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Best of 2014

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I’m a little bit obsessed with making sure I am not lazy. I feel lazy a lot. But, in 2013, I decided to make a list. Nothing strange there, really, but I made a list last year, and I made the list again this year. I did 747 creative things in 2013. This year, I have done 781 things up to and including the 27th of December. How I define “creative things” is simple. It could be a drawing for a sketch to something detailed and time-consuming. I treat those things equally. Likewise, I include blog posts that are unique pieces, so the 17 daily posts about being on holiday in Belize count as 17 creative things. I am happy that I did more stuff than last year, but mostly, I am happy I did more than 365 things.

Before I began keeping note, I hoped that would do at least one thing a day, and, anyone with the barest of maths skills will see that I’ve done way more than that: 2.05 things a day in 2013, 2.16 things per day to date in 2014. But, of course, I can’t just be happy with that. Now my stupid brain is thinking I’m placing too much emphasis on doing a LOT. Maybe I should concentrate on quality, not quantity.

My career, such as it is, is going nowhere. Treading water. Bulls need to be taken by the horns and I need to do better stuff, more substantial stuff. That was something that really hit home when I had the exhibition in London in April. It was fun and humbling and everything to see people looking at my stuff on a wall, but, it was pure vanity, ultimately. The exhibition lost money. I hardly sold anything and it cost me a lot of money to prepare it and get to London and spend three weeks there. I hate that I think of that experience as a failure, but I do.

It’s been an odd year. I moved out of my last apartment before Xmas 2013 because I lived with cunts and the realisation that they were cunts came about very quickly. I realised on a Tuesday, and I’d moved out on the Sunday. I spent a lot of time in London on two trips. And my love for Mexico goes up and down daily. I have a tendency to let things get to me. I had an idea for a book which I spent a bunch of time working on, but I’ve totally abandoned the idea. Not gonna happen.

Looking back through those 781 things from 2014, there’s not a huge amount I’m particularly happy with. I need to do better. I’m not getting any younger and I need to do better so that drawing can keep on paying for my food and rent. Which brings me to look back at what I think is the best, my best, my favourite ten things of 2014. More than anything, it’s nice to remind myself that, despite all the nail-biting, I am quite good at this sometimes. So feel free to click away to another Web site right now, the rest of the post is all blah blah. Thanks for looking at my stuff this year. Happy new year.

In no particularly order…:

Miley Cyrus
Vueling Flight 7823
Girl Scout Heron

The first three things that I really like are drawings done with the Paper app on my iPad. I’ve not used it so much recently because it keeps crashing on my ancient first generation iPad. It was an app I enjoyed. It freed up my drawing a lot, made things a lot sketchier. I really like the Miley drawing, simply because it was done when I had nothing in my head and finished less than a minute later. The drawing of the aeroplane makes me giggle, and the Girl Scout Heron drawing, whilst not a particularly good drawing (I shouldn’t've given him a neck, the beard should be covering it completely), still amuses me.

Glanford Park

I’ve spent the last decade enjoying beautiful baseball stadiums. Modern and old. Even crappy baseball stadiums are pretty cool. I wanted to draw something that was the complete opposite. An ugly, purely functional stadium. And when I think of such places, Scunthorpe United’s ground Glanford Park is the one that jumps into my head.

“¿Tacos, Güero?”

2014 was, I think, the first year since 2005 that baseball wasn’t entirely what I wanted to do stuff about. I’ve done a lot less infographics in general this year, and specifically less baseball-related infographics. But, for a big chunk of the year, I contributed to the now-defunct NotGraphs blog, which was a part of the not-defunct FanGraphs. For that site, I mostly did drawings and a bit of writing here or there. It was fun. There’s an archive of my stuff here. My favourite thing for NotGraphs was a bunch of drawings of vendors at my local baseball stadium in Mexico City. (And should you be a fan of NotGraphs, several of the contributors, including me occasionally, still do similar stuff at Banknotes Industries.)

I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Next up is a story I thought of in 2013 in a taxi. I’m a big fan of airdancers, the flappy things that are hooked up to a fan and dance in front of car dealerships and the like. So I did a children’s story about an airdancer in Mexico City called I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

Lionel Messi

I find getting a likeness of people quite difficult. I don’t have the patience for it. But this one came together really quickly. Once I realised Lionel Messi’s eyes could just be dots, it all fell into place. Plus, I enjoyed drawing the kit and boots. I did a lot of football drawings this year, but this was the best, I think.

Bandstand

Bandstand is simple infographic idea. I like it because of its simplicity. And the fact that I can keep on adding to it forever and ever.

London

This is a companion to the Mexico City drawing I did in 2013. I wanted to show the Mexico City one at the exhibition in London, so felt it might be nice to do a London version to go with it. You can see it full-size here. The nicest part of this, though, for me, was that I was contacted about doing a slightly altered version for the cover of Time Out in London. This was quite the honour, a wee personal triumph. Being a provincial boy, London was always the coolest place, and whenever I visited, one of the first things I would do would be to buy a copy of Time Out. Here’s the version that was on that cover.

Flower

The main reason that this site existed beyond a year or two was Minipops. I am under no illusions about that. These simple, silly, pixelly drawings of famous people became popular back in 1999, and stayed relatively popular for quite a while. It was pretty cool. But, after a while, I became frustrated just doing more and more and more of them. And along the way, kinda lost the love to draw any pixel stuff. I still did it, but mostly that was because I couldn’t be arsed to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator. But this last year, I’ve started to enjoy pixels again. And this drawing is the best thing I did this year, I think. I enjoy that I stuck with it and created something that by my standards was pretty epic. The more I drew, the more I wanted to draw. But I was also glad that it had a natural end point. The drawing outgrew the title, but I’m still happy that I called it Flower.

And that is, self-indulgently, that. Thanks again for visiting, commenting, sending emails, etc. It really is appreciated. Onwards and upwards, hopefully, in 2015.

Written by Craig

December 28th, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Popocatépetl

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This photo is a couple of months old. I was awake early, and the volcano on the outskirts of Mexico City was cough up smoke, so I went up to the roof and had a proper look.

Written by Craig

December 15th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Cruz Azul

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When I moved to Mexico City, I picked a team. There are three football teams in the city: Club América, Pumas, and Cruz Azul, all of whom play in the top division, the Liga MX. I looked at a map. Even though I’d seen América and Pumas play at their stadiums (Estadio Azteca and Estadio Olímpico, respectively) when I visited on holiday in 2008, I plumped for Cruz Azul, who were the closest team to where I was living at the time (and has been at all subsequent apartments). Pretty much everyone I know supports América or Pumas, but, that was fine. I liked the idea of supporting my most local team. It would also be disingenuous to pretend that I didn’t enjoy the idea of supporting the smallest team in the city, too. The fact that nobody I know supports Cruz Azul, though, made me a lot less inclined to go to the stadium. Until 2014. My girlfriend and I were looking for an apartment, and eventually found one just a block away from Estadio Azul, Cruz Azul’s stadium. My girlfriend is a Pumas fan. This new apartment was way better for my footballing interests than hers.

We are coming to the end of the regular season in Mexico. Well, it’s more complicated than that. I’ll explain. The 2014-15 season, as with previous seasons since the mid-nineties, is split in two. Before Christmas, there’s the Torneo apertura (opening tournament). This consists of each team playing every other team once, at home or away. After New Year, there’s the Torneo clausura (closing tournament). Same format here, just with teams playing the corresponding home or away fixture. After each of these tournaments, there’s a liguilla (little league). The liguilla is an eight team playoff. Essentially, quarter finals onwards. It’s a rubbish, overly complicated format for a season intended to make things more interesting. For me, Mr Logical Brain, it diminishes the achievement of being a champion if you can finish 8th over half a season, win a few playoff games and be the kings.

Anyway, last Saturday was the last home game for Cruz Azul in the Torneo apertura. After three seasons of not bothering to go to games, living around the corner has changed things drastically. Including cup games, I went to nine of eleven Cruz Azul home games. (I missed one when I was in Belize, and I missed one earlier in the season when I had food poisoning and really could not be too far from my own bathroom.) It’s been fun going to games. And it’s been fun to just go and buy a ticket from the stadium ticket office on the day of the game. Really, it’s the first time that I’ve regularly gone to see “my” football team since Lincoln City’s 1987-88 season.

It’s a relatively small stadium. 35,000 capacity, compared to Estadio Azteca (105,000) and Estadio Olímpico (69,000). Estadio Azul is interesting. Maybe not as pretty as Olímpico, or as impressive as Azteca, but I like that the pitch is below ground level. When you enter the stadium, you are at the front of top level of seating. From a living point of view, it means that the view from my window isn’t blocked by a big stadium, as Estadio Azul is about the same height as my third floor (fourth floor in American English) apartment.

It’s pretty cheap, too. Ignoring the cheapest section behind the goal where the hardcore fans go, you can get a ticket for 65 pesos (£3.02, €3.84, US$4.79). Unless–unless–it’s a local derby against América or Pumas. Then, the club puts the prices up. Well, that happens in England too, some games are more attractive, thus more expensive, than others. Here, though, with the Ticketmaster fee, that 65 peso ticket jumps to 423 pesos. About 650% of the normal price. Last Saturday was a local derby. Cruz Azul v. Pumas. What should be a game where the stadium is rammed full is a game where the stadium is half empty because of the price hike. It was a game with implications, too. The winner would more or less*eliminate any chance of the other team progressing to the liguilla.

I like being at Estadio Azul. I like that on match day, my street starts to fill up with stalls selling merchandise. I like that the street gets busier and busier as kickoff gets closer. I like hearing the hardcore fans, the porras, chanting and banging drums as they walk to the stadium. And I, of course, like being able to leave the apartment fifteen minutes before the game starts. There’s a far greater mix of men and women at Cruz Azul games than I’ve ever seen at games in Europe, and a mix of fans, too. Being the capital city, there are always fans of the opposing teams scattered around, even more so for local derbies. In my section up in the “cheap” seats, I’d say that about 30% of the fans were Pumas fans. Some of them alone, some of them mixed-team couples. Girlfriend and I would’ve been one of those mixed-team couples had she not had other plans.

As you enter the stadium, you are frisked. No belts allowed. That’s another benefit of living close: not having to traverse the city constantly tugging up my jeans. The Pumas section at one end of the ground was pretty much full early on. The Cruz Azul end of the ground not so much. Apparently, there had been some clashes with police outside the ground, which I assume accounts for that. The crappy PA played music. “Everybody Get Up” by 5ive. The cheerleaders (like yer proper NFL style cheerleaders) walked around the perimeter of the field to mucho whistling.

The breeze blew the smell of Domino’s pizza around. The vendors touted their wares. Like at baseball games, they bring beer and soft drinks and snacks to you. As game time approached, the big inflatables around the edge of the field were deflated. I kind of enjoy seeing those before the game. Four inflatable bottles (Tecate, Gatorade, Mexicola (a, er, Mexican cola), and Boing (a fruity drink)), and a couple of inflatable cement bags. Cruz Azul, you see, is sponsored and named after a cement company of the same name.

The match itself wasn’t so great for Cruz Azul fans. It reminded me of last season’s Liverpool v. Chelsea game (albeit at a much lower quality level). The home team looked by far the most dangerous, with the visitors content to defend (well) and hope to nick a goal. And Pumas did nick a goal, with the help of some awful linesmanship. A ball went out of play for a corner or goal kick (not sure who touched the ball last) but the Pumas player kicked it back onside, and from that, they scored. Cruz Azul continued pressing to equalise, but the Pumas keeper was having a great game. After a Cruz Azul player was sent off with half an hour to go, they continued attacking, but it was obvious that nothing was gonna happen, and in injury time, Cruz Azul got caught out in defence and there you go, the Battle of the Mediocre Mexico City Teams ended 2-0. The other Mexico City team, Club América, are top of the league and looking really strong. Considering how they’ve performed, they really should win the liguilla.

There’s one more away game left, but Cruz Azul need to win and for four teams to all not win to make it into the liguilla. But, they don’t deserve to be there. They’ve lost six of sixteen games, and not won a single away game all season. But, I’m looking forward to the Torneo clausura starting up again in January, and getting back to the stadium every other Saturday. It’s nice to be a regular.

Written by Craig

November 12th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in Blah blah,Sports

Baseballin’ racoons

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One of the joys of Google Street View is knowing that if you miss something with your camera, you might be able to see it again. This is a school, I think, that I went past in a bus yesterday in Chetumal. Link to Street View view

Written by Craig

November 7th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Baseball,Blah blah

Dreams do come true

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I’m on Google Street View!

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October 18th, 2014 at 9:07 am

Posted in Blah blah

Naughty Who

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Written by Craig

October 18th, 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Blah blah

Twin Peaks

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I’m tentatively happy that we’re getting a third season of Twin Peaks in 2016. I’ve been a Beach Boys fan for way too long to let the idea exist of a legacy being ruined by later projects. If it’s rubbish, not a problem. So was most of the second season, anyway.

My enjoyment of Twin Peaks is so entangled with the time, anyway, that any NOW feelings about a third season could never ever come close. I was 20-21 when it was on TV in the UK. I was at art college. I was in love. It was a bright sunny summer. Life felt pretty good. And then there was also a very enjoyable TV show that felt totally out-of-step with everything else on the UK’s four channels at that point.

Seeing the news that it was coming back, though, did remind me of something. In the title sequence, when we see the shot of the sign for the town: it’s so obviously just been rammed into a piece of worn-down-by-vehicles ground next to a road. A real town’s sign would not have worn-down ground all around it like that. There’d be tufts of grass around the posts.

I do hope Audrey’s doing well, though.

Written by Craig

October 8th, 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in Blah blah

Comic Sanskrit

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Written by Craig

October 8th, 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Blah blah

Where the Streets Have No Name

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I had this dream last night that I was in a city somewhere east of Europe. There were narrow shaded streets and big open areas where the sun was roasting. I was eating nuts and the adhan was being called out. And the sound of the adhan was different to what I’d heard before when I visited Istanbul. It was being made by instruments I didn’t recognise. Lots of different instruments combining to make one sound. Then over the top of that was the sound of voices repeating guttural consonants, like a slowly building choir of k sounds.

That sounds like the start of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” I thought.
I wanted to tell people. I had no device to email or tweet with. Oh my! U2 stole that! And nobody knows.
Then I looked again and found my device and wanted to tweet it, but I only had emojis. No proper alphabet to type with. I wanted there to be emojis that didn’t exist.

Man with blond hair.
Man with cigarette.
Man with hat and goatee.
Man with pink sunglasses.
Dusty road.
Stripey-shirted robber.
Music symbol.
Mosque.

But I couldn’t find these emojis and nobody knew that U2 stole the adhan.

Written by Craig

October 7th, 2014 at 9:25 am

Posted in Blah blah,Music

Real talk

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Written by Craig

October 2nd, 2014 at 8:56 am

Posted in Blah blah

This guy

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So, there’s this guy. One day he did some washing. He got the stuff out of the washing machine, grabbed his keys, and got ready to take the stuff up to the clothes line on the roof of his building. He did a wee trump before he left the flat, then opened the door. His next door neighbour–a female lady woman–was just coming out of her flat. They exchanged good mornings and both stood by the elevator. She wanted to go to the ground floor, he to the roof. They stood there in silence for a moment. He thought he should just take the stairs to the roof. He realised he could smell his wee trump. It had followed him out of the flat. Should he just go? He was embarrassed. There’s no way she couldn’t also smell it. Oops. What was he to do? Stay in the lift with his wet laundry in his arms all the way to the ground floor then all the way back up to the roof, with the knowledge of the wee trump there in front of them both? No, that’d be dumb.

“I need to go to the roof,” he said.
“Okay, bye,” she said.

He went to the roof and felt terrible. He called himself an idiot. A fucking idiot. A stupid fucking idiot.

He never wanted to bump into his neighbour again. The next day he wrote a letter to the landlord, packed his stuff up, moved out, left the city, got on a plane, flew to another county where he’d never trumped before, rented a shack in the middle of nowhere and now he trumps in peace.

Written by Craig

October 1st, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Blah blah,Stories

Surfin’ USA

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If everybody had an ocean
Across the USA
Then everybody would have drowned, Brian, ya daftie.

Written by Craig

September 30th, 2014 at 6:46 am

Posted in Blah blah

Standing on the balcony, I got to noticing something…

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Written by Craig

September 29th, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Much meat

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Written by Craig

September 29th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Blah blah

Let’s make baseball games longer and more boring

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It seems like at least once a season, there will be a bevy of tedious articles where people flap their hands and faint like ladies in Victorian novels about the length of baseball games and how that means people will soon stop going to games and watching on the television. Baseball is long and boring, they say, something has to change! I say NO! It’s too short and not boring enough MLB is not doing enough to stop people watching! This is my 20-point plan for making baseball better.

1. 7.05 p.m. first pitch? Pfff, that’s rubbish. Let’s start the games at 7.05 a.m. and snag that coming-home-from-a-night-shift demographic that all sports currently ignore. Plus ballpark breakfast food, knowhamsayin’?

2. Who doesn’t love the excitement of extra innings? Let’s make that the norm. 18-inning games. Double the pleasure. Double the fun. And if we’re still tied after 18 innings: extra innings!

3. Why are we putting so much pressure on pitchers to pitch quickly? Don’t we want them to be relaxed and mentally prepared? Take all the time you need, Daisuke.

4. Similarly, we want the batters to do the best they can, and if that means Derek Jeter needs to adjust his batting gloves twenty or thirty times before each pitch: so be it.

5. Who doesn’t love walk-up music? Well, let’s hear the whole song, not just a snippet.

6. After each at-bat has ended, one of the players’ children can appear on the big screen, calculating the updated statistics of that batter. With a pencil and paper, not using a calculator. That child could also gain some sort of school credit for doing this.

7. Catchers should be banned from throwing the ball back to the pitcher. They should have to take it to the mound and hand it the pitcher. And then the pitcher would say thank you.

8. God Bless America should be played between every half inning to remind attendees that they are American (in case they had forgotten to be patriotic), and that God exists (in case they had forgotten to be Christian). In Toronto, this still applies. Canadians need reminding that they are inferior to Unitedstatesofamericans.

9. But, we should be accommodating to Johnny Foreigner, because it’s not only Americans who play or watch baseball. Let’s play the anthems from the countries of all the players on the rosters that day! American! Canadian! Dominican! Venezuelan! Cuban! Japanese! Mexican! Australian! Curaçaoan! Saudi Arabian!

10. I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know if this would actually work, but it feels like it might: put airtight roofs on all stadiums, fill them with helium, give every player and spectator oxygen masks, and let’s see how many massive home runs the batters can hit. Helium is less dense than air, so that should work, right? We’d have longer, higher-scoring games. Just like in the Mexican League!

11. After the seventh-inning stretch and the playing of the full length version of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, why not have a special guest reading out some delightful poems?

12. Players should be obligated to take their own batting gloves and elbow and shin protector things to the dugout after reaching base. Similarly, runners left on base at the end of an inning have to collect their mitts themselves rather than having a team employee doing it.

13. The designated non-hitter. While the American League is all modern and has a DH, and the National League is all old-fashioned and allows its fans to feel superior, both leagues are missing a designated non-hitter. An extra player in the line-up would be something the MLBPA would adore. Let’s extend the careers not just of players who can no longer play defense very well, let’s extend the careers who can no longer hit very well either! Or just give a spot in the line-up to a player we all love. Ken Griffey Jr. could still be a Mariner! That player would be the tenth in the batting order, and would come to the plate, tip his cap, and return to the dugout. Joe Maddon could even have him non-batting clean-up if he wanted.

14. The fourteenth inning of every game could be brought to you by Sony PlayStation 4. Two chairs will be brought the batter’s boxes, and placed facing the big screen. A PlayStation 4 will be put on home plate. Whoever is due to pitch and hit that inning will sit in the chairs and play as themselves for one inning. This will undoubted speed up the game, so Sony can organise for people to dress up like big furry PlayStation controllers and race, similar to Milwaukee’s sausages. They will compete in a 5,000 meter race around the warning track.

15. Screenings of Andy Warhol’s Empire in the middle of the fifteenth inning.

16. Water cooler breaks for the players. Baseball is a sport. Sports mean players sweat. The body needs to replace that water lost to sweat. Let’s get a load of water coolers (prime sponsorship opportunity, Commissioner) and put one at each position so the pitchers, second basemen, center fielders, etc. can get refreshed and have a nice chat.

17. Premier League breaks. Due to my proposed 7.05 a.m. start times, that will, because of time zone difference, allow some synergy with the World’s Greatest Sports League: the English Premier League. Whenever a scintillating 0-0 draw is about to happen, the umpire calls a 90-minute time out so everyone in the park can watch Sunderland vs. Stoke City.

18. John Cage’s 4’33″ will be played and observed in complete silence. Any noise made in the stadium will mean that we have to start again from the beginning.

19. During the seventeenth inning, the t-shirt gun people will keep launching t-shirts into the crowd until every single spectator has a t-shirt.

20. Ballpark security is replaced with the National Guard midway through the game. They create an exclusion zone and no longer permit people from leaving the ballpark until the season is over. Get back in your seat, NOW! At the end of the season, attendees will be permitted to leave, but only until Opening Day the following season, when they will be required BY LAW to return to their seats.

Feel free to use all of these suggestions as you please, Commissioner-elect Manfred.

Written by Craig

September 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am

Posted in Baseball,Blah blah

Zidane

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Last week, there was an article about Zinedine Zidane on Deadspin.

The photo they used really should be an album cover. Regard:

Written by Craig

September 22nd, 2014 at 8:44 am

Posted in Blah blah

Eight years of sleep

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I’ve been keeping a chart of my sleep for eight years for whatever absurd reason I feel justifies such behaviour:

Click here to see it full-size.

Previously:
Seven years of sleep
Six years of sleep
Five years of sleep
Four years of sleep
Three years of sleep
Two years of sleep
A year of sleep

Written by Craig

September 11th, 2014 at 8:28 am

Three new baseball things

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Forgot to mention these things I did for NotGraphs, coz I iz dumm:

Field of Dreams II: an abridged novelization

Cleef Van Lee

An island where a baseball-like sport is played

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September 5th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Fried e

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It’s just wrong that eggplant comes before egg when you type “fried e” into Google.

(And this is not an eggplant vs. aubergine thing, but, y’know, aubergine is a way better word, America.)

Written by Craig

September 5th, 2014 at 10:52 am

Posted in Blah blah

Rhinestone Cowboy

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At a wedding in Berlin in 2002, I drunk-karaoked Rhinestone Cowboy. Please enjoy.

Written by Craig

September 2nd, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Blah blah,Music,Silly