Archive for May, 2015


Posted: May 31, 2015 in Chat
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Saturday 30th May, the Star and Garter, an old Victorian type pub, on Fairfield Street, Manchester hosted the latest NorthWest Zine Fest.
Five to six room dedicated to stalls of zines. The range was wide, from issue based and own story chronicles, to a Feminist discussion of the Harry Potter films and books, to the wonderful Adventures of the Frozen Embryos, an arty, witty, clever and challenging adventure zine. The first of a series we hope.

2015-05-29 10.25.33                               2015-05-29 10.43.12

Prices were modest and well-chosen: no one was ‘selling themselves big’, that is not the zine spirit. Hand-crafted, found images or created images, interactive or not, personal issues, political issues, LGBT discussions and support, out and out wacky – the zine world is wide, in places subversive, in other places support-based.
Many zines have their own blog sites, whether blogspot, or wordpress. Sonorus is a good quality one: Many list their email addss and contact points: tumblr, instagram etc. Also highly recommended is The Chapess

The newly opened Manchester Whitworth Art Gallery has just come to the end of its opening exhibition of Cornelia Parker’s works.


I’d written an earlier blog piece on some of Cornelia Parker’s work. Here was the chance to see what I put my words to.
The exploding shed piece, Cold Dark Matter was on display in its own room. Below is the official photograph, with chiaroscuro effect, and my own, with effect edited out (unfortunately lost whilst editing for clarity). Surprisingly the exploded view kept to a square construction; all the pieces suspended from a ceiling frame. This also meant they swirled as you walked past, adding another dimension, or emphasising dimensionality, to the work.

cpchiaro                                           shed1

Inside the shed were all manner of disparate objects, that had been affected to lesser and greater extents by the explosion.
Another room hosted the poppy display. The gallery was known as the War Room, and completely covered in rolls of the red paper used for producing the poppies for Remembrance Day each year.

The Whitworth  Art Gallery Manchester By David Levene 4th and 5th February 2015

2015-05-29 11.34.17

These, of course, were not her only pieces on display here, but time and space limit what I can cover.

Mention must also be made of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s installation piece, Unmanned Nature. The piece won the Hiroshima Art Prize.

imagesThe exhibit is a whole gallery length depiction on paper of seemingly traditional nature ink wash drawing. The artwork is reflected in a pool of still water the length of the gallery – there is a narrow walkway around the pool. We see here reflected the images on the wall. As the Hiroshima art piece, of course, the context is completely different: one dimension is missing completely, that of the prep-Bomb city of Hiroshima. The impact of this realisation is enormous.


Posted: May 30, 2015 in Chat

We all can recognise a Gary Larson cartoon straight away; it’s the style of the drawing, the chummy animals, the stereotypical people, their styles referring back to 1950’s America, and the droll yet witty caption. There can be a lot of travelling in a Gary Larson cartoon; he can take you out on the flip side of our middle-of-the-road comfortable sensibilities. They are predominantly single panel cartoons with punch line.
Gay Larsen decided to call his Far Side series to a halt in 1995. He had run the series in various guises from 1976, now was time, he concluded to focus on environmental issues, always very close to his main concerns.
You will not find any Far Side cartoons on the net except as images:

He has withdrawn them all, and requests fans not to post any, either. They are still available in book form, and the royalties of his 2007 calendar went to Conservation International.
He was born in 1950; his Nature’s way series came out in 1979 based in Seattle. It was replaced by the now famous Far Side series in 1980. The San Francisco Chronicle was instrumental in kicking off his Far Side career.
There was a problem along the way, with the Jane Goodall Foundation. One of his panels referencing the work of Jane Goodall resulted in a backlash which took time and negotiation to come to an amicable agreement.

Who remembers ‘Hap’ Kliban? Known mostly as B Kliban (he hated the ‘Hap’) he hit pay-dirt, as the saying goes, with a regular feature in Playboy magazine. This was 1962. His Cats became famous, appearing in book form in 1975.
Other than cats though, his range of styles and subject was wide, intelligent, wry, satirical, at times whimsical. He pioneered the Instruction Manual cartoon, closely modeled on the absurdities of flat-pack furniture.
Born in 1935, he was an art-school drop out. He died tragically young of a brain hemorrhage, in 1990. He lived most of his adult life around the Marin county area of California.


There is a strong overlap between these two cartoonists. Both come from very different backgrounds, with very a different range of interests and concerns, and yet….
So, if you see a single panel cartoon of a ‘regular guy’ walking through an office, wearing a regular suit, glasses… but the suit is extra thick material. And two women, one older, one young, the older with horned glasses, is saying “I really go for a man in a thick suit!”
Who was the cartoonist? Which of the two above?

Have a look at the range of Kliban cartoons:



Posted: May 23, 2015 in Chat
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work in progress

Exactly there, in between
the years of Solon and Pericles,
on one indifferent day in Athens,
the Assembly waiting, restless,
and Peisistratos having the day off,
at best rare —
low cloud, impending rain
drowned the rise and fluff of thought
in the dregs of wine in his blood.

It just does not happen, this,
but, Thursday was it, approaching noon,
the Assembly now sure he would not be there,
each turned to each, and with a look,
said, “Today, at this moment,  if only this,
we have what we truly worked for:

Then the rain came, washed out what rooted there.


the nascent democracy was overthrown by the tyrant Peisistratos, but was reinstated after the expulsion of the son of Peisistratos in 510.’:


Posted: May 17, 2015 in Chat

This is just a Uk Election ramble. It is as tiresome to me now as it probably is to everyone else.

It happens every time.
People cannot imagine other people being so…. Stupid? Deluded?
What they don’t realise is that the ‘other’ people feel as strongly about their beliefs, as the first lot do about theirs.
But they are right! It’s so obvious! How can the others not see it?

And so the election wave washes on and drains away into muddy trickles.
I don’t think I am stretching things by saying that every new government for, say the last the past 40 years at least, has inherited a deficit from the previous one.
The difference this time was the Crash compounded matters.

So, did the blue party (Conservative Party) use this, and tell everyone – because they know about finance and, let’s be honest, not many others do – that is was a big scary monster? Did they turn a regular deficit into The Deficit? Because if they did, they could guarantee they were onto a winner.
It was the blue party’s chums the Banks who provided the big scary shadow.

It is possible that the people voted Against the deficit, and Not For the Conservative Party. It is just that the Conservative Party had sold themselves as the only ones who could understand and so deal with the assumed problem.

But no one stood up and said, either, This monster has no clothes on! Or Hey, there’s just a little tiny guy behind here all the time! No great big wizard!
And I swear I remember the previous government out on the backroads of America selling sub-prime mortgages, and also just when they should have been in Parliament too!

So, the blue party whipped up this monster of fluff, and made sure people bought into it. And they did. Then they re-sold it to the people, who by this time believed it was real. So much so they would put up with anything, anything, if someone would take away the scary monster. And here we are.

And no one said: There’s always been a deficit! says ‘in only 18 of the 63 years ….  was there a budget surplus’.

And no one said: Reducing the Deficit is good – getting rid of it completely is completely impossible.
The deficit is, after all, the interest to be paid on the overall debt.
Oh, and no one said that That debt has been there since since before Waterloo. It is, as you expect, increasing all the time. And so we come across statements like:  ‘In 1997 the Labour Government ’ – the red party ‘ –  of Tony Blair had inherited a PSNCR’ (ie deficit) ‘of approximately £5 billion per annum’.
Yes, that was ‘per annum’. And that was also Before the financial crisis.

I am not saying that the election results were wrong, obtained by fraud, or manipulated in any way.
I am saying that they came as a shock to many, media pundits included.
We are still trying to understand what the rest of the English population did, and why.

The Whys Man, or ? Man, George was a force for good: sculptor, artist, conductor of chaos and cultural and historical phenomenon. Punster and funster, with a serious side.

Was? He died in 2012. He was 90.

Centred around Glasgow and Clydebank he collaborated with the defunct ship-building industry in 1989, to use its expertise to make a statement – together they created the celebrated Paper Boat.
It was an ordinary folded paper boat, but scaled up and made sea-worthy. Along with assorted groups and interested parties the Boat was ‘launched’ with its own Paper Boat Song and choir. George was MC and choir leader.

Paper Boat Song


The Boat represented the loss of livelihood and cultural and industrial heritage, of national sidelining and political maneuvering.
The Boat had a placement for a period on the Hudson River, New York.


See the YouTube documentary:

Another of his head-line grabbing creations was using the locomotive building industry to help build a scaled-up train engine made wholly of straw. The material was emblematic – George was well-read and savvy, an heritage of the old Scottish education system. The train was suspended from a shipyard crane. At the end of its ‘life’ it was ceremonially burned ‘like a Viking ship burning’.


He counted among his friends Joseph Beuys. As a self-taught artist his focus was perhaps wider than the schooled artist. His was very much Public Art. At the heart of each piece was enigma though, mystery, the question of existence, of our legitimacy as a species. On his web page it says of him: ‘There is never a guarantee within Wyllie’s work, but only a question, notably found in the centre of all things. He carried this out in an almost metaphysical or sometimes pataphysical way.’ The 80-foot Paper Boat carried quotations from Adam Smith’s ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments.’

George Wyllie was wily enough to accept a MBE medal in 2005. He was previously a Customs and Excise Officer. It was fitting; there was no division for him. Think of Robbie Burns, also an Excise man.
Forever an entertainer and showman, he put himself forward as candidate for the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party in 2007 local elections. He was 86.
Gone too soon, George; too soon.


He brought great gusto and humour, and scale of achievement to the overshadowed, neglected and declining central belt of Scotland, and its historic connection to the wider world. He lifted lives up and gave back a sense of fun, meaning.


Posted: May 2, 2015 in Chat
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One evening in October 2014, it was still quite warm; I was putting some rubbish out.
There in my gateway stood a young bird. My first thoughts were: It’s too late to be out, and It’s too young to be out. So I walked quietly, slowly, towards the young bird, and it ran. I watched it run across the grass at the side of the house; it kept fluttering its wings and kind of jumping. Nothing was happening though.

Time for action. We caught the bird, and I put her in a tree; I was hoping the parent birds would come and find her and take it from there. We left her there. I kept watch, though: my side window looks out over the grass and tree. It was getting dark, all the birds had gone to their roosts for the night. No, I couldn’t leave her there – if she happened to fall, there was no saying how well, or strong, she was, and then… well, that area is ‘cat alley’ at night.
So I brought her in.

She was no longer a fledgling, but still had the remnants of chick feathers: a yellowy fluff on her feather tips. V1Her tail was bedraggled, so she must have been on the ground quite some time, wandering probably. So she must be hungry, thirsty, weak and unsure. I kept her in a quiet place, with subdued light, and warmth. We left food in front of her. Nothing doing.
It was going to have to be feeding by hand.
We had the necessaries, and the knowledge. It meant every two or three hours throughout the day, every day, we would have to feed her until she showed she could feed herself.
Her quiet demeanor and lack of markings suggested a female bird. A wood pigeon.

It was a few days after this we discovered she had throat canker. She had an initial assessment at the Vet, and passed that. They did not look in her beak, though. There is excellent medication for canker. It was completely gone in a few days, bad as it had been.

I was keeping her, at this time in a cat basket at night, with a warming pad. By day I eventually tried her on a window ledge for the light, and to see outside. She enjoyed that. I would groom the chick feathers for her.

Wood pigeons are notoriously nervy birds: you cannot change your clothes in any big way or they’re off. Being near a window she would throw herself at it. It was covered in insulating film which broke the impact luckily.

She graduated to a large dog cage at night, with a perch and tree leaves and woody bits. It was covered up to keep her dark and warm. By day I took her into the hall and the side window overlooking the grass and tree. She sat on a plant pot looking out. The problem was she was showing no inclination to fly. To spur some development I would hold her away from the plant pot and let her flutter to it, and bit further away each time. Each time she managed well, fluttering but not flying. Eventually I got her so she could fly around a corner and land properly. She was eating herself by then. Even so, without my prompting she would not fly around the room, or do anything other than sit. Other birds we have had have been off around the room whenever they could, for the joy of it.

We would leave her for periods by the window, knowing she could eat and drink when she wanted to. WE heard a noise one day: she was batting the window with her wing, quite ferociously. There was a small hawk – kestrel?- outside, clinging to the window ledge trying to get her. She was bravely fighting it off!
All this period she never made a sound. Only gradually and over a period of time did soft ‘peep’ sounds start to be heard.

We began to suspect something was not right, fundamentally with her. That meant long term care. Not what we wanted – we wanted her to go free – but we had no choice then. To send her to a sanctuary would not work: they do not take wood pigeons, she would have been ‘put down’.

So our care of her changed, she became part of the family. I had her on another window ledge – we were trying to get her to fit in with two pigeons. She was getting her colours by this time: the distinctive white band was appearing round her neck, the breast feathers were colouring up, she was getting the lovely graded tones.

She would eat fine brassica leaves from my hand, tearing off the leaves. She ate quite a lot of green leaf. This is one of the many ways wood pigeons differed from ordinary pigeons. Temperament was another big difference. They were intrigued by her, but eventually decided on a No attitude. Which meant constant supervision: she needed other birds to learn from, and there was no other room than that one.

A knock at the door, a delivery. I was out five minutes. In that time they took their opportunity. When I came back in they had chased into the window; stunned as she was, unable to walk, she had dragged herself and hidden her head in a cloth while the ‘boys’ hammered her back from behind.
Daddy was not best pleased! Daddy is still not pleased!

She couldn’t/wouldn’t walk, was tipped onto one side – but there were no injuries. We suspected brain damage from the collision. The Vet agreed, but said they heal sometimes. And prescribed a pain killer, just in case.
The pain killer gave her a bad reaction: it went straight through her. So, a medication to slow that down, and help heal what appeared to be ulcerations the medication had caused; and to prevent infection there.
She could not stand still. Eventually it got better, she would stand for periods, but could not walk. Flying was out.
Too much medication.

She was very loose, then nothing was coming through. What was going on? She was impacted in her colon: liquid paraffin usually shifts it. Ok, it seeped through but didn’t shift the blockage. She was still taking food and water by hand, but nothing was coming through.

She was getting sicker and sicker. The Vet said, You know what I would do! (Euthanise).  Do you think she is in pain? I asked. The Vet didn’t know. I asked Do you think her life is unhappy, miserable? The Vet didn’t know. But: You know what I would do!

I kept her, and looked after best I could. She grew weaker, but seemed to appreciate the care. On the last day, she lay gasping. I held her for hours. She would sink, then shake herself and rouse herself; the times she rallied!
In the last minutes I took her to the outside she had seen from the window, near the tree, grass. Sick and weak as she was she struggled to get down in the open air. I lay her on a towel and sat with her in the open, the breeze playing, birds singing evening songs. She lay gasping. Eventually I held her, supported her head, and she died quietly, gently. With such dignity.

We all die the same, the last gasping for breath, the body struggling against the lack of oxygen, then the relapse.
It was April. Six months.

I hope I die with as much dignity as that little bird.
And when a blackbird is singing.