Saturday, June 24, 2006

Shaven Headed Bubble Seller

In the town centre of Nottingham today I saw a man selling plastic “bubble makers”, which caused huge foot-wide bubbles to form in the air.

Bubbles are whimsical beautiful things. Part of their appeal is their essential pointlessness. Their only reason for existing is aesthetic delight.

All of which made the shaven headed bubble seller seem a little incongruous as he had the manner of a man more at home kicking someone’s head in behind a nightclub. Indeed, the sullen brutal expression on his face suggested that he was imagining exactly that, as he pumped out bubble after bubble with all the joy of someone feeding their scrotum into a mincer.

read moreI have noticed this phenomenon before. As a rule of thumb, the more whimsical and childish the item for sale, the more scowling and hard looking the seller.

Perhaps there is an element of overcompensation at work, to overcome a fear of being thought of as “soft”. Thus, a man selling knives or nunchuckas will feel no threat to his masculinity and happily smile at his customers, stroke passing kittens and reminisce about favourite ballet steps from his youth, while a man selling dancing pink dolls will feel compelled to carry a severed head in his other hand which he will chew on from time to time.

Also today, and also on the theme of bubbles, I visited an installation by the clever people at Architects of Air. I can thoroughly recommend it. It’s effectively a big inflatable series of rooms, lit wonderfully with ambient sound from hidden speakers. I sat inside pondering – is it like being in a womb, a gut, an alien spaceship or simply a bouncy castle with illusions of grandeur? My lofty musings were brought back down to earth as I spotted a vacant looking staff member following children around with a trigger spray bottle of detergent.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Joke T Shirt

I saw a person the other day wearing a t-shirt with a joke on the front. I smiled and then laughed to myself. And because I wanted to reward them, in a small way, for wearing such a funny t-shirt I looked up into their face, raised my eyebrows and shook my head while smiling. They looked back at me with the blank slightly pissed off look of someone who has totally forgotten they are wearing a funny t-shirt.

I felt betrayed and foolish.

( For those who feel annoyed that I didn’t mention exactly what the joke on the front of the t-shirt was, you should realise that this is totally irrelevant. If you like, you can pretend it was a t-shirt bearing your favourite joke. Go on, go crazy. Unless, of course, your favourite joke is racialist or sexualist.

Bumming jokes are fine though. )

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Combination Lock

I’ll tell you what it feels like. It feels like I’ve been trying to crack a combination lock for years. And the combination lock in question isn’t a dial or a little keypad. Oh no, this baby’s big. Full sized keyboard big. The amount of potential combinations I could enter is staggering.

And I’ve been tapping in codes for a long time: endless permutations of letters, strings sometimes thousands of digits long. And sometimes these random combinations might accidentally cough up actual words. They might resemble sentences, or even full stories.

But don’t let that fool you. They’re just codes. Any pattern is an illusion. Any narrative you think you see exists only in your mind. It’s all just code.

read moreAnd I’ve been at this for years. Tapping away at my keyboard. Discarding old approaches, leaping upon new methods with fevered intensity. Mutating, adapting, editing, refining, trying to second guess the lock builders. Punching in code string after code string.

And sometimes I think I’ve cracked it. The lock clicks promisingly, maybe moves a little. A little light leaks out. Then the lock corrects, whirs and ticks, closing tight again with a pneumatic sigh.

But I carry on. I don’t what else to do. All my other skills and interests have withered and fallen away. I only know the keyboard. And the lock.

And eventually there comes a point when I have forgotten that there is even a lock. I have forgotten why I am even here. All I hear is my fingers on the keyboard and all I can see are the code strings marching across the screen in front of me.

And slowly, my focus shifts. I begin to see beauty in the code strings where before I had seen simply utility. I start to realise that there are ways to make the code even more beautiful, without losing any of it’s functionality. The accidental words and characters and stories which I had previously endured as a necessary evil now become my focus.

The code ceases to be the means to an end. The code is no longer the journey. The code is now the destination. I soon reach the point where I can think of no better way to spend my life creating infinitely more intricate and elegant code strings.

I am so absorbed in my new purpose it is some time before I realise that I am now bathed in light from the open lock.

I grin and keep typing.

Monday, June 19, 2006


What genre is real life?


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Rumours and Falsehood

Even though officially I am no longer a stand up comic, I am still in fairly regular contact with a few other acts from the circuit. One of them happened to mention a couple of months ago that he had heard another act swear blind that the reason I had stopped doing stand up was because I was making a film and “was now a millionaire”.

This got me thinking.

read moreThe stand up circuit is a notoriously bitchy place and loves rumours, especially concerning the hubris and downfall of others. I decided to craft a few rumours of my own about my current situation.

I then contacted four different comedians and gave them one rumour each to spread. I also gave them a little background to the jape and said that they should feel free to ad lib additional details at leisure.

Here are the four rumours;

1) I wrote a film script which came very close to being made into a film. I was so convinced that it would go ahead that I put my house up as security and left the circuit.

However, the film fell through, I lost my house and am now living back with my parents. I also can't return to the circuit as I sold my routine on e-bay and have got to write a fresh twenty.

2) The script I wrote contains a lot of people’s material from the circuit, which is why I can never return to stand-up.In addition, on my last gig I smashed my vibrating watch with a hammer on stage at Jongleurs Birmingham, but I didn't clear this with anyone and a bit of glass went into someone's drink. As a result, Jongleurs are being sued and have banned me from appearing at any Jongleurs venue ever again.

3) The film script is essentially a backstage expose of the circuit, with thinly veiled references to well known characters. For this reason, obviously I had to leave the circuit.

4) The film script story is merely a cover. I am now doing porn.

Having sown the rumour seeds, I sat back waiting for them to cross pollinate. What bizarre misheard hybrids would emerge? Which one would dominate? What would happen when two conflicting rumours were voiced in the same dressing room?

I recently got my one and only report back. One of my agents was in a dressing room and began to disseminate his cluster bomb of bullshit, when the act listening stopped him dead and said in a bored voice:

“Oh yeah, Jamie Mathieson. He wants lots of rumours spread about himself doesn’t he?”