1. I Watched Some People Get Owned By Seagulls And Didn’t Envy Them At All

    Posted June 5, 2018 in Diary  |  No Comments so far

    We were on Brighton beach, in the most touristy area right next to the pier. This must be the part of the beach that seagulls particularly like.

    A man and woman came and sat down not far from us. They had bought some fish and chips from Harry Ramsdens and when they unwrapped it I could smell the salty, vinegary, fishy food. Seagulls must love eating this stuff.

    One seagull was curious about the fish and chips so it walked over to take a closer look and have a quick peck at the man’s chips. The man flapped his hand at the seagull and it hopped off. I suppose seagulls are accustomed to being brushed off in this way.

    The seagull came back but this time it didn’t walk but flew instead, landing beak-first in the man’s chips.

    “F-ck off!” the man shouted, flailing. “You f-cking c-nt!” The seagull flew a short distance away.

    At this point I find it hard to explain what happened. Maybe the seagull squawked in a certain way, or sent a coded signal with an artful flap of its wings. Maybe it communicated via telepathy.

    But whatever it did was successful: in less than a second, around thirty seagulls descended from the sky and, undeterred by profanity, took control of the situation. Their victory was decisive, total and near-instant. The couple who now found themselves at the centre of this shrieking yellow-beaked maelstrom leapt to their feet and bolted, propelled by entirely understandable terror. I don’t think they stopped running until they were well clear of the beach.

    With the humans out of the way, the thirty frantic seagulls made quick work of the Harry Ramsden’s fish and chips. After twenty seconds there seemed to be no edible substances remaining. The party was over. The seagulls lost their motivation and stood around dumbly, like NPCs in a computer game that have reverted back from some mission-specific subroutine into their default wandering behaviour. All humans in the immediate vicinity regarded the aftermath in horror.

    At that point my wife arrived with a brown paper bag that contained our own takeaway lunch.

  2. It’s all kicking off in Haringey

    Posted December 28, 2017 in London, transport  |  No Comments so far

    In Haringey, the council is changing the way it charges for car parking. Dialogue between the council and the scheme’s opponents is progressing via a medium that is unconventional but actually rather apt: the parking meters themselves.

    Is this all the work of one person? It looks like the same sort of pen, and the handwriting is similar. The wording in that second matches that of the original yellow stickers. Perhaps this is just a one-man crusade. A lone wolf. Or perhaps these interventions are radicalising a whole new generation of militants. Only time will tell.

    See full post on James Ward’s blog.

  3. An interview with the actor who played Ziggy in The Wire

    Posted January 21, 2015 in ephemera  |  No Comments so far

    I enjoyed this interview with James Ransone, who played Ziggy in Season 2 of The Wire.

    As every fan of The Wire knows, the second season was the show’s apogee. It put the larger-than-life characters (Omar, Stringer) to one side and focused instead on the struggles of the working class community around the Baltimore dockyards. But although those struggles might initially seem dull compared with the high-stakes gangland drama of Season 1, the second outing of The Wire is the clear winner in terms of high Shakespearean tragedy.

    The only people who really dislike the second season are white people. People got mad that they moved it out of the hood. And look, there might be an element that the character is annoying, but there’s that feeling of familiarity too. That the blue collar worker might hit a little close to home rather than the projects of East Baltimore. Ziggy is more like a family member you might have; there’s not this cognitive dissonance. You’re much more likely to know someone like Ziggy than to know someone like Omar.

    Ziggy might well be the Jar Jar Binks of The Wire, but he’s a deeply tragic character, and it must have been weird for the actor who played him to only start being recognised on the streets 6 years after the show originally aired.

  4. Your journey to the future

    Posted November 5, 2013 in ephemera, Photos  |  No Comments so far

    Your journey to the future

    You’d think they could have at least laid on a bus replacement service.

  5. Love letters and live wires

    Posted September 23, 2008 in media  |  No Comments so far

    On Sunday my girlfriend and I were attempting to make it to BFI in time to watch Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, but as a result of some Boris Johnson/Sky Sports-related event we became ensnarled in traffic and arrived ten minutes too late.

    The BFI don’t show advertisements and don’t allow people in once a feature has started, so this put the kibosh on our plans. However, we took a look through the programme and noticed Love Letters and High Wires: Highlights from the GPO Film Unit.

    Telecoms geeks will know what the GPO is—but not everyone is a telecoms geek. The GPO, or General Post Office, used to run both post and telecommunications in Britain, up until the creation of British Telecom in 1980. In the mid-1930s, the GPO set up its own film unit, and produced a series of public information films intended to educate the British population about its services.

    This was a period when communications were being transformed in Britain – telephones were becoming near-ubiquitous and the postal service increasingly mechanised. A lot of people felt confused and uncertain about a lot of these technological advances and so there was a compelling motive for films of this nature to be produced.

    The surprising thing about these public information films, though, isn’t the fact that they were made at all, but that they were of outstanding quality and originality. Among the eight short films we saw were examples of surrealist animation (Norman McLaren’s Love on the Wing), abstract use of found footage (Len Lye’s Trade Tattoo) and a fairy-tale approach to marketing Post Office savings accounts (Lotte Reiniger’s The Tocher).

    Alongside these innovative pieces of work were some more traditional, but still fascinating, documentary films. Night Mail, the short film for which WH Auden’s poem was written, follows the Mail Special as it travels north from London to Glasgow. We see how nets sticking out from the side of the train are used to snatch up mailbags along the route without the train having to slow down (we were wondering, do they still do that? I hope so), and how the on-board sorters continually re-label the 48 pigeonholes they use with a different list of towns as they pass from region to region.

    My two favourites, though, were both films with a more educational purpose. N or NW, a film by Len Lye, is the story of how a lovers’ tiff is nearly exacerbated by the incorrect application of a postcode (the guy thinks that Upper Street is in NW1 – shocking!) but ultimately resolved by the efficiency of the GPO. The Fairy of the Phone sees a spectral phone operator with crystal-clear diction provide advice and guidance on telephone usage to a number of confused characters. We are instructed on how to answer the phone, why it’s a bad idea to use outdated directories, how to dial ‘our friends on the continent’ and how long we should give someone else to answer our call. It’s not just informative, however, it’s extremely humorous, and I strongly recommend trying to track down a copy of it online.

    That film got me thinking about how a modern equivalent might look. How would you personify the internet? What sort of advice would the personification would dish out? This made me think of AOL’s Connie (right), who would appear in television ads to sort out the (numerous) problems of AOL subscribers. She was the closest thing I could think of to the “Fairy of the Internet”, but to be honest she doesn’t really measure up to her predecessor.

  6. The harsh reality of life as a Burger King ingredient

    Posted August 18, 2008 in marketing  |  No Comments so far


    A very strange tray liner, found in an airport Burger King, depicts some very strange goings-on.

    The scene is from Veg City Airport, where passengers are being screened for their suitability as Burger King ingredients. It’s quite a cutesy idea but—as you can probably see above—it’s received quite an adult treatment. We can see:

    • A gherkin security guard preparing to cavity-search an onion
    • A magazine on the floor called “Playveg”, with a large-breasted carrot on the cover
    • Another magazine called “Green & Horny” featuring a topless pickle

    It’s all a bit brutal isn’t it? What’s the thinking behind it? Have children become sufficiently desensitised, post-9/11, that they can laugh at things like anal cavity searches or jokes about porn? Or is Burger King trying to be deliberately “edgy”?

  7. My picks from “On the Bus”

    Posted August 11, 2008 in social media  |  2 Comments so far

    I posted recently about Tweets on the bus, a little site that aggregates all Twitter posts containing the phrase “on the bus”.

    Since that post, I’ve been following the “on the bus” posts using Google Reader. Every now and again there’s one that makes me laugh. Here’s a digest of my favourite “on the bus” tweets from the last few weeks: