Friday, 1 April 2011

Dodgem Logic 8

The inkwell has inevitably dried up somewhat as energies are pooled into Plasm, and four months without posting here seems like forever. The new issue of Alan Moore's Dodgem Logic has belatedly appeared however, replete with a contribution from Simon Munnery no less, though it will sadly be the last in the conventional glossy manifestation that had looked to be serving it so well. My self-illustrated article on hauntology, Giving Up The Ghost, comes after a similar hiatus, having been written and filed back in mid-December.

As a postscript to the piece (which is a response to Reynolds' Society of the Spectral), I should acknowledge that my standpoint on popular music does admittedly come across as rather out of time in places, referring seemingly as it does to a wish for the kind of shocking, epochal Bowie & Ronson/Boy George/Roses & Mondays-style TOTP era-defining moments (timely, in light of all this BBC4 archive-rogering) that I'm just about old enough to remember but no teenager would recognise. I am however just young enough - just livid enough - to feel a touch cheated by haunted audio, as wildly unsuitable a backdrop to events unfurling upon this foetid isle at present - or indeed to my current personal woes - as it is possible to imagine.

Now I'm wouldn't be dumb enough to pretend that the cultural minutiae (which has become formulae) celebrated by the Found Objects crowd, the trivia of a wider hauntology, means nothing to me. Certainly not when all the evidence - especially on this blog - suggests otherwise. That's not the point; I'm approaching my mid-30s and I can - and do - revel superficially in the past from time to time. I love 1981.

My gripe stems from a bemusement at how the straight replication and revisionism of much of haunted audio has advanced apparently unchallenged for so long now. In what way does such dilution, such an unstinting reverence for the past, suffice as an artform? Will it really do? Trunk repackages the past, Ghost Box copy it. Mordant and VHS Head take *exactly* the same points of reference and create. See the difference?

There's also something about the ceaseless repetition of themes and the sheer visibility of all that pulp detritus on Found Objects - the musty paperbacks, the timecoded clips - that just seems to be so utterly ruinous. The romance of discovery, of physical artefacts, of those nebulous, uncanny moments - all somehow devalued by their interminable 'dumping' online. I'm aware of how po-faced that sounds, and I know I've strayed into this territory myself before on many occasions, but it's the extent of the uploading that bothers me; it's actually put me off.

Reynolds can't be blamed simply for lauding the hauntological trend in the first place, but perhaps the drift into middle age has blunted the guile of those taking part. It's impossible for the virtual world meanwhile to adequately accommodate the wider scene's multi-sensory wail. The enterprise has mostly failed.

Dodgem Logic 8 is available from all the unusual outlets. Here's hoping it doesn't suffer a similar fate long term.

Friday, 3 December 2010


A brief gobbet to explain the slightly deco 'P' atop the sidebar.

Plasm is the new home for the drawn musings which have been steadily occupying time over the autumn. A small range of 'Screen Stars' prints will be available online through Etsy and the like very soon, though should you find yourself in Northampton's market square this Sunday (5th December), hold your nerve, and navigate the cobbled rink to my stall and see/buy/argue in person.

The new blog will operate in a bipolar fashion with Radon, which will maintain an ambient pace in logging any written developments.

Why not make it a special Christmas for the unhinged cinema-goer in your life with a pencil rendering of Roger Moore in The Man Who Haunted Himself?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

There's a Smelling in Borehamwood

Me on Len for Sight & Sound. Rossiter's insistence on standards would have made him the perfect man to have on your team in times if austerity, yet oddly his perfectionism also seemed to mark him out as something of an individual. The article coincides with what might constitute a flurry of Rossiter-related releases, namely two particular artefacts.

A quality that is shared by another of my favourite actors, the potatoey everyman Gene Hackman, is that singular adroitness - or knack - of delivering a good personal turn in an otherwise dire production (we should make exceptions here for Gene's Polish accent in A Bridge Too Far), and it's this consistency of performance that should be remembered when viewing Tripper's Day, out now on DVD for the first time. Rossiter is ok in what was his final sitcom bow (he died midway through transmission of the Thames series), but the show itself is pretty atrocious. I'd say it's aged badly, but no-one really appeared to like it the first time round in truth. The second such cultural despatch is the first ever (hard to believe really) biography of the man, Character Driven - The Untold Story of a Comic Genius by Guy Adams, published by Aurum Press. No idea if it's any good, but at least someone else (in addition it should be said to the admins of this fondly dedicated fansite) is attempting to ensure his legacy is so justly revered.

The eponymous Norman Tripper's appropriately fastidious moustache meanwhile seemed like a good excuse for a drawing. I'm also available for commissions for portraits of alive, non-moustache wearing subjects by the way. Thanks.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Dodgem Logic 6

Yet more 'local' scribe work finds its way onto the printed page as winter's talons hover prematurely into view, courtesy of the new issue of Alan Moore's Dodgem Logic, out now. My piece is a tangled spool mess entitled (not a little pretentiously) The Magnetic Axiom, and looks at analogue film recording, archiving, and (briefly) home video hardware. A real pleasure this time to be featured alongside Iain Sinclair and Stewart Lee.

There's plenty of scope for a follow-up of sorts to this, but creative spasms of an altogether more hands-on nature are presently occupying a surfeit of time enforced by my adjudged irrelevance in the workplace. Or redundancy, depending on your appetite for language. Stay tuned.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Steady Hands, Shakin' Stevens

In the end the colour never came, and only Coburn appeared at the Sanctuary show. Still, I feel I'm just about getting to grips with the 'tooth' of gesso on board, even if it does blunt the graphite rather quickly.

The profile Coburn/Elliot didn't make it to the gallery wall, and as such is an 'online exclusive'. You lucky people. The cigar-lighting one did, but I liked it enough to post here. And I'm glad I snapped the Rossiter/Perrin triplicate drawing when I did, as shortly afterwards I royally fucked it up with some sanguine pencils. Anyway, more of these to come.

On a similarly leaden tip, the acute monochrome skills of KAW have been blazing a scrawled trail across this fetid province for some time - check her here. I've also been alerted recently to the exquisite (and, assuming a suitable stipendiary agreement can be reached, 'Mark Weaver-trouncing') space-age graphic might of Nat Nicklin - - and the complete and utter genius of Arthur Ranson's website.

Ranson's astonishingly detailed inky oeuvre straddled both Look-in and 2000AD during the 1980s, and as such was a big draw (apologies) for both my brother and I as kids. There can't be too many artists who have successfully bridged the divide between that still very pre-pop feel of early '70s UK comic strips and the full-blown apocalyptical sci-fi of the modern graphic novel. Perhaps there isn't much of a divide at all, I'm not sure. I suppose what I'm getting at is the stark difference in tone between strip artwork for Doctor On The Go and Anderson: Psi Division.

IPC Magazines eventually got rid of their archive of Look-in artwork without even telling one of their finest and longest serving practitioners, a move of staggering idiocy and disrespect which left Ranson understandably irked. Somehow five years ago his original rendering of a 1981 Shakin' Stevens front cover fell into my possession, so I thought I'd better ask if he wanted it back. He doesn't. Can't think why. Still, he seems like a proper gent, and I'd recommend setting aside some time to properly enjoy his self-manned site, if only for Sapphire & Steel.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Faces by Plasm

A brief scrawled preview ahead of a collaborative exhibition at the Sanctuary gallery, Northampton, as part of the county's Open Studios month. Not a great deal of colour here I know, but it'll come.

The above is a plotting graphite James Coburn in The Internecine Project. Mine will be a generally pop-based contribution, but not solely based on dead film stars. That's the plan anyway.

The show runs from the 6th to 17th September and includes work by Linzi Bright, Gill Swift and the newly exalted Rebecca Jane Mills.

See how the rural art scene cowers.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Prawn Sandwiches & Cooking Sherry?

Having provided the weak link in the all-star convoy of World Cup blogging that was Minus The Shooting, writing about football doesn't seem the most appetising proposition at present. The cream of the contributors there could feint & turn their extemporaneous theories on cognitive dissonance, tiki-taka and Freud's shinguards on a sixpence: I was more of a James Milner, straining to deliver a lumbering stepover of a post about England being a bit boring over a period of hours. After a week's involvement I wisely sidled off-screen and back to work.

Sunday's network premiere of The Damned United has however brought back to mind some of the problems I had with the film on first viewing at the cinema. And anyway, its subject did rather transcend the game after all.

The career, character and impact of Brian Clough did of course lay a considerable path for movie-making hyperbole. Yet the inspiration for his eventual celluloid commemoration only contrived to blunder the opportunity, unfilmable as David Peace's novel is. The fleshing of detail on such a brief and inscrutable episode in Clough's life swells the enigma in print, but the weight of contention over his 44 days at Leeds makes for a terminally weakened big screen adaptation, with far too many hypotheticals over deceased key figures (Clough himself, Peter Taylor, Don Revie and Billy Bremner) whose depicted conduct is still in many cases vehemently opposed by surviving relations. With much - but not quite all - of Peace's portrayal of a bleak, boozy & deteriorating Clough omitted from Tom Hooper's film version, the appearance of his staggering Rocky-esque achievements at Forest as a mere footnote only serves to magnify the missed open goal.

Michael Sheen's performance is for the most part excellent, though the tally of over-egged boardroom sneers is a touch unwieldy. Clough's world-beating confidence surely never manifested itself in anything other than that cold, dead-eyed stare, or the schoolboy's joy-in-mischief that surfaced when challenging Muhammad Ali to a fight or gleefully predicting Manny Kaltz's evening at the hands of John Robertson prior to the 1980 European Cup Final ("We've got a little fat guy that will turn him inside out. He'll turn him inside out!"). And whilst this lack of outward emotion undoubtedly betrayed the vulnerabilities that would eventually get the better of him, the almost whimpering petulance on which the entire plot rested - the attribution of Clough's enmity for Revie to the Leeds manager's cold shoulder during an FA Cup tie some six years previously - seems laughable.

There are flourishes, such as the priceless scene where Timothy Spall's squashed Taylor feeds Clough sweets with an almost post-coital affection on the long drive down to sign Dave Mackay to Derby one Sunday lunchtime in '68. Acutely observed too is the smokey, shitty air of late '60s/early '70s football, with its wooden dug-outs and generally beige, dour demeanour. You do have to wonder why the expense was spared so embarrassingly for the Leeds players' hairpieces though.

These dubious thatches do not represent the film's most ridiculous fabrication however, that particular accolade being convincingly earned by the bewilderingly incongruous assimilation of Roy Keane's "prawn sandwiches" jibe towards club directors. This awkwardly lazy co-opting of a quote to events which took place 25 years before it was actually delivered makes little sense: why falsely accredit such a line to Clough, the most quotable individual in the English game? The very idea that Derby's civic and sporting dignitaries were enjoying such exotic fare at a football match in 1974 is scarcely believable anyway.

Peter Morgan's script is sadly peppered with telegraphed dialogue, with the final scene, where Taylor and Clough make up after the Leeds debacle having parted company acrimoniously post-Derby (another factually unsound plot device), ending with a celebratory tipple of cooking sherry. "Well, I wouldn't say no" says Clough of the offer, an uncomfortably offhand acknowledgment of personal trials to come. He certainly deserved a finer toast to his talents on film.