Nostalgia's not what it used to be...

I absolutely loved Ladybird Books when I was a kid. I remember having a big stack of them under my desk in P5 at Holywood Primary School. My all time favourite was The Farmer. Written by I&J Havenhand and beautifully illustrated by John Berry it was first published in 1963.

I'm not sure if it was this book or our family roots in Fermanagh, but for a time I seriously wanted to be a farmer when I 'grew up.' 

In a stroke a marketing genius Ladybird have now made all the artwork from their Ladybird books available on an online gallery called Ladybird Prints.  Here you can browse your way down memory lane or if you want, purchase a variety of print sizes of your favourites pages from childhood. 

More classics:

'Train' - from: The Story of Newspapers

On the job advice

It must be because I recently celebrated a birthday, but for some reason I was rummaging through the old memory box and thinking about a few of the crap jobs I've had. I don't like to boast, but whether it was delivering the Herald & Post around Holywood or being a petrol pump attendant for 50p an hour I've got a fairly distinguished crap jobs CV. Crap jobs are crap in many ways. Sometimes it's in the nuts and bolts of what you are doing, sometimes it's the nuts and bolts you have to work with or worse still, work for! But crap jobs are important. They are a rite of passage, can sometimes be fun and certainly teach you a few lessons about the world of work. Although let's be honest most of those lessons are lessons you'd rather not learn.

"I'm getting cauliflower mixed with old socks; what about you Vera?"

After my early apprenticeship as a petrol pump attendant I was, of course, well placed to successfully compete for a job behind the till at a petrol station. No more freezing days on the forecourt for me! Despite my obvious qualifications I actually got the job via a family friend, let's call it early networking. I started part-time, but then because the prospects were oh so good I went full time during what I like to describe as my "break from formal education." But that's a whole other story.

Anyway this particular crap job is noteworthy because of the fantastic advice I was given during the first 5 mins of my first shift. Still trying coming to terms with the garish aqua blue sweatshirt I had to wear as the uniform I was introduced to the shift manager by my mustachioed Boss. Let's call her Lynn, for that, dear reader, was her name. This is going back to...circa 1993 and here's the conversation as I recall it:

Mustachioed Boss Man: "Lynn, this is Stuart, he's a new part timer. He'll be working with you tonight. Can you show him the ropes?"

Lynn (ignoring mustachioed boss man): "Hi Stuart, pleased to meet you."

Me (sensing tension between Lynn and mustachioed boss man): "Hi Lynn"

Lynn (completely straight-faced and serious): "There's just one thing you need to know before we get started Stuart."

Me (anticipating petrol station wisdom of a higher order): "Ok"

Lynn:"You don't know Sh*t....Ok"

Me: Err ok....

And there you have it. I've had a lot of jobs in the intervening years, some crap, some good. But no one has managed to top the on the job advice from Lynn. I wonder what ever became of her?

If you've got your own stories from this particular genre I'd love to hear them...

A good reason to stop washing your car

I love this! Inspiration for anyone who has written "wash me" (or worse) on the back of an unwashed motor vehicle.

Dust art! Who knew?

From: supertouch

Keep calm and carry on

Always Paddle took me out for a birthday dinner last night. We dined in Made in Belfast a newish Belfast eaterie which is imaginatively decorated and serves good food. On one of the walls they had a framed version of this poster which was issued by the Ministry of Information in 1939 at the outbreak of the second world war. Perhaps the current government should issue a version of this poster!

Hope, Dope, Pope & Nope


The story of artist Shephard Fairey's iconic 'Hope' image of Obama. Confirmation that imitation continues to be the sincerest and possibly funniest form of flattery.

(From: Rene Wanner's Poster page )

The Background

In 1989, Shepard Fairey (b. 1970) began to paste stickers all over town with a face and the mysterious message "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" or "Obey Giant" . Since then, his palette, geographic range and activities have increased enormously, and when he offered to support Barack Obama's campaign with some posters in January 2008, he readily got permission from Obama to do so. Within a day, he had finished a design, one with the text "PROGRESS", and another with "HOPE".

A first print run of 350 was sold out within minutes for $ 45 a piece, and, much to Fairey's annoyance, resold on ebay for a lot more. The Wall Street Journal began to track the ebay prices, they quickly shot up to $ 3'000, and reached $ 10'000 in June. In July, a mixed media painting done by Fairey in the same style as his "Hope" poster, sold for $ 108'000. By July 31, about 200'000 sticker versions of the original Obama poster had been printed.

Meanwhile, Fairey and his fans continued to wild post their Obamas all over the United States, and Fairey was promptly arrested, like many times before, and spent a night in jail. Ironically, this happened in Denver during the Democratic National Convention than won Obama the nomination of his party.

The strong, simple poster hit the nerve of many graphic designers. Fairey, who had been accused of copying style and content of communist propaganda posters, found himself suddenly imitated with numerous versions of his original design. Tutorials begann to appear in the web on how to make your own Fairey/Obama poster, even ready made solutions where you can just enter your own text instead of HOPE.

The Parodies





bob hope

More here

32 but still not quite grown up?

cartoon from ASBO Jesus


One hundred and twenty nine days. 129. Conall over on O'Conall Street points out that this is how long it has been since the executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly met. Apparently major floods, a crisis in our educational system and the worst economic crisis for decades have thus far failed to encourage a meeting of the executive. Just how bad does it have to get?

Some of the blogging blogs I read (yes, I know, very sad) warn about making sure to avoid the 'echo chamber' - i.e. never emerging from the cave of your blog and ignoring the perspective of others. Seems like our political leaders are lost in something of a political echo chamber whereby narrow party-political posturing is trumping the real challenges that are dominating the hearts and minds of people in NI. 

Tomorrow it will be 130 days and every day thereafter that the absence of our Pimpernel Executive continues a significant contribution is made to the undermining of the entire project of devolution. 

Perpetual October

Today the weather was typical of October. Driving rain, wind, a sudden burst of sunshine and a flash of colour in a rainbow. Yesterday I read an interview with Belfast singer-songwriter Brian Houston and he described Northern Ireland as the land of "perpetual october." A reminder, as if we needed one, that we've had a depressingly poor summer. At least now we have a bit of correlation between the date and the weather. So what does a person, or two persons do on a wet and windy sunday afternoon in Belfast?

Well with Julie behind the wheel we did some driving in the rain, much needed experience for any aspiring Belfast driver. After almost giving up twice we finally found a parking spot and walked to Waterstones for an afternoon coffee in Ground.


After a little reading of the papers and browsing the stacks at Waterstones always paddle decided to take the new Jamie Oliver cook book for a test drive. FYI - The Mitsubishi Pencil Co's uni-ball is apparently the perfect writing tool for copying down a recipe on the back of a napkin.

As I type the tempting smell of vegetable jalfrezi permeates our house. Hopefully our intrepid chef will blog about this and perhaps even share the recipe. Here's a taster:

some photos for friday

recently observed (9) in a coffee shop in Saskatoon reading Napoleon Hill's classic Think and Grow Rich. This is very comforting optimism. In the current climate I was expecting massively increased sales of my self-published volume: "Building a Bunker and Living off the Land for Dummies."

...what can be more fun than meeting up with old friends at a wedding and dancing? haven't fully experienced the beauty of the sky until you've spent some time on the prairies.'s hard to know how to react when someone tells you that you have a 'cute' accent. It's a double edged sword. You want to be more than a voice and cute is not what you're aiming for in life. But secretly, deep down, you kind of like it. it just me or do a shocking number of men flush and walk without washing their hands?I wonder is this true of the female of the species?

...the great Obama art just keeps coming

Obama's shoes

Photographer Callie Shell has had incredible access to Obama during his campaign for both his party's nomination and now the Presidency. She has an amazing eye and with the access she's been granted has manged to capture some incredible images from Obama's campaign.

I've seen the image above on a number of occasions and so far it's my favourite of Obama. It reminds me of one of my all time least favourite aphorisms "You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes."

Commenting on the image above Shell writes:

"Senator Obama was doing press interviews by telephone in a holding room between events. Sometime later as he was getting ready to begin his event, he asked me if I was photographing his shoes. When I said yes, he told me that he had already had them resoled once since he entered the race a year earlier. Providence, R.I., 3/1/2008."

See the full collection of Shell's Obama images here

Gig Art

See lots more here

Blog? Why?

Blogging legend Andrew Sullivan has a really interesting piece called "Why I blog" in the latest edition of The Atlantic online.

Couple of great quotes:

"Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics; more free-form, more accident prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many way, writing out loud."

"The key to understanding a blog is to realise that it's a broadcast, not a publication. It it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks."

U Haul trailers

U Haul trailers
Originally uploaded by stuart.noble
U-Haul trailers at a Gas Station 1 hour north of Saskatoon.


Earlier this week we got free tickets to see Saskatoon's first showing of Oliver Stone's W. The much anticipated premier was sponsored by a local free-sheet called Planet S and before the movie started there was a hilarious give-away contest which involved three men in a balloon blowing-up contest. The reason I mention this is that the random pre-show shenanigans were far more entertaining than this movie. I was really looking forward to W. but it was extremely disappointing!

I'm still trying to work out what the problem is with the movie W. There are millions of people out there who hate Bush and his cronies and they will probably enjoy this movie, but making fun of George Bush is about as entertaining as those books of Bushisms that were funny for about 10 seconds in 2002. I'm not sure what Oliver Stone was trying to achieve in this movie. The story is badly told, the 'message' about as subtle as a 10-gallon hat and a Texan belt buckle. The pace is sluggish with no tension and no character or storyline that could be described as emotionally compelling. Perhaps it's simply too early, that we are too close to Bush to achieve any substantive exploration of the man and his presidency? Whatever the problem this is a seriously flawed movie that feels like a made-for TV biopic that you just might watch on a Sunday night if there is nothing else on and your broadband internet is not working.

W. attempts the same sense of realism that Stephen Frears achieved in The Queen, but fails miserably. Josh Brolin's Bush and Elizabeth Banks' sexy librarian Laura are the only bright spots in a sea of weird faces, strange mannerisms and awful accents. One reviewer aptly described Thandie Newton's Condi Rice as speaking as if she had sucked a balloon full of helium. W's close, but not quite close enough result, leaves you in this weird twilight zone where you're expecting a comedy moment at any second and you just can't get past the one dimensional look-a-likes. Watching W on the big screen I felt like I'd stumbled into a slightly convincing wax-work recreation of the Bush White House after a few minutes I wanted to move on to the exhibit of David Beckham and Posh Spice.

With little finesse or subtly Stone builds his story of Bush on a foundation of Daddy issues, failure, fraternal jealousy, alcohol and religion. No matter what portion of W's life we see portrayed on screen one of these will appear like a teenager standing behind a TV reporter with a huge "Hi Mum" sign. I'm no fan of George Bush and some of Stone's W may be completely accurate, but I'm a fan of good films and I don't need to spend over 2 hours in a movie theatre being treated to a large screen rehash of every Bushism under the sun.

People are complex, even George W Bush. To truly do justice to someone, even a hate-figure like Bush, you've got to allow for complexity and show empathy and imagination. This is not to say the film-maker is suddenly sympathetic and uncritical, but you've got to get under their skin and give their character room to breathe. Sadly Stone's W is suffocated under a blanket of unimaginative hate and a strange sense of shame that this man has been President. W might be good therapy for frustrated democrats, but it's definitely not good cinema.

A beautiful day

The Bride was stunning, the weather perfect, the ceremony beautiful, the food delicious, the dancing fun, the laughs plenty, the canoe hilarious: all in all it was a perfect day!
More photos from Nancy and Matt's wedding on flickr


For my Canadian family tomorrow's date has been circled, marked, underlined and starred for months. Now it's almost here. The big day, the start of a new chapter: the wedding of Nancy and Matt. There are still lists, but they've got a little shorter. Today there are final preparations and time to take a breath before tomorrow.

Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce for sale in EE Burritos

We got our Burrito fix today courtesy of EE Burritos on 8th Street - delicious!

More Obama art

My favourite is the Magic Tree!

The Twitterverse

Do you Twitter? How do you use it? Do you find it just one web step too far or are you addicted to updating the world in 140 character episodes?

Explaining Twitter to your Mum

I did once try to explain Twitter to my Mum, but I don't think she got it. The problem was not technical, but more of a Why would you want to do that? query, which is entirely valid. Why Twitter at all? Here's a quick answer and some reports from the twitterverse.

Twitter asks: What are you doing? and gives you 140 characters to explain. I've been using Twitter regularly for a couple of months now and I like it a lot. It's fair to say that it can easily become an easy way of updating your facebook status update or advertising a new blog post, both of which I do regularly. However, it's also an interesting way of micro-blogging and I really like the idea of trying to communicate within the strict confines of 140 characters.

New Friends and Customers?

Much to always paddle's concern I have been twittering with some people I have never met. She thinks this is a bit weird. Twitter allows replies so I've enjoyed a few 140 character conversations with these folks. I've also seen some of the Belfast and NI based twitterati meet up and use twitter for social networking. As twitter grows in popularity more and more businesses seem to be getting in on the act. As usual the key will be creative usage of a medium rather than seeing twitter as just another way to megaphone your product or message.

Random Followers

One of the funnier things about twitter is that you get more random followers (friends) than you do on Facebook. I'll admit that I have randomly started following a few people. For the uninitiated this is the same as asking someone to be a friend on Facebook, except you don't have to give permission for someone to follow you. Mostly I follow on a "they seem like an interesting person" basis. This provides a hugely gratifying moment when you get an email telling you that someone else is following you. However, it can sometimes be a crushing disappointment when you discover that your latest follower is (a) trying to sell you something, (b) a little weird 0r (c) just plain crazy. Recently I got two notifications of new followers, both to be filed under R for random. One was from Josiah Bartlett. Someone out there twittering a la Jed. For example:

Long day ahead. I believe I'll be dropping in on Toby and C. J. to see how well they're prepping Biden. Charlie is going to be in here to wake me up any minute. I should at least try to pretend I'm sleeping.