Wednesday, 31 December 2014

REAL last post of 2014: The Worst Thing Ever Made

I nearly forgot!!! This year I discovered the worst thing ever made...

Last post of 2014: December 2013 - Writing/not writing

 Right, it's probably time I rounded off my clearing out of 2013...

I remember spending much of that Christmas playing Temple Run 2 on my newly received android tablet - a colourful and endless little adrenalin stimulant, shown above - and resolving that in 2014 I would... 
Hang on - I wrote it down. I'll see if I can find it:

Perhaps - Dare to be bored? 
 You'll only make something if you're bored. 
That might be why the Premier Inn came as such a relief [while I was touring "Ring" and writing for Mitchell and Webb] 
IN FACT Hotels in general 
I'm remembering in particular the single bed and the side table in Athens. But all hotel rooms seem to be built for a writer.
Maybe that's also why I moved my bed away from the wall.
Also remember how much you loved those lessons - only 45 minutes long - where you were left to just do something."

I also made the note: "Youtube video - on boredom", which is a reference to the V-sauce episode below. I remember David Mitchell arguing that boredom was a life skill which should be taught rather than banished from the classroom, but V-sauce goes one further - providing hard chemical evidence that boredom is not merely a side effect of creativity, but a symptom of it and even a spur:

God, I haven't watched that video in ages; I forgot he mentioned Genie. Louis C. K. makes a similar point when he talks about cultivating "the ability to just sit there": 

Just sit there.
I think I did okay this year. 
I didn't draw a monster a day, and I haven't yet made the album I promised myself I'd make this year and there's only an hour and a half to go.
But I stopped playing Temple Run 2. And then Keeps and I went to Los Angeles (where I was happy to learn she was as keen on becoming an American somehow as I was, if not keener) and then we returned and moved to our own place, and it's been great. I'm even thinking of moving the bed back against the wall.
So that was 2013. 
And this is 2014.
If you're traveling into London this evening, the message from the police is make sure you have a ticket. And whatever you're doing for the next hour and a half... and then in 2015... I don't know... whatever you do - whatever we do, let's do it on purpose and take no guff.
Here's to 2015. Be well.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Highest (Or: Why "The Towering Inferno" is a stupid title)

Good morning! I am now in France, where my parents have lived for nine years, and where my mum goes to Church, which is what we all did last night even though she's the only extant Christian. There was no room for an organist, so we sang carols to the backing of some karaoke machine, which meant we couldn't cut out any of the verses and had to perform "O Come All Ye Faithful" in its entirety, something that has quite possibly never happened before in the carol's history outside of Christmas, because it has something like thirty-two practically identical verses. Rendered thus light-headed, we heard the sermon.

"Black people are probably objectively more attractive than white people, once you get over the initial shock." Sorry, Togo Igawa!

The sermon was in English and a corker. The vicar had a lovely turn of phrase. He described the opening, baffling words of The Gospel According to John thus: "That's John showing you the picture on the cover of the jigsaw box". He also compared them to Procul Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale". These opening words are:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 
The same was in the beginning with God. 
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 
Which makes two of us." 

 "Mention Iraq to most people, and they'll probably think of those Indiana Jones-type fellas on the news." Stewart Scudamore's work here as the actor given nothing to do, by the way, is blisteringly good.

It goes on:
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
Sorry, whose name was John.
Not me. 
Another John.
That's how you can tell I'm not making this up.
Why would I have two guys called John if I was making it up?
Sorry - If I was making it up."

So the sermon was all about words... and I began to think about how the word Inferno, as in Dante's Inferno, had the same root as the word inferior. And I wondered why, by that same logic, Dante hadn't called the book about Heaven "Superno". It is after all, famously, "the highest". And I realised that the French for Hell - Infer - has nothing to do with fire, even though it does sound a bit like "fire", nor has the word Inferno, it just means "Down below". So "The Towering Inferno" literally means "The Towering Lowness". You idiot, Irwin Allen. Also Dante's Hell was cold.

"And a lot of the work here is of course still carried out by hand."
Three of my favourite lines.

A particularly religious bent to today's post then, but it's the reason for the season. Of course it's not the real reason for the season, the real reason is that it's dark and cold but getting lighter, but I went to church as a child, so that's the other reason. If I believed in God I'd definitely be a vicar or equivalent, all those people pretending to eat human flesh and crying out for grace and mercy and then having tea. Dad, as is also traditional, didn't say any of the joining-in bits. "What have I done wrong?" he reasoned. Then we drove home and had a great spaghetti bolognese, and he talked about the scene in Die Hard where Hans Gruber steals Mr. Takagi's watch. That never happened. He got that wrong.
Right. I hear rustling. Time to get up and pretend to be a child again, however that can best be managed. Can't put this off any longer. Good luck to us all.
Merry Christmas, readers!

Saturday, 20 December 2014


"Ninety-thousand clicks across the Zwark Sector - the most inhospitable of all the Hellworlds - just to deliver some zwarkin' orb? I don't get it."
"The God-Orb's return is the only thing that might prevent all-out Panhedral War, Zordon. Is it safely aboard?"
"Eighteen-inch thick Agnostium casing, just like you said."
"Then LET'S GO!"


Illustrator Unknown

Friday, 19 December 2014

The 70's: What Were They Thinking?!!!!!!!?

These publicity stills from the 1970's now freely available online would barely have caused anyone at the time to bat an eyelid! Seen in the light of what we know today however, they make for startling - and sometimes even chilling - viewing...


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No, your eyes aren't playing tricks! That's world-renowned, award-winning director Steven Spielberg larking around on set with a GIANT MAN-EATING SHARK. And it wasn't just sharks that were being treated differently in the seventies...


Hard to believe now that we used to teach monkeys to smoke but, well, see for yourself. Everyone smoked in the seventies. It was normal. Christ!
But look, if THAT wasn't bad enough...


Back in the seventies, kids could play with actual toys themed around a man who was LITERALLY called "Evel". That was his NAME!
Nice fucking toy, the seventies!
Oh it gets worse...


Yep. I'm afraid so.
And remember, this was on kids' television at tea time! Unthinkable now of course.
What? Oh, it's racist. This is a racist one. Isn't it? Yeah.
And speaking of racists...



No, wait. Spastics. Um, hello, Derek Griffiths? You're not allowed to say spastics!
You racist.
Unfortunately he's not the only seventies star with a past they'd probably rather forget...


Yep. Nowadays of course Jodie Foster is 52. But back in the seventies, as this photo proves, I'm afraid to say she was JUST FOURTEEN! Yikes.

7. Hello? The seventies? I don't think THAT'S how you drive.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

"Santa, we found someone even creepier than you."

BOO! It's the annual running of the Krampuses.

If the Christmas Doctor Who doesn't have a Krampus, it's missed a trick. Krampus is of course Saint Nicks' shaggy, old-religion, child-beating-after-it's-put-them-in-a-sack assistant. As Christoph Waltz explained to Jimmy Fallon "there's an old medieval tradition that is still kept alive in the mountains, where the young men... put on sheepskin and huge carved wooden masks and cow bells, and they get drunk... and storm like the riders of the apocalypse, through the village." The Austrian kids seem to love it.

Really though, I'm just looking for some context in which to post one of my all-time favourite Christmas clips, see below. It too features children beaming inexplicably at a horrific, What-Am-I-Please-Kill-Me costume and is if anything even more terrifying than Krampuslauf, because in this clip the kids are now sharing a car with it. Where are its eye-holes? Has it seen that dog? Will the howling of the siren ever stop? Ably heckled by Mystery Science Theatre 3000's Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson and Bill Corbett under the "Rifftrax" banner, here is the finale from probably their greatest find - Pirateworld's dismal promotional feature: "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny". Enjoy.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Minimalism's all I'm capable of, which keeps costs down.

"Take what you've got and fly with it." Jim Henson said that.

My mate Paul Thompson also said something along those lines, and equally pithy. I was talking to him about how I wanted to make an album before the year was out, even though I couldn't play a musical instrument. We were crammed into the Players' Bar. Paul's a musician, but we've known each other from the London Dungeon for seven years or so. Here's something of his:

He'd asked me to appear as a post-apocalyptic clown (plus sundry other supporting characters) in a play he'd written for the London Horror Festival back in October. (I based my performance on the video at the bottom of this post, of Max Wall dying in Germany). It was Paul's first play as a writer, and it read like a dream in at least two senses. I reckon musicians are good at dialogue. Rehearsals involved a trip to his flat, a few ideas on how we'd perform these lines - who'd take what, and when - then just running this through, script in hand. Then having something to eat. The next rehearsal we'd try it differently... It was a very nice way to work, and when we finally came to perform "It's Only A Matter Of Time" in a pleasingly packed Etc Theatre a number of the things we attempted on stage had never been rehearsed.

 Photo by Lanna Meggy

But not so you'd know.
Anyway, as the pianist at the Players' launched inevitably into Rocket Man and those people finally left that table, Paul and I talked about making things and - I guess - mininalism - or at least the Mirroboy video, and how I only played two notes on the guitar and how that was one of the jokes, and he put something very important very succintly:
"It's about making it matter."
Well said, Paul. That's exactly it. Whether it's Galton and Simpson and a Sunday afternoon, Shakespeare and the verb "to be", a bowl of fruit, a wicker chair, the colour blue, or four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence and waiting for Godot, it's just about making it matter.
That's why I wanted to make an album in the first place, I think. I like writing lyrics. There are fewer words, and they matter more.
So I'd better get on with it.

Speaking of not much, shall we look at the rest of that aborted draw-a-monster-a-day project? Yes, they're dreadful. Let's get that out of the way.

Oh well.
Here's that video of Max Wall then.
Who knows how these things happen?


... If only Zanthenor could silence the memory of the attack-ships' tongues. "Run, baby!" Doktor Kool-Hands had telepashouted - "Those mothers are coming after us. And they don't give TWO HOOTS!"
... "What are you looking at?"
It was Zwiblibb, come to show Zanthenor his new microcosm.
"What? Oh. Nothing, Zwiblibb. Just staring into the middle distance."
"Zwiblibb, I'm just having a flashback- Ow! HEY!"
And, like that, the tongues were silenced.

Illustration by Mark Wheatley

Saturday, 13 December 2014


"One more game! Oh, COME ON, MAN! This isn't a luxury for me, Ziiziliphsh, I need it for WORK! Making a sale's all about making an impression, I don't have to tell you that - I NEED THIS HOVER-SEGWAY! Do you know how dumb I look just walking in this suit! Come ON! ONE more game! Best of nine! YOU OWE ME THAT... What's that you're doing with your hand? Two?... Best of  TWO? But we've already played - Oh, I see. So that's a No?"

Illustration by Marco Patrito

Friday, 12 December 2014

Monsters Placeholder and Angels Place

Well folks, it's coming to the end of the year, so let's look back at how those resolutions went, for example, the draw-a-monster-a-day project. That didn't even make it to the end of February, and who can blame it? I mean, these aren't that great. Sometimes I try to make something out of that, mainly I don't. Anyway, here's February's remaining monsters.

Now that one was at least supposed to look slightly off.

And the one above was copied from a toilet wall in Liverpool, which is why it's interesting.

 Then we went to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks...

 What? Well, whatever I've written here when I arrived, I know I didn't feel it when we left.

This silhouette approached us downtown. The streets there are pretty empty of people without blankets.

But we loved Los Angeles. To anyone wondering where their jet pack is now it's 2014, it's probably in Los Angeles. It's just there's no record of that love in these drawings.
And after these, the intervals between them only got larger...

"I was driving down Sunset, and I turned down one of those roads that leads up into the hills. And we stopped at this place that overlooks the whole city, it was fantastic. I suddenly felt exhilerated. I was really moved by the geometry of the place - its conception - its brittle harmony. It's a fabulous city. To think some people claim it's an ugly city when it's really pure poetry, it just kills me. I wanted to build something right then, create something. You know what I mean?" 00:22:43 in. Um, in Italian, Sorry.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

"The Walking-Stick of Destiny" by Lewis Carroll

Here's a little bit of Lewis Carroll juvenilia that I found in a second-hand bookshop, as performed by me on my third coffee. Christmas!

I am happy to go on record as finding very few things as funny as someone being interrupted, particularly someone interrupting themself.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Story Cards for Feral Children

The following set of six colourful, pre-water-damaged cards have been specifically designed to arrest the attention of your feral child, and to encourage discussion about such topics as friendship, language, humans and woods.

Okay, I actually came up with these cards as part of a three day workshop with the actor Ellie Kendrick - who is extraordinary and by no means scared of her own drool - and Gemma Brockis, who has been wanting to make something about feral children for years. It was fun, and often exciting.