cynical food, good food, Stussy, Pan's Labyrinth.

Friday at work was pretty pants, workwise. Didn't really get a lunch break, so when someone suggested getting a take-out pizza from Pizza Hut I elected—In the interests of studio solidarity— to 'chip in' as it were, much against my better judgement.

I don't know what I was thinking. The pizza, when it arrived, was revolting: A flabby base that tasted of damp cardboard, with a thin smear of ersatz tomato sauce and sweet processed cheese. It both tasted and looked like something a child might construct out of play-doh. The biggest piss-take was the toppings however, consisting as it did of a handfull or so of harassed looking ingredients engaged in some kind of end-state diaspora over the wide flat topography of their pizza world.

And these things aren't cheap either (Half a 12" pizza cost me £6.50). One extra piece of needless gymcrackery was the addition of a hollow crust piped full of yet more of the disgusting plastic yellow cheese (it felt like eating the Simpsons), which I surmise was a ploy to distract from the complete lack of value for money that this food represents.

This is essentially food for people who don't like food, and then some. There is something so horribly cynical about this kind of fast food, where they don't even attempt to use the corporate leverage the scale of their enterprise allows to give you a better deal on the ingredients and quality, and charge you more for your meal than would cost in a fantastic Italian restaraunt.

Moreover, much like sandwiches, you do actually have to try quite hard to bugger up something as simple as a pizza, the rule of thumb basically being: great ingredients, fairly apportioned. Especially at this rate.

Anyway. On Saturday headed up to the Truman Brewery on brick lane for the Stussy warehouse sale. There was some alright stuff there, and the t-shirts were a snip at a tenner. I was kind of hoping they'd have some flat caps with a bandanna print they were hawking instore earlier in the year, but no dice. Bought a few shirts and headed out.

Caught the 55 from Old Street up to the top of Oxford Street, and from there walkied down into Soho. Went and checked out Libertys, which I've never ventured into before, and has much more of boutique-y feel than most other department stores. Some nice stuff in the menswear bit, though I was mostly looking for a 'brooch' they had in one of the window displays, which was basically a large pin with some small antique keys on it. Sounds a bit weird but trust me, it'd look great on a jacket.

There's also an exhibition of prints from the Scrawl website, whose curator Rick sold me a Stefan Plaetz t-shirt in the City Tavern in Manchester a few years back, when I was living there and he was up for a Man U game. His business is also, oddly enough, incumbent in the design group I'm working in right now. Anyway, some good stuff.

Also went and looked in the Levis store Cinch off Carnaby Street. They seem to have dispensed with the RED line altogether there, which is a bit of a shame as I thought they did some really nice pieces. Now they seem to focus more on the 'vintage' range and the new twisted series (into which they seem to have diffused some of the design elements from the RED range).

One thing I don't really get are the iPod compatible jeans, which strikes me as the ultimate in cheesy designer excess. Certain brand collaborations really seem to work (Stussy and Levis for example) but I don't think this does, mainly because I fail to see how an extra iPod shaped pocket with a built in plastic spinwheel is in any way superior to a, y'know, traditional pocket.

The beautiful thig about pockets is you can put anything in them (up to a point) iPods included. These jeans mainly seem to be about shouting "LOOK AT ME, I"VE GOT AN iPOD. iPODS ARE COOL, AND NOT ONLY THAT BUT I'VE GOT SOME iPOD JEANS WHICH MEANS I'M COOLER THAN YOU EVEN IF YOU DO HAVE AN iPOD'

After this I was hungry, so went to a falafel place called Maoz on Old Compton Street. Now this is actually quite good fast food. I can't make any particularly bold claims about the nutritional worth of Falafel, as it does seem in the main to be vegetarian stodge, but this is pretty wholesome all the same. The standard meal came with some nice chips, a drink and as much salad and toppings as you like for £4.90, which seemed pretty reasonable. Pizza Hut take heed!

After that went and met up with Will Ade and Helen at the Covent Garden Odeon, to watch Pan's Labyrinth, which I really enjoyed.

Superficially at least it bears some comparison with other stories where the protagist is a female child who finds herself in a otherly realm (Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away for example) though in this, the tone is much, much darker (and maybe more akin to A Company of Wolves in this respect.

It is set in Spain after the Second World war, and the 'real world' narrative centres around an outpost of Nationalist guardsmen attempting to stamp out a local group of Socialist rebels who live in the forest. The central character Ofelia, moves here with her pregnant mother, who has wed the captain - himself as evil a character as any I have seen in film recently.

Against this backdrop of guerilla warfare, brutality, cruelty and torture Ofelia retreats into a world of her imagining, where she meets a Faun in some local ruins who reveals she is in fact a princess, the daughter of the king of the underworld, and in order to return home, must complete three tasks.

While much of this fantasical element of the film is truly magical, it is also inarguably far more mordant in aspect than I was anticipating. This Faun is no Mr Tumnus, and certain other sequences seem more reminiscent of Clive Barker's Hellraiser than they do the 80's muppet flick Labyrinth.

Nontheless the interplay between these two contrasting strands is handled very well, and the entire thing is tremendously exciting, and I dare say, thought provoking. I can't say it's particularly happy, but I would highly recommend it.

It's Sunday now. I just rang Lucy on her stall in Greenwich Market and will hopefully catch up with her in the week as I don't think I'm going to make it over to see her today. Anyway. Ade should be coming over shortly to pick up his brother's coat, and we might head out somewhere for a pint.

Incidentally, I've been published in a book! Yessir one of my blog entries has found its way into the pages of The Blog Digest 2007, where a throwaway anecdote about my brother and some wasps has been immortalised in print. The tagline reads 'Twelve months of the best writing from the web', so apparently, I'm part of that. Who'd have thought it?

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I walked into the kitchen of my flat the other week to observe that the plates were on the march again; columns of greasy crocks winding across the hinterlands of the worktop toward the cooker like Hannibal's elephants traversing the alps, daubed in a Pollock-esque crust of dried pasta sauce.

I sighed, the first nascent stirrings of a headache throbbing at my temples.

It's not the big things that annoy you when you live with people, I find. Alright it is, but it's also more persistently the little domestic foibles and quirks that drive me to distraction. I'm fairly tolerant, and can co-exist contentedly with any amount of opinion, vice and idiosyncratic behaviour, but so help me god, if someone leaves the tv on standby again I'm going to get on some Michael Douglas in 'Falling Down' type shit.

I think I'm getting a little irritable in my old age, and ideally, would really like to get a place of my own. While I think all my housemates are wonderful people, co-habiting is a process of acquiescence and tacit agreement that sometimes seems more like an unspoken war of attrition, with shifting alliances forged along lines of opinion, over all too familiar flashpoints.

Cleaning is one example. I don't see why anyone is too busy to spend ten seconds washing a plate, but then, most of my housemates at some time or another seem to disagree with this, and would rather deal with it 'some other time'. Of course everyone denies doing this, and ostentatiously huff and puff when the plates stack up, yet nonetheless think nothing of dashing spent crocks into the sink to lurk for days like crocodiles beneath the greasy water.

Heating is another common bone of contention. Now it's getting colder the heating is constantly on, and our flat sometimes feels the engine room of The Bismarck, so stifling is the temperature. I sometimes come home and fling open windows just to get the air moving, which is a sure sign I think, in November, that it's getting hot in herre (thanks, Nelly). Then again, I'm the kind of person who'd rather wear a sweater than turn up the heat, wheras some people are only content if they can walk round their home in a t-shirt in January.

Maybe I should look at the bigger picture, and consider all this as terraforming on a macrocosmic scale; a contribution to global warming that will, in the long game, engineer a warmer world for us all. Hell, by 2050 London will probably resemble some Ballardesque dystopia, where Iguanas compete for space alongside the pigeons on the South Bank.

The biggest source of my grumpiness these days however is the guy who has the room next to mine; part of whose ritual of going to bed is to switch on his tv immediately prior to sleep, (and he generally drops off within twenty minutes) leaving the set to quack away to itself like the teacher in Charlie Brown.

Part pf my problem here is that I do suffer from degrees of insomnia these days, and it takes very little to stop me dropping off. I freely admit this is slightly neurotic as London is hardly an oasis of calm, yet whilst I can somehow tolerate the distant external sounds of traffic, sirens, gunshots and shouts and screams that Camberwell generates, any incessent persistent sound, no matter how quiet, is the aural equivalent of the Chinese water torture to me, which I just fixate upon to distraction.

Selfishly enough, I don't even mind up to about one o'clock when I do go to bed, but after that, I really wish people would pull the plug on all local forms of media. I simply don't want to lie awake guessing whether that tinny sound I'm hearing through the wall is the soud of someone not watching golf, or someone not watching some crappy game-show.

Quite a few times I've actually crept into his room to switch it off (which is weird). The sight of my partially clothed housemate snoring like a beached porpoise snared in the folds of his duvet is a sight I could willingly forfeit at the best of times, never mind at half two on a Thursday morning.

A couple of times he's woken up/been awake, and I've asked him if he'll turn it down/off which he willingly does, and this happened last night. He was a bit funny with me this morning though (didn't acknowledge me on the landing) and I think he thinks I'm being unreasonable ("it's not loud etc").

I am hence, going to have to talk to him about it, and him being a reasonable guy, I'm sure he'll understand. I don't really want to though, and would much prefer it if he'd just take the fucking hint and turn it off.

In this respect living alone sounds immensely attractive as you can dispense with this kind of banal diplomacy, and don't have to convene meetings about trivia such as who's buying the toilet roll with anyone except yourself. At the minute flatsharing is getting to be as tedious as an Eastenders storyline, only unfortunately not relegated to four half hour slots weekly (and the omnibus on Sundays of course). Basically I want to go and live in a cave (and no, not The Hermit's Cave on this ocassion).

God I sound like an irritable bastard don't I? And there's the rub. I'm no domestic god. I'm sure I'm a pain in the arse to live with, and sometimes in the end living with other people just seems to hold a mirror up to your own petty madness and general crankiness, which my personal vanity would much rather avoid. I'd like to pretend I can get on with everybody, all of the time, but it just isn't true.

Satre said: "Hell is other people" (or something similar). My maxim might be: "I love people, I just couldn't eat them all".

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Casino Royale

I went and saw the new Bond film on Friday at the Ritzy in Brixton, as everywhere in the centre of town was sold out. And despite my reservations about the franchise as a whole it was pretty entertaining.

I'm glad to say they've reigned in the cheesier excesses of the recent Bond output in favour of a grittier, pared down tone. So gone are invisible cars, Ice palaces, genetically enhanced villains, Bond doing a spot of impromptu tidal-wave windsurfing after an orbital satellite slices of a section of a glacier with a laser, and in is ushered a craggy faced Daniel Craig striding purposefully around Montenegro with an intensity worthy of the T1000.

One of the best things about it is the decision to eschew grandiose visual effects in favour of more traditional stunts, which gives it a tremendous sense of kinesis in parts. An early chase scene which sees Bond pursue a terrorist (played by champion freerunner Sebastian Foucan) across a buiding site in Madagascar, has a high impact choreography reminiscent of Jackie Chan.

Also dispensed with are the far fetched gadgets which wouldn't look out of place on Adam West's batbelt. This bond gets a gun and a car, and in one scene it's a Ford Mondeo at that. MI6 must also provide free gym membership as 007 looks impressively buff, emerging shimmering from the sea in an inverted reprisal of Ursual Andress's iconic cheesecake moment in Dr No.

Muscles aside, Craig's is the first convincingly hard Bond since Connery's, and you probably wouldn't spill his Martini if you met him down the pub. Moreover he manages to project the right air of moral ambiguity appropriate to a government sponsored killer, his piercing glinty death-camp eyes somehow just adding to the overall effect.

The main villain—La Chieffre—comes acoss as a proportionately psychotic foe, who, while in full posession of a trademark disfigurement (he weeps tears of blood) is less cat-holdingly camp than previous incarnations of the bond baddy (though he does whip James Bond's balls in one scene). The fact that his name sounds a bit like 'The Chief' is pretty top too.

Of course, before we all start reaching for our genitalia, it's still a Bond film and not the Godfather part II, so any accrued gravitas is somewhat undermined by the hackneyed trappings native to the franchise (the audience were pissing themselves laughing when the first Bond girl made her entrance jiggling down the beach on the back of a horse) yet overall the familiar institutional motifs (crashingly insipid one-liners for example) are underplayed, and mitigated by the Craig reinvigoration effect(tm).

So if you're going to 'catch a flick' with Brian Sewell and Germaine Greer, you might want to look elsewhere, but otherwise go see it. It's a fun way to waste a couple of hours, and has a very nice graphic title sequence (the main tune's a bit crap though).

Go on take a gamble (arf arf).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Just for the record..

If and when I make it into Second Life, this is what I want my avatar to look like.

For some more check Wayne Barlow's website. His stuff's incredible, a bit like Heironymus Bosch with Corel Paint.