Saturday, 4 December 2010

Guest blog - "The Alchemy of Art"




This is a guest post written by friend and artist Terry Hinkle whose work can be found on the deviantART website where he is known as ~EroticVisions. The pictures accompanying this blog are examples of his work you can find there, and I recommend them, and the man himself, to you.


The Alchemy of Art

Art is fundamentally a process of Energy. It all begins with a flash of inspiration... the flicker of an idea. It is the intuitive and empowering spark that ignites your artistic passion. This explosion of creative Energy starts the internal process of shaping the ethereal ideas into something substantial and actionable.

This Creative Energy that you are a part of and that is naturally a part of you is not only available for your artistic expression. It is the basis of all matter, and therefore the driving force behind all actions and events in your life. Everything that you do, everything that you see, everything you feel and everything that happens to you are expressions of this one Energy. Every action or change in your physical world always involves Energy; Energy consumed, produced or altered. The Energy is never created nor is it destroyed. Instead, every mental or physical process of change involves converting existing Energy from one form into another. All of your mental processes and the physical forms around you are being shaped and nurtured by this one singular Energy--- The Universal Life Force Energy.

IN THE FLOW

The unending stream of Creative Energy naturally flows through all matter and therefore connects all matter. It has been called many things: the River of Life, the Field, Chi (China), Ki (Japan), Manna (Hawaii), Prana (India) and Nuwati (Cherokee), are just a few of the names humans have attached to this Energy.

I think of it as The Universal Life Force Energy because it is the creator and nurturer of all the things in the Universe. As an artist, you are keenly aware of this connectivity when you are “in the zone” or “in the flow.” This balanced Energy that you are a part of is all knowing, all loving and all giving. The whole of this empowering Energy is neither Male nor Female, positive or negative but an equal balance of both aspects of Energy. This balanced and loving Energy is infinite and available to you and all things in the universe equally and unconditionally. One difference is that ‘creative’ people are gifted with a clearer, and more open connection to the greater flow of the Feminine aspect of Universal Energy. The Feminine aspect of Universal Energy carries with it the benevolent values and higher vibration of love, sensuality, creativity, spontaneity, feeling, instinct, intuition, inclusion, cooperation, wholeness, and natural unity.

THE ALCHEMY

In ancient texts, Alchemy is described as a path of spiritual purification and transformation - the expansion of consciousness and the development of insight and intuition through images. It has been said that to understand the principals of Alchemy is to have the power to alter consciousness and the ability to connect the human soul to the Divine.

To have a better understanding of the Alchemy of Art, you first have to understand that everything in our world is nothing more than different combinations of the two equal and opposite aspects of this Universal Energy. All things that appear material and solid to the human eye are just an Alchemy of vibrating male/female, positive/negative Energy. If you could look closely at a finished piece of your art through a high powered electron microscope, you would see that what appeared to be solid to you before is nothing more than a mix of subatomic particles moving at varying rates of speed with lots of space around them. So, your finished piece of art and all of the other objects around you (that you thought were solid) are really just different forms of vibrating Energy. Up until now you have bought into the illusion that everything that you see is solid and permanent and that you have no power to change what you see in the world. But realize that when you take a tree and turn it into a roll-top desk, a large chunk of marble into a statue, or a pallet of raw paint
and a stretched piece of woven cloth and turn it into a masterful painting... you have mentally and physically altered the world.

Never forget that your thoughts and your intentions are all part of this Energy and that the physical and emotional Energy that you project while creating transfers to your finished work of art. The Energy associated with your love, your excitement and your passion, as well as your frustration, angst, and self-doubt inner-mingle and become part of the Alchemy of Energy that makes up the wood, metal, marble, paper, paint pigment and canvas, or other media that you are working with. Your personal Energy blends with the Energy of your work to boost its intensity or decrease its effectiveness.

CREATING A CHEMICAL RECIPE

As you know, every creative endeavor begins with the Energy of a thought. Your thoughts create emotions that are bundles of Energy whose purpose is to create chemical recipes needed to facilitate the related changes in your body. These chemical changes in your body create the Energy vibration that is sent throughout your body and then out of your body into the world. The vibration of the Energy that comes from you will always effect the Energy in your surrounding world to match the vibration of your energetic emotions and ideas. The Alchemy of Energy that you choose to create and send out will always come back to you in kind. The same is true for the words that you use that are associated with your thoughts. The vibration of your words is also a form of Energy. So choose wisely the words you employ when talking to yourself or to others. Choose equally well the Energy that you surround yourself with while creating.

If your thoughts are about people not liking your artwork or about how people will probably not buy your artwork, you will attract people and situations that will not support you or your work. There is a simple Universal law of attraction; like attracts like. Every thought you have has a certain Energy signature, a vortex and rate at which the particles of Energy that form that thought vibrate. Quantum Physics teaches us that all matter is connected and things that vibrate at the same rate are attracted to each other. So the Energy of your thoughts and words are like magnets that are attracting the people, things and situations that harmonize with their exact Energy vibration. Every time you focus on what you don’t like about your life, your personal situation, or YOUR ART…you are blocking what you do want and attracting more of the same. Remember that because of the Universal Law of Attraction, what you focus on will grow. You can depend on it.

THE MOST POWERFUL ENERGY

Love is the most powerful transformational Energy in the Universe. True love is the purest essence of Universal balanced Energy and the core of The Universal Life Force Energy. But for you to be a powerful creator and to promote more love of your art, you have to first feel true love for yourself and your creations. How can you expect other people to feel great about you and your work or to be attracted to your creations if you do not feel that way yourself? Give yourself permission to be passionate about your art. Choose to love your work and the process that you go through while creating it. Visualize people enjoying your art as much as you. Imagine each of these people being patrons... all wanting to own multiple pieces of your art. When you are in your passion and creating from your heart and not your head... you are “in the flow” of Universal Energy and wonders happen.

My Art

BUILDING THE ENERGY

To build and attract the highest and most productive Energy around my creations, I begin by thinking great thoughts about me, thinking only positive and kind things about me: the artist, the creator, the uniquely talented person. I always start by giving thanks for the gift of my creative ability. I never go into my studio in a bad mood, troubled or emotionally down. I always treat myself with the same respect and love when I’m alone in my studio as when I’m around others. I do not degrade myself or my art in public, even with what seems to be harmless self-deprecating humor or criticism. I know that everything I say and feel about me and my art creates the Energy related to those emotions and attracts to me and my art more of what I am saying and feeling.

CREATING THE INTENTION

Each work of art that I produce resonates with the Alchemy of Energy that I purposefully put into it. My originals and prints continually resonate with the intended inspirational Energy. Every piece is also created with the intention of activating the higher vibration of creative feminine Energy in everyone. This vibration of Energy will assist the viewer with his or her own creative endeavours such as building and maintaining a healthy body, generating greater insight, producing higher levels of mental awareness, sustaining a healthy life, and manifesting his or her greatest desires. The vibration of the higher levels of Feminine Energy brought about by higher emotions helps to transmute the lower human physical Energies into the higher spiritual Energies. The activation of the Feminine Energy helps to give each person who views my art a greater ability to be an Alchemist themselves... to feel their passion, to create, attract, store, and transmute the highest levels of Universal Life Force Energy.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

'The Remains of the Day' - The Musical?



I have to be honest, the prospect of going to watch a musical version of Kazuo Ishiguro's excellent story of repressed emotion and thwarted ambition in the context of class structure and loyalty with Nazi sympathies during the war, was not an item on my wish list, but as my son's friend (Chris Bartlett as 'Reginald') was part of this new venture I wanted to support him. And I am so glad that I did.

'The Remains of the Day' has been re-imagined for the London stage by Alex Loveless, and defies all pre-misgivings one may have. The words are immaculate and full of wit and pathos, doing full justice to the source material. Directed sensitively by Chris Loveless and performed with tenderness, sincerity and understatement by an extremely talented cast, this is a show which demands a wider audience. I cannot recommend this production highly enough, and I am not alone - even Kazuo Ishiguro is supporting the show, recommending it despite disliking London musicals, as he explained on Radio 4's 'Today' programme:

"I'm not a big fan of West End musicals. They are not really my cup of tea, but the musical form can be used to tell all kinds of stories". He continued saying that he "always thought it would work as a musical," and that he even thought about the possibility of staging it, but was put off by the fact many people saw the idea as "a bit of a joke."

The novel is about "repressed emotion" and "thwarted ambition", not themes normally associated with musicals, but he believes the format enables the characters to express their underlying emotions. And having watched the show myself, I can attest to this wholeheartedly.

So what of the singing and dancing? As unbelievable as it may sound, both were woven beautifully into the story and enhanced the production. Omar K. Okai, just like Alex Loveless, is an incredible talent as he managed to create musical numbers that not only made you feel were vital to the story, but also help set the period, deliver real pathos, and painfully highlight the characters' complex relationships.


Stephen Rashbrook as Stevens
Lucy Bradshaw as Miss Kenton
The musical is performed in a small intimate theatre that eshews the artificial glitz and glamour normally associated with London musicals, and quickly draws the audience into a personal exploration of the lives of the characters. The combination of the words, songs and dancing bring the characters to life with such sincerity and subtlety, it's difficult to see how the story could not be told with the musical form.

But music, book and lyrics are not the only things which raise this production to excellence. Like any production, the show climbs or falls on the backs of its performers, and this show is no exception. The material as written and directed, needed a cast of rare excellence to make the venture true for the audience, and these actors delivered. They brought a depth and intensity to their roles which elevated the production into something that everyone must experience. No wonder then that it made the Standard's Critic's Choice.

In particular, I should mention the two lead performances of  Stephen Rashbrooke as 'Mr Stevens' and Lucy Bradshaw as 'Miss Kenton'. A beautifully sensitive and understated performance from both drove the narrative well, faithfully recreating the tone of the novel. In particular, Stephen Rashbrooke epitomised at all times the character of 'Mr Stevens' even when singing and dancing - a truly magnificent feat. And the scenes between him and his dying father (played by Dudley Rogers) had an incredible poignant and emotional intensity, all the more affecting for the emotional reserve both actors conveyed so powerfully.

And what of my son's friend Chris's performance? Again, an excellent depiction of what is not an easy character to convey: neither fully comic relief, nor naive hero. In all, a strong cast supporting a strong production. But if you're still unsure about the concept of 'Remains of the Day' as a musical, read the many rave reviews (some of which are below) before trying to get tickets before it closes. Be warned though, it's nearly fully sold out.


 

The Remains of the Day

Alex Loveless' musical adaptation

based on the novel

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY

by Kazuo Ishiguro

directed by Chris Loveless
    Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker Prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day will premiere as a stage musical at the Union Theatre, Southwark
Wed 1st - Sat 25th September 2010
Tues - Sat at 7:30pm.
Sat & Sun Matinees at 2:30pm

Tickets: £15.50 / £12.50
The Union Theatre
204 Union Street, London, SE1 0LX
Box Office: 020 7261 9876. www.uniontheatre.biz

'I must admit the idea of it being a musical was at first a rather challenging one. But as Sondheim has proved, it is possible to combine searching drama with music to tremendous effect, so I thought, why not let these guys run with it?  
 
I listened to Alex Loveless play some musical ideas on a piano and that convinced me it could work.
Adapting this story as a musical, I could see, might have the advantage of highlighting its comedic and surreal aspects. It's an adventurous approach and I'm keen to support it.'
- Kazuo Ishiguro, The Stage, 28-May-2009, p 3
The show will be produced by Simon James Collier in association with Fallen Angel Theatre Company and Ben David Productions.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Book Review: The Somnambulist



Back in late 2006 I was asked by Gollancz if I would review a new novel they were going to publish. The idea was that my short text would be included on the cover or just inside so should be informative but with a restricted word count. In the end, they didn't use my blurb, so it never saw the light of day. But lucky you... I've just found the original text and thought I'd re-present it here. Enjoy.

The Somnambulist,  by Jonathan Barnes, reads like a first novel... impressive, gripping, funny, and full of the author’s every creative idea and vocabulary. It’s not for the light-hearted. There are twists and turns, truth and lies, and that’s just between narrator and reader. Barnes has pulled together half-remembered images from the collective consciousness and crafted a tale more possibly aimed at playing with the reader’s mind than the characters within it. Confused? Wait till you read the book. You’ll either love it or hate it, I doubt there’ll be any middle ground.

I read this book of spies and magic, intrigue and action, perversion and murder in a single session. If I needed a break, the narrator sensed this and taunted me to read on. Just when I thought I knew where the plot was going, he admitted a lie and changed direction. As the villain of the piece tries to manipulate events in the narrative, so too the narrator manipulates the reader. A curious thing indeed. Made more so by his pre-empting any criticism of style and elegance in storytelling with apology or bravado. This is not a book you’ll forget in a long time.

But what of the characters? A bizarre freak show you feel you’ve met somewhere before. Barnes seems to have borrowed elements from all over the genre, incorporating them in post-Victorian London in a familiar yet disturbing way. Hints of Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, shadows of the Rue Morgue, with a nod to She-Hulk. All these elements  flow (bizarrely) together, driven by a thesaurus-wielding sadist (with a curious sense of humour). His use of language is almost poetic and often leaves the reader feeling impotent, only to then spell out the mundane (hands up who knows what the London Monument is?)

Definitely an enGROSSing read.


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Monday, 26 July 2010

What do we fear?




As an artist I grew up fearing going blind. Not that there was any risk of it mind, just too much idle time during which I would contemplate what it would be like if I were to lose a limb or sense. My reasoning, as it was as a teenager, was that losing an arm or leg wouldn't bother me much... I could live with loss of hearing... I wouldn't be aware of insanity... but loss of vision would have been the end of the world!

I'm not sure if any other artists out there had similar fears in their childhood, but to me the fear was a constant companion. So how do I feel now about it, given my current disability?

Back in 2006 I was at the top of my game teaching in a local comprehensive. I had everything going for me, when out of the blue I lost my sight.

Now you would probably imagine that I would have freaked out, given my childhood phobia, but no... I was unfazed and managed to continue teaching the lesson without pause. Only 2 people in the room noticed that something had happened: my TA, and a pupil because her mother is bipolar (although I didn't see the connection). For any of you wondering, my vision returned before the end of the lesson after about 50 minutes.

So why wasn't I panicking during those 50 minutes? All I can say is that curiosity got the better of me. That is to say, that when I lost my sight, it was not because everything went black... rather, everything went white. Now all through my childhood I had associated blindness with darkness and void. But what happened to me during the lesson, was quite the opposite: yes I had lost all vision, but instead all I could see was whiteness.

For some reason, this whiteness was not fearful. It had the same net effect of blindness-with-darkness in that I could no longer see, but I was not scared. This leads me to believe that loss of sight was not what I was really afraid of for all those years, rather it was a fear of void. Loneliness... loss of control... abandonment... who knows? All I can ask is that having briefly experienced sudden blindness, but not expecting vision to return, and it not being the end of the world... does this mean that I no longer fear this state?

The answer is: No.

While the threat of white-blindness still doesn't scare me, the threat of dark-blindness still sends a shiver through me. Is this just because of the legacy of my childhood fear... or is it something else altogether?


[image : King Crimson album cover art - 'In the Court of the Crimson King' by Barry Godber 1969]


Friday, 2 July 2010

Are the Poles celebrating 'Battle of Britain' week?




In case you weren't aware, at this moment 60 years ago Britain was waging its most important battle in the skies above our homes. Forever remembered as the 'Battle of Britain' this marked an important turning point in the war against Hitler, and you can now follow its daily progress in real-time at http://www.1940chronicle.com// (thanks to Stephen Fry for the link).

So why am I writing a blog about it... and why am I talking about Poles in this title? The answer is simple:

For those readers unaware of my ethnicity, I was born in the NorthWest of England to WWII immigrants who found themselves displaced from home after the war. As you can tell by my name, my father was Polish. Like many Poles, he fought alongside the British to defeat the Nazis, and saw much bloodshed and lost many friends and family. He is the reason for this post.

As I was growing up, I knew my father to be a quiet and thoughtful man. Although I knew he fought in the war, he would not talk about it... except to joke how his ability to speak so many foreign languages (he was fluent in 11) was something he learned in the beds of young ladies as he passed through their countries. I later learned that this was in fact not true, but a mask he used to avoid his true feelings concerning the war.

I won't go into any detail here of his childhood and the war (I'm still compiling his war memoirs from his notes) except to remark on why this week in history makes me think of him.

When he was the age my daughter is now, he watched the slaughter of friends and family in the streets as Hitler and Stalin rounded up 'undesirables'. He was lucky inasmuch as while his friends and family were sent to the camps or executed, he was instead drafted into the Polish-now-Russian army to make rebellion difficult. The idea was that if neighbours were rounding up Poles instead of Russians, then maybe it would be more acceptable. My father hated being put into this position to the day he died, and rather than do this he planned to desert.

To cut a long story short (as this post is a long one), he successfully (but not without incident) deserted the Russian army and found himself among others waiting for sea transport to England to join the British Airforce. Now just before transport arrived, he and many others became fatally ill. This resulted in the sick and dying being left behind, as the healthy departed to become pilots in the 303 and other squadrons. As fate would have it, he and a friend survived the illness (although its legacy would plague him for the rest of his life, ultimately killing him) and he found himself transferred to the Polish II Corps within the British 8th Army to join Montgomery and the Tanks making its way across North Africa and Europe, fighting at Monte Cassino (http://bit.ly/KIlwm) before ending up in England to the news of the exploits of his Polish friends in the airforce, particularly the 303 Squadron (http://bit.ly/qxNYy).



So why ponder the question as to whether the Poles would be celebrating the 'Battle of Britain'?

Returning to the man I knew as I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, I was unaware of his part in the war. Even when a long lost relative (believed dead) reappeared having survived Auschwitz, he was still taciturn. The only true emotion he could not hide was the bitterness and anger he felt... not towards the Axis, but towards the British authorities.

I could understand his anger at Hitler and Stalin, but not his venom towards the British government. In hindsight, I now fully understand - and share - his anger for the way the Poles were treated immediately following the end of the war. Hence the title of this blog.

Everyone knows the importance the 'Battle of Britain' had in deciding the outcome of WWII, and it has long been remembered in history and celluloid. As I was growing up I was taught, and watched films, all extolling the heroism of the British pilots who "single-handedly won the war for the Polish". And as any Polish descendant, I was very proud to be British, and could not see why my father appeared ungrateful. After all, wasn't it because of "Johnners" and "Spiffy" with their flying caps and scarves who against all odds defeated the Hun in the air for him?

It wasn't really until the late '70s that I started to become aware of what was making my father quietly angry. It was the Queen's Silver Jubilee... celebrations and street parties were everywhere, differences were forgotten and all were welcome (or so I believed). For some strange reason, my parents wanted to celebrate this event privately, rather than step outside and join all our neighbours in the street. Being a naive child I couldn't see why, so I took my younger siblings outside to join in.

We were forcibly stopped. "You are not welcome" we were told, and made to return home.

We were forced to remain in our home by our neighbours because we were "foreigners". Even more, the older neighbours even cited the war, blaming my father and the Poles for "letting Hitler start the war" and doing "nothing to defeat him except leaving the British to do it all for them".

At the time, I knew nothing of Monte Cassino, D-Day or the Battle of Britain - except the official line of the "brave sacrifice of Englishmen on behalf of the Poles". Now I know the truth, and heartfeltly hope that the historical injustice of the Poles' role in the war, and the debt of gratitude this nation owes becomes well known.

At the time, the role of the 303 Squadron was legendary in being pivotal in winning the 'Battle of Britain'. These Poles were heroes and celebrities. Everyone in the country knew just how indebted it was for this small group of Polish men. But when the war ended, something changed...

Stalin was now a 'friend' of Britain, and instead of Poland being liberated as a result of winning the war, it was instead 'given' to the Russians... those same Russians who had rounded up and executed my father's family and friends. I cannot explain how this betrayal felt to the Poles and my father.

Not only this, but any Poles trying to return home after the war were shot... including members of the 303. My father's own home town no longer existed and was now a Russian town, and he was notified that he was "Polish no longer" and had to return to Russia to stand trial for desertion as a Russian. He did not oblige.

To add more insult to injury to the valiant Poles who had fought and died on behalf of the British, history was re-written and the roles the Poles played were excised. Where once the 303 stood proud as the defenders of the nation, they no longer were recognised. The thousands of Poles who died defending Britain were immediately forgotten, and history books now showed that the Poles played no part in the war.

Once celebrated as heroes for what they did in the 'Battle of Britain', the 303 and other Poles were told to "go home, you're not welcome here" although there was no home to return to... only a firing squad. And this attitude pervaded all through my childhood. Suddenly, the pilots were transformed into English men and a new National Pride was established at the Poles' expense.

The final insult came when the nation held a spectacular military parade to celebrate all the brave men and women who fought in the war. Air, sea and land were represented as thousands of every colour paraded though London: English, Scottish, Welsh, American, Indian, African, etc... even the Russians! In fact, every single nation that were at some point allied in the war against Hitler which was started by destroying Poland were cheered as they marched...

Every nation except the Poles.

The Poles were banned from the parade and kept away. The 303 who should've been at the top of the parade were denied access. The survivors of Monte Cassino were denied. No Pole was represented. And why? Because it was felt that to acknowledge the role of the Poles in the war both as victims and as heroes would upset Stalin.

So my father, after surviving Monte Cassino, losing this country, his family and his friends, was now an outcast from history along with his fellow Poles, who was now expected to be grateful for being betrayed and abandoned. He also had to watch as his children grew up learning how the Poles "did nothing" in the war, were laughed at for using horses against tanks, and was the victim of institutionalised racism. Something that particularly made him angry was the casual use of the phrase "Polish Concentration Camps killing Jews" which implies that the Poles were responsible, or collaborated with the Nazis, in killing Jews... when in reality, the camps were 'Nazi Concentration Camps to exterminate Poles, many of whom were Jewish'.

So when an anniversary such as this comes around, I can't help but wish that the role of the Poles is acknowledged, and that apologies are offered to these valiant men and women who for decades have continued to suffer in silence... like my father. He never did put down the British or their war effort, but he internalised all his pain and bitterness till the very end. This is why I ask the question: "Are the Poles celebrating 'Battle of Britain' week?"

[Photo of the 303 Squadron and the Squadron Insignia]



If you'd like to hear more about the 303, watch this Channel 4 documentary: Bloody Foreigners

Friday, 25 June 2010

The '70s indie music scene and Dr Vibes




It still amazes me just how much of an incredible resource the internet is. Way back in the 70s when the world was a very different place, I was still a fresh (albeit pimpled) faced youth and heavily into the indie-comic scene. Also at this time, punk music was breaking through and Manchester was becoming the focal point of the music scene (just ask Tony Wilson). In this environment stood 'Vibes Records', a cult record shop which was enjoying being at the centre of this scene, and was busy expanding to become a record label, as well as a cult magazine publisher.

Now to help the magazine establish its image, I was asked to provide original underground comic strips. The main strip: 'The Abominable Dr Vibes' proved very popular and kept me busy till the magazine folded, and so when the shop decided to start producing records... I was there to create the covers. This included the artists/bands: The Reducers, Trickswitch, and Fran Barrie.

So what has this all to do with the internet? Well this was over 30 years ago, and long before the internet and computers. Heck... it was in the days of the banda machine and typewriter! When I created this artwork I never expected it to survive all this time. Imagine my surprise then when I idly googled my 'name' Sadistic Scribbler, and found references to it associated with Fran Raya's (then Fran Barrie) record on various websites. Moreso surprised as at the time I was uncredited (as the artwork was not in keeping with 'Sadistic Scribbler' then image).

So not only had someone decided to document this little piece of history, they had also researched who had done the cover and had added it to the internet as a resource.

Wow! Who'd've thunk it!

So if anyone is curious about what this ancient piece of art memorabilia looked like, look no further than the image here (or check out the re-release). Now if only someone would archive the Vibes Magazine strips and the comics 'HB' and 'pssst'...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

RIP Fantasy Legend Frank Frazetta





Frank Frazetta died on the 10th May, and I for one am one of the millions who were saddened to hear this news. Like many, my childhood was heavily influenced by his art... on fantasy-genre book and comic covers, his artwork provided inspiration (and for some: titillation) to many my age. Whether you liked his work or not, it was always memorable... and often promised much more than the book content oft delivered.


If you want to find out more about the man and his art, here are some links to sites where you can start:

http://www.frankfrazettamuseum.com/
http://www.frankfrazetta.org/

And just to illustrate how popular his work was, here's a piece of his that sold for $1million:



http://www.spectrumfantasticart.com/full_content.php?article_id=1084&full=yes&pbr=1

And of course, there's always Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Frazetta

RIP Frank... you'll be sadly missed but not forgotten


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Objects that make my legs go wobbly (in a good way)




I've just spotted this piece of retro-technology and immediately fell in love! How can anyone not want one of these objects of desire? Forget the ipad as the most desirable thing du jour... let's all queue up for the USB Typewriter! Feel the clunkiness and weight with every keystroke... this is what I miss with modern computers - and now I can have the best of both worlds: a natty state-of-the-art tech (like the ipad) driven by beautiful machinery. Come on... we all know that this is what makes we boys weak at the knees, just look inside the TARDIS or watch the latest Sherlock Holmes to see how the closet steam-engine enthusiast in us all is dying to burst out.

Don't worry if you think you'd need to learn a new skill to drive this marvelous piece of machinery as the modern keyboard hasn't changed since its inception, so you'll be experiencing the joys of real hunt-n-pecking in no time. We still use the QWERTY key layout that was created especially for the typewriter, and as some of you may know, this particular arrangement of keys was created to be intentionally slow. When people were able to type too quickly hammers would collide damaging the typewriter, so the makers purposefully arranged the keys to keep them from being hit too fast. Now you'll have a good excuse to miss all the deadlines and finally take the time to enjoy what you're typing. Also, all the letters to spell TYPEWRITER were distributed along the top row to allow salesmen to quickly type out that "Hello World" phrase during demonstrations - try doing that with COMPUTER... or worse still, try to do that using the ipad's naff on-screen keyboard.

Re-live the halcyon days before the ZX80 and be the envy of your ipad-wielding friends... This is the future!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

So, what's with all the pink?





Some of the more observant among you will have noticed that I've re-designed my blog, and it's predominately pink in hue. Now if the phrase "but you're a dude... why have pink?" springs to mind... then shame on you. Pink is an excellent colour (or to be correct... tone) and needs to be freed from the chains of prejudice and bigotry. I personally like this colour, and am currently working with it to create a series of body abstract paintings (the first of which: 'Pink is the colour of intamacy' is above).

These paintings (2 more in the pipeline) not only try to capture the innocence and gentleness of the colour, they also incorporate some of the colour's more popular connotations: love and sexual preference. Yes, pink is the colour of love... although hearts are red, and is also the colour used to identify all things gay. The latter reference probably dates back to Hitler and his camps where homosexual men were badged with pink triangles (along with yellow stars for Jews, and Roma gypsies with black triangles) rather than the gender stereotyping we know today.

Speaking of stereotyping... colour has for a long time been used to symbolise things. From the yellow of fear, to the red of rage, colours create an immediate unconscious response in people. For example, very little food we eat is coloured blue (Smarties just prove the rule), as edible vegitation tends not to come in that colour. And art has used colour as a code to help the viewer understand hidden meaning. I am refering to the trend for Renaissance (and pre-Renaissance) artists to 'colour code' religious figures.

You may not be consciously aware of it, but we all associate colour with the figures from the Bible. If I were to ask you to describe Mary, although there is no description of her in the texts, I am sure that everyone will know that she wears sky blue (and white) robes. Am I right? What of Jesus? I bet red is in there somewhere. What you may be less aware of is that each apostle is awarded his own colour, which in turn has a connotational meaning to further describe his character. I won't go into any more detail (as that's what Google is for) except to say that Judas wearing yellow is no coincidence.

But surely everyone knows that pink is the colour of girls, and that blue is for boys?

Again, not true... I'm a boy (albeit now old and wrinkly) and I have no problem wearing pink. In fact, the notion that 'pink is for girls' is a relatively modern notion that was artifically introduced in the 1940s. Uptil then, the colour for girls was blue... just as the Virgin Mary, and for boys it was a toned-down red: ie pink, clearly seen as a masculine colour.

So pink had always been the male colour, and blue for girls. So what happened? Well, in the neverending noble quest to get women on an equal footing with men, the 'girly' colour blue was abandoned for the more masculine colour pink. And then some decades later (in the late '60s, early '70s I think) there was another push, this time to market goods specifically to girls, and pink was decided to become the branding colour for girls... and since then we boys have been denied it's elegant beauty.

I'm here to redress that imbalance. Long live pink (and now I'm off to watch 'Doctor Who')

---------- A quick addition

Another titbit of pink info... did you know that during WWII the British Spitfires were painted pink as this made them invisible to the eye while they surveilled France? Wish I had a photo. Also, I've just found a neat graphic charting the history of the colour pink. Check it out at http://bit.ly/bJ6pmE

Saturday, 8 May 2010

What's more important: The state of the nation, or satisfying the media's appetite?





You may have noticed that the UK has just had a General Election... and that it hasn't quite gone to plan. For those of you unawares, we have a first-past-the-post system meaning that the first party to reach the target number of seats, wins. Now this is great if everyone wants one party over all others, but not if public opinion is split 3 ways. In this instance, none of the 3 parties can win... which is what happened this week. This has left us with a hung parliament. If you want to know more... check the BBC website. This is not what I want to talk about.

My issue is that running the country is an important and difficult job. Realising what the people have asked the politicians to do is another. The last thing that everybody needs, is for the media to demand instant solutions that will do more harm than good... just for their newsbites.

The people who need to decide the fate of everyone's future have been landed an incredibly difficult task on top of not having had any sleep. These people are exhausted, and I for one would prefer that they got their heads down before making any decisions. I don't care that this means that the news channels have to wait. Better no news than catastrophe because people were forced to make the wrong decisions just to sate the media.

Give them a break. Stop all the pressure, silly stories, etc. and let them do what we've asked them to do... create a stable and secure government. For my part... let's hope that Nick Clegg has the courage to not forget his policies and end up in bed with Cameron. 50% voted against the right wing and only 30% for it. The only sensible solution is a left wing Lib-Lab government, and not some hodge-podge left+right wing mess. Surely I'm not the only person who sees that the words Conservative and Liberal just don't go together?

[photo: Macey by Jan Szafranski]

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Photo Fermata: Speaking in Another's Voice or Even My Own

Something I'm always banging on about, now eloquently described by a great photographer on his blog. Well worth reading and cogitating over...

Photo Fermata: Speaking in Another's Voice or Even My Own

Thursday, 8 April 2010

WHAT WE SAW TODAY: The New Neighborhood Watch




WHAT WE SAW TODAY: The New Neighborhood Watch

A thought provoking comment about anon attacks on artists and models going on on dA and other sites. When is reporting violations on dA, Facebook et al the right thing to do?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

When will the absurdity end?

The nipple is bringing down civilisation as we know it...

There's been a lot said (and more acted upon) concerning photography and questions of decency and/or privacy. This has resulted in various social websites such as Facebook to panic at the merest whiff of controversy. It appears that if someone happens along to a photo that shows nudity and complains, the hounds of 'decency' are let loose, regardless of whether the image is actually indecent or offensive. It's now got so stupid that even the BBC has to remove Old Master paintings from the screen lest the sight of painted flesh offends anyone... not that anyone would. This is typical of a new 'proactive' approach that beggers belief. To remove a Renaissance painting (or blur its content) in a programme about art in the off chance that some moron might complain of pornography informs me that the world has indeed gone mad.

And what of privacy?

I grew up admiring the urban photographs of buildings and people. The powerful images reflecting real life did much to inform me of the human condition and my place within it. But since the great-and-holy-Diana-whom-nothing-but-praise-be-said-in-hushed-tones complained of photographers using images she hadn't first vetted, it seems that all and sundry are over-reacting to the man (or woman) with a camera. As if taking a shot of a street that may have a child somewhere therein would magically feed paedophiles up and down the globe. Exactly how can a home video of a nativity play threaten the children? And this mentally is extended to adults... "I appear in a landscape photograph... pay me".

Now I'm not talking about models, advertising etc., but rather I'm referring to street photography capturing moments in time. I myself was bemused one day when I worked in the City to find myself unexpectedly elevated to celebrity. Trying to buy a sandwich, or a magazine etc. I found people staring and pointing. Many strangers actually approached me to ask how my 'problem' was doing. As it turns out, the night before there had been a TV documentary about male erection problems. This programme had plenty of statistics throughout, which were displayed on top of a film of commuters crossing London Bridge. As the people walked to camera, the scene froze and the stats appeared.

As it happened, I always wore a striking coat to work, and the filmmakers obviously felt that my image would be great to freeze on as the background. So there I was, all through the programme... freeze on me and then talk about erectile dysfunction.

Now I don't have a problem with this (people film the London Bridge commuters every day) as it was just an anonymous group of people serving as background. It wasn't about me, so why would anyone else in my position feel that they had a right to be paid huge sums in compensation? If I lived in the US... NY to be precise... then at least I would find that some sanity still prevailed, and that street scene photographers were protected from being sued (see Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia for more info). No-one seems to complain of being captured on CCTV or video... but someone with a camera.... oh no!

One day I hope to wake up and find that the life I'm living is just one big nightmare.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

2010 ain't what I was hoping it to be

I'm just glad that 2010 marks the end of the last decade (which was by far the shittyest to-date), rather than the beginning of a new decade... as just like the first 9 years of this century, life hasn't improved.

It began with the snow... and more snow... and no Sky TV. For the last 8 months I haven't had service (just countless useless Sky engineers). I'd love to go cable with Virgin... but living on a private road with neighbours that don't want cable means this will never happen.

Then the missus lost control of the car and after bouncing off a wall, left the road taking to the sky for a few yards before landing 3 feel below in a field. Just as a second car did the same, flipped and landed inches away on its side. Luckily she was fine, but the saga of useless Croydon garages meant that the car was left in situ (with dozens of frustratingly mindless telephone conversations with morons). 3 weeks later when they finally decide to lift it out of the field, some oiks break into it and nick everything.

So what then? Well what's left of the crap dentistry job on my teeth fell out, leaving me with 2 root canal holes in my gums with a couple of sharp enamal shards and pain. But can I get an NHS dentist? Nope. So here I am, a cripple, in pain, risking infection (which apparantly is more serious as I'm a diabetic) with nowhere to go.

Now the missus loses fillings (told you we had probably the crappest dentist in the country) and develops an absess and infection. Face has swollen up like a balloon with the doctors saying she needs a dentist. If only there were one available.

At least I'm finally going into hospital for tests (MRI and LP/spinal tap) after waiting 8 years... tho' with the year being what it is, I'll stay in remission and they won't find anything. Ever the opimist... I'm hoping to be confirmed ill (ironic or what?).

... And this is just the top of the iceberg!