Thursday, June 28, 2007


I hate bureaucracy. I hate its glacial slowness. I hate its unbending certainty. I hate its crushing ineptitude and I hate its ability to suck the joy and merriment out of your life.

After moving into Schossadlerflug we've been wanting to get a phone line installed mostly so it can have broadband and we can play on the interwebs. Wondering why posting has been so light? Now you have your answer. I'm writing this at the studio between renders on the three projects I seem to be working concurrently on.

Ten days ago I used the surprisingly efficient online ordering system at to order a new line to be put into the flat. Let's not forget, that isn't the internet, this is just a phone line so we can then order the internet. For eight days I hear nothing, though they do seem to have gratefully accepted a hundred and twenty quid of my money for this inactivity. On Tuesday I returned from a meeting to discover an answerphone message on my mobile from someone at BT to inform me that they were trying to contact me to discuss my order. They didn't allude what they wished to talk about but they did give me a number to call. So call it I did. I waited for twenty minutes until the call was answered. It then took another half hour for the friendly but clueless operator to work out that he couldn't help me and I was given another number which, I was assured, had someone on the other end who would be able to tell me what was going on.

Undaunted by my hour long phone-call with nothing to show I dialled again. And I waited and then waited some more. I waited for forty minutes as the dialling tone was periodically interrupted by a robot to tell me that their lines were very busy at the moment, for which the soulless machine was very sorry, and that my call would be answered as soon as possible. I gave up and decided to call later. I phoned again at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and again my call went unanswered for forty minutes each time. My mood darkened and yet I would not give up just yet. So this morning I got into work at 8 a.m. sharp and dialled one more time. I waited for an hour and yet there was still no response other than the robot telling me how busy they still were so I screamed at the injustice of the world and gave up. Though I've ordered my line online, I can't check its progress online as BT's order-tracking works by you telling it the phone number of the line you wish to query - which I don't have yet. And I can't telephone the telephone company to either check on progress or cancel my damn order because they refuse to answer the bloody thing.

I might not expect BT to be terribly good at paper-work or to have a sparkling online presence but I do expect the premier telephone company to be able to run a call centre and answer the damn device they seem determined not to supply me with. This whole affair is taking on Kafka-ian proportions now, "One morning Gregor Atrocity awoke to discover he'd been turned into a gigantic BT sales agent." One might imagine that if customers of a major telecommunications provider have to wait for longer than an hour to get any service, for which they have paid, the company would hire more people for their call centre. Sadly BT only made £6 billion in profits last year so a few more telephone operators would probably put too much of a strain on resources.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Baudrillard's Children

Television has long walked the line between fact and fiction in subtler ways than cinema. The smaller scale of many TV dramas, the success of soap opera and latterly the domination of reality TV demonstrate that fiction that looks like mundane reality and reality that is dressed up as drama cross-pollinate ideas and themes with ever increasing interdependence. Yet despite this symbiosis and the constant allegations of fakery in reality TV there are important differences between it and drama.

TV drama is art, as in artifice; reality TV, nominally, is not. A TV drama uses complex editing, imagined people, sets and as many takes by actors as it requires to get the director's vision on tape. The entire process is a creative endeavour. Every situation represents a deliberate choice by someone working toward the production of a cultural text.

Reality television purports to place real people in real situations and to record the events that follow. The reality of the show may be wildly variable from the highly controlled and managed environment of "Big Brother" or "The Apprentice" to the apparently transparent modified reality of "Britain's Got Talent" where a situation is created in front of an audience both live and televisual and the programme appears to merely record the proceedings: there is an obvious emphasis on the putting on of a show rather than the concealed camera surveillance of the "Big Brother" house.

All documentaries and reality-based television show editorialise; their subjectivity is unavoidable. As I've discussed before, the mere act of selecting a moment, a camera angle and the timing of edits means that any pretence toward objectivity is just that, a pretence. It does not necessarily follow, however, that this means that documentaries are faked and no different to drama. Nonetheless, the line between a real event captured and the dramatisation of an event is blurring. For example, the exits of all contestants on "The Apprentice" were filmed months in advance of their actual departure from the show, their reactions are faked and the narrative continuity is created in post-production rather than real-time. A further example: the office where "The Apprentice" interviews are filmed is a set, based on a Alan Sugar's real office but with the improved lighting facilities that a purpose built set offer.

The BBC is quite open about these modifications to the natural course of events and whilst they are not apparent to the casual viewer they do not push the show into the realms of drama, unlike drama masquerading as documentary, such as United 93 which I've discussed before. What is happening with these decisions to use a set that looks like an office but with the trappings of a studio to facilitate higher quality images and the pre-recording of the contestant's exits to enable slicker editing for greater emotional impact is that the events in the show and the contestants themselves become simulacra - carefully crafted representations of what the real could be, a copy of reality - more real than real, in sharper focus with better lighting than plain dowdy reality could manage.

Mark Burnett, the creator of "Survivor" amongst other reality shows, has avoided the use of the word 'reality' when describing his programmes. "I tell good stories." he says, "It really is not reality TV. It really is unscripted drama." Whilst I agree that "Survivor" et al bear little resemblance to our perceived day to day reality, it is also questionable whether the epithet "unscripted drama" is very suitable either.

Unlike a TV drama, there are real-world implications to the process of a reality show, mostly financial, be it in terms of actual prize money or follow-on fees from newspaper stories and so forth. One could argue that actors pick roles with the same motivations but the actor is picked to play a pre-defined role that exists solely within the realm of the drama, the reality-TV show contestant is picked to be their portrayal of themselves. The connection between the friends, family and the contestant themself is pulled into the show to emphasise the reality. It is this suggestion of a connection between the contestant and the outside world, the one in which we live, which differentiates him or her from the actor. The relationships, domestic arrangements and history of the contestant are an integral part of the creation of this reality. Thus we know that Paul Potts, the winner of "Britain's Got Talent" is a Carphone Warehouse salesman. This is important information, it sells his reality to us; he becomes more real. Reality TV is itself a simulacrum of real life where the notion of truth has been usurped by a copy of reality - a hyper-realistic, more real than real version to the point where, as Jean Baudrillard put it, "the real no longer exists".

It is not enough that Paul Potts, is a talented aspiring singer who has received much, self financed, professional tuition in order that he might achieve his dreams of singing professionally, nor that he has sung in fringe opera for ten years. What we need is an 'undiscovered artist', a telephone salesman from Port Talbot with a 'hidden talent'; the judges on the show even described him thus. It is not a hidden talent however; two minutes of search on Google proves that, but what makes for the better reality/story, the whole truth, or the selected parts of his past that made up what we saw in ITV's version of reality? Obviously it is the latter and so that is what we got. The hyper-reality of "Britain's got Talent" is partly faux documentary, for example, the interviews conducted as the contestants come off stage were clearly not recorded at the time the editing suggests (the semi-finalist puppeteer has a different puppet when he is interviewed than he had on stage) and partly the careful selection of facts about the artists' backgrounds to create the desired reality of the programme makers. Nothing that was said about Mr Potts is untrue, so "Britain's Got Talent" is not drama, but it is not reality either. With the addition of the edits, the lighting, the coaching and the hyperbole, he becomes more real than real. He becomes a hyperreal entity and so we watch hyperreality TV.

Truly, we are all Baudrillard's children now.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Eagle Has Landed

I am so tired I can hardly type. Though I am naturally a worrier by inclination I did manage to sleep on Friday night before the move but I was a bag of nerves come Saturday morning. I'm the same when I travel anywhere, always thinking of the worst case scenario. By lunchtime the last of the packing had been done at Atrocity Mansions and a mountain of packing boxes stood by the door awaiting the arrival of the van. At five o'clock on the dot, Victor, the driver, parked up outside and then with the assistance of Tommy Dog we loaded the van in thirty minutes flat. A stately drive from South London to Bloomsbury followed with the redoubtable Victor easing the gas to ensure there were no breakages in the back.

We arrived at Schossadlerflug a half hour after departing and then spent another hour unloading the van and taking my worldly possessions up the lift to the top floor. Tommy Dog was an utter hero and has earned himself a slap up dinner of steak frites and a decent bottle of Fleurie at The French House on a date of his choosing. In two hours everything had been moved from Atrocity Mansions across the river to the resplendent Schossadlerflug. We made up the bed as a first priority moved a few boxes around, built a bookshelf and then, exhausted, decamped to Pizza Express for pizza and beer, both of which were well earned.

I have chosen the name Schossadlerflug for the new place on the blog because of a pleasing alignment of the fates. The name pertains to part of Tinseltroos' ludicrously long full surname, also to the fact that the street we now live on has an eagley theme and we are the top (or penthouse as we like to think of it) flat in our block so it has an eyrie kind of feel. So Schossadlerflug it is and we are delighted with it.

On Sunday Tinseltroos and Sisoftroos had to put the finishing touches to the cleansing of Tinseltowers to ensure the maximum return on their deposit. Any lingering doubts that T may have had about wishing to move to a new place quickly vanished when, as she took another bin-bag of rubbish out, she found a tramp and his boyfriend in flagrante delicto in their outdoor bin cupboard. Delightful. Some may say that this adds colour and cultural diversity to their former neighbourhood, I am not so sure about that so soon after breakfast.

I spent the morning assembling shelving, hi-fi equipment and unpacking my myriad boxes of books and putting them on the shelves which are now dotted throughout the new flat. I am told that the generally desired effect is to put the most impressive volumes in the room guests are most likely to visit. I didn't quite manage this so there are more comics on the shelf in the living room than anywhere else but hey-ho I'm sure no-one will really mind, they will at least get a farily honest appraisal of my tastes and predilictions. Next up was clothing. I managed to hang up all my clothes, leaving plenty of room for Tinseltroos' impressive wardrobe and then set about sorting out computer space in the studio/office/second bedroom. Post tramp-shock and book shelving we met up for a late lunch at Balans before Tinseltroos came back home with me to survey the mess I'd made. I cooked our first meal in the new flat: pasta with a cream, courgette, black olive and Parmesan sauce followed by one last round of unpacking before bed.

And that's pretty much where we are. There's still odds and sods in boxes; there will be the inevitable re-arranging of things we've already arranged when a better configuration suggests itself but we are pretty much moved in now. Tonight I will store the boxes of cables, art materials and whatnot in a tidier manner in the studio and then we will be in good shape for the weekend. It's tiring and boring unpacking but I love our flat and I'm so happy we've moved in together.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Onto Pastures New

Dawn on the Bridge

The last major items have been packed now. There remains the hi-fi (always last to be packed for obvious reasons), the radio, a guitar (see above) and a lamp in my room. It doesn't really seem like my room anymore. It had, over the last seven years, accreted detail and texture through occupancy and use and I have, systematically over the last few weeks, dismantled it all. Most I'm keeping because things like books break my heart to get rid of but some things have gone.

I have binned or shredded a lot of old letters and photographs. I'm not really sure why I kept them all. I can't say it's nostalgia because I never re-read them; they were just there. The same applies to the photos. I kept a selection as old hoarding habits die hard but much of it ended up in the bin. It's a strange mixture of emotions. On the one hand there is a tinge of fear of the unknown and the knowledge that I've disposed of things that at one time held great import to me. On the other I feel much lighter as though I've cast off some unnecessary trappings and can step, however falteringly, into a brighter tomorrow unencumbered by relics of my past. Not that I want to disinherit my past or wish it to fade from memory but just that it's gone now and the past is not a place to revisit often and never a good place to live.

On Saturday afternoon we will collect the keys to our new home, our first home together, and later the same day a van will turn up at Atrocity Mansions to load my carefully boxed treasures and then decant them and me at the all new Schlossadlerflug. Saturday I expect will be hell. I have many books and thus now have many, very heavy boxes. These have to be moved along with everything else across town and then unpacked and rehoused.

The last couple of weeks have already been quite tough enough already. It's the feeling of being ineffectual that creates the most stress. First you have to wait for your references to go through to the letting agent. Then you have to wait for a contact to be drawn up. Next, once all your belongings are packed, all you can do is sit, waiting and staring at your four, now blank walls, until you can actually go and collect the keys and then move in. Until all my boxes rest upon new turf I am going to be twitchy and nervous. As a creature of habit and someone whose nest is very important to him as a sanctuary of retreat and recuperation I find the whole idea of moving all my worldly goods terrifying. But it must be done and underneath the nerves there is excitement about the new life I am to share with my love and the knowledge that whilst it is hell at the moment, once we're in the flat together, with just us and our boxes, it is going to be a very magical place.

Keep your fingers crossed for our move and I will write again next week from work: there will be no Internet in Schlossadlerflug for a few weeks so I will be limited to posting from the studio or the few times I pop back to Atrocity Mansions to work on the bike until my lease runs out here. I will write when I can.

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New Shiny

Yowzers, the visual effects company I work for has a new website. For anyone who cares what I do during daylight hours look no further than this.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rock on Fire

Rock on Fire, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

They were loud, there was fire, there was a drum stand decorated with skulls and they closed with more fireworks than I've ever seen indoors and "Kickstart My Heart". It was very, very good.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where's My Stuff?

I Have No Table Anymore

It's been a pretty exhausting weekend. On Wednesday our packing boxes arrived at work and Tinseltroos and I man-handled them back to Tinseltowers before dividing them up and loading my half, along with me into a cab to head back to Atrocity Acres so I could begin the entertaining task of packing all my worldly possessions into the aforementioned. Over Thursday and Friday night I managed to pack my books away, a herculean task in itself, and over the weekend I've packed DVD players, kitchen equipment and nearly all my other treasures and now here I sit on my floor (the table and bookshelves got flat-packed) writing away looking at the bare walls of my little room. It's very strange to think that in a week I will have a very different life indeed.

Last week it really finally dawned on me that my seven year spell in Atrocity Acres was coming to an end. As I walked into work, on the same route I've used on bus or foot for nearly nine years, it was sobering to realise that now I am to do it only five more times. All the areas I know so well and have watched change over the nine years I've been in London will suddenly not be my neighbourhood anymore. The pub that has been my local for all the time I've been here will cease to be such, the local shopkeepers will eventually become strangers. I think this week I shall have to try to experience my favourite parts of the neighbourhood for one last time as a local, rather than an occasional visitor.

Within my room it all feels so odd too. I am a natural cave-dweller and have thus, over the years, carefully built up my room to be a densely packed expression of myself. And now it's all in boxes or on a pile to go to the charity shop or eBay.

Please don't think I'm regretting making the move, very far from it, but it's only at the eleventh hour that you open your eyes to what you will no longer experience on a daily basis.

By this time next week I will be in Tinseltroos and my first home together. That is a wonderful thought. It is the intervening week of contracts, keys, inventories and removals that fills me with dread.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Superficial Snapshots

Allison V. Smith Presents...

There are many reasons I love the internet. Probably the aspect that appeals to me most about it is the way it enables individuals to be creative in ways previously only open to those with huge resources or access to mass media. Above you can see me thumbing through a perfect example of this. I was reading one of my favourite blogs, "suck it trebek" authored by Nerver and Jen when I came upon an entry about the work of Alison V. Smith, a Texas based photographer. Alison had self published a small book of photographs called Superficial Snapshots.

I liked what I saw online and so, through the magic of PayPal, I ordered myself a copy. It is a delightful book full of pictures displaying a strong sense of colour and composition: lovely. It is hard to see how, without the series of tubes, she could have marketed her book to a broad enough audience to make it worthwhile producing and how I could have found out about it and then purchased it.

Thank you Alison, and thanks to Jen and Nerver for the tip off.

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Paging Dr. Feelgööd

I really shöüld be över this by nöw. I'm thirty öne years öld. I shöüld have deeply söphisticated tastes and have learned tö spürn the cheap and the shallöw, preferring the sübtle depths öf great cültüre. I dön't want tö want tö gö. And yet I cannöt deny the pröföünd yearnings that have been törmenting me för sö many years. And becaüse I am weak I am göing tö see Mötley Crüe play at The Hammersmith Apöllö ön Mönday night.

Stöp, I dö nöt need yöür pity.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Poor Service

Mr Atrocity at Lord's

I apologise for the lack of words/rubbish this week but I am in the midst of my first week back at work on a new film so there's a lot to get sorted before I can relax there and when I'm not at work I'm frantically putting things in boxes ready to move house. I have a few things I want to get written down and when I have a spare evening I will do so but for the next couple of weeks posting is going to be scarce. Sorry, folks.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Salad Days Are Over

I've been out and about for the last few days hence the lack of keyboard presence. Thursday saw myself, Tinseltroos and Sisoftroos at London Zoo to see Golden Lion Tamarins, the amazing gorillas in their new enclosure, tigers and of course, the penguins:


On Friday Tinseltroos and I boarded a train up the North to visit my mum. We had a lovely weekend visiting Hawksmoor, my favourite place on Earth as well as venturing into Nantwich to get local small brewery beer from the fantastic Barleycorns. Otherwise we just took it easy.


Mama Atrocity took great delight in digging out all my baby photos to embarrass me with in front of my beloved who I think swung between amusement and thinking me cute when little. I took the opportunity to make copies of a few so that I can have records of my formative years to hand. I won a beautiful baby competition in the local newspaper with this shot. What went so wrong after that?

Small Atrocity

Today, after a delicious fried breakfast cooked by Mama Atrocity which allowed Tinseltroos to taste her first North Staffordshire oatcake (I'm so proud) we got the slow train back to London which enabled me to do some reading, play a little Mario Kart and listen to some backed up podcasts. This afternoon I finished removing the paint from my bike frame and began sanding the little patches of surface rust off. I sorted through the DVDs downstairs, the majority of which belong to me in order to separate mine out to be boxed later in the week. That done I've started shredding my old financial papers. This moving house business is a lot of work. Still it'll be well worth it; I can't wait to set up a little home with Tinseltroos. It will be almost like we're grown-ups or something.

Tomorrow I start back at work following my month long hiatus. It's been exciting, relaxing and I've got a lot of stuff sorted out ready for the move. I think I'm in good shape to work and to pack up my belongings. It's going to be a frantic fortnight. Bring it on.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Nice Lugs

Nice Lugs, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

I stripped the majority of the paint off the frame and forks this morning. Jesus but Nitromors is nasty stuff. It's bloody effective though. A few areas of remaining paint will get the treatment again next week and then I can sand off the little rust spots before I send it away to be painted. It actually feels like I'm achieving something on this project.

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