TOTW: Three weeks on

Posted on November 15th, 2009 in making things

In about six hours, this week’s T-shirt of the Week — the little bit of weekly madness brought to you by Warren’s brain and my machine shop — expires.  If you’re reading this on my site, there’ll be a little countdown widget there in the sidebar giving you the precise (to a factor of “pretty much”) time to live, which you can, if you like, stick in your own blog and watch it automagically update tomorrow with the new TOTW.

Will tomorrow’s design be niftier?  Who knows?  I’m taking the opportunity that a weekly project affords to try and up my game each time… but whether you like the next (or the next, or the next) better is, well, it’s all a bit like Let’s Make A Deal, isn’t it? Only instead of fabulous prizes and curtains named Door #4, it’s fabulous bits of silly on whatever clothing options we’ve decided to offer this week.  But the basic premise stands: Either you decide this week’s is the design you want… or its gone and that’s that.

Which is something worth taking a closer look at, I think, because it seems a bit counterintuitive to the whole idea of the internet and POD.

If there’s anything we know about the internet, it’s that it’s going to be forever, innit?  It’s one big giant archive of information going all the way back to the dawn of time, certainly.  And that’s incredimazing, of course — we’re adding to the archives every day as things like Google Book search add out-of-print titles, and the Wayback Machine does its best to even give us snapshots of now-dead sites.  Mp3 repositories are adding out-of-stock or never-in-stock bootlegs and live recordings of music.  Nasa are putting up snapshots of dead stars (that’d be the dawn of time almost-hyperbole).  It all comes down to this: If it’s online, there’s no need to act fast.  You can bookmark it with Delicious and get around to it next week, if you like, or next year, or never.

And, with POD, there’s really no “…while supplies last!” either.  That’s brilliant, too, of course — a huge part of putting Shivering Sands on Lulu is just that: it can stay there as long as Lulu does, still pulling in a sale or two in ten years.

But, although I’m not advocating a fake or forced sense of urgency — because that’s a bit cheap, and more than a bit insulting to folks’ intelligence — there is something to be said about exploring how some online and POD systems do lend themselves to Being An Event.

It was Warren that first brought my attention to the concept of Event Internet (although he calls it “Appointment,” but I don’t love those so I’ve renamed for comfort), so I’m riffing off his playbook, here.  But he’s certainly not the only person playing with the idea.  There’s the well-documented Twitter-Flash-Mobbery that Amanda Palmer’s been pushing for a while, or Eliza Gauger’s Sweatshops, for instance.  Hell, just a few minutes ago, Wil sent me a link to this, saying: “It redraws random fractals every few seconds. You can’t save them, so you just appreciate them and then wait for the new one to show up.”  Which isn’t precisely an “event,” I suppose, but it sums up the idea rather nicely: You can’t save everything — although you can often record the live event to watch later — but sometimes, some things, even online, are about this moment.  And when they’re gone, you missed it.

So what the hell could that possibly have to do with Print On Demand which, as I just said, is so great because it just stays there forever?  Well, it’s all about looking at the tools in your kit and thinking about new ways to use them. 

Cafepress, for instance, only allow one of each item at any given time in a free shop.  Oh, sure, Warren and I could open a new shop every week, I suppose — except then you start running into the law of diminishing return visitors, as older store URLs get lost and forgotten.  There are ways around that, too, if that’s how you want to use the Cafepress toolset — but we decided to turn that built-in constraint into feature.  Hence, each week we only have one of each item — and when we want a new design, we turn over (almost) the whole stock. (We do have a few items that will stay forever, and that’s the beauty of that.)

But where it starts getting really interesting is when you start thinking “What else could I do?”

Brian Wood, for instance, delighted me yesterday with this little tidbit: “I have a POD book done through Lulu and for each convention I brought it to I changed the contents and cover of the book slightly, doing new print runs each time. You can upload and replace the print file as often as you like, which is great.”

Think about that for a moment:  Lulu allow you to upload new guts and/or covers for a single book as many times as you want.  What else could you do with a constantly updating physical object?  Corrections and updates, surely — but what about yearly volumes that over-write the last?  A URL-as-and-to-palimpsest of new-growth writing taking over the pages that may no longer be culturally relevant in this moment. Is it a counter-intuitive use of what we think of as a book?  Perhaps.  But its interesting, too, isn’t it?

What about POD magazines with no back-catalogue?  What possible use is that?  I dunno, yet, but I’m thinking about it.  Even that little widget there in the sidebar, when it automagically updates in a few hours, it’s going to be something new and never revisited.  And sure, that’s not a physical thing… except your eyes do say it’s there, so it sort of is.

I’m awfully close to entering one of my fugue states where I just start saying things that don’t exist yet in a stream of barely decipherable consciousness, so I’m going to leave off with this: don’t just think about format as “how we get stuff from Point Brain to Point Audience” — think about why we use formats that are “permanent” or “ephemeral” or “static” or “dynamic”, and what we can do with any and all of the above.

And I’ll see you tomorrow with a new T-shirt of the Week.

Fourth Wall Interview via Kieron Gillen

Monday November, 23 2009 04:11 AM PST

Actually, another one, which deserves a post by itself.

The Fourth Wall do an interview with yours truly. A whole hour of gibber, about half on Marvel stuff, half on other stuff and… oh, they’ve got a set list. Click and see and then click and download if it takes your fancy and/or you have a desperate urge to hear my nasal whine.

(Listening, I’m totally being full on arrogant mode near the end. Man!)

Comments: Dragon Heir - Chapter #7 via Emma Vieceli

Monday November, 23 2009 04:03 AM PST

Lucky 7? We'll see. I am returned from the glorious weekend that was Thought Bubble in Leeds, and now it's Dragon Heir time! We're leaving Protus and Furose to get to know each other for a bit, but things are about to change for worker spirit Ella! As always, do head back here and let me know your thoughts, guys. For now...please to be clicking the banner ^_^

Gillencomickylinks via Kieron Gillen

Monday November, 23 2009 01:57 AM PST

Let’s start the day with some stuff involving me, because that’s always a perennially popular topic in a blog that’s abstractly about my work.

(In fact, that it’s become an actual workblog thing rather than something a little more oddball and improvisational is something that nags at me. Part of me knows it’s because of RPS taking a lot of my spare blogging time. Part of me knows that I suspect I’d have backed off a little at - hnnnngggghhh - this stage in my career anyway. I mean, people who are surprised when I’m heart-on-sleeve now are going to be in en rapt with sheer horror if they go back in the archives now, y’know?)

Firstly, some PG2.5 reviews…

Greg Burgas, Comics Should Be Good: “Let’s start the day with this. Firstly, some PG2.5 reviews…”
Kyle Garret, Comics Bulletin: “Phonogram is great comics and more people should take the plunge into its world, because there?s nothing else like it.”
Hannibal Tabu, The Buy Pile: “Wonderful, engaging and brilliant.”
Paul O’Brien, House to Astonish: “…as usual with Phonogram, it doesn?t really matter whether you know the band or not. The point is what they mean to Laura, and her love/hate relationship with Penny? and that?s universal.”

Secondly, some podcasty malarkies. Firstly, House to Astonish talk about S.W.O.R.D.. Secondly… ifanboy have a very brief chat about PG2.5, but you should be listening to them anyway.

Thirdly, I’ve got the second issue of Ares out this week. There’s a five page preview here. It’s also the final issue of JMS’ Thor, which has a five page preview here. My first issue is next week, and there’s a six page preview at the back of JMS’ issue. So if you want to see anything of my Thor, that’s the first place you’ll see it.

Fourthly, a little footage of the 2:55am scenes at Leeds, including an incy bit of The Event.

Tom via Trixie Bedlam

Sunday November, 22 2009 07:03 PM PST

trixiebedlam posted a photo:


butcher shop via Trixie Bedlam

Sunday November, 22 2009 07:02 PM PST

trixiebedlam posted a photo:

butcher shop

seriously high-end butcher.

of note via Trixie Bedlam

Sunday November, 22 2009 07:02 PM PST

trixiebedlam posted a photo:

of note

check via Trixie Bedlam

Sunday November, 22 2009 07:01 PM PST

trixiebedlam posted a photo:


now to see the rest of the beautiful

Cookie Misfortune and Stocking Stuffage via Meredith Yayanos

Sunday November, 22 2009 06:46 PM PST

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. For many of us, these two holidays represent an opportunity to give thanks for the many blessings in life with creatively stuffed bird carcasses and to observe the sacred, immaculate birth of baby Jesus with hemorrhagic spending sprees, respectively. For others, they’re merely an excuse to go see schlockbuster matinees and pig out on massive quantities of Chinese buffet food.

Cookie_Misfortune_small copy
[via Whittles]

No matter how you choose to celebrate T-Day and JC’s B-Day, your experience can only be improved by Cookie Misfortune:

For too long, the world of fortune cookies has been nothing but banal platitudes and generic hopes for a brighter future. That?s all over now. Cookie Misfortune is making it possible to blow minds and ruin dinners everywhere.

[The cookies' messages] range from the quotidian (Fuck you) to the particular (You will die alone and poorly dressed) to the classical (Life is nasty, brutish, and short). You?ll never get two of the same in any given box of ten. Furthermore, our Misfortunes will be changing frequently, according to our whimsy.

I have to admit something- I’ve fantasized about doing EXACTLY what these guys have done for years, but could never quite muster the funds (or the vitriol) to follow through. Three cheers for Russell and Jason and their fang-ed wee upstart. I hope you guys sell a fuckload of these as white elephant gifts for the holidays.


Other choice Coilhouse-sanctioned stocking stuffers:

  • Snarky McFuck Buttons (shown above)
  • Snake & Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret
  • Diesel Sweeties goodies
  • Nifnaks
  • Zoetica Ebb fine art prints
  • Warren and Ariana’s Electrophonic Empire
  • Matt Jones’ “Get Excited and Make Things” tee
  • And of course, Coilhouse #03. (Not to mention #04! Which you’ll be hearing more about very soon.)

Scrappy teensy indie vendors, have you got holiday wares you’d like to promote? Add your link in comments. (Please, just keep it short and sweet. A brief description and a URL, thanks!)

Post tags: Crackpot Visionary, DIY, Diasporrhea, Food, Shopping

Thought Bubble Afterparty Playlist via Jamie McKelvie

Sunday November, 22 2009 02:38 PM PST


At Long Last: or, But I STILL Love PBS via Cherie Priest

Sunday November, 22 2009 01:03 PM PST

A very nice man from Noffke towing company has just removed the Doom Sentra, which I’ve been driving for about eight years. I’m sad to see the wee white car go — almost illogically so, given that it is, at the end of the day, just a piece of machinery … one that has given me a great deal of grief over the last year. But it was a piece of machinery with my own comfy butt-print worked into the driver’s seat, and I’ll miss her all the same.

As some of you know already, I donated the vehicle to my local PBS affiliate, KCTS9.

I did this for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) — the fact that it needed many minor repairs and would’ve been a pain in the neck to sell; whatever it goes for at auction will be a tax-write-off; and I have an (previously confessed) unholy love for public television.

But I must admit, the donation process turned out to be an elaborate pain in the neck. It’s supposed to be a 2-3 day event whereby they send a towing company grab your car and give you a piece of paper; but due in part to the incompetence and hilarity provided by one particular KCTS9 customer service rep, this turned out to be a week-and-a-half long process that occurred only in the wake of six phone calls and fanatical persistence on my part.*

For what it’s worth, the towing company fellow went above and beyond to help me out. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be sitting around waiting for one particular woman at the KCTS9 vehicle donation office to uncork head from ass. But Towing Gent assured me that they perform 15-20 of these donation pick-ups per day, and they almost never become FUBAR’d like mine.

So although I make this tiny public grousing about how things were handled, I do want to assert that I don’t regret the decision and I do recommend it for other people. When all was said and done, they still removed the car and gave me the correct paperwork, and despite KCTS9’s merry gauntlet of interference, I was able to make my donation.

Honestly, the time frame wouldn’t have been quite such a big deal except that I’d left the Sentra parked on the street here in Capital Hill, where street parking is a rare and precious commodity. It’s so rare and so precious in fact, that after we’d left the Sentra unmoved for about two weeks, a parking enforcement officer told me that it should be classified as “abandoned” and subsequently impounded if I didn’t relocate it. I told the nice man in the little cop go-cart that the car was presently uninsured (so I legally couldn’t move it), because I was in the process of donating it to PBS. He seemed appeased, but you must understand why every subsequent day that the KCTS9 office failed to sort out the paperwork and send the tow truck was a day of stress for yours truly. Especially once the chalk marks began to appear on the tires again.

Anyway. Ordeal: Over. Sentra: On to a better place, to serve a higher purpose. PBS: Still a rock star in my eyes. But henceforth you may expect me to wince and gently eyeroll every time I see those commercials begging, “please give us your car - it’s easy!”

* I have in fact sent them a friendly email to this effect, detailing the full story and exactly how the communication breakdown occurred.

Links for 2020-11-21 via Warren Ellis

Sunday November, 22 2009 01:00 PM PST

  • Help ?Escape From Dullsville? Escape Obscurity!
    "About a week ago, he finally finished the 288 page book collecting all 7 issues of L.O.A.F. The collection, titled ?Escape from Dullsville? also contains over 80 pages of new material, including the previously unpublished L.O.A.F. #8. Unfortunately, pre-orders have not been high enough for SLG to justify printing the book. (That can?t have been an easy decision for a publisher so dedicated to supporting industry underdogs.) Unless Andy can raise enough pre-order sales quickly it may never be printed…"
    (tags:comics )
  • ‘Frankenstein’ fix lets asteroid mission cheat death - space - 20 November 2020 - New Scientist
    "the mission team has now cobbled together another working engine using parts from two sick ones" - this mission, as I recall, was an absolute lemon
    (tags:space )
  • Acoustic Weaponry In Nature

    (tags:video )

  • polis: a blog about cities: Underground Below Ulaanbaatar: Homelessness in Mongolia’s Capital City
    "The manhole covers are often only partly closed because they serve as the doorway to the underground sewers where the homeless of Ulaanbaatar live. The homeless sleep underground on the hot water pipes as a way to keep warm during the bitter winters…"
    (tags:city pol architecture )
  • polis: a blog about cities: Paramodernism
    "…not the repackaged neomodernism that seems to be cropping up everywhere, a literally redesigned utopia that ignores the social, the political and the very notion of a just city or the right to the city - but one which is capable of taking on the profound and intertwined crises of poverty, injustice and the environment. This requires not a new modernism but a paramodernism, something altered, contrary beyond and alongside what has come before…"
    (tags:architecture culture )

Notes On Thought Bubble via Kieron Gillen

Sunday November, 22 2009 09:15 AM PST

Jamie and I like Thought Bubble a lot. We’ve been there for each of its three years, and each year it’s grown gracefully and elegantly. It started small, and intimate and friendly. Now, it’s as big as any comics-specific con in the UK, without losing any of its positive traits - not least being organised with devastating effectiveness by the Thought Bubble staff. It’s not a con - for example - when a major guest misses his panel because no-one told him he was in a panel. I’m also a fan of its one-day structure, which rather than spreading it out over the weekend, it does in a single day - and then does workshop events on the days around it. In other words, you turn up on one day, and you see everything you want, and then get drunk with no worry that you have to move at all the next day.

So yes - Jamie and I sat at our table and dealt with a pretty much constant flow of human beings. Our positions changed a bit over the years too, of course. At certain times, we had to deal with a full on crowd of people. There really wasn’t a gap. Jamie drew all day. I talked all day. And the people visiting us were a mix of the new and the familiar. Having done this for a while, and seeing people change across the years is fun - seeing people we first met when they were in their mid-teens grow to adulthood in stop-motion photography is fascinating. Also, for the first time, we had significant amounts of people who primarily knew me from our Marvel work. Even had one chap who’d never read anything outside Marvel - the understandable “I had no idea where to start”. Of course, starting with Phonogram will doom him completely.

I didn’t do any panels, except the one I was chairing: Videogames and Comics panel, where I prodded Pete Doherty, Liam Sharp, Duncan Fegredo (who I only now realise I didn’t actually speak to outside the panel, which is a real shame) and my room-mate Antony Johnson. It seemed to go pretty well - I sort of was in full on dual-class mode, trying to balance being a journalist (i.e. Facilitating the discussion and getting everyone else to reveal juicy anecdotes about the two media) and being a creator (i.e. revealing juicy anecdotes about the two media, swearing, insulting Zelda and Modern Warfare 2’s writing). At the least, there were laughs in the right places. Hurrah!

The main event was in the evening. Lisa had somehow been convinced into letting us DJ. Abstractly, it was the Phonogram wrap party. While the issues wouldn’t be out, we figured that at least all the work done. Except, of course, that was over-optimistic, and Jamie still has to finish off the last one. Still - there were other reasons why we’d want to do DJs. Thought Bubble ties into our own personal Phonogram narratives. Last time, we’d just got the orders for issue 1, which were so disastrous we were scowling monsters. I missed the train and forgot to bring books. Jamie came close to losing art. It was a fucking disaster. And then Thought Bubble was Thought Bubble and we went away back in love with comics. In a real way, I sometimes wonder if Thought Bubble wasn’t there, whether we’d have just thrown in the towel.

A part of that for me - though Jamie was in the VIP bar for most the evening - was the dancefloor. Mikey Bennet improvised laptop DJing, crouching on the stage - the only place with a jack - and keeping a heaving crazy dancefloor seemed to be about as punk rock and joyous as anything gets. People trying to avoid dance too loud - while still throwing themselves off the stage - because the volume was too low. It inspired the final B-side in the final issue.

It made perfect sense for the circle to turn, y’know? We had to do something there. We had to DJ.

Problem: Neither Jamie or I had ever DJed. I don’t know about Jamie, but everyone’s always surprised when I say I’ve never done it. A few chances, but fate has always got in the way of it, and I never pursued. So in the true Phonogram spirit, we turned to our friends - wanting to both express our solidarity with everything and save our asses if we were shit.

In other words, half hour sets from assorted luminaries - but Jamie had 45 minutes, me an hour for reasons which I’ll explain later. First up was Penny B in absentia, playing her varied eccentric playlist (Disney’s Macho Duck to the Style Council to God Knows What). The first real set was the spikey-rush of Julia Scheele and Tom Humberstone (Who later coined the phrase “It’s all gone a bit phonogram” in response to everything going a bit Phonogram). Jamie went next with a cheerful array of synth-diffused music. I lead into Matt Sheret - and the Joy Division obsessive showed a fearless i’m-not-fucking-around best-indie-club-ever-if-you-like-people approach (You start with Hey Yeh, you know what the stance is). Though, of course, some Joy Division worked in. Adam Cadwell was balanced being worryingly cool with actual pop which lead from sixties motown and Northern Soul to end with… well, he was over-running. I was going to ask him to move on. He said he had one track left. I asked what it was. He told me. I said he could play it.

After all, I could hardly not allow a man to play Where’s my Jumper.

(Er… not that’s a good example of Cadwell being cool, of course. Some things are betond that)

Marc Ellerby played took the quality American Indie-rock card, with a splash of - er - other indie-rock, probably. Les Savy Fav, Pavement, et al. Mikey B made his return with a… oh, it’s all getting foggy now, but it inched more towards pop with a credible edge. And then, rounding off the evening, was Al Ewing. Who took pop, sheared the credible edge off and used it as a brutal bludgeon to mash the dance floor into a shape which amused him. Starting with Jazzy Jeff’s Boom Shake the Room, running through early nineties dance, German Abba versions, Come on Eileen and…. well, it’s nearly 3. People are going. Coats are on. Seeing this, we decide to wrap up. He drops the final count-down - and the wondrous sight of people trying to resist the sheer stupidity, and then submitting and dancing and screaming in their coats.

It only gets more stupid. He ends on Take That’s Never Forget. A scratch-comics Take That take the stage and lead the crowd in a micro-stadium gig. Heartwarming and stupid and… POP MUSIC, y’know? This is what it’s about.

I fear footage of this will emerge online shortly.

My set was simple. No room for improvisation. I just played the setlist for the Singles Club. The main core of the stuff that happens in the club happens within just beneath an hour. Also, notably, between 11 and 12. I threw a couple of relevant ones at the end, but otherwise it was just The Singles Club live, with me as Seth Bingo and Jamie on lights as Silent Girl. It went brilliantly, though obviously having to play a set list I wrote as a literary device lead to a few things I wouldn’t have played making it in… but nothing totally killed the dancefloor, and the best stuff was amazing. Seeing Can I Take You To The Cinema actually pack the floor after all this time’s a joy. And seeing what Pullshapes did… well, I actualy got a bit emotional. Not tears in my eyes, but an enormous feeling of love for pretty much everyone alive. Seeing a great mass of friends and friendly strangers lose themselves in all their glorious, individual ways, their natures showing with every step, all human life twitching before me… yeah, it felt amazing. I think it’s my new answer for “Where did you get the idea for the Singles Club from?” question. That moment was so profoundly beautiful it echoed back down the timeline to my earlier self, making me create something to create that moment, and incarnate it.

(Actually, that bit was so splendid, I ended up fucking up the next song and skipped Robyn’s Who’s That Girl. However, because in the comic the record skips, it’s actually appropriate. There Are No Accidents)

And, of course, I had people doing requests and me trying to remember what Seth would say to them. “No Oasis. The only monobrows we play are Le Tigre” is the only one which sticks in my mind. Though we were only like that to clear Phonogram readers - the party is upstairs in the Leeds Casino, so we got a steady trickle of general local people just wandering around. Trying to explain to people why we couldn’t play Release Me - not least that I didn’t have it - added another element of surreality to the whole thing.

Oh - as several people asked, I’m not planning on revealing the full set list yet. I suspect I’ll include it in the back matter for the trade, so expect it to make its way online around then. I’ll link my spottify playlist too. It isn’t actually possible to work out from the comics - there’s some songs which characters respond to but don’t actually get actually named. I was pleased to see the unnamed-in-the-comic track which dragged Kid-with-knife to the floor managed to do the same to a whole lot of people

In short, Thought Bubble remains Britain’s premier comics convention. I’m fond of them all. Caption is a micro-scene pleasure. Bristol has had a few rough years, but is still an institution. Birmingham is rock solid. MCM is enormous and splendid, but its comic section - while larger - is a side-event rather than the main thing. I could go on.

But Thought Bubble is the best. To use the line you always use if you want to be easily quotable in marketing: if you only go to one UK convention a year, go to this one.

I’ll see you there. Like, obv.

Twitter Updates for 2020-11-22 via Kelly Sue DeConnick

Sunday November, 22 2009 08:26 AM PST

  • Sooooo tired. #
  • HL wanted to go to the store with MF, but wouldn't put on his shoes-so he had to stay home…where he has literally cried himself to sleep. #
  • Oh man. @mattfraction jacked his finger up in a huge, huge way. #
  • @Alejandrobot Half-inch shard of wood, right under the nail bed. Can't tell if he got it all out. Intense pain. Still. in reply to Alejandrobot #
  • @theisb Not really. in reply to theisb #
  • @Alejandrobot Yeah, pretty much. in reply to Alejandrobot #
  • @theisb S'okay. He's not gonna die or anything, he's just in pain. in reply to theisb #
  • @ramtower Yeah, it's bad. HL and I went to bed, so I'm not sure if it eventually started to feel better. He's sleeping, so I assume so. in reply to ramtower #
  • How can that be? #

Twitter Updates for 2020-11-22 via Kelly Sue DeConnick

Sunday November, 22 2009 08:26 AM PST

  • Sooooo tired. #
  • HL wanted to go to the store with MF, but wouldn't put on his shoes-so he had to stay home…where he has literally cried himself to sleep. #
  • Oh man. @mattfraction jacked his finger up in a huge, huge way. #
  • @Alejandrobot Half-inch shard of wood, right under the nail bed. Can't tell if he got it all out. Intense pain. Still. in reply to Alejandrobot #
  • @theisb Not really. in reply to theisb #
  • @Alejandrobot Yeah, pretty much. in reply to Alejandrobot #
  • @theisb S'okay. He's not gonna die or anything, he's just in pain. in reply to theisb #
  • @ramtower Yeah, it's bad. HL and I went to bed, so I'm not sure if it eventually started to feel better. He's sleeping, so I assume so. in reply to ramtower #
  • How can that be? #

there's hope yet via Trixie Bedlam

Saturday November, 21 2009 10:25 PM PST

trixiebedlam posted a photo:

there's hope yet

who knew?