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

XmsX v7 2013+1

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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_Paganism

XmasX graphics.001

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.

Screen shot 2014-12-21 at 08.48.20

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 archive.org 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.
http://bolam.tv

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BolamTV XmsX Midwinter Special 2013

XmsX v6_H264

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.

Stay In Lane? Get in Lane! – The Kling and Klang of decision-making.

Kling & Klang (2009)

It’s a commonly repeated fact that decision-making is one of the most stressful tasks required of business managers, and the same thing applies to art. Back in 2000/2001 I had a lot of experimental audio tracks on the the go, but nothing “finished”, and I was very frustrated about it. Finishing a piece of work, especially if you consider it to be “experimental”, is very difficult. How can you tell if it’s finished?

My own strategy (eventually) was to adopt a much more ruthless decision-making process, coupled with the idea that any piece of work is simply a version which may be updated later on. This helped me to “finish” things and move on.

Rather than trying to fill an entire CD, the first Hard Shoulder collection was just two tracks and the process of creating a package and publishing it enabled me to overcome a huge psychological barrier. That CD was “Chaos” and the two tracks are online here.

On the second Hard Shoulder CD “Take That And Shove It” (2000),  I really struggled with the track “Cathedral” and it was never finished, but I decided to give up on it for the time being so that I could complete the CD and move on. It’s not a great track and I might never work on it any more, but at least I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Hard Shoulder – “Stay In Lane” (2000)

The next CD was “Stay In Lane” and I have often wondered if I should have named it “Get In Lane” instead, as that would be more assertive rather than passive.

Too late.

Of the CDs made at that time this is, by far, my favourite. I think it is conceptually and aesthetically coherent, but I still wonder about that title. All the tracks are on SoundCloud and there is a catalogue entry for it here.

Decide, Commit, Act is my motto. The active and the passive are mutually vital and opposing agents, but in creative activities, indecision is a killer, and I believe it is better to fight today and run away, so that you can live to fight, update, revise, improve, adapt, re-use, re-purpose, recycle and create another version another day.

Hard Shoulder and The Soft Machine

Broken down on the road to nowhere, getting nowhere fast.
I’ll take the high road, you take the low road, I’ll get nowhere last.
Richard Bolam, 199-something

I would recommend a retrospective to anyone. Not just artists, everyone. A review of your work and life so far. I also recommend that you do it yourself, not just in the punk DIY sense, but because you can choose to leave out details that are of no interest to anyone, and events that you would rather not revisit.

Disingenuous maybe, but there’s plenty I read in “William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible”, the biography by Barry Miles (1992), that I would rather not have known. As I recall one TV critic wrote about Magnus Magnusson’s series revealing the truth behind certain popular myths, “turning charming legend into boring fact” [citation needed].
http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/william-burroughs-el-hombre-invisible/9780753507070

I think it’s quite common for artists to quickly leave things behind and move onto their next project. Here is a CD of musc I made in 2000 under one of my many alter-egos, Hard Shoulder. It’s called “Take That and Shove It” after that seminal boy-band offering “Take That and Party” (1992) and is a milestone from my nihilistic period. Listening to it now, I still really like two of the tracks and would like to re-record them. For completeness I’ve published all four on Soundcloud and there is a PDF of the catalogue entry for it here. This touches on a time in my life I would rather not repeat, and there are details and events that will be forever suppressed. Writer Anthony Burgess (1917 – 1993) was infamous for getting details about his life incorrect in his two-volume autobiography [citation needed]. He claimed that it was more “accurate” to relate those events as he remembered them, not necessarily as they happened.

This 2008 Guardian article still refers to “A Clockwork Orange” (Stanley Kubrik, 1971) as still being banned but I’ve seen it several times on terrestrial TV in recent years and I bought the book years before that. I couldn’t believe my glassies, maybe it was written by some starry old veck.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jun/10/anthonyburgess

The truth is overrated, memory is unreliable and some things are better left behind. The CD pictured here is no longer readable and I had to retrieve the music from an old archive. However, something inside required me to scan the actual CD, not just any CD. I’m happy to play fast and loose with some things, but not everything.

“For a creative writer possession of the “truth” is less important than emotional sincerity.” George Orwell (1903 – 1950)