Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Mythical Colouring 2

Beginning with the story of a prehistoric deluge, the reader is taken through a montage of scenes from the lexicon of Greek mythology that include the pastoral worlds of Hyperion and Endymion, to the subterranean realm of Medea and the adventures of Hercules. In the accompanying guidelines, I explain how to attain the requisite atmosphere through the use of colour, and reminding the enthusiast that he or she is free to experiment. In my next post, I will explore shading techniques in more depth.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Mythical Colouring

The idea for a book combining colour theory and Greek mythology, which has always held my fascination, occurred to me just over two years ago. The majority of colouring books provide colour enthusiasts with patterns for essays into pure colour. However, even imagination requires a helping hand when matching and contrasting shades. The introductory notes and the guidelines that accompany every story serve as a springboard for the aspiring colourist. Each story consists of two images, an A4-sized image and a smaller – though enlarged - detail from that image. Many enthusiasts may prefer to experiment on this detail before moving on to the full-sized picture. I have also provided blank squares at the outset of the book for pure colour experimentation. But nothing is graven in stone. In my next post, I will explain how the pictures develop the story in the book.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Kindle Surprise

Seven years ago, in a flush of ignorance over changing technology, I wrote an excoriating (and excruciating) blog on the subject of the Kindle, which still brings on a blush of shame. Not long afterwards, I acquired my first Kindle – for practical reasons - and soon, I was singing its praises. It has made life much easier in many ways. In a nutshell, I put Kindle in my bag before a plane or train journey, and have access to my reading material, downloaded books, periodicals, documents for editing, and so on. I simply adore my latest Kindle Paperwhite. And yet…and yet, I am delighted to see that sales of physical books are not only buoyant, but on the up. What follows is an unedited excerpt from my original article.
“How can you simulate the experience of going into a bookshop to row upon row of enticingly-entitled and beckoning, multi-coloured spines? How do you mimic the feel of newly-minted pages, the smell of ink, the romance of the illustrations, the glorious feeling of possession once you have bought the book? One, worrying prediction about these devices is that once they are accepted as being the ‘norm’, printed books, both new and second-hand, will become fewer in number and more expensive. Fine for a middle-class family that will boast a bookcase filled with books, and can still distribute a Kindle to each of the kinder, but what does it bode for the literacy levels of the less-well-off? Indeed, all children will be affected. One of my earliest memories is being mesmerised by the sight of a book. If Baby doesn’t see a shelf load of books over his cot for the first years of his life, then how can he grow to be a reader? And what about that inimitable experience, being read a bedtime story from a book filled with colour pictures, by Mum or Dad? And what about the playbook, that repository of endless touching, feeling, hugging? Is this entire slice of childhood to be cut out by an impersonal metal gadget, one that Baby’s tiny fingers can’t manipulate, let alone connect with what is going on on the screen? As I said at the outset of this post, I don’t see how the Kindle can replace the book.”
Well, it hasn’t and it won’t and, judging by the latest news from the publishing world (follow links to Danuta Kean and Zoe Wood), it never will. Kindle, I love you and would not be without, but nothing will EVER replace the book.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Yellow peril...

Egad – they are here, there and everywhere, bright yellow, swaying in the breeze and dancing on the high street. I am, of course, talking about those ubiquitous fluorescent, so-called hazard jackets worn by emergency workers, everywhere. And HGV drivers. And street orderlies, traffic wardens, builders, car park attendants, and nursery leaders and their little minions. Personally, I blame the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask: are we really doing ourselves a favour by marketing the hazard jacket as a lifestyle accessory? After all, when an emergency really does happen to happen, who can we call upon? Sure, certain groups have to be seen to carry out their duties but is it really necessary to warn us of the dangers of getting too close to nursery group leaders and their little minions – or are we a danger to them? I believe Baudrillard called it ecstasy, I mean, this phenomenon of a replacing a rarefied entity with a tidal wave of mimicry. Remember what happened in the wake of a love-lorn young couple attaching a padlock to a metal frame bridge in Paris? Now, entire edifices are threatened with collapse under the weight of lovers’ trysts made visible. Sure, certain worker groups wear other colours; red (postal), orange (railway maintenance) and pink – well, I’m certain that someone somewhere is wearing it. If you must be seen, how about bright blue or glowing green or vivacious violet? Whatever, leave hazard yellow for emergency workers, please.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Racks and Wrecks: Why I am off my trolley with buses

Will transport companies EVER put in place buses that are designed for passengers AND their shopping, luggage, buggies, children, wheelchairs and so on, to travel comfortably together - I do stress the comfortable bit. Recently, I endured a nightmare journey from Heathrow to the suburbs, on an airport designated bus. Quite simply, I was trying to look after my trolley suitcase, computer bag and handbag. Ravenous, I wanted to consume a sandwich while travelling in comfort. A not impossible feat, you would imagine, but the very few luggage spaces were already occupied when I got on the bus - at the airport, I stress - the craft being no different from a central London bus. I had no choice but to occupy a "normal" passenger seat while holding onto my computer bag and handbag with one hand, and clutching my roving-inclined trolley with the other. Every time the bus turned, lurched or even swayed slightly, I was obliged to become a human octopus, struggling to prevent my possessions from clobbering other passengers. Eventually, another "baggage" passenger disembarked and I was able to occupy his space, but not before I had become an enraged, sweating, humiliated wreck. The irony is - it does not have to be like this. When I lived in central Europe, even town centre buses were long, elegant transport cabins, with one or two seats abreast at one side, a wide aisle for walking up and down, and a floor-level rack along the other side. Suitcases leaved singly into this rack, while the smaller top rack was for lighter baggage. Sways, turns and lurches made no difference; the luggage stayed in place throughout the journey. When whatever passenger disembarked, he could simply retrieve his suitcase without disturbing that of anyone else. Best of all, the rack was bayed at intervals, leaving space for buggies, wheelchairs, walking aids, whatever. This seating arrangement enables the passenger to sit alongside his or her secured luggage or child or invalid companion, and allows him or her to eat, read, listen to music and actually enjoy the urban voyage. Of course, I am aware that in chilly, old Great Britain, any sucker unable or unwilling to pay £50 or so for a taxi deserves every discomfort and humiliation that the system can throw at him. If we have to haul luggage onto those boxy, inflexible, rack-free "passenger" buses, all I ask is that designers leave enough room - in the downstairs deck, at least - between and underneath seats, for suitcases - please.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

My Big Fat Greek House

The writings of Vitruvius have always fascinated me – oh, how I love to explore his Ten Books on Architecture, and absorb his instructions on how to build city walls that resist battering rams, and learn how the Roman race has the keenest wit and share his musings on ancient cosmology. I quote: “The heaven revolves steadily around earth and sea on the pivots at the ends of its axis”. Beautiful, Vit; your sound bites rival those of another, 2,000-year-old tome. On a recent perusal of TBOA, I discovered the word “gynaeconitis”. No, it’s not yet another, weird down-there disorder, but the name given to the half of the Greek house where women (and slaves) sit and talk and weave their cloths. By implication, the androiditis is where the men converge and entertain their guests. This knowledge set me a-wondering if the modern house could be gendered? For example, how would you rate the wet and slippery bathroom, the clammy kitchen with its cooking odours, the dry, white and uptight living room, and the soft and lush bedroom with its array of scents and colours? I have my opinion on those, meanwhile, I’m returning to Vit’s TBOA, to explore subjects such as “scamilli impares” and to consider building a hoisting machine according to the principles of Chersiphron.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Why I'm all for the Elf on the Shelf

I have just read Stuart Heritage’s take on that phenomenon, the Elf on the Shelf, (Guardian Newspaper) and all I can say – with due respect – is, Stuart, come off of it! I will paraphrase a few of his soundbites: “the most violently dreadful thing to happen in 2016” – (and I thought that was the triumph of the great Orange Gnome!) – “nightmarish, murderer-looking totalitarian snitch”, “terrifying and cynical”, and “a post-truth doll for a post-truth age”…really, Stuart? What else is the elf but a modern take on the eye in the sky, and on all of the supernatural helpmeets that throughout the ages, parents have called in to help supervise wayward children? I haven’t got my James Frazer to hand just now – curses! – but I do remember reading that in certain European cultures, on the days in advance of the festive season, a fairy in the guise of an old woman goes from house to house, looking in windows and down chimneys to see who’s being naughty or nice. I find that scary, and I do know that at least as many children are as afraid of Santa Claus as of other supernatural creatures. Surely at this time of year, harassed parents are entitled to call in a little extraneous assistance while pulling through the marathon of preparations that define the modern, family Christmas? And as for the parents who move the elf around the house in the dark hours to make it seem to the little ‘uns that said elf is actually alive, well, such people are bound to show scheming and devious behaviour in other matters – and they won’t need any elf in being so. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/18/elf-on-the-shelf-isnt-real-christmas-tradition-post-truth-doll-intimidation