Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Okay, so it’s early days with this whole blog malarkey. It would be fair to say the page hasn’t really established itself in the public psyche quite yet but it’s not being too pre-emptive to assume that its only a matter of time before we’re being referred to as a “popular social agenda-setting site” by news programmes in the vain pretence that it’s not a monopolised genre, and being blamed for any vase that gets knocked over at a party by the Liverpool Echo & Daily Mail. If you Google “face” and “book” now there seems to be an infinite number of pages (I literally couldn’t keep going long enough to find out when it would stop – it very possibly never does...) where each suggested destination is realtedto that particualr site. The idea that you could be searching for a website giving information on how to reserve a ‘goodie’ wrestler for your baby shower , or advice on how to disconcert a young deer & you simply can’t type , are no longer considered by the search engine. With an eye to the future, here are some WebPages that you can currently access by looking for “Litany” & “Tittery” – bookmark them whilst you can as this blogs omnipresence will soon shunt them back to search results page 168,000......
• After he brays his ha ha ha laugh, the kiss-asses all titter along in suck-up.... Litany of destruction/ Let me sing your song/ Regurgitated depression/ ...

Links to a dark, dark piece of writing by a chap called Stefan Case - who , coming on like the demoralised teenage brother of Ross Winn , starts virtually pitch-balck & puts any lingering embers of candles-light out well before the end – sample sentence “hatchet embedded in a skull, brain matter oozing” . One of the more atmospheric “emo-finds-it-all-too-much-and-loses-it” descriptions it is too, if very difficult to pin down to a coherent stance other than a fantastically sneering level of nihilism that is just on the cusp of being laughable and yet quite sympathetic. A real let-down is the fact that Deathrocker's "Thrill 'Em, Then Kill 'Em doesn’t appear to be an actual song or band anywhere except in Stefan’s head. We are told at the end of the article that he moved to Italy in 2002 & was suffering from a case (!) of writer’s block.
Alas, nothing further is thrown up by Google & this appears to be a one-off blast of black-hearted cynicism that can only be applauded. We hope Stefan is well wherever he may be & would welcome some more ‘possible Michael Pitt starring screenplay’ work from him ....remember kids ; “"Health-'n-Hygiene's the lamest class I've ever taken.”.
One of the only times we get to say the Litany (or a shortened version of it) ... the first Pentecost (inc. rude joke about 'wind' – titter, titter) Prayers ...

Bit of a change of tone, as we now visit the blog recording the activities of ‘The life of a very ordinary chorister in a very ordinary choir in a very ordinary Church of England parish. ‘
And to use a phrase that has been parroted to an inch of its life by idiots - even by the standards of an advertising slogan; it does what it says on the tin. At first I was naggingly unsure whether the whole thing is a mock up but on further investigation I am pleased to say that the rather literal actions relayed are in fact genuine &winsomely innocent to boot ;
Lots of good hymns with reference to the Trinity, and Tchaikovsky’s Hymn to the Trinity as an anthem. Rather disconcerting when one member of the congregation got up and walked out – obviously could not have been due to our singing??? I got to the coffee table at the back of church in time to have a choccy biscuit – there is a God! Time to set the video recorder to ‘Songs of Praise’ before leaving for Evensong....
This charming catalogue of ‘Chorister’s activities seems to be going strong after nearly 7 years , with the most recent entry declaring ; It was a very happy Easter & Festival Evensong was also a joyful occasion. This is exactly what the choral community need to get their public relations back on track after the recent ‘wobbles’ emerging from the Vatican ....such matters are quite rightly overlooked on this site (it’d be like forcing David Attenborough to talk about waterboarding of prisoners or having to listen to your Nan’s views on auto-asphyxiation ; you’d rather believe they were blissfully unaware of such goings on) in fact the revelations of ill-behaviour couldn’t seem further away as we are made to feel warm & cosy and almost see the steam & smell the Parsnip Soup as we are transported to the Parish Centre for lunch with an “old school friend who is now a priest. I kept remembering what she used to look like at the age of 11, so didn’t concentrate too well on what she was saying”.
• ... will bring about the predictable titter of amusement in most people, Even so, it can be subject to a litany of abuse from the so-called experts. ...
David Mitchell recently wrote brilliantly about Godwin’s Law
Which states that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”, but surely just as intractable a rule of superhighwebnet perusal is that whatever combination of words you browse for, the third result will always be a ‘conspiracy theory’? To point out the batty-ness of the farthest corners of these potholes of paranoia is a fairly passé & pointless task (and nearly as smart a tactic as linking a far more coherent blog for immediate unfavourable comparison) – equally to dismiss all Conspiracy Theories as crackpot, revisionist & bitter would be incorrect...The Titanic conjecture stands up well and well..... Collina anyone? - But this one is noticeable & laudable in just how rigidly it conforms to all the stereotypes & how rapidly it unravells;
American based
Calm, almost benignly balanced opening, distancing self from those other loopy, loud-mouthed loose-cannon conspiracy crazies; UFO Magazine don’t tend to jump on too many bandwagons
Use of the phrases NASA footage / supposed 'cover-up' / our own investigation in quick-fire succession
Craftily difficult to disagree with self-revision of the official line; we’re not convinced that they are ice crystals.
Internecine, personal arguments muddying the waters still further;
Funny seeming that I was offered this very same footage for £2000 from John... and if you read the attached letter below, Don actually mentions that he would send a money order? So who's ripping off whom? – Dave!
Gossamer-thin dismissal of evidence provided, essentially saying “No! ...but but but ...just no!!”
But I know that is a lie because you have seen and heard it and so have others
Total casting-off of earlier restrained line ( USE CAPS IF POSS) to explain how ‘they’ have destroyed, tampered with or nixed the evidence (as anecdotal as you can);
Lose all facade of authority & reveal inner self-esteem issues (STILL CAPS);
All this in one easy to devour page! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Litany (debut album out… .... a load of old shit about ASOMVEL not being total dross? TITTER! TITTER! ...

Metal band from “south” that plays “dooms metal & that”. Only seems to be one song available on their MySpace (“The Agony”), but vfm-wise your quids in as it rumbles & throbs its way ominously through a good 9 and half minutes. Frankly, I think its utter gash but will give the lads credit of two fronts
~ The artwork is just brilliant (bottom right corner = what? Anything further to ‘an armadillo in a nun’s habit making advances on an angel’??)
~ They reference this song;
Titter, titter” came the onomatopoeic response. .... Sidney fled for the mop bucket, and the patients launched into their daily litany: ...

A collection, a buffet selection if you will, of creative writing, poetry & stories submitted by the general public. What on earth gives people the impression that the freedom afforded by the internet means there is an audience out there desperate to here other no-marks inexpert ramblings...?! Anyhow, this particular search claws us into Windows Of Madness , part seven of a baker’s dozen collating Leo Vine-Knight’s narratives of his time as a part-time psychiatric nurse and focusing in this instalment on his illicit relationship with “Kate” a retirement home worker of some description based near Leo’s hospital (“Her flat was even closer, and so were we...”) . Notable, in my humblest of opinions for a particularly toe-curling venture towards the choppy seas of ‘eroticism’ (is there a more eye-rollingly off-putting description than “Like co-stars in a Michael Douglas film, we bucked”?). Almost immediately afterwards our contented holidaying lovers are interupted as we cut to “a solitary black dog barks at the sea” and if you don’t get this allusion, consider the title and expect things to go somewhat awry from here, then..... well, read on. But dont expect it to make much sense.

• - Index › Dakka Fiction Warhammer 40K Forums - 40k Webcomic
Liked the JJ comic though, made me titter! ... spread Your divine light to protect me from the darkness" Litany of Protection Imp Inf uplifting Primer ...

And to round off, we have an unqualified triumph. The original forum Google ushers us towards is unpromising (War Hammer sadly not being a voluminously trousered Geordie tribute act), the initial comments from the Dakka Dakka hard-core to Darius in Bilbao’s tentative posting of his web comic being less than glowing; I don't get it / text is quite hard to follow :( / maybe the humour is not ready for us Americans! / And back to don’t get it...
Whether these early reviews were just missing something, perhaps their initial criticisms helped iron out the kinks...or maybe Darius has contrived come up with such an idiosyncratic mix of sci-fi, corny jokes, excellent art work & just-off-kilter English that the result was bound to confound a lot of people.
That last bubble again; “Oh! For my greater Wood! Hot Chocolate Cream with Jelly sandwich...Fuck the trial we have to investigate that!” Being fairly green & little versed in the world of anime, fantasy et al and baffled by the devotion and seriousness afforded to it, this mightn't be the most ringing endorsement; but this really is fantastic. As I understand is obligatory in such circles, there is an “18+” collection of FanArt & FanFics to supplement your bread & butter galactical adventures.
A juvenile delinquent
A girl with a childhood trauma
A carnivore monster with no respect for the life
All of them in the Warrior`s Academy

So there we go, a fairly disparate melange of topics covered & something to aim for & hopefully eclipse. Our fairly achievable manifesto ; to provide, in different ratios as the situation suits, ungodly anarchy & kill-em-all mob rule, prim English traditional ceremonialism , rabid , wild & confused conspiracy theories, over-wrought , moon-shakingly loud bad metal, horrid sex as a backdrop to descent to insanity & borderline incomprehensible cult iconography. Nothing more, nothing less - and in the process become bigger, more renowned, addictive & hated than Facebook. Then split up!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Banksy vs. McGill

One is a renegade exponent of graffiti & radical , trendy, achingly contemporary street-art, who has defaced walls on Israel’s West Bank & has had work purchased by Christian Aguilera, Kate Moss and many others . The other is Donald McGill – a mild-mannered one-footed gentleman who lived through both World Wars and amazed himself by creating a globally recognised genre of ‘Saucy Seaside Postcards’ on the back of one ‘Get Well’ card for an incapacitated nephew. But for such disparate personalities, their art followed a great many similar patterns.

Both, to differing degrees, retained an air of mystique & anonymity – Banksy infamously so & to a far, far greater & more intentional level – wilfully creating a “network of myths” surrounding his identity and facing accusations of not in fact being a individual artist but a brand name for a collective; becoming, as New Yorker magazine put it in 2007 “a household name (who’s) identity is subject of febrile speculation”. This has certainly been played up & even invited by him at times as a very successful ‘hook’ to heighten intrigue in his reclusive character & inevitably add an extra layer of captivation to his work – the nature of street art in itself requires & attracts “shadowy practitioners”. McGill, on the other hand, probably had less say in his unknown personality, living an unassuming life in London, unlinked on a daily basis with the fruits of his labour selling rapidly across the country – however, the same de-personalised & anonymous air was applicable & remarked upon by George Orwell in 1942 in a manner which could certainly have been written concerning Banksy “Who Donald McGill is, I do not know. He is apparently a trade name, for at least one series of post cards is issued simply as ‘The Donald McGill Comics’

The two artists also employ a signature style which is instantly recognisable & if not entirely unique, then very much something made their own. Banksy’s work has been described as deploying an “aesthetic clean & instantly readable” ; clean, stencilled , often black, white and grey, with uncomplicated visual elements used to convey an idea. He himself commented that above all else “efficiency is the key” to his style. which is universally renowned and his work is everywhere, from walls to t-shirts, mugs, books, CD covers & very possibly golf-umbrellas. “A Banksy” is immediately identifiable as such by anyone aware of modern pop art on even the most surface level and this was also applicable to McGill, who as Orwell commented in the same essay, maintained an individualistic “style of drawing which is recognizable at a glance” . The predictability & repeated motifs, colours & references produce for the viewer an “indefinable familiarity” with the seaside scenes and characters depicted – and this is also applicable to the world in which Banksy works , street art bound to be “visually repetitive” by the boundaries it is contained in. The audience’s pre-acquaintance with the format is part of the explanation for another striking similarity between the two artists in their respective periods – their enormous success.

In his heyday, McGill’s postcards were turning an unimaginable level of business – averaging sales of two million per Blackpool alone! His most successful single card was “do you like Kipling...?” which shifted a remarkable six million copies worldwide. His art was such a hit with the public that he was described by Punch magazine as “the most popular, hence the most eminent, painter of the (20th) century”. This level of achievement & pre-eminence has been replicated by Banksy 70 years later, 250,000 copies were sold in the month of release for his “Wall & Piece” book in 2005. Unrelenting celebrity endorsement coupled with (albeit somewhat grudging at times) critical recognition from the legitimate art community led Ralph Taylor of Sotheby’s to declare Banksy , in equally glowing terms to Punch, as the “quickest growing artist of all-time”.

Comparisons can also be drawn in more stylistic terms. Both lean towards, in the main, unflattering & semi-grotesque portrayals of humdrum humans. To again draw from Orwell’s description of McGill’s work, he summarised it as being made-up of “figures with deliberately ugly faces...grinning & vacuous” - which could certainly be applied to a high proportion of Banksy’s work, the artist himself commenting “People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish. But that's only if it's done properly”. There is a constant current of vulgarity through both bodies of work, which has certainly contributed to the vast success and popularity with ‘the masses’ of both artists not being reflected in critical acclaim to anything like the same extent.

Another likeness between the two is in their political stances. As with their relative anonymities, this is far more easily associated with & straightforwardly detected through the modern-day artist’s work; anti-capitalist, anti-war, anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian without exception, arguably to the point of cliché. When attending an anti-war rally in 2003 he distributed leaflets declaring “I Don’t Believe in anything. I'm Just Here for the Violence”. With McGill, this attitude filtered through far more subtly and at first glance almost accidentally. On closer inspection however, it appears that the rebellious tone is not simply a happy co-incidence. McGill purposefully focused his First World War propaganda to be from the perspective of the combatants & families, as opposed to merely propagating the party-line; very few of his hundreds of designs from this period depict actual soldiers in battle. This was a conscious decision – and any illusions that he was unaware of the seditious undertones to his work are dismissed by his own ‘vulgarity ranking system’, rating his work as mild, medium and strong, the third category was deemed unfit for his own daughters – and inevitably was by far the best selling set.

As a matter of course, massively popular artists of any denomination disseminating a “seditious” message, whether craftily or brazenly will clash with authority at some point and this is another area with shared experience for the two artists. Banksy, despite being far & away the more controversy-courting of the two has actually gotten off rather lightly in this regard – no doubt benefitting from operating in a more permissive, liberal society – his troubles limited to a clash with the Keep Britain Tidy campaign & a bizarre tiff with an animal rights campaigner in 2003. By and large his outspoken stance has resulted in only furrowed brows & tut-tutting from government level and a long-running campaign by the right-wing Daily Mail to “unveil” his background. The same sadly could not be said for his predecessor. In 1951 the Conservatives under Winston Churchill won back power on a ticket to restore the war-time austerity that they felt had been eroded by the post-war Labour government’s more broad-minded & forward-looking term. As part of their conformity drive, numerous censorship committees were set-up and McGill’s racy postcards were selected as an area of grave concern. Quite shamefully, this resulted in him being forced to attend court as an 80 year old. After expressing his bafflement at the charges of ‘mental & moral corruption’ in a letter to the court (“I have carefully considered the cards complained of… and I set forth my observations in respect of each card with explanations to show my mental approach... ")he eventually appeared and was forced to plead guilty to Obscene Publication charges to avoid imprisonment – being fined £75 in total, with far greater financial consequences being incurred through destruction of postcards etc. Although not directly linked, one can only assume that he would have welcomed Banksy’s quote in 2002; “I wouldn't sell shit to Charles Saatchi. If I sell 55,000 books and however many screen prints, I don't need one man to tell me I'm an artist. It's hugely different if people buy it, rather than one fucking Tory punter does. No, I'd never sell anything to him“

One more area of similarity is in a shared willingness to reflect the zeitgeist in their work. Orwell’s description of McGill as realising that “any contemporary event, cult or activity has comic possibilities” is almost exactly transposed into Lauren Adams’ 2007 report of Banksy as “a broad social cartoonist...surfacing from time to time to prod popular consciousness” . This also flows into a readiness to self-reference – Banksy in the above cartoon which was auctioned (caption : I cant belieev you morons actually pay for this shit)& McGill in the pre-emptive (& self-fulfilling prophecy) censor bating sketch alongside.
To conclude, the most obvious and important link is in the essential frivolity of their work. Matthew Collings, writing a fairly scathing piece in The Times, described Banksy’s ideas as “having the values of a joke”, Morgan Falconer in the same paper heralding his “harmless... adolescent preoccupation with lampooning”. Stuart Maconie meanwhile summarized McGill’s work as “always saucy more than dirty...not dirty as they are almost child-like”. The ability of both to invite suggestion of a deeper meaning in an essentially throwaway image is strikingly apparent in these two quotes; “the drawing is often funnier than the joke beneath it” (Orwell, once more on McGill) and Banksy last month talking about his work and admitting that he’s “not sure what it means..... There’s less to it than meets the eye” – a parallel stance to McGill in 1954’s admittance that he often “had no intention of 'double meaning' and, in fact, a 'double meaning' was in some cases later pointed out to me”. So much weight & meaning is attributed to the work by the pre-convictions and mindset of the viewer that it becomes unheard of (especially in when assessing the more modern artist’s work) to suggest that they are essentially throw-away allusions more than deep insights – as Charlie Brooker expressed his distaste for Banksy being “often feted as a genius straddling the bleeding edge of now. Why? Because his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots”.

I would say in neither case does this detriment the work as pure entertainment – “most of life is made up of trivia and there is nothing wrong with celebrating it” and to give the will-o-the-wisp, ever-elusive Banksy the last word; “even if you don't come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make somebody smile while they're having a piss.".