The Day Job

Raise the flag. Sound the trumpets. Light the beacons. Put the kettle on. I have returned.

My friends, I apologise for being away so long. Rather than making a start on all the grovelling and forgiveness-begging I am due, I have instead decided to jump straight back in with an actual post. In light of what’s been keeping me stressful in absentia,1 I thought it might be interesting prudent to tell you all about what I actually do.

I am a trained and qualified Graphic Designer. Whenever I tell people this, I get a nod, and sometimes a ‘ah OK’, because whilst everybody has heard of the job title, nobody really knows what it means.

Put simply; it is visual communication. It’s storytelling using pictures. If people realised how obvious this is we would not be able to charge the prices that we do. I am exceptionally lucky in that I am able to exercise my creative muscles on a daily basis and call it a career, and in many ways am really taking the piss by not being content with that and writing a humour blog and a sitcom on the side.

You will be pleased to know, however, that my career is yet another source of crippling insecurity on a daily basis. I have a cycle of worries regarding my job that go a little something like this:

***

 I worry that as a ‘visual person’ I am at heart tremendously superficial.

I indulge my other interests to become a fully-rounded, well-adjusted, multi-faceted, overly-adjectified person: write things, read things, see stand-up, buy records, attract hot babes, etc.2

I worry that I am neglecting my career.

I buy expensive design books and start another ‘portfolio enhancing project’ like a poster series or animation.

 I remember I am supposed to have some sort of social life.

 I call up a friend, they ask what I’ve been up to and I say ‘nothing’.

I take a long look at my life.

I worry I am worrying too much about everything.

I realise I’ve wasted too much time already worrying about worrying about worrying.

I go back to work to make up for lost time.

Repeat ad infinitum.

***

As well as this, design is a thankless job. It’s comparatively well-paying as a career, but this is a fair trade for the endless extra hours you will work (for no overtime) because the client wants it ‘amended’ (changed entirely) and sent back before the end of the day. ‘I’m sorry the display is exactly as dictated the agreed brief but you don’t like it anyway, I’ll just work another eight hours tonight (not an exaggeration) for your benefit for free.’ And yes I’m passive-aggressively hinting at YOU, property magnate in Manchester.

Because the nature of a good chunk of design is ephemeral (so slick you don’t notice it’s there – sometimes I don’t know why I bother) there isn’t a lot of respect for it as a usage of one’s time. My nan doesn’t think it’s a ‘real’ job, and thinks I’m an artist. This is inaccurate, and a little demeaning to both myself and any artists who might be reading this; artists express themselves, whilst designers express things on behalf of other people, and thus are at once creatively active and stifled, like a neutered dog in heat.

That said, I am uncomfortable calling myself a ‘creative’, even though it’s what I do all day every day. It sounds to me like one of those adjectives that is bestowed upon you by other people3, and is increasingly very difficult to quantify. Anyone with an Instagram app will call themselves a photographer, anyone who owns Photoshop will call themselves a designer and anyone who’s been on Cracked.com and read something about fonts will shout ‘Comic Sans! LOL’ and call themselves a typographer.

It’s a shame that these once-respected avenues of expression are being eroded by trivialisation. Typography, as a subject is quite fascinating; there’s so much consideration in making content readable and inflected with the right ‘feel’, and there’s some genuinely interesting things to be learnt.

Gill Sans

You’ve got to draw a line somewhere and it might as well be between your dog and your third daughter…

And whilst we’re on the subject, can we all get over the Comic Sans bashing? It was funny at one point but now it’s just sad. It’s been kidnapped by that odd group of people who mercilessly hate something and pretend it’s taste, like they did when Lynn Truss brought out ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’.

Comic Sans

I don’t really have a problem with Bieber, although his music isn’t my ‘thing’ – he’s very responsible and well-adjusted for someone at his level of fame. What I DO have a problem with is hype. If you’re a Belieber and you’re offended by this message, please consider that any resentment either of us may feel is entirely your fault. So there.

I got into graphic design because, like many of you here, I wanted to tell stories, and one day I hope to get out of it, for the same reason. I love the work – obviously – it’s exhilarating, but it’s a far from easy life, and there’s a reason why I have this other creative outlet here. If you should ever find yourself (and if you want it, I hope you do) in a situation where your income is a direct reflection of the frequency and quality of your ideas, I think you’ll see what I mean.

Allow me to sign off as the ungrateful prick I am clearly becoming. I’m off to have my cake, eat it, then take a chunk out of the hand that feeds. I reckon humble pie will be on the menu too.

Rant over. Bon appetit.


1 Good name for a bad song, that.

2 One of these is a deliberate lie, just to see if you’re paying attention. Answers on a postcard.

3 To illustrate my problem with these sort of words, I’ll use it in a sentence; ‘Oh no, I couldn’t possibly get a job and contribute to society, I am a creative.’

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International Relations

Last night I spoke on the phone to Best Friend Dan.

Dan: …So, how’s the blog going?

Me: Well you could read it, then you’d know.

‘Sounds like effort.’

‘Well, I’ll have you know I’m blog-famous now. I’ve won no less than four awards. How many blog awards have you won?’

‘How does one win a blog award? Was there stiff competition?’

‘Never you mind. I’m a lovely, lovely, versatile blogger. In that order. And I’ve got plenty followers. So there.’

‘Oh really? Who follows you? Anyone we know?’

‘Nope. They’re all lovely, and I do mean that, even though this is a conversation between two friends and nobody else will ever hear that part. And I am moderately popular with actual bona-fide ladies. One of them even said I should go to the States and use my British wit and accent to my advantage.’

‘Hang on, did you get a booty call?’

‘No. It was a joke. A good one, but a joke. You know that sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.’

‘Stop. Go over the whole thing.’

‘I did a post about England, and in a comment she mentioned how British men would be exotic in America, and invited me over to California, where I could simply speak English and be swamped in women. She said to bring a snorkel.’

‘WHAT? (Dan explodes with laughter at this thought, and also the word ‘snorkel’, which in his defence is hilarious)’

‘I think she means that I’ll be deluged with babes, and hence might have trouble breathing.’

‘You don’t think – ‘

‘NO.’

‘So, tell me more about this girl.’

‘She calls herself the Silly Girl.’

‘I suppose she’d have to be. What’s she like?’

‘Funny, sweet, a bit neurotic. Pretty eyes. Apparently the rest of her looks like Gollum though.’

‘Just your type then. Has she seen you?’

‘No. She thinks I might be Hugh Grant though.’

‘Wow. You do realise you have to do this? You’ll never get this opportunity again.’

‘Do you know what, Dan? I don’t think she was being serious. I think she was being charming and lovely and a little bit flirty, but not serious. I think it was just a nice gesture. Showing up in California with a snorkel and saying ‘IT’S ME!’ in a British accent and a Union Jack thong would be tantamount to some sort of assault.’

‘And the point of this is your sexy English accent? But you only speak English don’t you? Or don’t you speak French as well?’

‘I speak un peu.’

‘The language of lurve…’

‘And fromage.’

‘She’s a lucky, lucky lady. This is going in the sitcom.’

And that’s how we wrote two lines of dialogue.

NOTE: Title changed to an amazing pun.

Admin – A Note of Absence

Last week my four year old MacBook finally gave up.

Although it may not have seemed like it, I was absent from these shores for about two weeks. I had some posts scheduled, and even managed to knock out out a quick one at work (not a euphemism), but I fear that this made me appear that whilst I was happy to publish my nonsense, I was not willing to actually interact with any of you.

This particular anxiety displays not only paranoia but also arrogance of the highest level; that I dare to assume that people are constantly checking up to see why I’m not reading their posts but posting my own. Perhaps they’ve worked out a ratio system. Perhaps there’s a graph.

There’s always a graph.

Anyway, whilst that might be a glaring example of mental instability, at heart it’s because I, like everyone else, seek the approval of my peers, and look forward to interacting with you all.1 I had all sorts of lovely emails from blog chums old and new that I was able to read but not respond to, and I’m going to do that right now.

I had a week with no digital designing work, no recreational writing, no internet browsing, and no iTunes. The Mac’s backlight went, so I didn’t lose any of the files, but they’re there, just below the surface, taunting me, like a fish with a bad attitude. I have instead shelled out on a new machine that I can’t realistically afford. It’s approximately eight times as good as the ol’ Macca, and I’ve just noticed upon signing in how vehemently purple my blog is. Sorry about that.

Here are some of the things I filled my unexpected free time offline with:

  • Read three books.
  • Counted out all my small change in my change jar and paid it in.
  • Did a bumload of sketching and storyboarding for both work and the sitcom-that-will-never-happen.
  • Cooked properly.
  • Sorted out my finances so that I could actually afford a new computer.
  • Orchestrated what began as ‘gardening’ but rapidly became ‘ant massacre’.
  • Watched the Tintin film – the opening sequence was awesome but if they want my five-star review they need to put Professor Calculus in it.
  • Talked to a very pretty girl in a book shop about Hemingway, Kerouac and the guy who wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower which made me feel clever and attractive and debonaire, before sneaking off because I couldn’t afford any new books and a new Mac, which made me feel ashamed to have wasted her time.
  • Exercised properly.
  • Watched a lot of tennis and saw my cousin on the telly and in the papers because he was dressed in an enormous Union Jack.
  • Discovered that WordPress has an app that I could have been using all along.

1 People may say that they don’t care what people think about us, but if that was true people would be rude, nothing would get done and nobody would put anything up for review (e.g. blogging). Social convention and the disapproval of strangers keep egos in check, and anyone who truly doesn’t care what people think of them is an idiot.

Thoughts on a Bigoted Tree

I think that I shall never see

A racist poem ’bout a tree

Bugger me! How wrong I be!

(Extract of ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer, bastardised by me)1

Racism is a serious subject, and not be laughed at or made light of, but I’ve blogged twice about cancer, (and once about trees) and no one seemed to mind, so bugger it.2

Last weekend, I went to visit Best Friend Dan to do some work on our sitcom-that-will-never-happen. I travelled up the country by train to meet him at Peterborough station, and I passed through the town of Loughborough. Now I’ve seen many alarming things on trains. I’ve seen a man arm wrestle himself for a laugh. I’ve seen a boy flirt with the girl unlucky enough sat next to him by drawing a picture of her face, and then when she didn’t reciprocate, add a mane and pretend she was meant to be a lion all along. I’ve tried not to see a girl with her hand down her boyfriend’s trousers, pumping like a plumber for all the world to see.

But last weekend, I saw something that (arguably) trumps all of them. There is a tree just South of Loughborough train station onto which someone has graffitied a big yellow Swastika.

Bang Out Of Order

Bang out of order.3

***

At this juncture, I’d like to point out that I am no way condoning racism; arboreal or otherwise by including its presence in this blog. I hate racism. It is rubbish. However, in this progressive day and age, no opinion should be dismissed out of hand, no matter how morally objectionable, and the best way to combat prejudice is to educate, and to sympathise to an extent to help the individual to improve themselves. Unfortunately, the dickhead in question appeared to have promptly fucked off, so in his absence, we must get analytical:

Firstly, why? For God’s sake, why? What on Earth does the racist vandal hope to achieve? Is this a method of venting hatred, of releasing the prejudice pent up inside like a politically incorrect timebomb?

Plausible Thoughts of a Racist #1:

‘Agh! Ethnic minorities wind me right up, for some reason! If only I could tell some of them how I feel, but I won’t, because society thoroughly frowns upon it, and quite rightly so. If only there were some passive entity around here for me to share my bigotry with. Ah! A tree! Prepare your self for some racial abuse! FEEL MY WRATH YOU TWIGGY BASTARD!’

If it’s simply a release of prejudice then, in a way, good on him for finding an outlet which doesn’t involve abuse or violence, even if it does damage perfectly innocent vegetation. Perhaps this is even a form of therapy or outsider art; imagine all the aggression and hate crimes that could be avoided if wankers were encouraged to go to the forest and daub the trees with racist symbols rather than oppress minorities… On the other hand, this might make for a very uncomfortable place to stroll through of an evening.

But this doesn’t answer why he or she4 chose to daub that particular tree. We can assume it was to draw the attention of passing commuters, as it is clearly visible from the tracks. In principle it works; the message can easily be seen from the train, and the yellow paint does catch the eye, but why?

Is it to deter incoming commuters who might be of an alternate nationality or religious persuasion from entering Loughborough? If so, in order to see the swastika they must already be on the train; a vehicle out of their control which travels in only two directions; you can’t turn around and flee the city limits whilst on a train. You can run it’s whole length to avoid entering an unwelcoming racist town, but you’ll only get as far as the buffet car.5

Or is the motive altogether more sinister; does the arboreal thug hope to convert passing train passengers to his cause? If this is the case, I must ask what kind of person is so easily swayed by what is only a single icon? Must they already be teetering on the edge of bigotry?

Plausible Thoughts of a Racist #2

‘Are you there, God? It’s me, a racist.

I come to you in my hour of need; I have these latent prejudices, but society frowns on active discrimination… I just can’t decide!

Should I, or should I not, become an racist? Please, give me a sign!

…Oh hang on, a fascist tree! Thank’s God, I’m off to go and scowl at an ethnic café.’

Of course, there is the possibility that the tree itself has grown some moss upon its trunk in the shape of an offensive emblem because it has developed sentience and is itself a racist. If this is true – and it isn’t – then the tree could simply be dismissed as being barking mad.6

In conclusion, there’s a lesson to be learnt from all this: if you’re stupid enough to daub a fascist symbol on an innocent tree, you are in no fit state to offer any thoughts on foreign affairs. Racism is bad. Pack it in.

NOTE: Changed the name of the blog because it seemed needlessly confrontational.


1 That’s a poem. I am officially deep.

2 I do worry that I’m being insultingly flippant about these serious issues, but I hope that readers will realise that I’m dancing around the edges for comedic purposes, and I mean no malice or trivial disregard. That said, if you’re going to have a cruel laugh at someone, it might as well be a racist. Who actually likes racists? Not even their mums.

3 This is an image I obtained from a stock-photo site and photoshopped a swastika onto. I just want to make it perfectly clear that the tree featured in that picture has no moral agenda, although if he did, he’d definitely be a progressive liberal. I looked at pictures of trees for ages, trying to find one that didn’t look too lovely to photoshop a racist emblem onto, and that fella drew the short straw.

4 Statistically, it’s probably a he. Probably with a shaved head and a football shirt and an sub-average wang.

5 I must point out that Loughborough is not a hotbed for racism, and everyone I’ve met from there is lovely. Admittedly I’ve met one fellow who is an exceptional bassist, but he is 100% cool, because bassists ain’t racists.

6 So happy right now…