Thirty Thousand Streets

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


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.


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"