Flip Flop Flying

Archive for July, 2005


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I went to bed last night wondering if 300,000 would make an appearance.
Half of it did. Out of nowhere 300 came out, but I stopped it in time.
The thing that went through my mind, though, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I began to think about that and imagine it in great detail. This poor camel with a mountain of straw strapped to it’s back. Slowly walking across the desert, then SNAP! his back goes. He falls down.
I spent the rest of my pre-sleep time thinking of other idioms that invite odd images in the brain. Here’s a few of them:

2. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth
How did the spoon get there? Did the mother push it up there and the baby instinctively started sucking it? Did it hurt mummy as she gave birth?

3. The cat’s pyjamas
I liked imagining this one. It’s always amusing seeing Billy wearing a t-shirt, and watching him trip over it a bit. A cat, of course is a different matter. He’d be in pyjamas like Hugh Hefner, with a dressing gown over the top.

4. Up shit creek
Doesn’t bear thinking about too much.

5. Take the piss

6. Blow your own trumpet
Why would you want to blow someone else’s? All their spit all over it. Eeuuwww!

7. Pushing up daisies
Maybe it’d work if you used cocktail sticks as splints, but otherwise, I can’t see how you can push daisies up through the ground.

8. Birthday suit
Not naked like it means, but more like one of the fancy Nudie suits that Gram Parsons wore. I imagined a suit which you could have embroidery on describing your life so far on the back of the trousers and jacket and your dreams for the future on the front.

9. Bob’s your uncle
He is. And he lives in Germany, but I’ve not seen him for ages. He used to live in Blackpool, so during my childhood he was definitely one of my favourite relatives cos visiting him meant going to the beach, see the Illuminations, and spending lots of ten pences in the arcade.

10. Cold Turkey
“Brrrrrrr, it’s a bit chilly… at least it’s Christmas soon,” says the cold turkey.

Written by Craig

July 7th, 2005 at 10:07 am

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The number 300,000, for some reason, is in my head.

Nothing to do with the kilometers per second that light travels; nothing to do with the temperature (in Celsius) 17 metres from the centre of a nuclear explosion; nothing to do with the number of Australians that the Royal Blind Society estimate have difficulty reading ordinary print; nothing to do with the width (in kilometers) of Ring E of Saturn; nothing to do with the estimated number of Iraqis killed and buried in mass graves during Saddam Hussein’s reign; nothing to do with the 300,000 Mile Pickup Truck Club; and nothing to do with 100 Andre 3000s.

At the moment, I’m going through a period of not being able to sleep easily. It’s not insomnia, but I have to read a book for a good couple of hours before my eye lids start to close. This, of course, is a vicious circle, as it means I wake up later than I normally would.

Not sleeping well isn’t a new thing. It happens now and again, and eventually, I get back on track. And I have my own version of counting sheep to get me drifting off into my pillow. The most frequent one I use is building a village. I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. I began with imagining a patch of empty land on the Lincolnshire bank of the River Humber. Then building a few homes all around a central sort-of picnic area. Around the back of the homes is a nice river, like a moat, so that the back of all the houses have a nice place to paddle. I’ve never really got much further than this with the village. I just think about the details of the house. They’d be like small, bungalow-sized aircraft hanger-shaped things that flatten out a bit into a semi-oval at the back, with a nice terrace for breakfasts in the sun.

Recently, though, 300,000 is a number that pops into my head virtually every night as I lie in bed trying to sleep. I’m hoping that writing about it will exorcise the number. It comes into my head so often that whenever it does, it jerks me back up a bit and stops my slow drift to sleep. It’ll come into my head during that delicious half-dreaming period as I drift off. And it’ll be 300,000 anything. 300,000 people, soldiers, dogs, horses, umbrellas… 300,000 anything. And the thought never goes further. It just stops at 300,000 items. It’s frustrating.

So we’ll see, after this totally self-absorbed post, if it has worked. Hopefully I won’t be thinking about 300,000 at all.
Hopefully, I’ll be falling asleep at a reasonable hour, rather than wanting to go back to sleep right now.

Written by Craig

July 6th, 2005 at 9:50 am

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I keep a list of things that crop up that I think that I might want to write about. That list is quite long now, but most of the things are just one sentence observations or opinions, so today’s post is gonna be a bunch of those things.

1. Have you ever seen a good one man band? As a concept, I love one man bands. I’ve just never seen a good one.
2. Why is it that fancily designed bars or restaurants are always playing that insipid, lite, jazz-tinged house music?
3. I must cut down on beginning sentences with the word so.
4. And I must try and use punctuation correctly.
5. I wonder what a kimono would look like if it was designed in the style of a leather motorcycle jacket like something Barry Sheen would’ve worn.
6. I once saw a guy walking down the street with a ghetto blaster. He was listening to Mike Oldfield’s Crises album. I would never ever have imagined I’d see that in my life.
7. Are there any good podcasts out there? The only one I listen to is Chris T’s show, Communication Breakdown from the wonderful radio station WMFU. But I’ve yet to find any others I like. Suggestions?
8. There was an actress from a German soap opera who died recently. Oh, it’s a very sad tale. It was late at night and she stopped in her car to get a hedgehog off the street so it didn’t die. A car coming in the other direction didn’t see her because of the full beam lights of her car and killed her. It breaks my heart.
9. I’m kinda getting addicted to the random page thing on Wikipedia. You know those moments when you’re sat in front of your computer and you dunno what to do? This is what I do. Find out that SRCP is someting to do with model railways; that space marines are fictional soldiers; that Thomas Roe was an English diplomat of the Elizaveth and Jacobean periods; and that Phi is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet.
10. I’ve recently finished reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. It’s a great book, I’d heartily recommend it. If you plan to read it, make sure you don’t read the last two or three pages before you get to the end as there’s some stuff about the fates of all the main people in the book. If you’re enjoying the book and getting close to the end and want to find out more about some of the main characters, skip those pages at the end of the book and go buy the follow-up, My Friend Leonard and read that. It’s another great book, but knowing what happens becuase of the end pages of A Million Little Pieces takes away some of the surprises.

So, (aaarrrgh!), that’s it for today.
Tomorrow’s post will be about the number 300,000.
Yes it will.

Written by Craig

July 5th, 2005 at 12:59 pm

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Yesterday’s event

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I imagine I’m the eight millionth person to write something about Live 8 on their blog, but here goes…

Berlin seemed to be going about its business as usual. There was no sense that something major was happening until you got close to Tiergarten. Even at Potsdamer Platz, a close-by shopping centre with some cinemas and offices skirting it, folks seemed more interested in the Pope’s old car (remember the one from the recent eBay auction? Well, it’s sat in a shopping centre in Berlin now covered in banners for a casino’s website. There’s something deliciously wrong about the leader of the Roman Catholic church’s ex-auto now being used as an advert for gambling).

The place where Live 8 was held was the Strasse des 17 Juni, a big avenue that runs between the Brandenburg Gate and the Siegessäule. A rubbish venue compared to all the others we later saw on TV. It’s a street with loads of trees along each side, so it’s really narrow, and unless you got there hours before there was no hope of seeing anything other than the top of the stage. And only then if you stood on tip toes.

There was talk of the organisation of the show being a bit of a cock-up in the lead up to the show. That was highlighted by the official t-shirts saying “Live 8, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin” when the stage itself was at the Siegessäule (a bit like saying, let’s eat dinner in the lounge, then congregating at the door and looking back into the kitchen). This choice of where to put the stage bewilders me. 200-odd thousand people all having to stare directly into the sun the whole afternoon. Thanks for that, Live 8 Berlin, you did a great job in Making Eyesight History.
After wandering through the park and beginning to hear music getting louder, we got to the show just as German band Bap were coming on. I’ve always found their name amusing, but never heard their music. When I’ve asked people in the past what they were like, I always got howls of displeasure in response. Now I’ve listened to them I can suggest that you don’t listen to their music, people: it’s tawdry.

We made our way forward, to see how close we could get for Brian Wilson, passing the ice cream vendors who were making their own poverty history, passing a couple sat on the floor playing a flute and a bongo while one of the bands was playing, and, well, we didn’t get very far. So we doubled back to where some big screens had been erected, just in time to see Elton and Pete do their T-Rex cover in London, we got a beer, and settled-in (if that’s the right word) to wait for big Bri.
Audioslave, Green Day, ooh Tim Robbins talking about stuff just like in Team America, some anonymous German sound-a-like bands (Juli and Silbermond), and then… well, we decided to go home.
The delays between bands coming on stage were really long, the thought of squinting at a big screen with a two or three second delay between the pictures and the sound, and the temptation to see the far better London show on telly; it was all telling us to get in the car, dash home and watch Brian in our armchairs.

An aside, the first of two: as we walked back to the car, I saw an adult man wearing a t-shirt with Wiley Coyote on it. Isn’t there something ever-so-slightly tragic about seeing adults with cartoon characters on their t-shirts?

An aside, the second of two: wretched German singer Sasha was performing at the show. His music really is awful, and he’s got one of those faces you wanna smash in with a rusty axe. Not to be confused with top British DJ Sasha who, I seem to remember, the German Sasha tried to legally stop from using the name, even though, and I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the British fellow was around long before he was. So anyway, not to be confused with the top British DJ Sasha. Aaaah, but the folks who did the official Live 8 “event book” did confuse them, and wrote a glowing biog of the top British DJ Sasha. How we chuckled thinking that wretched German loserboy Sasha has been written out of the event! Put that in your scrapbook, Sasha’s mum!

Back at home, we’re flicking between two TV channels who themselves are flicking between the venues. And Brian comes on. Cuddly old Brian, forgetting some words, waving his hands around, looking a bit bemused, but smiling. Doing the fairly complex Heroes And Villains to a crowd that doesn’t look like it knows who this old chap is, and certainly aren’t ready for a gloriously detailed multi-sectioned song like Heroes And Villains. God Only Knows, California Girls, Good Vibrations and Fun Fun Fun follow: all lovely, and much better from the armchair than it would’ve been had I been shielding my eyes from the sun, watching Brian move his mouth on the big screen then hearing his words a few seconds later becauses of the delay of the big screen.
Of the big screen.

The rest of Live 8 we watched on and off, whilst trying to book a holiday online like the comfortable Europeans we are.
For me, from what I saw, Madonna seemed one of the best artists there. Like A Prayer, Music and Ray Of Light all sounded great. And it’s good to hear some of her best songs to help remember that she’s not just the wife of a shit film director and a member of some weird culty thing.
I also enjoyed Pink Floyd a lot, and shook my head with the are-they-really-back-together?-ness of it all. I fucking love David Gilmour’s guitar playing, and I was so happy to hear them playing Money: my favourite guitar solo EVER.
It was painful to see Morten Harket having difficulty reaching the high notes in Take On Me, (a song which has, for me, become synonymous with a tragic moment in an Austrian film called Böse Zellen, [the English title is Free Radicals]. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. If not, and you fancy a depressing evening: go rent it, dude!).
Stevie Wonder always makes me happy, although seeing this Rob Thomas fellow sing with him was a bit odd. I want to hear Stevie sing Higher Ground not some dude who’s not fit to lick Stevie’s shoes. Don’t people have any humility? Where does Rob Thomas get off thinking he’s a good enough singer to be on the same stage as Stevie Wonder? Okay, Stevie may well have asked him to do it, but were I Rob Thomas, I’d have declined: Stevie, sing it yourself, that’s what the world wants to hear. You are a god. I am nothing but a lucky chancer.
Didn’t Bryan Ferry learn after Live Aid? His whistling on Jealous Guy is still crappy 20 years later.
Did you see Duran Duran? Doesn’t Andy Taylor look like Neil Young?
Anyone see Pet Shop Boys in Moscow? Were they good?
Any of you go to any of the concerts? How was it? You enjoy it on telly?

I’m trying not to be cynical about it all. I have no doubt that most people who played did it with good intentions (although I’m equally sure a few heard cash registers ker-chinging). I imagine most people who went to the show agreed with the main thrust of the idea behind the event. I just wonder how much good it’ll do. This is one of the problems I have with having star-studded concerts for these causes: it allows leaders to dismiss the motives of the audience turning up, it makes it easy for them to think that the people were there to see Robbie Williams or Coldplay for free, not because they want change.
The leaders of these eight nations have more than enough life experience to know that very few of us are so dedicated to causes that we continue in these large numbers to demand change. Won’t they just throw us a bone, promise X million pounds/dollars/euros/yen over X amount of years, money that more than likely is pocket change to them, that they can spin so it sounds like some major effort?
rely it’s up to us to change things. It doesn’t take a second to sign the list, so if you’ve not done so already: get going, homeboys and homegirls.
And if we all did something small, things might happen. For my part, the first thing I’m gonna do is stop ranting about the rudeness of the folk in local coffee shops and find one that uses fair-trade coffee and just get my fancy cappuccinos there.

Written by Craig

July 3rd, 2005 at 2:07 pm

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How you doin’?

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In a moment of Amazon weakness (I have many of these moments, it’s all too easy to buy stuff), I recently bought the Friends DVD box set thing. All ten series. When I was living in England I used to watch the show, but since I came to Germany, I’ve not seen any of them; so it was easy to convince myself that it was a necessary purchase. Over 16 days, I watched the whole lot. All 238 episodes, which, at aprox 22 minutes each, equals nearly 90 hours of TV. I watched them all on my computer (I have two monitors) so that I could work at the same time.
Here’s some stuff I’ve learned.

1. After a while, somewhere around series seven, I began to lose the will to continue. It all become too much. And like when you’re with people in real life too much, you start to focus on their faults.
2. That damn theme tune is really grating. The bit where the voices harmonise “your love life’s DOA” is my least favourite bit.
3. In the opening credits where they’re all around the fountain, everything Ross does is annoying. The pretend-slow-motion running, the head popping up out of the water, the jaunty eyebrows…
4. I’m not keen on Ross in general, actually.
5. Apart from in that episode in the fourth series when he’s playing his keyboard music.
6. Or Rachel. I really don’t think she’s that nice a person. She can do nice things, but beneath it all she seems pretty shallow and often seems pretty nasty. And once her baby’s born, she seems to treat it like a pet, not something that requires her full time attention. And in one episode she wears an MC5 t-shirt. Can you imagine her even knowing who MC5 are, let alone being into them?
7. Of all the guest stars, Brad Pitt was my favourite. Perhaps it was cos he was nasty to Rachel.
8. Oh no, please God, not another Thanksgiving episode. Maybe I don’t get this cos I’m not from North America, thus have no reason to give thanks for whatever it is they give thanks for. In Friends it just seems like an excuse to do something about Monica flapping around getting stressed in the kitchen.
9. Despite that, Monica’s tidying endears me to her no end.
10. Do you think they all got paid their million dollars for the episodes which were just compilations of old clips?
11. Joey saying “How you doin’?” is always funny.
12. When they show exterior shots of Monica’s apartment, I have real trouble seeing how it correlates with the balcony and sloping window that we see when the cameras are in her apartment.
13. For me, an unmarried childless man, the more marriages and children that come along, the less funny each episode becomes. That trend seemed to begin with the episodes in London at the end of the fourth series.
14. Having said that, an episode in one of the later series (what is the plural of series? Serieses?) has my favourite joke. Joey is talking about investments with Chandler and Monica:

Joey: This guy at work got me excited about going in on an emu farm. That’d be kinda cool huh? Pitchin’ in on the weekends, helping to plant the emus…
Monica: Joe… Emus are birds. You raise them for meat.
Joey: [laughs] Yeah! Right! People eat birds… Birdmeat… Now do they just fly into your mouth or you go to… you go to a restaurant and you say: “Excuse me, I’ll have a bucket of fried bird.” [laughs again] Or… or maybe just a wing or… [then he realises…]

And now, a few days after finishing my marathon, I kinda miss Friends. It’s easy to forget how good it is, and how many jokes are crammed in there.

I guess I could start at the beginning again. At the very least it’d mean I could see my name in the credits one more time…

Written by Craig

July 1st, 2005 at 6:09 pm

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More from the archives

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Today I thought I’d show you how a scribble can end up on Flip Flop Flyin’.

A lot of things come from ideas I jot down in notebooks. I’ll do little pencil sketches and work out the story and then draw them in Photoshop. Sometimes, though, they come from doodling. If I’m having problems with something I’m working on, I close it and open a blank Photoshop document and just draw. Draw anything. Anything to take my mind of the thing I’m supposed to be working on. I just scribble. Sometimes those scribbles just get deleted, sometimes they get saved, and sometimes they turn into something that I put on the site.

You may have seen This Little Doggy. It was a Christmas story in did in 2001. It began like this, a quick face that got ears and a fat body and became a dog:

So I tidied it up a bit:

And re-shaped a little:

Got rid of the harsh black outline and added a few shadows:

I’d spent enough time on it at this point to have decided he was a sad dog, so gave him a setting:

Still not sure about him being a white pooch, though, so some colour variations:

It was November, so the doggy began to suggest himself as something for the festive season. Something where he could be sad and alone and end up happy, a typical FFF story trait:

I wasn’t happy with him being in a street, (although that street got used a year later in the FFF Christmas Choir animation), so I changed the setting to a forest. This was the only time I did anything on paper for this project, planning how the clearing would look:

Then it came together in Photoshop:

And, there you have it, a happy Christmas nativity-ish ending:

Ta-daaaaa! That’s how it (sometimes) happens!

Written by Craig

July 1st, 2005 at 12:52 am

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