Thursday, 18 April 2013

Halley's Comet Society 2061 Tie

There has been a lot of interest in comets lately with Comet C/2012 predicted to be a naked eye object in November, some are already calling it 'The Comet of the Century'! I shall remain cautious and not get my hopes up too high*, but it is nice to see the public discussing the arrival of the comet. It also provides me with the perfect excuse to share my latest customised accessory with you!
 Being an amateur astronomer naturally I am an avid viewer of ‘The Sky at Night’ and a regular subscriber to its magazine. One of the features that I always look forward to are the magazine’s cover disks that feature classic episodes of the show. I noted that during the early part of the 1980’s Sir Patrick stopped wearing his trademark RAF tie and instead wore a blue tie with '1986' embroidered on it, the '9' replaced by a comet with a blazing tail. In astronomical terms 'nineteen eighty-six' was a big year as it marked the return of Halley's Comet to our skies. One of our better-known comets, visible to the naked eye (from Earth) every 75–76 years. However the tie wasn’t just a reminder of the Comet’s return, interestingly (or at least I thought so) it actually belonged to the now seemingly forgotten Halley's Comet Society of London.
Founded in August 1975 by Halley's Comet enthusiast Brian Harpur, this group of enthusiasts held meetings in honour of Halley’s Comet and in his book ‘The Official Halley’s Comet Book’ Harpur explained the society and the ties, “The former attracted a wide variety of founder members at my own personal invitation on the intriguing basis of having no rules, no committees, and no annual subscriptions. The only obligations were the purchase of a tie (for the men) bearing our special ‘1986’ logo, which I designed with the ‘9’ shaped like a comet, and to pronounce Halley as ‘Hawley.” 
All proceeds made from the sale of the ties (and medallions for the ladies) were donated to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and it was reported that membership ties rocketed from one in 1975 to over 500 by 1983- all by word of mouth. Sir Patrick, in his book ‘TV Astronomer: Thirty Years of The Sky at Night’ Sir Patrick also recounted the Society and it’s tie, “I myself a founder member of the Halley’s Comet Society, which had been master-minded by Brain Harpur in the mid1970’s. We have our own special tie, with a 1986 motif, and we are, we feel, unique inasmuch as the Society has no aims, objectives or ambitions, and does nothing except meet periodically on licensed premises. (One such gathering was held in the Long Room at Lord’s; I think I was about the only regular cricketer present.) It has even been said that the Society is the only completely useless organisation in the world, apart, of course, from the United Nations.
Issue#63 of the Sky at Night Magazine featured episode#392 on its cover disk, (originally aired December 1986) at this point the comet had passed and Sir Patrick reflected on what he called “the year of the comet”. He then pointed out that his tie no longer bares the 1986 insignia, but instead a ‘2061’ variation acknowledging the year of the comet’s return.  This tie had been introduced at the very last society meeting in November as stated in ‘TV Astronomer: Thirty Years of The Sky at Night’, “We have now altered this to a 2061 design, to mark the next return of the comet. Our meeting on 13 November 1986, following an impressive ceremony in which a Halley plaque was unveiled in Westminster Abbey, Eamom Andrews turned up wearing the first of the new ties- a classic piece of one-upmanship.” 

Halley's Comet Society ties worn by Sir Patrick Moore. '1986' October 1982 and '2061' December 1986
It seems that the society faded away shortly after because at the time of writing this I found very little information about it. In fact were it not for a very interesting site by former President of Halley's Comet Society, U.S.A (not to mention original society tie owner) Mr. Joseph M. Laufer there would be no information at all about it online.  But having learnt so much about the society I wanted a tie for myself! And thanks to the creative talents of my good friends Barry McCabe of GOODJOLT and seamstress extraordinaire Iris Hung I now have one of my own! Bearing the 2061 motif it both reminds people to look out for the comet and salutes the fascinating society once devoted to it. I was 7 at the time of Halley’s Comet 1986 visit and like many others in the United Kingdom I didn’t get to see it. I should be 82 when it returns but I’m not placing any bets on ever seeing it in my lifetime as Sir Patrick closed his chapter about the comet, “I am not likely to see it myself, unless I live to be the unusual age of a hundred and thirty-eight. But no doubt there will be full Sky at Night coverage, and perhaps my successor of that period will even be able to carry out a live broadcast while standing on the velvet-black nucleus. Time will tell. Just in case you hope for a better view in 2061, I must point out that conditions will, if possible, be even worse than they were in 1986. Look out for the comet by all means, but don’t say that you haven’t been warned. “
Dedicated to Sir Patrick Moore & Brian Harpur

* I was right to be cautious C/2012 S1 also known as Comet ISON speculated to be the "Comet of the Century" was disintegrated by the heat of the sun on the 28th of November 2013.

My sincerest thanks to Barry McCabe and Iris Hung for all their help!
Please visit Joseph M. Laufer’s site and learn more about this fascinating society
© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Lament for a Video Shop

Well, It must be at least five minutes since my last nostalgic ramble! But to be fair this post is just as much about my influences as an artist… I find that many of my more recent works seem to hark back to this particular subject matter, something that is steadily becoming a forgotten part of my life ‘'Ye Olde Video Shoppe'. I found myself reminiscing about this more than usual after a chance visit to a Blockbuster, a rare thing indeed.  Thanks to dull dvd covers, new titles that I have little to no interest in and an absence of promotional posters and cut-outs to aid my selection I walked out without a film to watch, muttering about the ‘glory’ days of VHS rentals. But it would seem that even these kinds of outlets are becoming a thing of the past with more and more people streaming CGI movies with Photoshoped covers via the Internet.  The simple ritual of picking out a Friday night movie at the video shop is slipping away from us, gone are the days of either leaving it to chance by browsing your genre of choice or remembering the title previewed at the beginning of last week’s tape. I always judged a video by its cover, I would browse through rows of (mostly) illustrated covers or glance up at the dusty posters that line up the walls. Each one trying its best to attract my attention with the coolest looking monster or sexiest leading lady. Something I have tried to encapsulate in the poster for 'Zombies from Ireland' and my illustration for Empire Magazine’s ‘Kim Newman’s Video Dungeonpage.
My rural roots may have played a part in my love for these places. We only had one actual video shop in the village and it closed down in 1994. As a matter of interest at the time of writing this the empty shop is still there its sign still placed above the door and much like our village watchtower seems to be a relic of a bygone age.
A great shame as it took a few years to materialise as most business had (it would seem rightfully so) played it safe by just devoting a corner of their establishment to video releases. If I were to go even further back we rural folk had to rely on a Video Van for our rentals! Namely a decommissioned Ambulance or a removals van that pulled up outside your door fitted with wooden shelves brimming over with video releases secured by a length of net curtain spring! Happy days! So imagine my joy when I first walked into a shop solely devoted to the hiring of films! I was blown away by posters for the ‘House’ franchise and a large embossed cut-out for the 1988 ‘Blob’ remake and even though I wasn’t allowed to watch such films they made me WANT TO! Something that seems to be lost nowadays. As these shops slowly decreased in numbers I would still pop-in and try and find the most obscure titles they had, favouring large dusty and bashed VHS cases covered in stickers supporting covers faded from years of direct sunlight that despite all these imperfections still managed to reel me in! Someone recently told me that my Ghostwatch poster made them want to watch it again I found this to be most gratifying. As we draw ever closer to the release of Hellbound Media’s SlaughterHouse Farm #1 my fondness for the classic days of video hire will become even more evident. I realised that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way about video rentals when they approached me to illustrate it (not to mention provide a tagline!) So I am confident that a great many of you will ‘get’ the references when you see the cover for the first time and have you also harking back to the glory days of the video shop.

Update 2015: Lament for a Video Shop:Supplemental

© Arfon Jones 2013. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

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