Sunday, 3 April 2011

Life on the Edge: Edgelands, a Review

Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts,
July 13, 1973 by Stephen Shore, from
When I was given Edgelands, a new collaborative publication by the English poets Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, to review a couple of weeks ago, I received it's accompanying summation with not a little scepticism. I was assured by the guys at the Poetry Book Society however, that although it was basically a book essays about sewage works and scrapyards and trailer parks and all the places that are grim and degraded that we deliberately choose to avoid, it was actually very interesting and well written. And, as usual, they were right. And again, I was confounded and converted. I'm now giving up pessimism for Lent.

All I'll say right now is "read this book". If you don't have a copy, or can't afford one, you can come round and borrow mine. And if you're still not swayed, maybe the review below will tip you over the edge...

Monday, 28 March 2011

The Casual Etymologist: Word of the Week

Original illustration by Paul Shinn
from his blog lookwhatidrawed
There are few insults so damning, so sneeringly goading or downright effective than being called a coward, and as a result, there have been countless innovations on the theme, resulting in some wonderfully original jibery. "Herb", "milksop", "candy-ass" and "jabronie" are but a drop in a trembling yellow ocean of cowardice. But where did it all start? Surely there must be somewhere a great,  snaggle-toothed, moth-eaten old grandfather of a word, a word so full of cuss, so utterly inflammatory it would have had Ghandi removing his glasses and rolling up his sleeves.

Well guess what, there is. And it is with a mixture of honour and trepidation that I present it to you. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility i.e. don't go being a mouthy sum' buck just because you can.

This week's Word of the Week is:

Pusillanimous: adjective: lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid

Saturday, 26 March 2011

All Good Things Are Wild and Free

Elephant With Exploding Dust, Amboseli, 2004
A few weeks ago I discovered Nick Brandt. He is a wildlife photographer, but not the kind you are thinking of. These are not the journalistic, National Geographic-esque shots typical of magazines. No, these are the kind that you stop to stare at in a gallery, or in my case, the internet, and see something else.

My wanderlust is often ignited by photography, and Brandt’s lovely images of East Africa certainly did the trick. They make “buy awesome medium-format camera, then go to Africa and photograph wild animals up close without any experience, preferably avoiding attacks” move up at least 8 spaces on my to-do list.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Arieta Antiques

When I was a kid I liked to break things. Drop things from heights, drop thing from heights on other things, throw them against trees, walls, our driveway. I once drove my pedal go-kart into a bonfire to see what would happen. Unsurprisingly it melted, and I didn't get a new one. It wasn't that I was an angry kid, or even particularly unruly, but I guess most things just looked better broken. On my parents belief that doing what you love and what you're best at will take care of everything else, I plotted my course into adulthood. Vocations I seriously considered from an early age included stuntman, demolitions expert and a stock car racer. Lucky for all of us then that my love of carnage was just a phase.

But for some, those early interests and explorations don't die out or fade away. Sometimes a gut feeling or an instinct for what you enjoy really is all you need. That certainly seems to have been the case for Valerie Arieta.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Back to Work

Back to Work by Billy Clark
Nobody can argue that working in an office and sitting in a chair for nine hours is great fun, providing a stimulating and rewarding experience for the brain. However, despite these mental benefits, little attention is devoted to the physical consequences of this sit-down situation.

Inspired by a dinner table conversation about evolution, whereby an office worker evolves into the perfect employee, with his spine fused to a swivel chair, this illustration will be up for auction at the NUCA in Norwich.

The annual fundraising exhibition will feature works by both professional and aspiring illustrators, including Quentin Blake and the weird genius behind the Where's Wally books.

The exhibition runs from Friday 25th March to Wednesday 30th March. The Auction takes place on Tuesday the 29th. If you're in the area, it should be well worth a look.

For more information, visit the NUCA website or click here