Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Persona Non Grata weeks 6 & 7

(originally posted on myspace here)


Look, I mean you're alright with me just leaving you with these, aren't you...

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("Planet Arkle" was a strip in The Big Issue, I think by Peter Arkle. As far as I can see there's no record of it on the internet, but I liked it.)

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Persona Non Grata weeks 4 & 5 (Handwriting is unprofessional)

(originally posted on myspace here)



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(I am indebted to Miss Natalie Haynes for a number of Medea's lines here, and for yesterday's "She was sexy, she was sticky, she was sex on a stick", and also for the re-naming of the Corn Exchange in tomorrow's post, while the thing at the bar is obviously a nod to David Cronenberg. My dad's just given me a hat like that... I used to get these strips in about an hour before the paper was put to bed. Editorial interference was therefore pretty minimal.)

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ah! Oops! (Persona Non Grata week 1: "I have been singed?")

(originally posted on myspace here)


... That last strip spent some time in Limbo. I was having problems with my mum's computer. Anyway I'm still in France but have this to hand, so here's where the story really starts. It appeared in the University paper back in 1996: I only had the one character, and he was always going to be called Jaundis - I'd decided that back when I was thirteen, imagining him as some kind of futuristic bounty-hunter - but I never got round to that strip ("Urban Vulture"). Then at eighteen I did get round to "My Quiff", but none of the independent titles rife at the time were willing to print anything so irredeemably wet. And then, then, I was finally approached to create a strip for Varsity at the age of twenty-one and had one more crack, which is this, and which, as I head home tomorrow, should hopefully take us up to the new year:

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Friday, 26 December 2008

Persona Non Grata -1 (whimsical and inconsequential)




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From 1993. That is tiny. Or maybe just far away. It's only up here because the narrator appeared three years later a little mellowed, in the strip I was hoping to upload before coming out to France for Christmas and haven't. Sorry. It was going to be great; the whole thing would be serialized and silly and festive and take us up to the new year but I met up with some people for drinks instead. Anyway how's your Christmas been, dear bunch? Get anything nice? I got a Harold Pinter! Worked fine for the first couple of hours but then...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

... aaaaaaaaand Satan!

(originally posted on myspace here)


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It's Monday the 22nd of December and the weather outside is thirty-seven minutes late, so whatever you're doing this morning be sure to leave plenty of time.

Apparently the Dungeons received a memo from "top office" to "tone down" SATAN'S GROTTO this year, and replace the line "I've killed Santa" with "I've kidnapped Santa", which we've done. And the displays team have set him just to the left of Satan's throne. Only he's a bit rotty. And nailed to a cross.

Still could be worse... I honestly don't think the sight of Santa's gnawed, eyeless, crucified carcass is going to be as traumatic as any actual Santa. I really do. "What's he doing in Bentalls?" I seem to remember asking myself as a six-year-old. Surely part of the mythos is you never actually get to see him, like 'Er Indoors or Doctor Claw or Humphrey Lyttelton.





That's a medley of money shots from Benjamin Christensen's enlightening 1922 expose "Haxan", re-released in the sixties as "Witchcraft Through the Ages" with narration by William Burroughs (the Haxan blooper reel's also up on youtube, featuring at 1 minute and 40 seconds in four takes of a nun "trying out a variety of ungodly titters"). And that's the director himself playing the devil, top off and tongue out, which must have made for an interesting set. (Warning: contains bumbums.) Anyway coming up next, as requested by Mr. James McQuillan, a short yuletide run of an old cartoon strip of mine "Persona Non Grata" as soon as I work out how to scan A3. Meantime here's more Santa.

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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

But Emily scared me...

(originally posted on myspace here)

 

 



... and looking over this opening again I think I can see why. It was the smile. I thought it was evil. And she looked like a ghost. Also I was a terrible racist until I was about five - all Asians looked to me like evil wizards - and I thought Emily looked Asian. Regional accents disturbed me as well so "Ivor the Engine" never really got a look in either, particularly those dragons (and nor did "Why Don't You?"). And they didn't show The Clangers when I was a toddler, which I think I would have loved (even though it wouldn't have made me laugh, like "Chorlton and the Wheelies") let alone Noggin the Nog - I must have missed those both by a few years - so what I'm saying is that Oliver Postgate's influence only really began to work on me when I became a teenager.

And I'm saying this because of course Oliver Postgate is now dead.

And that I should only love Smallfilms' output now - REALLY love them - makes perfect sense to me. Look at Bagpuss or Ivor, there's an inbuilt nostalgia. And I trust nostalgia. Perhaps that is the wrong word. I trust stuff that is old, and handmade. Such stuff has earned my trust, and the worlds built by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin in their magically non-magic shed are timeless, and chiefly responsible. So I should mark his passing somehow, definitely, and I'll do it by posting this link to Chris Goode's own excellent tribute here. It includes a recording of perhaps the last story Postgate ever told, the introduction to "Hippo World Guestbook", and praise for Postgate's own blog which is also well worth a look if you're interested (it's political, in a good way... ie it has a moral). Enjoy, all interested parties.

I just hope Brian Trueman doesn't die now.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

"And we've definitely checked EVERYTHING?"

(originally posted on myspace here)


The BBC you might have heard is incredibly nervous at the moment about putting another foot wrong: you can hear Adam and Joe checking with their producer to see if they're allowed to say "Smack My Bitch Up" just like the old days when you weren't allowed to hear "I Want Your Sex", all shows are now undergoing a three-day vetting period to ensure nothing which might possibly offend anyone reaches the internet etc, everyone's clearly under a lot of pressure to play it as safe as is humanly possible with no more "slip-ups"... in the light of which I found this image from The Mxxl On Sxndxy illustrating what's accidentally been programmed for Christmas Day SO HILARIOUS I CRIED.

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(It was lying in a cafe. I did not buy it. And it's not the outrage I'm promoting, just the delicious Oops of it... Sorry, have you already seen this? I'm a little out of the loop.)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Moon Alert!

(originally posted on myspace here)

Yes, moon alert: Tonight's full mooon will loom larger in the sky than it has since 1993, although peering through the blinds tonight all I see is cloud. Actually I should put some curtains up. Venetian blinds are all very well for a two-fisted man of letters keeping faith with Ridley Scott's vision of 21st century living, but it's getting quite cold now, and the bonsai tree by my brass bed's beginning to smell ill. Seriously it took me ages to locate the garlic odour.

On the subject of the moon, here's a short animation made by Paul Barritt accompanying a story by Suzanne Andrade; she stands in front of it, looking eerily like Jean Charles Deburau but with sexier hair, in their show "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" which I saw last night at the BAC:



They don't do cabaret any more. That's a shame because an hour of this on its own can look a bit phoney, whereas a fifteen-minute invasion of the stage of the Battersea Barge, say, is awesome… That's a terribly ungracious judgment for me to make however because I was sitting right at the front on my own, with a bad neck, and hadn't even paid and paying always gets you in the mood. But this was a Big Christmas Treat from the Battersea Arts Centre, you see, who'd invited me along to a "Brainstorming Session". I felt like a real player. After the show there were probably about two-hundred of us sat around tables with crackers and lasagne, two-hundred who had all, we were told, been "put on a list". Lewis was there (of "Alf and…" fame) and personal favourite Julian Fox. Crackers were pulled and tiny pairs of nail-clippers sent flying across the hall. And then the time came to "round table" some subjects, and I joined the round table that read:

ONE ON ONES

… firstly because of The Books of Soap and Interview Room H, but also because I found the name very pleasing to the eye and couldn't quite work out why. At this table the BAC's joint artistic director tabled the notion of a "one-on-one theatre festival" which sounded great. Then he suggested this festival might answer a demand from a public finding themselves in a "post-capitalist, post-Blairite, post-spin" era, hungry for honesty and "energized by Obama" etc. and I thought "Who? What? Oh no..." But it prompted Lewis to make what I thought was the most interesting and important point of the evening, namely that this demand for "one on one" theatre wasn't in fact coming from the public at all, but from us artists. It's us who want "the house-lights turned up" as he put it, far more than our paying or non-paying house. I love Lewis. And it seems to me a very important distinction for an artistic venue to make when deciding on its focus, and indeed for commentators in general. Art doesn't change direction because the public want it to but because the artists do; but artists are also of course the public - they're seeing stuff as well as making it, and chances are they're making the stuff they want to see. In other words, you don't necessarily need all these feedback forms. And the idea that the Battersea Arts Centre is somehow a barometer of national public interest is, when you think about it for a second, bonkers; what the BAC can I think genuinely take pride in is the interest they generate from the large number of artists wanting to produce work there. Dedum.

So anyway I walked home well-fed, clearly knowing everything there ever was to know about my chosen medium, found a DVD of "Planet Terror" in the living room, bunged it on and was immediately reminded how much I clearly wanted to DO THIS! THIS! MOVIES NOT THEATRE! THIS!!! Gah:

Friday, 12 December 2008

Awaiting Further Instructions

(originally posted on myspace here)



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I have written no screenplay-he-dee-dee-doe.
I have written no screenplay-he-dee.
Done nothin all the livelong day but written this song
And then whittled a fiddle out of whicker from a skip
And stuck it up me bum-dee-doe.


Dear Hollywood, I'm afraid I did not get round to writing "Fat Adolf" in the end but here is a song I just done instead, can you make a film of that? Yes? Excellent, phew that's a load off.

Writing isn't hard you know. Graham Linehan said in an episode of Screenwipe I have left it now too late to link to, it was like "doing a poo". Perhaps I should get off the pot then. Certainly I'm not going to get anything written at the British Library; people are distracting, and I've never written anything in a library I now realize. When I write I tell myself a story and take it down, and that means being on my own, maybe in bed, with warm low lighting. Sounds nice enough but I'm still not doing it, I'm simply filing these reports. Some excellent writers were interviewed for that Screenwipe and the only thing, disappointingly, they had in common was that they all dreaded writing. And willies. They all had willies in common I mean, they didn't all dread willies. Russell T. Davies' one piece of Advice To Writers was "Finish it", which is sterling.

Wednesday's the half-point, yes? The half-point of the week? So I'm at the half-point of my paid holiday now and that's five livelong days of procrastination (ten day week, yup... You weren't told? You're in for a big shock come Stansday)... five days in which I have written nothing, and done very little else either because I know I'm meant to be writing. Everything has been put off, even sleep. I mean I've been for walks. And into second-hand bookshops, as should now be obvious (NICE FACT TO STAVE OFF PANIC NECESSARY TO GET MY ARSE IN GEAR: Shunt have asked me to be in their next show, which is based on "L'Argent" by Zola. I've been looking for a copy). And I've been eating out a bit (SECOND PROCRASTINATION-FRIENDLY FACT: The money came through from those Mitchlook and Webbell sketches, the ones with this

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in, on the back of which I have now been invited to write for BBC 3's "The Wrong Door" following a very friendly meeting with - I think - the producer and receipt of a brief in which "Edgeyness" was misspelt.) I've been swimming. I've been running baths. I've found an old sitcom of my Dad's in its entirety on youtube, and been reminded yet again just how kind a writer he is, and how glamorous ITV used to be back in the eighties: that handover from Thames to LWT, those floodlit office blocks along the South Bank promising such good times for the weekend (recalled to perfect life in the opening credits of "Man To Man with Dean Lerner"), and Richard O' Sullivan in a pastel blue track-suit toppling suavely into Regent's Canal... I mean, yes, the BBC had the world for its logo, but ITV had the South Bank! And the West End! AT NIGHT!

And what am I going to see of that glamour, eh, in this day and age? Where will I find all the magic bits in a W1 I now know like the back of my tiny hand?... Anyway sitting in front of the laptop this morning looking at - I don't know - this maybe -
 

- I received a text out of the blue from Dr. Meikle of Foix: "Lazy bottom..shift and do something other than pretend you know what its like ouside!scoot!i think you should go to....maida vale today!why not."
So I got up and headed out.
I went to Maida Vale.
I'd never been.
It was sunny. I had ciabatta on a barge. I picked up a leaflet called "Little Venice Circular Walk". I hit Regent's Canal and attempted a run, like Richard O' Sullivan. I felt queasy and slowed down. Ibis to the left of me, dingoes to my right and up ahead moored to the Cumberland Basin, the top-heavy Feng Shang Floating Restaurant just waiting to be hijacked. I continued my way to the top of Primrose Hill and, similarly buoyed, awaited further instructions.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Ward Lock Wonder Book of Electricity (price 9/-) was quite a find.

(originally posted on myspace here)


Frontispiece...

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and inside...

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exciting glimpses of the future...

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(heh heh, mammoth washing)
eerie little landscapes...

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and then the madness...

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... yes, the electrodes should only be used by those who understand it. I'd say definitely.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Paradisehead

(originally posted on myspace here)


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From "Adam and Eve" by the late Willie Rushton and the Primitive painters of the Portal Gallery, a beautiful little book picked up in Oxfam in Kentish Town on a Sunday evening set aside to be spent as though the doctor with a talent for tenderness was in town and knocking about beside me (the "she" mentioned below is Mrs. Bradley, Rushton's own imaginary companion, like my doctor or that American who lives inside Jack Dee's head in 'Lead Baloon' - or maybe he's a ghost, or a cylon, I don't know. And the painting is "First Love" by Martin Leman):

"Now she's tut-tutting very loudly.
" 'Mr Leman,' I say, 'is well-known for his cats.' I don't know why I think this will help. 'World famous.'
" 'Tut-tut-tut.'
" 'He loves chess.'
"There is no way I am going to persuade her that these are two cats playing chess."

That made me laugh a lot. I loved this book:

"Tuesday: God brings every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air to Adam 'to see what he would call them. And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.' Here we were very lucky as he was 100% right."

And here's one of a number of bizarrely oblique jokes I recently unearthed that I had sent off to Private Eye back in the nineties. Eh?

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