BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut & Special Making of Feature #BolamTV #BolamOD #XmsX

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Still from BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut (video at the end of this post)

As is traditional at this time of year, BolamTV is featuring a little bit of comfort viewing, comprising some familiar family programming and a few festive extras.

Seeing as it was so popular last year, here is a special “Director’s Cut” of the BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013, a shorter version with a little extra seasonal branding.

This blog post is the equivalent of the DVD extras or a “Making of” documentary.

Last year I wanted to do something that was not exactly anti-Christmas but un-Christmas, something that acknowledged what the celebration at this time of year was originally about, and something that was a satire without being an attack on the Christian festival. Whilst I am not a Christian (because I do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth was divine) I am more than happy to take part in a celebration that has become a time to see family and friends.

Feel free to correct me if you know better, but I believe that the birth of Christ is celebrated at this time to coincide with the pagan ritual of celebrating Midwinter on the shortest day of the year. I do not know just how consciously planned it was, but several of the pre-Christian festivals have been subsumed in this way. Easter was a celebration of fertility, hence the bunnies and eggs.

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XmsX logo evolution.

I love and hate branding in equal measures. I love satirising it and making pastiches, but I despise the insane world that I have grown up in. I wonder what the world must look like to people 20 years younger than me who do not remember a time without dickheads walking down the street with “Bench” across their arses or “YSL” printed on cheap t-shirts. I remember a time before ubiquitous branding and, although I don’t object to a discreet logo on my clothing, it still appalls me when I see how people are willing to be walking advertising billboards for companies that have just ripped them off.

Anyway, if you can’t beat them, join them. Here is the incarnation of Stalky Ringbits I imagined for XmsX.

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The final logo design.

It’s a memento mori (natch) who is a bit worse for wear. The ‘x” is a kiss on the right cheek and the hole in the head is symbolic of damage that can be about self-destructive “self-medication” or the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The eye-patch is an occlusion over the left eye and the right eye has a red glint. In tradition, the left is the passive side and in palmistry symbolises what you are born with, and the right side is the active and what you make of your life. The red symbolises passion, blood and sex, and the left eye is hidden as a contradictory symbol of either loss or introversion. The two bones are there to reference piracy and they are different lengths and informally arranged, again to reference the randomness of life. The halo is a provocative symbol of universal divinity and the lettering is red and green to symbolise the active (red) and the hopeful (green) and double up as bit of Christmassy garnish. The nose and mouth are just a bit lopsided due to possibly a few too many mulled wines at a crashed office party. The contraction of “XmsX” is a subtle dig at Marks and Spencer and the other traditional cost centres for middle-class people at Christmas. The bracketing “X” is both as in “ex” and the indeterminate value x and, of course, a play on the word “xmas”.

It is intended to be mildly provocative and tick boxes in the pagan, Christian and secular worlds.

I might deconstruct this a bit more later, but the video uses a single shot in a derelict building, now gone, and it was actually snowing through the roof onto the tree that was growing there. I wanted to do something that was possibly religious and possibly not. The music used is three different versions of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, all sourced from and used (as far as I can tell) within the terms of their licenses.

The video was shot in a hurry at 720p and was actually out-of-focus. It’s a great shot, or should have been, and I still wanted to use it so I decided to move the emphasis away from the image by giving it designed sound rather than just music.

Once I had sourced the music, the idea for the sound design was from a distantly recalled track by Mark Stewart and the Mafia of a version of the traditional hymn “Jerusalem”. Before I recalled it as an influence, I had only heard it once before, sometime in the 1980s, on the John Peel radio show.

I would be the first to agree that my own work is a rather subtle pleasure, and watching it a year later it felt too long so I’ve attenuated it a bit. If you can bear to watch it, please make sure you watch the credits. It’s only a small thing but I am quite pleased with the animation.

Whether you’re a believer or not, Emmanuel may still come, o come. FYI Emmanuel is the name used in the Old Testament of The Bible of the prophesied messiah that turned out to be Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian faith. He is prophesied to return, and just because he hasn’t turned up yet doesn’t mean he (or she) never will.

My own view on religion and divinity is a little more complex, nuanced and contradictory than the all-or-nothing atheistic sledgehammer, but I think I might leave that to another post. Or maybe a PhD. Or maybe my own church. Now there’s an idea…

In the meantime, I will leave you to pick the bones out of BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013+1 Director’s Cut.

BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013

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Here is the BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013. Seeing as every media company and supermarket in the world is trying to take ownership of Christmas, here is my alternative. It’s a very subtle pleasure but pays to stay with it.

Photography, graphics, animation & editing by yours truly and sound design by Hard Shoulder

Plus a special guest appearance by Stalky Ringbits.

REVEALED: Margaret Thatcher and the Space Monkey LOL


Jim didn’t fix it for me.

I had a brilliant idea. As the UK government saw fit to honour Margaret Thatcher with a minute’s silence on the occasion of her funeral, I would commemorate her legacy in a similar way on August Bank Holiday 2013 as a piece of performance art. This is the day proposed by the swivel-eyed loons of the UK Conservative Party to be renamed Margaret Thatcher Day, and my idea was to observe a minute’s silence for each of the 323 casualties caused by the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano on 2nd May 1982, during The Falklands War.

I told a few people about the idea and received a very mixed bag of responses, some very positive, some apathetic and some extremely negative. Any artist will tell you that negative responses are not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to be loved, but it’s much better to be hated than ignored, but what dissuaded me in the end was the fog of war.

It’s a highly emotive event and was the cause of much controversy at the time. Much was made of the fact that the cruiser was sailing away from the islands, but I accept the argument that its direction was irrelevant. A warship can change direction at any time and its heading does not mean it was not a threat. However, what remains so controversial is that the rules of engagement of the British Navy were changed specifically in order to allow the submarine HMS Conqueror to attack the ship. Even so, the most fundamental flaw in my own reasoning is that reports now show that the Argentinian navy accept the sinking as a legal engagement, and this is where it all falls apart.

Although the current government of Argentina still likes to accuse the British of aggression and cowardice over the attack, it seems more like politics than ethics and is not something I would want to identify with. Also, by the time I had looked at more references and re-interpreted the mired spin of The Daily Mail and John Pilger amongst others, it did not seem like the iconic war crime that I had thought. This by no means lets Maggie off the hook as I still consider the war to be an unnecessary loss of 907 lives in total and she used it for political purpose.

However, what motivated me most was disgust. Disgust at the London-centric, whitewashed reporting of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) who failed to cover the strength of very negative feeling around the country.

Tony Benn puts it better than I ever could. I first saw this video posted on Facebook a couple of years ago and I thought it was recent because it seemed like he was talking about Cameron’s cabinet. I was puzzled at first because I thought I remembered Tony Benn retiring from parliament “to spend more time on politics” and was also surprised how well he’d worn. However, it’s just another example of history repeating itself and what he says is just as relevant now.

One thing both Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher would agree about is that some battles need fighting more than once and it is important to remember what a misguided, divisive and ignorant person Margaret Thatcher was. People admire her for being a strong leader as if that in itself is any excuse, but there are many other strong leaders that those same people would not like to be identified with.

She damned herself with her own praise and the most telling act of her own misguided self-confidence was what she said on her first arrival at Downing Street as Prime Minister. We should have seen it coming. With hindsight it’s easy to understand the irony but here is that notorious moment.

Currently showing on BBC television is “Thatcher: The Downing Street Years” where she reinforces this self-beatification by condemning consensual politics as if she was the only politician in history to recognise this and hence justify her autocracy. Thatcher looked in the mirror and mistook herself for an inspired statesman rather than the opinionated philistine that she was.

The only brief moment I saw of the BBC’s multi-hour eulogy that constituted their coverage of her funeral, was her post-PM driver describing her as “entirely humourless”. Channel 4 News did little better, indulging themselves with a bit of poverty tourism involving provoking a predictable response by interviewing a Conservative politician in a working men’s club in Consett of all places.

Whilst I still think the sinking of the General Belgrano was a deplorable and unnecessary act, it was just one of many in the jingoist warmongering that was the Falklands War. But as far as my proposed performance is concerned, I began to question the credibility of my own reasoning and I started to ask myself do I really want to associate myself with this singular and confused act in a much wider sea of prejudice, hypocrisy and misanthropy?

And the answer is not really, so here is a picture of a space monkey. LOL

Space Monkey small

Full story here.

Roll up! Roll up! Sheffield Zine Fest 2013


Assembling my print for the zine fest.

I will be at Sheffield Zine Fest 16th March 2013 12-5pm as Black Daffodil Press. Come and see over 30 zine-mongers at Electric Works (sandwiched between the rail station and the bus station).

No promises, but they might even let you have a go on the helter skelter…