Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The power, the glory and the boredom

I was really delighted to see this quotation from T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock painted onto the wall of Whittard of Chelsea in the Westfield. This radical re-reading of Eliot's elegy to a wasted life has been long overdue.

Nice to know that this image, often misinterpreted as one of the bleakest in the canon, was just his way of saying that, over the course of his life, he'd drunk a lot of coffee.

What a relief!

It's fantastic also, to see this quotation ascribed to T.S Eliot rather than the narrator of his poem, as though it was something that he'd said in an interview in Take a Break. I've always been a guilty historicist myself and but so naturally I'd hoped that Roland Barthes would be an anaethema to a brand like Whittard of Chelsea too.

Well done Whittard of Chelsea, for bringing High Modernism to the masses.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Placement Tradition: "nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash."

So Scamp posted about the placement system and as someone who went through it fairly recently I thought I'd get my oar in

For all my foreign readers the placement system is what we use in this country to prevent people who aren't upper middle class from becoming advertising creatives.

It's fiendishly clever.

Firstly, nearly all agencies demand the same kind of portfolio. This is the kind of portfolio that is produced at major advertising MA courses like Bucks, Watford and Falmouth. A book of seven wholly facetious, strategically perverse campaigns mac'd up by someone who really knows what they're doing. People say, no, no, it's all about the idea, draw it on the back of a fag packet, but those people are all shark-eyed liars and probably work at Y&R or something. You want your "Tic-tacs - minty mouse-ear plugs innit?" campaign in a state where some crapulous 43 year old prick can shrug his beer gut and go "Yeah, I could run that tomorrow."

So you can either do an advertising MA, or you can spend a year and a half trying to fake up a book that looks exactly like you've done an advertising MA.

Your call really, but either way, you're bound to incur another massive tranche of debt, to add to the already eye-watering debt you will have accumulated as a budding alcoholic not doing your English degree.

Then the real fun begins, trolling round London's agencies, pestering creative directors to look at your book.

Few creative directors will do this themselves, they're too busy judging advertising awards, typically they will assign the job to a junior creative demeaningly close to your own age who'll demand to meet you at 7.30am to leaf through your book and tell you that it's "a bit ad-dy."

Yeah, almost like a book of adverts isn't it?

Basically you have to give the impression that you won't go away until they give you a placement. Be persistent. Be annoying. (As long as you are more persistent than annoying, they won't actually tell you never to call again, they haven't the spine, and eventually they'll give you a placement just to free up their office line.)

So hurray. You're in an agency, drinking their coffee, eating the production company sushi. But if you were thinking of paying off that massive loan/credit card debt/triad think again. Most agencies will pay you £200 a week, tops. Don't think you can get another job either, because at all but the very best agencies there will be at least one complete cunt who thinks it's funny, seeing you going home at 8.15pm, to shout "Going already?" and this arsehole will take up residence within your own psyche and won't allow you to leave before 10.00pm or at weekends, because then it's like you don't "want it enough" and the received opinion is that "wanting it enough" is at least as important as ability, constituting a kind of talent in itself.

You'll work all the time, become incredibly pallid, humourless and unhealthy and then, once the final drops of native enthusiasm are wrung from your very soul you'll almost certainly be called into the Creative Director's office and told that although you're very popular within the agency and your work is good, they, well, they're not going to take you on.

The Creative Director may actually have a Porsche brochure open on his desk when he does this.

As a system for weeding out all but the most rapacious, thick-skinned and entitled children of the upper middle-classes it has no equal.

Monday, April 27, 2009

GC, man about town

What, really? That is just a crazy-good deal.

The people that run this shop seem to be east African Sikhs. They burn fragrant incense within their shop and keep their beards and moustaches safe by wearing tiny nets.

As well as the normal more-than-a-pound shop fare of buckets, bath plugs, really hideous plastic flowers and toilet brushes with a kind of oily blue fluid within the transparent part of the brushholder which holds the shitty end of the brush, and fake fish and fishtank seaweed, so that, having scrubbed a skid mark off your loo-pan you can pretend you're a like decadent sultan who insists on plunging his shitty loo brush into a tank of ravenous coprophagic tropical fish, they also sell brand name products, for instance, Colgate toothpaste, which tastes oddly salty and not a bit like Colgate toothpaste should and, when you read the small print on the back of tube, turns out to be actually the Federal Republic of Nigeria's rendition of Colgate toothpaste.

The men in these shops, they call me "Boss" – because I am so.

W12 can support seven types of shop:

  • More-than-a-pound Shops
  • Generic Halal Chicken outlets (at the north end of my road I have Chicken Shack to the south Tennessee Fried Chicken)
  • Pawn Brokers
  • Betting Shops
  • Charity Shops
  • Shops that offer "Mobile Unlocking" with and without auxiliary "Calling Card Vendors" seated outside on wheely chairs.
  • Afro Hair and Beauty Product Shops
If you try to open any other kind of shop in W12 it will close within four months, and, after lying derelict for three months, be replaced by one of the above. Shops the economy of Shepherds Bush cannot sustain include:

  • Book shops
  • Chichi deli cafes
  • Record Shops
  • The Westfield
  • Video Shops
The Blockbuster Video at the end of my road has recently closed, leaving its huge ugly Blockbuster sign. It's not very often that you encounter three foot high architectural type that could feasibly be altered to include the word "Bolockbuter".

I would say it was a very rare occurrence.

Anyway, I'd thought maybe of angling this one round to the importance of branding or the opposite but it realised it would just be futile either way.

I think it's safe to say that no-one in Shepherds Bush gives two shits about branding, and who am I to buck the trend?

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Women attempt suicide more than men, yet men complete more suicides than women. Typical.

Friday, April 24, 2009

All apologies

Nirvana Unplugged in New York is the most flatly depressing album there is. Who, listening to Cobain slouch through the Man Who Sold The World, didn't know that he was about to top himself? Anyone who tries to play you that album is not your friend – they're involved in a plot to cause you to take your own life.

Anyway, I have some more freelance work today, so let's continue the intellectual nose dive that the blog has taken in recent days with this apology from Stevus Gee.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tragedy, Horror, Comedy

All in one film – you'll need to watch the whole thing for the full effect. Don't worry, no-one gets nailed to a plank.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today's Suggestions

1. Yeah, so K. tells me that the human race is doomed because of a shortage of bees. If you have any bees, now would be a good time to release them.

2. Can I also suggest that you go and see In The Loop (pictured, yes I am insisting on manufacturing all my visuals in my kitchen, it's part of my new look)? Just take a moment to consider all that writer/producer, and scholar of Milton, Armando Ianucci has done for British comedy: The Day Today, Alan Partridge, The Thick of It and the, IMHO, vastly underrated Time Trumpet.

You see, even if it weren't excellent, you'd basically owe it to him as decent human being to go and see his film.

Dunno if Time Trumpet ever came out on DVD, but you can watch it on YouTube:

I believe some of the sketches in that were written by the Mantlepies - once creatives at, now full-time comedy writers by the looks of it, and quite right too.

In The Loop is a political satire, I wonder if six-form drama classes of the future will perform it endlessly, like The Government Inspector, even once the system it satirises has long been overthrown by violent revolution. It is also a farce in the true meaning of the word, being "a proceeding that is ludicrously futile." The whole of the action springs from a soundbite, that a war in the Middle East is "neither forseeable or unforseeable", a phrase which means nothing at all.

This is salient now when people are saying that Brown's leadership is under threat because of the Damian McBride affair (OK, the Evening Standard is saying it is, Brown will never ever resign because he's a shameless, tenacious little shit.) The other major player in the whole McBride disaster has been the libertarian blogger Guido Fawkes. As mentioned previously GC has long been a fan, establishing his own online identity for use in Guido's comment section, as a terminally bored DM writer in 2006. Guido was enormously prescient about the power of bloggers, realising that a politically unaffiliated, independently-wealthy citizen might be far better placed to report the truth than professional lobby journalists, who have to stay on good terms with the MPs they're reporting on in order to ensure a continuing supply of leads and fully-expensed lunches.

(As an aside, one might consider Guido's rise as roughly parallel to Scamp's - both of them starting out as personal hobby sites, in industries inadequately reported by lazy, editorially pussy-whipped industry presses, and eventually commanding circulation far surpassing that of their respective industry rags. Both have ended up basically teaching the institutional outlets how to do web, indeed Damian McBride was given his job expressly to counteract the effect of, which became a rallying point for anti-government commentators of all stripes. Both have given themselves silly online names.)

What really gets me about the Damian McBride thing is that nothing has happened at all. The emails only recorded an intention, and anyway, they were just emails. Since this crisis has its source in the immaterial world people quite quickly start thinking it's a moral issue. It's not, it's a digital issue.

It's like having an apocalyptic banking crisis based on figures which only exist fleetingly on computer screens.

3.5. We are living in an age of futility.

4. Buy and fill window box. I did and it improved my day no end, although I keep hurrying to the window to check that it hasn't been stolen by a heroin addict. It will be within the next few days I imagine.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Some people don't feel like they're having a successful career unless they're forever flying around the world to shoot with Chris, Harmony or Helmut. Comfort yourself with the fact that there were 147 aeroplane accidents last year, resulting in 876 deaths. If you ask me you're better off never leaving the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Check out the nails

Sebastian Horsley is a massive poser. I say that as something of an authority on the subject.

His written style is so mannered as to be unreadable and he dresses like something the bereaved parents of a 14 year old suicide might discover drawn on her pencil case. If you work in Soho, you may have seen him strutting around Meard Street, he would be the one in the two foot high stove-pipe hat. I believe he lives above the doorway with the "This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address" sign, which Self-harmers Weekly reproduced as part of their Sell Out Special a couple of years ago and can now be seen on the office doors of creative department secretaries all over London - this being exactly the sort of bawdy, will-you-won't-you-get-to-shag-me humour that creative secretaries seem to go for. The presence of the original sign is ironic because there are often, according to Horsley himself, several prostitutes at that address, with him.

I find the combination of very low production values and an extravagant costume budget in that film especially unnerving. There's also a moment in the section on soliciting prostitutes where he seems to be ad libbing (ie saying something he hasn't written down beforehand), and comes across like some kind of demonic youth television presenter. A friend of mine, who is a journalist, went to interview him and noticed that, in the course of their conversation, he had quoted Herodotus, Horace and Hughes. It then occurred to her that perhaps he'd just read the entries for H, in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, a suspicion which, when pressed, he could not deny.

Despite all this, I must admit to a grudging respect for the man, not wholly unrelated to his willingness to have himself crucified.

Having yourself nailed to a plank of wood is an unfakeable act. And, as such, realises Horsley's idea of transcendence - how can we escape the boundaries of ourselves and become something greater and more beautiful? He attempts to do this all the time by dressing like a paedophile trying to con his way into Fagin's gang, by only ever saying the same forty witty things, by styling himself as a libertine – none of these things work quite as well as letting a load of Filipinos nail you to a plank. The pain and the sordidness of it, the basketball vests, it's not something any normal person would do for the sake of an idea. And so, by doing it, he becomes something greater than a normal person.

It's my understanding that he then produced a series of crucifixion paintings – the first in the long history of such images to be painted by someone who had first-hand experience of the subject – regarded by the art-world as basically so-so.

This interests me, not just because watching an art-ponce being nailed to plank makes for the kind of compelling viewing that is exactly what the internet was made for, but because it seems that certain kinds of pain can turn an idea into a truth. Wars start as a conflict of ideas, the second stage is people shooting and stabbing one another in the neck, then at the end we know which idea was right and which was evil.

It should interest you because advertising is always trying to turn ideas into truths.

So when a brand manager says his brand is interested in preserving the environment, your response should be, yes, but are you prepared to be nailed to a fucking plank of wood in order to demonstrate that interest?

PS: I had coffee with the wonderful Proxikid last night, she said, "So what gives, you used to post every day and now you post like once a week," and I realised that the problem was that when I was at work writing this blog was an outlet for the parts of my personality which I could not express in a corporate context. Less of a problem in the kitchen you see, no one minds me posing in here, because they cannot see me.

PPS: I'm surprised no-one has said anything about the Gordonbot – that is a life-long ambition, to create a robot that will swear at people for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brother Stevie Delivers...

...and GC drops the baby.

Stevie actually delivered these on time for Easter whilst I was off stuffing my greedy face with Welsh Cakes in a caravan. We've had requests for a winner in the Pet Portraiture competition Stevie - I think the judging has been a long, drawn-out process – but at least it has caused Integral to log on to your site every few minutes, which does wonders for the stats, let me tell you.

Sometimes I like to imagine a live action equivalent of blogging, which would involve my standing on a box, wearing a blindfold and shouting and sticking pictures to the railings.

That might sound mad, but what would that make the people who kept coming back to watch?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


So I got some work from an agency I like, doing the kind of old-fashioned, copy-led advertising that I like to do. I can't tell if they're going to give me any more of it, they're being cagey, but I would appreciate it if you could all hope on my behalf that they will. It's the very least you can do.

Freelancing from home is great, but sometimes I look up from my kitchen table and think, what, is this it then, am I going to spend the rest of my life sitting here devising effete wordplays about drills and hand-sanders? Is this what it has all been for? Can I really survive on so little time spent with other people, hang my self-esteem on the shreds of positive affirmation I receive by email, and never have to interface in reality with anyone whatsoever?

I probably can. Even if it makes my emails to the agency sound a bit sweaty and praise-hungry.

The only irritating thing is that when the account handler calls me at home I can't just ignore her call (I have to override my instinctive response) because really I'm at work also. Which makes me feel fiendish and like I'm constantly at work even when I'm just sitting here eating cake and staring into the middle distance.

I think I'm going to have to get a dog. Not to have sex with – just for company you understand. (Still haven't quite finished the Gill biography, largely because I've started to read Infinite Jest all over again).

Anyway, I thought I'd write about my brief foray into the world of mobile advertising.

I did a good lot of work for a mobile advertising start up. I won't mention their name, because they're still out there. Unusually for me I was on good terms with the creative director of their agency, and he used to take me to the board meetings, mainly for company I think, because their meetings tended to be long and leg-gnawingly dull. I enjoyed them, because I got to witness the undignified jockeying for position amongst the legion of branding, marketing and PR minions who had all leapt aboard this idea. They were all slightly older than me, all at that point in their thirties when people start to believe that they should be important, even if they are in fact, in sales. In this high-pressure situation they started displaying their grotesque psychological deformities, like, floridly. It was like being on a U-boat, manned by 8 year olds.

Mobile advertising is the future I'm afraid. That's the horrible truth of it. But it won't really be mobile any more, it will be more like web advertising but delivered to a handset like the iPhone, so will probably have more video elements, and less clicky arsing around than web, which has all that real estate to fill with buttons and links. And it won't be an iPint application because that misses out on the really good bit of mobile which is that you can contact people through the same device that they use to communicate with people they actually like, and hopefully engage them in some sort of to-and-fro, with changing responses based on what they've said to you.

At the moment in order for a mobile response engine thingummy to process user's responses they have to be predetermined. So it will ask you "Are you gay?" and you have the options "1. Yes 2. No 3. Sometimes." What you need is some kind of system that can parse the shades of meaning in "No, but I sometimes have homosexual thoughts about my boss, which I interpret as a subconscious acknowledgement of his dominance over me, so what I'm really picking up on is a kind of sublimated version of the way that male dogs will sometimes mount one another merely to express heirarchy."

One way to do this is to have someone sitting there, reading all the messages. The other way is to fake it, using a machine like this.

(I can't stress enough how much I want you to click the link. It started off as this throwaway aside, but ended up eating two days of my life.)

This is called the Tamagotchi Effect - based on a horrifying idea about our inability to know anyone. Since so much is hidden, who they are and what they're like is only something that happens in our mind, the inside of their heads being a totally closed area. So for instance, with my Gordonbot you can almost imagine that you really are interacting with another human being, when in fact it's just a load of Javascript, that has no interest in you whatever.

When you think about it, our relationship with a brand has been like this all along - we deploy all our interpersonal machinery to fill in the gaps between the few symbols that we're given. How else could we develop feelings toward a brand? People believe that Google is friendly. Not that it's like someone who is friendly, they believe it is friendly.

Anyway, it'll probably take a few years before anyone works out a model that makes people feel okay about having brands contact them on their phone. And it will probably be even longer than that before the marketing managers finally develop the balls to take a chance on it.

As you can see I've now eaten all the cake. Which is equivalent to eating a packet of butter and a bag of sugar, four eggs and about a fiver's worth of glaceed cherries in three days. Has anyone at Wiedens thought of doing a cake campaign? Thursday is cake day? Anyway, I'm free if you need a hand with it.

PS: Is my new purple masthead taking as long to load for everyone else?

Monday, April 06, 2009


I'm improbably busy for reasons I haven't time to explain.

Since Scamp has directed some traffic my way (this is after all the 1.16 millionth most read blog in the country don't you know?) and I'd prefer not to waste the stats can I direct your attention to The Workers' Press? If you haven't been for a while there are new stories up there. The one called Ethology might be of special interest to you. Yes you.

Monday Morning Memento Mori

Hi everyone. Gordon here. Hope you had a nice weekend and weren't, you know, at it too hard. Just thought I'd remind you that the number of annual alcohol-related deaths has doubled in the last 20 years. From 4,144 in 1991 to 8,724 in 2007. The rule to remember is that anything that makes life tolerable will also eventually kill you.

Friday, April 03, 2009


H&F Council go that extra mile

Human sacrifice is really only proper under the circumstances.

Brother Stevie is off in San Francisco, hopefully he'll return with all his internal organs. I'm looking for other illustrators to contribute, so if you're interested, do get in touch on the electronical mail.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Check out my new office!

It's Shepherds Bush JobCentre Plus*!

Ho, ho.

The redundancy money is gone ladies and gentleman. I made it disappear.

As you can see the JobCentre Plus is great. They've done it up to look like a web agency crossed with the Big Brother house: open plan, lots of soft areas, plus an enormous number of beady black fish-eye cameras set into the ceiling. Clearly our taxes have been, if not well-spent, then at least very thoroughly spent. If anyone from the government reads this (I get one IP) I'd be happy with a less well-appointed Job Centre and, you know, a job.

Rock historians may be interested to know that this is the building where Joe Strummer first clapped eyes on Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. He thought they were going to beat him up. Often, in situations that might otherwise be corrosive to my self-esteem I like to imagine that I'm a rock historian.

Generally I'm on time, it's one of the reasons I'm mistrusted in creative departments - that and not drinking or taking drugs and the hair, the clothes and the long words and the pretentious reading material – so I was punctual at 10.40 to meet my JobCentre Plus Job Advisor and slightly annoyed to discover that they give you 10.40 for 11.00 because they assume you're the kind of useless unemployable shit who'll rock up for an interview 20 mins late. So after 20 minutes spent ostentatiously reading Nicholson Baker I met Sam. Sam was a wonderful advert for the psychological effects of office work. Check out the cheery message he had stuck on his work station, next to his Telephone Hygiene Wipes. The slogan faced him, not me:

Sam said that he'd never seen Copywriter on the JobCentre Plus computer - but a cursory search did show a major DM agency recruiting for a web optimisation expert. I'm sort of a web-optimisation expert. I get loads of hits for titling my posts things like "Kate Moss and the world's most famous vagina", or "Bukkake!" I suspect those particular punters maybe disappointed to find themselves looking at pictures of Mark Denton Esq or reading about feminist theatre. At least I hope they are. There's not even a word for that kind of pervert.

I might put myself up for that one, since I believe it just involves typing the words "phone phonecalls cheap phone mobile" in a kind of pointless mantra over and over again in white type on a white background and dropping it into the HTML of websites. It's like copywriting but without the thought. It's like a modern version of employing monks to say mass for your soul in purgatory. That's my understanding of it anyway. I'll be fine. I'll learn on the job.

But even if I don't score that gig, the good news is that the government are happy for me to spend another 13 weeks drinking coffee, eating glazed yum-yums, writing this blog and occasionally emailing people I don't know to suggest that they employ me. After 13 weeks they'll tell me to retrain as a tree-surgeon or something.

After all that, I had to go to Waitrose in the Westfield (which is deserted) and buy sponge cake ingredients totalling £30. Not to bake my CV and send it to Wiedens, you understand, just to pig my own personal self out on.

Gym Shorts Magazine have posted my article on the dubious pleasures of nationalism – I'm also bickering in the comments. Do join in.

*(For all my foreign readers. The JobCentre Plus is what the DWP, formerly the DSS, calls the Benefits Office, which is what everyone else calls the Dole Office. The rebranding of the welfare state really takes the Greggs Spicy Lattice Prize for most degraded and pointless perversion of language outside fiction, IMHO.)