Friday 29 October 2010

Paddy "Pudsy" Morris R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Paddy Morris, a Scottish underground cartoonist who signed his work "Pudsy", who died suddenly (and far too soon) of a heart attack. He had contributed his uniquely funny brand of stoner humour to counter cultural comics and magazines ever since the early 1970s when his work appeared in OZ and Nasty Tales. He was also a contributor to Dope Funnies, and in more recent years to Bad Press’s Northern Lightz and Jim Stewart’s Ganjaman. He will be sadly missed.

Paddy “Pudsy” Morris

Thursday 7 October 2010

Reflections on "Missing"

In 1973 Charles Horman was an American journalist working in Chile, where he wrote for the periodical FIN and made a home with his wife. He was a Harvard graduate, the only child of successful New York businessman Edmund Horman. In the days following the fascist coup of September 11 1973, he became one of many people “disappeared” by the CIA-backed military dictatorship.

Both his father and his wife spent a month trying desperately to uncover his whereabouts. This painful and heart-wrenching experience would later become the subject of the award winning film Missing, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, who played Horman’s father and wife respectively (both of whom worked closely with the director Costa-Gavras on the film). It remains to this day a powerful, brave and very moving film.

For its unflinching depiction of the casual brutality of life within a fascist dictatorship, where the army is allowed to operate with impunity, Missing remains an important piece of history, but it is equally important for its timeliness. Filmed under conditions of secrecy in Mexico, and released in 1982 while Chile was still under the control of the junta, it was banned there until after Pinochet eventually relinquished power eight years later. It was also subject to a (failed) lawsuit, brought against Universal Studios and the film’s director by the former US Ambassador Nathaniel Davis, who was depicted but not named in the film, and two others.

It is worth remembering the nature of totalitarian governments, as they are effectively engaged in a one-sided war with their own (captive) populations. This is not something which those of us who have grown up in rich, democratic countries can ever really understand, but the complicity of our own governments in events such as those depicted in a film such as this makes it a part of our shared history whether we like it or not.

One of the most telling things we get from a film like this is some of the subtle ways in which the prevailing attitudes of governments can become internalized by the individuals who grow up under their shadow. Time and again we find, in the early stages of the coup, the American expatriate characters saying to each other “they can’t touch us, we’re Americans”, a delirious self confidence which captures in microcosm an attitude manifested in far more deadly ways by the United States government in its foreign policy, its willingness to intervene in the affairs of weaker nations if they perceive it to be in their “national interest”.

Sadly, this foreign policy shows little sign of changing any time soon, but as an optimist I still look forward to a day when the United States can shed its super-power image and stand as a democracy among democracies. Missing stands as an example of the dangers that can befall ordinary people when power runs away with itself and starts to think of itself as being so unquestionable as to be "super".

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Autonomous Art

This vibrant mural adorns one of the side walls of the Art Studio at the Hounslow Community Land Project, an autonomous eco village in the suburbs of west London.

I was most impressed by the spirit and initiative of the villagers, so much that I wrote a piece about it which will be appearing in the forthcoming issue of New Internationalist magazine.

The article can be read here.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Wasted #5

The fifth issue of Wasted, the shiny new adult humour magazine from Bad Press Ltd, will by all reports be published in the UK sometime in July. The current issue 4 is as sordid and funny as ever, despite the move to grayscale interiors. Personally, I don't think it matters, as long as the gags and jokes are good! My own character Amber appears alongside the likes of Tales of the Buddha, Lusi Sulfura and Johnny K*nt. Also appearing in issue 4 is a strip of mine featuring the degenerate duo Rathead & Phlegm, which was nice. Feel free to make full use of the subscription form above to save traipsing to your nearest comic or head shop.

Sunday 18 April 2010

A Visit To Highgate Cemetary

In brilliant summer sunshine we walked south from Highgate station, along streets flanked by grand old Victorian mansions, most of which are now broken up into flats. True to its name, Highgate lies on high ground, and every now and then we would catch a glimpse between buildings of one of the most beautiful, panoramic views of London to be had without having to walk all the way up Parliament Hill. Every time a road turned or a new side street joined the solid rivers of tarmac which flow across the low hills of this north London suburb we would gasp and stop, before pressing onwards towards our somewhat macabre destination: Highgate Cemetery.

Unusually for a cemetery Highgate’s east section carried a charge of three pounds a head. In order to get our monies’ worth we therefore chose to spend a full day exploring the tomb clustered wilderness which provides the final resting place of so many of our heroes.

Principle among them being Douglas Adams and Karl Marx, and what an interesting comparison they make! Adams’ gravestone is so modest and simple compared with Marx’s looming bust, as imposing in its way as the vast Soviet bureaucracies created in his name.

The amount of people buried here who have fought in their own ways for peace and social justice is quite remarkable. How much this has to do with the presence of Marx himself is an interesting question. It must be said that quite a number of notable left wing activists have secured plots which directly face his resplendent bust with its resounding proclamation to the “workers of all lands to unite”. One of them is Paul Foot, a keen agitator for social justice, orator, and contributor to Private Eye and Socialist Worker. His modest gravestone states in terms almost as simple as Adams’ that he was a “writer and revolutionary”. There is also a quote which I recognised as being by the Romantic poet Shelley, but couldn’t recall the poem in which it occurs. It is the final lines from ‘The Mask of Anarchy’:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few

It is a testament to the enduring appeal of Karl Marx and his philosophy of social equality and revolutionary change that he appears to be the most popular of all the east wing’s inhabitants. A number of factors prove this to be true. There is the fact that a sign advertising the presence of his mortal remains, complete with a small picture of the tomb, is pinned to the main gate. There is also the fact that nearly every foreign tourist who stopped us that day did so to ask where to find the final resting place of the Father of modern Socialism – Marx.

But Highgate cemetery bursts with notable individuals. The Pop artist Patrick Caulfield’s stylish gravestone states with stark finality: “DEAD”. I was delighted to discover the grave of the actor Sir Ralph Richardson, who performed many great roles, but who I know for his endearing portrayal of the Supreme Being in the classic Terry Gilliam movie Time Bandits. My girlfriend, being a native Australian, was equally delighted when we discovered that the Australian-born artist Sidney Nolan was included on the list of notable inhabitants in the map we picked up at the main entrance. We spent a good hour or more searching for Nolan, sadly to no avail.

It is perhaps a small irony of history that one of the tombs overlooking the bust of Marx should belong to a political philosopher whose defence of individualism and laissez faire capitalism stand in diametric opposition to the state-controlled bureaucracies and centralized monopolies Marx’s own ideas inspired. Herbert Spencer’s works include Social Statics and The Man Versus The State, and he was one of the foremost proponents of social Darwinism. It was Spencer who attempted to turn Darwin’s theory of natural selection into a scientific vindication of industrial capitalism. And perhaps most significantly, it is Herbert Spencer, not Charles Darwin, who is responsible for coining the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’.

I feel it important to record our pleasure at finding Marx and Spencer in such close proximity.

Amended February 2016.
The photographs appear courtesy of my wife Jane McPherson.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Amber Nectar on Facebook

Have I mentioned the Amber Nectar Appreciation Society group on Facebook? Well, I have now. Its open to anyone who has enjoyed the misunderstood heroine's forays through the pages of Wasted, Northern Lightz, and even (in a somewhat less clearly defined form) Freak. Why not join up and say "hi", make suggestions for future stories, exchange good natured abuse, or whatever takes your fancy!

Wednesday 6 January 2010

In Progress

I thought I'd share some low resolution images, so you can see how the art for my (work-in-progress) graphic novel The Battle Within is shaping up.