Archive for the ‘Blah blah’ Category
Last year, I went to this thing called the Feria de las Culturas Amigas. It was on the big main avenue in the centre of Mexico City with lots of stalls from different countries. There was food, crafts, other stuff. It was a nice way to see and taste things that you might not ever get to see or taste. This year, it was at the Zócalo—formally Plaza de la Constitución—the huge empty square downtown which has some federal buildings, the Catedral Metropolitana, and the Palacio Nacional on three of its sides. The other side has some shops and people selling stuff, and yesterday, a terrible saxophonist busking.
It was a far better location for such a thing, not having to walk along the packed pavement by a big road. Just like last year, the food was good. We had a nice wee brie sandwich from France, bacalhau from Portugal, a big fat white sausage and mustard from Switzerland (the queue for the German sausage, like last year, was big, so we gave their neighbours a go: it was tasty), mate cocido from Paraguay, and pão de queijo from Brazil.
We boycotted the Russia stand. I tried some North Korean food last time. It was greasy and grim. This year, there was no food at the North Korea stand. The USA stand sold hot dogs and popcorn. Exotic food which many Mexicans have never tried before, obviously. There were a few gringos stood chatting behind some books about jazz, comic art, and a few great novels. It was like they were a little bit too desperate for people to know that there is culture in the US. The UK stand was possibly even worse. They had a red telephone box, cutouts of the future king and his wife, and the Beatles. And you could buy Strongbow, Weetabix, and One Direction t-shirts. So proud of my home country.
At the Argentina stand, they were selling tickets for a football game. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate at Estadio Azteca. How had we not heard that this was happening? Argentina’s superclásico in this city. So we bought tickets and come Saturday evening, took a couple of peseros down to the Azteca. Peseros, as I’m sure I must’ve mentioned before, are cheap small buses. They have about 20 seats, and with standing passengers, can easily carry double that. Mostly because they are death traps and the drivers care more about getting an extra few pesos than not killing people in a horrific accident. It’s easy to joke about these buses, but, really, it’s not that funny. Every time I take one, I realise that I’m in the hands of someone who isn’t a good driver. But, they exist, and they cover parts of the city where taking the subway isn’t possible or would be a long convoluted route.
Estadio Azteca is a wonderful place. I like stadiums in general, but this one is huge. I’ve been to four or five games there, and each time I’m impressed by its size. It’s the seventh largest stadium in the world. But that’s not the impressivest thing for me. First, there’s a big Alexander Calder sculpture at the entrance. Second, it’s where Maradona beat England in 1986. Every time I’m there, I look at the goal at that end of the ground and can see both goals happening in my head.
Stood around the Calder sculpture were lots of people in Boca and River jerseys singing and chanting. Touts asked if we wanted tickets and stalls sold bootleg jerseys, t-shirts, scarves, bags, pins, earrings, whatever. They had Boca stuff, River stuff, and stuff from other Argentine teams. Club America, Pumas, and Cruz Azul stuff (those are the three teams in Mexico City). World Cup jerseys from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Netherlands, Germany.
Going through the turnstiles, a security guy indicated for me to turn around and hold my arms out. He frisked me. He told me I couldn’t take my lighter in, so I lobbed it into a nearby bin. A few yards later, there was a line of policemen. One of them asked me to stop. He did the same frisking. We walked around the side of the stadium to the gate where we were supposed to enter. Our tickets were scanned again, and another line of coppers was frisking everyone. Up the giant concrete ramps to the top of the stadium. We looked at our tickets to see which entrance we needed and walked around to the right. Again a bunch of police there, frisking.
We went in, and realised that the section where our tickets were was right in the middle of where the hardcore fans were, behind one of the goals. When we bought the tickets, they asked if we wanted the Boca or River section, I said Boca because I’d been to see a game at their stadium in Buenos Aires. Girlfriend, who had lived in Buenos Aires for a while, confessed after we’d got the tickets that she preferred River. What we didn’t bank on, though, was our tickets being right there amongst the people who were the most passionate. Jumping up and down, constantly singing, aping what happens at games in Buenos Aires. We decided to look for seats elsewhere, and one section over, there wasn’t riot police around the edges of the section, and other people seemed a lot calmer.
The other end was where the River fans were. Not as many as in the Boca end. Along the sides seemed to be neutral. Down in the lower level of the stadium, the expensive seats were all wet. The roof only covers the top tier, and it was raining. Most of those seats were empty. And actually, most seats in general were empty. Of the 105,000 seats in the Azteca, according to Marca.com, only 25,000 were occupied.
The teams came out to much cheering and chanting. Then they both lined up next to each other and unfurled a banner which read “VAMOS ARGENTINA.” The cheering turned to boos. The game kicked off, and to be frank, it wasn’t all that much of a superclásico. River took the lead in the 36th minute. Boca equalised in the 70th. At the end of the game, because of some fake trophy being given away by the sponsors they had a penalty shootout. Boca missed their first two, and River won 4-2. So far in 2014, the two teams have played one league match and four friendlies. Four! River won the league game and the last three friendlies.
All in all, it was a tad disappointing, but then, I don’t know why I expected one country’s biggest game to have the same intensity as it would in their own city. It was, though, good to see them playing each other, if only for the fact that aesthetically it’s one of the world’s most beautiful sports fixtures. Blue with a yellow band vs white with a red sash. Magic.
(Apologies for the crappy photos. My camera is bust and I kinda have to just use my iPod, which has a shitty camera. Thanks, Apple.)
In 2010, when I lived in lovely Toronto for one lovely summer, I would often walk past a restaurant called Buddha’s Vegetarian. I liked that it was a statement as well as a name. Buddha is vegetarian.
I guess technically the name is Buddha’s Vegetarian Restaurant, as their Web site makes a wee bit clearer. But maybe he was like Colonel Sanders. I dunno.
Just like a no-hitter in baseball, you don’t want to mention it while it’s going on. I don’t even really want to acknowledge it to myself. If it is going on, I try and keep it together: like a casual glance at the Galaxian high score that you are close to beating, but not constantly checking. I can write about it now, because it’s not happening anymore.
When I hit a purple patch, and I’m doing loads of drawing, (specifically drawing I’m happy with), and having new ideas, there’s nothing quite like that feeling. Everything comes together nicely and the brain is skipping along the street in technicolor, while everyone else is drab bowler-hatted men walking across a black and white London Bridge.
Sometimes these spurts happen just for a few days, sometimes they can be for a sustained period. I don’t really know if there’s any way to prolong them. It would obviously be great to control them, but I somehow feel that’s not gonna be part of the deal I’ve made with my brain.
I just came out of a brief one, though. A nice two-week patch of drawing, decent ideas, writing, and—somewhat importantly—feeling good about my work. It began here, actually. When I looked at stuff that I’d drawn while I was in London, wrote up some notes, filled the blog up a little bit. The London trip was average. It was nice, as always, to see friends and family. And, on the surface, it was nice to have an exhibition, but that exhibition itself wasn’t really a success. It didn’t get much publicity, I hardly sold anything (but, a massive heartfelt thank you to those who did buy something), and tapping numbers into a calculator of the cost of it all, there’s a minus sign in front of the numbers at the bottom of the in and out columns for the trip. And when that happens, I don’t feel like an artist. I feel like someone wasting money trying to be an artist. Especially when, in London, I went to see other shows by real artists who seem to have that side of their lives figured out.
That feeling, plus the inevitable post-London blues that I always seem to get when I return to Mexico, and it’s amazing that this purple period happened at all. I had two weeks of good stuff. The drawings I’ve done have made me relatively happy. I’m not gonna say they are great, but they’ve at least shown me a possible way forward. I was surfing and I was upright. But I hit a rock at the weekend. And it all stopped. Which is why I can write about this now. Couldn’t write about it while it was happening. When I’m in a good patch, I like to go to my Ideas and Sketches folder, a dumping ground for things to do later, and have a new look at something. The air dancer story came out of that. It was an old idea, from early in 2013. The Bill and Ted infographic, too. That’s been hanging around for three or four years, just some notes and dates in an Excel document.
Hitting the rock, though, isn’t often as obvious as it should seem. It happened at the weekend, but I didn’t realise it until yesterday. I started working on this thing that’s gonna be a short 30-second animation. I got about halfway through the drawing stage, and then yesterday morning, things just didn’t happen. I looked at what I’d done and realised I don’t have it in me to do it right now. I tried to continue, but it wouldn’t budge. So back in the Ideas and Sketches folder it goes, waiting for a future purple patch.
But “waiting” can’t happen. There will be some days of feeling a bit glum, but I will keep on drawing. Gotta work my way out of this opposite-of-a-purple-patch, which, I guess, looking at complementary colours, makes it a yellow patch.
There’s the billboard poster just around the corner for some theatre thing. Two big faces and some words. But every time I walk by that poster, I can’t help but wonder why Pat Butcher is performing in Mexico.
A couple of infographics today. First, one looking at the time travelling done by Bill and Ted in their Excellent Adventure. And the other one is only really of interest to me and my ego. It looks at the results of searching my name in Google Images. There are more famous Craig Robinsons than me.
Vivica A. Fox
Susan B. Anthony
George C. Scott
John D. Rockerfeller
Mark E. Smith
John F. Kennedy
Warren G. Harding
William H. Macy
Mary J. Blige
Philip K. Dick
Samuel L. Jackson
Charles M. Schulz
David O. Russell
Huey P. Newton
Robert Q Lewis
Edward R. Murrow
Hunter S. Thompson
Booker T. Washington
George W. Bush
David X. Cohen
So, we’re missing I., N., U., V., Y., and Z.
Can you help?
Special for the World Cup: Mexican-flag-coloured Tic Tacs! The green ones are apple flavour, the red ones are cherry flavour, and the white ones are orange flavour which doesn’t make sense, but I can appreciate that mint would be kinda grim when mixed with apple and cherry.
I am, though, wondering if Tic Tac is doing this in every country? Are there black, red, and yellow Tic Tacs in Germany?
She sells sea shells on the seashore
But she didn’t sell many coz you can just pick ‘em up for free.
You had blonde hair
But the pigeons that walk around your memorial don’t care
That you died in a car in Paris
I’ve been saving this blog post. I wrote it today. But I’ve been saving writing it. I had this idea, you see, to write a blog post, but really late. And see how much I could write about something I did without it being fresh in my mind. It was something I thought about doing maybe a couple of months after the event, but it’s been over two years. I went to Africam Safari on the 29th day of April, 2012. I went there with an ex-girlfriend, but that’s incidental. I’m not going to mention her by name or anything, but I might use the first person plural. Just so you know, really, that I’m not using the royal we. (Here, though, I would like to plant an image in your head: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles playing bowling on the Wii.) So, yes, it’s an experiment. I’ve inserted photographs, but I didn’t look at them before writing, cos that’d kinda defeat the object of trying to remember stuff, so I looked at them and picked a few and inserted them after doing the whole type-y typing thing.
Africam Safari is, as the name telegraphs, a safari park. It also hints at the presence of African animals, doesn’t it? But, and this is the one part of the blog that I had written down in the Notes app on my iPod as a reminder to blog about it: Africam Safari is the worst place in the world.
Now, of course, that’s not strictly true. Although, “worst” is a subjective word, just as “best” is when saying “Justin Bieber is the best thing ever.” And while we were at the Africam Safari, I wrote in the Notes app on my iPod, “Africam Safari is the worst place in the world.”
We’d gone to Puebla for the weekend. Puebla is a town not too far from Mexico City. It’s quite nice. I’ve been several times. That trip was based around my desire to see my favourite Mexican baseball team, Diablos Rojos, playing against the Puebla team, the Pericos. We saw two games. And on our third and final day in the city, decided to get a bus to Africam Safari, which is about 15 km southeast of the city.
I don’t remember a huge amount about the journey. Just that there was a VW Golf on the side of the road covered in hats. I remember that because I took a photo of it. And that the pedestrian crossing near the entrance to Africam Safari was done like a yellow-on-black zebra pattern.
There was a greenhouse thingy with lizards, spiders, and butterflies, but the main thing was that you could drive around and see the animals up close. Lots of people were doing that in their cars, but we took the small bus. We sat at the back, looking through the dirty windows at magnificent, bored animals. It was hot and dusty in there. There were patterns, like logos and stuff, on the windows. What is the point of that? I have a problem with buses having decals on windows anyway. Nobody takes a bus because it’s their first choice. People take buses out of financial necessity for the most part. Why make that journey crappy by making their eyes go funny when are looking at things outside but they’ve got a dotty pattern that they have to look through and inadvertently keep focussing on? It seems even more stupid when the entire point of the bus, (that is, the bus at Africam Safari) is to allow punters to see things that are outside.
We moved slowly around the snaking roads. Passing zebras, parrots, gazelles, rhinos, elephants, ostriches (or maybe they were emus, I can’t remember), boars, and those cows with the really point horns that look like ice cream cones. It was like being in a traffic jam. Just with extra tigers.
Halfway around, we were instructed to get out. The tour guide fella dressed it up as a drink/snack/toilet break, but really it was just so that we’d spend some time and money in the souvenir shop. A souvenir shop that had some dodgy dolls that, in a safari park in Mexico, could quite easily be taken as a bit racist. We bought ice creams.
Even though I know in my heart that zoos are kinda wrong, I still enjoy being at zoos. But not Africam Safari. That place was shit. I was in a right grumpy mood by the time we left.
I can’t remember much more than that, really. Which is disappointing. As you were.
Every shiny iPhone ad
Flat-screen TV, empty road/new car
Cute kids cuter wife
Life isn’t like that
My insoles crinkle when I put my shoes on
Dust bunnies gather between looped cables
Finger smudges on the screen
The edge of a dictionary brown from dirty hands
I bought you a muffin
Then you texted to say it’s over
So I ate the muffin
On 28th February, at about four o’clock in the morning, I got home from an evening of boozing. Boozing on my own. I’d been a bit stressed with work, and kinda needed to totally forget about the fact that the long day I’d just had would be followed by another long stress-y day. In bed, I typed the following into the notes app on my iPod. Sufficient time has elapsed now, and I don’t really feel as embarrassed by it as I did back then. And it’s interesting (for me) to have a document that clearly reminds me of what I am like when I’m in a thinky mood and full of booze. So here you go. The footnotes were written today.
After an amount of whisky, six-ish beers, and some, not quite sure how many, mezcales, I was walking home (not really in a straight line), and I heard these words come out of my mouth: “I want to be drunk forever.” And I kinda really meant it.* Then I, regrettably, bought a cigarette from some dude on the street.† Then I saw a man walking his dogs and really wanted to stop, say hello, stroke his dogs, cos dogs are ace. But I didn’t, cos I knew I was drunk. Then I went for tacos (sorry, pigs‡) and drank more beer. (Bob fucking Marley playing on the telly in the taqueria, and they had a power cut while I was there, too. That was fun. More fun than “don’t worry about a thing cos every little thing gonna be alright.”) Then I listened to songs that I really like on my iPod (Some Kind of Bliss by Kylie Minogue, Municipality by Real Estate, a bunch of Richard Hawley stuff). Then I felt bad about life. Then I got back to my shitty hotel room.§ Then I felt my balls to make sure I don’t have cancer. Then I posted–that is, now am posting–this on Facebook, for some reason.¶ Love you stroke damn you Zuckerberg for making this the place where one feels in touch with one’s friends. Then I realised that being a random drunk person isn’t the same as being Dylan Thomas. Then I got into bed. Buenas noches. Then I thought, aah, it’s still funny that Man U are so shit this season.# Then I woke up the next morning and deleted this post.** Enjoy, fuckers.
* It’s a nice drunkness to be, I think, when it just feels like you are totally normal in your head.
† I’d given up smoking in late November 2013. It was all going well. Then I had one when I was drinking. And the next few times I went out, I’d have just one. And those just ones became more than just one. I’m back smoking again now, frustratingly, cos I’d got through two months and it felt good.
‡ I stopped eating meat last September.
§ During February and March, I lived in a hotel while my girlfriend and I were looking for a flat.
¶ I did actually do that on my Facebook page. I have two: a private one and a Flip Flop Flying one. If by any chance you feel the desire to add me as a friend on my private page, don’t be offended when I don’t add you back: it’s the only place on the Internet where I keep things that I just want my friends and not the general public to know.
# Still funny.
** I did exactly that.
My mate’s house in Barnet has white exterior walls. At the perfect time of night, when the street lights are on, but it’s not quite totally dark, the wall is pink and shadows are a lovely lovely blue.
Across the street is a supermarket. Handy. Very handy. Forgot to buy butter? No need to even bother putting shoes and socks on: I nip over in my flip flops. The supermarket is a Mexican supermarket called Superama. It’s now owned by Walmart which does smart a bit every time I go in there. Anyway, the other morning, I was stood on the balcony, glazed eyes just staring out over the top of the supermarket at the sky. Evntually, I focussed on the illuminated Superama sign. And then I got to thinking about Bananarama. And David Gedge’s other band, Cinerama. And then I started thinking of as many words as I could that ended in -orama: diorama, panorama… That’s all I could come up with, to be honest.
But it did get me wanting to find out about the origin of the -rama ending. A wee google and I was on the Wiktionary page for panorama. Apparently the word is from ancient Greek: pan (“all”) and horama (“that which is seen”).
So I guess Superama means “the stuff you see in our shop is super.” And Bananarama means “look at all the fucking narners.”
Anyway, here’s a photograph of the supermarket. It’s the view from my balcony. It was taken about a month ago. All of the stalls and people on the street are due to fact that next to the supermarket is a football stadium, Estadio Azul, home of Cruz Azul which, handily, is my favourite Mexican team. You can see the stadium, it’s the blue and white thing. Beyond that, you can see the upper parts (the red bits) of the bullfighting place, which is the largest bullfighting place in the world.
A 43 year old British man was found dead in his apartment in Mexico City today. It is believed he laughed himself to death after arranging a Pink Panther toy to look like he was cradling a big pink cock with his arms.
Fifteen years ago today, I got home from working at a record distribution company and as I’d done quite a bit in the previous six months, sat down in front of my (first generation) iMac. After a couple of months of reading a book about HTML and drawing stuff in ClarisWorks, and animating stuff in GifBuilder, I was ready to put my Web site online. I’d chosen the name Flip Flop Flyin’ (from a Beach Boys song), I had a Virgin account which came with a wee bit of Web space, and thus – hurrah! – I put the stuff online. That Web site was live! Live at http://freespace.virgin.net/craig.robinson1. Snappy URL. And then I emailed some friends to say, hey, go look at my stuff. Please. And a few of them did. And after a couple of months, people I didn’t know started looking at the site. And then more of them. Then I started drawing small pixellated popstars. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Blondie, Kraftwerk. And I kept on doing them. The more I did, the more people started looking at them. My Web site was a little bit popular.
Back on the 12th of May, 1999, the site had hardly any content. But it did have a splash page. A splash page for each section, in fact. Splash pages were a thing back then. And it had a clunky navigation system.
It’s interesting (for me, anyway) to look back at the work I’ve done here in the past decade-and-a-half. I’m way better at drawing now. But I have less patience for animation. Last night, I watched the Pete & Bob series that I did between 2002 and 2006. It seems to be a perfect example of everything I’ve done and still do. It’s a bit silly and a bit melancholy. For anyone else looking at 15 years worth of drawings and stuff, it must just seem like a fairly large amount of content. For me, it looks like a diary. Looking at the stuff totally takes me back to where I was, who I was, and who I was with at those points in my life. I can see the points where I was happy, and the points where I was really miserable.
I can’t really say that I’d want it any different. A few tweaks here and there. Fewer wilful destructions of popular things. Stopping doing Minipops, for example, was entirely about being contrary. This is popular: kill it! I think the biggest regret, though, of all is the way this blog has developed. It was going swimmingly in 2006, then I posted something about my dislike of a popular British artist. It got a load of comments. A lot of them assumed it was just professional jealousy. (It wasn’t. Banksy was and continues to be a shit artist.) That post soured me a bit. And after a couple of months of only posting sporadically, it took a while to build it up again. Things were going great when I was doing my travelling around the Americas in 2008. That was when my blogging was actually quite good. I was writing long posts virtually every day. It kept on going well until the middle of 2009 when my then-wife and I split up and, well, there was a horrible time when I was on a train between Portland and Seattle, and got to my friend’s house and saw that there were 50-odd comments on a post I’d written about that split. It wasn’t pleasant. That experience, without really making a conscious decision about it, soured me to the whole idea of writing about my life. The blog slowly got less personal. Then I had another “I don’t wanna do this anymore” mid-2010. Sporadic posts again, mostly just promoting other stuff I’d done. That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of it being an active blog, where there’d be comments on every post. Since then, and to this day, I’ve neglected the blog. I put up drawings, write the occasional thing, but it’s being kept alive purely out of habit. Twitter and the Facebook page have also made the blog less important for letting people know about new things. I regret this. And right now, it feels like it’d be a shame to throw it all away just because Twitter and Facebook are easier.
Looking again, as I did yesterday, at a ton of my old work, I’m kinda proud of what I’ve done. And I want to keep doing it. And that includes blogging more. I used to enjoy it so much, and I want to enjoy it again. And after looking at the Pete & Bob stuff, I want to get more fun stuff going, too. It’s possibly a coincidence, but the stuff that happened in the middle of 2009 was at the same time as I started really doing a lot of baseball-related infographics. I wonder if infographics were just a way for me to keep doing stuff, having ideas, but without having to put any heart into it. Statistics don’t hurt you or make you think about how your life is going. Right now, I’m a wee bit bored of doing infographics. I’ve done some really good stuff at Flip Flop Fly Ball, the baseball offshoot of Flip Flop Flyin’, and I’d like to keep doing it. But really, it’s time to get back to doing more of the stuff that I love the most. Arty silly stuff. So fingers crossed I can keep all of this in mind.
I had an email recently from a woman called Emily. She said that she and her brother “absolutely loved Flip Flop Flyin’ when [they] were kids.” It was genuinely heartwarming to get an email like that. It’s very nice to think that people like what you do.
Anyway, thanks for reading. And should you fancy looking at what Flip Flop Flyin’ looked like fifteen years ago, here’s that first version of Flip Flop Flyin’.
Also of note, the incredible Saul Steinberg died on the 12th of May 1999. One can only dream of being as good as him.
If you’re going to San Francisco, is it still a visa requirement to wear flowers in your hair?