Thirty Thousand Streets

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Woolies RIP






























I took a trip to the Camberwell branch of Woolies today... a moribund, joyless experience if ever there was one – like a wet weekend in an off-season British coastal resort, except without the fun. There was however a faint air of the feeding frenzy, lent to proceedings by the crowds of eager bargain hunters, come to dine at the carcass of the mortally wounded high street giant like crows in the aftermath of some bleak mercantile war. All it needed were the mournful strains of 'The Last Post' being played by a sole, bloodied bugler to make the scene of mournful defeat utterly complete.

By then the flesh had been stripped down to the bones of the fixtures and fittings, with pretty much only the Pic n Mix left (and a few Girls Aloud CDs knocking about at half price). So little more to tempt me than usual, then. A spot of light entertainment was provided by a loud, possibly drunk, Scottish woman, screeching at the tills, but she was escorted out after a while by a security guard.

Woolworths, I wish I could say I'll miss you, but the truth is, I hardly noticed you when you were there. As they say in Birmingham, "Tararabit".

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Credit Crunch Christmas





























So, Christmas 08 came and and is all but gone. And it was pretty fun, though as ever, when the time came to return, I was almost relieved.

I caught the train back on the 27th, which took five-and-a-bit hours due to the West Coast Line being rebuilt from scratch or something. My travelling companions for this journey were two slabs of the funkiest cheese since that Lipps Inc. tune – a wobbling disc of ripe Camembert, and a smaller, but scarcely less potent, roundel of goat's cheese named 'Petit Billy'. These were a gift from my brother Dan, brought back from the Alps, and though double-wrapped in tupperware boxes and a carrier bag, the aroma from the overhead luggage compartment was still just about noticable if you were looking out for it.

Also along for the ride was perhaps my favourite present ever – a wooden chough carved by my dad, 'Big Al'. You don't believe me? well here he is. Ladies and gentlemen may I present... Oreb




I've named him Oreb after the bird of the same name in Gene Wolfe's bizarre religious/science fiction epic The Book of the Long Sun. The bird in that was a red beaked 'night chough', an intelligent, crow like bird with the ability to utter short, two word phrases (fish heads? bird good? etc). I think this is a fictitious breed invented by Wolfe, and having dug around t'internet, I find that Oreb is actually the Hebrew name for a raven, so it might be a misnomer, but what the heck. A great gift, anyway, credit crunch or no.

Back in London, now. It's very cold, and very quiet. When I first arrived back, the house was freezing, due to one of the fellow inmates having left his bedroom window open. It felt like the derelict spacecraft in Sunshine. I can hardly believe it's going to be New Year's Eve in two days time, though no-one seems to be hugely fussed this year. I think I might be spending it in The Scolt's Head in DeBeauvoir Town, anyway, where Sam's DJing.

So if I don't blog before then, Happy New Year, to one and all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas

I actually wrote quite a long post the other day, but failed to stick it up there, so the moment seems to have passed, somewhat.
In it I detailed how a section of one of my teeth shored off like a chunk of melting glacier two Sundays back – which I imagined heralded the opening of a sort of Pandora's box of dental woes in my mouth, but was actually not too bad, I just need to floss.

Up in Stockport again, this Christmas Eve. Arrived yesterday on the train, which in spite of traditional festive travel chaos at Euston, seemed oddly undersubcribed. Caught up with some old colleagues for drinks in the city centre.

Writing on my brother's Mac, while I wait for my phone to charge, and then to head out for traditional Christmas lager (Stella, natch) which I'll imbibe at the Crown on Heaton Moor Road. Wales tomorrow; should be festive.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I can see!
























So I wear glasses now, which I picked up the other day, and have been wearing, somewhat tentatively. I became aware I might need glasses when I found myself squinting to read the subtitles on the Godzilla DVD that came with the Guardian one week, along with bus destinations, shop signage, stuff like that. The thing is, I didn't realise just how accute a difference having a couple of lenses in front of my eyes would make – upon exiting the opticians it was like viewing the bustling Covent Garden street scene in hyperreal Imax format – everything appearing surreally closer and sharper.

The magnification also knocked my depth perception for six, and approaching a kerb I attempted to circumnavigate it as one might a stile in the countryside – with huge steps that seemed to connect with the pavement a moment after I expected them to. I started to feel a bit queasy, and took off the specs.

I wore them home on the bus though, as the afternoon turned to evening, and found myself gawping at familiar scenes, sliding past in the twilight – street signs, office interiors etc – and thinking "that looks like that? whoah". Because the difference it makes to my mid-to-long range vision is striking in terms of clarity.

I guess the gradual rate at which my vision degraded – however slightly – meant that I acclimatised to the changes as they ocurred – boiled frog syndrome basically. Now, everytime I remove them everything looks like it's had a bit of Photoshop's Gaussian Blur whacked on. Blurrier. Fuzzier.

Anyway. I'm kind of enjoying my enhanced vision, though it's odd to think that I'll probably be wearing glasses in some form from now on in. They look alright though. I was going to go for some Large frames, but it was all starting to look a bit Maurice Saatchi, so I toned it down.

Next time, a hearing aid perhaps (or zimmerframe).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wasps

I saw a wasps nest today. A WASPS NEST. In November.

This country's weather is pretty messed up these days (Brighton last weekend was a a sort of seasonal megamix) but this takes the biscuit.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gobama!

Right, well, it's a start anyway – at the very least he can hardly fail to do a better job than the cretin who preceded him.

Anyway, in celebration me and my colleague Zeno Cosini have upped something new at our increasingly infrequent 30,000 Streets project for your delectation. It's our entry for the Observer/Jonathan Cape 2008 Graphic short story prize. We didn't win, but it was a very enjoyable project for me, and a medium that I'd like to pursue in the future.

I'm pretty pleased with the results, though must concede, the deadline, coupled with work commitments at the time meant that it was more rushed than I would have liked. It also gave me an insight into the amount of work that goes into making a comic. Generally speaking, pencilling, inking, colouring and lettering are four separate jobs, so doing them all immediately prior to the closing date entailed some midnight oil burning – but it was all good.

Anyway, swing on by. Feedback appreciated!
Story here.


In other news, I'm not working the minute, though I guess that's that Kredit Kruch biting eh? Got offered a months work the other week, only for the client in question to change their minds and keep the work in-house. I hate it when they do that... if you've got work for me, great, if not, fine, just don't offer me a handy booking then whip it away in a Bullseye "look at what you could have won" fash. I'll probably mentally have started spending the paychecks...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Return of the Mac

Last weekend was pretty good. Hiked up to the Design Museum on Saturday to meet Sam, where we checked out the Alan Aldridge exhibition there, which was ace. I have to say, I always find the Design Museum quite succinct in terms of its exhibition space, so my tip would be – Get there late on Saturday – with about an hour left they only charge a fiver, which seems like a reasonable amount of time to wander round any given exhibition.

After that stopped in the shop to buy a copy of his book, then sat out on the embankment while Sam drank a coffee (I couldn't, any more that day and I'd have got the shakes).

That evening headed up to Cargo in Shoreditch for Need2Soul with Al. I was pretty hungover and tired from the night before though, so it was quite hard work at times – the music was really good though, Benji B and Glenn Underground especially, who delivered a payload of vocal US house bombs.

Sunday night I set up my new iMac, and after many moons typing on a battered old 1st generation Powerbook which now looks like something from the Millenium Falcon, I'm quite frankly loving the huuge screen on it. I must also admit, I've whiled away a few hours playing assorted arcade classics on a coin-op emulator I've got for it – such as R-Type, Commando etc. I have actually bought CS4 for it though, so working in Photoshop and Illustrator is going to be a pleasure.

Now debating the allure of an iPhone... never really been gadget-mad, but I'm thinking of going contract, and I'm a bit sick of being the hand-me-down phone kid. If my old powerbook looks like part of the MF, the busted old Nokia Ade gave me two years ago looks like something the Jawas would probably have slung into a sand dune. We'll see. A bit more costly, but I could put it down as a 'business expense'.

Oh, and I need glasses. I went for a free eye test courtesy of a voucher in the Marks & Spencer magazine at D&A in Peckham, where I learned I am 'astigmatic'; the analogy the tester used being that the corneas of my eyes are more rugby ball shaped than round. Anyway. I got my prescription, but thought all the frames in D&A looked pretty much all the same. Me being me, I'm thinking about something a bit more more like Michael Caine in The Ipcress Files.

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played 3






























Orgon Twinswords

This dude was a merchant sea-captain from the Island of the Purple Towns, in Moorcock's Young Kingdoms, in a game curated by my old buddy Matt (who I haven't actually seen in about five years).

Anyway he was armed with two swords (hence the name) one of which was a legitimately rolled-for sorcerous magical heirloom (clue: it's the one that's glowing). I got his name from a mini-digest of names in Chaosium's Elric! rulebook – which was cue for Matt to crack many jokes about 'Organ's Organ' ha ha etc.

I played this guy in the Stormbringer! trans-dimensional campaign Rogue Mistress which was a typically picaresque ramble through the multiverse, acompanied by Will's character in this period – an Victorian English gentleman armed with an elephant gun, whom it transpired, was somewhat ill-equipped for close-hand combat against the assorted demons the game launched at us, once his large shooting iron had run out of shells.

My character, I'm glad to report, was a sort of two-sworded whirling dervish of destruction. Which was nice.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

'Credit Crunch'





























As I go about my daily affairs, it's been nigh impossible to avoid the sense of fermenting financial doom, simmering just below the surface of, well, everything (at least in London – Greece didn't seem to care as much, at least the resort I was in a month ago).

Scarcely a day goes by when I don't open the paper to read some hyperbolic sqwawk about the parlous state of the world economy. "Black Friday!" boomed the reassuringly pessimistic London Evening Standard, the Friday last but one.

I'm getting a little bored by all this. The fact that we've entered a period of relative financial insecurity has actually penetrated my cranium by now, aided by soundbytes such as 'The Credit Crunch', and abetted by Brass Eye style graphics of plummeting line graphs, typographical ligatures involving resolutely downward facing arrows, and photographs of worried looking Wall Street Traders.

But it seems to me, the big story that everyone I know is talking about, bar the actual papers themselves, is the role of the media itself in this debacle, the spectre of which looms large in the wings, excitedly wringing its hands. Because, correct me if I'm wrong, but the relentless pessimism of the news regarding the global economy is surely guilty of inculcating the sense of doom, that is all pervasive at the minute (of course, I suppose a headline such as "Story-hungry Media excites mass global panic!" might just be a tad too recursive – a little too close to the truth, if truth be known). This was proven to be the case when the BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, asserted that head of RBoS, Barclays and Lloyds had gone, a beggin' to Alistair Darling for some beads, which promptly wiped £10 billion off the value of the Royal Bank of Scotland alone. Oops.

And there is, oddly, a faint sense of inevitability about all this – the long predicted chickens have finally come 'home to roost' as it were. I remember last year, reading in the broadsheets last year muttered hints that: "This can't go on forever" which it patently could not; but in some ways the paranoia now seems to be a case of prophecy fullfilment.

I've never know much about the dark arts of economics, and at least one thing that's arisen from recent events is a slightly clearer understanding of the greed, naivety and sordid practices that led to all this. It's been a little like training a torch on the underside of a long undisturbed rock, to witness a host of unlovely, armani-clad beetles scurrying away from the questing light – though perhaps it was a lack of scrutiny that led to this debacle in the first place. A couple of things that have only really become apparent to me for is the fact that very little of this money actually exists (i.e. if everyone wanted it back, not everyone could have it) and for all their perceived, grotesque wealth, banks actually operate with a thin skin of capital – the rest being all speculative cash in motion – and in some way it all seems to be linked to some index of confidence, which at the minute, is severely diminished, and shaken yet further by the press's frenzied speculation. To use an analogy in physics I might compare it to the Oberver effect, wherein in the very act of witnessing and recording an experiment ultimately effects its outcome.

For this reason it almost feels like the best thing that could happen, would be for the media to find something else to yap about about for a few weeks, and the eventual trickle-down effect might be people discarding the siege mentality that seems to be the defining zeitgeist of the moment. Ever since Orson Welle's radio play on Well's War of the Worlds it's been pretty clear that the media has the power to precipitate mass panic, if used recklessly, and this is hardly an exception. So why not, I dunno, talk about Madonna divorcing guy Ritchie or something, and everyone can slip back into their normal everyday coma, before emerging blinking, from the bunker, into our brave, new, credit-less world.

In the meanwhile, I'm going to brace myself for an even-more-consumerist-than-usual rendition of Christmas 2008, as all and sundry attempt to claw back some of their collapsing profit margins. I saw my first Christmas advertisement on ITV yesterday; DFS, I hate you.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"These aren't the plates you're looking for..."

My housemate has developed this 'Jedi mind trick', where if she ever doesn't feel like she can be bothered to do her washing up, she just sticks the offending plates on top of the freezer – thereby marking them as 'on hold', and emphasising the fact that it's 'different' from normal dirty crockery, and doesn't count – she's just really busy, yeah?

Personally I find it mildly annoying, as it just spreads filth more evenly round the kitchen, rather than quarantining it to by the sink (I'd prefer it if she just spent two minutes washing up, though).

It also means if I want to dip into the freezer, I have to to move the offending articles (typically bespattered in congealed baked bean slime) before I can access my frozen treats.

Just thought I'd share that with you. I guess this is like ultimate passive/aggressive 'house note' So passive/aggressive in fact, they don't even see it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Booger-Loo

At the risk of sounding overly worldy, I've worked in a few places in my time. Running the whole gamut of everything from grim sausage factories up north, to quote unquote 'funky' design groups, to top ten advertising agencies.

Obviously this comprises a fair bit of variety in terms of type of employee, workplace culture, size, location etc, but in every place I've worked in, every place I tell thee the walls of the men's toilets are always encrusted with snot, where someone's carefully wiped it mid-slash.

I walked into the gents today, and felt like Steve MxQueen in The Blob.
What is this? Some kind of atavisim? society dictates 'mucous-guy' can't waz against the wall to mark his territory, so he instead flicks a Taj Mahal sized booger as a biological remider of his passing.

It's better than racist graffitti, I suppose, but still, fairly damn rank.

Sort it out lads.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Seizure























Having gone for milk this morning I returned to find two old ladies at my front door, one just having located and pressed the buzzer.

"Can I help you?" I enquired.

"Ah hello" one said "We just called today to discuss how we as individuals in the world can get closer to Jesus"

It was then I noticed the glassy expression characteristic of the 'religion addict' on both their faces.

"Sorry, no time" I said, sidling past them through my front door, and closing it after me.

I wonder how much luck they had with the 'discussing Jesus thing?' Presumably they do it with the ulitmate aim of coaxing people into the fold, as it were, but I can only imagine people who were already followers to be interested in chatting about the big J. Indeed, it was they way they proceeded from the assumption that said individual exists as a divine entity, when I don't believe he does, which really put me off – we'd have needed to get past that little debate before they could start inviting me to church, and I wasn't in the for theological debate, at least prior to my Special K.

This afternoon I went to Seizure – Roger Hiorn's installation in a condemmed low-rise near the Elephant. To paraphrase: It's the interior of a flat coated in really blue crystals, but actually, it's pretty damn cool, albeit less strange than you might expect it to be. Last time I went it was on a Sunday, and there were large queues, but this time, hardly anyone – which is at least one good reason not to work on a wet Tuesday at the end of September. Like much art, I find, half the fun is the venue, and the ritual of going and wandering around looking at stuff with your head tilted at 'the art angle' – and this was no exception. It kind of felt like one of those block viewings estate agents introduced at the height of the property-buying insanity last year, only obviously less ludicrous, and more enjoyable. You also have to swop your shoes for wellies, for the duration of the viewing. Great stuff, anyway.

I was thinking of buying Adobe Creative Suite 3 today, but CS4 is out next month, so I guess I might just hold tight until then. That's probably the best idea, isn't it?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Paxos























So, I went to Greece last week with moms and pap dukes, more specifically, the little Ionian Island of Paxos, just off the southern tip of Corfu. Indeed, the island was visible from our apartment in Kavos when me Ade and Dunc went way back in 2005, and in truth, it represents a sort of anithesis to Kavos (or Chavos) as I sniggeringly referred to it): sedate in the extreme compared to the nero-esque orgy of raw-alcohol doctored booze, consumed by rampaging British grockles, that Kavos represents.

Paxos seems to exist in stasis, pretty much, cheerfully insular and indifferent to a wider world seemingly entering into a hyperbolic media meltdown over investment banking. In truth this has some historical, nay, mythical precedent, as legend has it that the Island was created when Poseidon smote it from the Southern tip of Corfu, to create a sort of shag-pad for him and a Nereid (sort of a mermaid, I guess) he was kicking it with at the time. And it has to be said, it would be a pretty amazing place to vanish to for a week if you were in some loved-up relationship (the most interest I got on holiday was the unwanted attention of a Greek, vaguely Benny Hill-esque omi-poloni on a moped. Sigh).

So how was it? Um... yeah it was good. The weather... not so good. When I touched down on Friday the weather was gorgeous, though it was a little like arriving just in time to see the curtains close on Summer, as the next four days ranged from being merely torpid and grey, to out-and-out sub-tropical thunderstorms, replete with driving 45 degree rain, rolling thunder, and jagged bolts of forked lightning (which actually redeemed itself by virtue of drama, to some extent).

By Tuesday however, my iPod had run out of batteries, I was down to the last third of my final book, and pacing from room to room of my apartment like a bored bear in a zoo, wistfully thinking about computers (me, not the bear of my tortured analogy).

After that, the weather picked up and there was lots of Sun, but it still felt a little like drinking in the last chance saloon, as the evenings were drawing in, the nights chilly, and fellow tourists noticable by their decreasing numbers.

Still, it was good to get a break, and hang with my folks. Greek food's pretty damn good too – generally robust and delicious – and the sofrito and calamari in particular were exemplary. It was also a chance to chill and take photos too. Which I'll bore you with after this writing.

Got back on Friday, and last night was my birthday do, which I had at the Princess Louise in Holborn, which is a funky-assed gin-palace-resembling joint, with mirrors, booths, and tiles aplenty. A good turnout, and I must have had a good time, as the large bruise on my right arm attests.

Work tomorrow, of the pretty basic bread-and-butter kind, which I can't pretend I'm all that eagerly anticipating, but hey, that stuff pays for holidays, software, Macs and mocassins, so can't complain, I guess.








Thursday, September 11, 2008

Holiday

I fly to Greece in about eight hours time. Can't wait. Means I'm doing the night shift at Gatwick Airport, wandering round til checking in time like Tom Hanks in whatever that film was.

Weather permitting, I'll mostly be lying on a pebbly beach reading crime novels (Derek Raymond and Edward Bunker are 'in effect') and I'll probably have the odd beer, and take some photos.

Take care now.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday

Another day, another grimey buck tucked in the freelancer's pocket, in this modern day babylon. Still, not all bad. A project I worked on a few months back, which I thought had been quietly forgotten about, might actually seen the light of day, in a still recognisable form. Which is nice.

Someone stuck on my Arthur Russell CD today, which lasted about three tracks before someone said "this is wierd". Which it is, I suppose (that's why I like it).

Its kind of strange going back somewhere I work frequently, to discover lots of people have moved on, as has happened recently. Ade suggested it was a bit like Narnia, only of course, proceedings aren't being lorded over by an intelligent christ-like lion, so not all that like Narnia at all.

Went to see Will this evening in Shepherd's Bush, on the penultimate day of his working there. No tube, so got off at White CIty one stop up, and walked down past the BBC. I reminded me of one of the first nights out I had in London when I moved down almost four (fuckk...) years ago and I caught the 148 up for post work drinks, so this evening felt curiously epigrammatic somehow. Went for a pint and a chat, which was good. Will got half a pint of Tim Taylor, and it came in the rinkyest half pint tankard I've ever seen, which the people behind me at the bar were gasping at.

Caught the bus back, which took ages. Cooked fishcakes when I got in. Tired now. Listening to the Starship Sofa podcast, and observing that science fiction poetry is possibly the cheesiest thing ever. Almost Vogon-like in stature, in terms of badness, in fact.

Film tomorrow evening. Hoo-ha.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played 2





























Sun Cleric

I think this dude might have been about the only cleric I ever played. After all, let's face it, clerics are sort of lame... even in a world where gods actually exist! And what's with just using non-edged weaponry? I wonder if this might have been inspired by the church banning crossbows on Mediaeval battlefields because they were 'too barbaric' but I could be wrong (begin caveat) I remember reading that somewhere anywhere (end caveat).

Anyway, I only played him about twice, but typically got reet into designing his outfit, which I envisaged as being ornate, full gothic plate. I also originally drew his shield with the sun's cantons extruding as huge flanges. Will (for he was GM in this solo game) said "Y'know, they'd get hacked right off in a fight". "What, even if they were made out of metal? no way!" I answered, defensively. I think he might have been right though, and have hence changed that.

Oh, yeah, sun shield, sun armour, who did he worship? A sun god, of course. I think once of the conceipts I came up for this character was that he actually worshipped the sun, by lying in the sun, until his skin was nearly black (sunbathing, essentially), I think I got that from seeing 'The Holiday Programme' on the Beeb in around 1990, when they described holidayers visiting hotter climes as 'sun-worshippers'. I quite liked the concept. I think Will laughed.

Anyway, a two handed war hammer is obviously going to present problems when also using a shield, but I'm sort of envisaging this guy as some kind of Soulcaliber style combatant, with an outrageous, kinetic fighting style.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Victoria

I'm back in Victoria. for the second week, and the third time I've worked here in total. Victoria is weird though. Busy and bustling, yet ultimately hard to attribute any kind of personality to.

Victoria represents a kind of architectural pile-up. If you suffered from acute tunnel vision, and were dropped, blindfolded, in the middle of this no-man's-land and told to orient yourself in time and space, depending on where your gaze alighted, you could probably infer yourself to have arrived in any decade out of the last twenty or so, which I guess is true of much of London, just much more acute here, where each and every building seems to be participating in an 'every-edifice-for-itself' slug-fest with its neighbours.

Victoria is dominated by the huge train station in the centre of course, and the more out-flung coach station round the corner, and these two seem to dictate much of the 'personality' of Victoria such as it is, with the exterior of the train staion having much of the flavour on the inside, with the same phalanx of anodyne coffee shops and sandwich bars clone-tooled up and down the length of its bustling pavements. And in truth, it does sometimes feel that there is very little to do in Victoria, other than go and buy a sandwich. Victoria is full of people, but in keeping with its nature as a mass-transit hub, most seem intent on heading somewhere else.

"Why did the chicken go to Victoria" one might ask. "to get to the other side" would be the only possible answer, surely.

That's possibly not the entire story. If musicals are your thing there's Billy Elliot – the musical, and Wicked, but they do almost seem incidental to the area. Bizarrely, the one club I can think of in the area is the London venue of glam Ibiza club Pacha, plonked incongruously in the grey environs of the the bus station. Other than that, you're left with an array of regular-less boozers, where the clientele imbibe liquids between modes of transport in a sticky-tabled purgatory, and the odd Pizza Express, frequented by tourists.

Step off, into the hinterland of side streets and there are some moderately interesting buildings, but even here there seems precious little incentive to linger, rather than press on. Victoria is so impersonal it feels almost incidental to itself, and you'd probably have to head to a motorway flyover, to find a place less conducive to the pleasant passage of time. Ultimately, so long as I'm working, I feel justified in being here, but not a moment longer.

No matter though. Lunchtime approacheth, and with it the big decision of the day, in effect: what sandwich to eat.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played

Roleplaying. If you say the word to your average man on the street, they're probably going to think of some excruciating exercise on a corporate training day, where you take on the part of an employee attempting to placate an aggrieved customer. But what I'm talking about here is the species of dice-based games, poularised to some extent by Dungeons & Dragons, and popular with adolescent (and not so adolescent) boys, and yeah, maybe even the odd girl.

Basically, you'd take on the role of a hero, in some world of the imagination, wandering through dungeons, dispatching orcs, getting drunk in taverns or whatever was appropriate, really – after all, there were a variety of systems and worlds to situate the games in, such as the realm of Michael Moorcock's Young Kingdoms, or the more familiar, yet still perilous, parallel world of 30s New England which was the setting for the Lovecraft themed 'Call of Cthulu'.

Of course all this stuff actually had quite a lot of stigma attached. Going round to your mates of a weekend to sequester yourself in a room to roll dice and attempt to defeat, say, an imaginary wizard, is probably never going to appear as conventionally 'cool' as hanging out in the park, drinking cider and smoking Benson & Hedges, which some people at school were doing at that point (that came later, for me), and I think it bemused my parents, who used to call it 'gnome wrangling' (sigh).

Of course, with the advent of things like Second Life and World of Warcraft, it perhaps suddenly doesn't seem all that odd really. Indeed, the internet provides such manifold opportunities for all and sundry to massage into life bizarre fictionalised avatars, that really, it all seems perhaps a little sweet, not to mention pioneering, eh? At least we actually went and hung out together when pretending to be people we weren't, rather than squinting at a screen in an ill-lit room somewhere.

And it was all pretty cerebral, if not actually intellectual, and the beauty of it was that it could be totally non-linear. If you wanted to do completely random stuff for the hell of it, you could, though of course it was very easy to derail entire games by doing that. Its beauty lay in that it was creative, and improvisational – and escapist. For a few hours you could take on the part of a muscle-bound axe-wielding dwarf (though that example possibly isn't selling it in that well, I suspect).

Many of the characters I played I got quite attached to, some less so, depending on how long I played them for. I can't really remember what happened to most of them, but I think most of the games just trailed off, rather than them actually dying. So who knows? maybe they battle on still in some parallel universe, or are frozen for eternity, waiting for me to resume control of their destiny, a little like the end of every episode of early 90s TV kids show, Knightmare ("Warning Team").

Anyway. In an attempt to lay these spectres to rest, I'm going to ressurect, over the next couple of weeks, EVERY ROLEPLAYING CHARACTER I"VE EVER PLAYED (or at least the ones I can remember). You lucky people. Some off it's going to be a little vague I fear, some of their names I don't even remember – and I'm going to excercise some creative license in their appearance – so if you're concerned as to whether they were clad in full or half-plate armour, take it from me I probably don't remember anyway (some of this ocurred the best part of two decades ago, ferrchrissakes). Some of them are so sketchy in my memory I'm not even going to bother with – such as the 'warrior' I played on a Saturday morning club at a school in Reddish, who was erased from existence when a passing truck ploughed through a puddle on the way home, deluging me, and reducing his 'character sheet' (a page of statistics relating to said chap) to pulpy, inky ruin. Suffice to say though, if you imagine Arnie in Conan the barbarian, he was probably something like that. After I've drawn them all, and written about them, I'll probably combine them all in Photoshop, print them out, then hope any girls in the real world still want to speak to me.

Anyway, I'll start of with a lesser character.

Mishak



I actually got the name for this guy from hearing the 'Round The Horne' tapes my dad used to play in the car, which had a sketch with Kenneth Williams just saying all this random stuff in his outrageously croaky, camp voice (though I don't think it was the Julian and Sandy sketch where they chatted away in Polari).

Anyway, it was a reference to the biblical figures of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo, and I kind of liked the name, so nicked it for this guy.

Basically, he was a sorceror, and I didn't play him for very long, so he never got very advanced in terms of his spellcasting. Hence probably the most combat-effective incantation he posessed was 'Magic Missile', which he's shown casting here. This was a solo game I played with my friend Will.

Other things about this guy were that I designed a symbol for him (on his brooch here) which was a open palm with a star in the centre.

Anyway, here he is.



More to come soon (bet you're excited!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BT Bill

When is an itemised phone bill, not an itemised phone bill? When it's a BT itemised phone bill, where roughly half the calls show up as 'non-itemised'.

The irony of this is not lost on me, now the sole user of the landline, and faintly concerned I didn't make them – or indeed as to what the hell numbers they were that doubled my average spend. Despite promising otherwise, my flatmate whose name the bill was in, failed to get a breakdown of calls, and apparently, now a month has elapsed, the trail has gone cold forever. It's entirely possible that it was Lord Lucan ringing Elvis from Shergar's back, while we were all at work, but I guess I'll never know now.

I could, I suppose, try my luck ringing someone in Mumbai, but I don't think I can be bothered shovelling yet more cash at a telecoms provider for the BT's intercontinental version of the bland call centre apology, which will inevitably only ever tell me what I already know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

West Hampstead

This afternoon I hiked up to West Hampstead, to say hi to my friends Will and Sam, and their wee bairn Zac, who is small, cute, and generally baby-ish. I even held him, with the aid of an odd cushion that sort of resembles half a life ring – especially as it's engineered to sit around your midriff. It was good to hear Will's got off to a good start with the lad's education, by reading him science fiction (James Tiptree Junior) and watching horror films with him (Rosemary's Baby).

But West Hampstead: I forget about West Hampstead, though actually quite like it, in spite of its slightly prim, moneyed demeanour. And why not. In spite of my Southside blogging credentials, many things aspirational appeal to me, so a place as peppered with delis and the like as West Hampstead is right up my street.

And of course, before I'd even moved to London, many, many moons ago (10 years worth of moons, in fact) I used to visit West Hampstead a lot, as that was where Will and Sam lived, in a tiny flat between 'Wampstead's' main drag, and the bustling environs of the Finchley road.

For this reason it always evokes a faintly cosy sense of nostalgia, as I wander alongside those gentrified mansions, especially as West Hampstead is, for London anyway, fairly non-threatening – or as Douglas Adams might have it 'mostly harmless'. Yet it did serve to illustrate how living anywhere redically changes your perception of it – or to put it another way, the closer you get to something, the more it seems to disappear.

I think there are many examples that point to this slightly sombre truth, but an example that springs to mind was given by a lecturer at university at Bristol, who described the analogy of two lovers running to meet one another across a field, who at the moment prior to embracing discover they are separated utterly by an invisible barrier, which they detect when their breath condenses upon it. Either that or by clobbering themselves unconcious, one presumes.

My early memories of London were of its utter cyclopean vastness – huge avenues yawning off into the theoretical distance. But as you live somewhere, you gradually piece together the composite parts into a tapestry of sorts – that promptly shrinks in the wash. That vast, fobidding London is gone for me now, to be replaced by something smaller, more prosaic, though still exciting, challenging (and really, still impressively vast).

But I catch glimpses of that other London still – in a shaft of sunlight outside Selectadisc on Soho's Berwick Street, pushing through a mass of bodies at Notting Hill or crossing Waterloo Bridge in the evening. Perhaps no more than in West Hampstead though, where I sometimes feel a nostalic affinity for the ghost of of my younger self, out and about in London, and this sudden shift in perspective is like glimpsing a street you know well, from the window of a swiftly moving train – fleet and momentary, to be relished while it lasts.

From such sub-philosophical rambling I returned earthward to my flat, to discover my housemate huffing, puffing and generally martyring herself because she's doing her chores after a stint at the pub she works at. Working in Victoria tomorrow, more on that then, no doubt.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Too much Posse Pocket























Got this fishing vest in the post today. I ordered it off Yoox in their sale, thinking it was just from Woolrich's main line, and was pleasantly surprised to find it was from their 'Woolen Mills' collection, designed by workwear obsessive Daiko Suzuki (also the man behind Engineered Garments).

I've got a bit of a thing for workwear and utilitarian garments, and furthermore, I do like a pocket or two. This guy here has 17 of the things! including a huge one on the back, to carry, um, fish or something.

Weather was pretty repulsive today. Staggered around feeling hot and irritated. Bought the New Order Republic album, with art direction on the cover art by Peter Saville, from about the time he discovered layer masks in Photoshop. People often turn their noses up at this period of his work, but I still think it looks great though (I love his 'wave paintings' from this era).

Saville's got an undeniable confidence and lightness of touch with most things he designs, and it's precisely because Photoshop filters are such a cliche that his use of them is somehow commendably bold, I feel, and sets off the plastic-looking photo-library images he sourced for this with to deliciously ironic effect. In fact, one of my favourite covers ever is that from the World single, which blends stock imagery of a mountain range and cityscape at night to haunting effect. I get shivvers just thinking about it.

The weather's done its Summer 08 thing, and the clouds fucked off at around half five. Quite nice now. Off to Peckham shortly, for beer and barbequed food (I never learn) then off up to London Bridge (maybe) for a soul night.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Week

I watched a dispatches special on Monday, whilst waiting for Dragons Den. It was on 'sandwiches', and helpfully told me that the very one I'd eaten that day contained more fat than TWO DOUBLE MACDONALDS CHEESEBURGERS.

Granted that unlike the last time I freaked a bit about stealth fat I could have seent his one coming more, as the sarnie in question was a 'Oakham Chicken Ceasar Sandwich' which contained chicken, bacon, and lashings of some kind of Caesar-Mayo-Dressing-ting.

Still, I did do a bit of a double take, as I generally don't rank the humble sandwich as a fatty snack, though this is of course contingent upon what goes into it. Marks and Sparks (for it was one of their butties) rather archly responded to the report with a statement that the sandwich in question was 'an indulgent treat' which many customers enjoyed.

Yeah, sure I enjoyed it too, until I realised it was an indulgent treat... who wants to eat an 'indulgent treat' at their desk at work while filling out timesheets? I don't (I want to save that til the evening, when I retire to the pub to sink crisp pints of european lager). Anyway. Won't be getting that again.

Last night I got fined for not paying on the baking cattle truck that is the Number 12 'bendy' bus. It was 'one of those things'. I generally always pay on, but in this case was in a mad scramble for a seat, as riding the 12 back to Camberwell without one in this heat is like a scaled-down version of hell. Two stops down I heard "can I see your tickets and passes please" and remembered I hadn't swiped. Busted.

Went for a barbie at a friends house last night, which was nice, but drank too much Kronenbourg 1664. I wasn't even very drunk really, but I've a bizarrely disasterous hangover. I'm tired. My head is throbbing. My skin itches. There seems to be a grey film over everything I look at (including the hi-res mobile phone handsets I'm retouching today). I feel awful.

Roll on 6 o'clock...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ewoks theme

Which one was the best though?





ps: I Know.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blisters on my Fingers





























On Friday I bounced out of work half an hour early to hurry over to the 'Blisters on my Fingers' print show at MC Motors in Dalston. My original scheme was to get the tube over to Old Street, which I realised was probably misconcieved when I got through the gates at Tottenham Court Road to remember that it's on a different branch of the Northern Line from my destination. Like, duh. I battled over to Bank station to find the platform Northbound resembling the final scene of Crocodile Dundee, but I managed to squeeze onto about the fourth train.

From Old Street I walked to the bottom of Kingsland Road, then caught the bus up to Dalston Junction, from where the Studios in question were but a short trot. As predicted there were 'bare heads' in attendance, nervously clutching umbrellas and Google Maps printouts, or at least I was. Guestlisted up, I was waved on in.

The exhibition's remit was: Thirty Five Artists, Thirty Five Prints, Thirty Five pounds, and given that that is a very low print run, £35 pounds seems almost absurdly affordable, especially when one considers that Lazarides gallery was knocking out Anthony Micalleff prints from an edition of 1000 at three hundred a go. Interestingly perhaps, the two most well known 'street artists' exhibiting (Eine and Pure Evil) had sold out within the hour, before I'd even arrived, and in some ways I thought their work was some of the less interesting on display. But then, I often find 'Street Art' a triumph of branding through repetition rather that any necessarily dazzling display of skill.

I'd also gone to see what Si Scott had on display. I'm a big fan of Si's work, or at least his typographic excercises. He and Non-Format pretty much wrote the rulebook on the deconstructivist, Illustrative typography that populates advertising and magazines these days. He basically does one thing, very well indeed. I'm less of a fan of his personal illustrations of creatures, examples of which can be found at Cosh gallery in Soho, and such a one was on display today, with a drawing of a swan's head, which though undeniably pretty, seemed slightly underwhelming to my tastes. I've seen calligraphic etchings from the 1800s where the subject is rendered in a series of 'Spencerian flourishes' by the artists hand, and these examples of Scott's work seem to fall into this tradition. Up close though, this one seemed a little fidgety and have something of the blotter pad about it, but whether that owed something to the process of digitally rendering it, or the gauge of the screen, who knows.

I bought a print by Steve Wilson, (like Scott, on the books at Breed London) and who does lots of stuff for an impressive range of musical and corporate clients. He perhaps falls into the body of slick 'digital' illustrators, of whom Jasper Goodall was an obvious, early exponent. What I do really like about Steve's work is his variation in style – he's managed to carve a niche for himself where his motifs are at least reasonably recognisable, yet still manages to experiment with what he does. I don't like everything he does, but some of it I like a lot, and moreover he reinvigorates his work regularly, which keeps it interesting. His print here was some straight-up Magic Eye-style eye-candy. More than that though, I thought it was among the most ambitious on display, considering the amount of colours used. Having dabbled with screenprinting myself I know aligning all those different screens can be a bit of a pain, and although the registration here wasn't bang on, his use of overprinting to achieve extra colours made a virtue of the process's shortcomings, by lending it a certain optical vibrancy where the inks hadn't trapped quite right.




























I was going to take some photos, but perhaps inevitably my camera ran out after one, pretty duff shot. There are some here on Flickr...

Anyway, having bought a print and mooched around with an Efes beer, I departed into the the tepid rain, to catch a train from Dalston central, over to Hackney Central, and thence to meet my friend Sam over near Broadway Market, where we went for a bite to Eat at The Dove, and a pint and pep-talk at the Cat and Mutton.

Awoke on Saturday morning, and headed out to get a parcel from the post office. Opened my front door to find blue Police tape, and the pavement at my feet caked with purplish, clotting blood where someone had been bottled the night before. Nice neighbourhood I'm living in.

Saturday evening went out to Wahaca, a Mexican retaurant in Covent Garden, which was good, though the service was a little patchy. Based on 'Market Food', my favourite bit of the meal was from the 'sharing' bit of the menu, which we had for starters. It was quite Tapas-y, and made my main – a steak burrito – seem a little leaden and brick-like in comparison.

After this we went to the John Snow, and then caught the tube to Elephant and Castle, where there was a Drum and Bass/Dubstep night on at Corsica studios – neither of which I'm a huge fan of, but they did have a metal detector on the door, which was reassuring.

Sunday, all quiet really. Made some Laksa for dinner, then got a bit panicky that the paste had been hanging about for a bit and might give me food poisoning. Seem alright now though. Back to work tomorrow. Musn't grumble.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday

Late Friday afternoon and I'm sat waiting for an Account Handler to forward me some images do drop into a document. After that. I can piss off.

Then off to Dalston, to the Blisters on my Fingers print show. I anticpate some kind of hipster bunfight as assorted trendoids (me included) queue to buy limited edition prints.

Can't pretend I don't want one mind...

Yay! just got the all clear – I'm outta here!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

'Summer' part II

As mountains of Walls Soleros lie unmolested in chiller cabinets across the land, and mountains of knocked-off Kanye West style slatted shades dawdle on the racks on Oxford Street, I feel it's time to make a clean breast of it and just say it: "the weather this Summer sucks. Again."

Yes, friends, it's the annual weather whinge; but I promise I'll just get it off my chest and revert to traditional British stiff-upper-lipped stoicism.

But seriously, it does suck. Or blow. one of the two. My mate Ed was in town over the weekend, and whilst here had bought an Umbrella from the posh shop on New Oxford Street. He was very pleased, and I was slightly bemused, but the truth has started to dawn on me that he in fact now posesses the ultimate accessory for the drizzly English Summertime (though not so much the gusty British Winters, when the winds tend to decimate umrellas like chaff before the storm of some vengeful old testament god). How d'you like that?

It's possible I suppose, just possible, that we could be due an 'Indian Summer' but we're already over a week into July and it's still looking like Atlantis out there. In short, I don't think I'll be running to William Hill anytime soon.

SIGH

Thursday, July 03, 2008

When franchises outstay their welcome





















A couple of months ago now, I was in my local. The footy was on the big screen and an ad came on for Sky Sports, featuring The Alien from the eponymously titled franchise, and the crab headed Predator – playing penalty shootouts (I think the Alien was in goal).

I think – I think I nearly wept... but wasn't utterly surprised.

I bring this up because the other night me and a friend had a drunken conversation about movie franchises, with particular reference to the Alien Versus Predator films, which are both utter drivel (though I'll concede, I haven't seen the second of the two, I just know it's bad).

I hate it when these tedious money-spinners emerge, intermittently as they do, to tarnish the legacy of what was a great film, and though I wouldn't count myself as a 'fan of the Alien' par se, they are disrespectful to people who care about the films memory.

Mainly though, they're just lazy. Lame and lazy, and represent a complete paucity of ambition or ideas. It's also a bit stupid, as if the suits behind these crappy sequels continue to plunder old themes like this, rather than investing in new, fresh ideas, they won't have any old horses to whip up to the glue factory in ten years time (and please note here that AVP is also an anagram of PVA).

And the original film did have ideas by the score. True, it was a fertile meeting of minds between some creative movers and shakers (Ridley Scott, HR Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Moebius etc. etc.) that doesn't happen everyday, but that doesn't preclude similar projects happening again.

What I think is particularly brilliant about Alien is its sense of style; its look and texture – right down to the Moebius designed ships uniforms, and Giger's trademark biomechanics. Indeed at a lecture at university one of my tutors cited the Alien itself as an important (and tres postmodern) example of a visual cue from that has gone on to influence industrial product design.

And beyond that, there is the point at which its visual atmospherics mesh with its 'world-building': the story is compelling, the characters believable, and more than that entities whose fates we might care about. And in spite of its big ideas, big concepts, and ability to shock, it retains pace and an important lightness of touch. I've heard it argued by no less than Sigourney Weaver herself that Alien is essentially a ghost story in space – or at least more a slasher flick –than the out and out fire-fight that the later episodes degenerated into. Scott's direction reveals the lurking monster in a sort of slow delicious strip, realising as he must have done, that as with anything frightening, the human mind's capacity for imagination is a far more potent tool than any amount of special effects.

If then, the ghost story that Alien comprises a certain sinister eroticism, mixed in with its queasy tropes regarding the reproductive cycle and sexual symbolism, the subsequent potboilers descend into a detached, disinterested, mechanical pornography of screeching beasties and exploding chests.

Granted, while the decaying orbit of the story's arc is at least gently parabolic (the sequel is good, both three and four feel like merely frustratingly squandered opportunities) the final two are just utterly moronic, and represent nemesis to the franchise.

Indeed these latter two were, I believe, ultimately instigated by the scene in the trophy room at the end of Predator 2, where the camera briefly lingers on an Alien Skull, which was a little post modern bit of fun, and that is where it should have started and finished, as just a little tantalising footnote, for stoned nerds to chuckle over.

Instead we get to be bored to death by the science fiction equivalent of a WWF (that's World Wrestling btw) showdown. Intertextuality sounds cute enough, but more often than not, occurs with a watering down of the original spirit.

The only direction that the films now seem to have to go in is whipping out new things for the Alien to impregnate – in a kind of 'pimp my Alien', which while a novel conceit, is no longer 'the big idea' when re-fed through the mangle like this. In fact, I don't know why they don't have and be done with it, and play the ultimate recursive trump card by having an Alien impregnate another Alien! how cool would that be!

What really bugs me though is this: If, as I have said, allusion and hinting at the overall form is infinitely more sexy than spelling things out in mile high neon letters, why do people insist on explicating things in wearying detail?

The best example of this I can think of would be the gag-reflex-invitingly-bad Star Wars prequels of recent years. Apart from the fact that they were dull, and completely lacked any sense of gravitas or kinesis (due in part to the 'look at me wanking' CGI showboating of Industrial Light and Magic), what also got on my tits was the fact that they portray, clumsily, events that were obscurely (and deliciously) referenced in the original films. Who THE FUCK wanted to know what The Force was for example? Why do these loose ends need tying up? can't you just let them dangle?

Not that I'm that bothered anyway (blinks back tear) I'm over it.

I suppose, at least with the AVP films, that what you're getting, is ironically (given the reproductive themes of Alien) a sort of genetic hybrid – the bastard child of two different films.

But confronted with this progeny, I respond as Arnie himself did in Predator, when confronted with his titular foe:

"You are one ugly motherfucker"

Monday, June 30, 2008

Web Ding

Ha ha sorry I meant wedding, cause this weekend I was up in Lincoln, for my old friend and Drinking Buddy, Ade's wedding.

I'd never been to Lincoln before but it's a pretty little market town, built around a hill – the only hill in Lincoln I'm told – which is otherwise as flat as a witch's tit. Yet in spite of it consequently being the site of about a zillion old airfields, Lincoln's not seemingly all that easily accessible. To get there I had to connect by jumping on a single carriage train that appeared at Newark Station like the Hogwarts Express, at a platform advertised with a sign the size of the Guardian Guide.

Anyway Lincoln was grand – the more London makes me want to kill me or someone else, the better it is to escape to idyllic, cobble-streeted zones like this, where the most modern thing is the Topshop in the ubiquitous precinct. Which is a good thing. (I must admit though, even though I didn't really come to shop I did have a nose round some decent second hand bookshops).

Anyway, after a few beers on Friday, the day of the wedding came, and I got duly kitted out in the kind of suit people only ever wear for weddings, including a Jacket with tails, waistcoat and flouncey tie etc. I quite enjoyed cufflinks though.

The ceremony was nice and sweet and secular and completely devoid of any kind of religious trappings aside from the tones of the 'National 12 Bells Striking Contest' who were having their annual showdown in Lincoln cathedral across the way, so in that respect, we kind of got a two-for-one deal. In fact, immediately after the photos, we were further regailed by the sound of Status Quo warming up for a gig in the castle grounds next door, and a flyover by a spitfire and a Lancaster Bomber, so all in all the auspices were good.

But all this was kind of dramatic build up the sound every Best Man dreads, the clinking of knife against wine glass, speech time!

One phrase I've never really got into using much is "Shitting it". Ocassionally I'll be sat on the tube and I'll overhear some media-career lass say to the mate/colleague sat beside her something like: "Yeah I was absolutely crapping myself", and it all just seems kind of wrong, but I suppose if ever I was to adopt such a phrase, then might have been a good time. My heart felt like a game of Space Attack!

Anyway, like so many things in life, it's all about the rythym, and after a bit of a trembly start I got more into the flow of it, and before I knew it, it was over. A lot of people complimented me anyway, saying it was really good, and I think was too, but then, I also think it's a bit like the speech at the closing of the Olympics, where whatever dude it is always says "Truly, this has been the best Olympics ever" (apart from the one in Atlanta, which everyone agrees was wazz).

After that it was your buffet and reception at the hotel round the corner, which was about as wedding-y as they come. I really like weddings, but they are pretty odd events in any social calendar, replete with the kind of things you only ever get to see at weddings – someone's gran dancing with a five year old bridesmaid for instance, or a web designer in a suit.

The DJ was cheesier than an family-pack of wotsits too, and after promising the bride and bridegroom he was going to 'keep it real' with lots of Motown and disco, proceeded to drop what I imagine was a carbon copy of the last wedding set he played (and the one before that, etc). Which was actually fine, as I don't think some cold-assed minimal would have fitted the bill really, though I do think he made a mistake dropping Billy Jean second! There were a few raised eyebrows amongst the attending DJs after that one, I can tell you.

And Sunday was a bit of a 'mare, in that I was really, really hungover, and had to get back. Not so bad though, as I got a lift, but bad enough.

Monday now. Been working today on some pitch work for a lingerie account which I don't reckon is as fun as it sounds. I've been hit by a large-ish phone bill, as although I'm supposedly the only one who uses it in the flat, there are 108 'non-itemised' calls on there (whatever that means, I didn't make them). Annoyingly, my spidey-sense for this kind of thing can dimly perceive that it's 'one of those shared house things' that will never be satisfactorily resolved, and the closest I'll get will be a nonplussed BT employee answering me in the negative from a call centre in Mumbai. Thanks.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Best Man?

I certainly hope so. Off to a wedding in Lincoln now. Cheerio.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My most popular photo

The internet is a funny old place.

I have a Flickr account, and while I do like taking the odd photo, I can't pretend I'm particularly amazing at it, and nor have I sought to publicise what I do to any huge degree – which is probably why the bulk of my photos probably have under ten views.

The other day, whilst out a wandering I snapped this photo, after noting a slightly more than passing resemblance to the Edvard Munch series, The Scream... Scream
...and posted it on a group associated with a blog 'faces in places' (which it was duly featured on), before leaving on the Friday for Ireland.

I returned to discover that it's been picked up on 'Explore', and some 'Digg' style link aggregator, and has 36,000 odd views. At the time of writing, this has gone up to 78,241. The next photo along? 17 views.

I don't know what to draw from this, apart from if you get people talking – you generate hype. And if you could harness that hype, you'd probably have it made.

That and people like pictures that simultaneously resemble expressionist paintings and dodgy wiring.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dublin













































Despite it being a hop, skip and a jump away, I'd never been to Dublin, so I was pleased to be going for my old friend Ade's stag do, which took place in Dublin the weekend just gone.

Dublin is something of a chiched destination for such an event to be sure but when I mooted Belfast, our source of inside info from the Emerald Isle itself said (and I quote) "I wouldn't consider going to get smashed in Dublin unless you actually want to get smashed up".

So we reverted to stereotype and went to Dublin.

We set off on Friday morning, a motley crew of advertising sales execs, web designers, Swedish web designers, jazz keyboardists and myself, and kicked off proceedings with a pint at Stanstead Airport at 11 am, which got the ball rolling nicely.

Other than that though, it was relatively tame. No drugs/stripping/prostitution/murder etc. though we did drink rather a lot. Oh, and no matching polo shirts with iron on transfers.

Dublin's a bit of an odd place, and I struggled to get a grasp of what it was really all about though. Nice enough to look at in the day – with an impressive portfolio of historical architecture – which my sources tell me has more overall continuity than, say, London, due large patches of it not being flattened by the Luftwaffe in the 2nd World war. But it did also look a bit like a large English town with a river and bridges (Shrewsbury anyone?) rather than a bustling metropolis. It also had green post boxes, which was a momentarily diverting novelty, and I can reveal that the pedestrian crossings emit a rapid-fire glockenspiel-esque sound which Orbital sampled for one of their tracks in the mid nineties.

It also had a slightly trashy resort feel in the evenings that weekend, what with all the vacationing inebriates staggering round, grunting at one another. I had sort of anticipated this though, and to be fair, we were at least part of the symptom, even if we hadn't chosen to wear outsized Guinness hats and puke in a fountain somewhere.

And be-jaysus it was expensive. I'd been warned about this but I think the 'penny dropped' when, shortly after we checked in, we went to get a bite to eat. Having opted for an restaurant selling traditional Irish 'fayre', I chose a 'Boxty' which is basically a filled pancake, which cost about sixteen quid. This was pretty much par for the course really, and while I can appreciate that people have got to make a living, the portions weren't hugely generous, and I couldn't quite kick the feeling that they'd seen us (the Brits) coming.

The boozers were pretty good mind – I really liked the John Kehoe on Saturday afternoon – and as for the Guiness (and Murphy's, and Beamish...) well, it tasted like another drink really – cool and ridiculously smooth.

Culturally, well, it wasn't that kind of holiday, though I did find a gallery/exhibition space round the corner from our hotel where they had a graphic art show on, consisting of posters responding to the brief of 'Flags and Anthems'. There was some excellent stuff and I bought a couple there and then.

We headed back Sunday, which was just in time. Sharing an apartment with six other guys smoking, sweating, drinking and farting has got a pretty limited sell by date really, and by that time I really wanted to go home and sleep properly. Easier said than done however, and the flight was delayed for about two hours, during which one of the people on our flight helpfully managed to spew all up and down the concourse. Which was nice.

Chilling out tonight. My housemates are out drinking at the Hermits Cave (sic) in the aftermath of the Camberwell Arts College degree show, and my housemate Jess didn't seem to be able to comprehend why I didn't want to go and booze in a pub stuffed to the gills with pissed up art students, but then, I did all that years ago.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Screenprinting


This weekend just gone I schlepped up to 'Gunchester' on the Iron Horse, to screeprint some t-shirts. It's something I've been meaning to do fo ages, and I was assisted in this by general all round good guy Keith at 78 Plate Apparel Printing, who as a fairly long time acquaintance allowed me to sit in on a process I've only ever previously experienced from an art-print perspective.

Despite some initial teething issues involving the transparency size, with a little of my Photoshop nous (and a lot of his printing expertise) we'd soon got the plates exposed and were rattling off the garments themselves, which I'll probably be selling through my website very shortly (watch this space).

So once again, big thanks to the man like Keith for all his help, and if you're looking for some assistance in that area from a very reasonable guy, you should do yourself a favour and check out his operation.here.

In other news I quite enjoyed being back up North for the weekend. And as I strode from my brother's house in Heaton Norris over to Didsbury Road to catch the 23 to Chorlton, I was reminded why people choose to live in the suburbs – they're so damn quiet! which is of course something that never struck whilst I actually lived in them; being the hip young urbanite that I perceived myself to be.

Anyway, I caught up with some friends and generally had a buzz, and at the end, as I sat in my brother's back yard in the Sunday sun drinking coffee, while he cleaned his mountain bike with a toothbrush, I actually slightly regretted having to leave so early, to catch the train at a quarter to four.

But time and tide and all that.

Back and work today (and until Friday, when it's Ade's Stag do) which has been fine, except the lovely weather has brought the onset of my relatively infrequent, yet immoderately irritating hayfever.

It started off OK, but actually built to a climax at aroud five o'clock when I knocked off, by which time my eyes were itching and watering and I was sneezing in stacatto. The warm evening air felt like a kind of peppery soup as I staggered through Soho, struggling not to breath in through a nose displaying a reservoir-like capacity for liquid I was hitherto unaware of.

I've found a small tube of spray stuff in a draw now, so fingers crossed, if worst comes to worst tomorrow should be fine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Staffordshire Bull Terriers




























Today I saw a waterlogged sign sellotaped to a poop bin in Camberwell Green, that advertised a 'Staffie neutering service'.

"Staffie neutering?"

I mused

"why not just say 'dog neutering".

Then I remembered – in South London Staffordshire Bull Terriers pretty much are dogs, and if you were to present your average home grown South London teen with an Alsation (or even common or garden mongrel) they'd probably think it was a wolf.

But Staffordshire Bull Terriers are pretty ubiquitous round here – everywhere you turn there's another of these squat muscular canines straining at a leash with a tracksuit in tow. I can't quite understand how they have become the status symbol that they are, but I'm guessing it has something to do with them looking 'a bit like Pit Bulls' – hard and 'street' – the pet equivalent of a New Era baseball cap with the 59/Fifty circular gold sticker left attached (to a peak as flat as the Netherlands).

As my esteemed colleague Zeno Cosini once surmised, the only way Staffordshire Bull Terriers could possibly become more desirable to rudeboys was if they came with a built-in MP3 Player and mobile phone, sort of like a mobile cyborg entertainment system with an attack function, purpose built 'for da streetz'.

I find it slightly depressing that people buy these animals as a sort of auxillary snarl – to orbit their heels like one of the modular weapons from R-Type and I guess I feel pretty sorry for the dogs. A friend was recently looking after a Staffordhire-cross pup, and it had a lovely temperament, so it's sad that many of them are probably reared to act as a fierce-looking accessory. Slightly depressing, and, like any fad (e.g. cabbage patch dolls) slightly odd... You wonder why more people don't think, hang on, do I really want a hard looking dog? Boring! I'll never get on any Flickr 'Loldogs' group that way – I'll get a Shnauser instead, or a wet-eyed Spaniel mayhap.

Anyway. As far as I'm concerned, it's all about the English Bull Terrier. Now that's a dog – and you don't look like a wannabe DMX if you go for a stroll with one of those...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Troy Bar

Headed up East yesterday, to Shoreditch, to meet Al.

Everywhere was abuzz with people spending their paychecks on overpriced alcohol, spilling out onto pavements in the torpid evening air. Pretty much most of Shoreditch seemed to have convened at The Foundry, including a pleased-looking contingent of fixed gear bike-riders, who had aggregated against the nearby railings like trendy flotsam.

From there we proceeded to The Legion, where some DJ was playing good tunes in a fairly incomprehensible order, by agency of maniacly scratching them in – with nary a blend in sight. Just to confirm: Apache by The Incredible Bongo Band into Fix Up Look Sharp by Dizee Rascal doth not go (and that was one of the more compelling mixes). Spotted 'Mickey' from Eastenders in the bogs, who was chuckling at the ubiquitous human pez dispenser as he yelled at people trying the out of order cubicle at the end.

Troy bar next for some jaaazzzz. Al stepped up to tinkle the ivories, along with a bassplayer called Rick James, and an African saxophonist in a dapper brown corduroy suit who apparently toured with Fela Kuti in the 70s. Then I went home.

Flat looks a tip today because the rota's not been done, though I'm the only one in which is nice. Popped out to get some bacon from Somerfield and en route spotted my favourite supermodel waiting for a bus at the top of Camberwell Church Street, looking swish in a tan belted mac.

I'm now off to trawl charity shops on the Walworth Road, in my futile quest for anything worth owning.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Books I've lost

I've just got in after a semi-boozy post work session in the Blue Posts in Belgravia (opposite the new Banksy 'One Nation Under CCTV mural, you know the one) to discover I've lost the book I was reading.

It was 'Less Than Zero' by Brett Easton Ellis, and I was frick'n enjoying it! Anticathartic.

Other books I've lost recently were something by Ian M Banks (not so bothered really as it was a bit of a Space Opera snoozefest) and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, which I left on a plane en route to Paxos, via Corfu, in 2006 actually, so not that recently at all.

I'm pretty good at not losing most things, but Books I'm pretty good at losing, along with security passes for places I'm freelancing in – especially if I've just a really bad photo taken for them. I found one at the back of my wardrobe recently from a couple of years ago when I had long hair, and I look both vaguely Jesus-like, and uncomfortable at the prospect of having my image captured digitally.

Never mind. I've got a copy of 'Disco Biscuits' (tagline: new fiction from the chemical generation) which I bought in a Charity Shop to lull me to sleep.

UPDATE: I found it! So the free world can once again sleep at ease.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Handbag Chihuahua






















My friend Vicki was telling me the other day about the last time she worked for her mate Joel, at a sample sale near Brick Lane Market.

One day a Japanese woman came in with a cavernous Miu Miu bag (or somesuch) inside of which was perched a small Chihuahua. She proceeded to delight all and sundry by getting the dog to perform a couple of tricks, firstly: holding up her palm so her pet would give her a mini doggy hi-five, and also (this is great) putting two fingers to its head, and making a shooting sound, whereupon it would flop over as though dead, to reappear like a large eared canine Lazarus seconds later at the mouth of the bag.

Normally I dislike small dogs, but this tale has forced me to reevaluate my stance. And I know it isn't my anecdote strictly speaking, but hell this is a tale that needed telling (and Vicki doesn't have a blog).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reclaim the Beach

So last night I went to meet Ed at Foyles, and wandered down to the South Bank, where we sat on a patch of grass and drank cans of beer. After that we moved up to the 'Reclaim the Beach' party under festival pier. It's still called Reclaim the Beach, presumably because no-one's had the heart to point out it's actually rather a silty riverbank, strewn about with bricks and bits of rock people have dumped into the Thames over the years. It's dirty and smells a bit (much like London). I guess 'Reclaim the Bank' didn't sound as good though, hey.

I came to one of these events years ago and managed to drop a can of Stella into the filthy sand, top-first. I wiped it clean on my sleeve, but was still slightly paranoid about catching dysentry after drinking it. I did drink it though; it was my last beer.

This time the crowd were a strange emulsion of krazy hipster types and pit-bullish lads glaring about like the eye of Sauron. There was some kind of art installation in progress where a couple of guys in waistcoats were sculpting an obese man on a sofa out of the grey sand, that looked like it would take it forever. It was nearly undone when a group of lads pursuing someone (presumably to dish out a beating) piled through us (spashing my shirt with beer, I might add) and looked set to smash into it – only narrowly missing it as they stampeded up the stairs.

For a party there was a distinct lack of music to start with, bar a sort of Mariachi band that wandered down the steps after about half an hour, though later on I think someone stuck some tunes on. We headed off around midnight anyway, to go and get a pint in the Hermits, feeling perhaps slightly underwhelmed, but glad to have gone nontheless.

Gorgeous weather today. I went and sat in the park and drew.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The sun

"Sunshine, everybody loves the sunshine" lilted the certifiably adequately titled Roy Ayer's track Sunshine.

I certainly love the sunshine. Can't get enough of that sunny stuff. For when the sun's out, beaming over Soho, it imparts an almost narcotic thrill: free, non pharmaceutical ecstasy, which adults, children, policeman, pigeons (and pehaps even secretly, goths) alike can indulge in, unambiguously.

In this instance, I perhaps, slightly wish climactic conditions had permitted the gorgeous weather had intruded more over the preceeding Bank Holiday weekend, but fuck it, stepping out of work for lunch and putting on sunglasses is a truly wonderous thing, even if you're just going to purchase a sandwich from Pret.

I think half of it is the fact that England labours under some pretty grim weather a lot of the time. Often interesting, often cold, often windy, but mostly wet (and dark). Which has its plus points of course – the pasty faced brits have little recourse during the long winter months than to top up their screen tans writing Flash code and electronic music that cannot help being the envy of the world.

But when the sun has got his hat on... well hats off to the sun. Taking photos is easier in the sun, people smile more in the sun, supermarkets sell more Stella and disposable barbeques in the sun. Fuck, London feels more like New York in the Seventies to me in the sun – which is one of the things – everything has a kind of shimmering halcyon glow to it. You remember popping bubbles of tarmac on the road as a kid, the smell of cigarettes abroad (hell, I even remember watching TV while the sun was shining, probably Cities of Gold or summat).

But mostly, everyone smiles a bit more, and is a bit less god-damn introspective, which in this metropolis, on this rain lashed outcropping of rock, on this bauble of matter orbiting the sun itself, cannot be underappreciated. Sun, you primary source of Earth's energy, I salute thee.*

*Cue some kind of Ballard-esque 70s sci-fi sun-based disaster scenario (which is probably, actually happening somewhere).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Bank holiday monday

A lovely warm bank holiday here. Tramped up to Ruskin Park, and read some of Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, before moving to Brunswick Park, en route to which, I bought the first Magnum of the year (white chocolate, since you ask).

When I got back to the flat, the living room window was open, and a pigeon had flown in and was bringing all kinds of ruckus, making that weird, humming, slippa-slap sound pigeons' wings make as it crashed repeatedly into the blinds, and dislodged small objects from the window sill.

Pigeons are often called flying rats, though to be fair, rats are quite intelligent and pigeons are as thick as a short plank (singular, between them). This one was no exception. It panicked as soon as I walked in the room, proving almost impressive in its ability to completely avoid the open window it had gained entrance by, in its blindly terrified attempts to avoid me ("homing sense on the blink, huh buddy?"). It then managed to get lodged behind my ex-housemate Cecilia's slowly dying catcus on the window sill, and it took some not inconsiderable effort on my part to usher the feathered fool out into the welcoming arms of Camberwell Church Street, made more tricky by the fact I didn't actually want to touch the greasy thing in case I caught the Rage Virus or something.

Right. Now I'm going to do some work.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Love, Labour's lost.











































Text received today from 'Boris Johnson' which... well read it yourselves. Weird. Kudos to whoever did it though.

Yesterday moms and pops dropped by, en route to a soiree in Battersea, dropping off some pots and pans from years ago, as well as some photos of me looking drunk in Bristol in 1998. My high estimation of my mother was further confirmed when she identified the typeface on my 1972 Otl Aicher Munich Olympics poster as Univers. Mum, you're my kind of mum.

Last night was spent in the Hermits Cave, slurping Heineken and drunkenly toasting Ken Livingstone. I don't suppose you even need the benefit of hindsight to see that Labour were going to perform badly. Increasingly, as politics seems to be about personality, Livingstone seemed perhaps a little tired, and Gordon Brown comes across as something of an inarticulate ditherer, increasingly on the back foot. The country has spoken.

A slightly torpid bank holiday Saturday, today. When I awoke it seemed sunny-ish, with a faint miasma of vapor shrouding the sky that prevented it from feeling properly summery. Went and bought bacon and some sunblush tomatoes for a breakfast butty. Popped into Rat records and bought The Black Dog's Book of Dogma which I'm listening to now. Fucking incredible, timeless, beautiful, melancholy, joyous music, and for me, perhaps the most elegant evocation of techno since the Detroit pioneers. I think the French(?) guy who works there thought I was a bit of a prick for wearing sunglasses inside, which is fair enough, but they were quite expensive and I didn't have anywhere to put them other than hanging them off the collar of my t-shirt (no).

Got my first commission through my website, which, while it isn't going to bankroll yachts in the Hamptons, is encouraging. Next I basically need to promote that sucker hard. Watch this space etc.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Local Election day

Election day today, and I'm shortly off to register my vote(s). I'm probably going to vote for Ken first and Brian Paddick second. I just can't really see myself voting for Boris Johnson, as I don't think I can take anyone who affects such an 'endearing buffoon schtick' seriously (I'm not entirely certain he doesn't have some kind of consultant on hand to artfully ruffle his hair, just so, before he leaves the house).

Looking at all his policies too, a lot of them seem to be quite reactionary, and not very well thought through. With regard to crime he proposes installing metal detectors at major transport hubs to detect knives and guns, and more police on public transport to prevent antisocial behaviour, neither of which I'd particularly want to see, as they both seem like classic examples of treating the symptoms rather than the cause, and indicative of the increasingly paranoid society we live in, where we're scared of ourselves and our kids.

On transport, well, I have to say, it still seems quite expensive and disorganised, but then I don't know what it was like before Ken came to power really, so don't have much to compare it to. Looking at his website, he does seem to have some positive statistics to back his policies up, and again, Boris's '21st century Routemaster' all sounds a bit fuzzy to me.

Mostly though, I'm hoping Boris loses so that the London Evening Standard will SHUT THE FUCK UP in its increasingly irritating front page campaign of alternately smearing Ken, and intimating that Boris's victory is almost a foregone conclusion. I hate that rag anyway, with its dreary celeb goss and regular, hysterical predictions of 'Travel Chaos' or 'Chaos Fears', every time it snows or there's a public holiday (worse if the two are combined).

I can sort of understand voter apathy though, or indeed why people might feel that it is 'time for a change'.

After that I'm off to get some cord for a poster I got framed, for the gallery who did it (who shall remain nameless) neglected to do it themselves... which is pretty crap really.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stop this Banksy madness.






















*removes imaginary glasses, wearily massages bridge of nose between thumb and forefinger*

Now, I know everyone – but everyone – wants a piece of Banksy's ass. In fact, when we're all older, ironic pictures of snogging policeman will probably be what those kitschy reproductions of the woman with the green face were to your gran (and you know 'street art' has been utterly co-opted when advertising for the 'urbanproof' Nissan QashQai features the now familiar Banksy tropes of weapon wielding flying rats).

Just recently I received an email from his online vendor Pictures On Walls, advising buyers to beware (in their usual vaguely snarky tone of voice) of counterfeit editions of his work, currently flooding an internet auction site near you.

The thing is, people don't actually seem to be so bothered about the actual provenance or authenticity of the work, so long as they're buying a stake in the stencil grafitti goldrush, at vastly inflated cost. Which is good for some, as Banksy's satire-lite arguably constitutes an industry in itself, which from the looks of it, some people are managing to make a very respectable income off. For example, there's a gallery in Spitalfields market that as I remember, carries an almost exclusive stock-in-trade of canvas prints of photographs of his iconic paintings.

The biggest piss take I think I've ever seen though was just recently on this website, which came to my attention through a Google text ad in Gmail entitled "Banksy/Kate Moss original artwork" and just out of curiosity I followed through.

I nearly spat out my lunch. What's on offer isn't a painting, isn't even a print edition, it's a record cover which happened to feature the Bristol lad's Warhol knock-off featuring Kate Moss.

The cost?

A mere £495 to you (or a very reasonable £795 framed).



I'm sorry? What? are you having a laugh?

The blurb for this 'objet d'art' reads:

"The cover artwork is an exact replica of Banksy's original Kate Moss artwork based on the style of Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Monroe'. Both this and his Mona Lisa stencil went for outstanding prices at Sotheby's, more than double his previous record price of £21,000"

Yes, but that was for a signed, limited edition screenprint which was about 24" x 24" in size. This is a record sleeve... and not even for a particularly good record, by the looks of it. Who the 'funk' are Dirty Funker anyway? Some straight-to-video dance act who deserve to be consigned to history's ash-can for the heinous pun-crime of bastardising the words 'funk' and (w-wait for it!) 'fuck' – Audacious!

But not nearly so audacious as the people running this site..

"Don't miss out, stock is very limited."

They warn, in a cautionary magenta footnote at the bottom. Yeah, stock's very limited because it was a hugely derivitive slice of "My Sharona" sampling Euro-cheddar which vanished without trace in 2006. What beggars belief is that they don't even pretend that it's anything other than a record sleeve though presumably some muppet with more credit cards than brain cells might actually purchase this, blinded by the throbbing retinal afterburn caused by seeing the words 'Banksy' and 'Buy' in close proximity.

I think I might start knocking out web-optimised jpegs of Banksy's 'authentic' artwork at a fiver a pop. Any takers?