Sunday, 17 October 2010

Self Portrait: Where you been?

I'll tell you where I've not been. I've not been updating my blog. Oh no. Not at all. For ages. I've been busy lurking in the shadows, ridding the streets of crime and eating strawberry shoelaces. Except without all the action and adventure (the strawberry shoelaces bit is half true, I've just eaten half a pack of Haribo).

I've been laid up ill all weekend and have therefore become once again prolific. Inevitably, I felt the need to share it with the world (yes, both of you). First for your visual entertainment is a brand spanking new self-portrait of me face, but it's all shadowy from all that shadow-lurking. Check zis out:

Secondly I've been working on comic book illustrations. I've got an entry (called Frozen Chips) in for the Northern Sequential Art Competition which is part of ThoughtBubble comic book festival. The standard of the work submitted is on the whole very impressive. I am totally geeking out about the festival knowing that for a few short days in November, Leeds will be overrun by bookish auto-bio cartoonists wearing tank tops and looking nervous and shrieking manga girls wielding giant energy hammers. In my mind the world should always be like this. For more about the festival you should look HERE

Lastly, Last Circus news. We performed in Huddersfield at HCAN festival a few weekends back. It was a great festival held in a big empty warehouse exhibiting graffiti/comic art, sculpture, music, theatre and about 1000 personalised beer mats. The organisers did a great job, as did all the performers and we were grateful to be a part of it. We also had some chips, so a good day by my reckoning. Chips.

I've been working on a comic book version of The Last Circus which I'm hoping to have ready in time for our appearance at Bootleggers and Baptists in Sheffield next month. An eight page preview (unfinished art) should be readable below.

Anyhow, that's all for now. Hope to squeeze a blog in between now and Halloween. Sorry for not being very funny or telling you anything embarrassing about my childhood. Maybe next time? Take care of each other. G.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Self Portrait: The Last Circus

Last blog I said I would keep readers updated on how my play, The Last Circus, was coming along. Well, we've been accepted into the HCAN festival in Huddersfield and will be presenting a rehearsed read-through of the script. Details as follows:


Venue: Bates Mill, Huddersfield
Date: 02 October 2010
Time: 8:20-8:50pm

The festival is aimed at creating a platform for new artists to showcase their work in front of industry professionals as well as the general public. There is no money involved so everybody is doing it for love. There is also no admission price so if you're in the Huddersfield area on the 1st of October please try to get along and support up and coming writers and performers. We'll be grateful!

As well as showcasing new work in performance, the festival organisers are also putting out excerpts from scripts in order to encourage feedback from audiences and the public at large. As a taster of the work I have included the extract from The Last Circus which can be seen below:

CLOWN: It’s the end of the world.

MIME: La fin du monde. (Her chair collapses).

TRANSLATION: The end of the earth.

FOOL: The last hurrah.

CLOWN: The long goodbye.

FOOL: All that’s left.

CLOWN: The last of our kind. The end is no place to start. It doesn’t really leave you anywhere to go.

FOOL: Backwards. You could perhaps go backwards?

CLOWN: How far back?

FOOL: Maybe the beginning of the end wouldn’t be so bad.

CLOWN: You mean when it first happened? The flood?

FOOL: The earthquake-

CLOWN: The meteorite-

MIME: La révolution!

TRANSLATION: The Revolution!

FOOL: The nuclear war

CLOWN: The zombie apocalypse!

FOOL: The killer bees!

CLOWN: The alien invasion!

MIME: La Guerre Saint!


FOOL: We were spared. We were saved. After it happened we were the only ones left to
tell the story. We were also the only ones left to listen to the story. We just can’t remember what happened.

That's how it starts. Other things happen afterwards, each thing more brilliant and dazzling than the last. Dazzlingly brilliant. Brilliantly dazzling. And I'll be dressed as a clown. That's got to be worth seeing. Hasn't it? [Here ends the shameless self-promotion. Tune in next time for shameless self-involvment etc].

Friday, 20 August 2010

Not Dead, Just Sleepy

I started this Blog back in february. I stopped putting anything up in April. May and June passed. In July I put up a new blog entry. "Stay tuned" I said. "See if I can be bothered or not". I knocked out three entries in quick succession then for a couple of weeks, nothing. Today I thought, 'It's about time for another blog'. Problem is, I suffer from the entirely made-up, but not necessarily untrue, Dead Project Syndrome. A year or so ago I wrote a whole bunch of songs. I set up a musician page on facebook (you can search My Great Fanclub if you like), recorded and produced about four of those songs, did some artwork, started playing at local open mic nights. Then I stopped. I stopped updating the page, stopped recording, stopped playing live.

About five months ago I started writing a play. To my mind it was pretty good. It's about a mime, a clown and the commedia fool Pierrot being stuck at the end of the world. I got feedback from people who know about that kind of thing, I contacted some actors, had read-throughs, started looking at new writing festivals and showcases. I edited and re-wrote. I started to compose an original score. Then about a month ago I stopped working on the project. I have recently picked it back up, thanks to the enthusiasm of friends and family and am hoping that 'The Last Circus' will live again. I will keep you updated on that.

Last week I was on holiday, returning to my old university stomping grounds in Scarborough. I came back with another new project. I'm looking at writing a six-part comic series that features robot-prosthesis, sabre-tooth tigers and the suspicious goings-on of a group of geneticists. There will also be emotional relationship stuff to keep sensitive people (girls etc) engaged. I've plotted the whole series. I've scripted and done the panel lay-outs for the first issue. I'm about a third of the way through illustrating the first issue. I can't stop because if I do, I know that it will linger unfinished on my hard-drive. But then, I had the idea for a short-form strip called 'The Imaginary Life of Samuel Beckett' where the 'Greatest Playwright of the 20th Century' potters around being disgruntled by mobile phones and reality television. I don't have the time to do this yet.

I need a backburner.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Self-Portrait 3: Nemesis

It's one of those question that you've always asked yourself. You're pretty sure you know the answer, you're just waiting for science (TM) to come up with a final inarguable conclusion that you can put in the big book of facts and finally stop thinking about it. That question is of course 'who is the most famous bald person in the world ever?' Is it Billy Zane? Sean Connery? Bruce Willis? Gandhi? No, it's Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (or plain old 'Luthor' until it was seen fit to give him a first name in the sixties).

I normally have great, thick privet-hedge hair. The kind of hair that causes barbers, coiffures and other associated follicle technicians to all simultaneously take their lunch breaks as soon as I enquire about getting an appointment. I realise as I advance in years that this state of affairs may not be a problem for much longer. My relationship with my hair is finite. All I have to do to remind myself of that is look at my brother. I was thinking of things to do as a self-portrait and wondered to myself 'what would I look like with no hair?' The not-very-suprising answer turned out to be 'I look like my brother'. The second thing I thought was 'all bald people look a bit like Superman's arch-nemesis Lex Luthor', because I spend far to much time in life thinking 'things in life are like things in comic books' when, all in all, they're not. As a potentially interesting sidenote, Luthor wasn't even originally supposed to be bald, he had a big mop of red hair until Joe Schuster forgot to draw it one time and then he just stayed bald.

Batman has an arch-nemesis in The Joker, Spiderman has Green Goblin but they also both have huge 'rogue galleries'. With Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Bane etc it's hardly any wonder that 'The World's Greatest Detective' often ends up the supporting actor in his own movies. Superman doesn't have this. He's been 'killed' by Doomsday, he's fought multiple incarnations of Bizarro, but those characters aren't iconic, aren't integral to the Superman myth the way that Doc Octopus is to Spiderman or Catwoman is to Batman. Superman only has one adversary of note and that is Luthor (Richard Pryor doesn't quite make the grade).

I don't have an arch-nemesis, I wouldn't know what to do with one. The closest thing I have to even a bog-standard enemy is probably the hairdressers. I fear a visit to the hairdressers in the same way others do the dentists. Obviously it's a fairly amicable kind of rivalry wherein a small amount of money is exchanged for a slightly lackluster service. In fact, what I consider to be the quest for divine retribution may actually be a trade agreement.

'Make me look like a film star'
'Will Doc Brown from Back To The Future be acceptable?'
'But you have hair like angry cotton wool'
'Here's a tenner'

It's unlikely that in sixty years time people will be writing comics, making films and developing computer games based on the eternal struggle between right and wrong that is my bi-annual haircut, but I think I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Self-Portrait 2: Clark Kent is Superman!?!

Glasses are a brilliant disguise. Why do you think Bono wears his all the time? Even when he's indoors? It's so that people won't recognise him. Brilliant disguise. Clark Kent heroically hid in plain-view in front of Lois Lane at the Daily Planet for years with only his bi-focals to protect his identity.

Superman was the first 'superhero' in comics. All your arguments about The Phantom being the first are very interesting, but you're still wrong. "Batman's cooler" I hear you say, "Superman's lame, he's too powerful so he's never at risk, he's a do-gooder, kryptonite sucks, he's boring, Batman's better 'coz he's really dark..."

On and on you go, bemoaning Superman as the lamest thing since sliced lame, all the while forgetting one thing. Clark Kent makes Superman look like the freaking Fonz. Superman could leap tall buildings, stop speeding trains, he even made it cool to wear your underwear over your tights; Clark Kent got out of lifts on the wrong floor and spilled coffee over his mortgage application forms.

Today's self-portrait is me without glasses. I have removed the cunning disguise in order to reveal my heroic true self. Or something. I wore glasses when I was at school because I was having difficulty seeing the very important information about the poetry of Sheamus Heaney (something to do with cats?) written on the board just two meters away.

A visit to an opticians and the subsequent addition of lens to face paid off well and the B/B in GCSE English Language/Literature more than made up for the several years of playground punishment. After I left school I vainly stopped wearing my glasses for a couple of years. Years which I usefully spent falling over, ignoring close friends on the other side of the road and hailing a huge number of buses that weren't going anywhere near my intended destination. This may however be a natural state of being for an eighteen-year old boy.

Now I'm an adult and people aren't allowed to make fun of me anymore (this is definitely a true and real thing that is a law and everything) and I've finally come to terms with wearing glasses again. Now I get lost in Sainsburys on far fewer occasions, I can read the subtitles on Aldmovar films and I'm able to identify acquaintances without being over-reliant on my sense of smell or taste. Anyone dares call me four-eyes, I'll burn them with my FRICKIN' LASER-HEAT-VISION!

Self-Portrait 1: Comic Book Club

This past week, for a select few brave geeks, was the inaugral meeting of 'the comic book club'. Good times were had; comics, fanzines and graphic novels miraculously remained unsoiled by the flowing wine and everyone kept their trousers on. I made my way home at the end of the night clutching David B's 'Babel', Jeff Brown's 'Clumsy' and Julie Doucet's 'My New York Diary' (as well as Scott McCloud's 'Understanding Comics'), my head still turning over a conversation had hours earlier about the distinctions between auto-biography and fiction for comics writer.

Not that the two things are always clearly distinct of course. The pencil on the page begins the fiction.What I'm eventually getting around to is that, with a few exceptions (the late Harvey Pekar springs to mind), autobio writers tend to illustrate their own work (Joe Sacco (Palestine), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), the aforementioned Doucet, Brown and B). At some point they have to make a concious decision to sit down and draw themselves. Jeff Brown's graphic representation is little more than a stick figure, B and Satrapi use cartoon and abstraction. Do you make your nose as big as it really is? Or do you make it even bigger to show 'hey, I've got a big nose and I'm fine with that'. Or do you not even draw a nose? Will people even be paying that much attention to the realistic depiction of your nasal cavaties as they read your 'brutally honest account' of that time your parents caught you squeezing the family hamster into a jar of peanut butter?

I've decided to post a quick self-portrait. It's a simplified, rather than cartoonish or exagerated version of me. With a smaller nose. Possibly. I've perhaps made my hair look a little too tidy, or my beard fuller than it is. Somewhere among all that truth is a little lie or two. I'm intending to use the portraits as a way of getting me to put more stuff up on the blog so check soon for the next exciting episode of 'Can he be bothered?'!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

What's the Deal With Dinosaurs?

Something new for the blog, I promised music but, as a special bonus, I've also made a music video. I've embedded the YouTube video which can also be linked to here:
If the quality isn't up to much then I'll upload the full quality version to this blog.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Wrestling Live from Ascot

Wrestling live from Ascot: The unemployed are pitted against former equine champions for big money prizes (Channel 5, 2pm-7pm, weekdays). Here a recently redundant sous-chef from Upminster has just pile-driven Red Rum through a flaming table.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Grimethorpe Colliery Band's Cat

Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s Mechanical Cat: The G.C.B are Britney-esqe media glamour-puppets for whom it would be physically impossible to play tubas AND carry out elaborate on-stage dance routines at the same time. This is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s mechanical cat who sits behind the curtain generating authentic brass band noises on his Roland JD-800 synthesizer. He has one laser eye and a sovereign ring.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Harry Hill and the History of Stand-Up Comedy

It was once widely believed that stand-up comedy began in Britain in the late 20th Century when TV star Harry Hill first told jokes to a live paying audience in a tent in Chelmsford. Before this time it had been known for comedians to write jokes for radio programs, magazine articles and television shows but it seemed they had never before attempted to tell these jokes face-to-face with the paying public.

Since Hill’s early explorations into the world of direct joke-telling, other comedians have followed in his footsteps, each developing their own approach but more or less sticking to the rules put down by the pioneer Hill. Almost all of them would borrow much from Hill’s revolutionary stand-up toolkit, tricks such as appearing in the same room as the audience, reciting pre-prepared material, improvising material based on the response of the audience and waiting for applause and laughter to die down before introducing new material. Even patented Hill techniques such as using body movements and facial expressions are readily ransacked by today’s humour- mongers.

Comedians can often still be seen on the stand-up circuit using a quintessential Harry Hill device of saying something that has happened, either in the news or which most people will be aware of, and then making a humorous comment about it.

Today Hill admits that, while he played a sigificant role, he was only part of a wider community of comedians who were all interacting with their audience. Firstly, Hill admitted that some of the jokes told at those first gigs weren’t even created for that purpose but had in fact been used in Hill’s earlier television shows; Hill had the idea after he heard rumours that Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer had once performed excerpts from Shooting Stars (Dove from Above, Ulrika-ka-ka etc) in a pub and this had gone down so well with the locals that they’d passed around a pint glass and everyone had put a pound (£1) in.

Even Hill’s distinctive besuited appearance, the legacy of which can be seen in the acts of hundreds of stand up comedians from Jack Dee to Mo Mowlan, was not an entirely original idea. ‘I remember when I was younger, hhmmmm?’ Hill recalls. ‘I’d seen Ted Heath on the telly calling Enoch Powell a ‘great, sweaty ball-bag of a man’. This got a huge laugh from the assembled mob and I couldn’t quite work out why, as using colloquialisms for the male genitalia when referring to unpleasant people is not in itself innately funny. Then I realised the Conservative leader was wearing a suit and suddenly it all fell in to place.’

Although the revelations may come as a surprise to some, many in the comedy community say they had always known that Hill’s claims to being the originator of each and every element of stand up comedy were greatly exaggerated. Novelist David Baddiel remembers being the very first person to ever use irony, back in the early 1990s ‘Hill seems to get all the credit for that because he’s done it in front of large audiences and people know about him, everyone’s always saying ‘I’m so glad Harry Hill invented irony, I don’t know what we’d do without it’ but I did it first, I just never got the recognition’.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Blair-ography Fever!

I recently heard that Tony Blair was releasing his autobiography and so, bloated with excitement, I swiftly set about getting my shaky mitts on some exclusive outtakes (and when that failed, just making up whatever I felt like).

The jacket image has been released and everyone has quickly gone about mocking the Blair portrait on the sleeve, although it is certainly less controversial than the rejected image which depicted Blair base-jumping from the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster, grinning maniacally as a Union Jack parachute opens dramatically behind him while, below, anti-war protestors shield themselves from the avalanche of defecate Blair is launching in their direction.

The release is a long, boring, fuel-crisis stricken summer away and so here, just for you, are some juicy Blair-bites to sate your appetite until September:

“Milliband? Never heard of him. I was in power for, like, ten years or something, right? If he’d been there I would have known about it, yeah? Never met the bloke, I think Brown brought him in after I shifted off. Is he the one that goes out with the Cheeky Girl?”

“I used to breed greyhounds, you know? That’s how I met Nick Mason from Pink Floyd.”

“Yeah, so, I get stick in the press for playing guitar and that, but I wrote most of Be Here Now, you know? That Oasis album sold, like... 8 million copies, right? Alan McGee got me to do it as a favour. The lads were all coked up and, just, arsing around really, but I went in and wrote that one with the piano that I robbed from Imagine and then the theme tune from The Royle Family and we were sorted. It still stands up, that album, you know?”

“Most of the prostitutes I’ve met have spoken very highly of him but, you know, he'd paid them well and he wasn’t into rough stuff so you expect to hear that kind of thing. I never had time for him myself. He had those creepy serial-killer eyes and he always stank of cider and chip fat. It was still a shock when it happened though. I mean, I don’t really think the party will ever really recover from it, you know?”

“Won a couple of races too, a few flapper tracks in Castleford and what not.”

“I reckon most people know by now that me and Cameron are basically the same person, but what they really want to know is ‘how do we do it’?

It’s a lot easier now obviously, now that we don’t ever really have to be in the same place, but it was a lot tougher before I left government a few years ago. Two years of that malarky we had to do, me stood in parliament arguing with this complex mirrored hologram of myself that the boffins had to pre-program with a load of bland, stock responses to whatever it was we had to talk about in commons that day.

It was a ridiculous pantomime really, but we had to get rid of that Michael Howard somehow. He didn’t look good on TV and ratings for that 24 hour reality channel, BBC Parliament, were taking a right old nose-dive.

It’s funny to think, after all that, I’ll probably be back in power by May and by the time you read this, it’ll be too late!”

Monday, 22 February 2010

The End of Truth

Post-modern theory has long suggested that ‘there is no such thing as absolute truth’. History is written by the victors and, rather than one solid reality, all events and experiences are filtered through the ‘innate’ knowledge and beliefs of the individual to create a unique reality, true only to the teller.

The foundation of our societal activity as a species is based on our attempts to align our version of the truth with that of as many other group members as possible in order to gain acceptance, approval, affirmation and power.

Each entity observing another entity anywhere in the immeasurable reaches of the universe creates a truth from that observation, one of so many unique individual truths as to be an unimaginably small fragment of anything approaching an absolute truth.


Truth 1: Nick Griffin is the leader of the BNP, a splinter group of the National Front running on a policy that Britain should remain fundamentally British.

Truth 2: Nick Griffin is a holocaust denier with criminal convictions for inciting racial hatred.

Truth 3: Nick Griffin is that big chap who feeds me on a morning, pats me on the head and takes me for walks.

Truth 4: Nick Griffin is a group hallucination caused by the toxic gases released when an angry child got hold of a blowtorch and used it to melt the face off his telly-tubby Po onto his ‘Talking Farm-Fone’, causing the molten rubber to erode through the farmyard phone’s plastic casing and into the soundboard circuitry, leaving a tragic puddle of noxious, smouldering toys robotically, repetitively, croaking out the dying message ‘Hello Mr Cow! Get out of the barn! COME HELP ME!’

Truth 5: Nick Griffin is the proprietor of ‘Griffin’s Shoez’, a budget footwear emporium near Castleford.

Everything is so clouded by misinformation, miscommunication, misunderstanding and miss-speaking that the certainty of even the must mundane of utterances spewing forth from our gob-holes is based on wobbly logic and tremendous hope.

What seems ‘right at the time’ will eventually be ‘wrong’ at some point in the future; truth and falsehood are not solid things but elastic concepts open to revision, rewriting and resurrection at any point.