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January 31, 2008

some rules

Rules carry with them the heavy baggage of obedience and it’s tricky accessory disobedience. Rules presuppose there is a right and a wrong, this is not good in the creative world. But while rules per se are obstructive; hints, guides, aphorisms and other such condensed wisdom is always a good thing, to read if not necessarily to adhere to.

Here are some good rules from an art college attached to the Immaculate Heart Convent in Los Angeles, Amerikay. You know the way art colleges are always connected to religious retreats…


These were written by a nun with a difference, Sister Corita Kent, who was teaching, at the time, in the art college.

Thanks Hi and Low

Posted by john at 08:18 AM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2008

Babbling Fools

If you happen to be in Huddersfield on the 28th...


Posted by john at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2008

Rock-a-bye baby…

What? Talking about the weather again?

As I said spectacular weather is more interesting than the general day to day movements of atmospheric precipitation. And today we had strong winds.

I had to go to Leeds, to mix down the effects track on Babbling Fools, and my route was littered with tumbling wheelie bins, broken branches and Montgolfier carrier bags. No lorries were blown over on the motorway, even though my van was being buffeted about on the more exposed sections.

Then when I arrived in Leeds I found the wind had played havoc with an eight-foot Victorian retaining wall. The trees were close to the wall and were being rocked by the strong gusts until they pushed the wall over.


What was amazing was that there were cars parked all the way up the street on both sides, except in the exact area where the wall tumbled. Had there been a car there it would have been well dented.


mind you some stones got rather close:


Posted by john at 08:27 PM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2008

Working in Cafés

Went to the café to do some writing today and ended up writing about going to the café to do writing. It all got rather surreal.


I like to work in cafés, a lot of people like to work in cafés - writers mainly it has to be said, sculpture tends to upset the other customers, bits of granite flopping into their cappuccinos, it puts them off. Why do writers like to work in cafés?

They say it’s for the atmosphere, the soaking up of casual dialogue, the verisimilitude if you like. Well that’s not it. It’s not the coffee either, I can get that in the studio. Nor is it just because it’s warm – it’s often warmer in the studio. There are fewer distractions, certainly and, yes, it’s very nice having someone bring you the coffee. But I think the real reason why writers like working in cafés is because it’s like school.

It’s familiar and strangely comforting, it’s a proper setting for writing. Sitting at a small desk with all your clutter, in rows of other small desks with people sitting at them. Like school you can’t get up and wander about, you have to sit at your desk and work. There are some writers that even write by hand in textbooks. I rest my case.


That and the fact that there are other people watching you, or at least aware of you, so you can’t stare into space for too long without attracting the wrong sort of attention, nor can you doze off. As if the waitress is the teacher, though we could get into all sorts of tricky psychological scenarios here if we’re not careful.

So you come back from the café having done a whole heap of work and you think cafés are a good idea. And they are. But they’re not for every stage of a project. There are some stages where wandering around tapping things is an essential part of the creative process.

Posted by john at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2008

It's raining

Maybe it’s something to do with being on an island. Maybe it’s because we had the bad habit of planting our flag on the shores of distant lands where things were different. Maybe it’s our fear of silence.

Whatever the reason, we in this country are wont to talk about the weather. Incessantly. It’s either too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry. We get through superlatives like a grammar crammer trying to get a thick pupil through matriculation.

Your present interlocutor tries not to talk about the weather. Preferring to find something more interesting to yak about. Which I have to say is not that difficult.

However today I shall make an exception.

It’s raining. It’s not just raining, it’s really raining, there is water falling out of the sky, full and heavy from soaking grey clouds. It’s been raining like this for a while. It’s fantastic. I love it when weather doesn’t fuck about, but just gets on with it.

I went into town. I dismissed the idea of my bicycle on the grounds that I would have to concentrate on things other than the all encompassing wetness. The van would be ridiculous, there’d be windscreen wipers and condensation and spray and poor visibility and road closures and diversions and gridlock. So I walked.

If you stood in the shower with someone on a step ladder conveniently adding volume with a watering can and someone else obliging with regular buckets of water flung horizontally at you, you’d be fast approaching the conditions I experienced. It was invigorating.

The tarmac was awash, water from passing buses swoshed up in sheets across my path, rivers ran in the gutters and streams filled small lakes on the pavements. It was as if an angry god was punishing his wayward children.

the river finds a new route

The water falling from the sky was joined by gushing spouts issuing forth from flooded guttering like tropical waterfalls. Everywhere was water and wet and splashy.

update:14:00 Policemen have been posted all the bridges to report the water levels in the swollentobursting river, and the sun has come out to help the photographers [even angry gods know a good media opportunity when they create one].

Posted by john at 01:35 PM | Comments (1)

January 19, 2008

Kant on beauty

Kant, as you may remember, believed knowledge is derived from experience and preceded to go on at great length about it.


He also believed that beauty is related to the state of mind of the observer. Or to put it another way beauty is in the eye of the beholder. He put it like this:

“If we wish to discern whether anything is beautiful or not, we do not refer the representation of it to the object by means of understanding with a view to cognition, but by means of the imagination (acting perhaps in conjunction with understanding) we refer the representation to the subject and its feeling of pleasure or displeasure. The judgement of taste, therefore, is not a cognitive judgement, and so not logical, but is aesthetic – which means that it is one whose determining ground cannot be other than subjective. Every reference of representations is capable of being objective, even that of sensations (in which case it signifies the real in an empirical representation). The one exception to this is the feeling of pleasure or displeasure. This denotes nothing in the object, but is a feeling which the subject has of itself and of the manner in which it is affected by the representation.”

Critique of Judgement [1790] Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1805

Kant spent a long time thinking about thinking which, when you come to think about it, is almost as tricky as trying to chew your own teeth.

Posted by john at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2008

More Great Aunts, for Paula

Last old photographs for a while, perhaps, or it'll end up like Shorpy on here.

One of my many Great Aunts, none of whom, I'm sad to say, I knew. This time Great Aunt Sybil, Sybil Maud Inchley nee Middlebrooke.


Who could well be the lady in this photograph, in which case the man would be her husband, one Charles Inchley.


Not, alas, Bonnie and Clyde.

Posted by john at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2008

The late John Coombes

While we're in amongst the dead relatives, here's a picture of my Grandfather, whose name I share, which was rather sobering last week when I came across a death certificate for John Coombes.


Looks like I'm related to Frank Zappa.

Posted by john at 04:49 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2008

The Great Aunt

Further to my recent post about Victorian art exams and my Great Aunt, Catherine Anne Middlebrooke. Here's a photograph of her, possibly about the time she took the exam, well within a year or two, perhaps.


Posted by john at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2008

A nice old black metal box

A nice old black metal box with a satisfying dial and turny knobs is always a Fine Thing.

A nice old black metal box with a satisfying dial and turny knobs that costs £1.30 down the second hand market is a Finer Thing.




A nice old black metal box with a satisfying dial and turny knobs that costs £1.30 down the second hand market and works is the Finest Thing.


Posted by john at 10:13 PM | Comments (1)

January 08, 2008

Postcodes and nincompoops

The postcode system is a wonderful thing. Ok, it does have its dark side - when people use the system for categorising consumers and for estimating insurance risks. But on the whole it’s a Good Thing.

It’s also a World Thing. If you go to Google Earth, or Google Maps, you get a big picture of planet Earth.


If you type in your postcode the earth spins, in a reassuring way, and begins to zoom in on your front door. How excellent is that?

Parcel delivery is a thing that has been going on for centuries. It reeks of history: The Great North Road, the Mail Coach making its way through fine weather and foul, the Postilion wrapped tight against the elements, Pony Express, the Mail Train.

p Mailcoach.jpg

The latter-day purveyors of parcels have sexy adverts with catchy tunes, whizzy graphics and fancy logos.

You’d think they’d be able to deliver parcels by now.

I don’t work round the corner of a dark alley, behind a derelict building overgrown with bushes, in an obscure part of town. My studio is in a 3 storey mill building on the main Wakefield - Huddersfield road. The line “Bankfield Mill” is a dead giveaway as to the type of building it might be, especially in an area of textile mills.


When you type my postcode into the Google engines the arrow points right to this building, on the side of the road, you get a photograph of the place. It’s not like the post code is for a whole area, this building has its own code, the building next door is different.


Parcelforce, as I understand it, came out of that bastion of delivery skills the Post Office, but is now probably owned by some Chinese zinc-plating consortium. This would explain why they can’t find me.


UPDATE: Parceline can't find the place either. I rang them and they said "are there any landmarks near?" I said "What, other than a three-storey mill building with a hundred foot chimney next to it?" Am I missing something here?

Posted by john at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2008

The Fools, babbling again.

Things are reaching a fine state with the film. This week I start on the soundtrack, or soundscape as people like to call it these days.

Anyway, here's another clip from the film. For the moment you'll just have to imagine the soundscape.

by a strange coincidence it follows on directly from this clip, previously posted in the Unstuck Diaries:

Posted by john at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2008


When you have a lot of panels, all over the studio, leaning against the walls, languishing in the racks, it’s hard to see them.

There’s one I walk past many times a day – it’s by the door:


Isolate it, frame it, put it in a virtual gallery and:


There are stories of people submitting paintings by young children or chimpanzees, to modern art shows and being accepted. Mark Leithauser, Senior Curator at the National Gallery in Washington DC, looks at it another way:

"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'" Washington Post

Tiger, Ellsworth Kelly, oil on canvas, 2051mm x 2172mm, National Gallery of Art Washington DC

Just as the commuters in Washington DC didn’t see, or rather hear, that the busker playing in the atrium was Joshua Bell, acclaimed virtuoso violinist, playing some of the hardest violin pieces ever written. Nor, for that matter, did anyone notice he was playing on a violin worth about 3.5 million dollars [£1.7 million].

Here’s the article from the Washington Post. Worth a read if you've got five minutes.

Posted by john at 04:50 PM | Comments (1)

January 02, 2008

Then and Now





and of course nostalgia tells us that we've lost something along the way, some clarity of purpose, some purity of design perhaps.

Looks to me like Epson have put too many eggs in the pudding. Maybe the sixties were a design peak. Certainly a lot of design is now harking back to the sixties look. Alas not Epson.

UPDATE: nor Kodak apparently:


Posted by john at 12:49 PM | Comments (3)