Category: Uncategorized

‘Awards are stupid’

(Thanks, Jon.)

Are they?

In this instance I’m talking about awards that are a matter of opinion, rather than a matter of fact: Oscars, Grammys, Cannes Lions, Sports Personality of the Year, Rear of the Year, BAFTAs etc.

Well, let’s take a look at the supposed pros and cons:


They serve to stimulate. In theory, other people who work in the industry being awarded see what gets the awards and it inspires them to greater heights in their own work.

They publicise the industry and work concerned, so that perhaps more people will be interested in becoming musicians, ‘rears’ etc. This grows the talent pool for future ‘better’ work.

They generate money for some people. For example, the advertising revenue created by the Oscars ceremony keeps the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences going all year.

Award dos are fun.

To many people they are proof that the awarded people are good at what they do, and therefore worthy of employment.


The idea that matters of opinion become matters of fact (eg: the winner of the Oscar for Best Screenplay is considered by many to be the best screenplay of that year) closes off avenues of creativity. People who are inspired by these works then believe that such work is what they should aspire to, leading to a repetition of the winning work rather than actual innovation. There is definitely an ‘Oscar’ type of film and, I would argue, a typical Cannes Grand Prix winner, which can only be a symptom of the dead hand of familiarity guiding the judges’ decisions

They clearly don’t lead to better work. Are the movies of the last ten years better than those of the Seventies? What about the music? Are ads better now than they ever have been? Of course not. So even with shoulders of giants to stand on and millions of awards to inspire us, the improvement is virtually non-existant.

Most are a thin, pointless sham, with no intrinsic value, and therefore a waste of money. Add up all the award entries and event organisations across the world and you have billions that could be better spent on feeding the starving or building the giant ark we’re all going to need when the Polar ice caps melt.

They have an importance that takes precedence over what the art is attempting to achieve. Call me cynical, but I have a feeling that some advertising creatives would rather win awards (ie, have the approval of seven people a bit like themselves) than have a 10% increase in sales (ie change the behaviour of millions). I also have a feeling people (possibly including Anthea Turner) have deliberately performed buttock-enhancing exercises to improve their chances of winning Rear of the Year. Both are sad states of affairs.

So what do you think?

Are awards a GOOD THING or a SHIT THING? (No comments suggesting they’re a bit of both/somewhere in between please.)


You are my fire. The one desire. Believe when I say, I want the weekend.

We like long build ups and disappointing drops (thanks, H):

The Miles Davis door (thanks, F):

This guy is happy to admit he doesn’t ‘get’ art (thanks, T).

Watch food being digested:

Marvellous Scottish humour (thanks, T).

Mash up by a director to introduce himself at a film festival (thanks, J):

Van Damme’s Kills (takes half an hour; thanks, J):

Dad jokes a-plenty (thanks, J).

This is funny:

Accidental vajayjay (thanks, T2).

A fine, fine ad

Someone asked me if I’d heard any interesting podcasts recently…

Check this one out.

The comedy stuff at the beginning is interesting, but later on they discuss God, morality, language and all sorts of other things.


UPDATE: forgot to mention that there are LOADS of great interviews on the You Made It Weird podcast. The Keegan-Michael Key one is very funny then very interesting.

And Tim’s greatest song:

Ed Morris: don’t want.

Don’t want anything.

I was introduced to this young guy the other day, must have been mid 20’s.
I asked him what he was up to and he said “I want to direct”
I thought about that, the “I want to” bit.
I’ve come to a conclusion.
I think wanting to do something is probably the biggest single barrier to actually doing something. The psychological and literal mechanics behind wanting to do something are the polar opposite to those that would facilitate doing it. All the time you are wanting to do something there’s no way you’re going to do it.

I hear people say “I want to leave my job” “I want to visit Australia” “I want to write a novel” “I want to stop taking drugs” “I want to leave my husband” By wanting they are actually actively engaged in the ‘not doing” of any of these things.

When you chose to want to do something you put an immediate measure of time, ability, circumstance etc between you and the doing.

I believe that the purest form of intention is action…that’s the power we have…we can make thought manifest, that is alchemy, that is magic.

I would caution anyone to be very aware and careful of anything they currently want to do.

“They’re ain’t nothing to it but to do it” is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite films – Wild style.

Also I’ve noticed that wanting… with time turns in to “wanted” These people with all the “wanteds” are the saddest of the lot.“I wanted to leave my wife” “I wanted to ride a horse naked across a beach in moonlight”“I wanted to spend more time with my children”“I wanted to be more honest with myself”“I wanted to be more assertive”“I wanted to give up the job I hated” But I didn’t.

The ‘wanted” lot have even given up on the possibility of wanting and not doing. That is unfathomably sad.

I don’t think that kid I spoke to will ever direct as long as he lives. I could feel it, I could sense it. It made me sad and angry, for his sake.

If anyone tells me what they want to do from now on I’m going to reply “yes, of course you don’t” maybe followed with “and why exactly don’t you?”

My mum always used to say “I want doesn’t get” and she was right in more ways than one.

It echoes something I heard the other day: ‘While you’re judging yourself by your intentions, everyone else is judging you by your actions.’

How do you transcend?

In many creative fields there are one or two people who are so successful that they look as if they’re playing an entirely different game to everyone else.

For example, in the world of movies James Cameron is the only person who has produced (and written/directed) a film that has grossed over two billion dollars. But he’s done it twice. Over the recent history of film so many very smart people have spent so much money trying to create blockbuster movies that you’d almost expect someone else to have joined him on this list. How come the combined creativity and marketing muscle of Disney/Marvel/Joss Whedon couldn’t get Avengers up there? What about the Lord Of The Rings movies? Or Jurassic World? (by the way, I’m not talking about subjective measures of quality here; just the objective measures of popularity). No one comes close to Cameron, yet so many try.

In the world of pop music Taylor Swift somehow manages to be the only person who produces over a million sales in the first week of her albums’ releases. No one else does it at all – not Beyonce, Drake or Ed Sheeran – and yet she does it over and over again. There are lots of popular artists, why is her success so much greater, so consistently, than all those other smart, talented people?

In the world of books we have J.K. Rowling and E.L. James miles out in front of everyone else.

In U.S. radio, there’s Howard Stern and some other people I’ve never heard of.

In the tech world, there’s Apple, a very large gap, then everyone else.

So how do these people (and Apple) go so far beyond the top of their field?

Is James Cameron such a great reader of the zeitgeist, or human emotions, that he can tap into parts of us the rest cannot? Are Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Grey such amazing stories that they clearly go beyond all the other books in the marketplace? What about Taylor Swift? Is her music so much better than everyone else’s?

I’d argue that this has something to do with perceived quality: Swift’s music is really catchy pop; the technological craft behind Titanic and Avatar was (for its time) incredible; Howard Stern’s interviews are consistently more incisive, perceptive and entertaining than anyone else’s; Apple’s products work better and more reliably than those of its competitors.

But why so far ahead?

Sorry. I think you might be expecting me to answer that question.

I have no idea.

If you do, don’t be shy; that’s what the comments section is for.


Got a letter from the government the other day. Opened it and read it, it said we were the weekend.

29-minute chat with the great Roger Deakins (thanks, J).

Cool/interesting/creepy art (thanks, T).

Starting with Earth as a marble: the solar system to scale (thanks, J2):

Try some abstract browsing (thanks, J2).

How do boxers recover from the death of an opponent? (Thanks, J2.)

Tarantino’s foot fetish (thanks, J2):

The wonderful Ron Pickering:

Messi reacting to the Ronaldo movie trailer:

Some fine Chapelle (thanks, G):

Neville Brody, Jonathan Glazer and the rebrand of Channel 4

Creative Review has all the background here.

But I imagine most of the talk will be around Mr. Glazer’s weird and very wonderful idents.

Closer to Under The Skin than any of his recent ad work, this is an amazing collection of visuals in a narrative that makes just enough sense to confuse and delight in equal measure.

Nice one, Chris and John (and everyone else).

A Black Pencil is on the way.

Another guest post (hooray!).

This time it’s from my friend, the excellent writer William Fowler, who spent a decade mooching around some of London’s good and not-so-good advertising agencies as a copywriter.  For about five years he wrote the Gordon Comstock column in Creative Review. A few years ago he met a girl at a wedding in Mexico, and ended up moving to LA to live with her. It turns out he believes Venice Beach is the most interesting place in the world and he wants to write you an email about it. You can read this week’s here. And if you’d like to sign up, here’s the link.

(For those of you too lazy to even do that, here’s the letter):


People move to Venice because of the ocean, because they like to surf, because they have artistic aspirations or pretentions, or because they’re insane and homeless and the American welfare state has virtually no provision for them. The beach, like almost everything in California, has been artificially expanded. It’s also a national park, which means it’s illegal to camp there at night, but the area is is so vast that moving-on the itinerants who’ve pitched tarps under the palm trees, in any conclusive way, is impossible. Particularly as Venice, doesn’t have city status, and therefore doesn’t have the civic muscle or the proprietary police force that would enable it to carry out the campaign of harassment and eviction that this would entail. And so the boardwalk has become a kind of parade ground of insanity, from meth addiction to florid schizophrenia through PTSD-plus-alcoholism to straight-up, raving mania. There’s also an actual freak show, either a cruel joke at the expense of the beach’s residents, or a tacit acknowledgement of the deep character of the place. I’ve never been inside, but the barker’s patter seems legit: ‘Step right up ladies and gentlemen! See the bearded lady, see the smallest man in America! Marvel at the wolfman! You’ll love our turtle, did I mention he has two heads! Ladies, you’ll love our dog, he has five legs! etc.’ I suppose it’s possible that he’s a reconstructed hipster freak show barker, maybe he got into freak show barking through improv school. You can never be sure.

The boardwalk is also a one-sided shopping street, the Pacific Ocean lapping against Camden Lock, with a similar shit-to-gold ratio. There are a couple of really good coffee shops, a few friendly skate and surf shops, even Small World Books where Geoff Dyer does readings. But by far the majority of these establishments are green doctors, bong shops, Tattoo Parlours and t-shirt printing stalls. You can tell the story of Venice in t-shirt slogans, ‘Venice: Where Art Meets Crime’, changed to ‘Venice: Where Art Meets Meets Eviction’, and then, the latest ‘You Ruined Venice.’

Google bought the old Chiat/Day building, its frontage designed by Frank Gehry to incorporate an enormous pair of binoculars, the irony of which I suspect is lost on them. Buzzfeed have taken a space at one end of the area’s main shopping street, Abbot Kinney, and Vice rent a building at the other end. Snapchat have occupied an entire street two blocks down from here, displacing a homeless charity, an art gallery and a bar. An epic dick manoeuvre that only a 25-year-old billionaire could possibly believe was ok.

The new residents are resented by the old residents, not just because they’re young, well-paid and forcing up the rents, but because they’re nerds. They ride phunkeeducks down the boardwalk and fly quadcopters from the roofs of their offices. For half a century mad hippies have been living on the beach complaining that there are robots in the sky taking their picture. Now there actually are. So were they mad?

Of course, I work for a tech company, so I’m part of the problem. I can see that siliconization is gentrification in its most virulent form. Tech entrepreneurs define themselves as creative, sculptors working in ergonomics and raw capital, and it appeals to their vanity to move in on bohemian areas. It’s hard not to see them as parasites killing the thing on which they feed.

I resented the new colonists of Shepherds Bush – a bunch of Edinburgh graduates who want to turn the whole gaff into a branch of Jamie’s Kitchen – and now I’m resented in just the same way. That’s not to say people aren’t friendly, but I did get drive-by abused by a bunch of surfer bros who shouted ‘fuck you, hipster’ before tearing off in their mini van. Maybe it’s in the nature of the samsara that you eventually get to be the person you dislike most.

But, by-and-large, people don’t judge. Where the median of weirdness is high, you can act very strangely indeed without anyone so much as batting an eyelid. I went out skateboarding on Friday at 10.30 at night, which is maybe an undignified pursuit for a man of my age, but I was passed at speed by a local thalidomide survivor called Gerome AKA “Widget the midget”, who rides around on his belly on a skateboard, using one shortened arm to propel himself down the asphalt, who has a long rap sheet for a range of sexual offences, used to breakdance and allegedly turn tricks behind the pagodas for drug money, who was muttering ‘black cat, black cat, meow meow,’ while he waltzed with a large remote controlled truck, about the same size and same elevation as him, with flashing neon lights and a sound system built into it. I can’t remember what music it was playing, it might have been Kool and the Gang. No one noticed me. No one.

People move to Venice because you can do whatever you want here.

It’s the edge of the world

where the sun sets on the continental 48,

& I remain,


Guest post: Steve Jobs biopic Q&A.



My old buddy Cam Mitchell writes:

Hi Ben,
As you know I went to see the Steve Jobs biopic last night.
There was a Q&A afterwards with the whole cast, as well as the writer and director.
This is what I learnt;

1. Danny Boyle fought to have the film shot in California because he saw it as the spiritual  home of Apple and believed it would add something to the process. This cost an extra 5 million bucks compared to shooting in Prague.

2. He rehearsed two weeks/shot two weeks/rehearsed two weeks etc… which is unusual but the actors seemed to love it.

3. He noticed that the whole of The Social Network is filmed with the actors sitting down. He joked that the main point of difference with his film would therefore be that everyone would be standing up.

4. He shot it on various forms including 16mm for the first launch and on the Alexa for the third to help create a different texture for each era.

5. Aaron Sorkin is very tanned and likes to wear cream suits to show it off.

6. He settled on the idea of basing the whole film around three product launches (which works well with the 3 act structure) because he was just bored with the idea of doing a typical chronological biopic.

7. Jeff Daniels seemed very nice but didn’t say much. He’s great as the Pepsi marketing guy that fucked Steve over.

8. Seth Rogen is very funny and very smart. (And good as Wozniak). He says he did the film because no one has ever asked him to be in their film before. I’m not sure it’s true but it got a good laugh.

9. Michael Fassbender unfortunately added nothing in the Q&A of any interest but seemed very nice. (Personally I think Christian Bale would’ve been better and brought an intensity to the role that both he and Steve Jobs are infamous for).

10. Kate Winslet has great presence and charm and knows how to play the system. Her “in” was through her make-up artist on her previous film, who had been pencilled to work on Steve Jobs next. She campaigned hard and sent selfies of herself to Danny Boyle looking like an unattractive Eastern European American. It just goes to show that just because she’s an Oscar winner doesn’t mean she’s lost her determination to succeed. (She’s very good in the film, except the Eastern European part of her American accent was a bit hit and miss in the first act).

Overall, the thing I walked away feeling was that although I enjoyed it I didn’t learn anything from it because we all know so much about Steve Jobs, so it’s very hard for a filmmaker to add anything.

Also of interest was the number of other big A-listers who are acknowledged in the credits. Apple, however, was not acknowledged in the credits. I don’t know why.

Well, thank you very much, Cam.

All very welcome and interesting.

If anyone else would like to write a guest post for this blog, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to