I’ll have a glass of what he’s having

Last night I watched a man drink a glass of nothing.

I was at a one man show* and noticed the character pour himself an occasional drink. Eventually the liquid in the prop ran out, but the actor drank on. This is something routinely seen on stage, of course, but  it got me thinking about imaginary drinks.

An imaginary drink can go on forever, like the endless drink featured in Norse mythology. Thor is tricked by a malevolent giant Útgarða-Loki into drinking from a drinking horn magically attached to the sea. Thor is made to look foolish as, despite drinking heroically, he is unable to finish the drink. According to Wikipedia, the annoying giant says:

And when you drank from the horn and thought it slow to sink, I dare say that was a miracle I had not expected to be possible; the far end of the horn was submerged in the sea, but you did not see that. Now, when you come to the shore, you will see what kind of sip you drank from the sea; there is now a sandy beach where there used to be water.

At least Thor’s thirst accounted for a bay full of water. The imaginary drink, however, is endless.

Having recently read The Shining by Stephen King, the tormented father Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic. Due to the malign influence of the Overlook Hotel, he sits at an empty bar which has been closed down for the winter. He starts thinking about drink, and a phantom bartender appears to fix him dry martinis. The book was written when King was himself in the grip of alcoholism, so these scenes have a strange force. These imaginary drinks are on on the house and Torrance quaffs them till he gets absolutely wasted.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the imagination. One thing that is wonderful about it is its unquenchable nature. Its freely available. It is intoxicating. And, usually, you feel fine in the morning.


Jack Torrance all smiles at the bar



* A promising play in development, called Big Man, written and acted by Martin Bonger, directed by Alex Swift and based on the myth of Orpheus. 

Secret identity

I was among the last in my class to learn to read, and my spelling was atrocious. I liked pictures, so comics were a natural home as I made my transition to becoming a reader at around seven. My friend Ajit, who lived next door to me in Neasden, was an avid reader of Marvel Comics. Much of our play was superhero themed. Skinny nine year old Ajit, brandishing a ruler, would be Thor and Abu from across the road might be Spiderman, and as the youngest I always seemed to be allotted Iron Man.

I remember one Hulk comic frame where our hero rips up the surface of the street to reveal a science fiction underworld below. This image of breakthrough, and revealing what is hidden under the surface has always stayed with me. Hulk is by nature a breaker of barriers.

But for me the lasting legacy of those Marvel comics was the idea of the double identity. The Hulk had Dr Bruce Banner, Spiderman was Peter Parker, and Thor has had multiple alter egos, including surgeon Dr Donald Blake, labourer Sigurd Jarlson, Architect Eric Masterson, and more. While alter egos have a long pedigree, perhaps most famously The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde  by Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. Interesting that a high proportion of heroes’ alter egos have PhDs. My brother has a PhD (just sayin’) and studied doubles in literature. Through him my Marvel based notion of alter egos expanded to include doubles, which were present in  The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad and The Double by Dostoevsky for example. Once you get your ear in, doubles are everywhere. 

Rather inspired by seeing Jeff Keen Shoot The WRX I decided to start doing some home movies. Also I have been watching Inland Empire again by David Lynch, which always promotes weirdness. So here is my double identity piece called Janus. It’s a bit mad, but was fun and surprisingly fast to make. You can view it here, or click through to watch it bigger on YouTube. I was also interested in the creepy, and unflattering, effect you can get when not showing the entire face.