Friday, November 04, 2011

More of Joseph Mendes

I was introduced to the fantastic scraperboard artwork of the late Joseph Mendes by his son, Edward, since when I’ve become a big fan.  Part of the appeal of Joseph’s work, for me, is that it’s so redolent of the age when it was created. This is the nature of advertising – it gives us a snapshot of the times that is as important as any historical document.

Edward has put together a website detailing Joseph’s life and work, and it’s really worth a look. Here’s a link:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Trompe l'oeuil

Don't know who the chalkman might be, but this is screever art taken to another level.

UPDATE: Turns out this is the work of

Friday, September 09, 2011

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The trouble with cameras

Seeems to be getting a bit frowsty in here. An air of neglect? Maybe I should wash the net curtains, and give the rugs a bit of a shake. Or maybe life's too short...

Time flies, I do know that much. I went down to Brighton last week for my youngest daughter's graduation day, and engaged in what for me is a very rare activity: taking photographs. Looking through a lens can be a sharp reminder of how briefly we inhabit this planet. Is that really my little girl? And if so, what happened to the last twenty one years? Where did they go?

I'm not great at sitting through long-winded ceremonies, and with a couple of hundred graduands passing across the stage to pick up their diplomas this could have been an occasion where time dragged. But it didn't. Sanjeev Bhaskar is currently Chancellor of East Sussex University, and a very good one he makes. The man has plenty to say that's worth hearing, by turns funny, moving, and wise. A real trouper too. As each student emerged from the wings he was ready for whatever approach they might take. Some went for the simple handshake, others a demure peck on the cheek. Fine. Let's be sensible, because this is a university graduation ceremony after all. We'll have some decorum, thank you. But then there were some who sprang whooping across the stage to deal high fives, others who sashayed towards him with arms outstretched, in limbo-dancer mode. Some wanted proper whirly-bear hugs, like this was their very favourite uncle that they hadn't seen in donkey's years. And of course there were those who viewed this as a big photo opportunity, pointing out their parents in the audience and posing whilst said parents worked the shutters. Click-click-click. Again Sanjeev! Didn't quite get that one...

The man was up for it all, his timing perfect, generously giving of whatever people wanted from him. I was impressed. (And come to think of it, we've been lucky in our Chancellors. Former head of BBC Greg Dyke held the post at York Uni, where my eldest daughter attended. Another good man, if of a very different style.)

My only regret was in trying to take a picture myself. The trouble with cameras, and the reason I dislike using them, is that you miss the moment. You might capture it, but you don't experience it. So in dodging around the bodies all I got was this one lousy shot. Damn. Should have just sat back and enjoyed it.

Monday, June 20, 2011


The last couple of years has seen an incredible rise in the popularity of the ukulele and in Hawaiian music generally. Here's a site devoted to Hawaiian sheet music. Beautiful images, and I wish the entire collection were mine.

The original sound of ukuleles and lap-steel guitars was appropriated by Western musicians and songwriters as early as the 1800s, so that what we think of as 'Hawaiian music' is actually about as Hawaiian as I am - ie not very. In fact there's a term for it: Hapa Haole (pronounced Howly), which means 'half white'. But  the dreamy swooping sounds of  a lap-steel and the chirrupping of ukuleles have become so embedded over the decades that we don't really care if the majority of songs were written by people who had never been anywhere near Hawaii, it's still Hawaiian music. The more complex influences of Jazz and Western Swing might have crept in, but the song themes remain constant - paeans to an imaginary paradise here on earth, where palm trees are always swaying and ukes are always playing.

The Hawaiian look is now fixed on one particular period, the 1940s, when US sailors were stationed in the South Pacific during the Second World War, and if you go to one of the burgeoning Swing/Jive weekends staged in this country over the summer (Hep Cats Holiday for instance) you'll certainly want to pack your sailor suit or hula skirt  for the Hawaiian Evening. You'll also need a genuine Hawaiian shirt - always 100% rayon, never cotton.

Homer's Odyssey long ago covered the theme of sailors far from home, discovering a magical isle where their every need would be catered for by dark eyed girls who seemed to have mislaid most of their wardobe. I don't recall that there were any ukuleles on Circe's island, or that the Sirens were singing 'Wicky Wacky Woo', but it's essentially the same deal. And I suspect that in real life it could lead to trouble. We're probably wise not to draw too close to those little grass huts for two, and see exactly who was taking advantage of whom.

So back to the music, which has travelled to shores far beyond its origins. I personally know a Hawaiian band who are all Italian (the Honolulu Hula Boys) and here's a wonderful Japanese group: The Sweet Hollywaiians. We might be tempted to smile at their pronunciation of the lyrics, but if you're going to learn every word of 'My Queen of the South Sea Isles' phonetically, then you really have to want to do it. And that's love.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Les Triplettes de Belleville

One of my daughters has just bought the DVD. Good to be reminded of this wonderful animated feature, so here's a little clip.

It's never easy to find the musical credits for any film, or indeed any suggestion that there were musicians involved. Usually they'll be tucked away far to the south of  more important figures such as Assistant 3rd Grip and Nail Stylist - so it took me a while to discover that Canadian born guitarist Benoit Charest is responsible for Les Triplettes.

You can see him here in action, with a live version of the title music. Great vocals by Betty Bonifassi.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A balanced diet 2.

It's important when you live alone to maintain healthy eating standards. All too easy to fall into the bad habit of ready meals and takeaways, the oven hob becoming nothing more than an additional work surface.

My biker friend Zak shows the way with this tasty recipe for motorcycle crankcase - and nothing could be simpler. He's gone for the Honda CR 250, lighter on calories than the CB 500, but just as nutritious. Bake at 250, Gas MK 6 for around 45 mins, and you're done. He has the main bearings stored in the freezer, where they should keep almost indefinitely. Perfect for a crumble in the cold winter months.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Norwegian Wood

I got lost in the woods, yesterday – the terrible Norwegian woods of Ikea. Or are they Swedish? Either way a scary place. I thought I’d actually prepared myself fairly well for the quest, knew the name of what I was looking for, and what size it was and everything. Wrote it down.


I’ve only ventured into Ikea once before, and on that occasion I was with my family. My position then was simply that of Card Bearer, so I suppose I must have trailed after the others in a kind of haze, blanking out the experience as I went until we got to the checkouts and somebody snapped their fingers to get my attention.

But this time I’m all alone, and it’s not two minutes before I’ve become sidetracked, looking at the strange signs. I’m almost sure I’ve met Farum and Dagny in schools that I’ve visited, and I’m thinking that maybe people are starting to name their children after bits of Ikea furniture. Then I look up and realise I’m miles from anywhere, adrift in some dark continent called Rugs, and wishing I’d brought a ball of string with me. Or some breadcrumbs. In the end I have to do what no man ever likes to do: ask directions. I stop a passing woman, presuming her to be another Babe in the Wood, and say ‘Do you think there’s any way out of here?’ She turns out to be quite a seasoned traveller, because she points to the ground and says ‘Follow the arrows’. Probably adding ‘dummy’, under her breath.

Arrows, though! Right there on the ground! As good as breadcrumbs, or better even. Certainly the most useful thing I’ve seen yet.

So I’m following the arrows, and after three or four miles it becomes automatic. I’m able to look around at the passing landscape, and I remember now the first time that we came here. We bought a big lump of something for the kitchen. When we got it home and unravelled it we found an instructional leaflet that read ‘In order to assemble this piece of furniture it is best to be two people’ – which existential thought has occupied me for many an hour since.

Eventually, travel stained and worn out, I stagger into a great echoing cavern called Self-Service Shopping, which is plainly where I should have started from because there’s my thing, the actual treasure that I’ve come here to find. The Malm. I’ve promised it to my daughter, currently Malmless of London. And there’s a trolley too, and suddenly it’s all going right because I can just make out the toll plaza, a fuzzy speck in the distance. Another couple of hours should see me returned to civilisation.

At the checkouts I find myself nodding to other whey-faced survivors, some of whom may well have been stuck in here for years. There’s an atmosphere almost of camaraderie, as I imagine you might find amongst people who’ve been involved in a terrible rollercoaster accident and somehow remained of a piece.

A bit of an argument with the lifts (I generally do argue with lifts, to be fair) and at last I gain the car park. I open the boot of the car, and allow myself to believe – perhaps for the first time since entering this hell-hole - that I shall see a teapot and a packet of biscuits once again. Just a matter now of transferring my spoils from trolley to car. The Malm is extremely heavy, and as my back goes pop I think, ‘They could be right, these Ikeans. Perhaps it really is best to be two people.’

UPDATE: Here's strange beyond belief. Just a few seconds after posting this, my phone goes beep. It's a message from Ikea!
'Good News...!'
For a giddy moment I imagine the Ikeans want to give me some kind of award, a medal maybe, the shopping equivalent of the DofE (Gold). But no. The message in full reads:
'Good News! Your product has now arrived'.

Whaat? Please don't tell me I've been dreaming. Please don't tell me I have to go back to Ikea and do it all again.

Later I shall summon the courage to go downstairs and see if there really is a Malm in my sitting room.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Seeing, believing.

I got this via artist and musician  friend, Joseph Ekers, and it's not your average optical illusion. The claim is that square 'A' is exactly the same colour as square 'B'. I glance at the picture and think, 'no it's not, and there's an end to it.'

So I duplicate the image in Photoshop, and prepare to test the claim. (You might want to zoom in on these pics to get a better view.)

Using the cropping tool, I select a section of square 'A'...

...and begin to drag it downwards. At this point my section of 'A' still looks very different in colour to 'B'.

But as I drag it into the 'shadow' of the cylinder the tonal value appears to alter.

And as I reposition the section on the page, so that 'A' now covers 'B', I see that the two squares are indeed identical in both hue and tonal value. I see it, but I still can't quite believe it.

For an even simpler demonstration, here's the same pic with the surroundings of 'A' and 'B' removed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Disney spin-off.

So the whole thing was just a Disney spin-off. I knew the Mouse had some clout, but this is pretty impressive. And all to sell a few more dolls...

A clever hoax of course.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End.

See, now I wish I had a credit card. I'd go out and buy me a '59 Corvette and cruise it on down to Armageddon. Somewhere to the north of Chichester, I belive.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Kaleidoscope 'I's.

I shared the previous ‘cheesy-chips’ post on Facebook, where a couple of friends were impressed by my level of ‘self deception’. They don’t know the half of it – in fact I’m something of an authority on the subject. Let me chart my own journey so far.

1st Level of self-deception: Rejection
I see that in order for self-deception to be possible there would need to be two ‘I’s: the deceiver and the deceived. But ‘self’ by definition is singular. There can only be one ‘I’, therefore self-deception is impossible.

2nd Level of self deception: Doubt
The definition of ‘self’ is indeed singular, but ‘deception’ also has a definition. If one had successfully deceived oneself, how would one know it? Hm. Perhaps there is more than one ‘I’ after all. The concept is at least worthy of consideration.

3rd Level of self deception: Discovery
Yes, there is definitely another ‘I’ lurking within. I caught him just now with his hands in the biscuit barrel. He said that a Facebook friend had told him there were no calories in broken biscuits because they all ‘fell out’, and he was researching this idea. ‘Who are you kidding?’ I said, and he just looked at me.

4th Level of self deception: To infinity and beyond.
The discovery that two ‘I’s could simultaneously exist brings the realisation that there could be more. I’ve counted eight so far, but there could be hundreds. Or there could still just be one, of course. And who’s zooming whom? Which of me inhabits me at any one time?

So there seem currently to be eight of us in here, each vying for mastery, each intent upon convincing the others they don’t exist. Sometimes we give up arguing about it and go out as a skittles team.

A balanced diet

There’s a tendency, when your children become adults and leave home, to go straight back to eating grown-up food again. It’s goodbye cheesy chips, spaghetti hoops, and Coke floats, and hallo carrot and coriander soup. Such a radical change of diet can play havoc with both chakra and digestion, and you have to be careful not to overdo it.

So, there being no calories in children’s leftovers (as any fule kno) I’ve made myself cheesy chips for lunch and pretended that someone just left them there, unwanted. It seems immoral to waste them.

My yin/yang equilibrium is thus restored, my conscience is clear, and I expect to have lost a stone by teatime.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Got a wedding to go to?

Then here's your Royal Wedding name: Lord/Lady + grandparent's first name then first pet name hyphenated with the name of street you grew up on.

Mine works out as Lord William Winkie-Thurlocks, which I must say I rather like. That's Willie Winkie to my chums.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Think you know how to ride a bike?

This is the Valparaiso Cerro Abajo, legendary urban bike race of Chile. You need to watch in FULL SCREEN mode to get the true effect. At first you think the film must be speeded up, but then you realise nope, this is in real time. Extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Some neck

I rebuilt a 1960s Fender Malibu acoustic guitar a couple of years ago, using a 22 fret Strat type neck to replace the missing original. As an experiment it works very well, and I love playing it. I've been promising myself I'd look out for a period Fender Strat neck, and occasionally take alook on ebay to see what such a beast might cost.

Price tag for the above 1950s example? £6000. Might have to wait a little longer...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Michelin's new see through tyres.

It seems so obvious, doesn't it? The pneumatic tyre was invented to give a cushioned ride, a huge and necessary improvement over iron-hooped wheels, or solid rubber. And yet you wonder why Michelin's 'new' idea wasn't the first that occurred, the spoked technology reminiscent of the cartwheel itself.


These aireless tyres are apparently scheduled to be out on the market some time in April.
The bad news for law enforcement is that spike strips will not work on them. But think of the impact on existing technology:
* no more air valves...
* no more air compressors at gas stations...
* no more repair kits...
* no more flats...

The visual effect is really quite strange.

The pictures were taken Michelin's South Carolina plant.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Things Once Common, Now Extinct, No. 9: Whistling.

Men don't whistle any more. I'm not sure why, but I expect I'll find something to say on the subject. In the meantime, and for tonight, here's a clip of an old guy whistling. Paul McCartney. Not bad at all.

So. Whistling. It seems to have almost died out. At one time men whistled as they walked to work, whistled while they worked, and then whistled themselves all the way home again. But now they don’t. Has it become uncool, I wonder, to whistle in public, or has the art simply vanished?

It’s not easy to whistle well. As with any form of music-making it takes a lot of skill and practice. Not everyone has the ear, or the tone, or the range required. You have to be able to hear the note in your head and simultaneously reproduce it, hitting it in the middle at the very instant of its creation. The more you think about it the more impossible it seems.

My dad was a pretty good whistler, and would usually treat his family to selected works of Schubert and Chopin before breakfast. Bit of Bach and Grieg, maybe, as he fried the tomatoes. He was conscious of his performance, the need to give it proper attention, and never indulged in aimless half-tunes and phrases, or under the breath ‘vistling’. If he started on Finlandia, then you got Finlandia. Including the middle eight.

And it was always classical. He hated pop music with a passion, and would stand in the middle of the room yelling at Ready Steady Go in the same way as I now yell at The X Factor. He did mellow a little in later years. I remember once catching him at the sink singing ‘Hey-hey we’re the Monkees’, and was never more astonished in my life.

But there’s whistling and there’s whistling. Possibly the best of all time was Ronnie Ronalde. I say ‘was’, when in fact I believe he might still be alive and performing. Here’s the king with ‘In A Monastery Garden’. It’s insane.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wake 'n' Bacon

Nicked this from my daughter's Facebook page. Fun, but it could be the last you'll see of your vegetarian girlfriend.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to get rid of 'Smart Internet Protection 2011'.

Here’s another very nasty piece of software. If the above image appears on your screen, you’re in trouble. ‘Smart Internet Protection 2011’ purports to be an anti-spyware tool, warning you that your computer is infected, and urging you to run a scan. But, like Security Tool, SIP is the very virus that you need protecting from. If you touch it, even by trying to delete it, your computer will be clogged within minutes.

Once again, the programme looks entirely convincing – high quality graphics that make clever use of a ‘shield’ logo similar to that of Norton and Windows Security Centre.

Automatic removal of SIP is possible - with the right software. AVG and Norton seem ineffective, but if you have the excellent  Malwarebytes Anti-Malware tool already installed on your computer then you’re in with a chance. The free version works fine. However you do need to have the very latest updates – so get them now. The old one won’t hack it.

I found that a full scan with the updated Malwarebytes got rid of Smart Internet Protection 2011. My computer, however, was damaged. I couldn’t sign in to my Google account, so no email, and everything had slowed down to about a quarter speed. In the end, having got rid of the spyware, I used System Restore to take me back to an earlier date, and now it all seems OK.

If for some reason you can't install Malwarebytes, and there's no choice but to remove SIP manually then go HERE for the currently prescribed method. I gather that you can also call Microsoft support @ 866-727-2338, and they can help you over the phone. Either way, this will take you some time.

I would happily chop off the fingers of the designers of Smart Internet Protection 2011. Then I would deep-fry them in batter and sell them as tapas. Maybe in Glasgow.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wine Bank, Marsden, Thurs. 3rd Feb.

The quotation marks give the impression that there's a Steve Augarde tribute act playing at the Wine Bank this Thursday. Think I might go along and take a look at him. And as for whether he's easy to listen to...well, I'll be the judge of that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My new album cover

Got this idea from Rocket Calcutta. Here's what you do:

1 - Go to Wikipedia and hit random.

The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to and hit random. The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to and click on “explore the last seven days”. The third picture, no what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

5 - Post it with this text in the "caption" and tag the friends you want to join in.

So now all I have to do is assemble the members of Selvas del Rio de Oro, and cut the album. I already feel that it's destined to become a classic.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I have no idea who this lovely couple are, but I revisit them like old friends whenever the grey and dreary winter weather is upon us. They cheer me up no end.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

$6000 for a Kindle download?

Yup, this book costs nearly six grand. Not that it's an actual book, you understand - just a Kindle download. You should also know that the above title is but one of a series, so for the price of the full set you could probably buy the Isle of Wight.

This in itself is good for a laugh, but now read the REVIEWS. Here's my favourite: 'At 20% off, I was practically making the 2 grand I was saving. All it cost was a second mortgage on the house and my now estranged wife whom I didn't care much for anyway.'

There's a very funny fake review culture now fairly well established on Amazon. It usually involves truly terrible products, books and CDs, which are subsequently trashed by way of deafening praise. Supposedly delighted customers fall over themselves to give the god-awful squawkings of Peter Andre and Katie Price the highest possible recommendations. Some of the 'reviews' are really quite wonderful.

'If you can imagine a soothing blend of jojoba oils, vanilla, and WD40 being poured into both earholes simultaneously, then you will have only been able to scratch the surface of the feast of pleasure that is Katie And Pete's "A Whole New World" Album...'

So there you have it.  If you're looking for yet more ways of wasting time on a Monday morning, then a whole new world awaits you.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

More scraperboard

Here's an interesting piece from the Walt Disney studio. It was apparently issued as a Christmas card in the 70s, but I believe the illustration actually dates from the 30s. You'll need to click on it to see the close up detail - extremely fine work indeed.

This was sent to me by the exotically named Rocket Calcutta, a musician and artist who has worked on Disney films himself. Mr.Calcutta wondered whether I could help to identify the illustrator.

I can't say for sure, but I'd take a guess at Gustaf Tenggren. The piece is very much after Arthur Rackham, and Disney was a known fan of the man. He employed Tenggren during the thirties, and Tenggren himself was heavily influenced by Rackham so it's not a huge leap to suggest that Tenggren had a hand in this.

Whilst this scene is superbly executed I feel that the two styles, cartoon and scraperboard, sit slightly uneasily together. I think maybe it's a case of Walt trying to weld a bit of instant class to the cartoon medium - rather like Hollywood studios drafting in George Bernard Shaw and Graham Greene to sprinkle stardust on their screenplays. In fairness, though, WD was always reaching for the highest standards.'Quality control' embodied.

And Disney are reknowned for maintaining the same standards today. I visited Disneyland Paris a few years ago with my then young family. We stood together on Main St., and watched the Grand Parade. A pretty girl clown on a kid's scooter twirled to a halt in front of me and gave me a brilliant smile. Awww, I thought, there's cheerful, and I smiled back at her.

We were with a group of friends, and before parting we all arranged to meet the next day, same place, same time: 4.30 pm. As we arrived the parade was once again in procession, and at bang on 4.30 the same pretty clown did her little twirl in front of me and treated me to the same dazzling smile. Blimey, I thought, it's Groundhog Day.

The sourine intention here, which I'm sure the Mouse would defend, is that the same flawlessly choreographed experience be delivered to all. There will be no off days in Disneyland, and no detail will be left to chance. We got talking to some of the 'cast' later in the week, guys from the Tarzan set. They told us that after a long campaign they'd finally won the right to wear their own underwear. Now that's quality control, Disney style.

UPDATE: Rocket has discovered that the above illustration was produced by Hank Porter - a new name to me. Excellent. I shall look him up.See more below, and at Rocket's site.

FOR MORE EXAMPLES of scraperboard work on this blog, take a look *HERE*...
...and a few bits and pieces of my own can be found *HERE*