Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pogle hunters

When I was a wee boy one of the first TV programmes to make any lasting impression on me was "The Pogles". This everyday tale of woodland folk can best be described as the Brothers Grimm through a Terry Gilliam lense. To call it wierd is to understate things.

This episode was apparently judged too scarey for children and not shown originally.

One of my most abiding memories of my childhood is walking through woodlands with my parents and my baby sister with my father calling out "Here Pogle, Pogle" as we walked. At four or five this seemed the most normal thing in the world to me, and probably was partly responsible for the strength of my imagination.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

strange days

My wife and I are pregnant. 7 weeks. Due around 9th November.

Still dazed.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Danny Boy

Apparently, with St Patrick's Day less than a couple of weeks away, the owner of an Irish bar in New York has banned the song Danny Boy from being sung in his pub. He has good grounds, it is a depressing and maudlin song and worse, was written by an Englishman who'd never even visited Ireland. Personally I'd like to see the ban extended world wide and only lifted for the end of Irish funerals when everyone is drunk enough to do it justice.

My own family have a history with the song, despite not being even a little bit Irish. My parents have always enjoyed throwing a party, I have memories of them going back into the seventies, and the parties would inevitably involve copious amounts of beer and wine and continue until 3am and later. The closing ceremony usually involved my father and a few of his eldest and closest friends sat around a blazing brazier singing the old songs and the capper to this would usually be Danny Boy. By this point my dad almost always had his harmonica out and be playing along as a half dozen or so very drunk men enjoyed themselves murdering this awful song. These days I find it strangely nostalgic to hear the song but back in the day I can honestly say it was the stuff of nightmares. My parents and their friends were probably the last generation to enjoy the group sing-song as a form of social entertainment, they were also probably the last generation to a common legacy of song to draw on. Popular music today is so diverse and so fractured that it's not an experience we're likely to regain.

So, for my father, I proudly present the finest rendition of Danny Boy known to man. I give you, The Leprechaun Brothers.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Yet more rambling

This weekend past I discovered the BBC Iplayer giving me instant access to much of the best and worst of the BBC's output. So far it's enabled me to do three things, catch up on Torchwood, watch the first part of "World of Fantasy" and finally see "Armstrong and Miller".

Torchwood first. I enjoyed the first series of Torchwood, except the finale, in the sameway I enjoy watching, The Persuaders or UFO or Tom Baker's Dr Who. The first series of Torchwood was hokum, pure hokum. The characters were underdeveloped, fences were sat on in certain issues, the story often revolved around monster of the week cliches which weren't original back in the seventies when I first encountered most of them. But the stories were told with a lot of energy and they weren't set in London so I enjoyed them as escapist fantasy.

This second series has been infinitely grimmer but the stories have grown more out of the characters and so have far more depth. The focus has been on Owen's death and resurrection, his reactions and the reactions of Tosh and Captain Jack. The story has been incidental except in so far as it realises the growth of the characters. Owen is no longer a one dimensional shag monster, being dead is moving him rapidly towards being three dimensional and he's actually becomng likable. His chats with the suicidal woman and the bed ridden Richard Briers showed more nuances to the character than the whole of the previous series. When they killed Owen I was glad at the idea of seeing the back of him, but now he's dead I hope he sticks around. Jack too has changed, primarily because the writers and producers seem to feel viewers are okay with him being gay so they seem to be veering more towards that and away from making him bisexual. As they've done that John Barrowman seems to have become more comfortable with the character. The scene between him and Owen in the Police cell, when he gets quite slushy and then slaps Owen's head to re-assert his manhood is the most touching thing I've seen in the programme since it started. They've also cut back on him standing on roof posing heroically which has got to be a bonus. Finally Tosh, who was the most under developed character in the last series, even more neglected than Gwen's boyfriend, is finally a character rather than a cypher. Her awkward relationship with Owen is so realistic and so easy to relate to, we've all been there at some point, that she's become human over night.

The world of Fantasy was the first part of a three part series looking at, well, the worlds of fantasy. It's started with the child hero, growing out of the current Harry Potter phenomenon but paying, thankfully, little time to it. It followed the evolution of the child hero, from Charles Kingsley's Waterbabies through to Potter with a brief look back at fairy tales through readings from everything from Alice In Wonderland to Alan Garner's books and on to Phillip Pullman. The accompanying imagery was also well thought out. Alongside a few clips from films and BBC TV series there was much original film that wasn't so much an adaptation of the work in question as a distillation of the essence of each book and maintained an almost dreamlike quality that served to unify the source material. The series did do something that is becoming a tradition for this sort of programme which is trot out a succession of opinions from comedians, actors and writers. Happily this time they were from folk who had some bearing and something worthwhile to say. Even Phill Jupiter, who seems to appear on every media and culture related series like this was restrained and intelligent. Worth checking out the remaining two episodes.

Finally, Armstrong and Webb. All I can say about this is it made me laugh. The characters in the sketches didn't rely on freak potential unlike things like Little Britain or the Catherine Tate Show. The show had wit, memorable characters and lines you know are going to appear in conversations soon.

Men and manias

Working in the Bus industry you learn a lot about the obsessive nature of men. I once had an hour long conversation with my first manager, who like me had come in from outside the industry, about that very subject. She had a great deal of, understandable, disdain for what she referred to as "Bus Nuts" and I tried to explain to her that most men had obsessions. With most it's sport, usually football, or music and because of the prevalence these are considered acceptable, if often boring or annoying if to extreme. Then there are the others, those who hold a relatively obscure obsession. For some it's Hornby model trains, or the Napoleonic War, or comics, or skateboarding or James Bond or Star Wars or one of a million other things that are harmless and come with some sort of less than flattering stereotype. Happily most, on closer inspection, include a broader scope of people and put a lie to the stereotype, but not, so far as I can see, the bus nut.

One of my colleagues, who works in the engineering department and has to deal with a lot of enquiries about the fleet from "enthusiasts", has described their mania as bordering on autism.

For pictorial interest only, This is a bus

From Wikipedia (admittedly not the best source but the easiest to access and understand) comes this definition "
Autism is a brain development disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and causes restricted and repetitive behavior". Add to that an obsession with numbers, lists and order and you have a fair description of the average bus enthusiast. It's almost scary how some enthusiasts can give you an entire history for a particular vehicle based solely on it's fleet number. They'll tell you where it's been in service, what make of vehicle it is and it's age, what livery it's painted in and a whole host of other facts that sail far over my head. But even then there's a split between those who have personal hygiene problems and live with their mothers still and those who can pass as normal. Last week two of my colleagues, who seem like normal people most of the time, had a twenty minute conversation, with impersonations, about the noise various types of bus made when you first turned the engines over. It's one thing to hear fat, sweaty men with coke bottle glasses, body odour and an inability to dress themselves have a conversation like that and quite another when it's two people you like and respect.

My comics obsession has never really plumbed that sort of depth but easily could. Though I no longer follow superhero comics and rarely read them now except in the occasional collection borrowed from the library, it's all still there, bubbling under the surface. It wouldn't take much to get me going on "who's the best Green Lantern" or "who's strongest, The Hulk or The Thing". I guess when you're as closed to being branded with a stereotype as I am it makes you a little more aware about writing someone off as a "nut".

What's happening today

Hopefully today, my sister comes home after spinal surgery. She went in a week ago and is expected to be sent home today after a successful operation. It has kind of thrown a lot of other things into a lesser light, particularly because my sister, Lindsey, lives in Australia so our understanding of what's gone on is second, third or even fourth hand by the time we get information. The time difference makes communication difficult but I have managed to speak to Lindsey a couple of times and to her husband Paul as well and word seems to be generally positive.

I've got this week off work and hope to split it fairly evenly between drawing and house related jobs. I'd have liked to spend the entire week drawing to be honest but with Karen at home for a couple of those days I've graciously accepted that's not going to happen and I'm going to have to show a little familial responsibility. Still, today's been pretty good on that front and I've been pretty productive. I recently got Illustrator and have done the linework of two pictures on there today. They were my first go with Illustrator and I'm finding vectors to be a strange beast indeed compared to drawing in Photoshop or Painter. They'll have colour added before I even consider showing them in public. On top of that I've inked a page and a half of my Western cartoon strip and hope to have at least the first three pages finished by the end of the week. Finally, after dropping Molly at school, I ventured into Riverside Park and froze my fingers to the bone doing a couple of quick sketches. If I can maintain this level of productivity for the rest of the week it should be a good week.

Also I watched my first ever episodes of Armstrong and Webb on the BBC Iplayer and was mightily amused. The show is more "Fast Show" than "Little Britain" which is good by me as "The Fast Show" was the last sketch to make me laugh out loud.