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the three-bag week

The work bag: it's Annual Report time, and I'm overdue. It's not that I don't have stuff to report; I have a very nice graph, which shows how I've doubled site visits in the past year (or possibly that wild virus activity on the web has doubled in the past year), and some good case studies, and a long list of names of young people who've contributed to the site, some good pictures, screen grabs which look OK, and so on and so on. It the chewing over and over of 11 months of working in this place. 11 months! It feels like it's been a long time, says Mandy (my manager, who's leaving). She's understating the case. It feels like it's been forever, like its going nowhere, like everyone else who's any good in the service is leaving, like I hate, hate, hate young people, like I'm always either bored or frantic, like the corrupting mess is spreading into me, igniting my own seeds of haplessness and inefficiency, a slow relaxing fray I half hate and half want. If I stay here, will I be good for nothing but here? If I make what I do look successful, will I get more demands, bigger stresses, more difficult problems? What's the youth of Oxfordshire need me for, anyway? Inside the bag: biros, broken pencil. Draft Annual Report. Disclosure form + proof of identity (3) address (2) and NI number (1). Young Citizen's Passport (Hodder & Stoughton, £3.99). Lights, extra chain, neurofen+. Two floppy disks, one marked with a computer Haiku "a crash reduces/your expensive computer/to a simple stone" and a picture which was probably once a stone but is now a fish.

Does anyone else watch the Aero adverts and think, they're giving away free singing mice with every bar of chocolate? Wow! Cool! I want one! ... every time I see it, I get this Kinder-surprise thrill, I love free toys, toys which contain sweets, toys which you don't buy as toys but only as something attached to something else. They're just so much more of a treat. They're bloody Nestlé, too (Aero); I should report them to the ASA, or write to them, demanding a singing mouse. Speaking of adverts, I stopped Tivo last night for an advert about a pulse of energy tearing across Britain, viewed as if you were chasing it in a fighter jet. Turned out to be for the Royal Mail, so I didn't even have to feel annoyed about liking it. Message to the masters; make your ads good enough and people stop the screen to watch.

The film bag: Somewhere between girly swot and autocratic bitch, I bully my film-group into submission. Actually fetch up shouting at Alan, whose views on male-female relationships occasionally cause me pain. Jeremy shouts, "For goodnesssake, Alan, not all women are scheming conniving bitches!" The girls are on one side of the table, the boys on the other. We're trying to script a conversation where a woman who accidentally slept with a male friend the previous night is phoning a female friend in a panic. The guys keep suggesting things and Vicky and I say "No" in unison. Is it really that sex-specific? "Oh, he's got a Porsche and a big cock, what else matters?"spoofs Vicky (Alan just suggested, "Well, he's rich") and tutor Jim comes back in to look at the next bit of our story board, which is "beautifully drawn" but lacks flow. Spot the cartoonist. I find I have problems even thinking of action as a continuous process, as if some Damian Hurst instict is slicing my visualisation into a series of cross-sections through time, making frames which will happily sit adjacent to each other in space but not in time. We plan to hide a life-size plastic goose in every panel, but Jim didn't notice it in the storyboards, so I'm keeping it a secret from him. I think he'd disapprove. Alan certainly seems deeply uncertain (we came up with it on the meet he didn't make it to), but Justin (who originally wanted giant props and wierd stuff going on) loves the idea. Vicky's worried about the scene in the kitchen. Will it hurt the ending? Leave it in the shooting script, and let the editing suite decide, I say, and as usual, I get my way. Now I just have to remember everything for Saturday. Golf umbrella, condoms, uextension cable, underwear, empty wine bottles ... Inside the bag: storyboard (working copy), Palm Pilot, mobile, spycam, Holga, contact sheet (George's flat), spare keys (to George's flat), drawing pens, spare paper, airwaves gum, felt tips, lighting notes.

After film class, Alastair introduces me to a Lib Dem Councillor at ultimate crony pub Far from the Madding Crowd, and I claim to have met him at a party in Jericho full of stoners and cats as this has been my previous experience of the local Lib Dem group, though I have no idea who he is and have never met him, before going back to bullying the skatepunk barman with the dandylion hair into posing for my camera. He looks sweetly confused, but complies. On the slow sweep at closing time, the Councillor takes it into his head to drag us all off to a club, green hair working its usual magic. He steers me down the street, and we check he's working for the other council from me (otherwise we'd have forms to fill in, he says) and by the time I look round just about everyone else has escaped except for Alex (who is weak-willed) and Damian (who follows us as far as the door to the club). Inside it's full of rich young gays and rentboys (or people going for the look) so we say Hi to a few people and once we find the dance floor the DJ isn't bad at all, so Alex and I reward him by dancing to everything, even the ones which empty the floor of the skinny bobbling fag/hags who charge on whenever Slim Shady raises his fuzzy head. We finish on Weapon of Choice and leave in time to be in bed for most of the school-night, complaining about not being as cool as Christopher Walken, and I sleep very well and I feel great the next morning.

The comics bag: I've been putting it off for months, every time I tried to think about it, there would be a spider-crawl of little black thoughts, like the dust-bunnies in My Neighbour Totoro and I'd be unable to say how to do it for blackness. "It" -- the exhibition, workshop, and anything else I'm doing at Caption. Well, it's Comics 2002 this weekend, so I'd better bloody do it. Half the time's spent sweeping away the black bits so I can see what I need to do, the other half looking at what I've done, thinking, that sucks, that's not right at all. In the odd gleam left over, I work at frantic speed, trying to get it all down before the lightbulb fades. It's hard, when it's not coming easy, when you have to beat every idea out of your head and pin it down with your pen before it's shot off over the horzion and gone forever. I also have a week of cluttered evenings; getting keys, script meetings, new pub, the briefing for Glastonbury stewards, Mull Historical Society are playing at the Zodiac, a friend has a party in Garsington, reviews on four out of five evenings, Opening night at the Film School, the Princes Trust presentation in the Town Hall want me and my video camera. There's no way I can even do a fraction of this, but some I can't wriggle out of and some I don't want to. In the gaps between I try to get on with the flier, but other things keep blundering into my head: scripts for weekly strips, the next chapter of PP, my Annual Review, the stuff I was supposed to be doing for Terry, the new Cleanskies site, the film, while Tivo keeps pushing more entertainment, more bilge, more stuff my way. Latest discovery: Outthere, a cult clip show on Bravo introduced by a badly-dressed zombie pin-up girl, the twin demands of her botoxed face and the autocue rendering her almost totally inert. I watch, slack-jawed, and accidentally break the narrative flow of the strip in the flier in half. Does it matter? Do I have time to fix it? Will the ink spread on this shitty paper? "Just use a lot of black," says Damian, "It'll be fine." Fine. It's never fine when I have to draw to order. Show me a goal and I collapse. Inside the bag: five/six photocopies with half-drawn scripts, doodles, and peoples' phone numbers written on them. Print-outs of the flier, covered with rough sketches which won't do at all. Migraine medication, in its stash box. Small mirror. Novel by a miserable frenchman. A broken taxi pin-badge picked up in the street. My pen box, with pens, rubber, pencil and pencil sharpener nearby or inside. Minidisc player, playlist: Perfect.

I come into work (on my back tyre which feels like it's flat but isn't) and determine to spend the day clearing the annual report, getting it sorted, distorted and done, already, but I want to be home, drawing, writing, getting ready for the weekend, and it's going to be an uphill struggle. There's a goldfinch singing on the bushes at the edge of the Prison Mound, and I watch it for a moment, trying to look like something that won't pounce, absurdly grateful for yellow flowers and goldfinches and tree surgeons with dangling chainsaws and earrings shaped like fabergé eggs and shops full of glittery cushions and pink fluffy stuff and all the other things that get between me and my goals. But I'm in full view of reception here, so I can't stand still for long, not for all the goldfinches in the world, or any of the demands of existance and its layers of encrusted glittering clutter.

Comments

( 5 worms — Feed the birds )
andypop
30th May, 2002 14:30 (UTC)
'Outthere' has been on Channel 5 for a while. Astounding, isn't it?

Novel by a miserable frenchman

Not 'Atomised' is it? Did you notice it's translated by Frank Wynne, "the Oscar Wilde of comics" (copyright 1992 Eve Stickler)?
cleanskies
30th May, 2002 16:19 (UTC)
nope
Well, it was new to me. I miss out on terrestrial a bit, since Tivo.

The novel's Maldoror by the Comte de Lautreaumente (god alone knows if I spelt that right) ... and come to think of it, I'm not 100% sure he's actually french, or just another exiled pervert. It's a protosurrealist work, rather disgusting and sordid, with a depth of misanthropy I find extremely satisfying. The Comte wrote this and then committed suicide, I think. When the books gets extremely nasty, this is suddenly a pleasung thought.
andypop
1st Jun, 2002 01:52 (UTC)
Re: nope
a depth of misanthropy I find extremely satisfying

That old warm feeling.

of misanthropy I find extremely satisfying. The Comte wrote this and then committed suicide

Why does this make me laugh so much?
crazycrone
31st May, 2002 08:24 (UTC)
The Workaday World
Actually, your job seems to have potential-at least for'borrowing' good stuff,etc. I miss 'Babs', though, she was really good value, although it must have been prety intense, sharing one's cell with her...Is she still there? Working-for-a-living is definitely humanity's greatest tragedy, but it does inspire lots of good toons, etc.
cleanskies
31st May, 2002 09:21 (UTC)
Re: The Workaday World
The stuff is the chain that keeps me here -- of which my boss's boss's boss is all too well aware. All the way from unlimited web access to video camera. I try to leave, more turns up. The film course, for example -- that's being paid for by my POW! I'd never have gone for it myself, I'm stingy on courses and never go on anything that costs more than £50. Stuff for abuse, that's what work here is all about.

Babs, I don't miss. She may have been fun at a distance but close up, my god ... They say that after a while you just screen out bad smells if you're near them, but whether I'm just to f***ing sensitive for my own good, or whether it's a migraine thing or what, I don't. I never did when I was working on the farm, and I never did for Babs' own unique and overpowering odour. I have a couple of strips about Babs I've not even inked (though her actual speech pattern is almost impossible to convey without wanting to tear your own brain out for even thinking such drivel, I can occasionally manage if I viciously summarise). At least one ends with me beating her to death with her f***ing phone.

She's off in another office. Freeee!
( 5 worms — Feed the birds )