This poster made me smile when I saw it.

It’s funny how a little bit of typography looks just like a moustache. Each font imbues each ‘tache with its own personality from the futurism of Mr Bauhaus to the frontierism of Mr Federal. I like Mr Baskerville’s underplayed classicism best though – which is your favourite?


I can still feel the heat on my face as I drew this.

On our recent trip to Andalucia, we were based just outside the stunning white town of Camares. Visible for miles around, the classic Moorish town is perched precariously on a mountain top.

Our villa was down a goat track, tucked away on a hillside with panoramic views. With a little bit of time on my hands, I unpacked the pens and drew the place. It’s incredible how every detail of something that one draws is indelibly printed on the memory. It brings the memories flooding back.

The Eagle Transporter

Back in the late seventies there was a cracking sci fi television series called Space:1999. Those of you who are – like me – of a certain age, will hold this series in high esteem.

It was one of Gerry Anderson’s later creations and at the time it seemed as cutting edge as anything out there. It was part of the late seventies sci fi explosion that was born out of Star Wars in 1977 and as a teenager growing up in Leeds it joined the pantheon of an obsessive sci fi geek along ranging from Planet of the Apes to John Carter of Mars.

Speaking as a connoisseur of space craft both fictional and factual, one of the finest creations has definitely got to be the Eagle Transporter. Employed as the workhorses of a space station built on the moon, the Eagle contains a number of geeky sc fi reference points in terms of its design. And was one of the first believeable space crafts that actually looked like it was not too far away from being real.

The space craft design still stands the test of time too and every time I see it, I still get a ludicrous thrill.

It’s practical, tubular body and ungainly engine pods aren’t a patch on the sleek star cruisers of George Lucas’ Star Wars. But its design looks pragmatic and matter of fact, like it should be to service a working outpost. Not fancy or futuristic, just right.

The cabin is the only concession to cool and it’s the kind of space ship that you’d kill just to sit in the cockpit (or is that just me). The thrusters looked like a tamer version of the muscular Apollo engines and added to the whole picture.

Space:1999 has probably dated really badly (I’ve not seen it for many years) but at the time it caught the mood and delivered a high quality sci fi series. I notice with some pleasure that they’re planning a release on DVD this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t some kind of remake on the cards too, along with a ‘re-imagining’ of the Eagle…

Lucky Jim

The last book we read in the book club was Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. From now on, I’ll post my thoughts on each book that we review so can keep track of the books we read and my thoughts on each of them.

We’d not read any Amis (Kingsley or Martin) and we constantly find that we overlook massive authors and there definitely was a sense we needed to ‘do’ Kingsley Amis. I came to the book with no baggage, with little knowledge of his work or his life. I find there’s little chance of pre-judging the author and the book if you come to it with no preconceptions.

Interestingly, Lucky Jim happened to be the first book I’ve read on my iPad. I won’t rant on about the device as I’m conscious that I’ve done plenty of that in other posts. Suffice it to say that reading this book on the iPad proved to be a very enjoyable experience with the benefits of a backlit screen and compact format outweighing the lack of paper.

On to the book itself. Set in a post war provincial University, the book charts the highs and lows of a hapless university tutor, Jim Dixon. It’s very much a book of its time and the period feel pervades and at times, can act as a barrier to the book. Some of my fellow book reviewers felt the book had dated badly and a such firmly remained a period piece. To an extent, I agreed with them, but I actually quite enjoyed the era in which it was set.

The narrative is very simple and I struggled to find any real depth in the book – it was all about characterisation for me. The travails of the central protagonist through his dreary life and his inability to get anything right forms the central plank of the story. The book describes a series of very funny and painfully accurate set pieces (most notably the cringeworthy musical house weekend at his boss’ house where he sets fire to his bed after getting legless) that deliver much enjoyment, admittedly at the expense of our main character.

There enough plenty of laugh out loud moments for me to score the book quite highly as I don’t remember the last time a book had me chuckling along quite this much. At times it erred on the side of ‘ooh excuse me vicar’ farce, with some ludicrously embarrassing moments are played out around Dixon but generally Amis kept things in check with his light and well written style.

On the back of this, Amis is probably not an author I’d rush back to and if this is his magnum opus then definitely not. All in all a good, light holiday read that was surprisingly entertaining.

Seven out of ten.

La Alhambra

On our recent visit to Andalucia, we spent a day visiting the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

The medaieval Moorish Palace is a serene, beautiful place and testament to man’s relationship with religion and his inability to live peacefully.

Over centuries, the Alhambra Place has stood proudly for the values and vision of its designers and architects.

It now stands as a reminder of a world long gone, but refusing to go away.

The Mercury Prize

Whilst I was on holiday the Mercury Music Prize nominations were announced.

I always keep a keen eye out for these, largely because it’s the music award that has the most credibility in my book, as the extended judging panel by and large usually know what they’re doing.

This year I’m a bit behind the curve on it, so apologies if it’s old news for you but I thought I’d put my two penneth in.

Here’s the shortlist with my thoughts. I’m sticking my neck out this year!

Biffy Clyro “Only Revolutions” – Scottish rockers mellow and get more melodic and, shock horror, even get played on Radio 2.

Corinne Bailey Rae “The Sea” – Local Leeds girl’s return to form with achingly sad but beautiful album

Dizzee Rascal “Tongue N’ Cheek” – London rude boy kicks it off all over the place, you need to be 19 to fully appreciate this album

Kit Downes Trio “Golden’ – token unheard of jazz album

Foals “Total Life Forever” – textured melodies with nothing much new happening compared to previous album

I Am Kloot “Sky At Night – long in the tooth Manchester shoe gazers could have their Elbow year in 2010

Laura Marling “I Speak Because I Can” – just lovely, but very folky. Nothing massively new here but a big talent

Mumford And Sons “Sigh No More” – boisterous, rollicking album that’s dominated the year. My personal favourite and tip for the Prize.

Paul Weller “Wake Up The Nation” – I’m afraid it’s same old, same old from the Modfather

Villagers “Becoming A Jackal” – quirky and mysterious prog folk, could be the curve ball outsider as it is very different

Wild Beasts “Two Dancers” – a bit pretentious, to be honest

The XX “xx” – moody, melodic, ambient electro indie. It’s between this and Mumford for me.

Based on the above, it’s not been a bad year for music and as usual there’s a few glaring omissions. I thought Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach might have caught the eye of the judges given it’s cool factor being through the roof. Also surprised new indie boys Delphic didn’t make the cut or this year’s Florence – Marina and the Diamonds.

It;s good to see the diversification from guitar based bands and the new folk movement is gathering pace. There seems to be a lot more interesting stuff coming out of the States right now and this is something I think will shift our scene too.

Anyway, here’s hoping the curse of the Mercury doesn’t strike again and cast the winner adrift in the one successful wilderness.

What’s the iPad really good at?


I’ve had the iPad for some time now and I can tell you what I think it’s strengths and weaknesses are, based on how I use it. It’s bound to be controversial, but I think it could be helpful if you’re thinking of getting one. And it’s my blog, so hey.

Lets start with the negatives – for those of you who know me, I’m a glass kind of full guy – so I’ll finish with the good news.

What’s the iPad not so good at?

1. It’s NOT a laptop and gets a bit frustrating at the moment trying to multi task. I realise this may change over time, but at the moment it’s rubbish. Quitting out of apps to do other stuff is annoying and not a patch on a laptop.

2. Unless you buy the 3G be prepared to be at the mercy of the UKs (and mainland Europe’s) random and expensive wireless coverage. I knew this when I bought the wireless version, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take believe me.

3. Sunshine – just like one of the vampires in Twilight, the iPad despises the sun as if it’s one of the living dead. Everything reflects and it’s pretty much hopeless to look at. The reflective screen explodes with light and is a waste of time.

4. Websites – some websites are still not configured to display sites for the iPad (Google reader is particularly duff in this instance) and whilst the simple, informational sites are fine – the cooler, flash based sites are a bit of a letdown at the moment, although I think this may change as the iPad dominates.

5. Tunes – it’s not that it does iTunes badly – it’s the same as the other devices – I just find myself not really using it for tunes. It’s almost like the format of the device defies you to listen to stuff on it and not watch.

What is the iPad good at?

1. Email. Twitter. Linkedin. Facebook. – the iPad is tailor-made for this social networking and makes the entire user experience a cut above laptop and light years above iPhone usability. It makes the laptop seem overblown and the phone seem miniscule.

2. Movies – having recently flown to Spain, the journey evaporated as I watched Star Trek on the iPad. The size of the device, the screen, the headphone sound – it was all way, way better than I’d expected. The cramped spaces of budget travel were made for the iPad. Movies on the iPhone or the iPod? Forget it – this is the real deal. There’s also the added value of other passengers flashing you envious stares as you tuck into the visual treat of the latest instalment of Vicar of Dibley (or whatever takes your fancy).

3. Books – funnily enough, this is the area that I’d expected to write off the iPad. I love paper and ink and I’m sure that nothing could exceed the reading experience of a REAL book. Oh no. The iPad is just different and it absolutely works. I tell you where it works with bells on – reading on dimly lit transport (planes, trains, cars) and in rooms where an ordinary book would require a lamp or ‘big light’ on. The reading experience too is silky and controlled, with lovely little touches like bookmarks.

The other thing that was a big revelation for me was the ability to buy a book from the store – as long as you have the connection – at our villa in the Andalucian hills recently I was able to buy the book I wanted. No more scrabbling around for the pre holiday book, ordering from Amazon, and the days it takes to deliver. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis? Bought and downloaded in fifteen minutes.

4. Apps – clearly it’s early days on the App front and there’s lots to choose from – the iPad proves to be the prefect environment for some of the iPhone ‘upscaled apps’. I’ve particularly been loving the sheer practicality of The Times app. I download it religiously every morning and it acts as a digital newspaper, delivering news in a more responsive and intuitive way than the web (no more awkward folding of the broadsheet/tabloid on the train or plane, no grubby fingers from the ink either). It’s still got room for improvement, but the world has changed here and it’s definitely not going back.

Most other things just work as I’d have expected (mail, etc) and that’s Apple for you. No nasty surprises (unless you’ve got an iPhone 4 😉 And it’s obviously beautiful and feels right and all of that stuff

So there we have it – warts and all. Some winners, some losers.

Overall, the iPad is, in my opinion, living up to the ‘Game Changer’ tag a lot of people are giving it. It does some stuff OK, but it does an awful lot of stuff very, very well indeed.