Sunday, 30 September 2012

ShadowPlay's Top Five Fanzine Videos

Some argue that the internet has killed the art of the fanzine, turning many zines into, arm, blogs. However, it's also become a forum and resource to exchange bizarre and fun ideas. Here, we look at some of the best zine videos online

1. This sums up both the graft and the joy of making a zine as well as illustrating how you can rope friends in. Quite the factory. Watch out for the builder's bum on 32 seconds. 

2. Cutesy in the extreme but very fun. I love mini zines, they're quick, effective and easy to distribute. 

3. A nuts and bolts guide, this works well due to the level of details. Nice, high quality way to create.

4. Great soundtrack and I'd love to read this zine.

5. And one for mirth. The Dark Lord Peter Mandelson says Sun readers don't want a Tory fanzine. He's loving his pre-prepared "we do not want the sun setting on New Labour" line. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Vermicious knids and Umpa-Lumpas: How did Roald Dahl create fiction's most engaging tales?

Roald Dahl: An unlikely hero

The publicity around fellow children’s author Michael Rosen’s new autobiography Fantastic Mr Dahl has been a welcome excuse to ponder the merits of the 20th century’s pre-eminent children’s writer, who died in 1990. It is perhaps only now in what I jokingly call adulthood, reading picture books with my nephew, that I realise quite the style and verve Dahl wrote with and the credit he gave his youthful readership.

Dahl’s most notable works include James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, credit much also be given to personal favourites like The Magic Finger in which geese take over a household, the strange world of balconies and tortoises in Esio Trot and the gentle humour of The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me

Although Dahl wrote for children somewhere between five and ten years old, his greatest skill was not to patronise his readership. Where others would’ve shied away from orphaned children and callous, unloving parents, Dahl drew these facets to the centre of many of his works. He wasn’t afraid to subvert preconceptions of sweet grandmas and scary giants nor include genuine peril in his novels. Whether it is the main character cowering behind a screen for fear of being turned into a mouse in The Witches or Danny driving a car aged nine to rescue his father who is stuck down a pit in the dead of night in Danny the Champion of the World, there’s always moments which are uncomfortable to read and put the main character at huge risk. Moreover, at the start of The Witches Dahl shatters the glass of the notion that this is a fairytale and explains that Witches look like any other person and could be around you every day in a foreword. That, and my sister Imogen whispering “and then the child was gone, just a picture painted on the canvaaas” in a Norwegian accent was enough to genuinely scare me for years.

Matilda by long time Dahl collaborator Quentin Blake
Right and wrong are also at the heart what Dahl challenges. In Danny, the protagonist and his father poach – or steal by another name – from rich aristocrat Victor Hazell while in Charlie several of the irritating children are effectively killed off much to the delight of the readership. However, research by Charles Gerard Van Renane of Rhoses University showed that many children don’t like main characters such as George  as they go too far (i.e. poisoning his grandma).

In a piece published in The Big Issue, Rosen says that Dahl “wasn’t a perfect bloke” and that he had “odd or unpleasant” elements to his past. He adds that: “I wouldn’t mind guessing that I would have clashed over some political things he said or wrote.” But for everything that didn’t quite sit right about Dahl, his ability to create an unlikely hero triumphing over a carefully crafted ogre was redoubtable.

The Grand High Witch
Dahl’s ability to write about family relationships, too, was uncanny. The way he builds the partnership between Danny and his father William in the slow building first few chapters of that novel or between Matilda in Miss Honey – united through a love of books and lack of love from their own parents or guardians – builds a constant theme of being a team against the monstrous likes of Hazell or the perfect villain, Miss Trunchbull. Dahl channelled his own life into these characters too, his granddaughter Sophie appears as the meek heroine who partners The BFG to catch dreams and save the Queen. 

But it’s for his humour that Dahl is most cherished. The bizarre Umpa-Lumpas, the worms in Mr Twit’s beard, the talking insects or Bruce Bogtrotter shoving a mound of cake into his face – there’s always something to make you smile.
Dahl sits on the very top table of authors, children’s or otherwise, in being able to consistently and perfectly do what many have tried and failed to accomplish: write an engaging story or all ages. His star and the glint of Charlie’s golden ticket, will continue to burn bright for generations to come.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Transgender imprisonment case exposes hip-hop's ignorant failings

Activist B. Dolan is the challenging hip-hop scene

When you love something dearly, admitting it's flawed is as easy as ripping your own knuckles out. So accepting that hip-hop remains inherently ignorant, homophobic and misogynistic doesn't come easily.
But one of the year's most exhilarating tunes has highlighted this fact, as well as the failings of the US prison system. Rhode Island rapper B. Dolan, a label mate of living legend Sage Francis, has released 'Which Side Are You On?' a four minute shot across the bows for the US establishment and the North American hip-hop scene. The tune, a perfect balance between angry rasping hip-hop and a lilting folk chorus, highlights the case of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald. McDonald, born a man and transitioning to a woman, was attacked outside a Minneapolis bar, stabbed her attacker and has been imprisoned for three and a half years for manslaughter reportedly without counsel. Her case has rallied the support of the transgender community of Minnesota and kickstarted a #FreeCeCe Twitter campaign after she was jailed in a men's prison. 
Dolan's call to arms video (see below) takes McDonald's imprisonment as a case in point to highlight what he believes is an ignorance from the US penal system to put her in a facility based on her gender at birth. But the video takes the argument one step further, highlighting his genre's lack of openness when discussing sexuality.
At one point there's an extract from the excellent PBS documentary Hip Hop, Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Hip-hop figurehead Busta Rhymes is shown saying: "That homo shit? That's what you talkin about? I can't even talk to you about that. What I represent culturally...doesn't condone it whatsover." Does he think that a gay rapper would ever be accepted? "Oh wow," he says, shaking his head and leaving the room.
If one of the biggest figures in hip-hop of the last twenty years can't even entertain the concept of a gay rapper - of which there are many - presumably for fear of his public image among his peers then that's the single most depressing element of a genre which is simultaneously empowering and effortlessly enjoyable at its best.
Busta and his likeminded peers are undermining and embarrassing the rest of us who love hip-hop with his pathetic stance. Huge swathes of people who never listen to hip-hop, have never given it a chance or dismissed it out of hand want to hear comments like his. They want to believe that every rapper wants to treat women like shit and demonise homosexuals. They want to ignore the fact that crowds are rarely more unified than when gee-ed up by the best emcees. They believe it is an aggressive genre which only encourages violence rather than channelling healthy aggression and creativity.
We know different. We know hip-hop highlights differences in society more than any other genre, uses more clever wordplay than a thousand Kindle-friendly trashy novels and, crucially, can intelligently hold people to account.
Hip-hop remains as vital in overturning views that are inherently wrong now as it did in Public Enemy's heyday. B. Dolan, an activist and founder of, claims that many rappers could "put the mic down and be a Republican" representing antiquated views. He wants to be the Harvey Milk of his generation, let Dolan inspire you, let hip-hop fulfil its real role.