Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alan Watts on Faith

Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.

Which speaks to more than than just faith in God, it also speaks to faith in ourselves and our abilities. Last night a friend asked me to make her a model slug, a bizarre request on the surface and not one where the reasons need going into. Suffice to say it was important and I agreed to do it. She had faith in me that I could come up with the goods and that gave me faith in myself. This morning I gave her the slug and she did what she had to do with it. What usually holds me back in creative situations is clinging to the belief thatI am a particular type of creative person and strangling my abilities. Instead I need faith that I can do what I want to do and just do it. There is an intuitive, zenlike quality to creativity, a moment of touching god, where things work out the way they should,problems come from over thinking what is essentially an emotional response. I think that is true of all creativity, be it art or writing or cartooning.

Monday, September 24, 2007

post 100

This is my 100th post. Something of a landmark for me as I'm not reknowned for sticking at things. Over the past 99 posts I've talked about things that inspire me, things that influence me, things that hold me back and things I think are just out and out great. The posts have been largely unfocussed however and have not really fulfilled their purpose. The purpose of the blog was/is to focus me on producing something on a regular basis, maybe not daily but aiming for several times a week. Blog entries were produced fairly regularly but now it's time to step things up.

I need to back myself into a corner so first off, I will check out Illustration Friday and enter something for it each week.

If that goes alright then second, in a few weeks, I will post a page of a comic each week.

I will be creative even if it makes me miserable.

Alan Watts meets South Park

Sometmes you just stumble across something that puts things into perspective. Trey Parker of South Park fame apparently had a Buddhist for a father and this seems to have lead to him arranging these animations of the work of Alan Watts. Watts is a British philosopher and writer on comparative religions and was a very entertaining speaker. Check out life ands music

Alan Watts Animated

Sunday, September 23, 2007

nightmares and privacy issues.

Work this week has been an absolute nightmare. My boss has been off for the week and the entire and I and my two colleagues have spent it sorting out things she's either forgotten or neglected to do or things she's stuffed up. We're also working on a tight deadline for a major project that has been blown out of the water by cleaning up after her. This has played havoc with everything from team relationships, hit rock bottom, to the rest of the company's view of our team, also plummeting.

I work in a largely male dominated business and my boss is a young woman in her first management role. My colleagues are very unforgiving of failure and have been putting the knife in with management and the board at every opportunity. I've been following round trying to remain supportive and pointing out that she's trying to do the job she was hired for, with very little quality support, rather than doing the job everyone, apart from the director who hired her (who has now left), wants and expects her to do. Something I'm struggling with because of the number of headaches she's causing me. Between that and her relative inexperience, and the problems that come with her youth and inexperience, she's got very little chance of surviving in her post unless she gets some decent guidance from her management.

Coming home and having a chance to watch both the second part of Comics Britannia and Jonathan Ross's documentary "In Search of Steve Ditko" brightened my weekend immeasurably. Comics Britannia looked at British adventure comics from The Eagle to Battle and Action in the seventies and was, once again, excellent. Listening to Pat Mills talk about Charlies War was definitely the highlight. The clever intercutting of images from the comic and documentary footage from the first world war showed how sublimely perfect the comic was. Hearing MIlls describe the story as something more from a girls comic of the period was a real eye opener. I'd realised on a subconscious level I think that the book was very underplayed and more concerned with the personal relationships of the teen protagonist and his friends than the heroics that were standard fare in boys comics, but it never really entered my conscious brain. In many ways it was very much a forerunner for Alan Moore's Halo Jones.

In search of Steve Ditko didn't really tell me anything new but it's always interesting to hear others talk about genius. The history of his work in the medium, even with the focus on Spider-Man and Dr Strange, was entertaining and the ending, where Ross, in the company of Neil Gaiman, playing Etta Candy to Ross's Wonder Woman, finally met Ditko, and chatted to him for 25 minutes, sans camera, were priceless. How many people could have made a documentary about a semi reclusive artist and actually respected his wish for privacy, not speaking of the details of their meeting? Very few I imagine. The style of the documentary was similar to those of Michael Moore or Louis Theroux but I doubt either of those gents would have put Ditko's right to privacy above their film or programme. Good work Mr Ross.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lunch and bed

I'm pissed off and I'm going home to bed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Comics Britannia

Finally saw the first part of comics Britannia last night and I have to say I was mightily impressed. The comics panel framing of interviewees worked suprisingly well and the background on DC Thompson, Beano and Dandy and the wonderful artists who worked there, Dudley Watkins and Leo Baxendale particularly, was in depth enough to avoid the "pow zap" approach of many comics related documentaries and newspaper articles. My appreciation for the penmanship of some of these British Cartoonists has grown considerably over the past few years as I've come to appreciate how much harder it is to create non-photographic style artwork that is clear and consistent.

The show was well put together and nicely covered the politics involved in the publishing world as Watkins was exempted from military service because he was more valuable drawing for DC Thompson, and how Baxendale was stiched up by various publishers as he tried to get some sort of reasonable control over and recompense for his work.

Dudley Watkins penwork leaves me in awe.

Amazed or horrified

Just found this via Warren Ellis.com and I'm not sure if I should be amazed or horrified. The superb photos speak for themselves and the idea of aiming a supertanker at the beach and rammiing it full speed sounds like the ultimate thrill ride, but 200,000 Bangladeshi shipbreaking in these atriocious conditions is horrifying. Yet any international outcry against the work and conditions would probably cost half these people their livelyhood.

Go look and see. You can even click on the link now I found out how to make it work.

amazing photos

Saturday, September 15, 2007

43 and a week

usually, for me, birthdays have been a miserable time of reflection on missed opportunities and lack of productivity. My lovely wife Karen has spent much of our married life trying to make me enjoy my birthdays with varying degrees of success. This year she succeeded beyond anybody's expectations and I had a fun, relaxed birthday spent largely drunk in the company of friends and family. It was the sort of birthday I always told myself I would hate and I loved it. I smiled, laughed, chatted and was generally sociable in the extreme. I gave no thought to the passing of another year or to things I had or had not achieved. It was birthday Nirvana.

destruction as stress relief

Work at the moment is a nightmare. My new boss is very young and doing a job that was mis-sold to her. She wqas hired as a marketing manager by a director who came into the very insular and hide bound ( I think that's the term) public transport industry from outside on a fasttrack to somewhere else. The marketing post has not previously involved an awful lot of marketing, it was mostly ensuring that internal and external communications needs were met. The public had timetables and the press were dealt with. The progressive director who thought we should be doing marketing and wanted a marketing manager left and now my boss is at the mercy of colleagues and management who feel she isn't doing her job properly, because she's doing the job she was hired for rather than the one the post needed. This has lead her to make quite a few errors and errors in other peoples view. This is leading to a great deal of backstabbing, bitching, moaning and general bad feeling. If I had an office to myself that would be bad enough but, unfortunately, I'm stuck in an open plan office that is also a through fare for a lot of folks looking to share an opinion.

So over the last week I've noticed I'm drinking more. Not to excess, 2 or three bottles of beer a night, but I felt I was going a bit crazy if I drank 2 or 3 bottles a week previously and a several hundred percent increase is not a good thing. Anyway, today I'm home alone, the girls are out having a girly shopping afternoon. I was aware our front garden was overgrown and verging on a jungle, so I went out and hacked a whole load of vegitation to the ground. There are now three big piles of garden detritus in a much tidier front garden awaiting disposal, I can hardly see from the sweat dripping in my eyes and I feel so much better for the exhertion. The urge to scream is gone, as is the urge for a beer, although I may have one tonight, and my mind feels much clearer.

The question of course is, was it the destruction or the activity that made me feel better. I'm hoping the destruction because if it was the activity then there's a point to excercise after all.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Life on Mars

I finally watched the last three episodes of Life on Mars (series 2) which definitely got a BBM1 rating. The series as a whole was absolutely superb and the lack of a really clear explanation at the end was probably the only way to go. Karen and I spent some time discussing what we thought happened. I plumped for John Carter of Mars style psychic time travel in the end. I think the coma freed Sam's psyche to travel back to 1973 where it took on a corporeal form, connected to and interacting with his "real" self in 2006. For me this explains how the hospital was abl to affect him in 1973 and means he is still alive and free in 1973, his anchor to our present now gone. But I am something of a romantic so I couldn't look at his return to 1973 as the last delusions of a dying man.

The show was a nostalgic, though not rose coloured, view back at the 70's with strong overtones of "The Sweeney" and "Get Carter". A show set in the past never captures the true reality of the period, only a nostalgic reflection of it seen through a slightly tarnished mirror. That said the setting of the show definitely hit a chord with me as someone who grew up during the 70's and it captured the brown and tan tones the decade had in my memories and anything British set outside London is a bonus still.

Life on Marswasagreat show that will bear up well under repeated viewings.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Most men of my acquaintance are fixated on music or football. The football thing escapes me but the music obsession fascinates me There seem to be three basic types of male music obsessive. Those obsessed with a music style from before they were born, this can be anything from Mississippi Delta blues to the work of Lonnie Donnegan, those fixated on music from the best period of their life, punk, dance, electronica etc, and those who need to be always on the cutting edge, out with the old in with the new. (Warren Ellis is probably a fine example of this type). Men whose obsession lies elsewhere tend to have no specific leaning towards a genre of music.

The third type seems to me to be mainly a way of fighting off the encroachment of old age by being, or at least appearing, hip. Being only a day away from my 43rd birthday I can understand the feeling behind that. The other two groups seem peculiarly self limiting. They focus on one corner of a vast artistic arena to the exxclusion of everything else. Admittedly this behaviour isn't restricted to music, people do the same thing with books, tv, comics films and theatre and in many other areas as well.

I cannot imagine going through life watching only medical dramas, or Sci Fi movies or only reading murder mysteries or reading Archie comics or going to musicals. It would seem as stiffling as only eating cornflakes for breakfast everyday and kippers for tea and only drinking water. The mind craves variety.

When confronted by this closed attitude to other areas I am reminded of my late Grandma who refused to eat brocolli as it was "foreign muck". This sort of closed mindedness verges on intentional stupidity and I find I need to challenge it wherever I meet it. Don't let the human race get any stupider introduce someone you know to a new eperience today.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Big Blue

The wife has a rating system for movies based on "The Big Blue". we disagreed on whether the ending was happy or depressing. I felt it was a positive ending but Karen thought it was pretty darned depressing and started to rate movies on that basis, hence Solaris was a Big Blue Movie(BBM) and last night Danny Boyle's Sunshine was a BBM. Maybe it's a male/female thing but any movie where the leads defeat a psychotic villain, reignite the sun and save the Earth, that's a positive ending. Admittedly they all died, some pretty horribly, but they achieved a greater good. For Karen, however, everyone dying makes for a sad ending.

So the rating system goes like this

BBM +3 A film where everyone starts off dead and it goes down hill from there
BBM +2 A film where everyone dies at the end
BBM +1 A film where it would be better if everyone had died
BBM The Big Blue. A movie where one or more main character dies
BBM -1 A film where the main character ends up very depressed
BBM -2 A film where everyone survives but with some change. A Hollywood blockbuster
BBM -3 A Hollywood Rom-com

It needs some refining but thisis what we're currently working from.