Pantone Visa Credit Cards

This would be a brilliant idea if you could select any Pantone colour at all for your personal credit card. This should be possible too, knowing modern digital print technology like I do, but we might be spoilt by too much choice…

But these new Visa Pantone cards  are pretty cool as they are – which do you fancy?


Get stuffed in West Leeds

As part of our local Festival I love West Leeds there was the opportunity to have a stuffed animal living with you in your home for a week. There was something about this idea that I liked and I when I saw the list of animals on offer, I really fancied the barn owl. So I applied to the Get Stuffed project and a couple of weeks later a barn owl was delivered to our house.

The lovely wife and difficult daughter were quite frankly weirded out by the whole thing and looked at me like I was deranged as I set him up in the conservatory, cruelly allowing him a view of the trees without actually screeching in them. He (we think he’s a he but not sure) is a magnificent specimen set in a beautiful pose showing off the size of his wings and his comparatively small body. I christened him Leodis – the old roman name for Leeds, a city that features owls prominently on its coat of arms.

I was determined to integrate him into my life and planned a few visits during the week that would create a nice story to tell as part of the project. There is an exhibition planned at the beginning of the festival in July – worth keeping an eye out for. In the meantime, here’s a few sneak peeks of what Leodis got up to during his stay…

From the sea to the land beyond

There’s not many bands that can completely rock out one minute and then play a sublime orchestral interlude the next, but British Sea Power are one of them.

Hot on the heels of their no holds barred Krankenhaus club night in Brighton, where every night was bonfire night, BSP appeared on the bill of the highly regarded documentary festival DocFest in Sheffield. They were playing their original score for director Penny Woolcock’s film From The Sea to the Land Beyond, a wonderful film using archive footage to capture Britain’s unique relationship with the sea.

From the remote Scottish Isles to nostalgic footage of seaside holidays, shipbuilding preparations for war, the brutal lifestyles of fishing folk to the majesty of the waves, this film really is a meditation on our coastline and how we have changed over the years – whilst the sea remains a constant to our island nation.




The archive black and white footage inevitably brings an honesty and integrity to the work with people filmed doing everyday things looking at the camera in a mysterious, odd way. It was struck that 100 years ago cameras were rare things where now we all carry one in our pocket in the form of a mobile phone. Interesting too how the more recent colour footage didn’t quite carry the gravitas of the early monochrome – I think I prefer my history in black and white.

From The Sea to the Land is a unique project commissioned by Sheffield DocFest and Crossover and this was definitely an evening to savour. The might and power of BSP’s music matched the epic maritime scenes whilst their tender and delicate compositions transformed everyday scenes into a moving tableau of British life.


Special mention to Carl Milner for his rather wonderful images from the performance.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Record sleeve of the day – so evocative, takes me back to another time. The record sounds pretty good too.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

This is the most popular post on my blog by a country mile. And I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s because it’s a popular search term for students or perhaps it’s just one of those books people like to read about.

I thought I’d revisit the review I wrote on the book especially since I saw the movie fairly recently. The book is still pin sharp in my mind some months later and the mood and style of a book is often the thing that endures for me. On top of this, the characters were so beautifully etched that they still shine in my minds eye.

The first thing to note after a late night showing of the cinematic adaptation is that it is actually a very good translation of the book. Of course it won oscars and it featured some incredible performances notably Jack Nicholson with unknown (at the time) actors delivering beautiful performances. All these years, I resisted reading this book because I thought the film would have ruined the book but do you know what? I don’t think it would have. OK, I accept that I did it the other way around which is usually the recipe for disaster but not in this case.

Worth reading the book and seeing the movie then, I don’t think that it matters which order. You choose. They are both telling the same story but in very different ways.

Anyway – here’s my original blog post on the book from earlier this year…

This month’s book club is the less well-known book of the rather famous movie. Most people of a certain age – ie knocking on a bit – will be very familiar with the Jack Nicholson starring, oscar laden celluloid version of the book by Ken Kesey.

But I had reservations about reading this book – I won’t lie.

These reservations were simply that I know the film too well. I’ve seen it countless times – admittedly a few years ago – but the film is a piece of powerful and iconic film making. I was talked round in the end, or perhaps I caved in. Either way, we read it last month.

The first thing to notice is that the book is written from the Chief’s viewpoint. As one of the inmates of the mental hospital, the story being told from his perspective is very different and refreshing from the beginning. The rest of the book has been faithfully told in the film version albeit with the lack of intensity and depth found in literature. Kesey wrote this book in the late 50′s and it speaks of that time – America changing and coming to terms with that change, the onset of the liberal 60′s with all the free love and drugs culture that came with it. It’s a gripping tale of a rebel who gets a bunch of dysfunctional people to function again in some way and it’s a story of sacrifice and human spirit.

The face of Jack Nicholson looms large on every page and although Kesey’s central character doesn’t really resemble Nicholson, it’s hard to shake him off. The true sign of brilliant casting and acting I think. I came to the conclusion that the book was very, very good and that if I’d read it before I’d seen the film it would have scored much higher. I’m not a huge re-reader of books and as a consequence the fact I knew the story well softened the body blows it contains. I scored it a not too shabby 8/10 but it could easily have been a 10.

If you’ve not read it, or not seen the film either, I can highly recommend you read this book.

One word of warning: in the canon of blokey books we have read on our blokes book club, it doesn’t get much blokier. It’s not PC and it contains some language and attitudes that are probably best left in the late 1950′s – but well worth a detour from any sensitive chick lit you might have on the go.

Brighton, Part 2

The full story of our second road trip to Brighton to see the mighty British Sea Power at their last Krankenhaus club night can be found here on Into The Orchard.

In the mean time, here’s a rather lovely selection of images by Carl Milner. It was a real treat for me not have my camera to hand for the Brighton trip – knowing we had such a good snapper in the party meant I knew we’d have some good images.

Brighton is such a cool place to hang out.

Our Monarch as a Pantone swatch

I liked this cheeky celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Pantone‘s 60 years of helping designers and printers get the colours right every time. It was produced by ad agency Leo Burnett in London – I must say I would have liked to get my hands on a swatch.

Wonder if the actual colour of the frock Her Majesty wore on the day is in there?

Paramount’s Top 100 Movies

The cool folk over at DKNG Studios have created a lovely poster celebrating the top 100 movies by Paramount Pictures in the past 100 years – how many can you identify?

Master and Margarita

I’ve just finished this month’s book club book  — Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.

Wow. Wow. Wow. What an incredible book. I almost don’t know where to start; such was the impact it has made upon me.

I had left a lot of pages to read this week to hit book club deadline but Bulgakov took me on a breathless journey through the natural and supernatural, effortlessly mixing magical realism, horror, comedy, satire and social commentary. I don’t recall a book so bold in its ambition for quite some time. Here’s the thing: I certainly didn’t expect this journey from this book but it has so many facets and functions on a narrative level incredibly well – rolling along at a rollicking pace, twisting and turning.

First up, I absolutely loved the interplay between Stalin’s Moscow and biblical Judea – at first I thought this was just an enjoyably random flourish but as the story unfolded about the master’s book about Pontius Pilate, it was a touch of genius. The intimate portrait of Pilate and Yeshua (Jesus), the subsequent execution and beyond were powerfully written and provided a poignant counterpoint to the chaotic shenanigans going on in Moscow when Satan comes to town.

At first the Russian name thing – everyone is called Ivan – slowed me a little but as the story develops, but Bulgakov clearly identifies and describes each character so vividly that I found it really easy to remember who was who (which hasn’t always been the case with other Russian literature).

The translation and language used was fantastic. It captures a period language perfectly that really contributes to the overall experience and my version was from Penguin Books translated by Richard Povear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I particularly admired how they used odd words when they could have used more straightforward ones: in one place when describing how someone was ripped off by another instead of using conned or swindled (which in themselves are good slang options) they used ‘diddled’. This made me laugh and this happens all over the place. By contrast, another sublime example of language is where the soldier finally kills Christ on the cross, Bulgakov employs the incredibly economic and powerful ‘..he pricked his heart with a spear…’


The broad themes of greed, corruption, lust, desire, jealousy, envy, pride (smack bang in seven deadly sins territory) were all there to see and Bulgakov uses these to shine a light on atheistic communist Moscow of this time. I think he uses the allegory of the devil coming to Moscow as a way of describing how he felt evil has been visited upon the people in the form of Stalin’s oppression. The mysterious Woland (Satan) and his crew bring out the very worst of the people with pinpoint accuracy and deliver retribution in all manner of forms from turning Roubles into whimsical wine labels to dishing out instant death.

So what about Woland and his outlandish cohorts Behemoth, Azazillo and Koroviev? What a vividly drawn bunch of characters – at once spine chilling and hilarious. Quite apart from the fact they were meting out appalling justice all over the place, I liked them immensely. The dark world of this demonic retinue was beautifully drawn and allowed the reader to picture it in every detail. Stunning images were created like a desktop globe with real oceans and wars taking place on it to a live chess set with Kings swapping places with Bishops – delightful. Terry Gilliam sprung to mind.

The enigma of Woland, almost enticing us to empathise with him near the end, the dark comedy of Behemoth the black cat, the iciness of the assassin Azazello and the Beetlejuice-esque Koroviev…all wonderful.

And what of the eponymous Master and Margarita? Well for me it was all about Margarita, particularly in the second book. Her pure love for the master outlives her sensuous transition into the supernatural. The ointment rubbing, apartment smashing, broomstick flying, witch transformation is up there as one of the most exhilarating passages I’ve ever read. Satan’s spring ball where all manner of denizens of the underworld turn up was a virtuoso set piece too – I lapped up every macabre, fantastical detail.

So – a complex book, doing lots of things, all on different levels. As one of our number said, a book to be studied for sure.

Master and Margarita has a touching love story at the heart of it (with a satisfying, otherworldly happy ending) told against the backdrop of razor sharp social commentary. There is a series of sub plots play throughout highlighting the moral and spirituality dimension of life in a city that isn’t supposed to believe in Satan (or God for that matter).

Bulgakov doesn’t shy away from the big themes – redemption, retribution, responsibility and ultimately good versus evil. But he doesn’t just dish these up without charm or context – he wraps them in an engaging, entertaining and ultimately daring package.


Note: I scored it 10/10 – which doesn’t happen very often for me (Grapes of Wrath and Frankenstein being the only books to get full marks previously).