The magazine of the Federation of Cartoonistsâ€™ Organisations, UK section.
Issue 24. December 2006
Issue 24 - December 2006 Published in Great Britain by FECO UK FECO UK CONTACTS President
Ho-Ho-Hold the front page... I’ll keep it mercifully brief! December is once again upon us, and what better way to keep you toasty in these long winter nights than a copy of the Foghorn? (Global warming helps too). This issue we’ve got a great interview with Matt Buck, reviews of the latest Sempé books (plus a special offer for all you lucky Foghorn readers), an operatic turn plus all the usual suspects. In the immortal words of Frank Carson, it’s a cracker! Tim Harries, Foghorn Ed.
Andy Davey tel: +44 (0)1223 517737 email: email@example.com Secretary John Roberts tel: +44 (0) 1565 633995 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Treasurer Alex Hughes email: alex.hughes @alexhughescartoons.co.uk Foghorn Editor Tim Harries tel: + 44 (0) 1633 780293 email: email@example.com Website co-ordinator Noel Ford tel: +44 (0) 7041 310211 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Foghorn Sub-Editor Bill Stott tel: +44 (0) 160 646002 email: email@example.com International Liaison Ofﬁcer Roger Penwill tel: +44 (0) 1584 711854 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web info FECO UK website: www.fecouk.org.uk FECO Worldwide: www.fecoweb.net
Santa’s Ghetto If you’re on the lookout for some last minute presents, Oxford Street is not the place you’d normally ﬁnd fun, funky and quite cartoony ideas for gift giving, but Santa’s Ghetto has changed that. To quote their ﬂyer, “The Ghetto is a squat art concept store that opens for the month of December and is now in it’s ﬁfth magical year. It features some of the world’s ﬁnest underground artists and attempts to bring an even greater sense of disillusionment to the whole West End shopping experience. It exhibits work that has never been seen
before, sells a range of affordable art, and produces some rather dubious novelty merchandise”. Cartoonists showing their work include Modern Toss, Pete Fowler and David Shrigley. See the Cartoonist Calendar for times and dates.
CARTOONIST CALENDAR December and January feature the following events: The Art of the Eye 6 December 2006 6.30-7.15pm The Cartoon Museum. What nib/pen do you use? When I ﬁrst started years ago it was usually a Rotring tech pen. I sold quite a few gags drawn with my trusty 0.3! My style was lot more linear then and I used to do a lot cross hatching so it was ideal. I also used a rigid Gillot dip pen nib that gave the same sort of line – defeated the purpose of them really! Like many others though, my style has loosened up a bit and I generally use disposable Unipin ﬁne liners now as they’re quick, clean and efﬁcient – like me! They’re also the only pens my local Hobbycraft stock! I use a dip pen for line and wash work though. After trial and error I found one I liked: a Brause Shorthand nib. It looks slightly ‘art deco’ and feels really comfortable to use. For tonal work I use Faber Castell Pitt brush pens – it can get all the shades of grey you need just from 6 pens. How do you colour your work? I never got into computer graphics – it doesn’t suit my style. I invariably use watercolours for colour work. I love mixing colours and laying them down. I got a set of Schminke watercolour pans the other year and quite honesty they’re the best paints I’ve ever used. Very rich colours that come easily off the pan and cover smoothly – brilliant! I like to use a heavy Saunders hot pressed paper – pen and wash glide over it. There’s nothing like high quality materials to work with in my view but it can be a bit pricey unfortunately. Do you use any software for your artwork? Well, I got a nice comfy cushion! Despite my aversion to computer graphics I do use Photoshop to scan in, do the odd correction, typeset etc. and then send off via e-mail. I do worry that scanners may alter the colours of the original but printed work usually looks ﬁne to me. Actually, I’m still amazed that cartoonists can get artwork practically ready for print all from the comfort of their own studio. Any other secrets? How much money is on the table?! Only one – it’s probably not much of a secret anyway. I always soak new dip pen nibs in vinegar overnight to remove the shellac coating. The ink will ﬂow better if you do. Rather embarrassingly I once asked Steve Bell if he did this and he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Doesn’t seem to have affected his career though! Thank you, Gerard Whyman!
Tony Rushton, Art Director of Private Eye for over 40 years, talks about Private Eye cartoons over the last 45 and the importance of cartoons to the magazine. Adults £4. Concessions £3. Friends of the Cartoon Museum Free. The Illustrators 25th Anniversary Exhibition The British Art of Illustration 1800-2006 Open every day until Christmas. Chris Beetles Gallery. Over the last 25 years the annual Illustrators exhibition has become essential for collectors and enthusiasts. Last year over 5000 people from all over the world visited the gallery to see and buy the best examples from over 200 years of illustrative art. This year’s show will be the biggest ever, featuring over 1000 pieces of affordable art that will take you back to your childhood. Santa’s Ghetto 15 Oxford Street (Tottenham Court Road Tube) London. 11am - 8pm (12-6pm Sundays) Open now til 23 December Original paintings, prints, books for sale at this gallery of the great unwashed.
This issue, Tim Harries discusses pseudonyms, politics and flying pigs with “Hack”, otherwise known as Matt Buck.
You are the artist normally known as ‘Hack’. What’s the story on this unusual pen-name? I started work as a newspaper reporter and in between that job I used to draw cartoons. Unkind (but wise) colleagues suggested I might need a pen name to partially disguise some of my early efforts. It was actually quite a fortunate choice. I couldn’t see much future in being Matt as the Telegraph’s own, already had the brand sewn up. Parts of the dictionary deﬁnitions of Hack, which follow, also seemed (and still do) to be quite appropriate; Cut or chop roughly; Deliver cutting blows; To reduce or cut ruthlessly; A slang deﬁnition is helpful too; Hack it; to handle or cope with a situation or assignment adequately and calmly I suspect my colleagues actually meant this though… A dull, uninspired writer; Person hired to do dull, routine work; Make common or trite; Anyhow, all of these things allowed me the luxury of an easy choice. Do you feel there were any tangible beneﬁts to your career when you won Young Cartoonist of the Year 2000? Yes, there were some beneﬁts in terms of work, but these things are temporary and the best bonus was, naturally, intangible and so, difﬁcult to measure. And that was the conﬁdence from the knowledge that some of my contemporaries thought what I was doing was good. Pontiﬁcating a bit, it’s always seemed to me that one of the major reasons we draw is to exercise control over what we see. To have those
When numbers make for happy coincidences.
observations validated by a who’s who of great British cartoonists was a good feeling.
In 2004, you won a place on a cartoon exchange to South Africa. How was that experience? If winning the young cartoonist was great for my conﬁdence, then this was a fascinating learning experience. The exchange marked ten years since the ﬁrst post-apartheid, multi-party elections in South Africa. We spent a fortnight travelling and visiting people and places courtesy of the British Council. The ten participating artists had a brief to come back and put on a traveling exhibition of cartoons and drawing from each others’ country. This was even-
tually exhibited in Johannesburg, Cape Town and ﬁnally London. The beneﬁt of being taken out of my comfort zone and then asked to understand something new and deeply political was great. I hope the experience I got, now shows in my work. I also made some excellent friends, both inside and outside cartooning. Are there any in the cartooning world you admire and draw inspiration from? This is a difﬁcult question. At times, I have loved all kinds of different cartoonists, and a full list would be a very long one. But trying to break it down a bit … For technique; Edward Sorel – clearly you have to be some kind of genius to wield a pen in the way you might a pencil, Riber Hansson’s got a fantastic touch and at home, Dave Brown’s pen lines have also been known to turn me green with envy. For jokes; Calman will always be
Preventing HIV infections in South Africa.
a favourite – black, black humour and a bit melancholy. Larry for his simplicity and his ability to translate instantly. I also own a McLachlan and an Austin, entirely different, but each perfectly formed in their own ways. For bitterness and bile; Steadman, Bell, Steve Brodner’s pretty good.
Ann Telnaes can get plenty cross too (she could also go into the technique category). For a business head: we could all do a lot worse than look at Alex Hallatt as an example of how to sell the idea of cartooning to a reluctant world. So, admiration and inspiration,
My last real word on Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
yes, but hopefully not imitation. The hard bit seems to be knowing when you’ve found your own line and your own voice, some people tell me you never do …
leave and has recently appointed himself my corporate branding. I can ﬁnd no reason for this, although I appear to be stuck with him.
Is there a favourite subject or motif you draw? I see a lot of ﬂying pigs in your work ....
You were drawing cartoons entirely on computer for a time. What made you switch back to (brush) pen and paper?
I don’t know about a favourite subject other than to say the news – whatever or whoever it is. I’m currently ﬂogging the white elephant metaphor to death on behalf of No2id, the anti-national identity card organisation. The ﬂying pig? Um, yes, he appeared some time ago, refuses to
Experience again really. I tried it and at the end of a couple of years I decided that it was taking away from what I actually did best, which was draw nice lines in a pleasing arrangement. So once I’d understood that, it was an easy choice to step back and use the computer more as a colouring box again.
I’m not anti drawing on screen at all, even now, and I’m sure a day will come when we’re all using the touchscreen technology which is starting to come on stream, but not just yet. You’ve recently updated your excellent website and have a blog. Has the internet changed the way you work? Thanks for the compliment. I don’t think it has changed what I do. I still think and draw, but it has had an effect on the methods and the manner of supply which I have to use and I can’t see that stopping. The times have changed and we must change with them – as I think somebody said once. There is a danger that in this white heat of technological change, cartooning will get left behind as a part of the national media conversation – and that would be a great shame.
Dammit, condoms again ...
Not to mention a personal economic disaster. I think this is why the changes that FECO and the new PCO are undergoing are so important, especially for those of us who’s names aren’t necessarily up in lights all the time. We all need to look like part of the solution to the major business changes which our traditional employers are going through – it is going to be rocky but we can’t avoid it. It means talking to potential clients in the language and jargon they will be using, however distressing and tiring this may be. Is there a typical working day for ‘Hack’? Er, having just lost a valuable contract, no (this due in large part to the issues outlined in the last question). At present, it’s a scrabble around for some new work whilst maintaining existing contacts and attempting to keep the wolf from the door. Any feedback from some of your political ‘victims’? Over the years, yes, I sold my very ﬁrst political cartoon for the Hull Daily Mail to a local MP. It was about the time of some highly
Caricature, the hardest thing to do.
negative feedback to John Major’s ‘triumph’ at Maastricht over some arcane piece of diplomatic jiggerypokery. The joke was a very poor pastiche of ‘ Rebel without a cause’ (Rebel against the clause – and so forth). Such is the glamour at the cutting edge of political satire. The MP was a Tory, and I regret, to this day, that I did not charge him enough for the ego massage which I sold him. Thank you Matt Buck.
A nice, simple gag - and certainly for the panda.
Website: www.mattbuck.com Blog: www-hack.blogspot.com
Sempé the best You may be familiar with the work of JeanJacques Sempé, famed for his Paris Match and New Yorker covers. If however you are, like me, not a regular reader of those ﬁne publications, Sempé would perhaps have remained an undiscovered gem. To help us catch up with what the rest of the world has long enjoyed, Phaidon Press recently published a bundle of Sempé goodness in English for the ﬁrst time, including the graphic novel Monsieur Lambert, four cartoon collections entitled Nothing Is Simple, Sunny Spells, Everything Is Complicated and Mixed Messages. A Sempé Journal, and two postcard sets are also available for those who require everything Sempé. We’ve reviewed two of the books and also have a special offer for Foghorn readers. Enjoy ...
© Catherine Hélie & Editions Denoël/ Gallimard, 2005
(C) Jean-Jacques Sempé
Monsieur Lambert Jean-Jacques Sempé
Having been unfamiliar with Sempé’s work, (cartooning philistine that I am), I wondered at ﬁrst glance if this graphic novel would be to my taste, with it’s gentle, typically French feel. One or two pages in and my inital thoughts were soon swept aside as I was drawn into the world of a small Parisian bistro and it’s everyday inhabitants. Sempe’s loose, seemingly effortless drawing style is a visual treat. Despite drawing what is ostensibly the same scene again and again, Sempe captures the details and mannerisms of cafe life perfectly - the eye is constantly ﬁnding something new to enjoy in each illustration. The story itself, (translated by the award winning
Anthea Bell) concerns the whereabouts of one Monsieur Lambert, who’s lateness at the bistro leads to much speculation amongst the diners on life, love and women. Past romances are revealed, amorous advice is handed out and everyone has an opinion to share. One caption reads “We at the bistro realised Lambert was leading a rather exotic life, but we never referred to it, avoiding the subject with the delicacy of true friends” while the wonderfully drawn illo above it shows the entire bistro talking about nothing but Lambert! Ah, such is life ... First published in 1965 and now ﬁnally available in English, Monsieur Lambert is a beautifully put together book, well worth visiting. Tim Harries
Mixed Messages Jean-Jacques Sempé Although the veteran French cartoonist Sempé has had a long and successful career his work has rarely been seen in this country. He is better known in the English speaking world for the covers he has done for the New Yorker magazine. To address this oversight Phaidon has recently published a series of four compilations of his cartoons which hopefully will bring his work to a wider audience. One from this series, ‘Mixed Messages’, is his wry look at modern life. Leaﬁng through it one can immediately see what an extraordinarily gifted artist Sempé is, quite apart from being a very funny cartoonist. His work is a perfect example of the maxim ‘less is more’. Employing an economical and subtle ink line he is masterly in depicting all types of settings: urban, rural, commercial and domestic scenes are drawn with great aplomb. He is certainly no slouch when it comes to observation and he is reminiscent in that regard to our very own Posy Simmonds. However, it is the players in these setting that make Sempé’s cartoons so distinctive. His protagonists are not cynical types with the ready, cutting quip. Quite the contrary.
Sempé’s people are usually ‘gentle’ types who, resigned to living in a tough world, vent their feelings with world weary statements. To call him simply a ‘gag’ cartoonist would not do justice. Defying the unwritten cartoon convention – and seemingly ﬂying in the face of the brevity of his drawing – some captions run to as many as ﬁve or six lines, reading like a snippet of a humorous short story. Indeed, that is what many of his cartoons really are: snippets of everyday life. I sense that Sempé is possibly a rare breed among cartoonists – he is someone who actually loves humanity! His work exudes both warmth and charm, qualities that are sadly lacking in a lot of modern cartoonists’ work. Some might view his cartoons as ‘quaint’ which would be mistaken I think as it would imply they were irrelevant. This is far from the case. Among his subject are the everlasting universal themes - relationships, work, health – all looked at in a fresh way. There are a few jokes involving the ubiquitous mobile phone which Sempé uses as a device for people to tell their story rather than just a prop for another ‘I’m on a train…’ type of gag. Sempé loves to write, I am sure, but he is also a rather good ‘silent’ gag merchant too. One of his best wordless gags shows an overprotected ﬁreman in ﬂame proof suit entering a bar and about to extinguish a lone cigarette left in an ashtray. In the background the
authorities hold back the on looking crowd for safety. Fittingly, the setting for this over zealous approach to smoking bans is New York and not his native France where smoking is almost mandatory! Unsurprisingly for an older cartoonist I think his best work deals with older people. Not only do they seem imbued with greater sympathy they also show greater ingenuity. Older and wiser, perhaps? The one in which two ageing ladies are angling for compensation from a priest after a miraculous happening in church leads to an accident is brilliant. Just as good too is the one where a wily old shoe repairer puts the blame solely (sorry!) on the wearer for the shoe’s damage because of the way she walks! My personal favourite, however, is the mannequin maker who tells the sour looking woman who works in the ofﬁce that she’s important to him as a reminder of the imperfection of humanity in a job that’s been based on creating perfection. Says something about the human condition, perhaps? The series of books published by Phaidon could possibly be seen as a ‘lifetime’s achievement award’ though, hopefully, he has not ﬁnished his life’s work yet. There’s no mixed message here: buy it, it’ll be an invaluable addition to your cartoon book collection!
Special Offer exclusive to The Foghorn!
(C) Jean-Jacques Sempé
Readers of The Foghorn can buy NOTHING IS SIMPLE, EVERYTHING IS COMPLICATED, SUNNY SPELLS and MIXED MESSAGES at a special discount price of £13.56 each and MONSIEUR LAMBERT for £7.96 (all free P&P in the UK) by ringing Phaidon Press on 020 7843 1234 and quoting TFS001 Offer open until 31 January 2007.
CARTOONS MADE ME...
A loosely drawn autobiography in four balloons By Libby Purves (patron of the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival)
PART 4 Grown-up now, married, children, news jobs, all that stuff: we are in the fourth and ﬁfth decades, and still it seems that cartoonists are a vital lifesupport mechanism for this autobiographer. No modern middle-class household can hope to keep a sense of proportion without Posy Simmonds. No mother of pony-mad daughters can do without Thelwell, and no sailor should go to sea without a Peyton cartoon book. I wrote Britain at Play with a lovely Mac cover and illustrations; and when I wrote my baby book, “How not to be a Perfect Mother” I insisted it should be illustrated with cartoons, and Viv Quillin caught its anarchic spirit perfectly. Before its terrible downfall I wrote for Punch under William Davis, Alan Coren and David Taylor, and often went to the Punch Lunch. There the heroes and phantoms of my cartoon obsession took glorious human shape: Hewison and Honeysett, Dickinson and Dickens. Once, Coren sent me to re-create Three
Men in a boat as one of three women, taking a double-sculling skiff from Marlow to Henley and camping on the riverbank. There was me, as writer and bow oar, Merrily Harpur as cartoonist and rather reluctant stroke, and Mandy Rice-Davies, co-opted for no clear reason, languidly tugging on the steering-lines. We got drenched and nearly went over Marlow Weir. Merrily’s pictures bring it back to me with total and fearful recall, even
more than my own words. Just as now, in the Times Education Supplement, Bill Stott’s jokes about my column often say more than the column itself... and I am honoured to share newsprint with colossi like Rowson and Brookes. So thanks, cartoonists. You’ve kept me going. You are my heroes. You rock! Libby Purves.
A Night at the Opera Cartoonists aren’t the only ones with a few tales to tell. Opera singer Eric Roberts (brother of our very own Secretary) gives us a glimpse into his well travelled world. He’s draws a pretty good caricature too! ...
Over the last twenty ﬁve years as an opera singer I have performed all over the world, the United States, Canada, Europe obviously, the Far East and Australia - I’ve yet to ‘bag’ South America - and during that time I have had many chance encounters that highlight those unexpected and indeed extraordinary links that span the globe and seem to make the world a much smaller place. I remember the surreal occasion chatting to a grizzled sailor on the San Francisco waterfront and discovering that his father was the retired seacaptain who had given me one of his venerable telescopes many years ago when my family lived in Anglesey. It was not much use to a ten year old for bird-watching though; I used to sit for hours with this cumbersome thing resting on a rock, ready focused, vainly hoping that some rarity would hover obligingly right in front of it. Then there was the bush ranger I met in the Australian outback who, on ﬁnding that I was Welsh, was convinced that as I came from such a small part of the world I’d be bound to know his ‘old mate’ in Wales. You’ve guessed it - I did. Again, there was the wife of a wealthy American opera patron ( are there any poor ones over there? ) who, much to her coy embarrassment, turned out to be one of my brother-inlaws many ex-girlfriends; the vaguely familiar-looking Professor of Drama at a Canadian university who, I eventually twigged, was a non too successful actor I’d known from home who had seemingly dropped off the end of the world many years previously. He cheerfully admitted that thanks to his monumental gift of the gab, he’d gabbed his way to his present lofty position in Canadian Academe. He’s
still there as far as I know. My father-in law was endlessly fascinated by the whole ‘seven degrees of separation’ thing, by the way that not only vast distances could be bridged by the strangest coincidences, but also centuries. His mother had heard one of the last castrati singing
in St. Peter’s in Rome, a musical connection leapfrogging the centuries to a time of barbaric sacriﬁce in the name of Art, a practice that would give your average ‘luvvie’ something to wince about! His father had met the famous nineteenth century diva Adelina Patti at her palatial home, Craig y Nos, in
A leaﬂet from one of Eric’s one man shows, featuring his self penned caricature.
the Neath valley, and he often used to muse that he was therefore a mere three handshakes away from Rossini - Patti was one of Rossini’s favourite singers and sang at his state funeral - four from Beethoven, ﬁve from Mozart, six from Haydn and so on, bouncing down the centuries. The mention of Mozart brings me to the encounter that started me off thinking in this way,and it’s a shame that my father-in-law never lived to hear of my own ‘x number of handshakes’ story. About eight years ago, an elderly, distinguished-looking gentleman came up to speak to me after a performance of a one-man show that I had conceived and co-written with a much missed friend of mine, the late John Wells, based on the life of the Victorian entertainer George Grossmith. Grossmith, as well as co-writing that enduring humorous classic ‘The Diary of a Nobody’, had also been the leading comedian of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Co. for the ﬁrst ten years of its existence, creating most of the famous Gilbert and Sullivan ‘patter’ roles. He had a difﬁcult relationship with W.S.Gilbert, who could be notoriously prickly and authoritarian about how his work was to be performed, and his fear of Gilbert’s disapproval was always the reason given for his welldocumented nervousness on opening nights. He famously made a complete hash of the ﬁrst half of the premiere of ‘The Mikado’. John had found some photographs of Grossmith, in costume and makeup, taken an hour or so before curtain -up on that particular opening, and after perusing them for a while said, very knowingly I thought, “This isn’t the face of someone con-
sumed by nerves - he’s completely out of it. I bet he was under the inﬂuence of some tincture or other.” So, on a hunch, we incorporated the idea of his being a laudanum user into the show. Back to the distinguished-looking gent. He congratulated me on the accuracy of my portrayal of Grossmith, laudanum and all. “You see” he added, explaining his ‘inside knowledge’ as it were, “My father knew him well during the eighteen nineties.”
“This isn’t the face of someone consumed by nerves - he’s completely out of it. I bet he was under the inﬂuence of some tincture or other.” He obviously divined from my vaguely sceptical expression that I was trying to do some rapid mathematical calculations and added “My father was eighty when I was born.” Resisting the urge to make a glib comment about being sure he didn’t bear a strong resemblance to the local milkman, I said that I supposed he couldn’t remember much about his father, “Oh yes, I was twenty two when he died, and he was as sharp as a pin right up to the end - he loved to reminisce.” Then the remarkable story unfolded. His father, who must have been quite a sparky individual, ran away to sea at the age of twelve in the eighteen thirties and in eighteen thirty ﬁve found himself in New York, where he came across an interesting-looking antiquarian bookshop run by an old Ital-
ian man. Obviously no ordinary teenager, he fell into conversation with the proprietor, who persuaded him to buy a copy of Tom Paine’s “The Rights of Man”. He returned to his ship with the book, together with the receipt bearing the Italian’s signature, where it became part of a small library packed into his seaman’s chest that travelled the world with him for many years. It was only much later in life that he bothered to decipher the signature on the receipt, still kept with the original book to this day I was assured, and found it to be that of Lorenzo da Ponte, the genius who had provided Mozart with the libretti for three of the composer’s greatest operas, “The Marriage of Figaro”, “Don Giovanni” and “Cosi fan tutte”. Da Ponte had died in New York, the proprietor of a small bookshop, in the late eighteen thirties! I couldn’t believe it; here I was talking to a man whose father had spoken to one of the greatest librettists of all time, a collaborator with, and a great friend of, Mozart. I was immediately totting up handshakes of course, but also marvelling at the fact that a mere two generations could take one back in a very direct and personal way to one of the towering geniuses of the eighteenth century - one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Whenever I sing any of those three operas, the vision of that young sailor, chatting away in a little bookshop in the damp, marshy town that was New York one hundred and eighty years ago, in the company of Mozart’s greatest collaborator and good friend always gives me a personal thrill dammit, I was almost there! Eric Roberts
The Fog is alive with the sound of moaning! Curmudgeon turns on the computer and delves into the world wide weird ...
This issue: “Easy access”
The older I get, the less I understand, because as the winged chariot zips past, more and more stuff’s being invented, developed, marketed, and plonked, mainly onto my virtual doorstep by the internet. I suppose there was a time when “keeping in touch” meant a bit more than pressing a few buttons –– it quite probably involved ferreting about the place for dampish wood, carting a shoulder–load of the stuff up a biggish hill, striking your lump of ﬂint against whatever you strike lumps of ﬂint against, and getting a nice smokey sub – blaze going. Then you whipped out (or off, if it was warm weather and you weren’t overlooked) your personal communication blanket and commenced ﬂapping things like “ME HERE. YOU THERE ?” This took several goes, after which you’d wait for somebody on a hill on the horizon to ﬂap back, “ME HERE, TOO. WHO YOU ?” “ME DANCING ELK “ “DANCING ELK ? WHERE IS GREY EAGLE?” “GREY EAGLE GONE HAPPY HUNTING GROUNDS” “CROAKED?” “YUP” “WHAT OF ?” “SMALLPOX” Fire on distant hill goes out. And drums were just as terse ..... dum, dum, dum, adumadum dumdum adumadum. = LITTLE BIG HORN. HORSE SOLDIERS 0, OGLALA SOUIX 237 (full time) Back then, you said what you had to say. No entrees, no “and how’s the family”, no meteorological observations – unless, of course you could inﬂuence things, then you might whack out a quick dumadumadum, dumdum-
dum, adum, adum, dum.(“please do Rain Dance, all gladioli wilting”) but mainly, it was brief and to the point – because it took so long. Now, a little thumb pressure on the phone buttons – note its thumbs, not ﬁngers – milliennia down the line, we won’t have ﬁngers – just a bunch of thumbs – and bink ! we have ACCESS! What to matters not a jot… We can “chat”. What IS chatting? A sort of “So, yeah, an’ I was like , yeah, and it was Soooo cool and she was like Wow ! and I was like..”? Or perhaps its not quite so precise and meaningful as that. We can stroll down supermarket aisles, bink ! “accessing” our partners to ﬁnd out whether, in the absence of vanilla fudge cake, passion fruit sundae will do… I’m not exactly against being accessed; being available; being on the other end of an electronic smoke signal, but certain people with names like Enriques Mendoza, or Cherry Figueroa, Willerby T Nightingale and Burt Muntan are presently overstepping the mark with my email. I have all manner of excitingly named “ﬁrewalls”, and various spiffy ways of avoiding ethereal crap, but Enriques, Cherry and Burt especially (Willerby less often, but with glittering promises of a PhD for $75) are ever present these days. Accessing me. Between them, they could transform me from a normally endowed Joe who can afford to meet the bills, to an absolute sex crazed, extremely rich donkey. And they do this with artfully constructed sales speeches like, “ Hey Man, long time I don’t see you. Your lady is getting bored with you why not you do something hey? Send to me $50 and
you have very old Aztec erection remedy. Its sureﬁre man” Willerby T Nightingale is, academically, just as direct. “Sick of your low – paid boring job? No qualiﬁcationz?(sic) I have genuine, real doctorates for sale real cheap. Get on the Real Career Ladder with a degree. Only $55!” SPAM [Stupid People Accessing Me] will always be there, and its accepted as an annoying part of using the internet, but I do wonder about the senders. Being ignorant of the whiles of the electronic world, I imagine spam gang bosses wielding fear as the spur over Willerby, Cherry and Burt……… ”OK, Willerby – here’s todays message – send it to ﬁve million people, or your family’s history !” Maybe Burt and Cherry suffer dreadfully from repetitive strain injuries picked up through discharging their virtual commercial shotguns all over cyberspace. But more intriguing are their expectations. Whilst even I know that spamming’s cheap, there must be a proﬁt made somewhere. Not for Willerby, Burt, Cherry and Enriques perhaps,
except for free ﬁnger splints and preserving their personal security in the face of a ruthless Spamgang Boss, but presumably, someone somewhere actually does reply. Let’s take penis enhancement. Ooh yes, do lets! I mean, these days, going public about matters pubic is no big deal. When I was young, you never really had open discussion of much beyond piles – not that piles are exactly pubic, but they do occur in an adjacent area. But now, its almost casual chat. Enriques is very up front about it all...”Your lady? She dissapoint (sic) with you ? You wish you have like stallion?” And Cherry’s there to help it all along “Want to make it last ALL NITE LONG ?” Which is apposite, I suppose, in that there wouldn’t be much point in taking Enrique’s Aztec potion, developing something seriously major which merely remained seriously major without becoming something you might hang a couple of duvets on.
And they make the cheerful assumption that there’s somebody else there who at the very least, has duvets to hang.
So, you don’t spam for nothing. Out there, possibly in a cul de sac in Accrington, or sitting by the pool on Woy–Woy are folk who HAVE replied, sent off their cash, received PhDs in Erectile Dysfunction Management,
and are now much, much happier than they’ve ever been. Or, perish the thought, they’ve had their bank accounts stripped, their identities stolen, and their academic aspirations back to ground zero with one GCSE in Media Studies. Or Tourism. Sometimes, the idle thought sidles across my mind to reply; to engage; to access these people who so freely access me and ask them quite plainly just what the **** they think they’re doing. But that’s the sort of naïve arrogance ranters of a certain age develop. I tried, in a garage the other day. The toilet was ﬁlthy, the hand drier didn’t work, and horror of horrors in England, the lock was broken. I brought these facts to the notice of Jakki (badge. ‘Hi, I’m Jakki’, on tabard) and wondered what might be done. “Dunno. I’m just on tills. Next !” PS: Just got a new one from Avrille de Morto. She tells me that my $500,000 loan has been approved. Excellent. Curmudgeon.
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