Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Metro readers. All idiots?

I don't know who this Bob Garfield character is, some Madison Avenue pundit jacked up on Benzadrine I'd imagine, given his rapid-fire assertive written style, but he's fairly sure that the media world as we know and tolerate it is about to end. David Simon, a man whose integrity as a producer of media deserves some respect, is saying the same thing about newspapers. You can also, funnily enough, read about this exact situation on p.414 in your copy of Infinite Jest (published 1997). A book, which, as a consequence of searching for this reference, I'm in danger of starting to read all over again. As you can see from my picture, this is fairly serious undertaking (that's an A4 pad on the table next to it).

The problem is value. What's valuable and what "wants to be free." People thought for ages that web advertising could fund anything, even professional journalism, but the truth is you can't support everything with advertising - no one clicks on web-banners - I'm a heavy internet user and a profligate and greedy shopper and in the past year, particularly since I've been using AdBlock Plus, I don't think I've clicked on any. In the end you're just jacking the economy up on stilts because if you give people news, communication, music, film and mobile free based on advertising revenue, what, in this country where nobody deigns to be a coalminer, car manufacturer or a shipbuilder, are we going to sell?

There's a role for advertising in all of this which is to convince people that getting something free does lead to a drop in quality. I'd say this argument is about self-respect. People believe that information should be free, but good information is only worth what you ask for it - it has no intrinsic value because it's intangible, it's something that you have to agree on. Some people don't and never will care about the quality of what they consume, but some people might be persuaded to. I hate the Metro, I also hate anyone who reads the Metro. I read the Evening Standard, which, with its combination in murders described by sickos and theatre reviewed by snobs, plus an extremely petty-minded and partisan approach to local politics, is more or less my ideal paper. Anyway, now the Standard is under Russian ownership (Oligarch and former KGB man Alexander Lebedev, bought it because it reminds him of his time as young agent in London during the height of the Cold War, you could not make this shit up) and has dissociated itself from the London Lite I hope they will be launching an aggressively patronising campaign aimed exposing Metro readers as the mindlessly troughing swine they in fact are, leading with my line "Would you eat something you'd found on the tube?"

I did go an see someone about a job yesterday. It seemed to go ok, I let him read one of the Garroters Gazeteer pieces and only while he was doing so began to sense that it perhaps cast my approach to my work in a rather negative light. Sometimes I really have no idea.

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Ah Spring. That that quickening of the senses you're experiencing is not for nothing. During the winter UK mortality rates reach a peak in January. That starts to drop off around April – so not quite the cruelest month – but make no mistake, more than 1,600 people will still be dying every day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brother Stevie's bedroom

A self-portrait of Brother Stevie instructing his wife apparently. They have two children so he definitely knows how to do it. At least the basics.

For complex reasons, involving actual cat-loss, the winner of the pet portrait contest has not yet been announced. You will perhaps find out more, at the dustywolfeagle blog by and by.

Get with the Zeitgeist will you?

If you've haven't had this idea this week:

Where have you been?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The SPETZNATZ financial requisition bag

One of the nice things about not having an art director is that it's forcing me to actually make all the strange ideas that I've been going on about for ages, but could never persuade anyone else to execute. The downside is it tends to look a bit shit, but that's ok, I'm the art director now, and I'm a copywriter.

Anyway, I had this idea ages ago about men and bags. Men have a problem buying bags. The only bag a man is allowed to carry is a rucksack, which if you're in the habit of occasionally wearing a suit, makes you look you're some kind of soulless cunt reading for an MBA. Of course, if you're feeling metrosexual, or you're a planner, you can get yourself a fruity manbag. Frankly no solution as far as I'm concerned. The problem isn't how the bag looks, it's just carrying a bag has these strong associations of femininity. What men need is a new story. So I came up with this new brand for bags:

Oh, you want to read what's on the little label there?

Like men buy the new North Face Cross Training X-Weave Fell-Runner for their 20 minute walk to work. They have no intention of ever running the 16 peaks of Xuaxcotlpetl, but they like the story. So these are bags for crime. This is the first one, which is the Financial Requisition Hold All - it's designed to contain up to 10,000,000 RUB in notes. The range also includes the Hostage Taker's Shoulder Bag. And the Bomber's Briefcase.

If nothing else, I'm at least coming to realise why I can't maintain a relationship with an art director for more than a few months.

If you work for Thames Valley Police...

...what the fuck are you doing reading my blog? Shouldn't you be, I dunno, preventing crime or something?

Brand Compendium

This is not new news, but if you haven't seen it, you need watch the South Park Imaginationland three part special. The basic conceit is that terrorists blow up the wall in Imaginationland which divides all the good things people have imagined of the course of history, from all the bad things. Somehow they've pulled off a spectacular co-branding heist that means they can get Wario, Jason, Darth Maul, The Joker and The Terminator all in the same frame, all brutally torturing Strawberry Shortcake. They also manage to tie it up with this weird cultural metaphysics about the reality of created ideas, namely, don't they have the power to affect people's lives far beyond that of any individual and aren't they therefore really real in a way that individuals are not? I feel like advertisers would do well to consider this when they're making things - perhaps we should at least try not to fill the world with shit. Although we almost inevitably will. Anyway, you really should see it, it's epic like Milton, but with swearing and Kurt Russell being raped by forest animals.

Again, not new news, but forgive me, I've been away. I sort of wondered whether the Fallon creatives who made the Comic Relief spot ever saw Imaginationland. Don't get me wrong, even if they had I think it's a fair case for inspiration. Since brands usually only exist on their own, seeing them together does take you to a kind of dream-place. For instance one of the single most surreal moments of my life was passing through Baker St on the H&C line, and seeing my dear Mother on the opposite platform, and then noticing that she was gawping at Richard Branson, who was standing a few metres away from her. This is the quality that makes dreams dream-like, not total randomness, but things that don't belong together being brought together in otherwise mundane surroundings.

Obviously brand managers don't have dreams and they don't like co-branding either. You never know the affect that one brand is going to have on another. Since they work like ideograms, you can actually put them together to create a kind of brand haiku. Allow me to demonstrate. This one is called "Too Late, too late":

That was just the first one that sprang to mind.

Anyway, I should be getting on with this job hunt. I have successfully assembled a portfolio of sorts and I may post bits of it for you delectation. I'm sort of thinking I'd like to do a bit of landscape gardening for the summer though. I dunno.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mood Film

The Ideas Brothers threw down the gauntlet on this one. If you don't read their blog you're a blasted imbecile.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Danger DIY

There that was fun wasn't it?

Spain is great. An entire nation incapable of efficiency. On the up-side, they aren't cursed, like the British, with impatience – which is just self-importance on a time axis.

As well as mooning around in Cafe Comercial with a pencil pretending to be a writer, I also had time to read a bit more about Eric Gill. I read biographies, mainly of authors and rock-stars, as a form of self help. You can spot the narcissists on the Underground, flicking back to the beginning of their Life of Keith Richards, to check how old he was when Exile on Mainstreet came out and confirm that there's still time for them to make that move they've been planning, from second division advertising copywriter to rock icon. I also occasionally read biographies of serial killers, like Fred West. These I find more cheering, because their notoriety is based not on success but chaotic failure. Their lives tend to have a different sort of shape – the temptation for the biographer of a successful subject is to arrange everything neatly around his or her achievements, like iron filings around a magnet – where as life as it is lived feels like so much stumbling, blindly groping for the next moment's gratification.

I started reading about Eric Gill for my next piece in Bulimics' Digest. Gill was a typographer responsible for, amongst other things, the beautiful Gill Sans face, used by the BBC and latterly every single Brit brand looking for a type that's vaguely reminiscent of scouting manuals and books about knots. Gill was also a sculptor of some genius, producing the statue of Ariel at Broadcasting House and Westminster Cathedral's Stations of the Cross – controversially some might say since he managed to have sex with an array of people who weren't his wife, some of whom he was nonetheless related to, and some of whom weren't even people.

Many questioned the appropriateness his work appearing in a Catholic Cathedral. Suffice to say that these people were viewing the situation from a moral, rather than an artistic point of view. The Fiona McCarthy biography deals with all this pretty coolly. It seems like if, as a biographer, you discover that kind of thing about your subject you just have to keep going, because what else are you going to do? I read a biography of Evelyn Waugh which suggested that having sex with 9 year olds in Egypt was just what literary men did in the 1930s.

The comparison with West is slightly facile, since, so far as we know, Gill never kidnapped, killed or tortured anyone. Nor, according to his biographer (however worrying the implications of this might be) did he rape anyone. His daughters grew up to be relatively well adjusted, under the circumstances. And despite these revelations about Gill's lifestyle his reputation is, if anything, resurgent right now.

What he shares with West and latterly, Josef Fritzl, is a kind of dismay at the idea that what he was doing was wrong, or very far beyond the bounds of normal behaviour. All three developed a large extended family for themselves, effectively a small society – with rules they could control. All three were, to differing degrees, technically gifted. West's children describe him as "always working" and as well as his famous contribution to the mystique of the patio, he also constructed Rose's Black Magic Bar for her paying customers, replete with peep-holes and listening devices. Fritzl likewise was able to build and plumb living quarters for his second family. It seems like this willingness to innovate within the physical structure of your home is connected to a willingness to fall back on a jerry-rigged morality that allows you to do whatever the fuck you want.

I'm just saying, unless you are actually a builder, you have no business with that tool-belt.

UPDATE: The more I read about Eric Gill the more he reminds me of Iggy Pop, another small wiry man with a famously big cock.

Monday Morning Memento Mori (Memorial Edition)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hasta Luego

Right, I really am going on holiday tomorrow morning. Missing one flight bespeaks a devil-may-care attitude, but even my capacious ego couldn't accommodate missing two. I will resume normal blogging if and when I get back. I'm not taking my laptop with me because I spend my entire fucking life attached to the thing, but I reserve the right to post grainy mobile phone imagery and gibberish in Spanish while I'm away.

As I mentioned last week I've been working on a side-project with the aim of developing a new and healthier form of capitalism to replace the one that appears to be dying on its arse at the moment. Not all the stories are up there, but at least you'll have a reason to go back.

I was going to post about Eminem and torture but I started writing about it and just found it too thorny an issue to handle with the appearance of flippancy, whilst leaving you in no doubt that I think torturing people by playing them music is obscene. I suggest you look at this website anyway.

Ok, so bye. I'll call you when I get back or something.

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Apologies for the late post - GC slept till 11am today, on the principle that having missed a plane on Saturday, this time at home is extra and therefore waste-able. There's nothing like a serious lie-in, just ask the 25% of people who die in their sleep.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Brother Stevie - Back Like Bacon

Read it and weep baby.

Stevie Gee is back from the Bog of Pitch and boy did he have some stuff to get off his chest.

This week is special because Stevie is giving one lucky reader the chance to win his pen and ink illustration, entitled "Why cats are better than dogs" - all you need to do is submit your best pet portrait to dustywolfeagle at hotmail dot com. Steve will post his favourites at his mind-bending Dusty Wolf Eagle Blog. So get sketchin' critters.

It's a real relief to have a contributor back - feels like I've just been carping away in my cave on my own for ages now.

Update 22.09 - I'm finding the title of this post increasingly disturbing with the passing of time.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dogger and Blighty

I've been looking at the ads for Blighty for my next piece in Good Housebreaking. I had to nick this photo off Flickr* because I couldn't find a better reproduction anywhere, and the ones I took with my mobile phone looked too much like art.

Both of the tube ads are great, the TVCs less so. This one gets extra points for being hugely unoriginal, but still great. It's worth enlarging it for the details - because it has some very high quality comedy writing in it. Campaign gives the agency and art director as Watermill - I can find no such agency online. There may still be an agency in this country in 2009 that has no website, or there's the barely conscionable possibility that the hacks at Campaign have done zero fact-checking and just published the press release they were sent, in which case it doesn't actually exist and is just newsbiscuit writer John O'Farrell and a highly paid freelance designer.

The art direction is lovely too, with the crumpled patina and the handwritten elements. Also good use of the eponymous Eric Gill's, Gill Sans - properly spaced caps and everything. What, after all, could be more British than an incestuous, paedophile, dog-fucking, converted-papist typographer?

*Update - the PR sent me a proper one. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hey. Erm. That's my house?

In the continuing tradition of stealing content from ITIABTWC here is the Shelter spot which won at the Creative Circle. This interests me less than the fact that it shows the section of the Hammersmith and City Line between Goldhawk Road and Shepherds Bush and that it's my house that is supposedly collapsing.

The housing crisis is real? Well I can tell you with some certainty that neither this house, nor number 23 is made of enormous playing cards.

Rather undermines their wild claim don't you think?

A sober photographic moment I think you'll agree hmm?

For not very complex reasons, which I'm not going to share with you out of sheer wilful perversity, I spent a couple of hours last night setting metal type.

Setting type is one of those old and beautiful things, like bespoke tailoring, that no one in this country will know how to do in three years time. Partly because British teenagers all want to be 50 Cent (who, I was pleased to hear, is about to self-destruct) and partly because it's a totally outdated technology and I may as well be bemoaning the fact that they're not set to work making clay finger pots.

One side-effect of modern "labour saving technology" anticipated by Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier was that anything that took a decently long time would be consigned to the Craft Movement. Once you can do something quickly, doing it slowly is merely gratuitous. This irked him because a superabundance of time was something that he associated with the upper classes - the natural resentment of a bourgeois Etonian - so anything that took longer than it needed to had this etiolated, moneyed taint.

Obviously, my spending an evening setting a paragraph of type and finding it to be a meditative experience, that has something to do with the human activity of the transmission of ideas (some people might even say, the essential human activity), is nothing like being forced into a typesetting apprenticeship at 14 and then spending the next 55 years doing it until you go blind and mad from staring at 8 point Baskeville backwards and upside-down for 10 hours a day, and are put into the workhouse for a few more years of backwards upside-down muttering punctuated by institutional abuse then death. But I think I'm still entitled to believe that it's a more dignified form of work than becoming even a fairly high-ranking JD Sports staff member - despite the access that such a position might give you to some of their limited edition Reebok Classics.

Copywriters have another reason to bewail the decline of metal type, which is that it made it very, very hard for a client to change your headline once it had been signed off. Permanence has an almost subconscious effect on one's approach to any creative task. I would find it physically impossible to leave as many adverbs in a piece of writing for printed media as would writing for you suckers on this blog. I think you can get to something deep about the effect of technology on craft, fairly quickly, if you can be bothered to chase that one down.

I'm afraid I can't as I have cheese to eat.

Of course, what Orwell naively failed to anticipate (died in 1949 you say? pah! idiot!), was the total cooption of all forms of labour-saving technology by the forces of capital in order to increase the rate of labour.

I have been devising a kind of terrorist activity to counter this trend. Stay tuned for that.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Monday Morning Memento Mori

GC wishes Jade Goody no ill will whatever. So you can't blame me. The press coverage of her impending demise is both horrific and salutory. The British media just isn't set up to deal with the fact of someone alive, walking around and saying fatuous things and then suddenly not alive, walking around, or saying anything at all anymore.

She is definitely going to die, relatively soon. But you needn't feel too awful about it because with 154,162 cancer deaths in the UK annually, you might too.