Friday, 17 October 2014

Brand new bollocks

The other evening Twitter alerted me to the fact that erstwhile comedian, actor and television presenter Russell Brand had occupied Wall Street. This came as little surprise, as he is turning into a right prat.

Russell Brand is an interesting sort of chap. Most people grow out of the risibly simplistic and teenage desire for revolution, or any other such tearing down of the existing social fabric, in their early twenties or whenever else they have finished college. Alas, Brand claims to be interested in doing so only now that he was reached comfortable middle age. One can only assume that this is born out of a desire for self-flagellation stemming from a lack of self-esteem, because come the revolution the first people against the wall will be big-gobbed Pre-Raphaelite millionaire fannies.

Brand cannot just be dismissed out of hand. He has respect and an eager audience, not least off the back of a lot of his intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful journalism. But his transformation into a slacker messiah is particularly ill-timed. His arguments against voting could not really come at a worse time.

There are elements to his argument which are easy to sympathise with. British politics has been turning itself into a grey-brown morass of sameness for the best part of twenty years, ever since Tony Blair decided that the Labour Party were unelectable without transforming themselves into a nasty bunch of Thatcherite weasel bags. Voting is an increasingly difficult sell in these circumstances.

But there are still significant differences between the major British parties. No-one could pretend that a Labour government would have different inclinations and priorities to the current Coalition one, or that the path of the current government hasn't been influenced or tempered by the lousy, Quisling stink-bag Liberal Democrats. Yes, British political figures are a largely unlikeable bunch of braying, over-privileged tits, but ever was it thus.

The only result of apathy, however, is demagoguery. Political parties will tailor their policies towards those people who are likely to vote and to people who are likely to vote alone. What sort of policy would that make? Well, just check the polls and see how well UKIP are doing. Young, open-minded liberal people may feel increasingly marginalised by this but they're not going to see any improvements by disenfranchising themselves further; worse yet, by disenfranchising themselves through their own choice.

I like Russell Brand. I like him as a comedian, I like him as a broadcaster and I like him as a writer. I respect him. As such find his efforts to turn himself into David Icke all the more painful, not least because of the fact that he - ironically enough - represents many of the good things and positive things that a British government should be interested in fighting for. He is an intelligent, engaging and stimulating presence in our cultural life. But, to paraphrase Chris Rock's thoughts on Flavor Flav during the 2008 US Presidential election, Russell Brand needs to shut his fucking mouth until after next May. Because this is more important than his ego.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The idiots are winning, on both sides

What is happening to the UK now only time will tell, but it's a chastening period nonetheless. Experience and knowledge of national character suggest to me that in the end there will be very little change, as to gain any measure of wider acceptance in Britain has always required a degree of moderateness. Moderation is, however, not currently in abundance. There is a distinct sense of the lunatics taking over the asylum.

On one side you've got UKIP, let's face it. One could try to find some sort of overarching name for them, but it seems a futile challenge. "Right-wing" is too relative a term while "fascists" is far too inflammatory and dense with historical implication. They're just UKIP. UKIP is the name given to the thing that embodies a recognisable British trope: deeply conservative, aggressively against change, NIMBYish, easily scared, blinkeredly nationalistic. All UKIP the political party have done is given them something specifically targeted to vote for.

They don't like Europe, the barmy EU or that crazy European Court of Human Rights. We don't need that sort here. We got by without them before. And by the way: re. World War II, you're WELCOME.

These people are idiots, but they've always been walking amongst us. My grandparents would probably all have been UKIP voters, given the chance. My grandparents weren't bad people. They certainly weren't snarling fascists, though people like that, too, have undeniably also always been part of the Great British melting pot. No, my grandparents were just not particularly clever.

The good thing about people not being particularly clever is that the situation is relatively easy to address: you educate them. Doing so is fairly easy, too, in this case. Tess Daly, Simon Cowell or Keith Lemon strongly coming out against the UKIP mentality would do it. As would The Daily Mail, The Daily Express or The Sun stopping being such unutterable bastards. A little bit of education would go a long way.

Of course, a little bit of education can create problems of its own. On the other side of the British equation these days are people so bleeding heart liberal it's a wonder they can even stand up. Their brand of hyper-equality is so relentlessly unquestioning and accepting that they would be just as big a problem as UKIP if they hadn't been brought up so well. They're less in-your face, but don't ever doubt that these sweaty, hand-wringing wassocks are just as big a bunch of idiots as the others.

They're the ones who argue that a there need to be more black football managers, disabled contestants on The Apprentice and that dogs and cats over five years old should get paternity leave. They are so busy trying to level the playing field that they don't realise that behind them they've been ploughing it. Call me old-fashioned, but I've always thought that the best person for the job is probably the best person for the job. If that person happens to be a 50-year old white man from Surrey, then so be it. 87% of people who live in the UK are white, after all, despite what the UKIPs will tell you, sweatily grinding their teeth down to powder.

The hand-wringers do have a point. It is, sadly, inescapable to note countless times throughout even this country's recent history that someone equally as qualified, as good for the role, will have been passed over because they are a woman, because they are disabled or because they are from an ethnic minority. Luckily, there are now laws against this. The victims of such discrimination have recourse to compensation and the culprits can and should face prosecution.

This is not an ideal scenario. In a perfect world, it wouldn't happen at all. But it is a good fall-back position. Better than the idea that, for every future managerial vacancy at a football club there should be at least one black candidate in the mix. Oh goody. We've (somehow) negotiated our way through the most turbulent and dangerous century in human history and what has popped out at the end? Tokenism. Get a token black candidate in. Make sure someone is disabled, too. There probably ought to be a Muslim, now we think of it. And a Christian, yes, OK. Anyone else for anyone else?

It's a hard-fought battle between two equally blinkered, difficult and self-righteous foes. For the people stuck in the middle it seems like an unrelenting deluge of shite. Luckily for us, social media at least lets us accurately design our own little worlds, free from the bellicose forces of dumb that rain down all around us. They're also a good place to share the latest viral videos! Today's one is of a child with a really very bad case of headlice!

Yes, they are speaking Spanish, why do you ask?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

News from the world of art

I've been neglecting to update this blog, which is a shameful state of affairs not least because I definitely enjoy doing it. The fact that I seem to get as many, or sometimes even more, page views when I'm not updating this site will be of supreme disinterest to me from now on as I try to amend my errant ways. I know what the public want, which is for there to be less of me. As an avowed contrarian and noted sociopath, this is a challenge I couldn't turn down.

One reason that I've not been hammering words into this fountain of knowledge is that I've rediscovered masturbation been doing a lot of art. So much art that it has come at the expense of other things. Principally among these other things is "selling art", which will perhaps not come as any surprise to anyone who has closely followed my business career.

Nevertheless, I have been doing some moving and shaking in the creative community. I put together a collection of some of my better pieces and toddled off to Brighton to decorate (or decimate, depending on your point of view) the walls of Munch Coffee Shop in Kemp Town. If you're in the area you should definitely call in: the staff are friendly, the atmosphere is nice and the food and drink are made on site right under your very nose. Plus it is located just a couple of minutes' walk from the Brighton Magistrates Court, so there's always a chance you might see a defendant or two furtively skulking about with a muffin.

This is all over the walls of Munch, Brighton.

All but one of those pictures are on sale to the public, so just drop by the shop and have a look. If by some strange and inexplicable set of circumstances you don't live in Sussex, you can always instead drop me a line. Contact details, as ever, are in the sidebar on the right of the page.

BUT WAIT! Getting all of this stuff out of the house to stretch its legs gave me a giddying glance of the joy of having a bit of space to put new things in. As such, I've got some other things that didn't make it in time for the walls of Munch but are just as excited by the prospect of finding new homes, away from the moths, at LOW LOW sale prices. Take a look.

THE TITLE FIGHT - 25 x 25 x 3.5cm, acrylic on box canvas. £75

UK BORDER PATROL - 14 x 19 cm, pencil and watercolour on 300 gsm paper. £30

RHINO - 19 x 28cm, pen, ink and watercolour on 300 gsm paper. £40.


GROOMING CAT - 21 x 29.5cm, pen, ink and watercolour on 220 gsm paper. £35,

GOJIRA! - 30 x 34cm, ink, tempera and pencil on 300 gsm paper £50

HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS & ELEPHANTS - 21 x 29.5cm, ink and watercolour on recycled paper, £20

ADELAIDE CRESCENT, HOVE - 28 x 38cm, acrylic and watercolour on 300 gsm paper. £75.

DOG - 20.5 x 29.5cm, acrylic on recycled magazine page. £25.

PACHYCEPHALOSAURUS AND STEGOSAURUS - both 15 x 21cm, pen, ink and watercolour on 300 gsm paper.
£20 each or £30 for the pair.

As ever, if anything catches your fancy, get in touch. My contact details are in the sidebar on the right of the page or you can click this link HERE to email me. If buying original artwork isn't your bag of pulses, you can always check out my Redbubble page. There you'll find all sorts of pictures I've done and there's also the option to buy them as prints, phone covers, tote bags, t-shirts or cushion covers. There are also some Christmas cards available to buy, for the fatalistic among you. But there'll be more about that closer to the time, no doubt.

Putting a tree in your house is a pretty daft thing to do, when you really analyse it.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Which country has the best flag?

Flags are important and powerful things. They represent a whole nation's personality, history and identity. That is a lot of responsibility for anyone to take on, so it's little wonder that so many flags try to keep it as simple as possible.

But simple, formulaic flags are boring. Someone from France, Ireland or Romania might be moved by the sight of their tricolour, but it hardly sets the pulses racing from a purely aesthetic point of view. The majority of the world's flags fit in to these same-old, same-old templates.

This is not the case for this fly twenty-five. Unique design elements, unusual patterns and unexpected colours are their calling card. Imagine being from one of these countries and seeing your flag fluttering up its pole. "Hell yeah!", you'd scream, probably fit to punch a horse. Maybe you are. If so, rest assured that you are very lucky and leave those horses alone.

(NB: This list is 100% accurate and non-negotiable. Only flags from sovereign nations have been considered. Sorry Wales.)

25 Zimbabwe
A bird hat on your flag is worth two in the bush

24 Brazil
"Ordem e Progresso" is Portuguese for "check THIS flag out"

23 Qatar
Almost unique in design, completely unique in proportions and in colour. Score.

22 Vietnam
It's not a unique design (Somalia has the same one but with a white star on a sky blue background),
but something about this flag just screams "I AM VIETNAM". You'd probably guess it was the
Vietnamese flag even if you didn't know. It is almost unimaginably beautiful as a piece of design.

21 Switzerland
It's one of only two square flags in the world (Vatican City has the other) but this one wins.
The subtlety and crisp accuracy of this flag gives me the horn and puts holes in me cheese.

20 Cyprus
Cyprus go for the map flag. An over-literal approach, perhaps? Like hell it is.

19 Panama
Oh HELLS yeah

18 Brunei
There's all manner of things going on here. Keeps you entertained for hours.

17 Swaziland
This flag wails "don't mess with us, we've got old time African tribal weapons up in this gaff"

16 Eritrea
Like someone shot a tricolour through a prism, then folded it up wrong. Plus hand tree!

15 Comoros
"What elements shall we put on our flag?" "All".

14 Uganda
"Double Belgium sideways with a stork, please"

13 Papua New Guinea
Stars. Bird. Diagonals.

12 Saint Lucia
Turbomountain

11 Central African Republic
CENTRAL VERTICAL BAND, BITCHES

10 Seychelles
"Because fuck you, that's why"

9 Bhutan
Diagonals. Dragons. Didragonals.

8 Guyana
Bitchin' flag, this way >>>

7 Kiribati
Come on

6 Nepal
Because rectangles are for wimps

5 FYR Macedonia
Brasso

4 Mozambique
Star. Book. Hoe. And...AND... A MOTHER FUCKING AK-47.

3 Sri Lanka
Every single thing about this flag rules.

2 Grenada
Like playing the world's funnest board game, in the world's best circus, in space. On fire.

1 Antigua and Barbuda
Look at the way the blue band seems to bend to form a horizon. More flags need optical illusions, please.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The almost completely inexplicable artwork choices of The Beach Boys

I love The Beach Boys. I always think more of people who say the same thing. But we seem to be an increasingly skulking, cowed band of largely silent disciples. We all consider that of all the groups in the history of popular music, The Beach Boys are the one who deserve more credit and critical recognition than they generally receive. But on the whole we keep it to ourselves.

There are a few reasons why they have generally been last in the queue when retrospective accolades of greatness are being distributed. Perhaps a lot of them have been identical to the reasons why their fans generally don't try and push their music onto anybody else.

First is that there was a fundamental break in their creative output at the height of their powers in the mid-1960s. Creative differences within the group and Brian Wilson's increasingly parlous mental health - exacerbated, no doubt, by the truckloads of drugs he was taking on a daily basis - caused the Smile album project to dissolve into a series of half-worked tracks and afterthoughts which gradually peppered all of the band's future releases. Shorn of their proper context, they were never as potent as they might have been.

Then there are people who consider them to be an itsy-ditsy band of one-trick ponies. Simple pedlars of surf music or lovey-dovey hippy peaceniks. These people could probably be shown that this isn't the case with a little education, but you'll probably find that they are spectacularly resistant to submitting themselves to such.

And I think that this might be because of a third reason, one which has increasingly been vexing me lately. Specifically, it is the fact that The Beach Boys had a troubling tendency to give some of their most important record releases peculiarly awful, strange and unsuitable cover artwork.

Pet Sounds (1966) - pioneering, epoch-making, pop masterpiece. So, you know, obviously goaty.

Why did they do this? It's hard to say, especially considering that early in their contractual negotiations with Capitol Records the group managed to gain a more autonomous approach to recording at their own expense in exchange for a greater share of the sales royalties. In other words, they needed their records to sell more than most of their contemporaries did. And this was all OK when they were being acclaimed as superstars and Brian Wilson as the Mozart of popular music. People would have bought those records even if the cover had been a splayed anus. However, an album of the half-baked songs spat out by a failed concept album, performed by drug casualties and the worst kind of late 1960s hippy, is a rather harder sell. Putting the record in a paper bag with a $1 bill stapled to the front was probably the wisest course of action, and one which of course the band did not take.

Friends (1968) - low key,  understated and quietly beautiful post-Pet Sounds hidden gem. Best depicted
by a dazzlingly terrifying glimpse into the shattered, disembodied astral plane of an alternate dimension.

Maybe they were making a broader philosophical point about the nature of perception? Of appearances and realities? The records were, for the most part, still great after all. As I clearly implied in the opening sentence. It's possible, albeit a slim possibility. But The Beach Boys were never a band who dealt in slim possibilities. They were all about telling you that you should meditate, growing big beards and imagining that they were a tree.

Surf's Up (1971) - perhaps the last great collection of original material released by the group in
their classic era. So a dismal, unsettling image of a man and horse being impaled in a storm, then.

No, the likely scenario is also the conclusion that I'd hoped I'd not have to draw. But here it is: they were fannies. The sort of fannies whose fannydom did nothing to impair their ear for music, but in any sphere outside of that, all bets were off. Oh well.

Endless Summer (1974) - huge-selling mid-1970s compilation of all of the group's biggest hits,
by extension virtually perfect. Coupled with a picture which could be distributed to every school
in a successful campaign to warn children about the dangers of almost anything. Especially
approaching strange middle-aged men who skulk in bushes. During a tsunami.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Elephants and testicles

I think that it is now universally accepted that cancer can do one, so it's always good to see anyone stepping up to facilitate this process. The doing of one. CheckOneTwo are raising awareness of a cancer which predominantly strikes men. Women may well also be affected by testicular cancer but largely their own testicles remain unfettered.

Testicular cancer is the most likely cancer to afflict young adult men but it is also one of the most curable and survivable. The five year survival rate of sufferers in the UK is over 97%. As with all cancers, to give yourself the best chance it is best to catch it early. That's where CheckOneTwo's #FEELINGNUTS campaign comes in.

So, the next time your partner, spouse or mother tell you to stop playing with your goolies "because we're in the Harvester", stand up and be proud. For you are taking care of business and responsibility for your own health. For once, wrangling your knackers is the sensible, grown-up thing to do. As it ever was.


For more information on CheckOneTwo's #FEELINGNUTS campaign, you can visit their website, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or watch their YouTube channel.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Rik Mayall 1958-2014

Other people have died before, of course. And unless we've been horribly lied to, they will again. I might, even. But I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Rik Mayall crossed that bridge today, numbingly, crushingly, horribly early. It's perhaps the only thing he has ever done to the British public that has not made them laugh riotously and made them feel glad to be alive.

Because that's what Rik Mayall was. A lightning bolt of energy, a distillation of every good thing about this existence, a cocked thumb at all the shitty things that grind people down. Those shitty things are boring. Rik Mayall was never boring a day in his life.


I was too young to have been affected by The Young Ones but the general opinion - and it's not just an opinion that has been made as a snap judgement before today's tears have dried - is that it was comedy's equivalent of the atomic bomb. A programme that was cutting edge, thrilling, visceral, terrifying; a moment in time after which nothing could ever be the same, even if we decided we wanted it to.

Being too young for The Young Ones had its own benefits, mind you. Most of the people who were so altered by it would probably have been off at university or starting out in their working lives when I was watching Rik present Grim Tales, one of the most dazzling, anarchic and brilliant storytelling exercises ever committed to television, let alone children's television. There was never anyone better on children's television than Rik Mayall. He made all the new things seem scary and impossibly exciting all at once.

There was Bottom, too, of course. For the Oppenheimer of alternative comedy to make such an oddly broad, childish and knockabout exercise in smut and toilet humour should have seemed anachronistic. It never did, though. There's no point in trying to analyse why that was. It just was. Rik Mayall understood what was, understood the absurdity of what was, and made us all shit our pants laughing about it.

In the last part of his life, post quad-bike accident (but I refuse to refer to it as "in his later years", he was only 56 years old, for god's sake) his appearances on TV became more sporadic but no less effective or exceptional. The only difference was that they were an even bigger treat. Last year he played in Greg Davies' excellent Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, a programme which I have only just this last month caught up on. He stole the show, of course, without it ever being to the detriment of the overall piece. Like everything else, it seems inconceivable that he won't be back in the second series.

It seems inconceivable that he won't be back, full stop. Rik Mayall and comedy were indivisible in my mind. People have died before, of course, and we've always found some way to recover enough to laugh again. It feels different this time. Peculiar.

We will all laugh again, of course. Rik Mayall won't be there to hear it, but I like to think that there'll be a small part of every titter, chuckle or guffaw which is a tribute to him, his life and his work. Thank you, Rik.

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