Kate Brown + Paul Duffield @ Orbital Comics

The opening of Kate Brown and Paul Duffield‘s exhibition on Saturday was probably my highlight of the bank holiday weekend*. Super-fun, lots of lovely people around and lots of gorgeous artwork on display.

Anne got some neat photos too.

Something I felt going to New York Comic Con last year is that an underground network of drinks and openings and social stuff sprung up around that show that Britain doesn’t really imitate. A lot of that’s due to the scale of NYCC, and the concentration of money and talent that such a scale affords, but all reports of more intimate shows like Toronto Comic Art Fair are the same.

It’d be really nice seeing something similar start to blossom around the likes of Kapow!, MCM and Thought Bubble. So when I found out the gallery space at Orbital Comics was available in the lead up to MCM I put Paul in touch with them and a lovely night ensued.

More of that sort of thing please.

*except the part where the Lancaster bomber flew over our flat. And no, we don’t live in Buckingham Palace.

The Design of Understanding

Max Gadney invited me to contribute to The Design of Understanding conference journal recently. I’m still gutted I couldn’t make the event (work at first, then I got sick) both to pick up my copy and watch the fabulous line-up speak, but Chris played courier for me and gave me a copy on Friday.

It’s lovely. I’m biased of course, but the book’s a fabulous collection of very diverse approaches to information design, data visualisation, storytelling; the lot. It’s also great as an object that will have an impact beyond the walls of the conference hall.

I wrote about my role at Last.fm, and the broad reasons why having a storyteller – a griot if you will – is essential for companies dealing with such a massive volume of data.

Max titled the piece – ‘Sense-making in the Scrobbling’ – and it’s a title I like a lot. It implies two things, firstly that you have to be in the guts of the data to pull out stories (something I hope to do more of as the year progresses) and secondly that it’s the scrobbling and not the scrobbles themselves that matter. One should never forget where one’s stories come from, the data’s source context.

This isn’t data about music, this is data about people listening to music.

Thanks again Max, and fingers crossed for The Design of Understanding 2012.

Return to Wilton Way

Ten months on from the podcast that started WAW+P Radio, I returned to London Fields Radio to record a round up of 2010 with Mike Leader.

Featuring some of Mike and I’s favourite cuts of the year, and some mini-interviews from Adam Cadwell, Joe List and Kayla Marie Hillier, it’s a fun bundle of music and chat for your ear-parts.

Head to We Are Words + Pictures site to listen now.

Also, congratulations to Mike for taking WAW+P Radio and making it very much his. More next year please sir!

Trolling Comics/One More Year

Last week I was interviewed by Dan Berry at The Comics Bureau in his end-of-year wrap up. It was fun, although I got a little mean-spirited in my rant about the UK comics scene. None of it was untrue, I just could have put it less snarkily.

I talked about a “line in the sand between Pop Com­ics cre­at­ors and Indie Com­ics cre­at­ors“, and during the WAW+P radio podcast recording today Mike Leader called me out on what I meant by that. Essentially, why didn’t I put ‘small press’ and ‘professional publishing’?

Well, my choice of words was deliberately obscure (but I might have muddied it by using ‘Indie’ in this context; it’s got too much baggage already). What I was getting at was the divide between a certain kind of energy that seems to exist in comics right now, a split between uninhibited populism and occasionally arch literary comics that’s throwing up genuine barriers for participation. I’m not couching the small press/big press debate in new terms; I actually mean different things.

How about this; Pop Comics are playing with the possibilities of print and digital distribution to great effect because they want you to read them everywhere. Indies know where ou’re reading them and are waiting for you to come to them.

Or this; Pop Comics love you and love your money. Indies probably hate you, but definitely need you to stick around.

Pop Comics aren’t afraid of green and orange. The Indie palette would be nothing without blue.

And so on. If it needs to be added, I’m being tongue in cheek about all this.

There’s no financial threshold for the two, though The Small Press scene certainly claims ownership of the Indie field. Thing is Bad Machinery, Tozo and (one hopes eventually) Chloe Noonan are all SUPERFUNPOP comics.

And what I was trying to say during the interview is that among the smaller reach indies, people I know, there’s a proper lack of dynamism and enthusiasm at the moment. That, in turn, gums up my engines a bit. I wanted to do more this year, with comics, and it wasn’t just breaking my elbow that slowed me down.

So I’m going for it for twelve more months. Four issues of Paper Science (though one might not be out until early 2012), largely tilting towards SUPERFUNPOP, plus whatever else comes along while that’s happening. We’ll see what’s what after that.

By next December I’ll know if I want to be a “cheerleader for comics” anymore.

Last.fm Best of 2010

I’m genuinely sad that I didn’t write Best of 2010‘s entries. Managed and edited and all that stuff yes, but day-to-day work meant I had to defer the forty entries to Chal Ravens, who did a splendid job. But it would have been nice to add it to 2008 and 2009.

Awesome to see things like this emerge from the data though. Klaas worked very hard to get this out, a ‘balloon race’ visualisation of the top twenty in action, and allowed listeners to generate their own race too.

It’s light, lovely, and speaks to me about the last twelve months in a way I really like. A year ago I’d never have guessed British Sea Power would dominate my chart, but my time in Scotland (well, Home Game) really brought them into my life.

Meanwhile Crystal Castles have been an intermittent presence – bolstered by my recent trip to ATP – and newcomers like Sleigh Bells, Tamaryn and Talkdemonic have shown me pulling in a few more synths than guitars.

I’ll be talking a little about the charts on Radio Roundabout tomorrow. You should tune in; there will be music, natter, in-jokes and almost certainly a few accidental swears. Just like Christmas.

www.radioroundabout.com, 17th December 3 – 5pm.

Treats

A quick update for the regulars. I’ve just finished the sort-of-annual refresh of the site. I’m still using Typekit, and it’s still based on a generic template, so when you arrive on the site for the first time it’s all fun and games for a moment, but I like how it looks besides.

On top of that I’ve also setup a Shop. There are very limited numbers of Her Wilderness And Waves and the Make Out and Get Excited poster available if you get there in time. Hopefully it’ll see a bit more love, and products, come 2011.