Friday, 26 August 2016


The funniest thing ever to come out of Australia is a cookery programme

When someone sitting next to me at work sends me a You Tube link for a video which I HAVE to watch, NOW because it’s the funniest thing EVER, I usually try to surreptitiously kick my computer cord out or remember a fictitious meeting I’m late for.  
It’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just the pressure.  Humour is, as they say, a funny thing, and being told I’m going to find something funny gives me performance anxiety.  Maybe I won’t feel like being amused.  I might suffer a sense of humour disfunction - leaving them disappointed and me weakly suggesting that I must be tired. Or maybe I’m just a grumpy old git after all.

But when a workmate who writes actual cuisine columns recommended The Katering Show to me, I couldn’t say no. And neither should you because it is pure, distilled genius.

The premise is simple, Kate McLennan, a self-confessed intolerable foodie, is determined to demonstrate the preparation dishes suitable for her food intolerant friend, Kate McCartney.  With McCartney's reluctant participation.

Kate McCartney's dead-eyed stare is almost as unnerving...
So each episode sees their friendship teeter on the edge and possibly their sanity as well. The dishes prepared are usually inedible, McCartney’s intense disinterest inevitably reasserts itself while McLennan's desperate smile stretches to manic, then crumbles as every session inevitably spirals out of control.

... as Kate McLennan's fixed grin.
It’s the personalities and interaction between the Kates which makes it work so beautifully.  Is it a masterclass in improvisation or is everything meticulously rehearsed?  Or, God forbid, are they really like that?
Decide for yourself.  Here are the links.
Watch it.

Episode 1 - Mexicana Festiana

Episode 2 - Ethical Eating

Episode 3 - We Quit Sugar

Episode 4 - Thermomix

Episode 5 - Food Porn

Episode 6 - Christmas

Season 2

Episode 1 - Red Ramen

Episode 2 - Yummy Mummies

Episode 3 - It Gets Feta

Episode 4 - The Body Issue

Episode 5 - The Cook and The Kates

Episode 6 - Tying the Not

Episode 7 - Chienging Flavours

Episode 8 - End of Days

Friday, 12 August 2016

Front Drawer

A touch of gloss can make anything look good!

All the astrological symbols have been customised
 to relate to the satirical predictions in the article

It’s been quite a year for illustration commissions, due in no small part to the fact that I am one of the few illustrators left in our organisation.  I’m possibly also the only one stupid enough to work all hours because I don’t want to turn the opportunities down.

Putting the adverse effects on my health and family life aside, here’s a gallery of covers I’ve illustrated for the Sunday Star Times Sunday magazine this year.  

The SST seem to like me because, rather than ever really establishing a style of my own, I rip real artists off.  Or homage them, if you prefer. And Sunday is a glossy supplement - so the stock quality helps  me look good most of the time…

In the style of: Frankie magazine

In the style of: Roy Litchenstein

In the style of: The New Yorker

In the style of:  hang on, this just might be my own! Fancy that...

Not in the Sunday Star Times magazine section, but in the style of:
Soviet propaganda posters

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Ghoul Assembly: Part five - Spent Penny

You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…

We watched the last ever episode of Penny Dreadful this week - a wholly unique series which falls perfectly into this series of posts about 'monster mash-ups'. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and his intended Bride, a Wolf Man or two, Dorian Gray, Doctor Jekyll and various witches and demons all collided over the three years which this series lasted.

Not all of these people are quite human.  Hardly any, actually...
But none of these figures were mere archetypes, they were all as complex and nuanced as any of the programme’s human characters. To say this was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen done right is to pay disservice to both works - Penny Dreadful was like nothing else on television, stately in it’s pacing, utterly unpredictable and sometimes infuriating in it’s determination to avoid convention. 
 Oh how I gnashed my teeth in frustration when they introduced the very great David Warner as Van Helsing, no less, only to kill him off in the following episode!

Ethan's real last name is Talbot and he has an affinity with wolves.
Nope, nothing sinister here...
But above all, this was one of the most beautifully shot period drama TV I’ve ever seen - absolutely suited to a huge cinema screen - particularly the wild west vistas of this last season. Pause any frame from any moment of this series and you could frame it to hang it on your wall.

Victorian factories on the Thames - it's like being there
Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives was arguably the central character, initially drawn into events through there friendship with a certain Mina Murray. Mina doesn’t survive her encounter with a particular Transylvanian Count in this story, but her father Sir Malcolm (played impeccably by a grizzled but formidable Timothy Dalton) does. He becomes Vanessa’s protector and they gather an extraordinary league about them, all with their own secrets and dark pasts.

Dark events always centre on Vanessa - she's a spook magnet
To try and prĂ©cis the dark and spiralling twists the series took is a fool’s errand, but moments stand out above the others. The first appearance of the Frankenstein creature and Greys portrait are unforgettable but for me Billie Piper’s Lily has the most startling scene. In the process of leaving her cringing creator Victor Frankenstein after terrorising him into submission, she suddenly turns and retrieves a bouquet of flowers he had naively offered. Her arm darts out like a striking snake, attention utterly focussed on this one action as if he no longer even exists, and then she’s gone. Something about this explosion of animalistic intensity in a harmless, even endearing, act is very unsettling.

Billie Piper as Lily Frankenstein - she's nobody's Bride.
It hasn’t been a flawless ride. Season two took a swerve from the Dracula story to involve us in what seemed to be a very long encounter with a coven of demonic sorceresses. It had it’s moments, but seemed to lose momentum and meander a little, concluding unsatisfactorily in one of those hallucinatory ‘confronting your own guilty past’ sequences.

(A 4:43 effects reel for Penny Dreadful season 3 - well worth a look.)

This final year was an absolute return to form. Every character given more depth, and some welcome new ones added, particularly Victorian adventuress Catriona Hartdegen, played by Perdita Weeks with an unusual delivery which makes it appear as if she’s being dubbed.
A lengthy interlude in the United States provides a fascinating Western adventure with added werewolves and Brian Cox, before returning to London, and Vanessa, both now in the sway of Dracula. The silent, fog-shrouded city, abandoned by the living and haunted by rats and ragged clusters on the undead, has all the elements for a worthy sequel to Bram Stoker’s novel.

The final showdown...
But now Penny Dreadful is gone, the usual masterpiece title sequence replaced with the simple caption ‘The End’. Victorian London will never seem so sumptuous, or foreboding, again - and these familiar characters may not be re-interpreted so memorably for a very long time.