The right kind of wrong

May 26, 2017

Repeat readers of my blog may have picked up that I have been finding this general election business hard to cope with. It seems to have become a race to the bottom where there have been so many toxic, hypocritical, left wingers digging down to the depths of hell that used to fit the Tories comfortably. Now even those loathsome creatures are having to shuffle uncomfortably on their arse cheeks to allow all the overprivaledged and vindictive nasty lefties a seat at the high table of the lowest levels of hell.

I’ve been trying to find a way to ably process all this rubbish. From the bare faced evil of the Tories, dragging out one vindictive policy after another to the point where their dinosaur voters, merrily sinking into the tar pits, are cheerfully welcoming their own demise. The Tory voters seem to be happily dancing towards the threshing machine with a smile on their face and a song in their heart while labour squabble in their various factions and mostly preach to the converted, whilst the media twists the truth whichever way it’s handful of wizened old male owners tell them to. In short, it’s all a pile of old shit!

My response is to look backwards, back to 1755 to be exact and to William Hogarth’s series of four paintings and subsequent etchings entitled The Election Humours. Over two hundred and fifty years and barely anything has changed, indistinguishable politician crawl their way up the greasy pole whilst corruption, violence and civil unrest surround them. The jingoism, the incinserity, the promises that will never be kept, it’s all there, nothing changes, not by much anyway.

This isn’t the first set of Hogarth etchings that I have done and for these I have decided to use the same materials, biro pen on cartridge paper, this most humble of mediums can produce a remarkable amount of variations depending on how it is used. 

The problem with trying to ape the work of Horgarth is that the guy was a compositional genius. The tricks he played with perspective and depth of field are ridiculously hard to recreate, that said, am trying my best. Even whilst doing one of my shoddy facimiles, the amount of technical under drawing is ridiculous. When you add to that the amount of research into all the art history references and the political and current affairs jokes of the time, things start getting really complicated. 

The first panel, An Election Entertainment is mainly a parody of Leonardo’s The Last Supper with an element of Caravagio’s The Conversion of St Paul thrown in for good measure. I’ve tried to take each element out of it and swap it for a modern equivalent. It’s simplified somewhat as my eyesight just isn’t that hot at the moment but hopefully I have got the general feel of the piece. I won’t go into detail of everything I’ve added as that spoils all the fun but hopefully it’s enough to keep the viewer engaged and scratching their heads a bit.  Time is also a factor as I would like these done by polling day. Sadly, the result for my local candidate is a forgone conclusion, which means that I can safely finish all four drawings before the results are even counted. It would, however, be a drawing I would cheerfully tear up if I got it wrong.

Whilst working over the technical drawings with all my usual chicken scratched characters a friend who used to work for one of the heavy hitters in the greetings card trade that she used to do similar. Working  from the extremely accurate, through to more and more free drawing. There is no other way to do it and get that desired effect. There are too many angles, too many overlaying elements, to just thrown it out there on the page. We decided by process of elimination to call it “getting the right sort of wrong” I rather like that.

Lost in your thoughts.

May 17, 2017

I have to admit that I’ve lost my way a bit over the last month or two, culminating with an event last weekend that knocked the wind out of my sails. I am usually very focused on what I want achieve and how I need to do it but the general stupidity/insanity of the world and indeed my own personal integrations left me feeling like a giraffe on roller skates. After making a decision I didn’t want to make, I was at my lowest ebb and there is only so long you can hide under the duvet before the world starts to tug at the corners and demand attention. After way too long in my pyjamas I was so muddle headed and I think a actually muttered out loud how badly I had lost my way… 

It was then it came to me, it was simple, I needed a map. Unfortunately a map to your own mind is not the sort of thing you can find online, or even somewhere like the amazing map shop Stanfords Nr Covent Garden. I used to love that place, particularly for its maps of the moon. So in the absense of that, I thought I’d best design my own. How do you begin though? 

I’ve met some utterly amazing people in my life and also some complete disasters. The thing is though with people who have fucked up their lives, even the most mad and ruined of the homeless that I know, it so rare for them to admit it. Having had to face that hurdle myself though, I know the utter relief that comes when you finally face how badly you have messed things up as it is only then that you can take steps to remedy the situation. Of the people I know who have been brave enough to admit what a balls up the have made of their lives, you hear the same story.  It is never just one thing, no one ever wakes up one day and goes “Do you know what? I am going to completely ruin my one and only go on this planet!” It’s almost always a slow accumulation of actions and circumstance. Sure, there may be one pivotal occurance that knocks everything off kilter, but it all will have been building up beforehand. 

We make one bad choice and that leads us down a path, a bad friend, drugs, wrong relationship, wrong job, this bad choice sets us up for the next thing, the bad friends of the bad friends, criminal record, long term illness, missed opportunity and that puts us in a place where we are vulnerable to more bad things. It’s often a long, slow process, there are no sign posts, no lines in the sand, we may in hindsight be able to look back and be able to pinpoint the exact moment where it all went wrong, but, when it was happening, it was just another day. Often, when we are in an awful place, we won’t even know it, our perceptions dictate our reality and trying to point out to someone who is fucking up that they are indeed fucking up is just like explaining the existence of dolphins to the ants at the bottom of your garden. 

What I’ve been trying to do is work out where the drift is, which thought, feeling or emotion leads to which. What I have done so far is only a first go, there is plenty that is missing or needs to be tinkered with. It serves its purpose though as I now know roughly where I am again. I’m somewhere around the mountains of self awareness, it’s not an easy path to take, but sorting yourself out takes a lot of hard work. It’s worth it when you do though as you end up in a better place than when you started, but whilst you are there, you often wish your were somewhere that involves less effort, the woods of avoidance say.

I will sort it out but I won’t bust a gut over it. I’m getting very tired now and the place I am definitely not in right now is the forest of sleepless nights.

Seeing Red

May 1, 2017

I have in the past been accused of being both negative and bitter, I have to disagree strongly with both assumptions. I think the problem is that people aren’t aware of the perception filters that they view the world through, permanently glued on rose coloured spectacles and, in some cases, blinkers that keep them safe in their cosy little world. I think I trod on my rose  coloured spectacles a long way back because for some strange reason I actually see what is there rather than what I’m expected to see.

Today is May Day and in the strange town I live in there is an odd confluence going on. There is the Jack In the green pseudo pagan festival where a version of paganism from the dawn of time (well, the seventies) celebrates fertility, fecundity and, erm, stuff. For some reason I have never quite grasped, there is also an influx of motorbikes and bikers, I can hear them roaring past now and it’s only early morning. As if this wasn’t bewildering enough, it’s also international workers day where we remember the plight of all our toiling brothers and sisters around the world and there is going to be a march of some sort.

So we have three masses of people there, all seeing the world differently. The green man people celebrating nature, the bikers showing off their chrome and steel pride and joys and the left wing workers celebrating and campaigning for more workers rights. Are they all right in their world view? They all seem to have taken one day and put totally different spins on it.

Here’s what I see…

I see people who drive cars, buy overpackaged goods and fly accross the world burning precious resources and then daub themselves in green for the day and sit on a cold and windswept outcrop and freeze in too flimsy clothes. I see (and hear) a bunch of selfish, polluting, sods, unnecessarily using fossil fuel to show off things they have bought that they really don’t need. And I see a bunch of people, mainly social and local government workers, who get paid very nice wages and good holidays to swan around from cafe to cafe, school to school and office to office, telling other people how to live their lives whilst making absolute balls ups of their own, wandering about with words on a stick before going down the pub to drop money on boozethat mostly goes straight to the government they claim to despise.

That is my view point of today. Is it any less valid than everybody else’s, Or less right because I am the only one with the bottle to put that in writing? What is more cynical, me reporting what I see and have evidence for seeing or the rampant greed, exploitation, pollution and hypocrisy that I choose not to buy into?

It’s not just today though, I see this every day and it exhausts and sickens me. I see, on both a local and national level, criminals and people who got people killed walking free, I see people who make a terrible mess of their jobs and leave the aftermath for others to deal with get paid handsomely for their failures, I see the most selfish and greedy amongst us try and preach to us about how we live our lives. 

Whilst watching Tony Blair waltz around the world after killing hundreds of thousands of people, Ed Balls dance about in sequins and blusher after helping to mess up the economy or Noel Edmunds prat about like a tit after getting some poor sod killed in an ill conceived television stunt, it’s the local characters that I see swanning around without a care in the world that really wind me up for much the same reasons. From hypocrisy, naked greed, negligence, through to corruption, peverting the course of justice and possibly manslaughter, it’s all there, walking past me in the street, parading about in silly outfits and doing things with impunity that teenagers would get asbos for doing. I have finally removed the fine details of most of the drivel from my life by having a huge Facebook notification purge but bits still trickle through. 

The silly dressing up stuff I can just about cope with, it’s the insults to mine and everyone else’s intelligence I have a problem with. From the made up back stories of the down from London crowd who were all doing something utterly amazing somewhere else before landing up here with no perceivable talent whatsoever except big mouths and boney elbows, to the constant need to patronise and demean the poor whilst using their knowledge of negotiating red tape (definitely not from jobs in the creative industries, more likely teaching and local government) to add insult to injury by paying themselves for doing so, the whole business sickens me.

Don’t worry though, I stare my critical gaze at myself in the mirror each day and find myself wanting and will happily fess up to all my many flaws, plus many more given the chance. In fact, I have had to do a load of work on myself to try and not do it anywhere near as much. The only thing that I will deny is having a fat arse, of which my snivelling, cowardly, shit of a troll accused me of a few months back. My bottom is very shapely as it goes and one of my better features and much nicer than my face. About the troll business, if you are one of the many internet curtain twitchers who read this and you know who my troll is and didn’t challenge them on it and are still associating with someone so utterly spineless, then I wish you the misery in life that you so richly deserve. I have the guts to put my name to what I write, they didn’t. If you know who did that and you never told me then you are a cunt. A scumbag of the lowest order and may your life be filled with pain and suffering and all the shit you so willingly aided and abetted in coming my way. There is no excuse for being that cowardly, that pathetic and that utterly spineless, never has been, never will. You are filth and as bad as them, end of story.

This is all part of the problem though, so few people really take a good hard look at themselves or the lives that they lead. They make up lies to tell to themselves and associate with people who buy into those lies. There are many lies in my home town today, diametrically opposed ones and mutually benificial ones all jockeying for position. They are staring you in the face should you choose to see them and while many today have their rose coloured specs and blinkers glued on, I am seeing red.

Auriga or Speer

March 24, 2017

Humanity has had some wonderful members, artist, thinkers, inventors, statespeople… People who have amazing ideas, and the people who help them to bring those ideas into fruition. Then there are the other ones… The people who come up with the really, really, stupid ideas. There was an infamous company called Ronco who were noted for repeatedly putting out utterly useless inventions, vinyl record cleaners that would cause more scratches the second one bit of dust got in them, sanding blocks that stank of rotten eggs, spray on hair… They did the occasional thing that worked and are still going but people remember the bad things they put in the world. The interesting thing is the amount of people and companies who start with a great idea, maybe two… then they come up with an absolute howler, Clive Sinclair brought home computing to millions of households in the form of the zx81 and the Spectrum only to inflict the ridiculous and potentially lethal c5 electric transport on the world. Prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his attempt to appease Adolf Hitler, Microsoft and some of their awful operating systems, Atari and their holes in the desert full of awful game cartridges Micheal Jackson’s Moonwalker film… How do these awful things get brought into being? Hubris on the part of the person with the idea, vanity, narcissism sometimes sheer lunacy, but all the above mentioned and many more require teams of people, huge investments in money and time to be brought into the world. Why, for example, did no one turn around to George Lucas and say, “that Jar Jar Binks character… What on earth are you thinking?” It can be partly put down to either fear of, or adulation of, power. Where people become unwilling to disagree with someone who is powerful or held in high regard for fear of the negative consequences, the classic Emporer’s new clothes scenario. It used to be that powerful people and the societies that they inhabited were aware of this phenomenon, as far back as the Roman Empire it was the job of someone called an Auriga to stand behind the Emporer at grand occasions and whisper “remember, you are just a man.” in their ear to help the rulers keep their feet on the ground, although this clearly didn’t work on Nero or Caligula. Kings used to employ jesters and fools for much the same reason, knowing that having only people who tell you what you want to hear never leads to anything good. 
History has taught us that behind every historical balls up there is at least one dangerously organised and willing person ready to aid those dumb ideas into being, Adolf Hitler would have just been just another ranting loony without the likes of Albert Speer to orchestrate and stage manage him or someone like Reinhart Heydrich to bring his most evil schemes into fruition and yet such names are already slipping into relative obscurity. It is arguable that British involvement in the Iraq war wouldn’t have happened without Blair’s boorish and bullying press secretary, Alistair Campbell, intimidating desenters into submission or the political wasteland. 
What motivates such people? The enablers, the henchpersons, the greasers of wheels, the dotters of ies and the crossers of tees? Is it belief in the person or cause that they are following? Is it that they are the extremest of people pleasers, seeking meaning and validation by being useful to someone, no matter the consequences? Or is it that need for power and influence without the fame or infamy of coming up with the actual plan? But really, what does it matter? That sad truth is that any of history’s enablers would have left the world far better off if they hadn’t aided and abetted other people’s stupid ideas and sat on the beach and read a book instead. Sometimes things are too stupid, awful or pointless to carry on or indeed happen in the first place and the best thing that can happen is… Well, that they don’t. 

Feeling Miffed

February 17, 2017

Dick Bruna died today aged 89.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this. He died in his sleep after a very successful and full life. I guess in a way I should be concentrating on the success aspect but I’m mostly concentrating on the age, 89. A year older than my frail, leukaemia ridden mum. The one that I moan about constantly. Some things are a bit sobering.

Miffy was something I came to late, a byproduct of my fascination with hello kitty in my late teens and beyond. Like a lot of people of what was called Generation X I became fascinated with everything cute and gaudy as a rejection of that eighties design ethic. It’s hard to imagine now but Hello Kitty and other Sanrio products were expensive and as rare as rocking horse poo. Hamleys had some Hello Kitty and a few shops in Chinatown but it was all super expensive. In the post goth, pre club kids, circles I used to knock about in it was as much a status symbol as yeezys or the latest Supreme collaboration would be today. Now it’s common enough to be disposable, an important thing to remember. Miffy was easier to get and considerably  cheaper. Looking back on it now, you have to appreciate the beauty and deceptive simplicity of the lines. This was pre photoshop and illustrator you have to remember, you couldn’t just chuck a couple of extra nodes in a line and pull round a perfect curve, a human being did that and it’s a lot harder than it looks. 

There was always something comforting and solid about Miffy, like Lego was once before it started to go in for all that licensed  character stuff in the nineties. It will carry on of course, like the moomins and the mr men and it will always charm children as it always has, but for a generation of grown up knocking fifty, there will be a lot of deep sadness today. 

And did those feet?

February 17, 2017

I’ve been having trouble with my piles! No! Not those ones silly! The piles of books beside my bed. I’ve been backing up for a while now…. Not the best choice of words. My rate of reading has slowed up due to the bother I have got myself into reading one particular book. The book is Jerusalem by Alan Moore and the problem is that it is just too bloody heavy! Maybe it is since the heart problems or maybe  it’s an age thing but weighing in at a kilo and a half , I just couldn’t  hold it up to read for very long at a time. It’s a long old book though, it makes Moby Dick look like a Mr Men book and the Lord of the Rings like one of those cheap novellas you get of popular films. I admitted defeat a few weeks back and bought it again on kindle and I hit the quarter mark yesterday, but it still taunts me by telling me that the next chapter will take two or three hours to read.

It’s particularly irking me today as after a few months of getting “the fear” about my next big project and I need to do some research. The inspiration came from the unlikeliest of sources, one which won’t even be getting a mention for his/her/their trouble. I have had a few things hovering about. The monkey, journey to the west is still torrenting me, but to be honest , I don’t think I am technically good enough in certain areas yet to tackle that successfully for the time being, plus I need more distance from the gorillaz version as that seems to be such a benchmark.

Sometimes inspiration creeps up on you, sometimes it clubs you over the head and sometimes it comes flying at you from all angles at once…. Or should that be Angels?

I’ve been thinking a lot about right and wrong, justice and injustice, morality and immorality, vengeance and all those Old Testament style, smote by the wrath of whoever things and how grey and messy they all become when we try and apply them to our lives. Unless someone is Buddha, or the Dalai Lama , we all get caught up in those olde timey emotions and can go off on one, be it through jealousy, wrath, vengeance or whatever, most people, myself included can start off with some sense of feeling  aggrieved and do stuff that, when the dust has settled and we get some distance on things, we wish we hadn’t done. Hindsight is a marvellous thing, but we have to remember how very human we are and cope with that on a daily basis.

I guess it is partly that notion of the baseness of humanity that led our ancestors to create notions of the divine, something better to aspire too and, in some religions, notions of hell and demons to punish us when we do wrong. 

Without going full Richard Dawkins, it’s easy to see the logic and evolution of divinity. From being the only species on the planet conscious of our own mortality and trying not to go mad through a full on existential crisis due to life being so short, grim, disease ridden and generally unpleasant that the only way of controlling the general population was through the promise of a greater reward in the next world. It’s easy to see the attraction of a heaven up above when, as our ancestors were, we have out feet permanently fixed to the ground and when you see birds flying up in the sky, it’s easy to see the appeal of having wings. I made a pair once, Icarus wings rather than Angel, it was for a schools television programme. The money wasn’t brilliant but I knew my little nephews would see it in class and their uncle’s name would appear in the credits and they would finally get what their mad uncle did with his days. My flat was covered in wax and white feathers for months but it was worth the effort, they didn’t work though, well not without a bit of cgi anyway. From looking at the heavens and marvelling at it all it is just a short leap to imagining Angels.

I’ve met a lot of people who believe in angels, they usually turn out to be the fluffy, good news giving, sort rather than  the god’s kneecap merchant variety that meet out the punishment smitings to sinners and assorted wrong doers. Blake saw Angels, which explains a lot. One of the nicest compliments anyone ever paid me was to liken me to a modern day Blake. Of course I assumed she meant Blakey from 70’s tv show “on the buses”, the despotic, tinpot, mini hitler who served as the inspector and all ’round bad guy, that would have made sense, but, no, she meant William Blake, artist, writer, engraver, poet and illustrator and all ’round mad clever cloggs. Oh if only I had a tenth of his talent… I doubt If I even have that. I was a lovely thing to say though, much appreciated! 

Like most people of my age, my first introduction to Blake was singing Jerusalem at junior school or rather mumbling along to it in assembly, not really understanding the combination of religious fervour and almost Utopianist political conviction. Blake was fortunate not to have been convicted of sedition or treason in his lifetime and it was a combination of people thinking him barking mad and not understanding what he was talking about that kept him out of Newgate. I suppose the poem tyger was the next thing I heard of, with that bit of extreme assonance around the word symmetry that gets trawled out in English literature classes.

He does a good Heaven does Blake, and Hell for that matter. I’ve always been interested in depictions of both, be they literary or pictorial. From Dante to Clive Barker, Signorelli to Rob Zombie, I do like an ethereal creature. The notion of falling from grace is always a fascinating one. Pride comes before a fall and all that. It’s straight out of the bible that one, Lucifer the Morningstar most beloved and beautiful of angels getting an ego on him and wanting a bit of adoration for himself and being unceremoniously booted out of heaven, there is a wonderful illustration in a book of hours by the Limbourg Brother of this, tiny it is,but so detailed. Many of us fall from grace, sometimes we learn something from it but many people just keep falling, making the same mistakes over and over again, scratching our heads and wondering why something isn’t going right for us. Lucifer really went for it though, becoming the Devil and all that. The notion of the Devil has mutated so much over the centuries, borrowing heavily from the Greek, Roman and Pagan deities, satyrs and the like, anything with, horns, hooves or big pointy teeth, but in the truest sense he is still to be regarded as a prince, and a handsome one at that.

Angels, Devils, Blake and Jerusalem have all been popping up in the strangest of places recently in my world as have those dangerously black and white notions of Old Testament style, eye for an eye vengeance, righteousness and all that crap. Far too clear cut interpretations of very grey, muddy, and obfuscated events. When something presents itself that fully you just have to go with it and hopefully I will learn something from it. You never know, I might actually make a few quid too… Stranger things have happened. 

Death is whimsical today!

February 13, 2017

Do you ever have one of those moments when you think you came up something only to realise that it was just lodged away in your brain somewhere and it suddenly popped out? Turns out that the above title to this blog entry was a phrase spoken by Gary oldman’s character in the film Leon. Damn! I wish I’d have thought of it! I was watching Back in Black earlier, a programme about the writer Terry Pratchett who died last year. He was always one for a beautifully turned phrase as was the much missed Douglas Adams. Writers of genre fiction can often be much maligned but I don’t  honestly know how anyone can survive in this world without reading something by each. Both Adams and Pratchett were both such wonderful observers of the human condition as was Jonathan Swift a few hundred years ago. Gullivers travels would have been quietly pigeonholed as fantasy back in Swift’s day, if there was such a thing, rather than a savage parody of politics, class and society of the Britain of the time in which it was written.

When I observe the goings on in my community, my mind is rubber banded back to the absurdities of the passengers of the golgafrinchian B ark in Adams’ A Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy and their adherence to completely self destructive doctrines. The description of the volunteers at the Sunshine home for sick dragons in Pratchett’s discword also seems rather apt right now. Terry Pratchett was such a fantastic observer of people and had a wonderful insight into their motivations for doing what they do.

What came across in the programme was that a lot of what propelled Terry to be such a prolific writer was a deep seated anger at the injustice of the world. Being written off from an early age, he was determined to prove a point and used all that fire inside to do it. Those who knew him well said that the character in his universe of characters most like himself was the formidable Granny Weatherwax, someone who would do the right thing rather than the nice thing or the kind thing as both the latter often turn out to be a cruelty in the long term. Perhaps the best known and most loved character in the discworld is that of death itself, who is equally bemused and fascinated by the souls he meets. It is such a cruel irony that Terry met his end much sooner than was fair and in such appalling circumstances where the thing that powered that thriving world of characters disintegrated over the course of a few short years. That righteous fury pushed him to write a further seven books after his diagnosis, a testament to the power of anger used well. 

I feel a deep sadness that it will probably take another hundred years or so for the world to get the true significance of what Terry Pratchett achieved, a Dickens for our times really…. I feel sadder still that reading has become so relatively devalued as a pastime. What makes me happy though is that these people ever existed, the writers, the thinkers, the day dreamers, the film makers, those with a singularity of thought to see the world around them and interpret it anew and in some way, beyond the petty dreams of politicians and empires, it is the stories and the pictures that live on. I find that a comforting thought. 

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