A Free Background Check For Every Applicant

Eight or nine years ago, when my dad managed a small branch of a hire car firm in Cyprus, he told me that they now did web-searches of any potential employees, as an extra screening process. It was a new but growing practice by employers at the time, but it’s become the norm now.

In education in 2013, where turning out employable graduates is a priority, it isn’t unusual to prompt an unsuspecting group of students to Google themselves, and watch the dawning horror on their faces as you explain to them how easy it is to find and identify them by their drunken photos and badly written, expletive and adolescence-fuelled digital shadow. Although the students have grown up with the internet, it’s hard not to notice that this is all still new territory, and few of us are entirely prepared for what the full implications and consequences of digitally “open” lives are.

In a market where thousands of people are applying for a steadily dwindling number of jobs, it’s not entirely surprising that employers are using the internet – and the by-default open nature of online life – as an Human Resources tool. And because that’s the way the world is now, we in education are absolutely right to warn students of online behaviours that may hamper their chance of getting very far in the working world.

The thing I’m wondering about today, though, is: Is it okay that employers do this? Continue reading

The Sun Gets It Right

I think The Sun are spot on with this:Sun 911

…in fact, I think they should go one step further, and restore this memorial to it’s rightful glory in the courtyard or foyer of their own building.

That’d show them!

(Quite surprised that this was on the front page, though. Apparently David Cameron left a big official looking briefcase on a train, and I’m sure there’s other stuff going on, as well.)

So We Finally Decorated Our Walls

Took these photos a week or so ago, after putting these up. I’m no expert picture hanger, and the frames are just cheap and cheerfuls from The Range, but I think the art in them more than makes up for my lame skillz.

I’ll acknowledge here and now that a) I’m just showing off, because I think some of this stuff is pretty cool, and b) these aren’t great photos: the light isn’t great in the corridors in our house, and I’m just using the camera on my phone, so.

These are as good a place as any to start. Pretty minimal, but cute, tiny triptych we got from one of those trendy replica 70s camera shops in Brighton, but it’s taken bloody ages to actually put them anywhere. They’re on the wall facing the top of the stairs, just outside the toilet. I guess I could claim there’s a water theme going on.

Water Feature

(But there isn’t.)


This is our upstairs corridor, and I’m hoping to fill it up at some point. This isn’t a particularly clear photo – there’s no natural light up there – but I wanted to show you roughly how these pictures fit together.


I’ve had this Mucha print for years, hanging about in one of my big portfolio folders that’s knocking around from when I did art A-levels. Last week it came down to either putting it up somewhere or acknowledging that I never would and getting rid of it.


It doesn’t really square with the other stuff that’s up – it’s got that weird “embossed/mounted” thing going on – but I’m glad I didn’t get rid of it. It’s a beautiful image.


This is one of a handful of these images that found a home on the wall within six months of me buying it. I picked it up from Mr Erskine at ThoughtBubble 2013 – which I think is the first time I met him in person, which was lovely! – and it’s representative of a particular time in comics, and in his work, that really resonates with me.



We’re lucky enough to have spent a bit of time with the artists on these two pieces.

The Ororo/Storm image is by Dave Stokes, and if you can find him at a convention or online, you should definitely pick up one of his art books, at the very least.

This original art was very reasonably priced indeed!


…As was this glorious piece of expressionistic loveliness from Warwick Johnson-Cadwell. Hawk The Slayer, or the Beastmaster? To be honest, I can’t remember without checking… I don’t know either film, but I loved the composition, the very direct colour, and the way Warwick draws scenery!

This is a cool print by David Wynne:

David Wynne

It was part of a set of three, but I couldn’t afford/place all of them, so I picked my favourite. I love the colour, the monsters, and the old-time Hollywood greats in the background.

(If I’m honest, the bit I really focus on are that awesome Laurel and Hardy in the background.)

An oddity, here… I know that Sandman image was promotional, for the Dream Hunters graphic novel, but I’ve no idea where I got it from. I’ve definitely never met Neil Gaiman, or Yoshitaka Amano.


It’s lovely, though!

And this is a page from one of the Fred The Clown comics. I’ve got two original pieces of Roger Langridge art, and I think his was the first original art I ever did buy.

He’s amazing.

This is a Kabuki print thing I got for a birthday, over ten years ago.


It isn’t a particularly unusual image, and to be honest it’s little more than poster (although I think it might be signed, and part of a small cluster of similar items that I got given at the same time). But it’s been knocking around, just resting on top of a shelf unit, for long enough that Amy and I have got quite fond of it.

Here’s one of the oldest, most gorgeous art things I own, nestled in a spot that looks like an after-thought, but is actually right there in the middle of our staircase. It’s a set of lithographs from 1980 called World Without End, painted by Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Jeff Jonest

In another, more beautiful world, Jones is still making comics and art and everybody knows her work.

Not this one.

Downstairs is even more erratic than up. Here’s one wall:

Dining room wall

The far left is one of those cheap-but-pretty canvas acrylics bought from a little shop in a little alley built into a steep hill on a Greek honeymoon.

In the middle there’s a painting by an old friend of mine called Maja Hill. We bumped into her and her husband for the first time in ages the other week.

On the right is one of three commissions we’ve had from indie publishing hero Marc Ellerby. I think this one was a present for my wife, but I can’t remember what the occasion was. The main thinking behind it was that our previous group drawing from him was from before we had the stupid little black dog Willow.

Then there’s these two behemoths:

Blade of the Immortal context

I’m still a little bit stunned that Amy let me put these up, as she has no relationship with the comic they’re from, but I guess the gorgeousness of the painted art won her over. These are both Blade Of The Immortal prints. The one on the left is one of my favourite pieces of art. Both are, I believe, by Hiroaki Samura.

Finally, just a quick bonus shot of what our graphic novels (some of them, anyway) look like since we moved them downstairs. It might not be clear from this photo, but look at the bottom…


…these units are pushed back into an odd corner of our living room, and are fitted to the shape of the curved wall. It looks pretty cute in person.

So anyway, self-indulgent I know, but some of that art is SO DAMN PRETTY. When I get a minute, I’ll link to all of the artists that I got that art from, but you should definitely consider Googling them and throwing some money their way if you have it!

(All You Can Do Is) Step Back In Time

This is going to be a rushed post, because I get the feeling that if I don’t pull the trigger on it fast, I won’t pull the trigger on it at all.

Recently – through tragic circumstances that would make anyone think about the unflinching passage of time, memory and mortality – I reconnected with an old university friend on Facebook.

(Any time I reconnect with someone on Facebook from a very long time ago, it makes me think about memory, time and dying. I am not the person Friends Reunited was invented for.)

SO ANYWAY, that got me thinking. And then a new acquaintance from Twitter – take a bow, Rachael Burns, who is now ancient at thirty years old – was gifted with a lovely collection of vinyl, among which where some albums by the Cocteau Twins.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Cocteaus in the last couple of weeks – eight straight hours of Sigur Ros while chasing down a deadline recently got me thinking a lot about the benefits of ambient, emotional music with nebulous lyrics – and the combination of all these things made me ask this old university chum whether any of the videos we did for our Media course still existed somewhere.

I skipped ahead a bit there. One of our big group projects at uni was to produce a music video. I may be misremembering some of what follows, but I feel the need to share it before I show you what I’m going to show you.

The remit was to make a music video to accompany a song of our own choosing. We had access to pretty up-to-date technology, which at the time were these bulky video cameras – that had a few in-camera filters and effects that were pretty basic by contemporary standards, but addictive as hell, as you’re about to see – modern editing equipment – which at the time meant VHS I think – and we had zero budget.

As I recall, I pushed for the Cocteau Twins, because I loved the Cocteau Twins – I have vague memories of subjecting the group to a battery of songs for tone, most of which were totally unsuitable – and as a group we decided on a music video with a narrative. Both of these things were totally out of step with what the other groups were doing, we would later find. Everybody’s work looked pretty good, but ours was the most swoony, pretty, least heavy song, and the most visceral and horrible video. I have memories of Metallica to swishy shots of autumn trees, and then our melodic scenes of death and destruction.

I felt pretty good about the early stages of the project. I’d got a decent amount of input on the song, and the story – areas I was confident in – but we had to decide on someone to go in front of the camera, and nobody wanted to. I think I may have been out of the room when it was decided that I’d be the central protagonist.

I can’t act. After three years of podcasting, I can still barely deliver a pre-scripted line. I didn’t have a very good self-image at the time, so couldn’t be objective about how I looked on camera, but then maybe that was true of most twenty-year-old media students at the time.

That’s the preamble, which I’ve included because I feel the need to apologise for every damn thing I’ve ever done, and offer CONTEXT. The truth is this was a successful project by most metrics, but I can’t get over how weird it feels seeing myself centre stage at that age, and how much the means of production have dated.


Other useful notes:

  • It was all filmed in central Southampton and Bitterne Triangle, mostly in the parks opposite what is now Southampton Solent University, but also in the alleyway near the back of Primark.
  • The make-up effects were entirely provided by McDonalds, which used to be around the corner from our alleyway location.
  • The story, in case it isn’t clear, is that the protagonist lost his girlfriend in horribly tragic circumstances, and is torn up that the last time he saw her they argued. He is drifting around, sullen as fuck and disoriented. People keep disrupting his day, and he has dark fantasies about violent responses. This was that nebulous period on the cusp of the eighties and nineties, pre-irony – girlfriends were always dying, leaving trails of revenge and regret.
  • Yes, he does get himself straightened out in a church at the end. Pre-irony, remember? That church is on my way home from work now. I don’t think we asked for permission to film in there.
  • The bits in daylight are supposed to be real. The bits at night are the fantasy. We decided that this wasn’t a clear enough visual motif, so someone decided that the protagonist should wear different clothes in each, which meant jacket off in one, jacket on in the other. Someone decided that the bits shot at night in Autumn should be the bits where I was in a tee-shirt. That someone wasn’t me.
  • I’m also dismayed to see that the boyfriend/girlfriend bits aren’t as prominent in the cut as I remembered. This is upsetting because a) the happy-couple bits got quite cool and intense and b) because my video-girlfriend felt weird slapping me – I know, right? – I had to get her real-life wound up at me, so when she slapped me on camera, she really slapped me. It seems unfair that our method acting and my pain didn’t quite make it in properly (it probably looked shit).
  • Yes, I know, I was dreamy. I don’t understand how I never saw it before. Sigh.

So, yeah. Time to post this, I guess. Remember, kids: never let other people humiliate you. The only person you should allow to humiliate you is you.

a noodle in a haystack