Tuesday, October 31, 2006

sound and vision

Tonight I went to see the Photophonic Experiment at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The basic idea of the show was the interplay between light and sound, using light sources to generate noises. If that all sounds rather esoteric, the result wasn't: There's a very simple delight in hearing sounds resulting from flashing or moving light, and the sheer playfulness of the project came across wonderfully. Well, I enjoyed it, anyway. Sometimes it's good just to revel in sound.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Joy of Colds

One of the advantages of being ill, as I've been for the past few days, apart from the fact that it forces you to stay sober and go to bed early, is that your brain goes haywire and dredges up old things you'd forgotten about, which makes for much surfing fun. And oh joy! I see that finally, the excellent Police Squad is coming out on DVD. I first saw this at some ungodly hour on TV in the '80's and it remains one of the funniest shows of the past 25 years, absolutely stuffed full of gags that demand and repay repeated viewings.

While I'm on the subject of obscure things that are about to become available again, Vivian Stanshall's bizarre and insane Sir Henry At Rawlinson End finally resurfaces very soon. I can't really describe it in any way that would do it justice, really, suffice to say that Stanshall was a comic genius in the same league as Spike Milligan, and you really should watch this.

Oh, I've just updated Big Dog's Kennel, so go along and have a look at that. I was looking over sketch books and the like the past couple of days, and I didn't quite realise how many unfinished ideas I had sitting about, so with any luck I may get back into the habit of putting new stuff up a bit more regularly than I have done recently.

Finally, because - hell, I don't need a reason - here's a picture of my nephew:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"The complete consort dancing together"

Last night Kensington Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary with a concert at the Barbican.

We'd been worried about the risk of booking a hall like that - what if nobody came? We'd have been in a very deep financial hole, for one. Fortunately everyone worked incredibly hard to sell the gig, and over the past week or so, it became clear that far from struggling to minimise our losses, we were looking at the possibility of a sell-out. The last few days I lost a lot of time to regular visits to the Barbican website, willing those last remaining tickets to go. When I arrive at the hall yesterday lunchtime to set up, I was told there were only 25 seats left unsold.

It felt very strange, almost surreal, to stand on that stage as we hauled percussion instruments into place and look out at the empty hall, and to think that we'd be on this side of the performer/audience divide in a matter of hours. As the players arrived, and we began to rehearse, there was a palpable air of excitement, but more remarkably a kind of serenity. No sense of nervousness, just of expectation, that after all the work that has gone into preparing for this night, not just in rehearsing these particular pieces or haranguing anyone and everyone to buy tickets, but over many years to raise the orchestra's standards and ambition to the point where playing the Barbican seems appropriate rather than hubristic, this was a defining moment, the top of a mountain from where we could look back at where we'd come from, and out to the peaks that stand ahead.

Perhaps I'm being a bit over the top here, but what the hell - I'm damn proud of this band and what it's achieved, and of the fact that I get to play in it. As our conductor Russell Keable said in the article in the concert programme, an amateur orchestra can exist for the indulgence of its members or it can try and make a difference, and that's what makes KSO such a rewarding thing to be part of.

Strangely, the size of the audience doesn't really register, I think partly because of the steep banking of the seats in the auditorium. And anyway, the audience tends only to register peripherally when you go onstage - there are too many things to think about without getting nervous at the thought of all those people waiting to hear you. What did make a powerful impression, however, was the sound of the applause. In the places we normally play, the couple of hundred or so people sitting there certainly make a noise, but there are always hints of individual pairs of hands. Here, there was a kind of whooshing sound, like waves on a shingle beach. It was a noise that utterly transformed the evening, and suddenly brought into focus the specialness of the occasion.

Afterwards, we drank in the bar until midnight, and everyone shone with giddy joy at what had just happened. And the next day we got ready for the next 50 years.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I went back to Birmingham this weekend, for my parents' golden wedding anniversary. It turned out to be a good do, it was just the immediate family (although that's still 15 people, including my brother's newborn). It's always a source of mild anxiety when we all get together, as there's we're not a particularly close bunch, and there can be tension between us (especially the older ones), never explicit, but always hanging in the background. But there was relatively little of that, everyone behaved themselves, the food was great (courtesy of Syd the chef, who was absolutely lovely as well as being a wonderful cook). The bombshell came at lunch on Sunday, when my 2nd brother announced he was getting married. I'd had an inkling this was coming, but it was still a shock to hear this actually said. It's a complicated situation for all sorts of reasons, but I'm certainly not in a position to criticize anyone else's love life, so I can only wish them all the best.

In a parallel universe of awkward family ties, 2000 AD is currently running Origins, which will over the course of the next 6 months or so lay out definitively the tale of how Judge Dredd's world came to be. It's written and drawn by Dredd creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, and is well worth anybody's time. It's only up to Episode 4, so there's still time to jump on board. What Wagner's done with Dredd over the past 30 years is little short of miraculous, it's still one of the finest pieces of social satire you'll read anywhere, and this story promises to be a landmark, so you really should take out a subscription to the comic.

On a sad note, one thing that's missing from this tale is the lettering of tom Frame, who died recently. Lettering is the Cinderella job in comics, often un-noticed, but essential, and tom's work was as much a part of Mega City One as Wagner's prose or the drawing of Ezquerra, MacMahon, Bolland, and all the artists who've contributed to the strip over the years - in fact, even Wagner himself takes second place to Frame as the most prolific talent to work on Dredd not to mention the many other stories he worked on in his career). Please remember him by contributing something to this excellent charity: www.mariecurie.org.uk/supportus/waystodonate/

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Vworrrp! Vworrrp!

Today I felt more excited than I ever have about where I work when I found out what's lurking 3 floors below my office.

In case you're not a spod, I should explain that the title of this post is the rendering of the tardis's dematerialisation sound that they use in the comic strips published in Doctor Who magazine since the late '70s. Some of these strips are quite brilliant, and there's one in particular that's reprinted in this book featuring an old-school cyberman beautifully drawn by the great Mick McMahon.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Mules

I've been listening to The Mules' album, and I think you should too.