"Real Artists Ship"

Colin Johnson’s blog

Archive for the ‘Found Objects’ Category

The Diversity of my Interests (2)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

(no, I don’t know where “boxing gloves and pads” came from either)

Memory (2)

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

At York university in the 1990’s, there was a lane called “Retreat Lane” which was the start of the main route from campus into town. It was somewhat sketchy, and we were warned not to use it at night; it is good to see that it has had proper lighting installed a while ago. There were three prominent pieces of graffiti on the walls and gates:

  • The words “WATFROD F.C. RULES OK” (yes, that spelling) in huge letters.
  • The words “Ah good the sea!” in chalk. That seems to have been there for years, it was still there a few years ago, people must re-chalk it from time-to-time (I would, I suppose, if I noticed it was fading).
  • The words “Meat is Murder” written at the top of a gate to a field that sometimes had cows in it. Later joined by various other (rather less sincerely meant) slogans, such as “Veg is Vomit” and “Fish is Foul”.

“That employability shit”

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

It is depressing, yet informative, that the end result of no-doubt endless meetings and careful planning and strategy documents and analyses of employability results in the NSS and all that woffle ended in the following fragment of conversation from two students on the bus t’other week discussing the assessments that they had to finish by the end of term:

“…and then there’s [whatever it was], but it’s just that employability shit, so it doesn’t matter.”

(Meta-lesson. You learn a lot by getting the bus up to campus.)

The Bleakest Shop in Christendom?

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

A shop called “BARGAIN BOOZE” is pretty bleak, but at least you know what you are getting. To buy this shop, and decide to rebrand by covering up the word “Bargain” using parcel tape, and on another part of the sign tearing off the word “BARGAIN”, so that the shop is now simply called “BOOZE”, is distinctly more depressing. (This was in Sherwood; it has now all been refurbished!).


Vagueness (1)

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Love it that this bookshop in Margate manages to divide books into three categories: “General Interest”, “Extra Stock” and “Whatever” (there are some other shelves with more specific categories).

General Interest

Extra Stock


Thinking about bookshops and their categorisation schemes reminds me of a bookshop from years ago on Queen’s Road in Brighton, just down from the station, which had, in addition to books on the shelves, large piles of books in the middle of the floor as if dumped there by a dumper truck. At the back of the shop, there was a shelf of pornographic books; in place of the usual bookseller euphemism of “Erotica” as a header for the section, this shop had plumped for the rather more direct word “Filth”.

Amazingly I have just found a picture of that very shop, and an article from The Argus about its closure (well, abandonment) in 2002; the wonders of the interweb, eh?

Ironic (1)

Monday, January 16th, 2017

"For years now, I've been doing the same presentation on change for

(actually from quite an interesting article: Lessons from the A47 and the University Bubble).

Feedback (1)

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Bought the an album called Sex from Amazon a few days ago (by the excellent jazz trio The Necks). Inevitably, this caused the following request for feedback to appear in my inbox a few days later:

"Colin, did 'Sex' meet your expectations? Review it on  amazon.co.uk

Followed, inevitably, by the following when I next went onto the Amazon website:

You purchased: Sex (Used)

Casual Swearing (1)

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I like the casual use of—often rather strong—swearing in very day-to-day situations. Last night, there was a small group of people standing outside the Sainsbury’s Local on the corner. The following conversation took place:

– Have you got the hummus?
– Yeah, sure.
– Thank fuck.

The singsongy rhythm of the last couple of phrases was particularly neat.

Sofa-ry, so good-y

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

I have my own sofa, courtesy of Habitat:

Colin: 3 seater charcoal fabric sofa

(Bonus points to anyone who can get the origins of the pun in the title.)

Design Failures (1)

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Here is an interesting design failure. A year or two ago, the entry gates on my local stations had a message from a charity saying with the slogan “no-one in Kent should face cancer alone.”. A good message, and basically well thought out. The problem is, that they were printed on two sides of the entry gates, which open when you put your ticket in it: as a result, one side of the gate says “face cancer alone”, and this part of the message is separated out when the gates open:

"face cancer alone"

Interestingly, someone clearly noticed this. When a repeat of the campaign ran this year, with more-or-less the same message, it had been modified so that one side of the gate now says “don’t face cancer alone”:

"don't face cancer alone"

There’s a design principle in here somewhere, along the lines of thinking through the lifetime of a user of the system, not just relying on a static snapshot of the design to envision what it is like.

Cringe (1)

Monday, June 13th, 2016

There is a minor genre of entertainment (see e.g. the Cringe nights and associated book, and the Radio 4 programme My Teenage Diary), which consist of people reading out excerpts from teenage diaries, poems, etc. Here is my contribution, albeit from a slightly earlier age. These are two poems that I found whilst looking through some old folders whilst clearing out my parents’s house. They were clearly considered good enough, back in 1981 or whenever, for me to have been asked to copy them out of my schoolbook in my “best writing” (still pretty crap, though interesting to see traces of the “Marion Richardson” style of penmanship such as the lower-case k with a loop in it), and been displayed on the classroom wall.

The first is a nice poem about Spring. It rhymes well, but the scansion could be improved:


In spring the plants come shooting up.
Easter eggs don’t go in egg cups.

In spring we get and extra hour of day.
So now we can all shout “Hooray”.

In spring the baby lambs are born,
And we can begin to plant the corn.

Very bucolic. The next is more exotic, to the point of borderline racism. I particularly like the illuminated capitals.


On treasure island, with lots of palm trees.
There is a treasure chest that has no keys
The treasure was buried by pirates of old.
Pirates who were brave, strong and bold

On treasure island with tall mountains
There are lots of pleasant fountains
The island surrounded by water so cold.
The treasure is made up of diamonds and gold

On treasure island there are no animals;
But there are a lot of cannibals
The island defended by natives with spears
The treasure dates back by thousands of years

On treasure island in the sun
The treasure has not yet been won
There is a volcano with red hot lava
And a river we called the garva.

Good to see a decent attempt to use semicolons. I think “garva” in the last line is an attempt to write “Java”, though it might just about have been a sod-it attempt to find something to rhyme with “lava”. There is probably also some influence from the Griffin Pirate Stories (Roderick the Red, etc.), which I remember reading voraciously at around that time.

The Rule of Three (1)

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Okay, so we sell pizza, we sell pasta. That’s fine, but it doesn’t quite sound like enough. What other foodstuff beginning with “p” can we sell?

"Pizzas, Pastas and Pakoras"

“nothing more than…”

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Excellent Daily Mail comment!

"What science has Hawking ever done? He's nothing more than a very good mathematician."

Sht London

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Found on my credit card bill:


“Somerset House Trust”, of course!

The Diversity of my Interests (2)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

What Alibaba thinks I should be buying for my business:

gift box, kangertech, marble iPhone 6 case, mobile phone, plastic bag, brazilian hair, overboard, stretcher, bondage kit

The Diversity of My Interests (1)

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

What TripAdvisor thinks I should be interested in; an interesting combination:

Berghain, Berlin; Abbey Farm Bed and Breakfast, Hinckley

Get Yerself an Edderkation

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

An news item from my former school’s website:

This is a reminder to parents of Year 11 students that the Year  11 Commnedation Eveming due to take place tonight has been postponed (ref letter sent home last wek).

Tech is Blue

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Here’s an interesting and unexpected result. Do a google image search for “tech”. You will, at the time of writing, get something like this:


Tech is clearly blue. The same is true for “digital”:


and for “cyber”:


I had to make sure that the search-by-colour filter was turned off. This is really surprising to me. I have seen lots of these kinds of images before, but I am gobsmacked at how dominant this colour scheme is as a way of depicting technology. Where does it come from? Some vague notion of “computers are made of electricity, and electricity looks something like a lighting bolt going across a twilit sky”? The second choice seems to be some kind of green-screen terminal green, which is vaguely comprehensible; but, even so, odd. I am in my forties and probably of the youngest generation to have used a terminal for real, and even then only for a few years whilst I was at university.

I wonder what other hidden colour schemes there are out there?

Aside: our university timetable still calls classes held in a computer room “terminal” classes. I wonder what proportion of the students would have any idea why they have this name? I suspect that the vast majority just take it as an arbitrary signifier, and have no idea of its origins.

As Any Fule No…

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

People have been telling me that I should know “what any fule no” for a while. Now, at last, I have the opportunity to find out:

"a lecture by Stephen Fule..."

Product (1)

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

So, is this what they mean at the hairdressers when they say “I’ll just put some product in your hair.”?

Fix and Grout - sold by Supermodel Hair