Thomthumb84's Blog

My Manbag

Posted in Comment by thomthumb84 on October 11, 2010


Indy - the ultimate manbag model


I am unashamedly fond of my manbag. And more to the point I am totally and utterly dependent upon it. I loathe having to stuff my pockets full with the necessities of daily life – primarily because I am the kind of vain creature who spends who spends time reflecting on how big my arse looks with my wallet stuffed in the back pocket. But even if this were not the case I’d find my bag essential. On a daily basis I am carrying my keys, mobile, book, water, notebook, dictaphone, digital camera, umbrella, fags, lighter and an assortment of uncompromisingly useless pens. In addition to this I am frequently carrying a change of clothes for when I stay at my girlfriend’s house, my laptop, and a packed lunch. Even without my debilitating vanity such a task would be impossible. I find it totally impossible, then, to understand how men have survived so long without a bag. Women have carried them for yonks and are always prepared for anything. Try it out right now. If your in a room of men and women ask if anyone has any gum. Go on. Well? Bet it was a woman who gave you someone wasn’t it? The same is true of anything like that – those little bags are chock full of everything that is needed for daily life. They are like fashionable little survival bags for urban living. I look on in awe and wonder when I see men wander into the office bagless in the morning – where do they put all their stuff? I keep wondering whether they hire some kind of urban sherpas to subtly follow behind them with the daily detritus of pens, laptops, and unnecessarily weighty hardbacks. If not I am utterly stuck on how they survive.

My manbag is, as you can guess, totally and utterly essential. But it does have its down side. For a start I get through them like anything. Considering the amount of shit I stuff in there I have had to deal with broken buckles, snapped handles, and (I kid you not) bursting seams over the years. And the cost of this mounts up. The last bag I bought was a very cool looking satchel (I just hate the term satchel – reminds me of those things you used to carry your recorder in at school- I carry a MANBAG) from Asos. This was a big mistake. Taking style over substance I failed to appreciate that such a suave and delicate young thing could not deal with the harsh realities of carrying my daily necessities. Within a week the metal support bar over the top had torn through the faux leather and the buckle had snapped. This left me with an entirely unsecure flappy thing, attached to a protruding bit of sharp metal that swings limply over my shoulder like an exotic piece of road kill. Despite the general advantage of having a large pointy thing with me at all times to swing around when the rage took me on the tube it was a complete write-off. I wanted to send it back but then how was I going to explain that I was using this rather flimsy bit of fashion as though it were the sort of backpack you take on a five day hike to the Quantocks?

The bag before this suffered a similar fate, although it has managed to survive to a general degree. This was the rather beautiful but oh-too-expensive-for-words Knomo – a present for my 21st birthday and the only bag capable of carrying my previous brick-weight laptop. After six months of taking the strain the side clasp pinged off – almost catching me and three unsuspecting bystanders in the eyes. It too became a martyr to the cause until I managed to create a Frankenstein’s monster of a bag with the help of two climbing karabiners. I still use it but it doesn’t look as smart. I suspect I actually failed to get a job the other day because the interviewer thought it made me look messy (Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

In addition to the financial issue I also find myself having to clean the thing out every few days as it slowly fills with receipts, bottle caps, more useless pens, very old chewing gum, a copy of the evening standard from three weeks before, and the odd busted climbing karabiner (I get through them too). If I did not have this additional pocket upon my person I would put this stuff in a bin. Instead it sits in there slowly weighing me down further and further – resulting in my now significant lopsidedness. I also find that these things never, ever, ever, fit into the cradles on the London Bikes. No matter how many times I try and force them in they just don’t give and I end up wobbling along the street (already naturally lopsided) with this thing perched precariously on my back.

Last night I finally came to the conclusion that something must be done. I need a proper man bag -something with a reinforced titanium buckle and strap, and a covering made from the stuff they put on space shuttles. I need something that lasts. But looking on line nothing takes my fancy anymore. I just don’t believe anything out there lives up to the hype. I need to road test these things. Take them out into the mean streets of London loaded with all the useless shit that have become my contemporary working noose. And it has to be under £40….. oh fuck it. Maybe I’ll just use a carrier bag from now on.


Daily Web Wander: 6th September 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on September 6, 2010
Sunny (Morrissey song)

Image via Wikipedia


We must learn morality from each other, not God from The Guardian – The latest outbreak of hostilities between atheists and believers rehearses the same old confusion about what God stands for:

Philosophers are helping doctors with dilemmas over life-and-death decisions from The Guardian – People with mental-health problems may in future be allowed to make more decisions for themselves:

Morrissey interview: Big mouth strikes again from The  Guardian – For 30 years, poet Simon Armitage‘s admiration for Morrissey has bordered on the obsessive. But could his love survive an encounter with the famously sharp-tongued singer-songwriter?:

Tony Blair: Everybody’s a critic… from The Media Blog – Some (un)concious expression through product placement

(LATER ADDITION: Ah. it seems there is more on this story:

Daily Web Wander: 3rd September 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on September 3, 2010
Nick Cave / Grinderman en el Summercase 08 de ...

Image via Wikipedia

Flying the flag, faking the news from The New Statesman– Loud noises from Washington about a US pull-out from Iraq are a poor disguise for America’s determination to keep waging war. And the same sort of spin is at work here in Britain:

The last of the Jewish Arabs from The Economist– An ancient community is finally abandoning its Yemeni homeland:

Sean Connery should stage a comeback to retire on a high from The Guardian – Now 80, the former Bond star has vowed never to act again. He should reconsider and find one last great role to erase the memory of a decade of duds:

‘It’s OK to embarrass yourself’, Nick Cave and the return of Grinderman from The Guardian – With one band Nick Cave has a carefully built musical legacy. With his other, he can visit his ‘lower self’ and make chaotic noise. Alexis Petridis meets Grinderman:

Daily Web Wander: 2nd September 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on September 2, 2010
Hawking as seen as a cartoon character on The ...

Image via Wikipedia

Ridiculously busy today so will have to leave you with only two today. Sorry!

Stephen Hawking says universe not created by God:

Cool idea for a means of having an affect on social groups in a passive way:

Daily Web Wander: 1st September 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on September 1, 2010
Psychadelic Trees

Image by pumpkincat210 via Flickr

As you may notice I have been surprisingly productive in other areas today so you only get four site listings. Enjoy!

Woman Dies While Stuck In Lover’s Chimney– A woman’s decomposing body has been found wedged inside the chimney of her lover’s home after she tried to sneak into his house:

Good journalism betrays – “Journalism – good journalism, which tells you what’s happening below the bland phrases of press releases – depends on betrayal. We journalists prefer to forget (or have never learned) that fact, but it’s an important one”:

Psychedelic drugs return as potential treatments for mental illness – New research confirms that psychedelic drugs are promising treatments for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia:

Russian officals: hard at work, twittering – “Fitting a message into 140 characters could not be more alien to the political culture of the Kremlin, the institution which perfected the art of the four hour speech. But Monday, when over 200 grandees crammed into the Georgevsky hall of the Kremlin to hear several long winded reports on higher education by the state commission on modernisation, (most of whose members seemed to be well past 60 years old) it was the humble Twitter messages which stole the show.”:

Exposed Exhibition – Art Review

Posted in Art by thomthumb84 on September 1, 2010

After much procrastination I finally made it to the Exposed Exhibition at the Tate Modern this weekend and was pleasantly surprised. It think it’s the first exhibition I’ve been to at the gallery with such an emphasis on photography and while I normally think it has its place as an art form there is a part of me that considers photography a slightly minor form of artistic expression compared to other mediums.

To hang them in a gallery so recognised for its internationally renowned sculpture and painting did leave me sceptical. While, of course, there is some room for the abstract in photography I find that, on the whole, it is used as a means of recording events as opposed to expressing one’s self.

And, yes, I certainly have a lot of room for the use of film as an art form but then the flexibility of film means that more can be done. Photography is static – film can push life into an object and this brings a new edge to the forms of expression available.

But to be honest I don’t why I got into all of that because I loved this exhibition. The theme was vague enough to provide the possibility for a number of issues to be examined but the sections managed to provide a clear enough line between each other to give the impression that this was part of a greater whole. With this in mind I think the best way of looking at this is by going from section to section:

The Unseen Photographer: “The first section of the exhibition considers ways in which photography can reveal the world unawares and show people caught with their guard down. This idea begins with the technologies that have allowed images to be made surreptitiously, from nineteenth-century cameras hidden in walking sticks, shoes or inside suit-jackets, to twentieth-century devices such as the lateral view-finder which allows the photographer to apparently face one direction while taking a picture in another.” (Tate website blurb)

Now you see this is what I am talking about when I refer to photography being a means by which to record a moment. What is unique about these pictures, though, is the fact that we are being presented with a certain honesty that is seldom seen in other photography from this period. The clandestine means by which the photos are taken means that we are seeing images that move beyond the stifling conformity of portrait pictures of the time, such as Walker Evan’s Subway Passengers.

But it also means that we can view visual evidence of those sides of society so frequently glossed over such the working conditions of children in cotton factories. In this sense they almost feel like a visual take on works by Orwell like Down and Out in Paris and London or Road to Wigan Pier. But there is something about the visual that brings these things home.

While you can hear about the conditions in mines, or children being forced to work in factories, or the living conditions of the lower classes, there is nothing like a true picture – actual proof that these things actually happened. In this it is a great success.

Celebrity & the Public Gaze: “The notion of celebrity as we know it today is inseparable from the invention of photography. By the 1860s, photographic studio portraits allowed notable figures to become instantly recognisable to the public. However, this period of controlled self-publicity was short-lived. Smaller, more portable cameras allowed for covert picture-taking during private moments, and faster shutter speeds opened up opportunities for capturing subjects off-guard. Whilst some famous figures have manipulated the medium to their advantage, the infringement of privacy represented by such photographs remains controversial.” (Tate website blurb)

Considering the continuing interest in this area it was inevitable that this would come up. I have to admit I find the whole thing a bit ‘done’ now. Yes, we appreciate that as a society we have an aggressive desire to look into the world of celebrities – that we feel some possession of them once they enter the public realm – that celebrities have become a consumable object, etc etc.

But stop now. If anything it annoys me because it intellectualises the paparazzi. It seems to legitimise them as purveyors of a necessary public service, which they are not. This is not to say I am any better. As I was saying above I like to get another perspective on events and times. Photos of those who play key roles in our cultural heritage are therefore compelling – even if it is only Degas leaving a bog or Jackie Kennedy having a swim.

The pictures by Alison Jackson do annoy me, however, as I really see them as a bit of light hearted ‘faddy’ entertainment. It feels a bit like Banksy – it entertains but says very little even if it has pretensions to do so. And these were not even some of the best I have seen by her. Not impressed.

Voyeurism & Desire: “Sexual or erotic images have been made throughout the history of photography. This section includes photographs that gaze openly at willing subjects as well as those depicting illicit and intimate acts made without the knowledge or permission of their subjects. Many of these images seem to position the viewer in the role of a ‘peeping tom’. At the same time, they pose difficult questions about who was looking and why, when the picture was made, and whether we should collude with, or reject, this point of view.” (Tate website blurb)

Now we are getting somewhere! This was great stuff. Cammie Toloui’s photos of strippers in the struck a chord – the way in which the women were viewed by the men alienated them in an interesting way. As my girlfriend said “They looked at them like they were animals in a zoo.”.

What is interesting here is the fact that the men watching react in the same fashion – does their viewing of the women in this way –through the significant factor of majority numbers and concentrated perspective – transform that woman into what they believe she is. Does her own opinion of herself in this role transform her into it?

Merry Alpern’s pictures through the window of a brothel in New York are interesting. These kinds of fly on the wall shots are compelling because you can feel that you have participated without getting dirty yourself. Of course, this comes back to the larger issue of voyeurism but its interesting because you know that you would not want to participate anyway. By placing the pictures in front of you it is forcing you to participate. It reminds me of Rear Window where he is forced into participation and action by the view in front of him.

And then there were Kohei Yoshiyuki’s ‘Park’ pictures. These are so odd I think it is worth having the Tate’s description here: “When first shown in 1979 at the Komai Gallery, Tokyo, Kohei Yoshiyuki’s series of photographs titled The Park were visible only by flashlight, as each visitor shone a torch over the pictures. As a young commercial photographer, Yoshiyuki uncovered a nocturnal phenomenon of Japanese park life. Whilst walking in Chuo Park in Shinjuku one night with a colleague, he noticed a couple on the ground, and then a number of men creeping towards them.  The men were trying to get close enough to touch the bodies on the ground without being noticed. Yoshiyuki participated in the voyeuristic ‘sport’ for several months before he started to document it using his 35mm camera and an infrared flash bulb. “To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them”, he has said. “I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real ‘voyeur’ like them. But I think, in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer.”” (Tate website blurb)

Yes, indeedy. Talk about voyeuristic! And isn’t it interesting how the line between the photographer and other participants is blurred? And again, as with the New York brothel pictures there is this general feeling of being forced into this environment. You are being properly exposed to this situation –as though you were there – whether you want it or not. Really great stuff.

For me the absolute highlight of the show was ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’. I am a sucker for intimate pictures of stranger’s friends and family at the best of times – something I do rather too frequently on Facebook (interesting thing that wasn’t looked into I think…). I like examining their expressions and body language (do you think he really loves her? Is he really looking at that girl in the corner? Etc) – but here we are really invited into this very strange and (might I say it?) rather hip New York life. We crash their parties and watch them fucking. Birth-life-death. It’s all there for our scrutiny and for me that is the ultimate thrill.

Witnessing Violence: “Photographs of violence produce paradoxical responses. On the one hand, the acknowledgement of the crime and confrontation with its gruesome effects is an admittance of the need for social improvement; on the other, repeated confrontation with such images may simply numb us to their shocking effects. Does photography allow us to bear witness to a victim’s suffering, or does it anaesthetize us to the horror?” (Tate website blurb)

I remember when I first saw one of Warhol’s prints of the electric chair and others of police dogs being used and maybe a car crash? It was strange because it presented you with the moment of post-violence, or the object of potential violence, outside of its larger context through the use of different colours. I always found those pictures very attractive because they altered my understanding of the original picture – it forced me to look at it from a different perspective.

Here, we have pictures that (again) are more a documents of the event rather than the artist’s own expression of the event in question. In a certain sense this left me cold. Everyday we are exposed to newspaper pictures of extreme violence. Why, then, should we show shock at a picture of a man or a woman jumping to their death? I am sure most people from 15 onwards have seen worse in movies or on the news. The most chilling point comes with the descritions by the side of the pictures for it is here that the story lies and your heart breaks. I have to say I really failed to get this.

Surveillance: “Derived from the French word ‘surveiller’, meaning ‘to keep watch’ or ‘to watch over’, the surveillance camera has been used to police borders, to assist war-time reconnaissance, to gain advantage over political enemies or simply to gather information. Techniques of surveillance are closely linked to developments in photographic technology – from the earliest aerial photographs to satellite pictures. In the twenty-first century, cameras on street corners, in shops and public buildings silently record our every move, while web-based tools such as Google Earth adapt satellite technology to ensure that there is no escape from the camera’s all-seeing eye.” (Tate website blurb)

Some very interesting stuff indeed. I liked the narrative structures of Sophie Calle’s work as she hired someone to follow her or took diary entries after poking around in people’s hotel rooms as a chambermaid. The same is true of Emily Jacir’s webcam pictures, which act as a sort of diary of her time in the main square in Linz. In terms of looking at them through the context of surveillance I understand that the point is that they are using surveillance to observe themselves – bending the whole thing around – and that certainly appeals.

While I liked the idea behind Shizuka Yokomizo’s stranger pictures I don’t really feel as thought I got much out of them. I can’t really explain why but it just felt a touch stifled – the discomfort between model and photographer was there but with no real intensity. They knew, after all, that they were being photographed. My girlfriend also pointed out the fact that while Yokomizo writes letters to the models instructing them to close their curtains if they don’t want to be photographed – why the fuck should I have to? I would much prefer that you didn’t come onto my property with your camera at all thank you. You will not force me to close my curtains!

Hmmmm….. I hate finishing on exclamation marks… Well it had its ups and down but I think on the whole this was a good one and well worth seeing – if only for ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ on its own.

Notting Hill Carnival

Posted in Comment by thomthumb84 on September 1, 2010

So, like the death rattle of summer, Nottinghill Carnival has come and gone once again. Nothing to look forward to now except a birthday, a wedding, and Christmas, and then the whole sorry route of existence continues again and again, until the end of times. Sigh….

Still, no need to feel glum! It was a good one I thought. The last two years I have only ventured into the throng on the Monday and I think this has worked to my advantage. Two days sound like a bit too much for someone with my disposition for near-death hangovers, combined with crowds and loud music.

Fortunately, my lovely and most wonderful girlfriend has a flat on Portobello Road so we tend to head there on Saturday evening after stocking up on food and booze and watch the people below before settling in with a good movie and a bottle of wine. Refreshed the next morning we hit the streets bright eyed and bushy tailed. This year I also got round to bringing a disposable camera along with me and will try and put those pics up sometime soon.

punters bring their own buckets to get the best view

But lets start with some statistics gathered by the highly capable crew at the BBC. They reported:

264 arrests by the Police and British Transport Police for a variety of offences over the two days of the carnival. This included: 40 arrests for cannabis possession.; 19 arrests for possession of Class As; 26 arrests for public order offences

3 kilograms of cannabis seized in one go from two cars heading to the carnival.

189 carnival casualties on Monday.

5 tonnes of chicken consumed.

25,000 bottles of rum drained.

16,000 tracks played at 41 different sound systems located within the carnival area.

Boris' innovative fence/urinal scheme hits the streets

Not bad huh? The 40 arrests for cannabis possession surprises me. How the hell do you get arrested for weed possession at Nottinghill Carnvial? It’s a bit like getting arrested for drunken behaviour at Oktoberfest. And I don’t quite get the run statistic either. Why rum? Yes, I appreciate the Caribbean influence, but the majority of people I saw had cans of Red Stripe or Carlsberg in hand. Might a PR savvy rum company have generated this statistic by any chance?

We had a superb time but, as is so often the case, missed the majority of actual carnival floats in exchange for the massed side streets. I’m not normally a crowd sort of person but I love the general feel here with everyone in good spirits and slightly liquored up. It feels welcoming and communal in a city where normally looking at someone else’s newspaper on the tube can get you a fat lip.

What we did see of the carnival floats and parade looked good although I was slightly confused to see one display showing (and correct me if I’m wrong here) Bob Marley, Ghandi, Michelle Obama and husband, Michael Jackson, and er…. Marilyn Monroe.

Lovely lunch in the green. Last year we watched the reggae reggae sauce fella doing his stuff on a stage but there was no reggae reggae sauce man this year. And no stage. We did watch one enterprising guy making a lot of money from naive young things. He had a whole helium setup going on and was charging punters per balloon. They would then scamper of to suck the thing dry in a vain attempt to get high before scampering abck for second helpings.

The only bit of violence we saw was along All Saints Road – exactly where we saw it last year as well. It’s also the only street police seem to avoid. That needs to be sorted out. I’m still not totally sure what happened but this guys face was all fucked up. He was covered in blood and couldn’t stand properly.
As always the propensity for the whole thing to kick off was in the air but despite one of two rather pissed off shouty people the whole thing ended quickly and the guy in question was sent off to some St Johns guys.

And while I am at it – well done you St Johns people! It’s got to be a shitty job hanging round while everyone else is having fun, particularly when (as I saw on quite a few occasions) all you get is abuse from the drunk people your trying to help out.

One unfortunate fella after a close encounter on All Saints Road

I didn’t make it to Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues but you can’t have everything. However, I hear there was ancient pre-ska Jamaican tunes being played so will defintely, defintely have to make it there next year.

All in all a lovely day. Just a shame its over really. Feels like a birthday when you wait all year, get all excited, and then just like that its gone and you are just a year older. Sigh..

Daily Web Wander: 31st August 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on August 31, 2010

Ridiculously busy today so only have a few links for you. Enjoy!

Are we living in a designer universe?-The argument over whether the universe has a creator, and who that might be, is among the oldest in human history. But amid the raging arguments between believers and sceptics, one possibility has been almost ignored – the idea that the universe around us was created by people very much like ourselves, using devices not too dissimilar to those available to scientists today.”:

Yue Minjun– Came across this blog today and love the artists’ pictures:

10 stars who appeared in The Bill:

London now has its own Wire-style street slang – “I was surprised to hear that the US Drug Enforcement Agency is hiring Ebonics translators, whose task will be to decode the often complicated vernacular used by the drug gangs in the pursuit of their trade.”:

Cake Britain at The Future Gallery

Posted in Art by thomthumb84 on August 27, 2010

Normally a preview night for an exhibition results in a hangover from too much red wine and a serious case of wind from an over abundance of canapés. But in the case of the preview night for Cake Britain at the Future Gallery I think it might have resulted in a serious case of diabetes.

In keeping with the general theme of the exhibition cupcakes abounded. And not just any cupcakes. These things were like little slices of cake drowned and flattened in the densest icing cream you have ever tried to get your chops around.

Rather disappointingly the traditional cheap but cheerful red wine was replaced by a pretty pissy punch, served in the ‘ever-so-ironic teacup’, involving Courvoisier (the sponsors of the venue). The punch, working in co-ordination with the cupcakes, provided just that little bit more sugar than is right and I felt a bit nauseous and irritable.

My girlfriend, who had spent the day in (what I like to believe) was a rather idyllic 1950’s-cookery-show-style session of baking cookies with her friend, had already consumed more than the healthy quantity of the white stuff (sugar, man. Not the marching powder) and was positively flying (while occasionally having serious stomach concerns). In this fashion we set out to check out the exhibition. Which is OK. I guess.

It was all very fun and ‘wacky’. Two really appealed to me (and I apologise if I get the names wrong as I am sort of checking the names off other sites);  Futureheads ‘The Chaos’ Lyrics’ by Miss Cakehead was a cool idea – a letter shaped biscuit for each letter in the lyrics to the song. It looked liked it would take fucking ages to do and I always sort of like that. I see very little reasonsing behind it though.

And ‘The Cloud Cuckoo Wedding Cake’ was great – a sort of interpretation of the weird, enclosed, world of celebrity as ‘Bradjelina’ sit atop a trippy wedding cake with meringue clouds floating overhead. It’s a fun way of saying something  bigger and I like that kind of thing.

I was far less impressed with one of the pieces on the floor. I think it was called ‘toucan’ or something? It looked a bit like an oil spill or something and I get the impression that some of whatever it was had melted. Looked a bit crap really.

There were some other nice pieces too. One called ‘Captain Freetrade’ was fun and interesting but it just looked like somone had made a cool cake rather than it being art in itself. (Does that make sense?)

All in all I was surprised by just how few pieces there actually were and those that were there did not feel incredibly groundbreaking. Plus there was no wine. Better luck next time.

Daily Web Wander: 27th August 2010

Posted in Daily Web Wander by thomthumb84 on August 27, 2010
Modern wind energy plant in rural scenery.

Image via Wikipedia

Feed-in programs: Spent my morning frantically trying to find information on renewable energy feed-in policies for an article so thought I would whack some sites down I was looking at:

‘Ground Zero mosque’? The reality is less provocative – Brilliant article by Charlie Brooker:

In Mongolia, the Horse-Headed Fiddle Rides Again – “While some efforts to resuscitate traditional Mongolian culture have foundered, the broad revival of the morin khuur, or “horse-headed fiddle,” has brought an ancient sound back into the mainstream”:

Mum’s Miracle Cuddle Brings Baby Back To Life – My favourite article of the day. It made me a little bit sad, then very happy:

Chapman brothers colouring competition: the winners – Results of a contest for kids aged 6-13 to colour in a Chapman brothers’ drawing. I like the one that says ‘I think things in my head but i don’t always want to draw them.’ Freaky kiddy: