Monday 15th June 2009
15 June 2009
A Dementor At My Table
There's a building at the junction of two main roads to the west of Warsaw. Four years ago it was a shell, an unfinished block, or a block that was being worked on very, very slowly. Then, suddenly, a couple of years ago, the site sprang to life, the building bustled with activity, it was topped out and the windows were put in. An odd shaped thing, about twelve stories high, rectangular at the bottom, the top half a peculiar and architecturally interesting arc. Kind of a thing. (There's probably official architecture terminology for this, but for our purposes we''ll go with an arc kind of a thing.) The intended use of the building wasn't entirely clear, but it was advancing at a rapid pace.
And then things took a peculiar turn. In the gap between the building and the road, of maybe forty yards or so, rather than put a car park or security post or scenic garden, they built another building. A large rectangular dull building, constructed in complete juxtapostion, no more than about five yards in front of the first, more interesting structure. This new building rose up to about six floors, they built the shell so that it resembled a multi-storey carpark, and then they stopped. Presumably ran out of cash. All this had happened in a flurry of activity, and then nothing. The building behind had more or less been finished, they had stuck a carbunkle in front of it in a piece of planning madness and architectural insanity, and then they left.
The city waited to see what would happen. This was, after all, at the junction of Al. Gen. Sikorskiego and Jana Sobieskiego, roads named after two great Polish heroes. They could, in fact, have built a monument or two to these fellows rather than an unfinished carpark-esque monstrosity. And then, in the way of this great capitalist society, someone hit on the idea of selling the side of the unfinished building as an advertising billboard.
Pretty soon enormous adverts were being hung, and it has remained that way for the past eighteen months. These aren't regular billboards. These are humungous posters. These are the Grand Canyon of posters; if these posters were a mountain range, they'd be the Himalayas; if they were an NFL team they'd be the 2007 Patriots (well, up until that bit thirty seconds before the end of the Superbowl); if they were a food they'd be a giant pizza; if they were a politician they'd be Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin and Hazel Blears all rolled into one; if Lance Armstrong had been a poster for those seven years on Le Tour, this is the kind of poster he would have been; if they were a carnival they'd be in Rio; and if they were a game of football, they'd be the one where Meadowbank scored six goals in the second half against Raith Rovers...
These posters are giant. One can only imagine the size of the printer that produces them.
A Seemingly Unrelated (But Ultimately Connected) Part 2
The Poles are a nation of dog owners, which on the face of it seems strange. They are a lugubrious lot the Poles, seemingly weighed down by history, the backpacks of invasion, repression and misery bringing them down. Walk down any street in Poland and you'll find someone only too ready to shout at you for wearing the wrong clothes or walking on the wrong bit of the pavement or looking at them in a funny way. They may have peace and relative prosperity, but there remain several generations of Poles who seem to be just waiting for the next invasion. They live by the motto, Things may be all right now, but by God just wait until next week...
There is no word in Polish for happy.
Which is why the dog thing is odd. Working dogs aside, there isn't actually any point to a dog. They cost money, they crap everywhere, they chew your furniture, they fight with other dogs, then they inevitably die before you do, leaving you even more miserable than you were when you got the dog in the first place. Owning a dog is a frivolous endeavour, a light-hearted something to while away the hours. Owning a dog seems at odds with the Polish psyche, and yet there are thousands of them. In our little neck of the woods, we have a yappy little dog to our right, two yappy little dogs across the back, a new yappy little dog has just moved in on the left, and there is the Mother Of All Yappy Little Dogs with his werewolf pal living directly across the road. And this is entirely representative. Dogs, dogs, dogs, all over the place.
My only theory is that they get them so that they can fill the streets and pavements with canine excrement, so that everyone else stands on that canine excrement, and therefore becomes as miserable as them. You can see them all thinking, I can tell you're not Polish because you don't look as miserable as me - and that's saying something - and I'm going to do everything in my power to bring you down. The pavements will be a minefield!
Let slip the dogs of war...
Part 3 (Where the seemingly unrelated Parts 1 & 2 come together)
The adverts on the giant posters discussed in Part 1 - and I'm not sure I quite managed to get across the sheer scale of these behemoths of the poster world - are usually for big banner items, such as cars and Tag Hauer watches and new TV shows. The most recent-but-one poster was for a bikini, and there, in magnificently huge, glorious technicolour, was a forty metre woman lying on a sun-drenched beach, the Indian ocean behind, in her blue bikini with a floral design. There are worse things to see every morning on the way to school. Such as...
Two weeks ago time was called on the forty metre bikini-clad uberbabe - we'll call her Agnes - and a new poster was erected. And finally, after two years of waiting, the dog owners of Warsaw were to get what they had been waiting for. A giant advert for Pedigree Chum. (Actually, in Poland it's just known as Pedigree, because the word "chum" has no meaning here.) The advert features a side-on view of a dog tucking into his lunch.
Now, there are two kinds of dogs in the world. (Well, obviously there are hundreds of types of dogs in the world, but going back to the basic mammalian building blocks, there are two types of dogs.) Girl dogs and boy dogs. When you take a side-on photo of a non-hairy, girl dog standing up eating its lunch, the only way you can tell that it's actually a girl dog is by omission. You can't see its genitals, therefore it must be a girl. When sitting in your car on the way to work or school or whatever, you wouldn't look at the picture and think, hmm, that must be a girl dog; you'd just think, hmm, I see they're advertising Pedigree Chum now, but they don't use the word chum, that's interesting, maybe the Poles don't have a word for chum.
So, really, if you were the guy producing the advert, supplying the dog, taking the photograph, or selling the dog food, you'd think you might make a point of giving the job of looking fit and healthy while you eat your lunch to a girl dog.
But no, they didn't. They gave this one to a boy dog. And so, there he is, a forty metre long boy dog on the side of a building, the giant indicator of his manhood on full display. Don't get me wrong, he's not aroused by eating his lunch or anything, it could have been so much worse. But he's still a boy, and he's a dog, and this poster is unfeasibly enormous, and so there it is, this prodigious pooch penis, this colossal canine cock, this monumental mutt manhood, this diabolical dog dildo, at least six metres long, dominating the Warsaw skyline.
Perhaps the air brush, which is brought into play on all the photos of giant TV stars and supermodels lying on beaches and sixty year-old rock stars still plying a young man's trade, might have been summoned for one last effort. Or maybe they just didn't have an air brush big enough.
Barney Thomson Report
The Final Cut - now subtitled the Final Judgement of Barney Thomson - is being proof-read as we speak. There will be time for one more look over things, and the chance for desperate, last minute, panic-induced alterations, and then it will be ready to go. Unlikely, given that we are moving house, school, country and job this summer, that I'll be insane enough to bring everything forward.
Work continues on the remainder of the Barney Thomson series to get it ready for ebook release later in the summer. If this doesn't happen in time, then I'll likely release the first two in the series reasonably soon and the others in slower time, when they're ready. Lost in Juarez should be released digitally in the next few weeks. Banner proclamations of impending world digital domination when appropriate.
Strange Case Update
The putsch against Gordon Brown failed, Strange Case's part in the whole sorry affair through the timely release of the bitter and damning Going Back To Galileohas now gone down in the annals of failed revolutionary history. We soldier on.
Release of The Warsaw Sessions, Strange Case's debut album, will be slowed by the moving house, school & country thing as detailed above, but remains on the cards for later in summer 2009.
Sandy Lyle Watch
No tournament this past weekend. Last week Sandy played in the Triton Financial Classic at Hills Country Club in Austin, Texas. They don't get much bigger than that. Our hero flirted with a top thirty finish, but then a quintuple bogey nine at the fifth on his final round put paid to even that meagre potential glory. He finished t-46th.
On the ever-seesawing planet of the Official Golf World Rankings, this morning Sandy sits proudly at 690.
Can Sandy Lyle regain the number one spot in the Official World Golf Rankings? Will Barney Thomson replace Harry Potter as Britain's favourite fictional character? Will Gordon Brown put a video of himself on YouTube, dressed in a toga and quoting Kenneth Williams' best known Carry On line? How Scotland can win the World Cup... and much, much more...