Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Art Director/Copywriter Part Two: The Message

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Boring, boring Brussels

Emily and I went to Brussels for a romantic getaway over the Bank Holiday weekend. Yeah, I know – I used the words ‘Brussels’ and ‘romantic getaway’ in the same sentence. Whatever will I being doing next? Organising a stag-do in Auschwitz?

Well, I really didn’t know how dour Brussels is. I’d never been there and, as Emily is pregnant and can’t fly, the fact you can get there via Eurostar is most convenient. However, Brussels itself is expensive, boring and unfriendly. The food is of a consistently low standard, every restaurant has the same menu (let’s hope you like steak and mussels, otherwise you’re fucked) and similarly miserable waiters. Mind you, if I lived in Brussels, I’d be pretty fucked off too.

The whole experience reminded me of working with a hotel client at my previous agency. Month after month, I had the miserable task of selling in desperately uninspiring locations to lucky punters in sales emails. Every email sold in a vision of an ‘escape’ to hotels in places like glamorous Droitwich (the hotel’s actual name is DROITWICH M5, JCT.5) or beautiful Frankfurt (FRANKFURT CITY-SOUTH, CONF CTR). I didn’t know whether to weep or laugh as I desperately tried to find something entertaining to do in Droitwich. I think the lowest point was trying to sell in a trip to Coventry (COVENTRY M6, JCT.2) on the basis that Warwick Castle was vaguely near-by.

Actually, by comparison, Brussels isn’t too bad!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dave Spout's 'How to be a Genius Like Me' Part 3: Inspiring Loyalty

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Next Friday: Managing budgets

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Begone Boner!

After a rare sensible moment (and a conversation with my friend H), I’ve realised that it may be a bad idea to mercilessly rip the piss out of someone identifiable. Apart from anything else, I’ve got absolutely nothing against the person who Boner ISN’T BASED ON AT ALL. Therefore Dave Boner is no more. Henceforth the Creative Director of Fudge and star of ‘How to be a Genius’ will be generic Creative Director, Dave Spout.

Now I've got to get busy in Photoshop taking out that beard and hair...

Bye bye Boner! Long live the Spout!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Art Director/Copywriter Debut

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

No awards to be had here!

Spout-blog arriving soon!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Dave Spout's 'How to be a Genius Like Me' Part Two

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Next: Inspiring loyalty

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dave Spout's 'How to be a Genius Like Me' Part One

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Next: How to win awards

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Introducing Dave Spout, Creative Director

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Gay Charlie Childhood Revelations

I saw that, in order to celebrate 40 years of Action Man, Hasbro has asked various hip art luminaries (the kind of artists who produce over-priced vinyl collectable action figures) to contribute their own customised figures. This had me reminiscing about Charlie, the Action Man who was the central figure in my bizarre childhood fantasy world (only child, lots of imagination etc etc) from the age of five right through my first years in secondary school.

Charlie was such a powerful presence in my childhood imagination that I think he probably deserves a biography all of his own. He started off as a humble soldier, rose through the ranks to general, then became Prime minister of his nation before eventually retiring, with missing limbs, to become a priest.

I’ll always remember when I got Charlie for Christmas in 1974. He was a gift from a friend of my mum’s, Eileen, who had ethical dilemmas over buying a boy a war toy. To put this into context, Eileen and my mum was both radically leftwing and ex-hippies. Therefore giving an Action Man to a child was politicising his play and suckering him into seeing militaristic imperialism as cool. Of course I did think militaristic imperialism was cool – I was a male child with testosterone surging through my body and an imagination already steeped in war comic action.

I liked Charlie because he had dark hair like me (the blond sailor Action Man I also got was rejected as inferior) and was dressed as a World War Two British soldier. His personality developed as my games matured, he was brave, moral and had a war-weariness that would often cause him to curse the eternal conflict in which he was caught. He was never a dime-a-dozen infantryman. He was definitely more of a Special Forces figure (before I knew that term, of course). As my play was influenced by a burgeoning love of sci-fi (especially after I saw Star Wars), Marvel Comics and James bond, Charlie’s role would change but his basic character never did.

Due to frequent injuries involving missing limbs, Charlie often swapped bodies was second string Action Men. However, this never stopped him being him in my eyes. In the end, when I stopped playing with him he was, sadly, missing a foot and an arm. In this crippled state, he had to jack in soldiering and, finally succumbing to his pacifist tendencies, he became a priest. He’s now in a box somewhere wearing the cassock that I made for him.

I really must write more about Charlie. Although I come across as gay, odd and retarded, I feel all misty-eyed with nostalgia now…

Monday, May 15, 2006

Tris of the Dump

I went for a trip to the dump on Saturday. I know this doesn’t sound particularly cool, but it turned out to be great fun.

I’ve been clearing the South Africans detritus out of the shed and bagging it up in rubble bags. It was stacked to the roof with Afrikaner-Krapp and I’ve been both amazed and appalled by what I found in there: barbeque grills that had been left unwashed to fester, more gnawed chicken bones, two full cans of petrol (perhaps for starting off the barbeques), old cutlery and crockery, sports socks, a broken Breville toasted sandwich maker.

I can’t drive, so my friend Tony gamely agreed to drive across London in his old red Ford Escort so I could get all this stuff to the tip. As Emily was at yoga on Saturday morning, Mila and Frankie had to come along with us. It turned out that the dump was about twice as much fun as Alton Towers for the kids, so this was a good move.

After a car journey of horror along the Lea Bridge Road, braving irate drivers caught at temporary traffic lights at a rail bridge and frustrating one way systems, we eventually arrived at the South Access Road Tip.

Note: It is almost impossible to find a tip in Waltham Forest on the web. This is because the council uses the customer-friendly term ‘household waste centre’. Another example of a public service organisation that doesn’t know how to talk to the public.

We dumped off all the rubbish in the back of the car into big skips guarded by cheap East European and African labour (isn’t it interesting that the Boers descend on London just as we have invented our own form of employment apartheid?). Then the kids noticed a big pile of bicycles that you could just grab a child-vehicle from. God help me, my kids love a freebie when they see one. We appropriated a bike for Frankie and microscooter for Mila.

So we went to the tip to get rid of rubbish and ended up returning with scrap metal. Ah well, that’s a form of recycling I suppose…

Friday, May 12, 2006

Nathan Barley Sunglasses are ON

It’s a beautiful hot sunny day today. The kind of day when even the miasma of pollution that hangs over the Farringdon Road doesn’t dent one’s joi de vivre.

On the headphones: 'Only After Dark', the synth compilation put together by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor of Duran Duran. 'Underpass' by John Foxx is playing right now...

On the desk: 4 Amos Wrestlers, 1 Cylon Warrior, 1 Ringo Starr & 1 Blue Meanie.

Guardian Concise Crossword completed on the bog this morning.

Work hassles are diminishing.

A weekend with the kids in prospect.

Life feels good.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

White Van Man Strikes!

As well as being a lapsed socialist, I’m also an effete middle class coward. Let me tell you why…

It was a beautiful spring evening last night, so I enjoyed the ride home on my scooter. Although it’s probably dangerous, it’s a great experience to ride just wearing a t-shirt with sun blazing, cooled by your velocity.

I reached the parking spot outside my house and the white van in front of me suddenly decided to execute a u-turn, nearly hitting me. Shaken, I uttered a ‘Fuck me!’ Now, considering I’d nearly been hit by a large vehicle, you wouldn’t have thought this was unreasonable, but I’m guessing that van driver assumed I’d insulted him. My evidence is that leaned out of his window and, with enraged pink face, shouted:

“You taking the piss? Don’t you fucking take the piss out of me!”

I sighed and told him that I wasn’t insulting him, I was just shocked as he’d nearly hit me. His response was to get even angrier:

“You giving it fucking large, are you? You want a fucking fight, I’ll get out now and give you a fucking slap!”

Now maybe I should have just shut up at that point (or kowtowed to his alpha male-ness maybe) but I just said that I didn’t want a fight, I wanted to park my bike and that he should chill out a bit. This only enraged him further.

“You’re not parking your bike; you’re taking the fucking piss!”

At this point my outrageous provocation became too much for the poor man and he exited his cab to confront me. By this time he was purple in the face with rage and, as he squared up to me, I could see that (a) he was six inches taller than me and (b) a fight was becoming an inevitability. Maybe he’d had a really crappy day and wanted to take it out on someone? God knows, if he was like that all the time, he’d never actually drive anywhere – he’d be stopping every hundred meters to give someone a ‘slap’.

“You fucking cunt, you’re giving it large! You wanna give it large? C’mon – you wanna fight, I’ll give you a fucking fight!”

Oh Christ. I told him that I wasn’t giving it large and really didn’t want a fight. The scary thing was that if we had fought, I’d probably have ended up in casualty over, well, nothing. A trivial misunderstanding.

In the end, thankfully, I was evidentally supine enough for his masculinity to be asserted and, still muttering threateningly, he got into his van and drove off.

I, on the other hand, slunk into my home with revenge fantasies whirling around my head. That’s typical of me. I always feel angry afterwards, never at the time. The thing is, I may pretend to rise above that kind of behaviour, but I’d love to have someone do that to me and know that I could punch his lights out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Billionaire Tea Outrage

I met an Iranian billionaire, his mother and mother-in-law for tea last night. It was a very interesting evening for me, having never moved in those kinds of circles (I was once a security guard at Prince Khalid of Saudi Arabia’s London residence, but I never actually spoke to him).

As the elderly mother was rude to the Filipina maid and the mother-in-law discussed how hard it was to keep up with which city her kids were in from week to week, I discussed the political situation in Iran with my host. What interested me was the lack of rancour when he discussed the present regime. Despite being exiled since the Islamic Revolution and abhorring the fundamentalism of the theocracy, he was remarkably sanguine about the situation. I suppose he can afford to be.

He suggested that, after years of Bush foreign policy, western governments are now screwed whatever line they take over President Ahmadinejad’s belligerence. Aggression will just nationalistically galvanise the population. Passivity will embolden Iran and make conflict more likely.

This was all very interesting and, as the evening passed, I was vaguely uncomfortable to find myself in agreement with most of what this urbane, educated man had to say. Well, for one thing he thinks Bush is a buffoon too.

What a sinfully lapsed socialist I am…

Monday, May 08, 2006

Parenting fuckwittery

Are parents now terrified of telling their kids off? The evidence from Sunday would seem to suggest that the answer is ‘yes’. As Adam and I stood in a futile queue to sit in the stands on Horseguards Parade (in the end, no one was allowed to sit in them), a few kids cheekily went through the railings and scampered up to take a seat. This caused some amusement to everyone but an irate security guard and the parents. All the parents whose kids invaded the stands were less than assertive in getting them down. Typical dialogue went like this:

DUMPY MIDDLE CLASS MOTHER: “Henry darling, would you mind coming down?”

CHILD SITTING IN STAND: [Sullen silence, shakes head]

DUMPY MIDDLE CLASS MOTHER: “Please come down Henry, the man [security guard] wants you to.” [In other words: please don’t dislike mummy, it’s the nasty man who won’t let you sit down up there, not me]

CHILD SITTING IN STAND: [Sullen silence, ignores mother with an expression that has ‘fuck off, you silly bitch’ written all over it]

DUMPY MIDDLE CLASS MOTHER: “I’ll let you play with the camera if you come down. You can take a picture!”

CHILD SITTING IN STAND: [Sullen silence, frown communicates that Henry isn’t impressed by this petty bribe and mummy can swivel]


If Frankie or Mila did the same thing, I’d go ballistic. It seems to me that parents are scared of upsetting their children. They treat telling their kids off as a form of abuse. Kids don’t thank you for treating them as equals who have a right to question your decisions. And ultimately it’s no good for them either. What if Henry had fallen down the metal steps of that stand?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Giant elephant wash-out

Today my friend Adam and I went to see the giant French street theatre elephant at Horseguards parade. We hung around for about an hour, but the elephant didn't show it itself. Here's what happened instead.


Friday, May 05, 2006

A Friday limerick

There was a copywriter from Chatham,
Who was keen to get up and at ‘em,
He used dynamic verbs,
And aromatic herbs,
Until he thought he was Earl Mountbatten.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Give me a book deal now!

I’m currently having a thoroughly bonkers time at work, so haven’t had time to type any random dribblings of my unconscious thought-thing on this blog for a couple of days. Apologies to my rather select group of readers.

I was discussing the possibilities of blog-based book deals with our Strategist Duncan over crab cakes and chips this lunchtime. We were thinking of neat riffs that would nab a column in that shit-stinking septic tank of middle class futility, the Guardian Weekend magazine, or win a nice fat publisher's advance. Here are some ideas – let me know what you think is a winner…

The Leytonstone Lothario Leg-over Logbook
Look out Belle de Jour! You’ve got a rival! I pretend to be a rather over-the-hill male prostitute and share my idealised experiences with the world. Luckily for me, in this bizarre make-believe world, rich women are willing to pay huge sums for a bunk-up with an erudite man who likes his pies. Oh, the tales of glamour, luxury and elegant lovemaking I share with my lucky readers as I fuck my way through Chingford high society!

Things me and my girlfriend get a bit narky about
Ha! I laugh at your tales of marital disharmony, Mil Millington! I take mind-numbing puerility to an assailable peak of damp squib domestic banality! Laugh as Emily gets a bit irritated by my tendency to hog the sofa! Cry as I get slightly miffed by her inability to wash up cutlery to a suitable standard! This could run and run as a Guardian Weekend column...

I self-harmed and took Prozac before a bummer of a crack habit and now I’m an alcoholic junkie with an unmentionable sexual addiction
May have to streamline the title and pretend to be a woman for this one, but believe me I’ll spare no graphic details in this self-confessional disfunction orgy. I’ll reveal my squalid existence, bringing it puking and shaking into the daylight. No, really I am lower than the thing that filth looks down upon. My self-hatred and ‘issues’ will make Trent Reznor look like a member of the Wiggles.

My life through Pet Shop Boys albums
Ah, the memories. In this Nick Hornby age of autobiography/popular culture mashup, I corner the market in 80s and 90s nostalgia. I’ll attempt some kind of facile juxtaposition between the songs and my life. It’s 1987: could the lyrics of ‘Rent’ have really led to my experiments in necrophilia? Now it’s 1993: was ‘DJ Culture’ the subconscious cue for that unfortunate situation in the stables with a glove puppet named Nigel? Kind of fizzles out as the Pet Shop Boys became really shit and I stopped listening to them. Bugger…

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pokémon Versus Banger-Racing

To celebrate the Bank Holiday and reward them for doing their domestic duties, I gave Mila and Frankie a fiver each to spend over the weekend. We headed into town and, after a slap-up lunch at Bodeans in Soho, Emily and Mila headed off to do a girl’s shop and Frankie and I went to the Forbidden Planet for the male equivalent.

For those unfamiliar with the Forbidden Planet, it’s a comic and sci-fi merchandise emporium on Shaftesbury Avenue. The usual clientele look like they haven’t seen sunlight for six years, have the muscular development of Plasticine and smell of stale sweat. You won’t be surprised to discover that they almost all male, apart from the odd (very odd) goth girl (who will also smell of stale sweat).

As I love shopping there, I often worry that I fit the profile of the average Forbidden Planet customer. It’s a scary thought. Despite that insecurity, I’m really glad that Frankie likes the place too (this could add to my insecurity, as it means that a five year old and I are operating at the same entertainment level, but let’s cast that thorny issue aside for the moment). We both delight in checking out the latest action figures and pressing the buttons that make them talk.

On Saturday, however, there was little window shopping. Frankie was on a mission. He was determined to spend his £5 on Pokémon cards. A pack of 6 cards costs £2.49.

Now, I used to collect football cards as a kid, so I understand the collector’s fever gripping my son’s brain. The pleasure of having a Bryan Robson in Manchester United away kit must be akin to finding a ‘legendary’ Pokémon card like Groudon in one of those foil packets. I also think, of all the card collecting phenomenon, Pokémon is the most harmless and has the most charm.

But, fuck me, £2.49 for 6 bits of printed cardboard? Surely someone is taking the piss here?

Maybe you know you’re losing your inner child when you consider these cards to be a complete rip-off. However, I do think this is ruthless exploitation of that autistic bit of all male kids’ brains that addicts them to collecting.

Cousin Ed just passed on his Pokémon collection to Frankie. At nine years old, Ed has now outgrown them. He had collected over 600 cards. That’s £240 worth of bits of cardboard. Christ, he could have bought a used Nissan Bluebird down Hackney with that! And gone banger-racing. Admittedly that’s probably illegal, but you get my point. It’s the futile cry of all parents as they see their kids piss money up the wall. And that, whatever shite is being pushed at kids, will never change.