Wounded issue #2: A Burning Rage

Posted on November 12th, 2012

Gosh, this actually went up a while ago, but I’m not sure that I actually featured it on the front page. Issue 2 of 4 of my digital series Wounded is available to to download from this website.

Issue #2 continues the story of Jed, the Blueshirt left for dead by a group of enemy Redbands, and his quest for vengeance. Jed finds the effort a bit much, and in the process of taking an enforced rest receives a visit from from some unexpected guests. Meanwhile, the Redbands, oblivious to their pursuer, begin to show friction amongst each other in the aftermath of their successful ambush. Issue #2 marks the halfway point of the series, and things begin to accelerate in intensity.

Like I say, I’ve actually had this up for a little while now, but the pathetic procrastination I let overtake myself when doing Into The Cave I Go somehow pushed the thought of posting about it on the main blog out of my mind. It also set everything I’d been doing back a good while but it’s back on track now. I’m actually in the process of doing the artwork for Issue #3 right now. My optimistic date for Issue #3 dropping is around Christmas time, which may turn out to be unrealistic but it should be not too long into the New Year at least.

Here are the individual download links for Issue 2 in PDF and CBR formats. The Wounded page can be found here, which is also where you can download Issue #1 from, also in PDF and CBR format (ePub possibly coming soon).

Feel free to download Issues #1and #2, and I hope you enjoy them.

Into The Cave I Go

Posted on November 8th, 2012

cave image

So I’ve added a new sub-section to the Comics area of this site called ‘Shorts’. It’s where I plan to keep all the various unrelated shorter works that I occasionally feel the need to work on. The first piece is now in there, and it’s called Into The Cave I Go, the tale of one knight’s journey down into the dark depths…

“Short”. Ha!

It took me quite a while to do Into The Cave. I started it before the Olympics. I took a large sabbatical from doing it during the Olympics (also: from life) which is a large part of the reason why it’s ended up taking so long. I also through I’d planned it to be a lot shorter than it ended up being. It’s done a little different to my usual full-script working in that I’ve realised that I’ve ended up doing it in the Marvel Method, which also complicates matters somewhat through simply being different to what I’m used to.

Anyway, you can check it out here, and I’m pretty sure that most other pieces that get filed in the Shorts section will actually be relatively short from now on.

Wakey Wakey

Posted on November 6th, 2012

Waaaaaaake Uuuup.

-Rage Against The Machine, ‘Wake Up’

I used to think that I had a sleeping problem. To a certain extent I probably still do – I tend to take hours to drift off to sleep no matter how tired I am and no matter how hard I’ve worked during the day. It can be pretty shitty suddenly feeling like the walking undead around mid-afternoon. But recently, I’ve started looking at this problem differently , from the other side, so to speak – I don’t have a problem getting to sleep, I’ve got a problem waking up.

As autmn secedes into winter, it’s a problem that becomes more and more apparent. The sound of rain and wind blowing outside, the way the slightly lower room temperature contrasts unfavourably with the warm pocket that the duvet snuggles around you, causing an almost natal desire to stay in its embrace – it makes it that much more difficult to get up.It makes you force yourself to get up, and that’s where the problems start.

I’ve developed a theory with no basis in scientific fact that there are certain windows that a person can wake up in which allows someone to glide through the rest of the day. Try and get up outside of these windows, however, and you end up with the fog of tiredness clouding over you for the rest of the day. It’s like you’re a spaceship, trying to break orbit, trying to escape the gravitational pull of the bed – at certain times, you can do it naturally with your own momentum, but other times it requires more effort to force the issue, and that can be troublesome in the long run.

It’s incredible how much of a difference waking up properly makes to your day – it can be the difference between bouncing through the day with a spring in your step or trudging though a thick sludge of lethargic indifference. Of course there are ways of tricking yourself into waking up, such as cold water to the face or multiple cups of coffee, but these are distractions. They don’t solve the real underlying problem, the problem of reluctance towards embracing consciousness. It’s possible to have minimal sleep yet bound through the day, just as it’s possible to have a thorough rest and sulk through the day, all because of how you wake up.

Look, I really want to get on with my day in an energetic, useful way. But it’s all about the start. I need that launch in the right direction. Waking up properly is an art form, one that most people rarely seem to master properly until it’s too late. It’s one of the most important things every one of us has to do, yet we never think about it.

Start right, people – it makes continuing right just that little bit easier.

The Cyclists Approach

Posted on August 8th, 2012

I went to Knightsbridge a few Saturdays ago  for the start of the Men’s Cycling Road Race. It was a slightly bizarre experience. There were thousands of people lined up along Knightsbridge, often two or three deep. It was busy a good hour before the riders were even due to pass. It was the busiest I can remember seeing London at 9am on a Saturday (note: I rarely see London at 9am on a Saturday).

Of course, part of the problem with standing on the side of the road for things like this is the lack of knowledge about where the damn cyclists are. But then you see a procession of cars screaming down the road like a police chase, you see the TV helicopters hovering just overhead, their noise acting like a rumbling proximity alarm. Then you see a herd poke into view, and the crowd erupts.

 Actually, from a crowd perspective the whole thing is rather anticlimactic. The cyclists come, they whizz past, and then they go. They’re not even really racing at this stage, generally preferring to conserve their energy for the outer London and Box Hill sections of the race. Many people had come out to see the current stars of British cycling, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and co, and Wiggins appeared to be leading the peloton out of London in ceremonial deference to his very recent Tour de France victory. But even though they weren’t really in full race mode yet they still all just whizzed passed, quick enough to only leave a short glimpse, crowded together still to form a jumble of spokes and a spectrum of lycra.

After they rushed off towards the Surrey countryside, and after the lone Russian rider at the back who I assume had technical troubles at the start line came racing by with a sense of urgency, everyone just stood around for a bit, realised that was it, and scattered in their separate directions. And as I saw the police screaming past on their motorbikes, a part of me thought of how a group of cyclists had a very different kind of police escort roughly 12 hours before.

TfL have been pushing cycling as a good way to travel for some time now, and the Boris Bike scheme is a good indication of their desire to push cycling. However, they haven’t taken into account just how poor cycle route provision is in large parts of London, with their Cycle Superhighways coming in for much criticism for endangering cyclists as much as helping them. Critical Mass, a regular cycle meet that ride around London, went a little too close to the Olympic Park and ended up getting kettled and arrested en masse, with reasoning that can be called dubious at best. Given the way that these cyclists were treated, and given the fact that the one death of the games so far was a cyclist being mowed down by a bus, and you can see that cycling still has a long way to go to get the respect it doesn’t just deserve but needs.

Cycling should be in a golden age in Britain right now. UK Sport has clearly identified at one of our top sports and given it appropriate funding, and similarly Sky have seen it as a way to get good PR and have pumped money not only into professional cycling but also grass roots campaigns. It all seems worthless if there’s no good roads to cycle on any more. When my last bike broke down I didn’t bother replacing it, partly because public transport around here has improved quite a bit but mainly because the whole thing was becoming too much hassle. Maybe I’d like to start cycling again, but I also found it stressful – not physically so much (though it is to start with) but mentally.

The combination of the success of the cycle team at this Olympics with the the Critical Mass and bus incidents has brought a lot of attention to the two wheeled way, both good and bad. Cycling is interesting in that it’s probably the one sport that also doubles as a lifestyle choice. Encouraging cycling as a method of transport is a great idea in terms of reducing pollution levels and getting people exercising, but it’s pointless doing so if the cycle provision is such that it endangers cyclists. There’s no point inspiring a generation of new cyclists if they have nowhere to cycle. If cycling is going to make the move from being a sport to a transit system, we all (cyclists, drivers, town planners) need to work out how to make it safer and less hassle.

Maybe I’ll get back on my bike at that point.

 

My Amazing and In-Depth Review of the Opening Ceremony.

Posted on July 30th, 2012

I quite liked the bit with Bond and the Queen, and the bit with Mr Bean.

Transported to Now

Posted on July 27th, 2012

There have been a lot of bad things about the Olympic build-up, and a lot of things that have been worrying, and a lot of things to get angry about. But one of the few definite good things that will be coming out of this all is the improvements to Transport for London and their expansive network.

It’s about bloody time, frankly.

London Transport is one of those things that all Londoners like to moan about, but probably because they don’t know the alternative. I never really appreciated TfL until I went to university and had to experience what constitutes public transport in the West Midlands. You really don’t appreciate how expansive the tube and rail network is, and how useful things like night buses are, until it’s gone.

Even so though, there’s massive room for improvement. It struck me as odd that Hackney could have no tube station in it (Manor House and Old Street both being right on the borders with other boroughs), and the bus provision has always been variable (I’m convinced it’s gotten worse since Boris took over). This isn’t even taking into account how crazily crowded it gets in peak time and how none of the lines ever seem to work on the weekend.

But things have definitely gotten better over the past few years. Slowly but surely the redevelopment of the lines has gone ahead, and most of the lines have shiny, pleasant new trains. It’s still a struggle at peak time, but that’s always going to happen in a massive city. Perhaps best of all, TfL finally got Oyster PAYG onto suburban rail, and took the North London Line over as part of the London Overground project. This has done wonders – the line is now more extensive than ever (with a further expansion from New Cross Gate to Clapham Junction still to come by the end of the year). It only took a few months for it to become an essential part of many Londoner’s lives.

Then there’s some of TfL’s more esoteric projects. The jury’s still out on the Barclays Bike scheme, but it is developing its own place in the London transport landscape, and any attempt to push for an increase in cycling is a good thing (now how about some safe cycle lanes, TfL). There’s also the newest addition to TfL: The Emirates Sky Line, or the cable car as it will be known to most people. I must admit I considered this to be a waste of time and effort when I first heard of it, and I’m still not convinced about it as a viable transport option (although more transport to the O2 and south of the river in general is a good thing) but having had a look at it for the first time, I’ve got to admit I was impressed. There is no more scenic way of travelling in London.

Whether the cable car attracts enough visitors to keep it as a viable method of transport is still in the air (so to speak), but at the very least it should manage to combine getting from north of the river to south with being a fantastic tourist attraction.

To be completely honest, a lot of these things are changes that should have been made a long time ago, and shouldn’t have needed the largest sporting event on Earth waltzing into town. But they DID need that to kickstart them all. Whilst the Olympic legacy around the park and the venues is still a massive worry, at least something good will have come out of the games, something that will have a lasting impact. The city’s inhabitants are its lifeblood, and the transport network is its circulatory system. It’s always a good idea to keep that flowing smoothly.

 

Some Thoughts on Day -2

Posted on July 26th, 2012

  • Boy, they really pulled out the stops for this one, didn’t they? Oh wait, no they didn’t at all. I understand that the Olympic organisers probably didn’t want to undermine the big party that they have tomorrow night, but a little pomp and precession wouldn’t hurt, would it? 
  • Whose bright idea was it to open up with a women’s football match in the Millennium Stadium? Did they not watch the 2000 Rugby League World Cup? The empty spaces swallowed up what few people were there.
  • Why is football even in the Olympics? It already has its fair share of major tournaments. I’m personally of the opinion that the Olympics should be the pinnacle of any participating sports, and in football that’s clearly not the case. Even in basketball, where I suspect most of the players would rather win an NBA title, the Olympics is still clearly the pinnacle of the international game (which makes David Stern’s proposal to reduce it to an Under-23 tournament especially silly.
  • Here’s the proof that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics: this is a football mad country, football being the only sport that it truly cares about, and it can barely sell any tickets for this tournament.
  • Part of me wonders if that is because there is still residual prejudice against women’s football here, and that the men’s tournament is going to have bigger crowds. Perhaps, but even though I still occasionally lapse into that territory myself I still think the women’s tournament has more validity than the men’s – it’s an actual open age competition with the best players in it, for one thing. I think a women’s World Cup or Euros in England would bring in a good crowd (though I’ve just noticed the much better crowds at today’s men’s games).
  • Also, whilst I understand the use of football to take the Olympics out to the rest of the country, I think the people of Cardiff, Glasgow and everywhere else see through it. They’re not really part of the games, they’ve just gotten the bit that no one else really wants.
  • Again, why did these games have to be in the biggest stadia in the country? The games at Coventry look the best on TV because that’s the most compact, appropriate ground. 
  • The Team GB away shirt is horrible. It’s like someone was dared to make something worse out of England’s Euro 96 away shirt and succeeded.
  • As for the football itself, a boring football match is a boring football match, male or female. The goal was quite nice, and had GB not been so wasteful in the first half.
  • Finally, the North Korea cock-up is epic. The first major balls-up of the games and they haven’t even officially started yet. That’s impressive. You would think that they would check things like that, what with the importance of national identity being such a strong driving force behind the games. Apparently not. 

Ring-Fenced

Posted on July 25th, 2012

I was in Westfield Stratford City last week. It’s pretty busy, as you might expect what with the school holidays and the BLOODY OLYMPICS going on now. However, what was most noticeable was the sudden influx of a new type of resident – the squaddie. There were loads of ’em all about, and they’re the visible representation of what has been one of the most sensitive points heading into these games.

As is well known, the day after the announcement of London hosting the 2012 games saw the July 7th bombings take place. I think that one of the biggest anxieties over the last seven years for Londoners has been the extra scrutiny the Olympics brings, and with that comes the fact that it becomes more of a target for terrorists. The world is watching, which makes it all the more tempting a target to make a stand on. London has a history of being attacked in this way thanks to the IRA, but after a relatively fallow period for terrorism in the capital the bombings reminded everyone that London was still a juicy target, and one that might only get more tempting in the run-up to the games.

What I’m not sure anyone was expecting was that the trouble could potentially come from within. That was until just under a year ago, when the London riots happened. It was widely noted that they took place exactly a year before the games, and people wondered if the police would be able to cope with such an onslaught during the games themselves. Suddenly, security became a pressing issue once more, and not just because of terrorism.

So with threats from within and without, I can understand why security would have to become heightened. But you know what might actually help? Having trained security staff. Which is just one of the many things that makes this whole G4S fiasco so ridiculous. Never mind that they don’t have the best track record for care, the fact that they couldn’t get enough staff, and that this only becomes a real issue on the eve of the games is an absolute shambles. The only good thing about this is that this should do a massive amount of damage for their plans for taking over parts of the Met and other forces… except that’s not how it works, is it? I hope that the games run smoothly, but I also hope that the Police, armed forces and government take stock of where they’re heading after all of this.

Olympic Observations: The Calm Before The Storm

Posted on July 24th, 2012

But will it really look like this?

In case you hadn’t heard, the 2012 Olympics start this week. In London. London, England.

I vaguely remember watching the selection gubbins all those years ago. I remember being quite surprised how wound up people it was getting people, and how many people had gone to Trafalgar Square for the announcement, and how ecstatic everybody seemed. What I mostly remember about the announcement is that the July 7th bombings were the next day. The timing of those bombs couldn’t have been worse – a massive high was quickly brought down to a crushing low. London is nothing if not resilient, however, and recovered admirably. London hasn’t had a massive amount to celebrate about in that time, and it’s time to see if it’s all been worth it.

For most of the past seven years it’s seemed like a vision, a mirage, something with no defined shape out on the horizon, something was only noticeable as an inconvenience in the presence and not as a tangible thing, not as part of my reality even though it has been subtly (and not-so subtly) shaping the London experience for the past seven years.

The first time I remember actually taking stock of the fact that the games were really happening was in 2009. I was heading to a Leyton Orient pre-season friendly, and the train route into Stratford went right past the Olympic park. I was struck by how… built the whole thing was. There’s a tradition in this country of expecting large building projects to go right to the wire (if not horrifically past the deadline) mainly as a result of fiascos like Wembley and the Millennium Dome. It amazed me how complete everything looked. Maybe the five rings would be turning up after all.

But it’s in the past few weeks that it’s really started to hit home: it’s actually happening. First of all, in an interview on BBC news last Friday, I saw a truly amazing sight: Boris Johnson with a haircut. This man wouldn’t smarten his accident-site of a mop for the election process, but the world’s eyes seems to be a different matter.

One is before, one is after. You guess which.

Secondly, whilst having a brief check on the TfL website last Sunday I noticed this, which nearly made me fall off my chair with shock:

On a Sunday! SUNDAY!!! That never happens!!! I literally can’t remember the last time I ever saw that on the weekend! For you non-Londoners, this picture shows that all of the London Underground and Overground services were running fine early Sunday evening, something that never happens on the weekend due to engineering works (note: the Waterloo & City line is always closed at the weekend, as its only purpose is to shuttle bankers during the week between its eponymous destinations). Normally, a Sunday service update looks something more like this:

If TfL was deciding it needed to get its act together at weekends, then shit just got real.

It’s not been plain sailing to this point, of course. There’s been all kinds of budgetary fuck-ups. There’s the fact that the jobs it was supposed to create don’t seem to be there. There’s the the perpetually lingering question of legacy, most notably with the Olympic Stadium. There’s been the absolutely colossal fuck-ups involving security by G4S, which may have the positive effect of killing off their attempts at taking part of the Met. The Olympics has been used as a stick to beat us all with, an excuse for all kinds of bullshit. But there have been positives, most notably to London Transport with the London Overground project the best thing to happen in that area for years, something that should’ve been done regardless of the Olympics but unfortunately wouldn’t have been. The Olympics has made everyone realise that as great as London is, some things needed attending to.

I get the impression that the rest of the country feels the Olympics can fuck off and it’s yet another example of Londoncentricism, and to be honest I can’t really disagree. What I’m less sure about is how Londoners feel about it. The city can be a ballache to live in at the best of times, but it’s been disruption this and chaos that for large parts of the past seven years, something that’s only intensified in the last year. I think people are resentful of the approaching swarm, and of the city’s tarting itself up for them when it’s made little attempt to do so for its own inhabitants beforehand. But also, I think people are also now realising that the biggest sporting event in the world is going to be on their doorstep. It’s too late for complaining (there’ll be years, if not decades, for that later). Instead, to qoute Dr Dre,  I’ll just sit back and watch the show.

Anyway, I’m going to be writing something about the Olympics every day now. I’m going to a couple of events, and I’m going to be interested to see the park, but I’m also going to try and go to as much of the free stuff as possible. I’m also trying to get a few more tickets for other events, but the ticketing website just the worst thing since unsliced bread, deserving of its own rant. It’s the biggest thing to happen to this city in a long time, and at the very least, it’s going to be an experience.

Let the games begin.

The new mgonta.co.uk is open!

Posted on July 23rd, 2012

Hello, and welcome to the new mgonta.co.uk. After toiling around with a tedious Joomla site, I’ve decided to change to a new site that looks a lot brighter and a lot clearer. Let’s hope it looks nicer!


||