Thursday, June 30, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 181 - Pirate Special Day 4

Not much time to work on the picture today; just some work to the face, the parrot and frock coat. Tomorrow I intend to do a lot more.

For a few months now I've been looking for a way to 'lift' my paintings and to make them more vibrant. Acrylics tend to be a bit flat compared to oils. I assume this is because oils have a 'sheen'. So, taking advice from an art shop owner in Oxford today I bought a gloss varnish for specific use on acrylics. I've tested it on an older picture and it intensifies the colours beautifully. I'll be using it on all of my paintings from now on.

I learn something new every day.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 180 - Pirate Special Day 3

I couldn't do much to the painting yesterday (or today for that matter) as I was tucked up with meetings and some other work. however, I have done some more work on the head and here's the state of play at the end of Day 3. In total, so far, I've spent around six hours on the painting.

Setting Sale

I've decided to have a major clear out. Consequently I'm going to sell off most of my archive of old illustrations; for example, these that I did for a book project that never happened back in the 1990s:

If you think you might be interested, check out my sales page on ebay ... prices start all low as 1p!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ow! My brains!

Have you ever seen a film called Idiocracy? It was a minor hit in 2006, written and directed by Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead etc.), but has since become a bit of a cult film. The central premise is that the world is going to get stupid. Really stupid. Because all the smart people have the good jobs and spend all their time climbing the corporate ladder, they don't have time for lasting relationships or kids. Meanwhile, the dole-scrounging, uneducated 'trailer trash' are popping kids out in their millions. There eventually comes a tipping point where the population hits intellectual rock bottom and society collapses. By 2505, everyone lives on junk food because the crops won't grow - mainly because they're being watered with chemical-filled soft drinks rather than water ('Water? You mean the stuff in toilets? Eeuuw!') - and the most popular TV show features a man called Chavez who gets whacked in the cobblers every five seconds or so. It's called Ow! My Balls! Into this tragic new world comes Corporal Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson), the subject of a 2005 US Army experiment in suspended animation. He finds himsef the smartest man on the planet but, rather than being hailed as some kind of saviour, he is derided for 'talking like a fag' and being 'tarded' because he doesn't see the value of a judicial system based upon monster trucks and flame throwers.

Does it kind of sound like the way we're going? I honestly expect Ow! My Balls! to turn up in the schedules soon. Let's be honest, Jackass is already halfway there. But funny as that is, it genuinely worries me that it's the slippery slope to an Idiocratic future. Don't get me wrong; I'm no genius and I don't even have a degree. I have a very modest brain. But I am already fed up with television programmers treating me like some kind of moron. And I can only assume that they believe that you lot - their audiences - are all morons too.

What else explains the terrible dumbing-down of documentary series? Once upon a time wildlife shows, for example, were brought to you by a knowledgeable, charismatic presenter who visited parts of the world that you never probably will and who then amazed you with footage of extraordinary plants and animals. As you watched, their well-scripted, intelligent voiceovers would add even more insight and wonder. Their passion and enthusiasm rubbed off on you. Jacques Cousteau. David Bellamy. Tony Soper. The inimitable David Attenborough. Wonderful, inspirational television. But now it all seems to be whizzy CGI and snappy music video effects sequences and some currently popular celebrity reading a script over the top. It's just not the same. And as for the repetition ...

And as for the repetition ... doesn't that drive you mad? Every ten minutes or so, the narrator does a recap of what you've seen already. It's starting to get me down, it really is. I watched a Discovery Channel documentary on Sunday that promised to be a fascinating look at new evidence that T Rex may have hunted in packs. It was an hour long programme. It should have been 10 minutes at most for all of the factual evidence it offered. Despite my temptation to flick channels, I stayed with it until the end, mainly because I was counting how many times the fact that 'we can learn much about the running speed of a juvenile T Rex by looking at ostriches as they have similar legs.' Eleven times. That fact - actually, it's only a supposition - was mentioned 11 times in a 50 minute programme. And they recapped after every one of the six commercial breaks. Astonishing. It seems to be a practice that originated in the USA but it's well and truly infected our channels now. I'm a big fan of Heston Blumenthal but his otherwise enjoyable Channel 4 'Feast' series makes us all endure a three minute recap after EVERY commercial break. I understand that this is to inform channel hoppers who come across it by accident but it's insulting and deadly boring to those of us already watching. And, anyway, surely the thing to do is to make the start of each segment so damned interesting that you stay hooked to find out what's going on? Are programme makers really that insecure of their product? They don't do it for drama series do they? Oh hell ... I might have given them the idea now ...

I look through the TV schedules and I despair. Compete for the meat. Peter Andre - The Next Chapter. It's me or the Dog. I'm sure they have their audiences and that they are entertaining. And why not? Television shouldn't just be about education. But add to that the seemingly endless (and doubtless cheap as chips) property shows, antique shows, scaremongering 'you will die on holiday/in your kitchen/on the road' type programmes and anything featuring Peaches Geldof, Paris Hilton and Jeremy Fecking Kyle and the schedules start to become unbalanced in favour of the cheap and tawdry. But I'm not finished. We haven't yet added the reality shows featuring celebrities half the public have never heard of dancing, cooking and torturing insects in the jungle. And I've reserved a particularly feculent corner of Hell's septic tank for all of those fly-on-the-wall-what's-the-bloody-point-of-this? shows about airports, trucking companies, motorway police and dieting. Many so-called documentaries are more about shock than education with hugely overweight or deformed people on display. It's fat porn and freakshows. Even big-hitter shows like The X Factor Auditions are basically nothing more than a TV sanctioned opportunity for us to gawp and laugh at the clearly deranged and occasionally mentally ill. Oh look at the silly woman having her unrealistic dreams destroyed! Ha! That man with the weird eyes thinks he can sing but he can't! We're better than this surely? Don't we deserve better TV?

We can't all like every TV show and the world would be a boring place if everyone had the same tastes. But there must be balance. When Lord Reith announced the arrival of the BBC he promised that its mission would be to 'Educate, inform and entertain'. Wouldn't it be great if the TV channels all stuck to that and educated, informed and entertained in equal measure? I'm sure what Reith imagined were programmes like Life on Earth, QI, Lark rise to Candleford, Sherlock, Luther .... So why then are the schedules so top-heavy with 'popular' science dross, endless soaps and reality shows and utter shite like Don't scare the hare?

I mentioned dumbing-down. How about this for a great example: Horrible Histories is a truly excellent kids' show that makes history interesting and entertaining. I salute it! It's brilliant fun. And, as I say, it's for kids. But now the BBC have cobbled parts of it together with links by Stephen Fry and put it on Sunday evenings so we can all learn from it. Yes, you and me and all the other thickie adults who need a reformatted children's show to teach us something about Romans. Maybe that's not the BBC's intention. If I'm reading the situation wrongly, I apologise. But that's what it feels like to me. I'm 50 years old this year and I really don't need a catchy heavy metal spoof song to understand the Viking way of life.

I was prompted to write this blog by the news that yesterday the TED Talks website celebrated its fifth anniversary and a staggering 500 million views. TED, if you've not found it yet, is an organisation dedicated to encouraging us all to think. They hold conferences and shows and invite a staggeringly diverse range of people to deliver short 20 minute talks on their area of expertise. All of these videos are then posted to the TED website for us to watch for free. And they get over 100 million viewers per year. Staggering. But guess what? TED offered their talks to the BBC and they turned them down as being 'too intellectual'. Really? I challenge you to watch any of their talks and not understand what's going on. Look, I've even posted one of them below for you to watch. It's actually the most watched of all of the TED videos and, ironically,it's of Sir Ken Robinson decrying the education system that stifles creativity and aims for the lowest common denominator:

I despair.

365 Doodles - Day 179

No pirate painting today as I'm away from the easel in London. So here's another scan from one of my many notebooks. Wizards and gnomes.

Monday, June 27, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 178 - Pirate Special Day 2

Day 2 of the pirate painting and I've spent all of my time experimenting with different colour mixes and tones for the flesh and beard. I've then applied some of the detail to the face, hat and headscarf. Tomorrow I'm in London all day so won't get chance to do much with it (if anything), but on Wednesday I'll finish the head and move on to the parrot.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 177 - Pirate Special Day 1

I've started a new painting of a pirate. Here's the sketchpad page that kicked it off:

As longtime readers will know, painting is still a new thing for me; I only started last year. I've drawn and done colour illustrations like this for years:

That was one for a possible book project and it was done in pen and ink, watercolour and coloured inks. But it is an illustration and not a painting.

The art of painting has always eluded me. I couldn't get to grips with it at school (they were obsessed with oils, which I still can't use) and I've had no training since. So I decided last year that I would teach myself. I've been watching TV shows, reading books, visiting galleries and making the most of local art weeks here in Buckinghamshire and nearby Oxfordshire. At the moment, we're just starting Week Two of the Bucks Open Studios fortnight, which is a great opportunity to visit artists where they live and work and to chat about their technique.

It's now been just over a year, and about 20 canvasses, since I decided to teach myself to paint. It's been a struggle but I'm passionate about it and have the luxury of time in which to practice (the only upside of being unemployed). I've arrived at a kind of technique that suits me and I thought I'd use my blog, and the new pirate painting, to demonstrate it.

So, first, I drew the figure onto the canvas and then marked out the main forms with a watered-down Venetian Red acrylic (1). Then I washed down the Venetian Red even more and added in the shading (2). I decided that light would come from the left:

I then painted the sky and the sea (3). I've used more blues than greens because they'll work nicely with the pirate's orangey-red frock coat and beard. Plus, the warm browns, yellows and oranges in the wood of the decking will work nicely against blue. I blocked in the main 'woody' area next (4):

Then I blocked in the main areas of colour on the pirate figure himself. For this first day of painting I don't use thick paints. I water them down slightly so thatI can see where the underpainting shows through. This will provide me with a guide for the light and dark areas. The aim at this stage is to, as Rolf Harris puts it, 'Kill the white'; to get the canvas covered in paint. So here's where I got to at the end of Day 1:

The next stage will be to work from top of canvas to bottom, adding more layers of colour and depth and detail. More tomorrow as the painting develops.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 176

Another page from one of my notebooks, this time mostly concerned with illustrations for my book of Cornish folktales Henhwedhlow. At bottom right of the left hand page you can see the first doodle that ultimately led to this:

Friday, June 24, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 175

A typical page from one of my notebooks. Contains the original sketch for this picture:

Let's have an English takeaway tonight

Many years ago, more than I care to remember frankly, I took on an evening job washing pots and pans in a restaurant in my home town of Helston, Cornwall. It was called The Gondolier and was run by a small, excitable Italian chef called Salvatore Pisano. After I'd worked there for a bit, and on a day of severe staff shortage, he allowed me to have a go at plating up desserts. I obviously displayed some kind of aptitude for it as I was soon making desserts and starters every day. Within six months I was helping to cook the mains and, in no time at all, had learned most of the basics of being a chef. It was great experience and, to this day, I can cook just about anything and love being in the kitchen.

When I moved to London to become a cop, I rented a house with two guys; a helicopter engineer called Steve and an accountant called John who worked for Heinz foods. That's us in the photo above demonstrating what happens when you mix snow with excessive alcohol. Without going into all the sordid details, it was rather like living in an extended episode of Men behaving badly most of the time with endless parties and a mini-pub, replete with barrels of lager and bitter, taps and cooling unit etc. set up permanently in the kitchen. I cooked most of the food, which was no bad thing as John brought endless freebies and cheapies home from his work and Man cannot live on beans alone - as we would have done if he'd taken on the cooking chores.

Cooking and food have always been a big part of my life and is undoubtedly why there's several big parts of me. I've always had a love of good food but a very poor relationship with it; I eat when I'm sad, I go out for a meal and some beers to celebrate when I'm happy. Sigh. How I envy the people who pick at a lettuce leaf and soon feel full. Or do I? Food is a pleasure. It's just a shame that, like most pleasures, if you have too much it does you harm.

I'd eat out every day if I could. I love discovering new restaurants and am always keen to try new cuisines. I have eaten everything from honey ants to crocodile to squirrel and everything in between. Upon arriving in London in 1980, I went into foodie overload as Cornwall didn't, at that time, have such things as Indian or Thai or even Greek food outlets. I saved up and ate in many of the toppest restaurants for the sheer experience and soon developed a fairly encyclopaedic knowledge of London's eateries, some of which are still there. Being a cop in the West End in the mid-late 1980s, I was often asked by tourists for good restaurants to eat in and could usually answer their questions. All except one:

'Where can I get a good traditional British meal?'

It was a tough one to answer. There was a Beefeater Steakhouse and a Wimpey. There were pubs that served roast dinners or that specialised in pies (though nowhere near the quality found in some gastro pubs now). There were greasy spooneries where you could get a Full English. If you had some money you could try tea at the Ritz or visit Tiddy Dol's in Mayfair. But that was pretty much it. Plus, there was the unanswered question of what 'British Cuisine' actually is. Some people may scoff at the idea that such a thing even exists but it does. The problem is that it's hugely fragmentary.

I'm not sure if anyone actually knows how many different accents there are in the UK but I suspect it's in the thousands. In some rural areas, there are differences even between villages. On top of all of that, there are dialect words brought in from old Celtic, Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Class also has a bearing as some people are taught to speak 'recieved pronunciation' as a standard. Well, British cuisine is much the same; there's no central or national cuisine. It ranges from bloaters and whisky, haggis and neeps and square suasage in Scotland right down to pasties and clotted cream, Star Gazey Pie, saffron buns and hog's pudding in Cornwall. Many counties have their own delicacies and so do many towns and cities. A truly British restaurant would offer the finest produce and the best dishes from all over the UK. And what a fabulous restaurant that would be! Just think about the astonishing range of cheeses we produce, the chutneys and pickles, the glorious casseroles and stews. Then there's what we do best - puddings. Not desserts but puddings; spotted dick, rhubarb crumble with properly thick custard (Creme Anglais? Pah!), Cornish ice cream, treacle tarts and bread and butter puddings. It's great to see people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall trying to get us back to eating great British food ... but I still can't spot the British restaurants in London's West End. Damn me, if I had the money, I'd open a chain of them.

Or maybe I'd capitalise on the reputation we have for poor food and unhealthy eating? I could open a Comfort Food Restaurant chain called Stodgies where sad people could come to cry and assuage their melancholy with artery-clogging delicacies. The music played gently overhead would be by Morrissey and The Cure or, on really tragic days, Dido or the Lighthouse Family. I'm imagining the menu now ...

My Hamster Died - Chicken nuggets served in a plastic ball.

My boyfriend dumped me - Chocolate sponge cake with chocolate chips and chocolate icing served with chocolate sauce. Shaped like a voodoo doll and served with a variety of very sharp cutlery.

No one understands me - A slice of your favourite pizza, dipped in beer batter and deep-fried.

The Jeremy Kyle Special - Only available in the trailer annexe. Everything on the menu served with Diamond White or Buckfast Tonic Wine. Fights encouraged.

Any suggestions for other delights at Stodgies?

Pizza with brains

I spent a splendid few hours yesterday in the company of some good friends and possibly some of the most interesting and inspiring people a man could know. They were (L to R): James Harkin, QI 'elf' and one of the BBC TV show's four scriptwriters; Marc Abrahams, creator of the Ig Nobel Awards and publisher of the always excellent Annals of Improbable Research; and Dan Schreiber, QI data miner, stand-up comedian and co-producer of BBC Radio 4's ever-excellent Museum of Curiosity. Individually, they are a stream of interesting facts and fascinating insights. Together, they are a raging torrent.

Three hours passed like minutes as the topics ranged from humanoid robots to terrible nose-related puns to face-related analysis to honour cultures. And, according to the plaque on the outside of the restaurant, we were sat in the UK's oldest pizza restaurant, the Pizza Express in Wardour Street, Soho. Apparently, its first pizza oven was brought all the way over from Rome along with a man to operate it but soon fell into disuse. In 1965, an entrepreneur called Peter Boizot bought the defunct restaurant for £100, borrowing the money off a friend. After a dramatic interior redecoration, pizza was sold at two bob a slice (10p). The reason the chain has jazz playing in the background - or live jazz in the case of some branches - is that Boizot was a huge fan of the Expresso Luna in Frankfurt, where jazz and pizza went hand in hand. He tried to bring that same ambience to London but, despite its good value, it took a while for it to catch on with the fish and chips and Beatles-loving Brits but it eventually did and Boizot was soon able to open a second restaurant in Coptic Street. The rest is, as they say, history.

There's always something interesting to find out wherever you are.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 174

A promotional page for a comic that was never published about humans and aliens mucking along in a post-natural catastrophe London. These two were strippers. I turned the comic into a novel in the end.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 173

A doodle completed in under one minute today for @SUZW1, a Twitter chum who asked for 'a usually happy tree hugger hippy type with the flu'.

A day of treats

Yesterday, my day in London was one of those excellently busy days where you cram a lot in and get a great deal more out of it. My first port of call was Canary Wharf in the heart to Docklands to meet with that most splendid of chaps, Mr Rory Sutherland (above). Rory, if you don't know of him, is an ad man. He's in the business of making us all buy stuff and he's very good at it. He's now Vice-Chairman of the Ogilvy Group of companies. But he's also something of a philanthropist and, in recent years, has taken a keen interest in looking at how some of the tools and techniques used in marketing can be used to improve lives. That's what we were discussing today; I was getting some material for a book I'm researching while he was interested in how I'd used things like behavioural economics to reduce crime and the fear of crime. A fascinating couple of hours with a great thinker. Do watch his TED talks here:

Then it was on to the infamous Ten Bells pub in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, for a beer or two with my chum, the artist known as Mr Bingo. We get on very well, me and Bingo. Mostly because I used to be a cop and he's fascinated by true crime. So we sat there, in this pub that is steeped in the blood of Jack the Ripper's crimes, shooting the breeze. Did I not mention that? The Ten Bells is the pub most likely frequented by some of Jack's victims and many of the internal features are still as they were back then (read more here). Bingo is a wonderful artist. Here are a couple of his recent commissions:

Do visit his website here. And buy some prints or his nifty little postcard book.

Last meet of the day was with my journalist friend Joel Meadows. We had press passes to a talk at the British Library about New Worlds magazine and the New Age of Sci-Fi that dawned in the 1960s. On the panel were some real heavyweights of the era; Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Norman Spinrad and John Clute.

The talk was lively and interesting if occasionally rambling and off-topic. But later I got the chance to meet them all and to say thanks to them for giving me so much pleasure over the years.

A good day. I wish they were all like this one was.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 171

Doodled this evening as I watched telly. I have no idea where my subconscious will take me most of the time. Oh, and earlier today I snapped this photo:

I spotted it in a field somewhere between Holmer Green and Little Kimble while en route to Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire.

Is there something I should know?

Should I be expecting some kind of alien invasion?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 170

A test illustration for a children's book project that may or may not happen. Probably may not, sadly. Snotty cold-filled Jack and his alien dog get comforted by Mum. From a story writte by Terry Bergin.

Not remotely happy

I've never thought of myself as a Luddite or any kind of technological dinosaur. I like machines. I like stuff with bells and whistles and sexy features. I am a bloke after all. However, it does come with a proviso; it has to, in some way, make my life easier or more enriched. If it makes life more difficult or needlessly complex, I'm out.

This coming Tuesday I'll be kind-of interviewing that giant of advertising and marketing, Rory Sutherland (Click here to see his two outstanding TED talks). Well, I say 'interview'; it's more of a chat. I'm interested in some of his insights for my next book and he's interested in getting some stories from me about my life in the Met Police's Problem Solving Unit. What we have in common is a belief that the best way to get 'buy in' to an idea is to make it easy for people to participate.

As Rory points out in one of his TED talks, we'd all save more money if there was a big red button on the wall that saved £10 every time we pressed it. The simple interface makes us more likely to use it. The reality is that if we want to save money, we currently have to go through the rigmarole of setting up standing orders etc. Yawn. Do what I do. I have a simple interface (a jar with a slit in the lid) into which I put all of my change up to and including 20p pieces. I empty it once a year, usually around Christmas. Last December there was £108 in it. It covered most of the Christmas food and booze bill. Imagine if I did it with fivers.

Or look at organ donation. The majority of people say it's a good thing and that they'd be willing to do so. And yet only a small proportion of the public has taken the effort to track down a donor card or log on to the donor website. The interface is too hard. We all want to be spoon-fed. Though we don't like to admit it, we are a species of short-cutters. Almost without exception, we will take the easier route rather than the hard one and if we can avoid hassle on the way, we will. As a simple example, look at Desire Lines. Desire Lines are the paths that most people will take, often in preference to a proscribed route, if given free choice. Here's a perfect example:

Someone has gone to the effort to create a tarmac path for people to walk on but, for reasons known only to them, have chosen to put the path away from where people want to walk. The Desire Line is the one worn into the grass and mud on the left. That's actually where people want to walk. If they'd researched it beforehand, they'd have put the path in the right place. And it would have been cheaper as the distance covered is shorter than that of the 'proper' path. When I was involved in crime prevention work, I would always look at Desire Lines. Why put CCTV on a path that no one uses? It's better placed on the 'unofficial' short cut that everyone does use, surely? The science behind my work involved understanding human habits and behaviour. And once you understood that, you could employ clever tricks to make people move in particular directions, make them gather or not gather in certain areas, and even modify their behaviour. Or, to be more precise, to let people's natural tendency to take the quickest and easiest route and manipulate that behaviour for the common good. If this sounds like an interesting area of science I urge you to visit Dan Lockton's site at Brunel University (here) - he can explain much further and in greater depth than this humble blog will allow.

So, what has this to do with technology and Luddites? I'll explain. Look at this remote control:

It's the one for my telly. And it's not even an HDTV or 3DTV. Just look at the buttons. All of those sodding buttons. I mean ... Window. PIP/POP. S Mode. P Mode. And as for the ones with little icons ... I have absolutely no idea what any of them do and, more importantly, have never needed them. It's a fecking television. What more can I possibly need a remote for than to change channels and turn the sound up and down? And maybe some 'Red Button' extra stuff. Being a digital signal I never have to worry about colour, brightness, contrast and all that malarkey. The SCART leads mean that the telly 'knows' whether I want to watch a DVD or shake my bootie with the Wii. So what are all these buttons for? And why bother me with them?

It's a classic case of what happens when geeks create products they'd like rather than what the customers actually need. Or want, I suspect. The 'Desire Line' on my remote is visible in which buttons are shiny and worn with use when compared to the pristine untouched buttons. Is it just me being a dinosaur? I don't think so. I'm a simple soul who wants an easy life. I want a TV that I don't have to read an instruction book to operate. Why is that apparently no longer possible? All my TV has to do is show me moving pictures, nothing more. And surely, with fewer buttons and functions my TV and its remote would be cheaper too? We'd all like that surely?

The DVD remote is even worse. What do I want my DVD player to do? Play DVDs. That's all. The sound and vision side of things is already controlled by my TV. All I want my DVD player to do is play and occasionally pause, stop, wind or rewind. By my reckoning that's five buttons - seven at worst if you want to skip between chapters. Okay, nine if you're too lazy to get off your arse and press the power on/off or eject disc buttons. So why does my remote have 41 buttons?! I'm not joking. FORTY FECKING ONE. Look:

This is not the cockpit of the space shuttle. This is a £19.99 DVD player from Tesco. I kid you not. It's fecking madness. Didn't Arthur C Clarke say something about the highest forms of technology being indistinguishable from magic? A wizard doesn't need forty one buttons on his munting wand does he?

All of which brings me full circle to Rory. Like all advertisers, he knows that the most popular products are those that are simple. The simplest and easiest products to use are the ones that sell in billions and for decade after decade. Come up with as many fancy alternatives as you like but people still buy bristle brooms, water kettles and steam irons because they do what you want and you don't need a degree to figure out how to work them. They also remain easily affordable because of that simplicity. I want the same for my technology. I want it to be usable straight out of the box, just like a kettle. I want as few buttons on my remotes as possible and I want those buttons to only do the things I need them to do. I never want to have to read a manual. I'm not a Luddite. I love machines. I just don't have much time any more for the people who design them. Nor, incidentally, does David Mitchell. I actually agree with almost everything he says here:

HDTV? No thanks. My eyes get worse every year so what's the fecking point? Fix them, Mr Scientist. Spend as much money of developing cures for blindness as you do in coming up with pointless new functions for my TV. Priorities, people, priorities.

Son of The Bad Music DJ - some Father's Day Shockers

Some very special music for all of you dads out there. We kick off with the fabulous Florence Foster Jenkins and her uncopyable version of Mozart's Queen of the Night from 'the Magic Flute'. It'll make you cry for all the wrong reasons.

Jenkins (1868-1944) was a rich American lady who indulged her passion for 'singing' soprano by hiring concert halls and the very best musicians. To my utter joy, she also recorded a lot of it too and the very best can be found on her wonderfully ironic collection The Glory of the Human Voice. She was utterly convinced of her own talent.

But now let's change pace and come bang up-to-date with a ballad from the indescribable vocal chords of William Hung, another person utterly convinced of his talent despite all evidence to the contrary. I believe I can fly. I wish I could too. About 30 miles away.

Chinese/American engineering student Hung was an auditionee for the third season of American Idol and won the hearts of people all over the world with his deliciously out-of-tune and unsyncopated version of Ricky Martin's She Bangs (Watch it here). After seeing him perform live before millions, the obvious thing to do was to give him a recording contract. This is the defining track from his first album. I've just listened to it again. I just laughed so hard it feels like I've been punched in the guts.

Happy Father's Day all!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 169

A job I did about 10 years ago for two ladies who'd started a business making bead jewellery and other fancy goods. The brief was to create a pair of 'ladies who lunch' based on some painted clothes-peg dollies.

They were very happy with these (and the several other) illustrations and used them on websites, business cards etc. I always thought they were kind of creepy and zombie-like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 168

Done for a writer friend as a bookplate. She describes herself as a 'lardy bird'. I just think she's buxom. But quite a fun piece to do.

Return of the Bad Music DJ - Bonus Tracks

It's no good, I couldn't resist also posting Herbie Duncan's case of 'wandering tune syndrome' with Escape with me. Plus my favourite bad track of all time, I'm going to Spain by Steve Bent. Don't be fooled by the apparently jolly melody and in-tune vocals. The lyrics will reveal the true horror. Steve Bent ended up on ITV soap Crossroads and this song was covered by The Fall.

Return of the Bad Music DJ

Some more arsegravy for your ears today. Mrs Miller's Lovers' Concerto and the execrable Tony Collins and his version of Try a little tenderness in which he successfully sucks out every drop of life and joy like some passion vampire.

Care of Mick Masters at Craplister.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

365 Doodles - Day 167

Here's Russian research scientist Natalia Avseenko swimming naked with Beluga whales in the sea at Murmansk Oblast near the Arctic Circle. Water temperatures are around -1.5 degrees Celsius. But why?

Obviously, there's a sensationalist angle. But the reason given is that Beluga do not like to be touched by artificial materials such as neoprene used in wetsuits. Her sub-zero skinny-dip has allowed her to get closer to these beautiful animals than anyone had previously. And it does make for some extraordinary photographs.

It reminded me of a picture I did back in the 1980s:

I exhibited this one in an old comic shop in Soho, now long gone, that rejoiced in the splendid name of Dark they were and Golden-Eyed. The female figure was originally nude but such was the atmosphere of outraged prudery at the time (remember, back then Mary Whitehouse was on the telly moaning about something every week and films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I spit on your grave were actually illegal) I was asked to draw a bikini on her. I figured the shop owners didn't want to attract any more complaints. They were already selling a large amount of drugs-related paraphernalia - bongs etc. - at a time when so-called 'head Shops' were a rarity. If I recall correctly, they were shut down eventually over allegations of drug supplying.

Shame. Great shop.

Photos copyright (c) Viktor Lyagushkin/KNS News