February 10, 2011

The Lake District.

Home of William Wordsworth:

“Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…

…Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”


It knows how pretty it is.

February 10, 2011

Books since May

When you’re single, it turns out you can do more reading than when you’re not. That’s good.

And I know Enjoyability is not a real word but it should be.

Title Author Plot/Flow

 (out of 10)

Charcters/subjects (out of 10) Language (out of 10) Enjoyability

(out of 10)

Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 9 9 7 8
Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves Nils-Olof Franzen. 7 7 7 7
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen 5 4 5 5
A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking 9 2 7 6
The Red Tent Anita Diamant 5 6 4 5
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (books 1, 2 and 3) Steig Larsson 6 9 5 7
Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand 6 9 7 7
On the Road Jack Kerouac 4 7 8 6
Band of Brothers Stephen E Ambrose 7 9 5 7
Bad Science Ben Goldacre 4 4 6 5
The Amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay Michael Chabon 4 5 6 5
Planetary (Comic) Garth Ennis et al 7 6 6 6
A Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson 6 8 8 8
February 10, 2011

Being Boring.

A lot of very successful people can be surprisingly dull.

Sometimes, in order to be truly successful, you have to spend more time on the getting-successful bit than the doing-interesting-things bit. Unless you inherited extortionate wealth and spent it on a giant submarine with a basketball court inside, or building a 10-acre maize maze, or a shark tank under a child’s bedroom floor, being boring can sometimes be a surefire route to success. People will leave you alone and then you can get on with whatever it is that will make you so bloody successful. (Although unfortunately being a failure doesn’t necessarily mean being interesting as a result – a common misconception in the Arts).

And if you’re really, really successful, you don’t even have to bother being interesting – you’ll have no shortage of company, (except perhaps when you’re feeling glum).

Easy steps to being boring:

  • Concentrate on being interesting more than interested.
  • Assume time is always in plentiful supply.
  • If you quote others, don’t reference – who’s to know?
  • Memorize statistics – they solidify an argument and sustain interest.
  • Memorize plenty of pre-prepared quotes and anecdotes. If you can recite an article word-for-word as your own opinion it bolsters authority and standing.
  • Treat every individual as an audience, a representative of the masses, whose function is to applaud.
  • Never traffic with other bores. You must exert dominance over the conversation; other bores threaten this.
  • Expect replies of; “really?” “No way” “uh huh” “That’s amazing” “that’s so funny” “Oh my god!” “You actually did that?” “Fantastic” and “Wow, well done”.
  • Avoid asking questions. This interrupts the flow. Same applies to stopping for breath – unecessary.
  • If your subject’s eyes are darting about, intensify eye-contact and initiate regular physical contact with a tap on the shoulder or excessive hand gestures.  
  • Try to converse with somebody who is in a hurry – their concentration will be heightened.

 Here – I took this at Sacks 5th Avenue on Fashion’s Night Out – the lady in the grey jacket sums it up:

Clare Danes, Donna Karan and folks


The Anatomy of a Bore, by Alan Brien 1963, The Spectator

“The bore is an educator and a perfectionist… He operates as though this were the last and only information on the topic that you would ever be given, so he skips no detail. It is a one-way conversation from the man who knows to the man who must be told. This is not to say the bore monopolises the talk entirely. He will engineer a gap in which you are permitted to enlighten him on some piddling and trivial topic of his choice. He will show a spurious and exaggerated interest in an article of your clothing or demand a minute-by-minute account of your day. Eventually you grind to a halt, conscious that there is professionalism even in boring.”

February 9, 2011

“What are you saying?”

“To be fair, at the end of the day, (and this is just in my opinion, if I’m being brutally honest), all things said and done, to cut a really long story short, look at it this way: completely between you and me, personally speaking, I have just got to tell you something.

“Bearing in mind that there’s not really any other way to put this, I have to say, (and I really do mean what I’m about to say), I can’t believe you don’t already know what I’m talking about. Basically, what it is is this; for me, in my mind, (and I can only speak for myself when I say this, you know?) but how else are you supposed to look at it?

“From my angle, you know, I’m not being funny but actually words can’t even begin to describe it, if you know what I mean. Have you not noticed? It’s like, in all honesty, I mean, seriously!? It’s pretty hard to see it any other way, as overall, and one doesn’t want to assume, but I would hazard a guess.

“However, let’s not beat around the bush here, I mean, it really is completely, utterly, absolutely, perfectly, totally, literally you know? Do you know what I mean? You couldn’t make it up. You just could not. You know? I mean you tell me!”

I know, right?!   Exactly.  True story.

February 2, 2011

“He’s got OGD.” “You what?”


Only Great Disorder. It’s what happens when you’re not able to produce anything bad.

OGD doesn’t make you a perfectionist, as that can make you a bit of a dickhead, and not necessarily talented. This is more a case of only pushing out brilliant gems, the stuff that uplifts, inspires or positively provokes, gets copied, gets passed on, absorbed, without hurting or irritating.

image made by Maddy in 2005

Seth Godin argues (well) that we are not mass consumers anymore but tribes. Where the internet was supposed to homogenize us, it has separated us into segments, not out of force, but out of a desire to connect with people like us. It’s Heretic-Chic, and it’s what allows me to find the below people and fill my brain with as much or as little of them as I choose. But because they each have OGD, I’m not the only one hunting them down.

For the origins of OGD, as Paul Arden rightly put it, all ideas are in the Ether, and our plucking of inspiration from the cloud of collective consciousness does not grant us ownership that we can then wear as a badge. We can accept a trophy off the self-important folks we shmoozed, or we can check the number of followers we have on Twitter, but Ayn Rand also argued that if you repeatedly do something good, which creates something positive, aren’t you entitled to feel proud of it? And take the credit? It’s the taking of the credit that makes and breaks a lot of very talented individuals – whether they cross over to the ‘darkside’ of mainstream, try to find a new audience by doing a new thing that upsets what everyone thought they did best, believe the hype or start sticking a load of stuff up their nose.

Unfortunately there’s an impossibly fine line between being talented and being a legitimate arsehole, as Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais will testify, whether unjustly condemned by others or by your own actions. But that shouldn’t stop us celebrating what’s good. For there to be winners, there don’t always necessarily have to be losers. (I wish somebody would say that to Ed Balls).  

Here’s a few OGD ‘sufferers’ who consistently churn out greats at the minute. If you have more please send them my way. Please note this is a ‘braindump’ and in no way exclusive – but this special lot came to mind immediately (and I hope will be added to).

OGD Criteria: consistently good, original output that challenges, inspires, impresses and is not repetitive or predictable.  


Effective analysis of People-Power:

Seth Godin  Click here to see his TED profile


Style, force and energy that’s all her own

Janelle Monae  Find her here and buy Metropolis


Brain-Expanding websites

Most obviously: TwitterTed.com


Consistently impressive Music Videos that the band plays a major part in

OK GO who actually prompted this entire article because they really are incapable of doing a bad video.


Always impressive directorship

Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham


Consistently dynamic, unashamed-businessman approach to Art World

Damien Hirst & Banksy


Eccentric, genuine, energetic music that refuses to go mainstream

Mysty’s Big Adventure


Powerful, poetic music that refuses to go mainstream



Use of Satire to create genuine positive change

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Charlie Brooker, (author/presenter of Screenwipe)  


Intelligent Analysis

Simon Jenkins and Alan Brien, (now deceased)


Facial expressions that achieve greatness without effort

Bill Murray, Jeff Bridges, Tom Waitts


Making every acting role convincing but different from the last

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Jeffrey Rush


Consistently funny and very charming blog

Hyperbole and a half, by the brilliant Allie Brosh


Enjoyably surreal and inspired rantage that is thoroughly heartwarming

Bill Bailey

Ross Noble (despite a pretty hideous looking website; but Youtube the crap out of him anyway)


Consistently beautiful

The Lake District,

85% of Scotland,

A boy I knew once who would be surprised I still think about him,

The swamps of Louisiana,

The Islands around Beaufort, South Carolina,

The Southern Alps of New Zealand,

The surrounding valley of Kyoto,

The Norwegian Fjords,

60% of Italy,

The shallow reefs surrounding Fiji

(I’ve a feeling this is quite a large, subjective category and can only include things I’ve seen so far but all suggestions welcome)


Challenging, conflicting, inspiring yet welcoming city

New York

But it can’t all be songs of praise. OGD wouldn’t be so easy to spot if it wasn’t for the fact that there are also some lucky sods who have managed to achieve plenty of success without creating value of any sort. They have CRIS; Consistently Rubbish but Inexplicably Successful syndrome. And we are in the midst of a CRISis. Individuals who profit can’t be blamed for this if we’re happy enough to line their pockets, uttering things like “he really is crap isn’t he” and then watching his show/buying his book, but I can at least take this opportunity to name and shame and expect lots of anger from diehard fans.


Repetitive Narcissism and crimes against journalism

Piers Morgan,


Dogmatic adherence to any form of conspiracy based on loosely-seized speculations that undermine the need for reasoned understanding through use of easy-to-remember animated videos

Michael Moore

Maintenance of an acting career despite only being able to portray one’s self (although in some cases this self may fit a role, eg Jerry Maguire)

Tom Cruise

Nicholas Cage

Michael Ciera

Jack Black

Anthony Hopkins

Drew Barrymore

Jennifer Aniston

Keira Knightley

Charlie Sheen

Halle Berry

Ben Stiller

Adam Sandler

John Travolta

Bruce Willis

Ashton Kutcher

Katy Holmes

Johnny Depp (yes I know he’s great but he is always Johny Depp)

Robert Downey Jr (also great but always Robert Downey Jr)


Maintenance of a musical career despite distinct lack of talent



Robbie flippin Williams

Taylor Swift

James Blunt  (although now serves as a way to criticize someone without offending your mother).


Maintenance of any career despite distinct lack of talent


70% of Wall Street & the City of London who expect something for nothing, fast, and bugger the rest of us.

The Kardashians

Katie Price / Jordan

the Game


The Olsen Twins

Ed Balls

February 2, 2011


John Butcher is regarded as many things by many.  An eccentric. A loyal friend. A great speaker. A loose canon. A bizarre chef. A Pub lover. A limmeric author. An Encyclopedia. A loving husband.  A Mountain Walker. A Smoker. An Englishman. A chuckler. A Birmingham City Fan. A Rock Opera writer. A Businessman. A Polititian. A writer. A father. A Historian. A patriot.

It’s easy to wax lyrical about someone who’s no longer with us, but for his family the proof is in the friends we have now, how we see our world and what we do in it. This link  is perhaps more discerning than I’m capable of being.

We knew him as Butch. Butch, who called contemporary Pubs “Ikea with Beer”, who followed a flaming curry with Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut, even if the only place to get it was an hour down the Motorway.  Butch who lost his car keys twice a day, and saved Nina Simone “for Special Occasions”. Butch who took a blind man up a mountain and described the view. Butch who drove 2 hours at 2 am to pick up a sobbing daughter and race her back with the top down and the speakers screaming. Butch who befriended an entire pub full of Seasoned Lakeland locals, and who could discuss the geology of Northern England and Spike Milligan in the same breath, who was forbidden to have a pet owl. Butch who landed in a paraglider in the middle of a football match, and learned to ski at 60. Butch who made anything-goes Curries, and roasted horse chestnuts, and ate berries off the branch, and hated Magpies with a passion. Butch walked all of the highest mountains in England and could name everything he saw. Butch who met the queen a lot, and a few other heads of state, and Stevie Wonder, and had Maggie Thatcher round for tea, and wore the same hideous swimming trunks for twenty years, and who never wanted to have a ‘relaxing’ holiday. Butch who took his family up in an airship, and would drop everything to get to a gig. Butch who would say the entire “Feast of Crispen” speech from Henry V, just long enough to make everyone feel uncomfortable. butch who hated ‘pointless’ Yorkshire Terriers but loved a very noble mongrel called Jake. Butch who made his friends sing ‘Delilah’ in Pantomime outfits, who did a  convincing Michael Caine, who liked to dance with his children in the Conservatory, who plotted uncatchable ways of destroying speed cameras, who despaired at the Political media, but delighted at the Fast Show, who instilled Motown in his children but loved anything good. Butch who told us to make our minds up as we go along, according to what we learn, not just what we’re told.

Neon Butcher Sign photographed in a Beaufort Diner SC

John Butcher; like Buster Meeks, a loving and loveable bright light, stolen too soon and a tough one to outshine, but one that endures.

“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”  Hugh Latimer  [attrib. to John Foxe]

February 1, 2011

Michael Fish

Michael Fish

My design for cover of Edinburgh College of Art brochure 2006

December 14, 2010

Everybody blogs. Sometimes.

I live in New York. I write. I draw. I walk. I laugh. I have three rules:

  • The best investment you can make is in memories
  • Be Interested more than Interesting
  • Behave towards others as you would have them behave towards you

There’s another one: “Don’t just chuck Spam at chickenwire and see what drips off” – but I have difficulty sticking to that.

I like to push friends down the street on office chairs. I like to try 3am Parkour in inapropriate shoes. I like Teriyaki Beef Jerky until it makes me feel sick. I like live music. I like Binbags to be used as a form of sledge that works on grass. I like lists. I think Inanimate Object Charades is a family game you play at Christmas. I exceed the recommended Alcohol units per week. I think Mulled Wine looks great in Polystyrene cups with rude words written on. I don’t eat as well as I used to. I think Blogs are for Verbal Diorrhea that makes friends, rather than offends.