Archive for March, 2012

Mudchute Park and Farm to close forever. “It’s H&S gone mad… again” (says Daily Mail reader Joe Blogs, 15)

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

After my post last week about the wonders at the heart of the Isle of Dogs, I was very saddened to read this article in last Tuesday’s edition of The Evening Standard…

Its a well argued piece by Simon Jenkins and is about the distinct possibility that Mudchute Park and Farm will no longer be allowed to let its animals loose in the meadow due to the possibility of e-coli in their poo. This is of course as decreed by that favourite scourge of common sense, The Man from The Health and Safety Executive…

I must say after taking the photos week before last, I was definitely wondering where all the sheep had gone this week, and this was not the answer I was expecting.

It will be very sad indeed if the sheeps will no longer be allowed to roam about. I liked having them about.

And at the risk of over doing the whole Daily Mail parody thing, it would be nice if, as grown ups, we could be allowed to take some responsibility for our own lives. I mean it’s not a difficult concept to grasp; you eat poo, you get sick… how hard can it be….

I will be following this story and fingers crossed that common sense and cheap grass cutting triumphs over petty bureaucracy and small mindedness…

Venus – Jupiter Conjunction

March 22, 2012 1 comment

For those of you like me who have noticed two unusually bright objects in the recently very clear night skies, and wondered what they were… then wonder no more… as we are all witnessing the best Venus-Jupiter conjunction for many years..

In astrological terms, a conjunction is simply when two or more planets appear to be close together in the sky, when in reality they are separated by almost unimaginable distances. The brighter of the two objects the we can see at the moment is Venus which despite being much smaller than Jupiter is obviously very much closer to us.

Venus is generally considered to be the second brightest object in our skies after the Moon, and at it’s closest, can be only about 38 million km (24 million miles) away, whilst at other times it disappears completely as it spins out on its 225 day orbit around the sun.

The closest Jupiter gets to Earth on the other hand is in the order of about 630 million km (390 million miles) so despite it being more than 120 times bigger than either Earth or Venus (which are surprisingly similar in size) its magnitude of brightness is significantly less.

Jupiter has quite a special place in my heart, as when we were in Peru a few years back, we visited the Maria Reiche Observatory in Nazca and saw with our own eyes (with the help of a big telescope obviously) Jupiter and four of her moons, clear as anything, about as big as a tennis ball. A trully amazing experience…

Anyway, I tried taking some photos of the conjunction last weekend when the two planets were closest together, but I just didn’t have the technology to pull it off. So I tried again with another camera this weekend and this one just about captures this alluring spectacle, especially as I also managed to catch the crescent moon (the lowest of the three lights).

If you’re interested, the next opportunity to see a Venus-Jupiter conjunction will be in May next year, although as the planets will be much lower in the sky, they will be visible together for less than an hour before they disappear below the horizon.

The rather nice image below is from someone’s Astroblg here. Taken looking over the River Spey towards Garmouth up in Scotland, I think it’s fair to say that it better captures the brightness and size of the two planets than mine does above.

A Walk through the Heart of the Isle of Dogs….

March 18, 2012 14 comments

When we first moved to the Isle of Dogs about 11 years ago, I was not sure if it would be a place to stay long term.  It was very handy for getting to work in Greenwich, walking through the foot tunnel, but it seemed to lack a heart, not having a discernible local high street that previous places I’d lived like Crouch End, Wood Green and Putney thrived upon. Moreover, the whole place was associated in my mind with the seemingly unstoppable Canary Wharf Development…

11 years later, we’re still here and I must say, I’m now rather a fan of the place. All right, it’s pretty polarised: the wealthy are over on the west side with that winning river view/ sunny aspect combination, the people like me & And who are doing OK are over here on the east (“making do” with only the river) and everyone else is plonked in a ring of social housing around the inside edge… but one of the main reasons I enjoying living here is the proximity to the River Thames…  I really do “live by the river” as my namesake Joe Strummer memorably sang back in the day, and it’s a surprisingly good feeling to see it everyday meandering past our bedroom window..

One of the other reasons is that I’ve now discovered the islands’ heart, and it has nothing to do with retail. Through the centre of the Isle of dogs runs an amazing mixture of things that as far as I know, is unique in Zone 2… There are the docks, with their water, boats and wildlife, the new developments, an open meadow, three parks, Mudchute City farm, Canary Wharf and Foster’s magnificent Jubilee Line underground station…

I’ve been walking to CW every morning for a while now, and in the 20 minutes it took to walk it on a typical day last week, I saw (in no particular order): squirrels, sheep, goats, llamas, turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, seagulls. moorhens, swans, a robin, crows, magpies, several dogs and a crested grebe. (Last year I could have added cows and pigs to the list as well, but sadly, I suspect they’ve gone to visit the big man with the straw boater and the blue and white striped apron…)

This walk is also a great way to introduce yourself to the day as well.. At this end, there are only a few people around and I usually have the meadow to myself (other than the odd dog walker). Then as I get closer to CW and my fitness, wakefulness and tolerance start to increase, so too does the number of people, so that by the time I’m crossing the swing bridge, there’s a spring in my step and I’m more than prepared to meet the masses on the Jubilee line (so to speak).

The photos below are a visual record (in a Richard Long documentary type style) of my walk on Tuesday 13th March 2012, a day that was misty, dry and cool and perfect for a morning stroll…

The Smell of Success ?

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

This rather tempting and appropriate aftershave was sent to me this morning by my friend Juanita

Vintage indeed…

Marine Boy – 1970’s Japanese Anime

March 14, 2012 2 comments

Here’s one for all you Forty something’s out there..

For most people my age and born in the UK, I might suggest that the first time they became aware of the existence of the wonderful world of Japanese animated manga or anime, was when and if they watched the masterpiece that is Marine Boy…

Created originally in Japan by Minoru Adachi and animation company Japan Tele-Cartoons between 1964 and 1971,  Marine Boy ran for three series and over 100 episodes, and having looked into it all now for this post, it seems that there were 78 episodes of the final third series, that were dubbed into english, syndicated by Warner Brothers for the US, and it was these that made it into my mum and dad’s living room in the early 1970’s and so into my eager young brain…

Marine Boy was an apparently nameless teenager who wore an impenetrable orange wet suit, used a sonic boomerang as his weapon of choice (grabbed from a pouch on the arm of his suit), chewed oxy-gum to allow him to breathe underwater, and was usually joined on his dangerous missions by his friends Splasher the white Dolphin and Neptina the mermaid who could also see into the future using her large peral necklace…

Marine Boy worked for Ocean Patrol, an orgainsation run by Dr. Mariner (also Marine Boy’s father) and travelled to the seemingly endless sea based threats to world peace from sea monsters/ green slime/ irradiated animals/ mechanical icebergs/ mustachioed baddies etc. etc. etc..  via a fantastic underwater sub crewed by Piper and Bolton (think Laurel and Hardy in sailor suits). The whole team was rounded off by Professor Fumble the obligatory crazy/ genius inventor.

Strangely for something that I remember so clearly, and was arguably culturally significant in that it was one of the very first colour Japanese anime shows to be dubbed and shown in the west, there is very little online about the actual shows. To my knowledge it has never been reshown on UK TV since the early 70’s when I watched it, and it has never been officially released on DVD. A massive oversight and no mistake.

It seems that some of the episodes were shown again fairly recently on Australian TV (2009/2010) and as you might suspect with this kind of cult stuff, there are a number of sites lobbying to get the copyright owners to at least make it available on DVD…

Luckily there’s always YouTube to stir the memory cells and whet the appetite.. The video below is the first half of an episode called “The Land of the Strange Vikings” from the recent Australian run, and is very good quality.

So sit back and enjoy Marine Boy, a huge part of my childhood. And remember, if you ever manage to invent oxy-gum, I think you’d be onto a real winner…


As of March 2014, the Australian episode is no longer available. HOWEVER, Warner Brothers have finally started to make Marine Boy available on DVD (at least in the US) So here’s a link to their site and the series trailer is below… Marvellous…

Age… It’s a funny old thing

March 13, 2012 1 comment

I wrote yesterday about the very sad death of a 73 year old French graphic artist.. and by sheer coincidence, I read over lunchtime that this man who is also 73, has recently embarked on a 50+ date tour of the UK and Europe…

His name?… Any ideas?… No?

It’s Mr. Jet Black (real name Brian Duffy apparently) the drummer from the Stranglers… now that’s a face that looks like it could tell some stories…

Top man and all that. Long may he continue to hit the skins and live the dream as a strong contender for Britain’s oldest Punk…


March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Wong told me this afternoon that the great Moebius (Jean Giraud) passed away yesterday after losing his battle with Cancer… he was only 73.

Ever since Wong introduced me to his work over twenty years ago now, I’ve been captivated by his beautiful drawings, and I wrote recently about his wonderful work and specifically Arzach, the silent pterodactyl rider. I am very saddened to hear that he will draw no more..

His most recent publication in the UK was The Incal, which collected a series of works from the late 1980’s early 1990’s, and is in my opinion, a very fitting high on which to bow out..

How the Griffin Became: My first attempt at stone carving.

March 9, 2012 4 comments

Well he’s finished…..

After 8 very enjoyable weeks full of interesting new people, lots and lots of dust, and taking the tube home looking like I’d fallen into a bag of plaster, I’ve finished my very first stone carving… with 2 weeks left to spare.

If you read my previous post on the stone carving evening classes that I’d signed up for, you may recognise how I resolved the dilemma of what to do..

After talking things through with the course’s very knowledgeable and most excellent tutor Marcia Bennet Male, I decided to take Magda Franck’s beautiful bird sculpture as an inspiration, and being uncertain of my own ability and how long it might take, I ended up not straying very far from her original. Having now completed the piece and realising how much I enjoyed it, if/ when I sign up for another session, I will definitely aim to make something original of my own, and maybe something with curves. I must say however that I’m very happy with my Griffin (and rather proud of my newly found skills if that’s not too much to admit to)

So this is the story of how the Griffin became… (and my apologies to Ted Hughes for paraphrasing his words)

Week 1 was spent messing about on off-cuts, talking to Marcia about what I wanted to get out of the course, practising how to use the various chisels and tools and getting a feel for the different sorts of limestone available. At the end of the evening, I chose this almost A3 sized piece of Bath stone, a fairly soft kind of limestone, and set it aside ready to begin week in earnest the following week (note the proprietary name so no one else would take it)

Week 2 (all 2.5 hours of it) was spent making the rectangular block tapered. This was the one aspect that I would redo if given the chance. The original block was about 100mm thick all round and by carving off one face, I reduced it so that it sloped from 100mm down to about 75mm. My original plan was to so the same on the other side, increasing the tapered effect, but after deciding against this (mostly because of time) I ended up with a block that doesn’t taper enough really (as you can see from the photo, a lot of effort for not much result)

Week 3 was where it started to get more interesting, as I marked out the shape of the griffin onto both sides of the stone and then used the stone saw to cut off the unwanted edges. This really helped me to focus on the shape that I wanted to get out of the block and also had the advantage of creating visible results very quickly.

Weeks 4, 5,6 and 7 were spent incising the shapes and chipping away at the stone with various types and thicknesses of chisels to bring the shapes and contours out from the body of the block. A very satisfying pastime indeed. Surprisingly I lost very few edges as I was working, and the only real damage that occurred was when I was a bit lax moving the block around into different working positions, and I dropped him onto a chisel I hadn’t moved out of the way… Bath stone is quite a forgiving stone being soft, and I suspect this had much to do with my success.

Week 8 was spent tidying up the various surfaces and edges of the shape and smoothing down some of the rougher bits of his body. All in all a most excellent use of 8 weeks.. The only thing is now that I have 2 weeks left to create something else, which is certainly not long enough for something as big as Mr. Griffin, so I have to go through the chosing/ finding inspiration process all over again…

Marcia very kindly said that she liked my work and took a photo of it for her Facebook page (screen grab below, as its very likely to have moved off the front page by the time you read this…)

The Joke Remains The Same… Killing Joke @ The Roundhouse, Camden

March 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Last night we were at the Roundhouse in Camden to see the mighty Killing Joke who are on tour in their original 1978 line up…

It was a surprise for my Little A. Back in the day she was a huge fan, and one of the things that originally attracted me to her was her interest in and knowledge of, music in general and of UK post punk bands in particular. When over drinks in the pub, I found out that she had every vinyl 12″, 7″ and 10″ that The Joke had put out (up to about 1983/84) along with most of the original early vinyl output of Gary Numan, Bauhaus and Siouxsie & the Banshees (to name just a few) I was well impressed to say the least.

I’d never seen Killing Joke play before, but And had, several times, and in fact, she worked out that the last time was probably in Digbeth, Birmingham in 1983.. which is VERY scarily nearly 30 years ago.

I like Killing Joke: I like the craziness of Jaz Coleman, with his seriousness and his doomongering, occult and apocalyptic beliefs, I like “Big” Paul Ferguson’s immense tribal drumming, and I like the huge sonic onslaught that typifies most of their tunes.

But most of all, I like Geordie Walker’s guitar sound… On stage, he plays in a minimal effort, can’t really be bothered, laid back kind of style, but the sound that comes out of his hollow body Gibson ES295 Gold Top is truly an awesome thing. He looks so cool, almost peripheral to the proceedings, but in actuality right at  its very heart; simple riffs, doubled up through his effects rack, with that lovely deep resonance that hollow body guitars generate… truly one of the guitar greats of his generation.

Last night’s set was really amazing. Jaz Coleman’s voice is still as strong as ever and it’s incredible how much energy a bunch of 50 year olds can generate.  If I was to be slightly critical, I might suggest that they didn’t play enough old tunes, but to be honest the tunes I didn’t recognise sounded so good at full volume, that it didn’t really matter that we didn’t hear Follow the Leader or Eighties.

Thankfully though, I got to hear my all time favourite Joke track, Requiem and I can’t believe just how fantastic it still sounds, see what you think…

They have a new record out next month, more of the same I suspect (hope) but that’s what they do best, and on the strength of the last one, the very good in places Absolute Dissent, long may The Joke continue to entertain us…


Ralph McQuarrie

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I read this morning that Ralph McQuarrie died over the weekend. He was 82.

One of the very first posts I wrote on this blog, back in June 2010, was in celebration of his birthday, so it is very sad to learn that less than 2 years later he has passed away.

McQuarrie was an amazingly gifted and visionary artist, famous for his work with both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for whom he illustrated a bewildering number and variety of ideas for such classics as the first three Star Wars films, Close Encounters and ET. His role was to bring the ideas of the directors and writers to life, which he did in such a convincing way, that much of what people  remember of these films, came directly from his head..

I was lucky enough at the end of last year to find an original hard back copy of his 1980’s book “The Illustrated Star Wars Universe” in a local charity shop. Without doubt the best £1.50 I’ve spent in a long time. The link takes you to Parka Blogs’s review of the book, which includes a video of him flicking through the pages… As an aside, I’ve come across this book review site a number of times before. It’s definitely worth a visit, Parka Blogs writes well and spends a huge amount of time and money on books.; The word obsessive doesn’t do him (and it almost certainly is a him) justice..)

All in all then, a sad day for Star Wars fans.. but a pretty good excuse to put even more of his wonderful work up on my site.

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