Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, November 30, 2007

'Free' Lance

I'm a bit weary of work at the minute ("aren't we all? I imagine you're thinking") and getting quite cynical about it all. Three years in the freelance game, and at the minute, I'm often increasingly frustrated – a situation I've got to reverse if I'm going to carry on labouring in this industry.

One of the things I've become accustomed to, yet increasingly irritated by, it must be said, are employers who quibble about paying overtime to freelancers.

Yesterday I was working at a medium sized ad agency, helping on pitch work to retain an existing client. I worked over my eight standard hours, and so by the standard terms set out by the recruitment consultants who arranged the booking, was entitled to pay at the rate of time and a half.

It was only half an hour anyway, but when the time came for me to get my timesheet signed, the studio manager announced that "we don't pay time and a half".

This pissed me off. Firstly because the recruitment consultants who set the gig up should have made these terms clear to me, but primarily because I think it is incredibly remiss of a medium sized ad agency to refuse to pay freelancers their dues once thy've worked over a standard day, because that's the way it works, y'know?.

In general freelancers often have to spend a great deal of time running round tying up loose ends and having to do the dirty work the full-timers don't want to touch. Often, you're stuck on the grouchy G4 in the corner none of the designers will use. Often you're just treated like a human status bar, to be fed a stack of work to drill though gradually, like a rat through concrete.

So whatever. No-one ever said it was going to be easy. But the payoff for all this is (or should definitely be) that you're paid your dues at the end of the day, and your efforts are rewarded with commeasurate amounts of the folding stuff. Because often, you don't know where the next gig is coming from. It's a given that full time employers in the design industry on a salary work long hours overtime, unpaid, and those are the breaks; thats's how the industry functions. But it's different for freelancers and if – as in this case – you're a decent sized advertising agency with an enviable client list, you should honour this difference out of simple professionalism, as much as anything.

And funnily enough actually, it is quite often the large-ish ad agencies who refuse to play the game on this one. And while of course it would be naive to assume the advertising industry is exactly afroth with the milk of human kindness, it rankles that a communications agency with plush West End offices, who are obviously doing very well for themselves thank you very much, gripe when it comes to paying up.

Of course there's always the argument that this is an effort to stop agencies haemmoraging unnecessary funds on contracters, but in this case the onus is on the agency, and its planners, to ensure they are more organised in this respect.

Anyway. If I've got any kind of grit I might endevavour to not work there in future. But who knows, I may have to.

In principle though, my sentiment remains: "pay the hell up, bitch!"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Noodle Conspiracy

Y'know, I like me some noodles. And while I like them as part of a cooked dish with stir fries or as a substitute for pasta, at heart I'm something of a fiend for the cheap packets of instant noodles that seem to be a reliable fixture of mini-markets everywhere.

I was especially fond of the range available at the Chinese Supermarket round the corner, and most weeks would pop in at once to stock up on their three-for-one sardines, and browse the wall of noodles on aisle three. The sesame chicken variety were a particular favourite.

The thing is, I always looked on noodles as a harmless treat: a late night snack I could wolf down, guilt free. After all, they're noodles, right? there's noting in them other than flour, and um.. water? nothing sinister anyway.

So I was quite surprised to discover – while waiting for the water to boil the other day and idly reading the back of the pack – that this particular variety ('satay sauce' I believe) had something like a third (one third!) of the adult male daily fat allowance.. or around 22 grams per pack. At first I thought I'd merely got unlucky in some noodle game of Russian Roulette, so scoured the backs of the other flavours I'd bought, to find that they were all playing noodle-ball in roughly the same noodle-ball-park.

To put this in perspective.. 100 grams of the cereal I'm eating at the minute (Special K since you ask) has 1.5 grams of fat per 100g of cereal, or roughly 5.6 grams in each 375g box. Meaning that the fat content of one packet of these noodles.. is equivalent to four entire boxes of Special K. Khrist.

Ok so I'm probably sounding like a Kellogs advertorial here, and at risk of getting too metrosexual about the whole issue, but that's a lot of fat for a small pack of noodles.. right? I mean, someone actually had to try pretty damned hard to get that much fat in didn't they?

I have to say, I'm slightly peeved about this.. something I viewed as a culinary staple has become.. sullied. I never assumed they had much more nutritional content than cardboard to start with, but by this same token I never assumed I was consuming some covert form of lard.

I dunno, someone'll tell me Father Christmas isn't real next..

Monday, November 26, 2007

Retro Kicks

Todays retro fix is brought to you by Sesame Street, and the 70s. Yes folks, it's the 'Number 12' pinball song.

This is pretty much my childhood right here. Just look at those gorgeous illustrations! but then, I'm a sucker for many things seventies, from graphic art through to vintage tan leather 'funk coats', and the drawing style feels reminiscent of Seymour Chwast and Pushpin to me. Anyway, I think this is sung by the Pointer Sisters, and it's not bad in a kind of disposable disco jingle style. I seem to recall Ninja Tune releasing this on 12 inch as the B-side to a Larry Levan remix of a song by the Cookie Monster. Can't say I've heard that, and I'm not actually sure I'd go as far as playing it out but hey.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Whatever happened to Kinder Eggs

I bought a Kinder Egg yesterday. To me these days, Kinder Eggs are a bit like National Lottery scratchcards.. things I occasionally buy while queueing for milk in the newsagents, in an attempt to numb the general ennui of existence by the frisson of excitement they represent. I could win a million pounds! or I could have a fully functioning scale replica of Robert Stevenson's 'Rocket', in plastic!

Unfortunately, neither are ever true, and with both scratchies and eggs, you're generally left with an instant piece of rubbish, and a faint sense of anticlimax. Kinder Eggs have fallen the fuck off, man.

May I present Exhibit A for the prosecution. Ladies and gentlemen: my prize

Now, could anyone tell me, WTF this is supposed to be? Obviously it's supposed to be some kind of doll, but what kind of kid would want to have such a thing? I might be getting needlessly nostalgic here, but I used to get loads of these things as a child, and I'm pretty certain they were far superior back in the day. I remember Kinder Egg toys where you'd open it, and it was completely composite – you'd get all these little parts, with a tiny set of instructions on how to assemble your plane/boat/tractor, with fingers still sticky from the ersatz two-tone chocolate. That was half the fun: it invited you to engage in the construction of your toy – to the point of applying decal stickers – and the payoff at the end was you got your little toy, magic trick whatever, to forget about half an hour later when Ulysses 31 came on TV.

The one concession to the construction process in my eye-wateringly ugly plastic homunculus is the fact that it came in two parts. The head is detachable you see, and upon removal of the head you're left with..

A mini totem devil! Great! What kind of message is that sending out?

"All appearances are false" (booms a hollow voice like Orson Welles as Unicron in Transformers the Movie) "all appearances are false, and at the heart of everything, dwells unreason, which is the very principle of evil"

That's how I interpreted it anyway. No wonder the kids of today are messed up; truly, the devil is in the details.

It gets worse though. Squinting at the accompanying mini brochure, it becomes clear that this is just one in a family of similar statuettes, all of whom are presumably also demons masquerading as members of some sub-Pokemon cartoon family, all available for you to collect and perform your own mini-inquisition upon. And even worse than this, all of them appear to be piloting small aircraft, which in my case at least, was not included in the original purchase. Great. So I'm to be denied even that catharsis.

This is fairly typical of kinder eggs now.. they do seem to be all based around some dog-ugly set of characters, that require minimal interaction or imagination. Something I find doubly depressing about these toys is that, as non-biodegradeable plastic, if I opted to have them buried them in the ground with me a la the Egyptian pharoahs, there's a good chance these tawdry artefacts would persist long after my remains had long since vanished, for future generations of intelligent insects/rats to ponder over. Kind of a lame legacy to leave, I'm sure you'll agree. Here's some I bought earlier this year.

In truth this slide isn't restricted to just Kinder Toys though.. as I trawled the aisles of Woolworths the other day in my quest for some 'Henry' vaccuum-cleaner bags, I was arrested mid stride by the selection of lego in the toys aisle. It all seemed more sophisticated, but at least half of it consisted of branded tie-ins to the Star Wars franchise (and presumably George Lucas's latter day revisionist abominations at that). Indeed, even the bits that weren't, while appearing more engineered, were actually constructed of parts that seemed wholly specific to the individual toy – a entire moulded cabin for a flatbed truck for instance.

Part of Lego's charm was its trademark clunkyness.. the fact that all or most of the parts were modular and interchangeable. Something that was a car one minute could easily be a spaceship the next, with a little input and imagination of course. These modern day efforts? well I don't know.. they look kinda cool, but ultimately more limited in scope.. less 'open source' if you like.

Anyway *rant over*. You could probably recreate the sentiment of reading this blog post by simply writing:

"Things aren't as good as they used to be"

And reading and re-reading that for five minutes. In the meanwhile, I'm going to go and shake my fist at the sea. You can discuss how much larger chocolate bars used to be amongst yourselves.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Today I went to the Land Of Lost Content, which is a museum of ephemera from the 20th century, situated in Craven Arms in Shropshire, in an old Market Hall.

To put it another way, it's three (draughty) floors of some of the most fascinating tat and bric-a-brac you're ever likely to stumble across in a country village.

It was themed section by section, but part of its charm is that everything is displayed 'Alladin's Cave' style, every corner dripping with the marginalia of popular culture: There's posters, clothes, toys, packaging, records.. the list goes on.

The museum's mission statement is (and I'm going to paraphrase from memory here) to preserve a unique record of how people lived, in times when they endured greater hardship, yet enjoyed an unparalelled contentment, and in this I suppose they are referring principally to the war/post war era of the early to mid twentieth century.

I guess I'm always slightly suspicious of this kind of rose-tinted nostalgia for times past, but it must be said, from the vantage point of our marketing and branding obsessed times, much of the trivia on display manages to evoke a wistful smile, as a lot of it does seem quite sweet and naive, and yes, less sophisticated, than the incredibly nuanced sea of media we inhabit now. To some extent these are kitsch kicks you're getting here (chuckling gently at seventies chocolate wrappers is surely the museum equivalent of those 'I heart the 60s/70s/80s' programmes) but fascinating nonetheless.

Apparently the guy who used to run 'Red or Dead' is a big fan too, and is now involved in trying to market the place a bit more effectively. Good thing, as that day my mum and me were the only two people in there.

I've no pics (at their request) but if you're in the area, take a look.

Afterwards we left, and there was some kind of Children in Need thing going on, with a huge Papier Mache head being wheeled down the street with a guy in Pudsey Bear outfit next to it. I have pictures of that, which I'll stick up shortly.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cold in Wales

I'm in Wales. It's cold and foggy. Sorry, freezing and foggy.

I need a jumper.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


So. Nearly three weeks ago on Wednesday morning, whilst unconcious, I was set about with a knife by an short bearded man, just off Denmark Hill in Camberwell.

Luckily he was a surgeon and I was being operated on (drumroll-cymbal).

Anyway.. that was fine. I've been a bit sore and limping around a little since, but otherwise ok. I've also not been working (largely through choice) though have been reasonably busy doing other stuff.

I've not been updating this much (at all) recently, as I've had some stuff on my mind, and things I want to sort out, and I don't want to fall into the trap of talking about it rather than getting on and doing it. I always intended this blog to be about experiences I'd had that excited me, and I've been feeling a bit introspective recently. I think once you get out of the rhythm of updating these things it's sometimes hard to get back in.

In other news I've trying to avoid the evil that is Facebook as much as possible (it annoys me) and some estate agent from Foxtons keeps ringing me up and badgering me about why I'm not currently hunting a flat (despite me telling him thrice I'm not). I'm tempted to say "none of your business mate, and if you don't stop pestering me, I might start hunting you" but have managed to remain reasonably cordial.

Anyway. Tonight I'm off to meet up with my friend Tim and some old uni buddies for birthday drinks on Kingly Street in Soho, and then might drop in to the Kompakt night at Plastic People, where Thomas Fehlman – ex The Orb – is DJing. Should be good!