Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Expensive New Book of Recycled Material

I've collected the first couple of years worth of posts from my weekly report from the Americas, An Englishman in Texas. For those who somehow missed this, I slap something new onto this specific patch of internet regularly every Friday, partially as a dialogue with friends back in the old country, partially because I always liked the idea of writing an autobiography but never found a good enough reason to do so, and partially as a writing exercise. I never enjoyed reading off a screen, and it turns out neither have a few of the people who regularly follow my blog, and so here it is in tiny print, everything up to and including December 2014 plus a couple of extras which were never posted. It's regular mass market paperback size but comprises over six-hundred pages and thus resembles a housebrick - hence the price, because it can also be used as a weapon of self defence. It cannot be read in a single sitting, and in any case I'd recommend dipping in and out as and when you feel inclined rather than poring over the thing and giving yourself eye-strain. If you've ever enjoyed reading David Sedaris, P.J. O'Rourke, Bill Bryson, Charlie Brooker, or Henry Rollins, then hopefully you might similarly enjoy this collection, but if in doubt just zip over to the blog and read the thing for free. Anyway, it can be ordered from this page. Buy this puppy for someone's birthday and I guarantee* they will just love the shit out of you forever.

Whilst we're all here, I may as well also mention that I've recently taken to reading excerpts from the above before a live audience at the Blah Blah Blah Poetry Spot, which presently occurs around 8PM on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at the Deco Pizzeria, 1815 Fredericksburg Rd, San Antonio, Texas, TX 78201. I've read twice so far, and although I was quacking my pants far too much to have formed an objective view the first time, my material seemed to go down fairly well at the more recent occasion. Everyone laughed in the right places. I envision myself muscling in on these events for at least the foreseeable future, so in the unlikely event of your being in San Antonio - whoever you are - please come along and say hello, and enjoy some amazing pizza. It's a good night out, and the standard of material getting read seems incredibly high.

*: I don't actually guarantee this at all. They may just as easily end up hating your guts. How the hell should I know?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Head of State

Head of State is the new Faction Paradox novel for which I painted the cover. The eBook is already available, and the paperback will be available very soon from Obverse Books, the website of which is to be found by following this link, by hovering the little arrow over the underlined word link and then clicking - which I only mention as this apparently becomes very complicated when feigning interest in independently published books by people you actually know for the sake of politeness, such as my old pal who promised to buy my own effort when it came out in paperback, somehow missing the point that it was the feckin' paperback to which I was referring...

Anyway, Head of State is written by Andrew Hickey. I haven't yet read it myself, but I've read excerpts, and many other things written by Andrew, and so I'm reasonably confident it will be good, great, or possibly even exceptional.

So once again, as this is apparently quite difficult:

I have painted the cover for this book.

I did not write it.

My friend wrote it.

I think it will be good.

You should read the synopsis on the Obverse Books website, and then make a decision as to whether you think it might be your sort of thing.

If it seems like this isn't the sort of book you are likely to enjoy reading, then you are under no obligation to buy a copy.

If it seems like Head of State might be right up your street, then please order a copy from this site.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Free Stuff!

...but not just yet. I will probably be without internet access and thus the ability to make posts of this kind when it's printed, so by way of advanced warning, Robert Dellar has just written:

Southwark Mental Health News issue 128 is at the printers and hits the streets on Tuesday 26th May. It's got Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador, Lambeth Community Mental Health Services/ DWP merger, Maximus Gets the Treatment, Alastair Kemp on why Capitalism is Bad for your Mental Health and much more. Sent free of charge through the post if we have an address for you.

If this seems meaningless to you, Southwark Mental Health News is a reasonably regular magazine directed at inhabitants of the mental health system but of - I would argue - much broader interest, being roughly in the tradition of the older, more intelligent punk fanzines from back before everyone just started writing blogs; and being in that tradition, it's a physical thing printed on paper, at least a portion of which is the Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador cartoon drawn by myself.

Also, it's free if you're on the mailing list, and you can get yourself on the mailing list by calling 020 7358 7279. That's an English phone number by the way, and I'm not too sure Robert wants to have to splash out on too much in the way of air mail, but I suppose there's no harm in asking. He's sent me copies, and I live in Texas, but then I'm a contributor.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. as some of you may be aware is an album by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Bass Communion, and related endeavors. My friend Carl Glover of Aleph Studio has been responsible for the design of a fair quota of Steven Wilson releases over the years, and asked me to chip in with this one. Specifically he asked me in my capacity as someone familiar with Mexican codices who might be able to come up with hieroglyphs corresponding to four phrases, one of these being the album title itself. The design of the album and its accompanying material were, as I understood it, then a work-in-progress, so although Carl wasn't sure how my hieroglyphs were to be used, or if they were to be used, it seemed like a good idea to have the material on hand. I'm not particularly familiar with Steven Wilson's music, aside from some of the Bass Communion stuff from a while back, but I met him a couple of times around Carl's place and he seemed like a decent guy, and this sounded like it would be a fun thing to do. I translated the four phrases into hieroglyphic form to the best of my abilities, and then faked a pseudo-anthropological essay to explain why the images weren't just some incomprehensible shit I'd thrown together, and in case it was of any use in terms of the finished creation.

In the end only one of the hieroglyphs proved useful, converted to monochrome as something resembling a clay-stamp and appearing amongst the material accompanying a limited edition deluxe version of the album, a limited edition which apparently sold out prior to release. I'm reproducing my original material here for anyone who may be interested, fans of Porcupine Tree or whoever, because it was fun to do, and quite gratifying to see it used, even as just a weird little detail.

The San Antonio Fragment comprises a single page of bark paper divided into four numbered images painted in the Mixteca-Puebla style most closely associated with Codex Borgia and others of its group, each accompanied by a written gloss purporting to provide the hieroglyphic images with a Spanish translation, although the meaning of these translations remain ambiguous, as does the precise correlation of image to gloss. The numbered images are as follows:

I. - Mano no Puede Borrar (Hand Cannot Erase)
There has been some degree of debate as to whether the gloss of the San Antonio Fragment was a significantly late addition to the page, perhaps as an effort to interpret the symbols based on something besides the testimony of the original artist (Tedlock, 1974), although most feel it likely that the first of the set rules out this probability, the gloss being too specific (and one might suggest idiosyncratic) an interpretation to have resulted from an approximation of the kind which is difficult to avoid in the interpretation of Mixteca-Puebla symbology. The reason for this given by Manolo (1982) is simply that the gloss offers hand rather than arm, which might appear the more obvious interpretation, even given that the full arm specifically denotes an action. In this instance the action is the destruction or erasure of some object. The familiar water glyph to the left of the image would appear to serve a phonetic purpose with the stem of a-tl (water) creating a phoneme for the negative prefix a- thus stating that the hand here cannot erase.

II. - Aparato Arcano Encendido (Arcane Handset On)
In this image the action is denoted by the ollin glyph representing red and blue intertwined strands of rubber in turn denoting implicit force, and specifically the implicit force of a bow driven fire drill, the action of which is made clear by both the presence of an operating hand and volutes of smoke. The consensus translation here gives this as representing an object to which one would refer as a handset, although the precise function of that object is possibly not significant. Beneath the volutes of smoke, the distinctive wrinkled lower jaw of an old man seems to serve an adjectival purpose in denoting arcane.

III. - Llave del Esqueleto (Key of Skeleton)
Here a staff of office of striking similarity to that born by the wind God Ehecatl in Codex Borgia (plate 56) is born by a skeletal figure, probably serving to indicate a generic type rather than any specific figure through the abbreviated form of a skull and forearm. The inverted half solar disc appearing as the bottom half of the image perhaps serves to underscore the figure as a generic representative of the dead rather than any more familiar denizen of the rheological underworld. The staff of office would of course serve as a key in so much as it would allow the bearer access to official spaces forbidden to commoners, royal courts and guild offices for example.

IV. - El Coda de sus Antenas (Her Antennas Coda)
Of the four images, this one has presented the greatest challenge for interpreters seeking to connect symbolic language with gloss. The main part of the image would appear to be a solar disc, or at least a celestial object endowed with a listening ear. Gainsborough (1968) disputes that this could really be analogous to antenna, a word which would hardly have held much currency in the late 1600s, but in the absence of any more legitimate grounds for doubt, we must for the present work with that which we are given. The three volutes of speech or song appear to denote a coda or something which qualifies as a closing piece in so much as the third volute is differentiated from the others. The symbology here would simply represent some dualistic concept were only two volutes shown. Finally the curved oyoualli symbol representing female genitalia on the left is interpreted by the translator as a possessive suffix - her antennas. That the oyoualli was apparently left unpainted and incomplete is interpreted by Gainsborough (1968) as indicating that the author may have had a struggle illustrating the concept he had been given. Although this would perhaps account for the somewhat convoluted symbology employed here, it may simply be the case of an artist reluctant to depict that which would incur the wrath of his more prudish Franciscan sponsors.

So there you have it. Anyone requiring a larger, probably downloadable version of the above image should, in theory, be able to find it here. Anyone seeking the Steven Wilson album should hopefully be able to work that one out for themselves given that its been tickling the upper reaches of the album charts in a few countries.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

More Raffy

There's another installment of my Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador strip in the new issue of Southwark Mental Health News, this time a two page job with multiple panels taking more than two seconds to read. The magazine comes highly recommended as, I suppose, one of the last surviving things you could probably truly call a fanzine, assuming you don't count e-zines, which I don't - reviews of stuff you probably won't have heard of, intelligent articles - notably a good one on mental illness as an inevitable byproduct of capitalism - and plenty of hints as to all the stuff that's wrong with western society, just in case you hadn't already worked it out, as a lot of people apparently haven't. Additionally this one comes with Continuity Mad Pride, a free CD of mostly exclusive stuff by Alternative TV, Ceramic Hobs, UNIT, Mex, the Astronauts and others - and it's a proper CD with a case and a cover and everything too, not some hokey CDR shit. I've been listening to it today and it's pretty good.

As to getting hold of one, there are some copies left which will be sent free to people in the UK if they get a postal address to whoever answers when you phone 020 7358 7279 before Sunday the 15th March, or email your address to samhfunding@gmail.com - I believe this gets you on the mailing list for the next ish, even if you're too late for this one.

I have a couple of spare (and free) copies if anyone here in the US wants one, in the event of which, reply to this post with your email address and I will be in touch.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Liberating Earth

Just published is Liberating Earth, an anthology of short science-fiction tales brought together and edited by Kate Orman. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things about it, and Kate Orman's name has become synonymous with a certain standard, so I expect it's worth a look; and it's mentioned here because I painted the cover.

Liberating Earth is available in lovely hardback (or eBook if you have a nose around the site) directly from Obverse Books at this link, and possibly from some other places, but I'm not sure where just yet. Nowhere in North America, I guess. 

In case anyone is interested, I tend to take photographs of my book covers as I paint them, and so I usually have a few work in progress shots for future reference. For Liberating Earth, these are as follows:

...and finally, Cyril?
Finally, Esther, I am indebted to Mrs. R. Simpson of Tonbridge Wells who sent me this naughty carrot...

The links should hopefully take you to my Flickr page where you can see the images without having to scrabble around for a magnifying glass, and the arrow symbol on the right hand side of that page should yield downloads in the event of anyone wanting any of the above for a screensaver or any other non-nefarious purpose.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Cultural Terror

Roughly sixty-five million years ago towards the close of the Cretaceous period, I dabbled in cassette tapes of noisy electronic shite. Noisy electronic shite was the internet when most of you lot were still agonising over Optimus Prime's latest bout of existential nausea in the Transformers comic, and you were probably also listening to the Electric Light Orchestra and watching Michael J. Fox films on a VCR the size of Battersea power station, yer twat.

Amongst the more enthusiastically offensive of my many, many correspondents of the time was the excellent Trev Ward - a lovely bloke in person, and the man behind a tape label known as Zeal SS in 1987 or thereabouts. The SS stood for Severe Systems, naturally. I released a couple of Trev's tapes on my own tape label, and he put out one of mine - a live recording to which he gave the title Death in a Milan Square.

This double cassette compilation was a label sampler comprising excerpts from everything that was available at the time. I'm featured - doing a fairly poor impersonation of Whitehouse as recorded in the sculpture studio at my college in Leamington Spa; as are ESP Kinetic - musical organ of the famous Neil Campbell, Thee Unkommuniti - Tim Gane's group prior to Stereolab, Final - which was the bloke from Godflesh, Asepisis - which was my mate Jez from school making a noise on my stereo, the Apostles, Ashenden, Grey Wolves, and others you may recall if you have a long memory and were into the noisy electronic shite; and it's available for free download here.

I say noisy electronic shite, but the compilation is actually quite varied, even musical providing you're not expecting the Monkees. Some of it may appear extreme to the uninitiated, but it should probably be remembered that this was the decade in which a badly photocopied picture of a concentration camp was probably confronting society with its own inherent hypocrisy whilst hoping to upset you as much as possible, rather than suggesting that concentration camps had necessarily ever been a good thing. I realise there may have been some room for ambiguity in more recent years, particularly amongst those on the fringes of power electronics and certain fat Nazis who seem to be of the belief that the wrong side won the second world war, but if there was any of that here, and I'm pretty sure there wasn't, then I remain unaware of its presence in case that needs stating. We were young and stupid, and it was supposed to be repellant. That was the point.

...and I'm surprised at how good it is to hear this stuff again.