Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs: The greatest live show I (didn’t get) to see!

When I first enrolled in Art College in 1996 I was granted access to one of the greatest libraries I had ever seen! Offering access to thousands of books relating to art and design and the college also offered various courses in media and performing arts and so there was  all manner of books and magazines devoted to cinema on hand which provided me with endless amounts of reading material for my daily 30 mile commute to college. Books devoted to animation and cult cinema were a particular lure for me and I read about the works of people such as Ed Wood Jr, Russ Meyer, Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman. One book I held in high regard was Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In a humorous movie guide written by Joe Bob Briggs that both celebrated the iconic American Drive-Thru appealing to my fascination with all things Americana and exploitation and B Movies of the past. Joe Bob seemed to speak to me, reviewing the then current movie releases through a tall tale about his exploits at the Drive-Thru all the while upholding the all important three B’s rule  "Blood, Beasts and Breasts!" as I noted the movie titles he had advised me to  “check it out” I had no idea who Joe Bob (aka John Bloom) actually was beyond the blurb in the book and certainly had no idea that he was the host of TNT cable network’s  MonsterVision series, regarded by many to be a cult classic. 
I didn’t even know what he sounded like until we had YouTube when I was finally able to put a voice to the words and face and binge watch segments from his past shows, combine his immortal 'Drive-In Totals' and his infectious devotion for the subject matter I have long regarded him to be one of the all time great horror hosts and B Movie/ exploitation cinema aficionado. But each time I watched these clips I was always sorry that we never had this guy here in the UK, celebrating the movies that mainstream critics and reviewers looked down on. So when I heard that eighteen years after his MonsterVision show had ended he was going to return for one last hurrah on Live stream I thought I was finally going to get experience Joe Bob Briggs experience for myself! First hand! 

When news of the The Last Drive-In broke all fans rejoiced, it was to be a 24 hour marathon on Shudder the streaming/ subscription video on demand service on Friday the 13th of July and it was to be  Joe Bob in his chair, beer in hand highlighting some of his favorite movies over the years, ones that upheld the MonsterVision rule, “Anybody can die at any moment” but, my heart sank when it seemed that it was only available to Shudder customers in the US (due to copywrite issues) “dang it!” but when I looked on the Shudder UK site in the lead up to it, the show featured in its listings, so I figured I still had a chance! So I signed up to Shudder and took my seat at 3am but.... Shudder had underestimated Joe Bob’s popularity, they broke the internet! Hundreds despaired (myself included) as they only got loading screens! After an hour I walked away and decided I would try and catch up after I had some sleep, but I did contact Shudder themselves before going to bed asking what was going on and within a few hours  Shudder contacted me and said, “Hi there, The staggering demand for Joe Bob’s Last Drive In had temporarily overwhelmed Shudder devices. Things have been fixed and you should be able to join the live-stream in progress. Even better, we’ll be posting the entire Tourist Trap with Joe Bob’s commentary so you can catch up. And on top of it all, we will rerun the marathon in its entirety later next week on ShudderTV We apologize for a frustrating experience this past evening, but we THANK YOU for your tremendous support and fandom!” Well, there we go I thought I should be able to be a part of this at some point then? Nope! I tried with my TV, computer and phone throughout the day- no joy! All seemed even bleaker when I noticed that Shudder has issued the very same message I had been sent to everyone on Facebook! The 24 hour marathon drew to a close and I hadn’t seen a single second of it! Everyone heralded it as his triumphant return! One of the single important horror experiences in many a year! And I missed out!! I e-mailed them again, asking why had I not been able to join in on all the fun and games and essentially fobbed off? They replied “Dear Arfon, Unfortunately the marathon was available to US members only. We sincerely apologize about this inconvenience.” So it was all a waste of time?! Why advertise it on the UK site?  I’ve asked around and apparently according to a gentleman called Tom Waller who had been in contact with the channel before the show went to air offered some insight, apparently UK customers would be getting VODs (Video on demand) sometime during the next week but only for the films that Shudder have licensed for in the UK, so no Tourist Trap, Pieces or Sleepaway Camp!
But there might be a glimmer of hope, we might possibly get to see the Joe Bob segments themselves edited much like the ones we have been watching on YouTube all these years (not what I was going for but at least it’s something!) Tom thought it would be an idea to contact Shudder UK direct and show them Joe Bob also has a fan base here in the UK and I agree! So come on fellow British Mutants, contact Shudder and tell them we want to see Joe Bob! Contact them via their contact page or their Facebook page or Twitter and remember, the Drive-In will never die!

My sincere thanks to Tom Waller and Joe Bob’s assistant Tracy and of course Mr Joe Bob Briggs himself!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

From the Vaults: 2009 'Cei Bach'

Back in 2009 I was hired to help out with the production of a Welsh language children’s television series entitled Cei Bach it’s been nine years so I’m assuming that they won’t mind me mentioning it now (If I’m wrong S4C please let me know) Cei Bach centred around Prys the village policeman and his wife Mari who ran a B&B on the sea front along with various other characters which made up their community, described as the 'Welsh Balamory' the show was filmed around the village of Borth-y-Gest (one mile outside Porthmadog) and yours truly was hired to decorate a snack van which featured in the series and paint a donkey for a pin the tail on the donkey competition which featured in a village fate. 

I haven’t been able to find the village fate episode online but here are some random shots of the van which I adorned with various snacks. Look out for them on iPlayer or follow this link to Cyw (A Welsh language Children's television block on S4C) to watch some episodes. Fear not non Welsh speakers I understand English subtitles are available!      

the van also featured on the show’s interactive website    
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Arfon's 24 Hour Shark A-Thon! Countdown begins!

Arfon's 24 Hour Shark A-Thon! Will commence in 26 days and thanks to your kind generosity through donations via the Justgiving page or adding your pledges via my sponsor forms we have broken the halfway mark and raised £300 for Alzheimer’s Society!
BUT this is only the beginning! There is much more to do as I want to raise as much as possible with this, so please- if you haven’t donated yet do it now! Remember there is no set pledge amount here, give what you can! Whatever you can spare and if you’re not so keen on online pledging fine, get in touch and make your donation/pledges anyway you wish! Be sure to tell everyone about this challenge any attempts to spread the word would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Artistic Influences: Happy Birthday, Garfield

Introduction: Adjusting and rewriting the past
Acknowledging artistic influences is a nice touch to someone’s ‘about’ page however back in 2014 I found myself having to edit mine somewhat when an enduring television personality named on my bio as a creative influence was convicted and imprisoned for sexual offences. As he was led away to begin sentence, his various honors and achievements stripped from him, people started to distance themselves from him and  history was effectively, rewritten.  It was a surreal time for me, because for many years I had regarded this man to be an integral part of my career, he had inspired and steered my life in this direction but now I wasn’t able to look back because most of the past had been wiped away. From now on I was no longer able to give his name when asked, “what made you want to become an artist?” and I was no longer able to recount how important his TV shows and books had been for me, no longer able to say that meeting him had been one of the highlights of my life, his photo was removed from my wall of fame and the paragraph referring to his influence was deleted from my online bio. But he wasn’t the only influence I had, far from it and so I have decided to go back and highlight others that influenced me just as much and played as much a part in my career path.

"Happy 40th Birthday Garfield!"  I was staggered that on the 19th of June Garfield celebrated his 40th Birthday as it seems like only yesterday we celebrated his 10th! Back then I was a massive Garfield nut and collected all things Garfield related and to this very day I have a lifelong love of Lasagna (a result of trying it after reading about it so often!) But this occasion also marks the 30th anniversary of one of my Artistic Influences entitled, Happy Birthday, Garfield an hour-long television special devoted to Garfield’s tenth anniversary in 1988 hosted by creator Jim Davis. It was released on VHS in the UK and I received the tape on my ninth Birthday (as seen in the bellow photograph taken of me on my 9th Birthday). The program certainly played a part in my career path as it not only provided an insight into the creation of the character but also took us behind the scenes to meet the people responsible for both the Garfield strips and animated specials. 

This VHS opened my eyes to the world of comic strips and animation, a profession I aspired to be a part of when I grew up. I was fascinated because it gave a voice to the man whose name I had seen in the corner of each strip and piece of merchandise, allowed me to see him draw his creations and talk us through the process of creating a newspaper strip. It convinced me that the life of a cartoonist in America was the life for me! Attending cartoonist events, Hollywood parties dedicated to your creations, flying in a balloons bearing the likeness of a character you had created and hanging out and chatting with fellow cartoonists by a pool was the way to go.  I watched it over, and over again and as my VHS collection has whittled down to single numbers over the years- Happy Birthday, Garfield remained on my shelf alongside all the books that I have devoted to animation/ cartooning history.

I have uploaded the VHS to my YouTube Channel for your viewing pleasure! 

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

A Chirpy Post

As we come to terms with our recent loss I’m going to try and lighten things up a little around here by posting a cheerier post...
Five years ago Mrs. Jones gave me a Wired Bird Box Camera System for Christmas comprising of a pine nesting box with inbuilt colour night vision camera that one hooked up to the TV allowing us to watch nesting birds in the comfort of our own living room! As we approached the nesting season I decided to not bother with the battery system and so acquired great length of cable and attached it to a power supply and attached the box to the side of our home following all of the RSPB’s guidelinestwo to four metres up a tree or a wall” “face the box between north and east, avoiding strong sunlight and the wettest winds” clear flight paths and not too close to feeding spots.... nothing, each time we tuned into our nest cam channel we would just see the occasional spider (if we were lucky!) and this was how it was for two years. 
On the third year I decided to have the bird box face north directly... nothing. We had effectively given up on it, occasionally toying with the idea of unhooking it and relocating it to another part of the house. We have an abundance of bird life here, House Sparrows, Chaffinches, Green Finches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Gold Finches, Robins and Siskins. They clearly appreciated the food we provided but didn’t seem to want to live here! 

Last December I attached a RSPB Window Bird Feeder to the studio window and before long I had pair of Blue Tits visit daily. An all too familiar “foomp” and I would look up from painting to see one (or both) in the window eating the peanuts or meal-worms provided, and their visits were always a welcome sight.
Then in May they seem to be visiting more often and on the 22nd of May I noticed that they seemed to be ‘hanging around’ a lot and so following a hunch I tuned in our bird-cam and to our absolute surprise and delight there was a nest with seven chicks in it! And for two joyful weeks Mrs Jones and I watched our family of Blue Tits thrive, we would sit in the living room cup of tea in hand and watch these small birds whoosh past the window before appearing like eagles on a large 28” screen feeding their chicks the live mealworms we provided them, both parents did us proud in the number of feeds and the way they maintained the nest. We learned a lot about this species as we watched them get bigger and fluffier and their eyes open and then on the 5th of June we thought they were going to fledge!
False alarm! We left them to it, but when we got up the next day they were gone! We must have missed them by an hour or so! We went outside to look out for them, nothing BUT on the 12th of this month I heard several chirps coming from the tree and there they were! Still being fed by the parents (who still made full use of our bird tables!) and I can report that as I write this I can still hear them out there! They really have been a joy to us and we hope they will stick around for years to come!         

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

RIP Wil 'Wil-Em' Roberts 1934 -2018

Another sad post I am afraid, as if losing my grandmother back in March wasn’t enough I lost my grandfather this weekend and as you can imagine losing two such important people to me in the same year (what would have been their 60th year of marriage) within a few months of each other to the same horrible condition has been heartbreaking. Although I mentioned how it was my grandmother that inspired me to become an artist, my grandfather played an equal part because my grandparents were very much a team, a veritable “dynamic duo” if you will, we would joke about how my grandmother was the captain and my grandfather was the helmsman and so I devote this post to taid* 

My grandfather driving the service bus circa. 1989
Role models are important for children and I always looked up to my grandfather. I admired both his sense of style, wit and humor. He loved a laugh and I owe my penchant for risqué jokes to him. Having driven haulage trucks and public transport buses for most of his life and toured the country in a caravan on days off it seemed like he had the entire A-Z Great Britain Road Atlas committed to memory and seemed to know every turning, point of interest and back road and was mildly disapproving of our use of sat navs when we embarked on our own travels. He was also a walking Good Pub Guide always keen to recommend a good chip shop, cafe or restaurant he had come across on his travels (no one could exaggerate the size of a steak like him!) what was particularly inspiring about him was the enjoyment he took from simple pleasures in life such as stopping at a chip shop and eating them in the car (my grandparents always kept salt and vinegar and cutlery in the glove box for just such an occasion.) Through the 80’s and 90’s he was a bus driver, a title he took seriously wearing the company tie with pride and  drove the public bus route and the school bus run and so he had my back at least 3 out of 5 days of the week. 
He would also be the driver on various private trips and outings and this is where he became the coolest grandfather ever, he would sometimes take us to these places! 

Because the bus drivers were responsible for bringing large groups of people to the theme parks and tourist attractions they were often treated like VIP’s being offered free lunches and free access to attractions (something he relished) and back in 1991 I was granted a day off school and was allowed to accompany him to Alton Towers where I learned that my granddad didn’t take himself seriously and was game for anything, riding on his first ever roller coaster The Alton Mouse he was terrified and he turned the air blue with profanity but he went on every single one with me (photo on the left was taken on the Black Hole) and I have never laughed so much in my life. 
When he retired he continued to enjoy life touring all over the country in their trusty caravan (sometimes pitching a caravan a mere 40 miles away) or pottering around in his tool shed trying out the latest power tool he had or growing tomatoes in his makeshift greenhouse. He had his own room in their house that we would joke was where he ‘hid’ from my grandmother, a ‘man cave’ before its time, equipped with a reclining easy chair and flat screen TV with full access to all the Sky Sports Channels. Living next door to my grandparents I would see him every day and I was always popping in for a chat, help him with the latest gadget that he couldn’t figure out or just put the world to rights. Although he didn’t always understand my work he was still supportive of it and when I became self employed he helped me set up my studio, constructed worktops and shelving and wired up all the sockets in a way that I seriously doubt UK Electrical Industry British Standards would approve! Although his final years were spent in a care home and it broke my heart not having him next door to us anymore I will always be grateful that although he wasn’t sure what was going on anymore he seemed, in his own way to be happy and laughing. To say I will miss him is an absolute understatement, he will always be in my heart and the next trip we take I will take the most secluded back road I can find, stop at the first restaurant and order the largest steak in him memory. I will miss you taid x

* Welsh word for grandfather

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Monster Memories: The Hebden Crypt Myth Legends & Horror

Here is a clipping from Look-In Magazine dates 4th of August 1990 encouraging readers to visit The Hebden Crypt Myth Legends & Horror an attraction which I must confess I have never heard of before! “If you’re one of those people who like having the pants scared off you, then you’ll love The Hebden Crypt, because its jam-packed with some of the creepiest things you’re ever likely to see” This museum of myths, legends and horror purported to have the sights sounds (and smells) of Victorian London as it tells the story of Jack the Ripper! It had a recreation of Vlad the Impaler’s Castle and offered the chance to “travel to the ancient Valley of the Kings in Egypt”  all that and a snack bar that offered the opportunity to “tuck in while you’re scared stiff!” and all for £1.80! I did a quick Google search and found some photos but very little information and so contacted the very helpful Hebden Tourist information who said it closed down 30 years ago, apparently someone had the best of intentions but it was, by all accounts “awful” a great shame, as I love stuff like this but it would seem that I was 30 years too late! Did you go? Were you involved? Can you shed some more light on this defunct tourist attraction?

© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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