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.

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 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

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.

Ars longa, vita brevis – “Life is short but art is eternal” (kinda).

Retrospective graphics.073

What a treat! At the weekend we went to see the “Death: A Self Portrait” exhibition at The Wellcome Institute, London, UK.

Like many British people, I have a strong love / hate relationship with London. The UK wealth and population is grotesquely and disproportionately distributed between London and “outside London”. Many years ago, in my pre-broadband days, I was telephone-ordering a computer peripheral and the North-American voice on the other end of the line asked me “Is Rotherham in Greater London?”

Anyway, regular readers will be aware of my obsession with memento mori and vanitas art, so it was a great pleasure to be treated by my lovely wife to there on a trip to see the remarkable personal collection of Richard Harris, a retired antique print dealer, presented by The Wellcome Collection. The show continues until February 24th so if you want to see it, you’d better get your skates on, but watch those busy London roads. It would be ironic if you met your end on the way there.

It’s a great show, very dense and wide ranging. The stand-out work for me is the sculpture, particularly a beautiful bronze skull, and also a stunningly visceral mixed media sculpture  “Are you still mad at me?” John Issacs, 2001.

It said “No photography” on the walls although people were still snapping with their phones but, being British, I didn’t. However, I did capture Stalky having a look around.


We also took Stalky for a trip around London, including The Wheatsheaf on Tottenham Court Road, one of the watering holes of George Orwell, another hero of mine. Orwell was dead at 46 and achieved great work in his time. I’m older than that already, and that fact is a kick up the ars longa if anything is.

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 15.18.01

Stalky Ringbits on tour, at The Court, Tottenham Court Road & The Wheatsheaf, Soho.

An unforeseen bonus was a trip through Tottenham Court Tube Station and Eduardo Paolozzi’s 1984 public art masterpiece.

Screen shot 2013-02-18 at 15.18.03

Tottenham Court Underground Station, 1984, Eduardo Paolozzi

After a few delays, I’ve got eight “Retrospective” flyers in print and online, and there will be lots more to come. Below is one of the earliest designs, but only just printed, commemorating a work of art that was anything but eternal.

Hippocrates was actually referring to art as in technique or skill, rather than what we now know as fine art, alluding to the time it took to acquire skill. Despite this common misinterpretation, remember life is short, and art doesn’t last forever either, so make sure you get to the shows while you can, and enjoy them before it’s loo late.



Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 08.49.53

God forbid I should miss out on any meme action. I guess I’m a bit late off the mark with this one, but being an internet-junkie I couldn’t resist.

I am sure most of you will have heard about the retired Spanish artist who took it into her own hands to restore the portrait of Our Lord Jesus Christ in her local church (above).

Here is my response:

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at 08.56.49

Stalky Ringbits (Spanish Restoration), 2012, restored digital image

The world is awash with beauty if you are prepared to look, and some of it does not need improving. The world is also overflowing with low-brow trashiness, grotesque stupidity and wanton destruction.

I guess you have to choose your moments.

One moment I didn’t miss was a short interval of amazing found-art in the form of a section of distressed wall on London Road, Sheffield, UK. I had been walking past this wall at least twice a day for several years, and was struck by the layer upon layer of peeling paint that had been built up over decades. Fortunately, I acted before it was restored.

Screen shot 2012-11-14 at 15.55.14

There is an online document about this work here, and a “Retrospective” flyer here. There will be a print version soon, each with one of the two poster designs, before and after.

Collect the set!

And if you’re not tired of this particular meme, here is a Pinterest board with about a million variatons.