Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Designing A Death Metal Logo

In a break from the recent political and social blogs I have done, I've decided this time I'm going to put a bit of fun back into what I truly like doing. As people generally know, I am a big fan of metal. Not gold, or lead, or tungsten. I mean heavy metal, but I mean heavy metal. Of course, to the layman, it's all just noise isn't it? Over the years I've actually experienced someone tell me that there's no difference at all between Bon Jovi and Napalm Death. The funny thing is, as I've got older I've come to know this to be basically true. There are songs (of course, we call them songs, but they're just noise compared to Cliff Richard and Steps, aren't they?) by both of these bands I appreciate, so "heavy metal" they are.

Which brings me on to how my favourite genre of music is sub-categorized. There's your heavy metal. Then there's power metal. Thrash metal. Glam metal. Goth. Industrial. Black. Hardcore. Spermicidal. Avant-garde. Extreme. Nu. Symphonic. Groove. Shit. Death. Viking. And so on. No other genre of music, except what I broadly refer to as dance music, seems to have so many sub categories. But by far the funniest of these is Death Metal.

What amuses me about Death Metal bands is not the band names, or the music itself, or even the hilarious lyrics and vocals. What amuses me about Death Metal is the band logos. Oh, and before I start demonstrating the culprits with responses from fans going "Oh, but Spunkchristaren't Death Metal, they're, like, Drone Metal" you know what I bloody mean. I mean fast, dark, rigidly formulaic down-tuned 500bpm metal with vocals delivered by a man with laryngitis gargling caustic soda.

The logos may have well have fallen out of a cat's arse.

Example 1: Watain

Example 2: Leviathan

Those of you who might have a love or even a mild fondness for the genre may not have needed the name of the band mentioning before seeing the logo, and I wouldn't be surprised if there are dyslexic people out there who see the words "Water" and "Didgeridoo". Or alternatively two Rorschach test images of a sheep holding up a bank with a dried apricot, and a robot jesus feeding the 5000 with two London buses and a CD called The Best Of James Morrison, which has nothing on it. I know they do to me.

So, how are these logos designed, you ask? No, you do ask. That's where I'm going with this...

First of all, you need a band name. This is very important. You can't design a logo if you don't have a word. And it's important to have the right name. You can't call your Death Metal band FLUFFY KITTENS. Well... not unless you're being ironic, but I don't think it's unfair to suggest your average Death Metal fan lacks an appreciation of irony, otherwise there'd be a band at least called Jesus Huggers or something. No, your band has to be a powerful word, or something in foreign, or something likely to cause offense.

So we'll be working with the band name Wolfbagger.

The first step once you have your band name is to get some photo editing or graphic design software. Personally I use Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8, but this is only because I got a 30-day free trial of it about 3 years ago and it proudly tells me I'm on something like "Day 472 of your full 30 day trial".

Step One: Choosing a font
You need something that isn't easy to read. Times New Roman won't cut it. You want something either ridiculously cursive, or something spikily Teutonic or olde worlde. For our example we've chosen the Vivaldi Italic font, because it annoys me wherever I see it.

<<< As you can see from this example, using this font already renders the band name quite unintelligible.

Step Two: Making it look a bit stranger.

You can do allsorts to improve your logo at this stage, but what's really important in Death metal is the "spike factor". As you can see from the examples I gave, spikiness is very important. So get your pen/brush tool out on your editor and just start randomly adding spikes all over the name, like so:
I haven't added too many spikes in this example, mainly because I simply couldn't be bothered. But many death metal band artists often have more time on their hands than they imagine they have, sometimes even without a bag of weed and a bong shaped like an inverted crucifix.

Go nuts. Add as many as you like.

Note: at this point, if we were designing a Black Metal band logo we would at least one downward spike into an inverted cross and turn the letter O into an inverted pentagram, perhaps with a badly drawn goat head in it.

Step Three: Bulking it up a bit.

If you make your logo look too wiry it simply won't look macho enough. And macho, like black eyeliner and leather trousers, is very important in death metal circles. In the following example I've stretched the image vertically, converted it to a slightly smudged and blurred charcoal effect, and then added a "circle" filter to it so it's all bloated and unnecessary in the middle. Like a guitar solo.
It's still possible to identify the word though. Your best bet is use some sort of warping tool. Such things are usually called something like warp or drip or ripple. In this example we're using something called ripple.

Step Four: Black! Black! Blaaaaaack!

Death Metal is about image. It's simply essential you have white writing on a black background. By all means add nice red blood or a something, but make sure your now hopefully unintelligible logo is on a black background. I achieved this simply by making the picture a negative.

And there you have it! A perfectly ordinary looking band name that means absolutely nothing at all now looks like a two year old tried to write it on a cross-country bus trip after a litre of Sunny Delight.

And that, folks, is how all Death Metal bands come up with their logos!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bring Back The Birch!

Not really.

I thought I'd start off with a nice right wing blog title, because some people who may read this might interpret the content as being of a right wing nature. I'm not for bringing back corporal punishment at any level of society just like I'm not in favour of bringing back capital punishment, betamax, or Jive Bunny. Of course, you could just as easily say that such punishments aren't a left or right wing ethic, but a widely held social opinion based on the state of society and personal experience.

Obviously what prompted me to write this is the state of society. The recent riots in England (I am advised to point out there were no riots in Wales, Scotland or even Northern Ireland, believe it or not) have been very interesting for me. I think the state of the country is rather bland socially or politically, most of the time. Unless something seriously sudden and attention grabbing is happening, no one really cares what's happening at all. It's why you're more likely to read about the Beckhams' new baby or see Kerry Katona talking about her latest battle with weight/cocaine/booze/pills/boyfriend/parents/fans/police/photographer/Iceland/Cradle Of Filth/children/ex/alien invaders. Society as a whole just doesn't interest us.

So something like rioting with no clear agenda is actually a really good thing. Okay, the rioting itself isn't. Rioting generally isn't, especially if it's you being rioted against. Gangs roaming the streets looting shops and destroying property isn't that unusual, but in this instance it was clearly large gangs with an obvious desire to take a police shooting and turn it into an excuse to run amok. But it turns out to be a good thing because it gives people something to talk about, sometimes in an adult and orderly fashion, unless you're Peter Hitchens on Jeremy Vine's Radio Two show today, in which case it gives you the opportunity to make yourself sound like an ignorant, pompous, rude twat who really should move to another country.

Here are some of the suggestions I've heard for dealing with the rioters this week:
  • "They should be whipped, like the animals they are."
  • "They should have their hands cut off for thieving."
  • "If they were responsible for someone's death they should be hung."
  • "Put the army on the streets. See how they like live ammunition."
  • "Cut off their benefits and take their council houses off 'em."
  • "Bring back National Service, and see how they like that."
If you're reading this and have thought or said any of these things: shame on you. Firstly, animals shouldn't be whipped. It's cruel. Secondly, the same people suggesting hand removal are invariably the same ones dead against Arabic customs... like cutting thieves hands off. Thirdly, hanging never solved anything, and America is evidence enough that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. Fourthly, historically, all putting the army on the streets has ever done is make the situation worse. It's not like our police can identify innocents from villains, so why would the army? Fifthly, if you're concerned that people on benefits in social housing are thieves, do you really think sinking them further down society's apparent gutter is going to make them any more likely to make them productive members of the public?

And that brings me on to National Service. This one pisses me off the most.

If you're not familiar with National Service, it's a concept that came about in mid-to-post World War times, whereby young adults were conscripted to serve in the military. It was mandatory, and not only did you have to have a very bloody good reason not to do it, but if you didn't you tended to find yourself shunned, considered lazy or cowardly. There are still a number of countries that have the system.

National Service is not a punishment. National Service is just what it says: serving your nation. It's really got under my collar that a lot of people calling phone-in shows, posting blogs and facebook comments don't seem to understand this. The people that did National Service in Britain weren't rioters! They weren't criminals. They weren't even unemployed or the considered lower classes. They were ordinary British Empire citizens who understood the way the country and the world had been, and they contributed to a system that was a necessity of the times.

If you think National Service would make a good punishment for "criminal classes", let me tell you now, in no uncertain terms, I think you're a fucking moron.

Thank you.

I do, however, think maybe it's time National Service was reintroduced. Not as a specifically military organization, but as a system of giving opportunities to people (not chavs, or slackers, or wasters, or however you want to belittle them) that otherwise don't have them. And it could be quite a simple system. Left school at 16 with no qualifications? How about a stint in National Service, kid? You'll learn discipline, how to work as part of a team, and you'll get training that might just help once you're done. Not interested? Okay, no problem.

You could ask this question once a year up until 18, and if they've done nothing but claim benefits and commit petty crime... bang: National Service just got compulsory. You're doing a 12-month stint in Her Majesty's armed forces alongside people widely regarded by the general public as productive members of society. You won't be given a gun, but you will find yourself washing uniforms in Basra, or sweeping parade grounds in the middle of nowhere in the winter.

What's the alternative? Seriously? We're talking largely about kids from urban slums who have known nothing other than what they and their parents have had handed to them from the government, and in some cases sadly it's become something to aspire to, for a lack of any other aspiration. Those kids in Tottenham may have rioted for what we think of as no reason, but rioting for no reason surely makes the rational mind wonder how they've come to do such a thing "for no reason"?

Back in the Eighties, after the Toxteth riots (yes, England has rioted before, kids!) the Government set up a "task force" to address the need to develop Liverpool into the thriving city it had once been. This was led by Michael Heseltine, considered a tough and out-of-touch millionaire politician, but I think history and Liverpools achievement as a European City of Culture will prove in years to come that he was the right man for the job, and that Liverpool has thrived under his guidance and planning.

The current government needs someone with ideas like Heseltine. I can't believe I'm actvely promoting a bleedin' Conservative, but the evidence speaks for itself. Ask anyone over 40 from Liverpool if it was better to live there in 1981 or 2011. The problem is they don't have anyone like that, and as far as I can see the only obvious solution to give the youth of today a positive opportunity to be productive and active for the good of society is either National Service or apprenticeships. And since we don't have any national industries to speak of, that's the latter option screwed.

For the record, if my concept of National Service was around when I left school, I most certainly would have volunteered. But then I wanted to be in the armed forces when I left school anyway. I'd be interested to know how others my age who found it tough to get a job would feel if they knew they'd had at least some opportunity, rather than becoming the unfortunate, unemployed parents and grandparents of the riotously lost and hopeless current generation.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Those Scumbags In London

I think it's sick.

There are people in the city of London, and indeed other cities, who are ruining this country. Their attitude right now is so counter-productive to what this great nation needs that I just cannot grasp their motives or how they seem to be getting away with it. The systematic destruction of the inner city areas, the problems on the streets, the obvious shortcomings of our police force, and perhaps most significantly the obvious implications of their actions on the financial and commercial aspect of what makes a nation are all laid bare for the world to see. We just can't let them keep getting away with it time and time again.

I am, of course, talking about the banks and their elected lackeys, our "government".

In the light of all the rioting that's dominating the headlines, it seems we've forgotten what a bunch of utter shits the people that run this country are. Worried about gangs running amok in Peckham? Then worry about large corporations moving their manufacturing overseas, so none of the kids in those gangs even get a remote hope of working in one of their minimum wage factories. Cars being set on fire in Birmingham? Worry about those families who no longer have a wage from the Rover factory in Longbridge. Oh, and that brave police force that's valiantly fighting back scores of brick-throwing chavs: the same force that took money from our so-called free press to pass on case details for nothing better than tabloid sensationalism.

It would be cynical of me to suggest that what's happening now is a distraction to other things going on in the country. It's simply ironic coincidence that the police and media are the cornerstone of the biggest news story of the year. No one's thinking about police bribery. No one's thinking about phone hacking dead children or fallen soldiers. That's a good thing too, because they're unbelievable betrayals of national pride, mourning, and the privacy we all hold dear.

These kids running riot aren't protestors. They're just brazen vandals who loot shops for the things we all work hard for. That's right. We work hard for these things, in the jobs we have. Jobs they don't have, I'll warrant. Jobs that aren't there any more. But they don't want to work, you see? They're too lazy. Well, too lazy to get a job. Not too lazy to raid Currys and make off with a 48" plasma telly and a new Nintendo 3DS that'll be in a pawn shop next week, to the joy of a drug dealer who's had a bit of a quiet time since Amy Winehouse passed away, bless her.

It's all so very very wrong, and it's all so very unbelievable. Apparently. Yet over the last two days I've read comments on news websites, twitter, facebook, and even Yahoo's Questions section that not only point out that the killing of Mark Duggan might not be the reason for the riots, but that the riotous connection with his death is little more than a match being struck in a powderkeg that had been shaken vigorously for over a year.

Whatever you think of what is happening on the streets right now, never forget what is going on in the offices of our apparently beloved Capital. There may be people in tracksuits and hoods wrecking your car or smashing your window, but somewhere high above, there are people in Armani suits and Rolex watches wrecking your economy and smashing your children's dreams.

If you're horrified by the riots, please try to find the time to be horrified by the way this country is run.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Health Matters

It doesn't seem that long ago that the very idea of walking up a steep hill filled me with dread. Those of you who have known me (or just seen pictures of me) over the last twenty years will know that my fitness and my weight have been verified factors in how I cope with life, and how that life affects the people around me. I've been a painfully skinny borderline psychotic drug addict, and I've been an obese mayonnaise addict. I've weighed 112lbs. I've weighed 240lbs. Whichever way you look at it, that's not healthy.

I've been lucky though. Through these problems I've encountered, I've always had people around me who have helped me. Okay, these people have not always been immediately identified, and there were a good number of people who really didn't help at all, but they were there. There wasn't always someone there to pick me up when I was down, or to stop me being a dick, but the main reason for this was not a lack of them trying, but a lack of my acceptance that I was down. It's always easier to think that My Way is the only way.

When I got fat, I had an excuse. I had given up smoking, and one of the things someone had said to me when I announced I was quitting was "Oh food'll taste loads better when you quit!" and I was quite shocked to discover they were right. It did. Especially mayonnaise. That's probably why I ended up putting it on everything, and at one point ate a 400g jar of it with a spoon. I was an ex-smoker with a new interest, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Right up until the point where my knees could barely support my weight, and my back throbbed continuously as internal muscles struggled to support my swollen, stretch-marked belly. Comments about my apparent pregnancy were dismissed with me jiggling my man-boobs or relating the mayo jar incident as if this was a good thing.

The thing about being fat is that it's very easy to find an excuse for it. Okay, I'm prepared to believe people do have medical reasons why they can't shift it, but I also know that a diet of frozen pizza, oven chips, crisps, fizzy pop and kebabs is a reason. My excuse was that I was enjoying my life, and since I'd quit smoking I was considerably healthier. Yeah, right. As a smoker I may have been gasping for breath sometimes, but as a fatty I was too, and it was accompanied by muscle and joint issues, not least the damage I must surely have been doing the heart I'd just helped last longer by quitting cigarettes!

So I started playing tennis and jogging. I cut down the size of my meals, but didn't cut anything out. A kebab became a monthly reward, rather than a regular Saturday accompaniment to too much beer. The weight dropped off in just over a year to the tune of about 60lbs. I ran the Red Nose Mile in less than seven minutes. I felt good about myself in a way I know for a fact I'd never felt before in my life. All this, and I'd started smoking again. Because I wanted to.

There's a curious down-side to how well I did turning my life around though. It's how other people with weight-related health issues respond to it. It usually starts with them saying "You've done so well! How did you do it?" and I tell them. And I can see their eyes glazing over as soon as they realize it's not the result of some miracle diet or magic pill. At the mention of the tennis or the jogging, I can tell almost immediately that they're no longer interested in what I have to say. And on several occasions once I've said my piece they've responded with something like this:

"Oh, well I'd love to do that but I've got a bad back/bad knees/poor circulation/tendonitis/etc."

At first I would point out that yes, I imagine you have. When I first set out on a one mile circuit around hilly Belper I had serious lower back pain, knee trouble, and problems with my achilles tendons. All as a result of being grossly overweight. That first mile was achieved in a time that would have been achieved had I just slowly walked the same distance on a flat road. But that wasn't the point. I knew I had to make my body work, to get my heart rate going, to improve my circulation, and to just start the road to what I was sure would be a better feeling. Because at that time I could barely lift my son, didn't fit in our loft hatch, and had real trouble doing my job effectively.

It hurt. For weeks it hurt. When I played tennis with Mark, I would have moments where I yelped or cried out because something in my back or legs or shoulders felt like it was giving out. I dreaded falling down because I figured my excessive weight would double the severity of any injury. There were no serious ones though. Muscles ached, joints twinged, and sweat poured off me. But so did the pounds. The pain was becoming worth it, and in time the pain subsided.

So here I am three years down the line. I've put a little weight on recently, and it's not through over-eating but less exercise. But I'm essentially around the same weight as the blog's name, I still smoke, and my job gets me out on my feet walking the roads and fields of Derbyshire enough that nowhere tires me out. If I eat fast food, the next meal's always a healthy one, and importantly the people around me let me know when I'm on the slide to previous horrors...

It's all just as well. At the time of writing, my lovely Jayne has a leg broken in three places, and my son Luke has a broken ankle. It's hard to imagine how I would be able to tend to their needs if I was still the fat bloke from not that long ago. Luke's needed to be carried up the stairs into the flat and down again, set in plaster as he is. I'd not manage that. Jayne's been unable to get in and out of the bath safely. I helped her with that, and the delight on her face as she felt the warm water wrap around her was a joy to behold that I wouldn't have appreciated if I was too unhealthy to safely assist in lowering here there. With my back how it used to be I wouldn't even have tried.

I can't imagine how difficult it would be to not be able to give the care I know they need, and this is what prompted me to write this blog. I'd like to think that somewhere out there someone might see this and see it as a call to arms for people who have thought, like I once did, that everything's alright with your life even if there are people in that life who love you who see things very differently. Being healthy is not about giving up fatty foods, cutting out booze, quitting nicotine, or becoming obsessed with exercise. Being healthy means having a standard of life where you are comfortable in yourself, don't need to keep popping to your doctors for painkillers and suchlike, and can achieve simple goals like walking up a hill or carrying a tent into a loft without feeling like your back's about to snap in half or your heart's going to burst.

If not for ourselves, I have come to know that maintaining your health is something for other people. If they need you, and you can't handle it, you have to ask yourself who else is going to be there for them, and for you. I've been lucky.

Have you?