Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OK, there was no puma

Yesterday I accidentally started an urban myth, when my Twitter/Facebook status indicated that I had been on a train delayed 'due to escaped puma at Penrith'. Although I never imagined anyone would think this was literally true, a few people did and the story was spread. In fact I was quoting Reginald Perrin, from the 1970s TV series; Reggie would arrive at work every day with an excuse for lateness, as explained and shown here; one of these excuses as I recall was 'escaped puma at Coulsdon'. So I often say this when delayed on public transport, making it one of my habitual overused sayings, like 'I'll have a latte please', or 'They're just dust beneath our chariot wheels'.

I don't set out to deceive, I just sometimes say things which might appear to me to be more interesting that the unadorned reality. I'm worried now that other (to me) obviously ludicrous things that I've said may be taken as true, thanks to my plausible deadpan delivery. For instance, when I hand down managerial wisdom to my team, I sometimes preface my instructive homily by saying something like 'When I was in prison (or the army, a monastery, on a pirate ship etc) the first thing I learned was...' Hopefully the blank looks with which these conversational gambits are received mean that no-one has noticed, or cared.

Although I can claim not to be a deliberate verbal prankster, the acquisition of a colour printer a few years ago did inspire me to create some unreal physical items. Again, I assumed they would be seen as satirical but a couple of times the recipient (always my friend Paul, for some reason) initially thought they were real. Paul used to be in some kind of frequent-flyer scheme with Emirates Air, which tickled me unaccountably. One Christmas I made a card 'From the customer services team at Emirates Air', adorned with signatures in different inks. The front was a picture of a desert with the festive slogan 'May your offspring own a thousand camels!' Until he found out it was from me, Paul was impressed with Emirates for this bit of customer care... so I suppose everybody was a winner.

Another time, I sent a festive greeting from self-help guru Tony Robbins. Apart from a pic of a grinning Tony on the front, I remember it saying something like 'At this time of year I like to think of the inspiring journey of our Lord - born as a helpless baby and executed as a common criminal. What could be more empowering than that?' Again, the imagined sender got all the credit though with a certain level of bafflement.

However the birthday card from Archbishop Makarios was seen through immediately, and I haven't bothered with anything like that since, unless you count the letter from French rail company SNCF sent (from France) to one of my colleagues demanding payment for an unpaid fare.

Perhaps my new year's resolution should be to leave the plain truth unvarnished.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

1,600 Canaries

Over on my other blog (the good one) I posted about the strange search terms people had used to find it. This insight came from the WordPress 'blogstats', which is there at the touch of a button. It also shows the usage levels by days, weeks or months. (So I have now found something sadder to do than haunting my sites waiting for comments - haunting the stats page waiting for results!)

I don't think Blogger has a similar, easy-to-use function. However I have managed to attach this blog to a Google Analytics account, which gives even more detailed feedback. So I know that 88 people came a'looking for my 'Scouts in Bondage' post for instance...

This pales into insignificance to the 1,600+ visits to my post about superhero Black Canary. Yes, over 1,600 visits - in a month! WTF? Maybe Black Canary isn't the second-stringer I had taken her for?

There is an answer. A picture in the post comes out as the top result on Google Image searches for Black Canary (at least at the moment it does). So it isn't my wit and erudition that's drawing in a four-figure haul of visitors - it's the desire to see a real-life picture of BC that I linked to, which actually belongs the the amazing costume enthusiasts over at Gotham Public Works. These guys really like their costumes and do a great job recreating Batman characters...

So why isn't the original picture on their site the top search result? I can only assume that the tagging, titling and content of my post makes Google think my page is 'the' place to go to for your BC image. Not bad, for a post lamenting the relative lack of fame of the character.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Alternative Practice in the 1980s

My first degree was in Fine Art, but not just Fine Art: 'BA (Hons) Fine Art (Alternative Practice)'. The brackets-Alternative-Practice-close-brackets bit meant things that weren't painting or sculpture, though it sounds like 'general weirdness'. Mostly I made video pieces, some of which surfaced recently in the archives of Lux. They kindly put them on a disc for me, corrupted and damaged as they (like myself) are after a quarter of a century in a vault. Here's one I still quite like. It starts blank and lasts 7'41"

The good and bad qualities of this piece probably result from its having been conceived and made in the space of a couple of hours. I remember being in a presentation by a visiting artist, whose work seemed to me to be entirely referential to other work, though technically very accomplished. I fancied making something that wasn't just about art itself, that was lo-tech and in fact about the contrast between flawed bodies and pristine technology. Based on a conversation I had had (on the bus back from a night out in Brighton) with a guy I was at primary school with who had become a fireman, plus some other stuff, I did the above, basically by walking into the studio and making it. Elb Hall was the cameraman - cheers Elb.

Meanwhile, 25 years later, I'm still doing the same kind of thing. Check out my improv roleplay in this one, filmed when a camera was thrust at me as I emerged from the Guardian HE Summit. I (and sometimes my mutant thumbs) am in various segments starting at 00:01:56

Sunday, June 1, 2008

LX just leave it then...

Big disappointment today - we got our hotel allocations for the LX 2009 Eastercon. Having booked back in March we (us and our friends) were hoping to be in the actual con hotel (in one of the '131 en-suite bedrooms provide a high spec retreat for the weary traveller, enthusiastic conference delegate, excited holidaymaker or party-goer') but no dice. Instead, we've been offered different hotels in Bradford itself, around three miles away.

In the spectrum of life events this is pretty small beer. But I was really looking forward to being part of a residential con - immersed in the atmosphere - able to have a drink, participate in a session or whatever, at will. Losing this is a blow. As the hotel is relatively small, the rooms (and therefore the opportunities to participate fully in the con) have of necessity gone to a lucky few. I personally would find it to galling to be bused in for a temporary con experience, then return to a cheerless corporate hellhole - glimpsing what could have been then having it snatched away. So we'll leave it for 2009, sadly.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hey it's a band with my name

...wonder if we can produce a gadget like this featuring our new advert?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trax of the ElectroNorns

Some things from the past few days.
Went to a meeting in Bury, with a lift from a driver whose online routeplan, produced with the cold solid-state logic of the electronic Norns who weave the journeys unspooled by such devices, took a direct route infinitely longer and more interesting than a human one.
Pigged out on sandwiches and Hula Hoops.
And later some apple pie.
And later some guacamole and crackers and some cheese.
Woke at 2am, realising I'd forgotten that I can't actually eat food of richness any more. Feel uncomfortable, like the half-egg bloke in the Bosch painting.
Played Scrabulous until 6, when it was safe to lie down. Fitful dreams, devising a 1970s Tree of Life with No. 6 cigs, No. 7 makeup and other numbered items as the Sefirot.
Got up at 9 and went to work. Starved through a spring day.
Went to see Falling Part at the Seams by Mark Edward & Co. Funny, grotesque, beautiful and frighteningly accomplished - the perfect end to a strange day.