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Misery Bear.. Will his pain never end?

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Not sure I want to make a habit of writing about teddy bears, but this one merits a post I think….

Misery Bear is “a borderline alcoholic with anger management issues (and) is the saddest, loneliest, most suicidal teddy bear in the whole world”. From what I can gather he started life sometime in 2009, and was soon offered BBC funding to make a series of films about his sad little life (helped by producers Chris Hayward & Nat Saunders). This act of faith from the BBC doesn’t seem to have cheered him up though, as everything still seems to conspire against him…

I don’t know if Chris & Nat had the idea first and then found the bear, or already had the bear and he inspired the films… I would suggest the latter as the bear they use really does seem to have a character all of his own…

Anyway, I haven’t watched all the films (yet) but I do like Christmas, Dawn of the Ted (warning: Contains Horror) and this one about Work (especially the bear fighting, the cheese sandwich and the photocopier incident…)

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1971: A difficult year for the film censors… (RIP Ken Russell)

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

I started this post a couple of weeks ago after watching a programme on BBC Four, all about the British Board of Film Classification (bbfc), and now with the news this morning that Ken Russell has passed away, I think I should try and finish it…

I seem to be drawn to the year 1971 ... a year in which as a young boy, I wouldn’t have known anything about the things that now interest me…

One aspect that the programme highlighted, and that hadn’t occurred to me before, was how many, not only brilliant, but also highly controversial films were released in this year: A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubric), The Devils (Ken Russell), Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah), Deathwish (Michael Winner), French Connection (William Freidkin), Dirty Harry (Don Seigel), and Get Carter (Mike Hodges) to name just a few.

All of these films caused problems for the censors in some way, whether it be because of violence (or ultra violence in the case of A Clockwork Orange), rape, ruthless gangsters, graphic drug use or in Ken Russell’s film The Devils (which still shocks 40 years later and whose first official DVD release has only recently been announced) just about everything you could think of that might upset the moral majority, including sex with a christ figure, masturbating Nuns, lesbian orgies in a Nunnery, torture and execution.

So what was it that encouraged these excellent and highly respected directors (Michael Winner excepted, obviously) to so push the boundaries in this particular year, doing almost anything they could it would seem to shock and offend…

One person that undoubtably had a key role was John Trevelyan, whose tenure as Chief Censor at the bbfc ended in 1971 (just in time to hand the thankless task of certifying Straw Dogs, The Devils and A Clockwork Orange to his successor Stephen Murphy). During his 13 years in charge, Trevelyan had encouraged a more liberal approach to classification that he argued better reflected changing public attitudes. An admirer of adventurous European “Art House” film makers, he passed films that would previously have been severely cut, on the basis of both context and artistic reputation, allowing many films through that would previously have been refused.

Another important factor was the raising in 1970 of the age limit for an X Certificate film to 18, meaning that a difficult film, could be more easily given a certificate if it was thought that only adults would be able to see it.

I think there is also some truth in the argument that by the end of the 1960’s the whole free spirit, peace and love thing was starting to turn sour, taking on a much darker and more confrontational edge due in no small part to the almost overwhelming TV news coverage of conflicts raging throughout the world especially of course Vietnam.

All of which resulted in a startling outpouring of imagery and ideas, that changed forever how films were made, perceived and understood…

On a lighter note I guess I could finish by remminding you all that another film released in 1971, neither shocked nor gave the bbfc much worry. I refer of course to Gene Wilder’s finest moment.. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory… see it wasn’t all grim in the 1970’s…

Frootful Graphics on Freestyle Records

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

My good friend Danny showed me this rather fine example of quality graphic design the other day, simple and memorable..

Its a (very) limited edition sleeve for the new release on the ever excellent Freestyle Records by a band that goes by the name of Frootful. The 3 tracks on the record are all pretty excellent too, full of latin, funk and soul flavours with the Lack of Afro remix of the main tune Slowtime being the one that stands out for me…

We actually saw Frootful play live back in April at their album launch party in Denmark Street. I didn’t realise it at the time but Nick Radford, the driving force behind the band, is obviously also a very talented graphic designer, as not only is this delightful sleeve by him, but also the flier for the launch event, which is shown below, along with some more of his work that I’ve borrowed from his site here.

I must say, the disconnect between what I’m listening too and who it is that’s made it does sadden me a little… Downloads, mp3’s and Spotify are obviously all amazing things, and I listen to more and varied music now than I ever have, but I did used to love reading everything printed on a record sleeve. Knowing who the guest musician playing the triangle on track 3 was, or reading that the whole album was recorded in a cold corrdior in Prague or that the drummers brother painted the cover artwork, always seemed really important things to me…

Still, that’s what this blog is for… finding out about brilliant stuff like Freestyle and Frootful, and then making the connections anyway…

Google Doodle – Stanislaw Lem & Daniel Mroz

November 23, 2011 2 comments

Couldn’t miss this wonderful animation from today’s Google Front Page.

Honouring the 60th anniversary of the great Polish Sci Fi author Stanislaw Lem’s first book, The Astronauts. Lem also wrote Solaris, which Andrei Tarkovsky filmed in majestic style in 1972, and Steven Soderburgh and George Clooney remade a few years ago, in a surprisingly watchable version.

Daniel Mroz is a name I didn’t know, but if the rest of his work is as excellent as this, I will certainly be checking him out straight away. I love this number robot…

An amazing find… An original Basil Spence lithograph of Coventry Cathedral from 1957

November 22, 2011 3 comments

I’ve written a number of times before about synchronicity & The Lattice of Coincidence, or how a sequence of events can be given greater significance than they may deserve (especially by me). Well here’s another one for you…

One of the most amazing things to have come out of writing this blog is that I’ve become friends with the Artist William Mitchell and his lovely wife Joy. After reading some of my posts, Bill got in contact with me and we’ve since met up a couple of times. He’s an amazing guy, still making art, still a bit of a raconteur. He’s obviously lived the life and worked all over the world, with several appearances on Tomorrow’s World and various other entertainment shows throughout the 1960’s, whilst latterly he’s worked for Mohamed Al-Fayed.

We got talking about his work for various Architects during the 60’s and 70’s and I told him I was struggling to finish an overly long post on the Architecture Exhibition of the Festival of Britain at Poplar, and that it had now divided itself into 2 parts, the second of which wanted to be just about Frederick Gibberd, one of our most succesful post war architects…

“Aahh Freddy”, said Bill “I knew him well…” and off he went telling stories of a perfect gentleman with a big moustache, who sounded like a thoroughly nice chap indeed and who he had worked with on several projects, including of course their Masterpiece, Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Bill also said that, amongst other respected names from this period, he’d worked with Basil Spence, and told me a story about visiting Spence’s home and seeing the fantastic model for the Coventry Cathedral, just sitting in his front room (I guess it was the one in this photo above which Sir Basil is showing to some school kids…)

It was this reminder of Basil Spence that prompted me to complete an unfinished idea for a post on some of his beautiful drawings, that I published on Saturday morning…

Anyway the following day, we headed off with some friends to Dulwich College to the Mid Century Modern Show to see if we could buy some more lovely (but unnecessary) things for our home. We all thought this years event was ridiculously rammed, and not as enjoyable as in previous years, but I’m so glad we went, because I quite literally couldn’t belive my eyes when I saw this…

It’s a truly wonderful, lithograph print of Spence’s beautiful chalk drawing of Coventry Cathedral, which I have only seen used by The London Midland Train Co. for their “Rebirth of Coventry” advert below. My print is about 700 x 940mm, is in perfect condition and is of a very high quality (in fact so good, I wasn’t initially convinced it wasn’t the original, so bright & life like are the chalk marks).

It came in what looks to my untrained eyes like a contemporary teak frame. I was told when I bought it that the picture was previously owned by the original organist of the Cathedral, and was given to him in the late 50’s when the prints were originally made. Of course I have no way of knowing if this is true (and don’t really mind anyway, it’s a nice story, but the print itself is more than enough for me…).

I just had to have it.. A huge, perfect Basil Spence print of Coventry Cathedral.. unbelievable.. I went and got A and asked if a) we could afford it and b) she would she want it up on the wall.. she said yes to both and after some slight haggling and a bit more worry on my part about the cost… I took the plunge and bought it.

Would I have been so keen to buy it if I hadn’t been thinking and writing about Basil Spence over the last few weeks.. possibly, I will never know. But I am so glad that I’ve got it, it makes me happy every time I look at it. And once I’ve reinforced the wall to take its ridiculous weight, it will look absolutely fantastic, taking pride of place in living room…

Sir Basil Urwin Spence

November 19, 2011 2 comments

A bit of a picture gallery today of some drawings of one of our most respected, but stubbonly unfashionable architects.

I’ve been a fan of Basil Spence’s work for many years now. It all started for me with Coventry Cathedral, probably my favorite building in the whole country. This supremely elegant and inspiring structure was certainly the pinnacle of his long career, which spanned nearly 50 years and included a wide range of finished and unfinished projects such as shools, social and private housing schemes, civic buildings, army buildings and of course places of worship.

Spence’s ability not only as an architect, but as an artist was central to his success. In his youth he seemingly won all the scholarships and drawing prizes that he entrered, producing some truly striking images. His style developed over time, and his later better known images, usually carried out in watercolour or pastels & chalks are powerful and persuasive with big skies and an immediately recognisable style.

I very much like this image of him from 1950. Looking much older than his 43 years, but with his rather fine moustache and dapper suit, it depicts a man confident in both his own ability and the promises of the future of Architecture…

If you’d like to see or know more, an excellent Wallpaper feature about the Spence Archicves at the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland can be found here and a website dedicated to the great man himself is here

Adobe Creative Juices – Late Update

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

After receiving an e-letter this morning, I realise I never put the winning entry up for this competition I entered back in March…

S’okay I suppose, a bit more rounded than mine, a tad more professional looking maybe, but I’m not sure about the pink and blue…

For the record, this was the 14th highest placed entry with 59 votes.

The one with the most votes was this orange one with 147 (presumably the result of either a very well managed Facebook/ Twitter campaign, or someone with lots of mates who have nothing better to do than visit sites and tick boxes)

I ended up in 89th place (out of 298) with 6 votes for this green version of my effort. Way outside the top 30 from which the winner was chosen, but still in the top third. So thanks to everyone who ticked my box…

I think it’s quite interesting that all three of these designs are based on the same idea (as were loads of others to be honest) in which the C and the J form a continuous loop… Great minds etc. etc…

I’ll let you know if/ when I enter any more of these silly things, but I’ve got a proper job now so I’m not at home looking for things to do… (which believe you me is a GOOD thing)

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