Archive for the Deep Thought Category

RIP Blanket Man

Posted in Deep Thought on January 19, 2012 by brunswick

Blanket Man’s public memorial service took place in Waitangi Park’s most exposed corner. At 10:15 a grey hearse trundled up and parked awkwardly on the lawn. A few family representatives and a selection of Wellington’s street community clustered around the open boot and brightly-decorated white coffin containing the earthly remains of Ben Hana. They were flanked by nearly two hundred mourners (definitely more than reported) and a small squad of cameras from the press. A few TV reporters stopped preening and looked suitably solemn: one of the camera operators never stopped chewing gum.

The wind rendered most of the short speeches inaudible despite amplification. Many of the speakers weren’t used to holding a microphone, and their words were lost. Hana’s older brother, who looked his neater, healthier twin, told a few anecdotes about his childhood. His lawyer, Maxine Dixon, gave a powerful speech which ended with her requesting that he now be left alone.

There was no noise apart from the fierce wind and the flapping of what I thought was a flag, but proved to be someone’s tracksuit pants. Several people approached the hearse to take close-up photos during the service. The crowd was a fairly good cross-section of Wellington, a mixture of dark corporate suits and substance-happy teens. The service over, the boot was closed and the car trundled off to Makara Cemetery, to bury a human being.

The crowd, impassive but tense, began to disperse. There was a terrible sense of sadness in the air. I wish that everyone who had commented on blogs saying good riddance to Blanket Man’s death could have seen it.

More Auckland highlights

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought, Shameless Namedropping on August 28, 2011 by brunswick

Dunkin’ Donuts. We forgive you for your missing ‘g’ and ‘ugh’.

Selling two pieces in an exhibition where only about one in six pieces sold, very few of them from the cartoonist section.

Seeing Dylan Horrocks and Ant Sang at Auckland Museum’s Storylines Festival, looking at some of the beautiful A2 original pages of Shaolin Burning and meeting Katz Cowley, illustrator of The Wonky Donkey, every NZ toddler’s favourite picture book.

Visiting the Gucci store on Queen St to specifically check out their new kids clothing range. $500 coats. $165 sock sets. Caps fit for flinging onto the school roof during playtime. ‘G’ logos on everything, disproportionately huge on these tiny clothes. Within any context, even one as simple and direct as standing on the street outside and taking a look around – an obscenity.

Donating old Brunswick books to Auckland Library’s new zine collection, and discovering that the librarian is Tim Kidd.

The International Food Court. Down an unprepossessing flight of stairs on Queen Street is the ugliest, cheapest and most satisfying food court I’ve ever eaten at. Huge, inexpensive portions of world comfort food.

Long, hot hotel baths, with bath salts and a towelling robe. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Getting out of Wellington long enough to appreciate it, while realising that some things in Auckland – public transport and cafe beer – are actually cheaper. Also not freezing my ass off for a couple of days was nice.


Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought, Lovely pictures on July 21, 2011 by brunswick

I thought I should photograph this before I paint over it, in case I ruin it. This isn’t something that occurs to me before I ink a cartoon, but woodcarving is actually hard work – cartoons require the same amount of concentration, but not as much physical effort.

Auckland Grammar School Art Expo

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought, The Rake's Progress on July 13, 2011 by brunswick

Here’s the website for an exhibition at Auckland Grammar School in August that I’m involved with. I’m approaching this seriously, but at the same time I’m finding it desperately hard not to take the piss*. It’s a commercial exhibition, so the pieces are designed to sell. Some of the biographies** are quite pompous (keeping in mind that the artists wrote them themselves) and some of the prices shocking. Also note how the cartoonists all have (Cartoonist) after their name, to distinguish them from the actual artists.

They’re expecting a bunch of original cartoons, but many of the “favourite cutting edge editorial cartoonists” (spot the oxymorons in that description) are sending prints because they do all their work digitally. How are you supposed to price those? They’ll have been paid for already by whoever commissioned them, and a good-quality print costs under $10. How can we honestly sell that for $300? I suppose if I have to ask the question then I don’t understand the art market.

I’m sending them four pieces:

The original ‘Awful Flatmates’ drawing from Bristle #10.
A woodcut titled ‘Stress Bunny Panics About the Future’ which has nothing to do with the catalogue image.
What was going to be a canvas based on a cartoon about a magpie, but might turn out to be a combination woodcarving and acrylic painting on a big chunk of plywood.
Either a digital print of a new Rake’s Progress about Auckland celebrities, or a poster based on that alphabet I did a while ago.

* I may not be alone… I suspect that at least one of the profiles is an utter pisstake. It’s hard to tell with modern art.
**They edited my biography to say that I “enjoy” painting murals, which makes it sound as though it’s something I dabble in for the lulz, instead of something I do for money.

Pluses and minuses

Posted in A Good Whinge, Deep Thought on July 1, 2011 by brunswick

Things I’m going to miss about this flat:

Looking out the laundry window anytime at night and being able to see the green traffic light all the way over on Chaytor St.
Having an entire room just for sleeping in.
The absolute quiet in the evening.

Things I’m not going to miss about this flat:

A winter room temperature of 7 degrees.
Running the dishwasher at eight in the morning for me and my flatmates, and having to empty it myself 16 hours later.
Flatmates who think housework is beneath them because they go to university.

Desert Funnies #211

Posted in Deep Thought, Lovely pictures on May 9, 2011 by brunswick
Vodpod videos no longer available.

To Pink Batts or not to Pink Batts?

Posted in Deep Thought, Utter Trivia on April 13, 2011 by brunswick

Today we had a landscape gardener, two builders, a painter and two roofers come through my flat. I’m not sure what my strategy should be – they’re going to tart the place up so they can sell it, ignoring the fundamental structural problems with the Victorian frame and foundation. If I can stand living in the house while they renovate it, presumably at the end I’ll be living in a nicer house, which will probably still take some time to sell.

I’d be surprised if they didn’t put the rent up a bit, but it might be worth it if they do a proper job and install some insulation, a mere fifty years after the invention of Pink Batts.

On the other hand, is it possible to live in a house while it’s being renovated on the inside? During winter? Our landlords don’t seem the type to put us up somewhere else while the work is done. I’m going to have to look at our residential agreement.

Compare, contrast, facepalm

Posted in Cartoon stuff, Deep Thought, Lovely pictures on March 24, 2011 by brunswick

Martin Rowson, The Grauniad, March 14th

Tom Scott, The Dominion Post, March 19th

Another confluence of ideas arising from the situation in Japan. It’s interesting to compare how two very different cartoonists have started with the same idea, and how they’ve developed it. Editorial cartoons only work if the reader recognises the imagery, whether it’s the face of a politician, a location, or (as below) a reference to a famous picture. The recognisable imagery here is the charred shell of the Genbaku Dome in Hiroshima. Both cartoons compare the carnage of the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 with the devastation caused by the recent earthquake and tsunami.

With ‘Ghosts’, Rowson has the advantage of working in colour, and (using watercolours and gouache) gives the dome the impressionistic quality of a Turner painting. The rubble in the foreground is clearly modern, a soup of junked cars and boats. Scott’s drawing is far blunter, the two halves divided by a thick line. To ensure that no reader is left behind, the halves are labelled with their respective years, because heaven forbid that there be any ambiguity in a Dom Post cartoon. Scott remains a fine draughtsman, but I’m afraid the difference between these two works, produced under similar conditions* and time constraints, speaks volumes about how the respective publications estimate the capability of their readers.

Tom Scott, The Dominion Post, March 24th

Scott was presumably pleased with the effect of his Japan-then-and-now cartoon, because he repeats it today. The only problem is, well… isn’t it slightly, I don’t know, crass to compare the actions of fanatical wartime suicide attackers, whose mission was to cause as much death and destruction as possible, with the voluntary sacrifice of the doomed “faceless fifty” at Fukushima – who are trying to save lives?

*Both artists would have just a few hours to fill a specific space, and comment on a topical situation. That space has to be filled even if you don’t have any good ideas, hence the crapulent torrent of editorial cartoons showing the hand of God smiting Christchurch and hope arising from the rubble. That space has to be filled, even if it’s with sincere but utterly unimaginative rubbish.

The new Sunday Star-Times and all that entails

Posted in A Good Whinge, Deep Thought, I can write stuff as well, you know, Unwarranted criticism, Utter Trivia on February 20, 2011 by brunswick

The Sunday Star-Times redesign may not be as dreadful as some people were expecting, but neither does it fill one with hope for the future of New Zealand’s print media. I speak as a trained graphic designer, a cartoonist, an accidental writer, and someone who is getting slightly sick of newspapers and local institutional mediocrity in general.

The layout is clear and pleasant, and considering the deadlines their graphic designers face, the articles are well arranged. There’s a tendency to fill the top half of the pages with oversized photos, and the headers and headlines are also unusually large, but this may be in consideration of the failing eyesight of the average newspaper reader.

Some of the headers, sidebars and information boxes have an unpleasant lizard-coloured background, which is almost exactly the same greenish-beige as Futurama’s Kif Kroker. To make the surviving columnists seem more like human beings instead of mere, uh, respected names, their columns are accompanied by full-length portraits. The women columnists are in sassy poses to show they are modern. Rowr! Grant Smithies wears a white T-shirt, like the rebel he is. The business guy has a suit and tie, but his jacket is casually draped across his shoulder, because he has attitude, see? There’s no way the Man will tell him to put on his jacket and tuck in his shirt properly and do something about that moustache.

This is unfair to Rob Oram, despite his moustache, because his column this week (about NZ cultural characteristics which are hampering our economy) is the most interesting piece of writing in the entire paper.

What is this trend of showing us what our opinion journalists look like? It’s a cliché. It’s rarely flattering, except in the case of rival publication Your Weekend’s restaurant reviewer David Burton, who wears a dark suit and stands like Captain Awesome. Frankly, it makes everyone else look like a bit of a tit, especially when you put all the photos side by side. Either they aren’t to the same scale, or Amanda Midgley is seven feet tall and Richard Boock habitually levitates a foot above the ground. Maybe that’s true? I’ve never met them.

The smug aspirational tone of the Sunday Magazine liftout is largely unchanged, except now they use a dreadful serif font for the headers which puts me in mind of packing-crate stencils. The section editor assures us that “we try not to change too often – we wouldn’t want you to feel flustered on a Sunday.” This, I feel, speaks volumes. After reading the interview with Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music I got ‘Avalon‘ stuck in my head and it wouldn’t budge, because that’s exactly the sleek, superficial aesthetic this newspaper emits. It’s good-looking, but the content is thinner than skim milk.

Unlike the Weekend Herald, an Auckland-based newspaper with a national circulation, the Sunday Star-Times has no specific base and has to appeal widely without regional attitude. This gives it the same “nice” aura of North & South as opposed to Metro’s confident bitchiness. There’s twelve pages of local news (7.75 pages without the ads) and six pages of world news (just over three pages without ads). The meatiest article is about local food prices and is three pages long – but that would be a single page of text without the large photos and ads.

The cartoons! Two large colour political cartoons by Al Nisbet, which seems a bit greedy. One I just don’t “get”, and the other I get, but it’s not funny. At the very bottom of the puzzle page and just screaming “space filler” are two syndicated American comic strips, Non Sequitur and Cul de Sac. There must’ve been a special on the ones with French titles. These cartoons are inoffensive, mediocre, funny only in a “meh” kind of way, blandly drawn and coloured, and utterly fucking culturally irrelevant to a New Zealand newspaper with their white, white characters and their yawn-inducing solid Midwestern values. Calvin & Hobbes, Footrot Flats, Bloom-sodding-County, where are you now we need you?

Unfortunately it seems there isn’t a single comic strip artist in New Zealand who could provide something exponentially better that might make people want to read the newspaper, instead of making them want to shove their head in the microwave until it goes “ping”.

There’s also a review of Posy Simmonds’ Tamara Drewe, which says “You wouldn’t really know that the film derives from a graphic novel, because it doesn’t have a cartoonish vibe”, and it was at this point that I shouted “Fuck off!” and flung the ‘Focus’ section at a wall, where it exploded in a shower of pulp… and the music swelled…

Much communication
In a motion
Without conversation
Or a notion
When the samba takes you
Out of nowhere
And the background’s fading
Out of focus
Yes, the picture’s changing
every moment
And your destination
you don’t know it

Oh, dear.

Posted in Deep Thought on January 1, 2011 by brunswick

Time for another break for me, I think. I’ve been ill for the past couple of weeks, and fate has just dealt me a spectacularly ill-timed blow from which I’ll need some time to recover.

I’d suggest checking back here at the start of February, when I’ll either have achieved something I’ve been working on since September, re-started something I’ve been working on since 2003, or given up the whole thing as a bad idea and moved into advertising.