... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

601: GO!

It's like I'm new to blogging, like I've never done it before, tentatively taking my first steps into a world of writing about whatever in the vain hope that someone reads it, while simultaneously hoping no one does. Wanting to write something, and being so self absorbed as to write almost entirely about oneself, but so unconvinced of ones own worth that can't think of anything more tedious than ones own thoughts and activities. God, blogging is boring. I'm unofficially considering myself on a wee bit of a hiatus.

It's times like this when I really ought to be working hard to find my own unique take on the Queen's diamond jubilee or the relay of the Olympic torch, but I honestly couldn't give two flying gibbering jabbering moulting leaping squawking squatting wanking fucks about either of the tedious fucking things. I'm hostile to them both. But neither particularly knowledgeable nor hostile enough to be able to string together coherent rants or arguments. So the easier option is just to act like neither of them are happening. Which is lucky, cos neither of them are happening. They are just a collective delusion, the madness of crowds, the flag-waving of the rank and file, the sycophancy of the enslaved.

Other subjects or recent personal experience any writer worth his salt would be using and abusing for source of copy are the awesome ring I now must wear as a 'keep off' sign to all the billions of the world's women who happen not to be my wife; the experience of delivering a speech and the surprising relaxed ease in which it was done; the weird, fucking weird, experience of being a customer in an Apple store (which could not be more weird, fucking weird, if it were staffed by the suicides manning the desks in Beetlejuice's afterlife bureaucracy); having a massage for the first, and so far only, time. And all the others. Breathing in and out and catching a bus. Oh, and I saw my first Orange marches in Belfast, immediately followed by (in a different part of the city centre, not as part of the same cultural event) capoeiristas, drummers and berimbau players presenting a display of Brazilian music and martial arts.

Stuff to write about, I'm just well wound down and finding it difficult to return to the same level of urgency. …..GO! ….....GO! I'm trying to get myself going, and this fairly pointless post about nothing is my way of encouraging myself.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

600: Effulgence and Influence

Reading The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem I just happened across the word 'effulgence'. This immediately reminded my of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode in which Spike's siring is shown in flashback. His wimpy human forerunner writes dreadful poetry, the last word of which is 'effulgent'. For this he is mocked mercilessly: haw-haw-haw 'effulgent!' haw-haw-haw. What on earth is wrong with 'effulgent'. As far as I can see it's a perfectly ebullient word; scintillating and pulchritudinous. Those philistines.

Speaking of The Cyberiad it may be the best book I have ever read. Why it is not more widely known I have no idea. I look for Lem on every shelf, in every bookshop, in every science fiction section I visit, and have only ever found the movie tie-in edition of Solaris, which has an entirely different tone and structure. The Cyberiad is a series of short stories, each featuring the bizarre and unlikely adventures of two cybernetic 'Constructors' called Trurl and Klapaucius. They live in a far future or alternative dimension world in which all creatures are robots (except the occasionally mentioned 'paleface') inhabiting a multitude of planets ruled by kings, knights and dragons.

Utterly bizarre and impossible ideas are completely taken for granted and set out in a sentence or two. It has been hugely liberating for me to read, my fiction writing previously been very concerned with explaining every detail in excruciating length and staying firmly rooted in the possible. The very first sentence in The Cyberiad is a revelation: "One day Trurl the Constructor put together a machine that could create anything beginning with n." No explanation of how this is done or why, just it's done, now here are the ludicrous results, deal with it. On request the machine goes on to create neutrons, noses, needles, noodles. When asked to create nothing it begins deleting things one by one from existence. Again no explanation of how. None needed.

Each short story is self contained, much like the episodes of The Simpsons. There seems to be a huge amount of freedom in this style of writing: anything can go in no matter how ridiculous, any plot, character, joke, tragedy, or word game, and none of it matters because in the next story anything can be reset to the status quo. Inspired by this I have decided to give writing a Web Serial a go. Not searching far afield for inspiration I have created two main protagonists, one of which has a name not dissimilar to one of Lem's Constructors, who are "scientists" of some unspecified pedigree. They are also married, what with my just being married, and the whole marriage thing being on the brain somewhat. Married.

It's called Histories (to make it sound old and important) and the two protagonists are Azygous and Thule. These are both real words, not made up names, that I have wanted to use in something for a while. Here are the definitions:

azygous: (of an organic structure) occurring singularly rather than in pairs.
Thule: a mythical region or island in the far north, from classical European literature and maps.

The plan is to slowly build a universe of my own, moving away from the immediate influences of its inception; fill this universe with characters and events as and when the whim takes me. The first story (tentatively) called 'The Eventual End' is up now. I think it's quite funny, but when I read it out loud it sounded significantly madder than I was expecting. Ah well, these things happen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

599: the Sick Bed

Like Gregor Samsa awaking to find himself transformed into a giant beetle, I awoke on Sunday morning to find myself transformed into a giant bag of stinking liquids. Gregor finds himself excluded and a burden on his family whereas I find myself slightly sickly and cared for by my new wife, In sickness and in health. I'm just trying to get as much caring out of the deal as possible. Soon enough I suppose it'll be my turn to be fulfilling all those lifelong promises of loving and caring. Great! I can't wait! Being sick sucks. Being married is great.

How could you describe sickness to one unable of becoming sick? Someone like Lieutenant Data before the emotion chip, or T-101 before doing that thing with his learning CPU. (aside: has anyone noticed that at one point he asks why do you cry? and another he claims to have detailed files on human anatomy. I would have thought that would have helped answer his question. On second thoughts, maybe it wouldn't. If he knew about physical causes of tears, such as dust, he may have thought he had the complete information, but on learning more about humans from protecting John he discovered there were other less tangible causes. Perhaps that is why he asked. I digress.)

Anyway, I don't imagine it would be easy. I'm sick (don't worry, I'm better know). What do you mean sick? I am not functioning to the best of my abilities. My input and output circuits are overloading, backed up, leaking, shorting out. My CPU is overheating and my internal cooling fan is all shit up. I must go into offline mode, perform checks, wipes and scans.

It's not convincing, is it. Explaining it in random, uncertain, meaningless sort-of computery sounding words isn't really doing it for me. Kafka definitely had a proper good idea with that thing about the big beetle. That's why he is him, an I am me. ….pffff.....

I'm rusty. Bye.

Moving graffiti

The best weirdo animation I've seen since Jan Svankmajer.  Plus the music is amazing.

598: Saturday past

A laptop is portable. This may seem like a very obvious statement, but until recently I had no option but to use my laptop plugged in. The battery on the old dusty thing was useless, holding absolutely no charge due to being kept plugged in for the best part of three years. I am an idiot. Now, thanks to my lovely wife, I have the option to use this brand spanked hot-shit new gleaming piece of laptop whenever and whenever I want. Right now I'm in an airport bar, sat beside a TV spouting loud gibberish also known as MTV, drinking tea because the coffee machine is turned off and I have already drank enough alcohol this week to drown a shark. We are heading back to real life; our wedding was five days ago, our three-night minibreak is a memory, and we both have work on Monday. The happiest week of my life is too-quickly ending with a sad letdown. Get over it, saddo; pull yourself together. That's good advice, me, I think I will.

In this past week I have had many new experiences, each one worthy of writing/boasting about. Hopefully there will be enough to fill the 5-7 posts I need to get through in order to catch up. Briefly, this week, I have committed myself for life to one woman, who also happens to be my best friend; been to a spa where I had an aromatherapy massage and went in a jacuzzi, steam room and sauna; stayed in a hotel swanky enough to have a mini-bar, Lucian Freud paintings, and where I had the power to say "charge it to my room". What an amazing power; I didn't see any money for the duration of our stay.

....time...... time. ......time
time...... time....... time.....

I wrote those first two sentences on Saturday night at Belfast International Airport. Wow. Fascinating. It's now Wednesday, and after being ill for three days I am now back at work. Work day finished. Tired. Must write.

....hmmm.... Now I'm not sick anymore, I wonder if that digestive tract of mine is ready for that Connemara Peated Single Malt whiskey I got in Donegal? .....hmmm... I wonder.....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

597: a brief excuse

One week behind on the blogging now and, I insist, with bally darn good reason, I'll have you know, what?. See, I was Mr. Bradshaw, and I still am. But now Mrs. Bradshaw is not just the name of my mum and Nana. It's also the name of my girlfriend. Confused? Don't be. It's simple. Now she is my wife. ...and together they are Mr & Mrs Bradshaw.

Consider this short post a place holder. A welcome page to I Blog Every Day serving as the most recent excuse/reason as to why I am not blogging every day. Married on Monday, writing my speech the week before, hanging out with my best mens's this weekend gone, and now on our short honeymoon break in a luxury hotel in the middle of nowhere, beside beautiful Lough Eske in County Donegal. I have a nice little laptop, gifted to me by my bride on the morning of our wedding, and plenty of better things to do than writing this. But what is this new laptop if not a tool for writing?

A question I have no interesting in answering. I don't think I've ever been this relaxed. Now it's time to wander off to the bar, and face such difficult choices as to what single malt Irish whisky to try, what delicious meal to have, whether to sit in the sun under the blue sky, or whether to sit by the log fire under the genuine Lucian Freud painting. More blogging to follow as and when I decide.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

596: .......

Is there a way that blogging can be done using only a pen and paper and then uploaded directly to iblogeveryday.co.uk without me actually going anywhere near the Internet? Someone got me a nice new pad of paper as a gift, and I just got three hard-backed pocket notebooks from the pound shop. Also there is the endless distraction of the Internet; watching half interesting documentaries on BBC iPlayer because you've already seen the good ones; waiting for something interesting to happen on twitter, or for the latest episode of the comedy podcast you like; watching old wrestling videos on YouTube. These are needless luxuries and crippling obstacles. A blank piece of paper and a ballpoint pen wont do this to you.

Once upon a time I couldn't write creatively on a keyboard. My typing was not fast enough, so it became an obstacle between the words appearing abstract in my mind to them being recorded physically as the written word. I would always write first on paper, scribbling quickly, almost unreadably, then second draft by copying onto the word processor. This was time consuming, but I felt it was the only way I could be creative. When I first started blogging I attempted to do it this way too. It quickly became evident that this would take forever. As it is now I spend too much time blogging (mainly because I waste a lot of time with distractions), but if every single one of these last 596 posts had been written first on paper there would be a lot more dead trees and pen-plants, and a lot of box files full of scribbles.

Has anyone invented a tablet computer with a stylus and handwriting recognition? One in which you can just scribble your handwriting and it automatically converts it into text? This probably exists, but doesn't solve the problem of the endless distraction of the Internet. See, I got so distracted by pointless asides that I forgot the focus of this though was preventing Internet distraction, and instead focused on the handwriting thing. I don't want a tablet that I have to hand write on. Handwriting is too slow and clumsy and causes much more aches and pains than typing does.

As I'm writing this I can barely stop myself from checking twitter or looking on iPlayer to see if I missed any interesting science documentaries on BBC4. What I really need to be doing is going to the shops and focusing on writing a speech. A groom's speech. For my wedding. On Monday.... OK, gotta go. Bye.

595: Two-year old jokes

There is a two year old boy in the house to remind me that making fart noises with your mouth is fun, and gets funnier and funnier with each raspberry. So do unexpected squeals that pierce the eardrum, but convey no useful information neither of literal meaning nor emotional state. Pulling your slippers off and throwing them behind the sofa with a mischievous grin on your face? Also hilarious.

Climbing on the little side table, in your tiny silly shoes no less, to reach up and turn of the big light. For no reason. Also hilarious. Screaming at the washing machine door, then turning around giggling at the wall, falling over, crawling towards a toy, throwing the toy out of your reach, then looking sad and pleading as if the toy escaped by itself. Yep, that's hilarious too. Jiggling the bathroom door handle repeatedly when someone is sat on the toilet. You guessed it. Hilarious. As evidenced by the constant look of barely comprehending glee spread from ear to ear on that odd undersized head. Children. They are almost like real people.

This child isn't one I just found, or made myself. And he didn't come free on the cover of a magazine or in a box of cereal. He's my godson. Without the god. Except that just leaves 'son, and that's not true either. For argument's sake, and for ease and clarity, let's just stick with godson. The technical term, I think, was 'responsible adult' instead of 'godparent'. But then what would be the civil version of a 'godchild'? 'Irresponsible baby'? It would be true, but seems more of an accusation or admonition than a title or relationship.

You know what else is funny? Rolling around on the floor with rice and egg on your t-shirt and yogurt on your face. Yes. Try it some time. You'll be amazed at the reaction. I've not done it myself, but it seems to work for a two year old. He found it funny.

Monday, May 14, 2012

594: Party In Your Eye-Socket poetry/prose anthology

Here's a little book. A zine. "An independently run poetry and prose anthology." It's rather a nice object, and arrived in the post beautifully sealed in brown paper and string, accompanied by a badge and a sticker ... or it may just be a piece of paper; I didn't check and it's in the other room. (Edit: I've checked: it is a sticker.) This isn't an academic essay; my research is casual to non-existent. It's also not a review, either. I just wanted to put this out there as a nice place to submit your flash fiction and poetry to. I submitted something to this, the first issue of Party In Your Eye-Socket; it didn't get in, but hey-ho, never mind about that.

So, if you're a poet, or like me prefer short stories, send them into these guys in advance of issue two. And, you know, buy issue one obviously. We're all in this together, trying to get things in print so people can hold them and read them, so when a couple of little guys get it together to make something, it helps to part with a few quid for it. Not everything is free. It's an anthology, so it's not all good (I don't want to name names but I have read at least one terrible story in it), but it is good; good variety, good design, a good little package. I enjoy using words like good and nice; much more powerful than constantly overusing words like genius or awesome.

I'm rambling. Being doing that a lot recently.

593: Blue

This bird has very blue eyes. Very blue indeed. That's the extent of all I wanted to say, but it doesn't seem enough really, does it. I just can't bring myself to say "look at this" and leave it at that. And so begins the padding, the waffle, the nonsense, the inane and obsessive word-count building. The least I could do is try and make it remotely about the picture.

It's not just any bird. It's a bowerbird. It's evolved into a collector of brightly coloured objects, with which it decorates its own carefully curated mating-ground, in a desperate struggle to attract the fussy female of its species. It's the result of sexual selection, the process in which over a long time species develop seemingly wasteful behaviour or traits, such as the beautiful but ridiculous tail of the peacock. Blame those fussy peahens. Thousands or millions of years ago a peahen had a preference for a slightly fancy tail on her peacocks. Some of her daughters inherited that preference and some of her sons inherited a fancy tail.

Over many many generations the lust for decorative tails got stronger and stronger, and an arms race developed between peacocks, the current state of which is that large colourful feathery fan. It might get bigger, brasher and sillier, but it probably wont. At least not via sexual selection. Evolution has probably struck a balance between the need to attract a female, and the need to evade predators. If it does get more ornate and impractical it will be the result of artificial selection; humans selectively breeding for certain characteristics that nature would not (or at least, has not) favour. That's where we get all breeds of domestic cats and dogs, spherical cows, and the chicken.

There, that was good wasn't it? You got a little educational lecture; I got a little delusional. And together we both passed a little time. Learnt a little; played a little. Had some fun. Reading, writing, evolution; these are a few of my favourite things. I think it's about time I wrapped up this post. I only wanted to put that picture of the bowerbird here. OK.

592: ulv bko;gfn everyj dadtj

Can I write with my feet? Let's see:

7yuujuujyefkmee dwhyhjdce kjjefjs a1qi mwgtbgibngfv

The answer is no. Especially as they weren't my feet. Could you tell? They were the feet of that cute little woman who sits next to me on the sofa, making me do things and usurping the laptop's place on my knee with her legs. Wiggling about the place and asking for tea. I think I'll marry her. But not until I try typing with my toes. Here goes, typing with my toes:

kim vjgtyudpo swkigjnh mny glodexs aznd xlo kimnfvgv z\abgdfsg njlobn

Translating||||||........ Translation: I'm typing with my toes and I'm doing a great job. Now I've got two kinds of foot germs all over the keyboard. Want to contribute? Send a sample to the usual address.

If this was a hundred years ago this kind of nonsense would make me a visionary of Modernist fiction and a hundred years in the future unfortunate students of the humanities would have this crap forced upon them. Or it wouldn't. Honestly there's no way of knowing for sure either way. Unless we had a time machine. Which incidentally if I had one -after I'd proved the historical inaccuracy of the world's major religions, seen a real velociraptor squawking around like a big turkey, and discovered exactly how the first humans to settle the Americas made it there- I would have a go at controlling the thing with my feet.

We might arrive at the restaurant at the end of the universe, suffocate on an early Earth in its oxygen-empty atmosphere, expand to a hundred billion light years across in the initial milliseconds of the big bang, or have to evade the amorous advances of my 1950s small town American teenage mom. All of these outcomes are OK with me on the condition that none involve being preyed upon by an unstoppable cyborg. I don't think I could handle that.

Conclusion: Unless I lose the use of both my arms, there will be no more foot blogging. Except, of course, I run out of ideas again. And if Rufus ever shows up with one of those hi-tech phone booths I'll be dialling with my fingers for at least the first few thousand years.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

591: Hello...? Calliope? Thalia? ...you there?

Strange (it's strange) how sometimes it just seems impossible to write anything. Imagine having to stand before a crowd every day and improvise a performance. Imagine having to do it while cooking your tea, changing a nappy (which I have never done so here the imagination has to kick in), or sitting on the sofa and staring at your toes. Look at that bit of wall up there. Up in the corner above the door. It's weird. I've never noticed that before. That observation is fictional, and so is the bit of wall. There probably is a bit of wall above the door but I have not observed it, was not just observing it then, and have noticed nothing "weird" about it. Hang on a moment; let me just check.

Nope. Nothing weird. There is a small non-specific black dot, and a hint of some stain. Probably damp. I daren't even turn around and look at the mould above the window. The ceiling is too high to reach to clean myself and I don't want the landlords to do it cos they are messy, clumsy, sweary and loud. Some of this blog post is true, some is fictional, but all of it is so mundane and uninspired I don't know if it's possible to tell what is what. You know when you kiss someone, or are otherwise messing about with... physically, and your stubble scratches them. On the face, or wherever. And they say ow, because being scratched with beard stubble is apparently extremely painful. Just a thought, but do you think it would be possible to kill someone using only beard stubble as the murder weapon? Answers to be supplied with colourful diagrams created on Microsoft Paint.

It's no wonder really that the ancients believed in the concept of Muses. Euterpe, the muse of song. Calliope, the muse of epic poetry and long-term blogging projects. Thalia, the muse of comedy. Terpsichore, dance; Erato, love poetry; Urania, astronomy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, hymns; and Clio, history. I listed the Muses. From wikipedia. It does seem sometime like creativity comes from another place separate from, what we would know think of as, the conscious mind. Another place or plane, gifted from on high, created spontaneously independent from hard work. Creativity is only hard when the Muses have abandoned you. When they are with you they are doing all the work while you are just coasting by comfortably. It's not an original observation, hence the very idea of Muses, but they have abandoned me for a day or two. Boo hoo. They had better be back soon, because I need to work on my wedding speech.

Afterthought:  the Muses all represent creative forms firmly routed in the time of Ancient Greece.  Could we come up with some new ones to represent modern/contemporary expressions of creativity?  Quantum physics; beatboxing; professional wrestling; etcetera, etc, &c.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

590: Two Pictures

A mouse autopsy, yesterday.

This picture of an eukaryotic cell is a mouse. It isn't a mouse, but it looks just like one pinned to the autopsy bench with its viscera splayed open for all to see. Eukaryotes are multi-celled life forms including plants, fungi and animals, and some single celled things from other lesser known kingdoms. Fascinating, no doubt, but beyond my current ken, and momentarily I'm more interested in this particular one looking like a mouse. Ooh, isn't it cute, yes it is.

This picture of a guinea pig is someone's dinner. It isn't a pet; it is an animal domesticated and farmed to feed hungry humans, especially those living in or visiting Peru. Sipping hot cocaine tea and tucking into a crispy roast rodent before tottering off to Machu Picchu to admire the stonework. Looks delicious. I'm off to bed to dream of eating furry little squeakers.  Ooh, isn't it cute, yes it is.

A guinea pig delicacy, yesterday.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

589: Liz West, Chroma & Crowdfunding

Today I visited Manchester-based artist Liz West, in her studio at Rogue, to talk about her forthcoming solo exhibition, Chroma, at BLANKSPACE, and her efforts to raise the money she needs via crowdsourcing.  To contribute please go to her sponsume.com page here.

For the collectors and completists here is the unedited text of the interview:

What first got you interested in colour collecting and this kind of work?

It goes right back to when I was a really young girl. I lived in Barnsley and their wasn't much happening, so I used to go and visit Barnsley market on a Saturday; go into town shopping. And I'd come back with really bright little bottles of nail varnish. I was about eight. I'd get home and then I'd arrange them in colour order along my bedroom window sill, until after a year or so I'd got so many that I had a complete spectrum lined up.

So that must have been the very first foray into collecting, way before the music memorabilia, the dolls' house furniture collecting; anything like that. My dad is a record collector as well. He has a wall that is full of CDs and records, so it's been in me from day dot.

I've always been naturally attracted to bright shiny colours. Brash colours. I'm not interested in subtle tones. They don't belong in my work. For me it exploring the manufactured quality, mainly plastics, which obviously always come in garish colours. Quite... POP!

When did your collecting and your colour obsession become your art?

I struggled on my degree. Went to Glasgow -great university, great art school- and spent two or three years faffing about with different ideas trying to make work that I thought I was interested in. I was making work about what I thought it would be like to be a celebrity. Work about life, drawing, and none of it really seemed to suit me. My tutors knew about the fact that I collected pop memorabilia, and therefore bright intense colouration.

The photographs that I would always take as documentation or research were always shots of brightly coloured things in shops, always lined up. Compacted together in a mass. In my third and final year I sat down and looked at all the elements that were feeding my practise and they said it's obvious. It's obvious it's about colour. It's obvious it's about collecting and using these two things in space so you are immersing the viewer in a kaleidoscopic environments... Why aren't you making work about this?

And it was one of those Ah-hah! moments. From the Christmas leading up to my degree show I started experimenting with making collections of single coloured objects. I started with yellow, hence why I've got quite a lot of yellow. I made a piece in my degree show using just yellow objects. And so it began.

How will you develop this in the new show, Chroma?

The work in Chroma is going to be on a much larger scale. The work I have made in the past, my chamber pieces where people can only look through a tiny slot in the wall, so it's not quite tangible; there's a barrier between. I've always wished I had a budget so I could completely envelop someone in a whole room. With Chroma I have that, so I'm given an opportunity.

There are four different rooms at BLANKSPACE [the gallery hosting Chroma]. One is going to be completely green -ceiling, flour, walls- the lighting is going to be intense. Garish green. Grass green. The the next room is going to be like walking into the sunshine: yellow. The royal blue, kind of a marine blue. And then postbox red. So very obvious colour choices. Your primary colours and then green, one of your secondaries.

Those colours and then the lighting in those rooms will then affect white objects which will run in a horizontal perspex tube through the four spaces as if the four spaces are joined together. So again I'm working with illusion, like in the chambers with the mirrors, but I'm being given the space to actually fabricate a huge structure.

You are crowdfunding through Sponsume to raise the money needed for Chroma. How much more do you need to raise, and what do people get in exchange for their donations?

I'm looking to raise one thousand pounds, and I've got about three hundred and fifty, so I'm looking for another six hundred and fifty. Is that right? Maths was never my strong point! There are different incentives for people depending on how much they donate. The top one: if they were to donate three hundred pounds I would make a piece of work especially for that person, a commission.

For a hundred pounds you get a day with me, oh joy! So, a studio tour, tour around the exhibition, nice cup of coffee, chat about whatever they want to... within reason! Seventy five pounds gets them one of my trolley prints, they can choose the primary colours or the secondary colours. I would personally go for one of the primary colours -either the blue, red, or yellow- because they were the originals. They have been exhibited nationwide and internationally and would ordinarily cost three hundred pounds each, but for this limited time only seventy five pounds will get them an unframed print. And they are limited edition.

For thirty pounds, a signed copy of the book, a limited edition publication of one hundred copies. And then as you get further down, ten pounds will get your name on my website, a set of postcards. Right down to a pound which will get you a smile, but in actual fact will buy me a purely coloured object from the pound shop and that will be in the show. Every little really does help.

What do you want to achieve with Chroma; artistically, career wise?

That's a big question. This is my first solo show and a rather major one because of the space I'm using. It's huge, it's vast and it's quite an interesting space as well. What I'm trying to do is get an array of people there; opinion formers, gallery curators, art collectors, dealers, critics, people who... and even if they don't actually come and see the show they will be sent a VIP private view card which illustrates my work, so they are getting to know my name. It is important for a young artist these days.

I'm just hoping to push my name out there a bit more than it has been up to this point. For people to see that I am ambitious with my ideas, with my work, and to see that I am capable of working in interesting spaces, site-specific work. Or even with, for example, the dolls' house piece; it was a piece that can be shown anywhere. Let's hope it moves my career on to the next rung of the ladder from where I am now.

So, what would you like that to be? The next rung of the ladder, artistically?

I would like to keep investing time in funding proposals that enable me to keep making large-scale work which is comparable in scale to James Turrell. Massive, all-immersive environments. That's what excites me as a viewer, so that's what I want to excite my viewers with. Obviously you have limitations when you haven't got a huge budget. That would be one thing; I want to just keep pushing the scale of the work.

Conceptually within the work I want to have a bit of time to really read up on my subjects, more so than I already have done. So I'm really immersing myself in information about colour theory, about collecting, and also about curating light, in space and immersive environments. So much has been written about these subjects that it is unreal, so I just want to fill some knowledge.

What would be really interesting would be to work collaboratively with a writer, to maybe come up with a piece of text relating to these subjects. That's something I would quite like to do. From a career level, having gallery representation would be fantastic, and getting more commissions.

What would be your dream space to do a site-specific piece in?

When I was... I went to the first show when the Tate Modern opened and I remembered seeing Louise Bourgeois' name in the vinyl lettering on the glass panels at the top of the Tate. I said to my mum, Mum, one day I want to see 'Liz West' on there. Which means I have to somehow fill the Turbine Hall. I like a challenge! Maybe in fifty years time! I think that's an interesting space.

I don't think I've seen enough spaces, perhaps?

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to say?

For the installation work in the Chroma exhibition there's going to be a mass of white objects and a mass of orange objects, and obviously I need to gather those somehow. So whether they are found, bought or given, so here's my opportunity to call out to people!

If you have got anything they would throw away -milk bottles, yogurt pots, etc- donate them to Blank Media, or bring them to me at Rogue Artists' Studios, then the more the merrier. It needs to be pure white or pure orange, but you can strip the labels off them, take tops off, clean them up.

For example, green egg box, I've just taken the labels off that. The same with a kind of domestic bottle, peeled off the labels and then that obviously turns it into a purely coloured object. So, they're my rules!

And! I quite like plastic materials because of the manufactured quality of them, rather than glass, or I completely hate natural things; it has to be artificial colour, cos that's quite a bright orange.

Monday, May 07, 2012

588: 3-day Weekend

Would it make much difference to the world if a normal working week was only four days long? This being a bank holiday everyone is having a great time. Facebook is full of people posting about the great time they've had. Lie-ins, afternoon drinking, days out, some football cup thing, the snooker World Championship, Sunday roast on a Monday night, the beautiful knowledge that Friday will seem like it has arrived a day early. A weekend is a precious thing, and a bank holiday weekend is perfect sparkling beauty.

Despite the two days off a week, fought for by our ancestors, labour unions, tough and resilient working men and women, we are increasingly losing our weekends. Shops are opening on Sundays, and a retail job not requiring weekend work is a rarity. Private profit for big business takes precedence over individual liberty and familial free-time. Past employers, long ago, whenever that was, didn't believe employees needed any time off, except what god gave them. The kids were up the chimneys and down the time tunnels; the elderly forty-year olds were mining praline and extracting uranium or iron ore, from five AM until 11 PM. From painful birth to inevitable chocking, pus-filled death. That was life.

Now we have two days off a week. Most of us do. Why not make it three? Who wants to spend over half their waking hours doing whatever it is that makes the numbers in their bank account rise ever-so slightly once a month? Before they plummet back to next to zero. Let's get the fictional Brussels Euro-crats working on it. I can't imagine it would effect the economy or whatever. That's because I know nothing about the economy and so am totally unqualified to make any predictions regarding it. But, never mind.

A three day weekend would make every single person in the country happier. We would all be more relaxed, less stressed, funner, happier, exploding with giggling glee and child-like wonder. Running around the parks, rolling on the grass, laughing at nothing, climbing trees, jumping, leaping, frolicking. Imagine all the frolicking you could get done. Just imagine it. Ahhh and mmm. Compound that with all the hobbying you could do, and all the work you could put in towards achieving your life's goals: dream job, bucket list, DVD box sets, etcetera, etc, &c.

This is a big issue; too big to cover here. What about all the flexi-time? Or all the people who have to drag themselves into an office every morning, filling up the trams, buses and trains all at once, just to sit beside a computer and telephone? What is stopping these people working from home at times more convenient for them? Often, depending on the type of business, nothing except tradition and management's lack of vision, compassion and foresight. Etcetera, etc, &c.

Three day weekend! Woohoo!

587: Writing, writing, ballroom dance. Writing, writing, repetition.

On Friday I wrote a blog post that entirely satisfied me. It was late, my partner was asleep beside me on the sofa despite the loudly blasting Tom Waits ('Underground': I'm alive, I'm awake, while the rest of the world is asleep), there was a glass of whiskey somewhere nearby and nobody had claimed it so I drank it. It was some thing about cheese, that old cliche, lazy subject, for lazy lazy people trying to be funny... cheese an obvious comedy word. Despite that I laughed. And two people on facebook happened to enjoy it.

Success! I've finally made it! Anyway, the point I'm trying to get to is that after writing a blog that I felt was pretty good, I didn't want to write another post. I had nothing in particular to say, so writing this nothing in particular would just knock the good cheese-post off the top of the blog. What a waste. Now anyone coming alone will read this instead of the important cheese stuff. Instead of looking for something to write about, and trying to better myself, I just did normal bank holiday stuff. Writing is hard.

Simon Cowell is on the telly telling the young ballroom dancer kids that they are winners because they put the work in. David Walliams is rephrasing whatever Simon says in order to agree with him exactly. Fantastic comments all around. The hard work, the practise, working every single day for hours and hours and hours. Training all the time, every day. From morning eye-open to evening shut-eye. It's wiggling, prancing and toe-tapping from start to finish. Living and breathing ballroom. Dancing here, there and everywhere.

Ballroom dancing in a house. Ballroom dancing with a mouse. Ballroom dancing in a box. Ballroom dancing with a fox. Ballroom dancing you will see, ballroom dancing in a tree. A train! A train! A train! A train! Ballroom dancing, ballroom dancing on a train. Say! In the dark? Here in the dark! Ballroom dancing in the dark! Ballroom dancing with a goat. Ballroom dancing on a boat. Ballroom dancing here and there. Ballroom dancing ANYWHERE!

Lessons to be learnt from the ballroom kids and the persistent Suess Sam-I-Am pressurising his mouldy food onto an unwilling victim. Daily practise. Repetition. Daily practise. Every hour, every minute. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing.

"Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing. Writing." Does that count?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

586: Primula Burger Cheese

Primula Burger Cheese is a thing. A thing made by the people that brought you Primula Cheese, Primula Cheese Light, and Primula Cheese Prawns. Yes. Primula Cheese Prawns is a thing too. Inexplicable. Primula Burger Cheese. A cheese-like goo-gloop that plops 49% wet cheese snot onto your hot meat sandwich, for a limited time only this summer. Now that we are into the barbeque season. Now we're there.

I'm convinced. The advert has got me. Cheese, made into a slow sticky liquid by mixing it with concentrated milk/whey and emulsifying salts specifically to accompany one food type, dispensed from a tube, like acrylic paint or Anusol, is self-evidently such a wonderful idea. More foods in tubes please. I'm putting in my official request to the manufacturers of the things what I eat in my mouth and tummy. Tube food now please.

I want burger meat in a tube. Squeeze a circle of squishy meat paste straight out of the tube and into the pan for an instant burger. 49% stuff, straight outta the tube. Squeeze it into a sausage. A smiley face. Write a happy breakfast-in-bed message to your lover. Write it in meat paste. Cook it in the pan and serve it on the pillow at the break of dawn. Happy Sunday, Sexy! Let's celebrate in style with meat paste and Primula Burger Cheese. Pack it in your suitcase and take it on holiday. Remember not to pack it in hand luggage. It must go in the hold with all the other liquids.

When I think of food in tubes, I think of feeding tubes. Primula Burger Cheese squeezed directly into the stomach by means of medical intervention. Protect against malnutrition with creepy cringeworthy pipes penetrating stomach lining or pushed up nostril and down the back of the throat. Mmm, yes, yummy. Pass me the Primula. Squeeze that sumbitch straight down my gargling gob 'n' gullet. Pass me the pipe. Feed me the feeding tube.

Primula Cheese Prawns. I just wanted to type those three little words again. Next time I'm in a screen cliche of a romantic situation and my partner asks to hear those three little words, I'll look her deep and longingly into those beautiful brown eyes. I'll gently but firmly grasp her shoulders in my strong rugged hands. I'll lean towards her, unblinking, as her chest heaves and her heart beats. I'll stroke her hair, gently kiss her lips and say those three little words. Primula Cheese Prawns. The words she loves to hear. Primula Cheese Prawns, and Primula Burger Cheese too.


Thursday, May 03, 2012

585: Just Say No

I turned on and tuned in the TV (come on, everybody does it, man), and a serious voice calmly intoned the following serious calm important serious calm words:
Support information about drugs can be found on the Hollyoaks website...
If the programme immediately proceeding this announcement was not Hollyoaks then the world has some explaining to do. Imagine a situation where the end credits roll on a serious documentary about the damaging effects of drugs and drug abuse on lives, families and society. The war and murder in Columbia and Afghanistan; the drug mules languishing in Korean prisons or dying from exploded internally-concealed packages; the idiot user contributing to all this while damaging themselves; the addict sleeping in their own waste and stealing from their own mother at knife point; the babies born with heroin addictions or intravenously-contracted AIDS; the parents, children and partners who must help their loved one through their addictions, cope with their death or imprisonment. Picture all this, then remember the phrase:
Support information about drugs can be found on the Hollyoaks website...
Don't go to the Hollyoaks website. Go to a friend, family member, teacher, FRANK. Try them yourself and form your own opinion. (Try them and remember the mass of organised crime you are supporting, a system that could be undermined if drugs were legalised and controlled.) Go to a legal highs forum and read about people shitting their pants on salvia. Go to a public toilet and write questions on the walls in crayon and lipstick. Go to the doctors. Go to an ice cream seller. Go to an ancestor's grave. Go to hell. Go anywhere but the fucking Holly-fucking-oaks web-shitting-site. Just say no. Don't do it.

584: Four Rooms

Four Rooms is a Channel Four programme in which four insufferable but vaguely entertaining "dealers" compete to buy random valuables and collectibles brought before them. It is a lot of fun, mainly because of the interesting items brought in, and because the podgy dealer with no neck is very likeable. In one episode someone brought in their grandmother's antique dildo, he unfortunately didn't get an opportunity to make a bid for it, and in his disappointment he confessed to having "the largest collection of dildos in Belgium". This odd sentence conveyed so much of his sadness we openly wept. The dealer with the pointy nose and the scarf entertains endlessly by being an utter prick completely convinced of his own superiority.

Despite the dealers being an odd bunch they clearly have great taste and have done incredibly well for themselves. There are quite a few things coming through their rooms, or decorating the background, that I would love to own if I was swimming in money with nothing to spend it on. Anyway, today's episode was a weird one. There seemed to be a theme of Gold & Just How Disgusting It Can Be.

Firstly was a hideous Rolex watch. Even more hideous than a normal Rolex. This one was made for the Sultan of Oman, an absolute ruler stockpiling obscene wealth, and was made from enough gold, diamonds, rubies, hens' teeth, unicorn horn, and Vulcan tears to marinade the world in money. It made me sick just looking at it. My sick was more attractive, and much less a symbol of undignified oppressive oil dollars. The guy selling it wanted half a million quid for the piece of shit. Three of the dealers were all like yeah, I'll give you a tenner, and the fourth offered £222,000 going up to £300,000. The seller turned it down.

The next seller came in with a piece so unnecessarily and unexpectedly disgusting it seemed like a twisted parody of the offensive gold watch. I can't believe I am about to type these next sentences. The dealers were offered the chance to bid on a gold and diamond sculpture of a train carriage and the entrance to Auschwitz extermination camp. The source material was obtained from the gold teeth and fillings of the victims of the Nazis at Auschwitz, and from the artist/seller's own grandmother. Recap: a sculpture of Auschwitz built from body parts stolen from those murdered there.

I'm no stranger to controversial art. The makers of 4 Rooms chose to illustrate this with Marcus Harvey's painting Myra, of Myra Hindley created using the hand prints of children. It's source material is the famous photograph so regularly reproduced on the front of tabloid newspapers. These same newspapers caused a huge hysterical fuss about the painting when it hung in the Royal Academy of Art as part of Saatchi's Sensation exhibition. How dare the artist and the Academy make money from the exploitation of dead children. Never mind that the tabloid newspapers made millions with the exact same picture of Myra Hindley. Never mind that.

The difference between a work like Myra and this thing with the massacred peoples' gold teeth is that Myra is not actually made from the victims' body parts of from things the murderers stole from the victims. It's not even real children's hand prints. It was printed using a cast of a kids hand. The Auschwitz thing is made from actual gold stolen from the victims of genocide. It is profiting directly from genocide. Not only was it shit art, it was also ... fuck, I can't even explain it. I consider it almost retroactive complicity in the crimes. The artist kept making crappy excuses about its artistic statement and his need to make a living. Pathetic.

Luckily the dealers agreed with me. The first three told him to fuck right off, and the fourth offered him £26,000 (compared to the £130,000+ he was after) if he would stamp on it. Clearly that was just a pisstaking way of telling him to fuck off.

All that glisters is not gold, wrote Shakespeare, and that gold clearly wasn't gold. It was shit art and mass industrial murder. But the next thing to be sold wasn't gold. It was yellow. But it was gold. An original Beatles Yellow Submarine pinball machine. It was great and it sold for a good £9,000. Nice. Oh, I forgot to mention there would be spoilers. Spoiler alert, retroactive.

Monday, April 30, 2012

583: A Man Talking

Stewart Lee matinée, The Lowry, Salford, 29th April

There was some loud music and a man in the far distance walked onstage. It's lucky I'd just got some new glasses two days earlier or I may have struggled to pick out any features of the moving black and grey blob. There was a little smoke; just the right amount. He started talking and saying things. Sometimes he moved about a little while saying things. Other times he stopped talking and moved more. People were laughing. The person I had bought the other ticket for fell asleep. Someone, left of centre, row L, upper circle, was laughing with such screeching abandon that the man on stage made passing reference to it. Row L is the second from the very back in a 2000-seater auditorium.

There was a bit where he talked about some stuff, and another bit where he talked about some other stuff. Then there was an interval where I was able to stand in a public toilet staring at the backs of urinating men before getting my own chance to urinate while being all to aware of the uncomfortable impatient eyes on my own back. Then I went back in and sat down again. Then I waited a little bit. Not too long. Then the talking man came back onstage and did more talking. There was a lot more laughing. Then seventeen semi-naked dancing girls came onstage and the talking man strapped himself into the seat of a flying drum kit which somersaulted and pirouetted over the sleeping heads of the audience. Then, upon landing, he took out a scalpel and peeled the flesh and skin off his hand and forearm revealing the mechanical metal workings within.

For the ultimate climax of the show we, the audience, were split into two categories, those who laughed and those who didn't, and herded into separate windowless trains. Those who laughed were taken to a location and allowed to proceed with their lives as normal, and those who didn't laugh were taken to the same location and allowed to proceed with their lives as normal. The same place and thing just different trains. We could have walked really. Afterwards a man in an exceedingly tall top hat spake to us through a megaphone and made us feel small. Then we walked home in the cold wind. Passing the big mysterious building with the words 'Manchester United' emblazoned on the side, we wondered what it could possibly mean and what might happen in such a strange and unknowable building. It's certainly too big to be someone's house.

The man was very good at talking. I would like to listen again. If you have enjoyed listening to him talk in the past you will probably enjoy listening to him talk in the present, or even in the future. If you have not enjoyed listening to him talk in the past you will probably not enjoy listening to him talk in the present, or even in the future. I liked it.

Me liking it, and the talking man.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

582: Random Topic Generator 2: Avoiding the Flue

Playing again with the Random Topic Generator I was surprised to be given the subject Avoiding the Flue. Yes, Avoiding the Flue. The Flue. Flue. A pipe for removing vapours, fumes or smoke from an area, for example a chimney. Avoiding the Flue. How to spend as little time as possible interacting with chimneys. Avoiding the Flue. Flues to be avoiding. Keeping ones distance from flues. It is fortunate for travellers in the Harry Potter universe that JK Rowling decided to misspell the word as floo. Flues are to be avoided; floos are to be travelled via. Important distinction. Don't be confused.

Most people have no real worry with regard to avoiding the flue. Chimneys are often blocked up in old houses and rarely or never installed in modern houses. Flues, where they are installed, are usually to vent steam from boilers or to allow oxygen into heaters to prevent the production of the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Unless you are some sort of qualified certified gas fitter you shouldn't be messing about with these. Poorly installing or maintaining this equipment is a crime punishable with derision and detention. Don't do it. Avoid the flue like the plague.

If you're Father Christmas, the Grinch, god or Jack Skellington, then flues and chimneys are unfortunately an occupational hazard. As you know Father Christmas uses his magicks to transport him down any heating-related venting aperture so as to deposit parcels of branded shop-bought merchandise into the living rooms of the world's families. The Grinch, god and Jack Skellington are involved in the periodic imitation of Father Christmas, usually only when the whim takes hold of them. God also makes the tenuous claim to be everywhere at all times. So he is both in chimneys and away from them; having his cake and eating it too. There is no real advise I can offer these guys. They will just have to tolerate the flue as I see no way it can be avoided.

It might have made more sense, and been of more value, had the Random Topic Generator suggested the subject Avoiding the Flu. But it didn't, did it. It suggested Avoiding the Flue. So there we are. No advice about no subject. Be well, and may your life be happily free from flue/flu, delete as preferred.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

581: Counting Chickens and Eggs

You've got chickens. Six of them to be precise. They live in a hutch in the back garden and each morning you let them out into a fenced-off area of lawn. They cluck about the place, occasionally making futile flapping leaps up to or down from the fence. Every morning you provide water and food, and in return they buckbuck appreciatively and present a freshly laid egg. But wait. There are only five eggs. The evidence of the second sentence suggests that one should expect to see six eggs. Perhaps it's just an anomaly, a statistical blip. Check back the next day; hutch open, buckbuck, food water, still only five eggs. Again and again, day after day. One chicken is not pulling its weight.

Of course you are going to want to root out the dodger, prune the wastrel and expunge the weakling, but what is the best way to do it. I am going to set forth the best ways of identifying which chicken has laid which egg. This is very important. Unless this is done you may find the other chickens thinking well she's getting away with not laying so why am I bothering to squeeze one out of my cloaca every day just so that big thing can carry it away into its giant hutch. When this happens you'll soon find they all stop a-laying. This is simply to be avoided blah blah blah.

The first method is to obtain some pellets of uranium. This shouldn't be too much trouble so don't quibble about technical difficulties. You'll also need a Geiger counter and some chicken feed. Day one: take aside one of the chickens and feed her, separately from the others, with a mixture of chicken feed and uranium pellets. Test, with the Geiger counter, the eggs that are laid the next day. If none of them register as radioactive you have found your lazy chicken. If one is radioactive then the first chicken is off the hook. Repeat the process with the next chicken, and the next... until you have an answer. Don't worry about the radioactivity in the eggs, you can still eat them. Radioactivity is full of health-bringing properties and will lend you a warm attractive glow.

If, for some reason, you find it difficult getting hold of uranium (you're pathetic) then you may want to try this next method. Take six different colours of paint, in tubes, and squeeze each tube into the the cloaca of each chicken. The next day each egg will be brightly coloured in five of the six chromas. This method has the advantage of only taking one day and one night, whereas the previous method could take up to a week. You will be delighted by the brightly coloured eggs which are fun for children and adults alike.

The last method requires six boxes big enough to comfortably house one chicken for a night, but where are you going to get those from. Although it's pie-in-the-sky nonsense I may as well indulge. Stick the chickens in the boxes. Next day each box will contain one chicken and one egg. One box will contain a chicken but no egg. There is your slacker. Eat it. Or give it a telling off. Or give it therapy; ask it to open up about its relationship with father and mother; about its thoughts and worries. Take it to the chicken doctor to have its pipes examined. If he asks why the chicken is glowing and its back end is stuffed up with paint then run, run as fast as you can.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

580: Random Topic Generator

Here is a random subject generator; a tool for bloggers utterly devoid of inspiration and internal thought process. It's been almost twenty four hours since the last time I was called upon to write words, on a piece of non-existent paper, and during that time I've slept, been to work, spoken to various people about various things, shopped for spectacle frames, eaten Greek lamb and lentils in Manchester Arndale Market food court, ridden the tram, had a nap, watched a pretty good music video that features a friend's severed head mounted on a wall, made and eaten a delicious shepherds' pie, and here we all are. Also during that time my friend and godson have come to stay with us from Tanzania.

Despite all this activity I am reduced to clawing helplessly at the dregs of the random subject generator. How random it is, I do not know, since I have only seen, so far, the first subject it has generated. It is possible, and indeed likely, that it only actually has five subjects which it serves up cyclically in order to every helplessly empty-minded sucker who sucks. And here I am, helpless, empty-headed, and sucking, and the subject served to me is The autonomy of nude art. What this piece of code doesn't know is that I have already done my blog about nude art, here: My "Private" Library. What it also doesn't know is that I finished my art degree about seven years ago, and thus have no interest nor reason in unpicking the meaning behind pretentious phrases like The autonomy of nude art. There's just no need. No need at all.

Your favourite novels; Simple origami; Religions – ranked by age; A word that means something to you; Where to rent good snowboards; Chocolate, good or bad for you?; Nutrition for young kids; Your worst enemy; Your favourite dinosaur; The birth of Jazz; George Washington in the Revolutionary War; Cities to visit; DNA notations; A movie poster that has affected you; Music and mathematics; How to cut your spending. Those are the topics. There may be others but we haven't got all day. I can't tackle all of those so I'm just going to throw darts at the screen and wherever they stick, that subject, by dint of blind chance, becomes worthy of a sentence or two.

DNA Notations:

Cities to visit:
All of them, from Aalborg to Żywiec.

Where to rent good snowboards:
I don't know. Halfords, or somewhere.

A word that means something to you:

How to cut your spending:
Stop saying, "oh my god, I need those shoes, I don't know when I will wear them, but they are just so cute. Should I get them? I'm getting them."

Well, that went well.  More of the same tomorrow?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

579: Apprentices and Myself

You try and take me on and you might as well try and drown a shark. I'm a frequent flier, a blue sky thinker, an out of the box talker. You want original ideas, first class leadership, and awesome aptitude for anything and everything, then come to myself, I'm your man. I'm the new apprentice. I'm, like, just the fucking best and you are all a bunch of fucking idiots. Just look at myself. I mean, seriously, just look. Yeah? Are so seeing it? I bet you are, yeah. Goddamn, I'm good. And so, so smart, handsome, charismatic, humble. Give me a pound and a week and I'll give you a thousand pounds. Give me a year and I'll give you a million. Two years; ten million. I'm serious.

Now Lord Sugar, Alan, Al, can I call you Al? Lord Sugar, all the good ideas originated with myself, and all the bad ideas were the woman's fault. Fire the woman so it's just us blokes. Me, myself, and my hand-shaking, high-fiving, bullshitting, boys. Examples? You want examples? Well, fine, no problem; I got examples coming out my motherfucking ass, Lord Sugar. I was great a selling, and generating ideas. Footfall. I sold, sold, sold. I was tasked with monitoring footfall, generating numbers, and finalising, aligning, and crunching. You give me a job and you can be sure it will be done, withing or before the allotted time required for completion. Give me two jobs and I'll do them both. I'm like a plate spinner with three balls. I keep them all balanced on fingers and noses. When I say it's done you know it's done.

Marketing and sales, the two greatest modern art signs of a genius. Well, Lord Sugar, this is my face, and this is the sign of a genius. I know what I'm doing because I wasn't born into money. Not everyone can work up and get what I've got through myself and myselves on efforts. See this watch? I bought this by myself. My dad didn't even help or nuffink, Lord Sugar. Yeah, well it's a second generation family business. Yes, my dad did start it, but honestly that's not why I got the opportunity. I joined my dad's family business through dedication and hard work, spit and oil, dry skin and force. And with or without you Dad, I mean, Lord Sugar, sorry, easy mistake. But at this point I just want to say that I have so much more to prove. Give me another chance to show you and I won't let you down. Please, please, I can change, I can change.

OK, thank you for the opportunity, Lord Sugar. Good luck, guys. Goodbye everyone. Are you sure it's myself wot's fired? Oh, ok, just checking. I'm thorough like that. And determined. And... No, it's ok, I'll leave. Dicks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

578: Tom Waits in Specsavers, Kevin waits in Specsavers

I'm in Specsavers, or I was, I'm not now. Suspend your disbelief if you can. I'm in Specsavers, and they told me I would have to wait fifty minutes. Then they said maybe sixty, but they might try and get me in early if I could refrain from spilling apple juice on the carpet and scrawling wax crayon on the walls. I need new glasses. That's why I was there. Sitting in the back of the shop, staring out into the distance, out of the door and across the Arndale to the pound shop. Watching the other poor-sighted people stretching their weary legs. I wasn't watching anyone, I was reading a book. About all the elements of the periodic table. The building blocks of you and me and everything in between and everywhere else too.

There was music on. First there was that I wanna be a Dord, I want to be adored by the Manchester band whose name I can't remember right now, but I understand they were very popular. Then there was another song by that other Manchester band, you know the shit one everyone likes. Oasis. Then I wasn't listening to the music anymore because, you know, Oasis. Then I thought I was being called in but it was just to get my retinas photographed by a friendly trainee optician. Later the big boss optician would show me those photographers and compliment me on a nice set of blind spots. My shoes were dusty from the stock room at work, and I had a carrier bag with some books and a half eaten Eccles cake.

Some people who arrived probably thirty minutes after I did went in to see the optician before me. Every other person waiting received occasional personal apologies for the long wait, Mr Smith, sorry about your wait, Mr. Mohammad, apologies for the delay, don't worry, you're next, Mr Almqvist, sorry sorry sorry. This is outrageous I thought, then I had a little nap. Instead of making a little complaint -excuse me but I would like to be seen this week- I convinced myself that the people arriving after and being seeing before me had made appointments in advance. I started this blog post in the present tense, and made a point of pointing out the point, and at some point since then I have slipped into past tense.

The optician was nice. See said my glasses were scratched but my eyes were healthy and not getting any worse. When she shined a light in through my pupils and peered at the retina I asked if she could see my brain. She said, no, that's a bit further back and she couldn't see cos she didn't have her glasses on. She didn't say that, but I just thought it would have been a little bit funny if she had. She just said, no, I'm looking at your retinas. When the tests were all done and my prescription was printed she pressed a button and a little man came running in through the door -he wasn't little, he was considerably taller than I am- and started giving me sales pitches and all that. I extricated myself, not wishing to go through the faff of picking new frames. But back I'll need to go soon enough.

Oh, I forgot to mention that while waiting, an age after Oasis was played, I was surprised to hear a Tom Waits song. Hence the title of this blog post. It wouldn't have made much sense if I hadn't mentioned it now, would it. Jockey Full of Bourbon. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Because I'm an Artist n that or whatever

577: Two Big Beards

On the night I saw Laibach I saw, separately, two of the grandest and most wonderful beards I have ever seen in my life. The first was on Moss Lane, and was crossing the road attached to the face of a man. The man had wild and long mousy-brown hair and one of those indistinct faded-to-grey band t-shirts. The beard growing from the follicles of his face was something so special I hope it will stay with me for the rest of my life. It jutted out of his face about 18 inches in all directions; bright, bright orange, looking like an explosion of carrot juice forcing its way out of his stomach and into space at 115mph.

Although the owner of this exciting new work in the field of beard sculpture was some considerable distance down the road when I sighted him, the stunning size and considerable colour of this fiery facial fuzz lent it more than enough power to function practically as a hi-vis beard. Its high visibility allows for the wearer to cross the road in near darkness safe in the knowledge that even the blindest of careless drivers will see that beard from a safe stopping distance away.

Still reeling from the religious experience of seeing a big orange beard on the face of a man without bright orange hair on his head, I didn't expect to be further gifted by the god of note-worthy beards. But gifted I was whilst waiting for Laibach to take the stage, one of the fellows who fiddles with the knobs and wires wandered about doing his job. As he lifted up this wire and moved it there, then plugged one thing into another, then slightly altered the positioning of a microphone stand, a room full of music fans suddenly became beard fans.

This man had no hair on his head, just the rays of reflected light, but from his chin ran a solid black hair-chain down past the neck, past the chest, oh my god past the belly-button, surely it can't keep going, past the waist, aww hell naww, past the knees! Not quite, but its other end was bobbing around his knees. He looked like the sort of bloke you see on TV programmes about world record breakers, like he should have been swinging concrete blocks around his head. When he knelt down to fiddle with the technology he swung the plaited beard around and threw it over his shoulder.

So know you know. Two people have beards. One is orange, one is long. Great, eh?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

576: One for Ned (The One in which I take the Bait)

My own personal opinion is that comedy, like music, or cinema, or wrestling, can be an intellectually and emotionally stimulating art form, or it can be simplistic and dumb entertainment, good for a momentary chuckle but contributing nothing to 'the soul'. Stewart Lee's stylistic choices filter out those only interested in the quick shallow hit of Peter Kay or Michael McIntyre, but beneath the distraction of repetition and manufactured tedium are vast veins of metaphor, pathos, narrative, and indeed bathos. Stewart Lee's comedy doesn't just make me laugh -but it does make me laugh- it also reminds me what I love about the power of writing and of performance, and the power of good proper art to transcend genre boundaries and bare up well to repeated readings.

My words about Peter Kay earlier, rather than encouraging a defence of Peter Kay prompted a short and entirely misinformed tirade against Stewart Lee:
Yeah Peter Kay is shit same old formula, observations northern accents. Unlike Stewart Lee who has the 'popular = shit' and that other thing he does.........oh yeah that's it. Unless you count purposefully dragging 1topic to the point where its so not funny its funny. Well funny to those who follow the ' popular = shit'.
I know this is coming from someone who has probably only watched twenty minutes of a Stewart Lee routine out of the many hours that are available (four live DVDs, two series of Comedy Vehicle, three books, plus all the stuff he did with Richard Herring in the 90s), so it's not the most well informed of opinions. But it's the opinion of a good friend so I'm sure he won't mind me calling it out as total bullshit :P

Well, for a start Stewart Lee is a massive comic book and super hero fan, and has been for many years. This in itself is not particularly interesting, nor is it a devastating argument, but comics and the movies they spawn are certainly popular. For example, in the show Stand-Up Comedian, Lee does a long routine about the time he interviewed Ang Lee when he was directing Hulk. The butt of the joke is not some bullshit about how he doesn't like The Incredible Hulk now it is popular; it is about the embarrassment of making a poorly timed joke, and how that embarrassment can be piled on tenfold if the joke is misconstrued as being racially insensitive.

Throughout other pieces Lee has mocked religion, Mel Gibson, Joe Pasquale, Top Gear, pirates, Russell Brand, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. But his work is not one dimensional so if all you see is him saying 'I'm jealous of Russell Brand because he's more famous' you are profoundly missing the point. Art, and it is art, uses metaphor –one topic used to discuss another [...patronising...]- and this is a tool frequently used by Stewart Lee.

Since modern art came about all artists have needed to consider their medium. Why have I chosen clay, wood, canvas, paint, steel, balloons, spoken word, comedy, as my medium? What does the medium itself say about the art contained within? Stewart Lee discusses, at great length, the role of the comedian and comedy, and from that comes his parodies of Joe Pasquale, Michael McIntyre and Frankie Boyle. Joe Pasquale was an old-school comedian famed for having writers who would steal jokes from no-name comedians working the clubs. Pasquale would then shamelessly tell other people's jokes on TV. Plagiarism. Stewart Lee did a routine criticising this practise which ended in him attempting to write a joke that Pasquale couldn't steal. It is a routine about originality.

If You'd Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One is essentially one long routine about originality. In it Lee tries to work out his place in comedy. At the time of writing/recording the show the two biggest mainstream comedians were Michael McIntyre, an inoffensive foppish observational comedian, and Frankie Boyle, a deliberately disgusting comedian pushing at the limits of decency. Lee plays the role of lost wannabe attempting, and failing, to emulate the two popular, highly contrasting styles. As well as being a role it also has an element of truth, in exactly the same way that the very best wrestlers base their characters on their own failings and foibles.

So yes, some of the things that are the butt of his jokes are popular things, but they are not the butt because they are popular. They are the butt because they are shit; lacking in any cultural value; or they are not the butt at all, and are merely a narrative tool. The assumption that Stewart Lee mocks some popular things because he hates all popular things is clearly false. As false as the patently stupid idea that because something is popular it must be good. Plenty of good things are popular, plenty are unpopular. Plenty of popular things are shit; plenty of shit things are unpopular. For example this blog is deeply unpopular; however the analogy falls down there because I haven't yet decided if it's shit or not.

Part of the reason that comedians like Peter Kay are highly successful, whereas Stewart Lee is niche, is that Peter Kay's material works as individual jokes. Soundbites. There are lots of little stories, with punchlines and characters you recognise. Stewart Lee's material is a different kind of comedy entirely. It simply doesn't work in soundbites. The stories are long. This is not due to some massive failing on his part, but it is a choice (or perhaps a small failing that he has exploited well).

That said, it seems to me self evident that there will by necessity be loads of amazing things that are unpopular, and loads of shit things that are popular. This happens because marketing departments -you know, all the money people who rape art for its money making potential with no consideration for its real value- take the safest option, back things similar to previously successful ventures. The same shit gets bought and sold over and over. The exciting, difficult, adventurous stuff gets overlooked. This is why Hollywood movies based on books always stick in a romantic sub-plot, a happy ending, and a white lead actor. This is why Hollywood currently only makes sequels, revamps, or adaptions from comic books.

Tellingly, the comedian that is the butt of one of Lee's most sarcastic routines, is someone who is all but unknown. Tom O'Connor was apparently popular in the 1970s, but I've never heard of him. The joke is basically that Stewart Lee's mum saw Tom O'Connor performing on a cruise ship, where he did a great joke about a sardine, and until Stewart Lee is performing on cruise ships he will never be a success in the eyes of his mother. The jokes works because of, or in spite of, the fact that nobody knows who Tom O'Connor is.

It really doesn't matter for Stewart Lee's comedy whether the butt of the joke is popular or not; it matters whether they are sincere and original or not. It's not a case of "Popular = Shit"; rather a case of 'Shit = Shit, regardless of whether it's popular or not, but popular shit is usually easier to discuss'. That is all.


Friday, April 20, 2012

575: Little bird

Little bird.
Little baby bird.
Little dead baby bird.
Little dead baby bird
lying on the pavement.

It looked like a squidgy little jelly baby, or a newborn kangaroo crawling through the thicket of its mother's fur seeking out the comfort of the pouch and its wee nip-nips. It's a little spot around the corner from here, where cute miniature songbirds dance and lark in the bushes, hop along the paving stones a few steps ahead of me as I walk to and from the bus stop. I almost stepped on the stray immobile dot, the featherless vaguely bird-shaped squelch, laid out on the ground, but with perfect timing my eyes focused on it and my foot darted to the side.

It looked too young to have being attempting flight, and there was no sign of a smashed egg that it might have dropped out of. How it got there is a mystery. Where it went is also a mystery. When I walked past the same spot later that day I had my eyes wide open, combing the ground back and forth in search of the dead baby bird. It wasn't there. There is a very old episode of The Simpsons, I can't remember which one it is, but I have the image in my head of the dog licking up a big black liquorice-looking beetle. The 'camera' angle is low down, looking up high, so the dog's nose and tongue is gigantic, filling the screen. This is how I imagine the eventual resting place of the poor wee baby bird. Who knows. It probably ended up on the bottom of the postman's boot.

Poor wee thing. What it could have made for itself had the nameless tragedy of its premature death not occurred. A moments silence please for quiet reflection.

Thank you. Your presence here is appreciated.