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March 31, 2008

Boiled Black Bristles

While wandering around a sculptor’s workshop in Norfolk I found this most excellent box, which had come from China, many moons ago by the look of it.


The Boiled Black Bristles had long gone to barbers' brushes in Bristol, only the old worn box remained with a story to tell, though of course, being from China, no-one could understand a word of it.

The workshop belongs to one William Fairbank, sculptor and woodworker.


He built the studio and the house himself, with fantastic attention to detail and all too often forgotten building techniques.


He had a novel way of stacking his fire wood too.


Posted by john at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

March 29, 2008


The phone rings.

Aha! someone wants to tell me something exciting.

But then the sickening reality of the moment seeps in like vinegar syrup – another crappy cold call from a cruddy call centre with a heavily accented unintelligible voice demanding information about the renewal date on the maintenance schedule of my toaster or whether I want to change the gas supplier for my phone.

“John Coombes, hello?”


“This is John Coombes, there is no-one here called joncoms”


“I’m insured with the AA “


“I’m sure you can find that out yourself”


“I’m sorry, my leg has just fallen off - I have to go”


“I have no idea”


“Thank you for your call, it’s been most entertaining.”

“Mistercomscanyoutellme /… click brrrrrrrrr

Posted by john at 11:06 AM | Comments (1)

March 28, 2008

Not Frosties

How does a collection of cells, comprised many of water it has to be said, with a selection of fancy chemicals and a dash of electricity, have such sensitivity to light that it can determine the dimensional landscape about us?

This is indeed the central argument in the evolution/intelligent design debate, but we won’t open that particular can of Oligochaeta.

Suffice it to say they do, and they do it, naturally, in the eye.


This is the back of my eye. It’s weird looking at my own eye, it’s the equivalent of being able to chew your own teeth. Thanks to Rebecca at Vision Express for the photograph.

The squiggly bits are the blood vessels, the pale round bit to the left is the start of my Optic Canal, where the optic nerves disappear en route to the visual cortex in my brain, leaving a Blind Spot. The darker bit to the right of the Optic Canal is the Macula, which is where all the cones are concentrated, remember?

So that little dark bit deals with 99% of what I see, all the colour and daylight and reaching for a packet of biscuits on the top shelf. The rest of it is all rods, which are for the dusky moments, groping around in the gloaming for the handle of the cistern in the wee hours. They work in black and white only – which is why coloured bathroom fixtures are so pointless.

You naturally focus the light entering your eye on the Macula, for clarity, and so you don’t get run over by the No73 bus. But at night, when you look at something you see nothing, because there aren’t any night time receptive rods in the target area. If you want to see something at night, look away from the object and keep your eye moving, the rods will pick out it’s shape. You won’t be able to navigate because rods don’t have any spatial awareness.

What they do have however is great motion sensitivity. The rods are there so that when we go out of the cave, in the cold dark primordial night, for a pee, we can spot the tiger jumping at us, 4 nanosecond before it’s claws sink into our hairy pelt.


Giving us ample time to shake the last drips from the perpendicular appendage, and or indeed whatever it is the female of the species did to keep the ladygarden dry after voiding the bladder, before retreating into the relative safety of the cave, with a casual "Ah, that reminds me, I must get some Frosties for breakfast".

Posted by john at 02:11 PM | Comments (3)

March 26, 2008

training is in progress

I can report that the women's teams are hard at work training for Jim and Britt's next birthday.

the Ladies Clay Team, Captain B. Harwood

the Ladies Archery Squad, Captain K. Freitag

personally I have my money on the rifles.

thanks to Shorpy

Posted by john at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2008

And it tastes good too…

It’s not often you find a high street brand with a sense of humour.

I remember chuckling in a service station, not, I think you’ll agree, an easy phenomenon, when, with nothing better to do, I read the drink container the contents of which I had just consumed. It said they promised that they’ll never use any chemicals or preservatives in their drinks, then added: if we do you can tell our mums.


This is the they in question.

Humour, I guess, is a hard thing to pitch, in the cut-throat world of marketing strategy. Though here they keep it quietly in the copy.


Posted by john at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2008

The nature of the future

We laugh at the way the future is often depicted in films and books. Digital breakdowns, electronic misconnections, mish-mash steam-punk technology being thumped into action, shash and static abounding. But we aren’t far from future, I feel.

Since Day One communication has been tricky, shouting across a fast flowing stream, waving arms about from mountain top to mountain top, smoke, flags, pigeons, the list is endless. Then along came Mr Bell and, albeit with a crackly start, the telephone grew to be a precise, clear, communication tool.

Mr Bell's invention

I’d say it reached its peak in the eighties. I could talk to my brother in South Africa, clearly, instantly, with no delay or echo. Then we got mobile phones.

Suddenly we’re back in the Dark Ages. “Pardon?” “The signal's breaking up” “I’m losing you” “I’m just about to go under a –“ “I CAN’T HEAR WHAT YOU’RE SAYING”

Computers are wonderful things, that can do amazing feats of cleverness, in an instant. But they fuck around. Time was, you wrote something on a bit of paper, went for a coffee and good money could be placed on the fact that it would still be there when you got back, just as you had left it. Maybe the cleaner moved it a bit to the left, but you could still see it.


Now-a-days you’re working in some mind-boggling complex programme, like Final Cut, and all of a sudden, for no reason that is apparent, one window doesn’t work like it did a few moments ago. There’s no way of finding out why it isn’t responding as it always has done. Somewhere in the depths of it’s intricate code, down amongst the numbers and figures, where screens are black and type is an eerie, blurred, grey, a virtual box has become momentarily un-ticked.

The solution, as with so much of today’s technology, is to turn it off and turn it on again. Is the right way to behave? What message is that giving to the younger generation? When Spotty Johnny’s girlfriend finds herself up-the-duff, they’re going to struggle to find the off button, is all I’m saying.

Posted by john at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

Four Unstuck Torsos




Posted by john at 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

March 22, 2008

3 more from the photograph drawer




Posted by john at 07:01 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2008

a few pictures from Bavaria


The Orangerie, Würzburg Residenz


Posted by john at 12:31 AM | Comments (2)

March 17, 2008

the mystery deepens, as does the alliteration

Sixteen pounds has disappeared with the ease of an accomplished magician suffocating doves.

The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation say the money went from my account. AOL now admit to receiving it, but claim that the HSBC took it back again. Can they do that?

However there is no record of this in my account, I am still shy 16 notes.

So where is it? I haven't got it. HSBC say they haven't got it. AOL are sure they haven't got it and it isn't in the ether either - or is it?

Ok, ok, I'll come clean I wrote this post mainly just so I could say: "it isn't in the ether either". Remind me to tell you about Mr. Lister one day.

Posted by john at 10:43 PM | Comments (1)

The fax is back in fashion, apparently.

I have, like many others I expect, odd e-mail accounts lingering in the ether. One such is an account with AOL Broadband, who kindly take 16 notes from my bank every month for their sins.

Today I found that the account had been suspended due to lack of payment. I was somewhat puzzled because there is a standing order in place to pay them.

So I rang, and they answered:

“Hello, my name is Jay, how can I help you this morning”

Full marks for having a reasonably coherent human being answer the phone.

I explained the situation.

“This is because we have not received payment for March”
“I’ve got my bank statement in front of me showing that the money has been debited from my account, as usual, on the 7th March”
“You have not paid us for March”

[I did say reasonably coherent]

“But it has left my account, taken by AOL, can you explain that?”
“You must fax me your statement”
“Can I e-mail it, it would be quicker”
“I will give you our fax number”
“Can I e-mail it, the fax machine is in a box, in a cupboard, in the attic – what’s your e-mail address?”
“We don’t have an e-mail address”
“Er… AOL Accounts and Billing doesn’t have an email address?”
“No, I will give you the fax number”
“That’s amazing”
“Have you got a pen?”
“Don’t you think that’s rather ironic, that a department of a major internet service provider doesn’t have an e-mail address?

Apparently they don’t have a sense of humour either.

Posted by john at 02:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2008

Fueye Tango II

You've seen some of the photographs, now have a look at the video:

Posted by john at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2008

A certain order of fluids

When you start the engine, first thing in the morning, received wisdom suggests that you don’t floor the throttle until the whizzy bits have warmed up a bit.

So a certain order of fluids is called for if there is to be a gentle introduction to the day.


orange juice by way of refreshment


then tea, in a pot


finally, after a suitable pause, coffee

Then you’re ready to hit the motorway and cruise on coffee for the rest of the day, or at least until things start to shake.

Posted by john at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2008

damnspam II

The spammers are catching up.
So comments are off.

Posted by john at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2008

0 – 100 in 5 seconds

Working in the Motion Picture Industry* people are always wanting to know what it’s like making films, and more specifically how they can get involved.

The thing about making films [digitally or otherwise] is that there is an awful lot of hanging around. A great deal of preparation is required to get things recorded successfully. If you start working in this industry, you have to be prepared to hang around a lot.


Now this doesn’t suit everybody. People think: oh, what just hanging around? I can do that. But the catch is: you hang around for ages, then someone asks for something and you have to go from 0 to 100 mph in a couple of seconds. You have to know what’s happening, what point the production is at, who’s doing what and where they’re doing it. So you have to hang around and pay attention. You have to follow the action carefully.

As I said this doesn’t suit everybody, some people drift off into a world of their own and then take several minutes to get up to speed. These people don’t get asked back.

When you’re not hanging around you can find yourself in wonderfully bizarre circumstances. Last Thursday saw me wheeling the cameraman round in ever-decreasing circles, on a trolley, followed by the sound recordist, a cable-basher and two runners holding up the words of a poem the children were reading.


I really wanted to get the camera assistant on the trolley too, to pull focus, but the trolley wasn’t quite big enough, damn.


The hardest thing was to get the children to stop laughing and take it seriously. Oh! the glamour of it all.

*I spent ages trying to figure out where I fit in, I don’t work in television at the moment, I’m not “in films” because I shoot digitally. To say I make videos has connections with the Music Industry, which is not always accurate. I make moving pictures, though it might be misleading to say I work in the Movies. So I figured I was, generally speaking, in the Motion Picture Industry, even though that too sounds a bit grand.

Posted by john at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2008

Fueye Tango

Had a tango band in the studio on Friday night, you know – the way you do.


Fueye Tango, a three piece combo, featuring Ninon Foiret on Bandoneon, Javier Fioramonti on guitar and Rus Pearson on double bass. They wanted some publicity stills and a short promo video.




It was an excellent night.

Posted by john at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)