Hallmarked For Life

Roses are infra
Violets are ultra
Invisible flowers
That I bought to insult ya

So what did you do for the Feast of Frustration? I had a great idea. I made a date with an attractive woman.

Then I cancelled the date, stayed at home and wrote an emotional letter to the woman who dumped me three weeks ago. That sounds like a good idea, right?

Actually it was. OK, I cancelled because I’m exhausted and a little unwell after the (finished!!!) major commission, which kept me up most of the last two nights and days. And to be honest it wasn’t really a date, but dinner with a friend who had also broken up with someone recently. So more a sort of anti-date.

And that letter was something that had been brewing in my head for the last few days. Now I had time to write it, and V-Day seemed like a good pretext. It was more for my benefit than hers – though it might I hope be to hers also. A way for me to let go of the angry stage and move on to the philosophical.

I had a good girlfriend there, I could really see a future for us. But it’s over. Sad, but what can you do? Die just a little inside, smile ruefully, and remember the best parts. She is a great woman and I wish her nothing but better things.

There, I’m sane. Sappy, but sane. I have moved on, I’m over her, my emotional tensions are all resolved and I am ready again to form a new relationship.

Preferably immediately. Anyone free this evening?

Loosening Up

All right, not usually as loose as this

I must apologise form the infrequency of posts in the last while. That whole girlfriend business didn’t exactly help of course, and I’ve a cartoon commission on that has proven to be much more tricky than expected.

My work usually concerns ideas and words – so much so that at their worst, my cartoons are just two people talking. My drawing, if it can even be called such, is normally minimalistic, loose, and spontaneous. This job is quite the opposite. While still cartoony in style, it’s to illustrate the precise way that certain tools are used (I’ll tell more when the clients have actually published), so suddenly I have to pay enormous attention to tiny details. The tools have to be drawn correctly, they have to be held correctly. Hands! Endless hands. No one likes drawing hands… My own are physically tired now.

And we’ve had predictable communications problems. The clients of course know precisely how the tools are employed. So when they describe what they want, they know what they mean. I merrily walk off with a profound misapprehension of their wishes, and consequently have to discard hours and hours’ worth of entirely useless work. Perhaps I’ll do an exhibition of those later in the year. Under the title “Unnecessary Pictures”, because that will make them sound like art.

But this will be finished shortly – I hope – and I will try to make up for my absence.


Typebars in a 1920s typewriter
A Concert Grand Typewriter

I’m watching a friend practise piano with headphones. The effect is a little surreal. Stripped of sound, these purposeful movements could be almost anything. She could be sending telegraphic messages, firing off banks of weapons, controlling some vast and complicated high-speed power loom.

It makes me think about several things. Like why are music keyboards this shape while typewriter-style ones are so cramped? Both are designed to let you ‘play’ them as quickly as possible, both have around the same number of keys, yet they came out so different.

Maybe it’s simply pressure on space in an office environment that forced the adoption of the multi-row typewriter layout. I’m pretty sure you could type as fast if the keys were all in a line, but they don’t need to be so you can ‘fold up’ the letters into a neater space.

Why not do that with piano keys? Well you could, but laying them out in a straight line reflects something intrinsic about them – that they have order. Though the actual notes that make up the scale are pretty arbitrary – other cultures use entirely different ones – their order is not. On the other hand there is no order to letters except alphabetical order, and that is so arbitrary that typewriters can blithely ignore it.

Having found two reasons for the difference (never be satisfied with one – nothing happens for just one reason) I move on to the next question:

Could performance weaving, composing and improvising on keyboard-controlled looms with colour instead of sound, give us wonderful new ‘silent concertos’?

Join The Forces Of Niceness

English: An Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado GR...
Gotta loada bombs 'ere. Where'd ya wannit Guv?

There’s an advert running on one of the British TV channels for the RAF Reserve, which is an organisation you join if you want to fly fighter jets but they won’t let you. According to the little drama, you do at least get to find things for the planes. The reservist selects something with a mouse, an RAF Tornado comes and blows it up. You might easily get the impression he was actually targeting an air strike there, but I’m pretty positive they don’t leave that to the part-timers.

Then he says “One target destroyed. Zero casualties. My proudest day ever.” Zero casualties and proud – as if you are actually encouraged to let enemy combatants get away. How sporting.

Well, perhaps if you’re a reservist you are only asked to target the things, while the people-targeting is left to the professionals. Though that does sound tricky to arrange in the heat of battle. No on balance, I think this is more likely to be one of those… What’s the term again? Those… Oh yes. Lies.

Subtly couched of course. What they’re trying to say here is that there are plenty jobs in today’s army for wimpy middle-class people. It’s nice clean combat at a computer desk, pretty much like your real job. You don’t have to kill or maim or destroy any people at all. They just can’t say that out loud, for fear of putting proper soldiers off.

Welcome To The Year 12A

Français : Un jouet d'enfant figurant une auto...
The First Car

Irish car number (license) plates work by a nice simple system. First there’s a two-digit year, then code letter(s) that represent the county of registration, then a unique number. Nothing could be plainer or more logical.

So naturally there’s a politician who wants to mess with it. I’ve mentioned Michael Healy-Rae once or twice before, not without using the phrases “living caricature” and “precisely the country’s real problem”. Indeed by Healy-Rae standards, today’s scheme is not all that embarrassing. He merely wants to introduce naked superstition into the number plate scheme. The worry is that the “unlucky number” next year will hurt an already depressed market for new cars.

Before 1991 they used code letters; in order to know how old a vehicle was you had to actually care. So this new system has probably been great for sellers. In the boom time, ostentatiously driving this year’s car was a game some were all too happy to play. Now though things are tougher for car dealerships. Could an unlucky number really put them over the edge?

Actually you could also make the opposite argument. The superstitious will probably spend what they were going to spend in the long run. But while some might put the purchase off until 2014, others might use it as an excuse to bring it forward – and presumably sales are wanted even more badly now. So fear of 13 might be a boon to dealers.

Nonetheless I think we should go for the idea of a “12A” plate. But only – and this is vital – as an option. That way you can spot people who can still afford new cars, but who owe their good fortune (or at least believe they owe it) to sheer dumb luck. And we can run them straight off the road.

Irish Independent Now Neither

Independent, out of focus
Image by Cian Ginty via Flickr

The Irish Independent has gone to shit.

First of all, an article designed to incite hatred against the Polish minority. Why would you want to do that?

The story allegedly reports an account from a Polish newspaper of a woman revelling in the easy life she has on our excessively generous welfare system. It’s even claimed that she called the Donegal town in which she lives “a shithole”. But as people who understand Polish point out in the comments, that is a travesty of the original. To quote one:

This article is so full of blatant lies that you can’t even blame it on mistranslation. The authors should be ashamed; they certainly did it on purpose to suit their agenda, unless they are illiterate.

The original is completely different; the woman has never said Donegal is a sh*thole, in fact she is heaping praise It is said in the introducion that Donegal is the most beautiful place in the world for some and the ultimate backwater for others, but for her it’s great; she gets up at dawn every day to go out and see Donegal sunrise to energise her for the day ahead. She is training and working towards opening her own massage therapy business, renovating the premises herself etc. Her standard of living is very low. She doesn’t even turn her fridge on, she shops in the local market and barters for services in her town offering massage therapy in return. She has been exploited in her jobs in hostels and hotels and she is grateful for the opportunity to retrain and open her business and for the assistance she gets from the welfare office. She sees this help as temporary, until she gets back on her feet. She is on her own, no partner or family here.

I can’t believe that the authors had the gall to take their twisted version to a senator to stir up trouble.

  • See a point-by-point demolition of the story posted to Reddit.
  • Here, The Broadsheet refutes the article by juxtaposing it with its alleged source.

Why, Indo? Well, I’m sure it sells newspapers. And when it starts fights between our own poor and an immigrant minority, coverage of that will doubtless sell newspapers too. The story invites you to agree that welfare is too generous and foreigners are lazy. I realise there’s a need to beat off competition from the “Irish” editions of British tabloid newspapers, but you do your country no favours by becoming them.

And this was not even what drew my attention to the Irish Independent’s plunging standards. It was today’s front page story, about “left-wing critics” of government health policy “refusing to answer” when asked if they themselves used private health insurance instead of the state system.

Perhaps they didn’t answer because they thought it was a bloody stupid question. Of course they use private cover. Only the very poorest get free health care in this country. If your income is over social welfare levels you have to pay. Therefore you need insurance.

The editors of the Independent however seem to have forgotten that. Their question would only make sense if these “left-wingers” were paying lip service to a system that they secretly refused to use themselves. It’s a standard Tory newspaper attack, translated into a context where it makes no sense whatsoever.

Forgetting where you live is I think taking imitation of the British tabloids too far.