Thirty Thousand Streets

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


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


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?