Reader, I must apologise for being somewhat dilatory in my quest to bring novel items to the Mortal Bath. To paraphrase both Margaret Thatcher and Prince – and you don’t get to hear that very often – we are a father, and she’s the most beautiful girl in the world.

Thusly, reader, bear with. I do have a few up-to-date articles in the taps but can’t promise a publication date, as we’re baby busy… and these DVDs of Fringe won’t watch themselves, obviously. Anyway, to help sustain my throughput ratios, I have been ransacking the archives.

When I first started exploring the world of self-publishing, I was inspired by zines and writing about zines, writing about music, dancing about architecture, as I’ve detailed in previous posts. My first effort was nine issues of a zine called ‘Thingy’, between 1996 and 2003. Of variable size and quality, more of an annual, really, ‘Kind of like a stoned Reader’s Digest, yeah?’ as I termed it at the time.

The name was intended to indicate the wide, vague and catholic selection of content, and was only partly chosen for its properties of innuendo. Alright, it was pretty much completely chosen for its properties of innuendo. “Have you seen Markwoff’s Thingy this month?” etc. Heh – what can I say? The foot of Python, and for that matter the thingy of Blackadder, have always loomed large and influential.

Looking back on my output when 23-ish-years-old, there is much that is dissatisfactory in Thingy. That vagueness of the title is reflected in the quality of much of the writing, which is often slap-dash and lacking polish. I am also struck by how far I am from many of the preoccupations, how much closer I am to some (in understanding and affection), but mostly I’m struck by the shoddy construction. [Michel Roux voice and emphasis:] “It’s awful!”

However, some of the pieces still make me chuckle, and need only a little grinding and sanding. On a semi-regular basis, then, I shall present some of these Thingy items as archive pieces. As Ben Six suggests in a recent space-filling retrospective, maybe not something of which to make a habit – although, as an aside, I would probably be quite happy with a reputation as the ‘Status Quo of blogs’. It would mean that I had at some point in my career done something in writing as simple, direct and awesome as this:

Ladies and gentlemen, the Quo.

Anyway, that’s the preamble. First up (for ‘Thingy Thursday’? Or ‘Fingy Friday’, more accurately, given the tardiness?), I offer a speculative fiction double feature of that great Lost Civilisation sitcom, Graham and Santha.

SO last millennium… being a publication of some selections from the author’s zine archives… a project explained in another Mortal Bath post right here.

One of the things that had an enduring influence on my brain in the late 1990s was a prog broadcast on Channel 4, Quest For The Lost Civilisation. You can watch it all on 4OD, in the UK, anyway. Well done Channel 4.

If you haven’t seen this, do have a peep. I’ve sort of kept up with Graham Hancock’s work, which is still usually interesting, and I continue to think there are some great ideas covered in the original QFTLC programme. However, rather than rehearse those for the millionth time, I present these fancies, aligned with the pub around 13 years ago, including two scenes from that great Lost Civilisation sitcom, Graham and Santha.

From Thingy episode #4, 1999:
[Many of you may be familiar with the work of Graham Hancock, whose recent book and corresponding TV series Heaven’s Mirror detail the interesting ways in which various global historical monuments might be aligned with different constellations, in about 10,500 BC. For example, the Great Pyramids in Egypt can be shown to align with the constellation of Orion. The suggestion is that a hitherto unknown civilisation knew loads about the stars and our place in the firmament and decided to leave great big clues all over the place to try and help the future students of architecture work it all out.

While we greatly enjoyed the theories put forward by Mr Hancock, we can only wonder what it must be like living with a guy who sees patterns of great significance everywhere. We take you now to the home of the Hancocks, where Graham’s partner, the photographer Santha Falia, has just popped a nice breakfast on the table:]

SANTHA: There’s your breakfast, dear.

GRAHAM: [To camera, earnest yet excited] Incredible as it may seem, these boiled eggs – and this piece of toast – can be linked with the teapot and the kettle, in my kitchen, five minutes ago. Time and again, orthodox science tries to tell us that this is merely… coincidence. Yet, surely, one must acknowledge the weight of such evidence. I believe that, prior to these eggs being placed on this table, the work of a greater, earlier hand was at work.

[Santha looks at the camera and rolls her eyes, pointing at her chest with a wry expression. The letterbox clatters.]

SANTHA: Oh, sounds like the post’s here, dear.

GRAHAM: [Framed in the doorway of the kitchen looking down the hall] It seems scarcely believable that these letters are arranged on the mat in the exact shape of Canis Major, at 08.15 this morning, one minute ago. Conventional history deems this… impossible. Yet time and time and time again, these figures re-appear. And if we examine this location to see if there is a connection between these letters and other artefacts, sure enough we find, here, the hall table. Arranged on top of the dresser, there are other, earlier letters. Yet… what does this signify? If we look here, in the garage…

SANTHA: Christ almighty.

[If you aren’t familiar with either the Heaven’s Mirror book or tv series, all this is absolutely fucking hilarious, incidentally.]


(aaaand from Thingy episode #7, 2001)

This was going to be a serious article about how amazing and non-fruitcake the work of Graham Hancock is, detailing some of the more mind-boggling facts and figures he’s brought to our attention about various archaeologically unique sites dotted about the world. How the Great Pyramid at Giza can be seen, for example, amongst other things, as a pretty much exact (1:43,000) scale representation, geometrically speaking, of the northern hemisphere – no, really! We also wanted to show how we think that his work reaches beyond run-of-the-Hamlet’s-mill conspiracy theorising and into an important message to us all of a need to contemplate our planetary heritage and the notions of transcendence communicated in diverse sites and cultures throughout the world conspiracy theorising. But no! Read his books, they make a lot more sense about the subject in a far more lucid manner, and besides, we’re ultimately more concerned with imagining what life might be like for Graham Hancock’s partner, the photographer Santha Falia, as Hancock sees patterns of great significance everywhere. Again.

Artist impression of potential pyramid configuration in the British Isles. We could have had pyramids; we got Buchanan Galleries and the St Enoch Centre.

This week: Graham and Santha are out for a meal.

[Scene: A table for two, candles. Waiters bustle about quietly in the background.]

GRAHAM: [Earnestly, yet relaxed, to camera] Many reasons have brought us here to the Chandigarh Tandoori on this most auspicious of dates. A vegetable bhuna, some naan; a chicken jalfrezi – and rice. But what ties these seemingly random dishes together? A straightforward, affordable menu? So the food guide would have us believe. But we are here… for the truth…

SANTHA: No dear, we’re here for a dinner because your mum said she’d look after the kids. Have some drink.

GRAHAM: [Lifting his bottle of Tiger beer] Here, a bottle of beer. In almost perfect alignment with this carafe of water, these glasses, and some – apparently carelessly placed! – cutlery. Images captured by my partner, the photographer Santha Falia, reveal them to be identical with other configurations on different tables throughout this restaurant…

SANTHA: Look, we were in eating, they were doing the new menu, I said I’d do the photos for a freebie. Now will you please…

GRAHAM: [Oblivious]… and yet, it is said, this is coincidence. Mere similarities of form…

SANTHA: It’s mise-en-place!

GRAHAM: Yet I believe that what we are witnessing is the gradual revelation of a grand design, the hand of parties as yet unmentioned in the history books. But why? Why take the trouble to replicate these patterns with such unerring accuracy, time and again? Why the painstaking attention to infinite details? Why the almost mathematical precision?

SANTHA: [Stern] Graham. Stop being preposterous. It’s always beautifully laid out. In fact, they’ve just been awarded their second star from the Good Food Guide. Rashid’s trying for a… oh… dear…

GRAHAM: [Off on one] The fabled third star. The offset point on Orion’s belt. Symbol of the mysterious Michelin movement. The truth of the hand behind this awe-inspiring configuration can surely point only at…

SANTHA: [Sighs] …Ramesh the waiter. Eat your poppadums, for the love of Osiris.

[Next week: Graham and Santha try to buy a car – with hilarious consequences!]

In thinking through the 25 Albums… project, as usual, my brain seems to separate into factions. There are numerous tribes, mostly too skulkful to describe accurately at this time, some perhaps with their faces in their breasts, monopods bouncing about, sort of thing.

When approaching the Facebook/list topic, one group of smokers dressed mainly in black sulks about the silly, superficial idea. It loathes that personally important music, like, actual RECORDS, should be considered reducible to under-explained lists of tracks that stand like water striders, pressing delicately into the surface but never submerging… loathes the very idea of doing this on Facebook, because it loathes Facebook. Facebook, where convenient social intercourse and potentially fun geekery is not only ruined by a holiday camp enforced funtime mentality but in fact becomes sinister through being applied to EVERYSINGLEPARTOFYOURLIFE. “Hey, let’s make a daily ritual out of that brilliant idea we talked about for three minutes once and tell everyone in the whole world even if they don’t care and…” “Piss off, and take your digital zombie farm likes with you.”

That little crowd of grumblers has difficulties also in overcoming the Nick Hornby qualms. The qualms, the qualms… You see, (explains a member of the crowd who looks a bit like me in a John Cusack mask, moving forward to address the camera, punctuating with a cigarette,) I quite liked High Fidelity, which is of course about a bloke making sense of his life through music… but… About a Boy, also about music and self-obsessed bloke, remains one of the few books I have actually thrown across an actual room in irritation. (Aside to a different camera) The first Twilight novel simply slipped from my fingers as I slumped, halfway through that interminable first page. 31 Songs committed the grave offences of picking all the wrong Teenage Fanclub tunes and just being BORING, like, accountancy spreadsheet rock? Files? Lists? Tchoh. [Cigarettes flicked gutterwards with middle finger disdain swirl off in a river of rain].

YET… Another, happier crowd bounces into view, blasting the Club Tropicana eclectimix, dressed like LMFAO, 18-30 reps cross-pollinated with fanzine writers, high on smart drugs and phones, comfortable with their filing, downloading everything now because they can, we can. The sun follows them. WhatEVS, sneerers! they hoot, compiling an instant Top 5 Miserable Sods List, a list that has Morrissey on it, thus further irritating the grumblers because he’s not actually miserable and YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, and the happy crowd DOESN’T CARE, because it is all harmless FUN and it doesn’t actually matter, Mr Frowny, because it’s all just word frolics… and look, what’s wrong with the Book of Face? Because all we have is sharing our souls and talking shit in the face of the abyss, which is actually our own face, but look over here something else and DRINKS TOO?

Yeah, go on then. I need to find some sort of way to just write about things without imagined mobs of idiots arguing me into or out of it.

As you may have read in a recent Mortal Bath post, I was inspired to re-start a zine I was doing a few years ago, in conjunction with a little light promotering.

Conductive Jelly was a medium for the kind of writing I was doing at the time, which was sort of stream-of-conscious sci-fi wordplay inspired by the sounds I was listening to, or imagined scenes the sounds might track. I used to spend ages in dimly-lit venues feverishly scritching notes in books, on beer mats or on bits of paper towel from behind the bar.

Conductive Jelly came to a halt for a number of reasons, but the main one was that I just started enjoying the sounds, with a subsidiary reason that I didn’t think the words were necessarily adding anything.

However, fourth time around, I thought it’d be much more fun to provide a means for people to take a personal record without having to tear off bits of beer mat or pester hard-working bar staff for cleaning products… thusly, the centre page of CJ4 had some blank spaces for gig goers to record their impressions of the gig in whatever way they saw fit.

Happily, as well as bass and electronics, Tony from Etai Keshiki is a dab hand at drawing, and he contributed this marvellous effort (link to pdf below – I’ll get a pic up asap). I am very happy not only that he bothered, but also that he actually succeeded in capturing the essences of the bands. All of this while waiting to perform, too – great warm-up.


I also note from reading Etai’s facebook page that the gig in York inspired someone to form a band! This also makes me very happy.

So, the other week I put on a promoter hat and organised this gig:

The image on the poster is off one of the walls at Castle Howard, and I’m sorry to say I’m not sure of the artist (although it is possibly Antonio Pellegrini). For the actual gig, it was great to have my mate L’s band through playing, as well as an excellent other set from Etai Keshiki, with York duo …And the Hangnails offering a really great set of what turned out to be, indeed, heavy blunk (Can’t help myself dept: whimsical mashing of the words ‘blues’ and ‘punk’ which someone had used to describe them). We had a compère and everything.

Aside from the venue business, trite wordplay and some flyering, I took the opportunity to re-animate a zine I shelved a few years ago. The zine is called Conductive Jelly, which appeals to me more and more as a title the more and more I roll it around. Here is an extract from the first Conductive Jelly (2005), explaining the name:

This pamphlet gets its name from the intriguing list of instruments played throughout Matmos’ dizzying The Civil War collection. It’s used on the track “the struggle against unreality begins”. This is what Conductive Jelly #1 was inspired by:

“This song began when our friend Keenan Lawler sent us a recording he had made of himself playing a steel guitar in a sewer pipe underneath Louisville, Kentucky. We liked the idea of “sound in a tube” so we paired Keenan’s noises with the sound of blood in Martin’s carotid artery. To gather that sound we borrowed an ultrasonic doppler flow detector from the Exploratorium, rubbed conductive jelly on Martin’s neck and then angled the flow detector against his skin, picking up the blood flow as interference which sounded rather like a 70’s modular synth.”

[A link I included in CJ1 originally is now broken, but at time of typing you can read about Matmos here:

This delayed edition of Conductive Jelly had further blurb:

In 2005, Conductive Jelly #4 was supposed to be completed. Musical happenings in Leeds & otherwards, some commentary, some abstractions…

(Conductive Jelly was basically word scribbles inspired by groovy music from the globe and the then music scene blooming algally from LS12 (“Twice as cool as LS6!”). From sound and into text, attempting to bring forth little science fictions, quests for lost civilisations, allusions to the supernal oneness of the spacetime universe and the infernal twoness of quotidian existence here on earth in the early part of the 21st century…

…there was a manifesto plotted, maybe I should have scribbled it down too, but I think it was along the lines of the most music & art (as in ‘This is, like, THE MOST, dad, y’dig?’) being transient, anti careerist, spontaneous livin…

…driving it all was a fear that we might end up like Jonathan Pryce’s character Sam Lowry in Brazil, dreaming of escape to the forest even while being tortured slowly to death because the form was filled in properly…)

…time passes…

…moves to new cities, jobs, schools, came and went… music periodically wafts life into the smouldering embers of hope. Six years later to nearly the day, round the spiral, provoked by a gig in Leeds that put boot to bits, Conductive Jelly is reborn.

The purpose remains to explore strange new soundworlds, all that Star Trek spangled psychotic reactions fiery elephant dung thing, based, at this time, here in York.

I may engage in some future amalgamatification of all blogs, zines and written ventures into some uber-website/book crossover project, but I’m not in a great rush to that. Next week, I start teaching high school English, something I am approaching with approximately equal measures of keen enthusiasm, abject terror, web-based browse denial and an unprecedented – for me – flurry of writing activity.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from the gig. The low lighting and my HTC Hero didn’t get on brilliantly, but well enough to capture the noise & movement, as well as the Red Room/Black Lodge-esque stage of the Basement Bar at York’s City Screen.

Eagles-related discussion. "No, '...AND The Hangnails'."

Castrato Attack Group. Your argument is invalid.

Disorientate the photographer: Etai Keshiki, at the Fenton

Apologies to Etai Keshiki, for whom none of the photos on the night came out as more than a hardcore screamo blur, appropriate though that might be… the photo of EK here is from a gig at the Fenton, which was put on by Big Spaceship Presents. Big Spaceship is well worth a look, as they dig a gargantuan groove. With which I concur, like, the most.

After a considerable hiatus, and being ankle deep in bits of paper, glue, slicing and snipping equipment for a few weeks (as well as trips abroad and two days in bed for manflu), I am delighted to trumpet the long-awaited* issue number 3 of WHAAAT?, the infrequent journal of the incredulous.

Whaaat? #3

Available in glorious hard copy only (it’s like a blog for the bog, yeah?), please get in touch if you would like one.

* thanks mother

I’ve been writing zines for quite some time now (first one was ‘Thingy’ in about 1996) and have always found it hard work, what with other things to do (working for money, eating, drinking heavily, having sex, enjoying the sunshine, writing and listening to Adam and Joe again… etc…)

This is why I’m quite glad of the instant publishing appeal of the blog format, because you just go ‘blaah’ and hit ‘publish’. However, it’s a bit unsatisfactory because you can’t really take a laptop into the lav (and the wap on my mobile is unreliable in the smallest room), and anyway it’s NOT THE SAME, dammit, as cutting and pasting using actual scissors and actual glue, constructing an actual object…

So! Issue 3 of Whaaat?, the zine me and m’colleague Julia at the Ministry and ‘other contributors’ have been putting off compiling a new one of for far too long is ON, it’s IN HAND (well, in pieces on the table next to me), and coming out in time for Zineswap.

There, I said it. It’s been announced, so it has to happen. Setting out the equipment here – scissors, paper, glue, pics, printer, slicing board, all those accoutrements, bof alors, I may don a beret I’m half-cut with left bank ponce excitement – I am actually beside myself with glee. I don’t get that waiting for the computer to finish dicking about with the virus checker.

You can see a scanned version of the first edition here. Meanwhile, in the trad ‘fanzine’ spirit, here’s my new favourite band, Mumford and Sons who I wouldn’t have heard unless I was skulking inside snipping, sticking and eating boiled eggs instead of going out and enjoying this delicious September blue sky, so the interweb’s good for some stuff I spose…

Oh, and then Dr Buckles and Dr Sexy stuck the Ballad of Dorothy Parker on… and now it’s Gruff Rhys! Well, maybe I’ll make it out by noon.


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