Lost Porls Part II – ¡Yo no soy marinero, soy capitán!

Another lost Porl coming up now, and this one’s exciting, too: the artist went on to write a book! Or maybe it was the other way round… I know which is more important though. Bring on the Porl! (Can you believe I haven’t written that before now? I promise I never will again.)

Space Captain Smith

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Porl by Toby

Lizard’s head? Check. Horse’s body? Check. Why? “Why”! This from an author of futuristic sci-fi novellas documenting the affairs of a tea-swigging space captain and his crew of terrifying kung fu offworlders, sexbots, alien ghosts, dragons and a hamster? I feel he could perhaps be able to tell us why, in a way that is both intriguing and hilarious, though sadly – none is offered. Authors can be cruel beasts. (Let us not forget Sirius Black – that’s right, Rowling, it still hurts.) Though perhaps he means to challenge us and that is how we learn, children. I couldn’t even begin to match the levels of creativity and stiff-upper-lip humour that these chronicles plunge head first into, so I shan’t attempt it, not here, people are looking (fives of twos of them somedays…) Mr. Frost does however make up for tantalising us so, because the peach is that when the sequel came around, our friend Porl appeared again, but the peachiest bit of the peach is,

God Emperor of Didcot

I didn’t even have to ask. (Plus from the improvement it almost looks like he’s been practising. Please let’s indulge my imagination this once.)

Artist: Toby Frost c. 2008. Toby’s excellent books can be found here, and at all good book retailers.

Space Captain Smith

 

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Why do we collect things?

The thing about Porl is that he is more than just a daft idea. Yes, by all means, on his own he is simply a creature with a horse’s body and a lizard’s head. And for over a year we were quite content to leave him be and snigger about him every now and then. But then something took hold of us that transformed Porl from some kind of bizarre imaginary friend into more of a focused fixation.

The change was this: we began to collect Porls.

It began with a nonchalant drawing from Suzie. And then a handful of other vaguely interested people offered up their own interpretation. Before the end of the day we had a small collection. And once you start collecting something, well it is very hard to stop. Just ask this guy:

What is it, I wonder, that inspires one to start a collection? Did the guy above have one birthday when everyone bought him a water gun and they all had a good laugh but for some reason people kept buying them for him until he succumbed to the joke and took the collection on himself? Like people who have cat obsessions thrust upon them because everyone sees a cat and says, “Oh, Gemma likes cats.” Or did he squirt someone in the eye good and proper one time and start hoarding water guns as trophies; like some kind of reverse phobia?

I read of a lady who has over 9000 unique banana stickers. Apparently there are conventions and all sorts for the swapping of banana labels. I scoffed when I heard about it but then the next time I ate a banana I marvelled at the sticker and simply could not bring myself to throw it away. The next time I saw a banana, I knew full well that adding a second sticker to my first was like toying with the edge of a slippery slope. That was a few months ago and I now have 36 distinct stickers, and, although I would hardly call myself a serious banana sticker collector, I do keep my eyes peeled (haha) for new ones.

As a child I collected many things and for the most part I would say this brought some sense of belonging. Aged about ten, a friend and I launched an Animal Lovers Club. This sparked a brief frenzy of collecting every single animal picture we could lay our hands on so we could paste them into our club scrapbook. And I don’t mean just the cute animals. We had pictures of dead birds, starved puppies and all forms of torturous animal cruelty; if it was a picture of an animal we collected it. Around that time, some school friends collected Neighbours stickers and I began to join in. I didn’t even watch the show but within a few weeks I had more stickers than anyone else and lay awake distressing over how I could get even more. What began as a simple desire for belonging grew into an almost full blown obsession over stickers for a show I did not even watch. My Pog collection began in much the same way. If you’ve never seen a Pog, here is one:

If you think it looks like a round piece of cardboard with a freaky creature on it, you’d be right. And yet anyone who was anyone in a 90s primary school playground will remember the mass hysteria caused by them. I even saw one boy in tears because he had left one such prized Pog on the playground bench and someone had taken it. If you’re reading this James Sutton, it was me and I am truly sorry. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

On the whole I would say that our collecting of Porls has been pretty tame. There was a day when we planned to go to the airport and harass exhausted and helpless foreign tourists in a bid to complete more countries on our coveted Map of Porl. Thankfully we never went; more out of lazy organisation than respect for visitors to our country. Nonetheless, our collection has been somewhat slow and steady. It is also a unique one. At least, we hope it is. We truly hope there is not another group of people avidly collecting drawings of a creature with a horse’s body and a lizard’s head…

But back to the point, why do people collect things? In a book entitled Collections of Nothing, William Davies King defines the collecting impulse as, “owning something in quantity for reasons beyond pure need.” He goes on to theorise that collecting is a cry for help, an impulse stemming from social wounds and our need to relate one object to another object. Deep stuff. If this were some kind of academic article I might read his book and quote him further. But as it is, I have read only a preview so cannot vouch for the rest of the book or of any conclusions he may draw. However, as I near the end of this post, what strikes me is that most collections are of things of very little actual worth or value. Whilst surfing the net, I have stumbled upon collections of burnt food, unused sick bags, unscratched scratch cards, and other people’s dreams. There is even a guy called Graham Barker who has been collecting bellybutton fluff since 1984.

Barker is quoted to have said: “It was on the 17th of January 1984 that I found myself under-occupied in a youth hostel in Brisbane. The night was steamy and stormy – too wet outside and too hot inside to do very much, and my attention drifted to my belly button. There it was … fluff! I must have seen it before that night, but this occasion was the first time I ever picked it out and wondered about it. I became curious about how much navel fluff one person could generate (enough to stuff a cushion, maybe?), and the only way to find for sure was to collect it and see. My first piece of navel fluff was stored in an empty film canister, and the collection had begun.”

People collect the most mundane things and turn them into treasures. And we in turn regard such collectors with both incredulity and awe: yes, they are freaks, but oh, please can we look? I mean, who wouldn’t pay good money to see a room full of bellybutton fluff? And why does the idea of such a collection fascinate us? I mean, I personally wouldn’t collect my own belly button fluff but I’m kind of glad someone has.

Perhaps it is some vain attempt to fight against the inevitability of our own demise, a chasing after the wind as the writer of Ecclesiastes writes, aware that we will one day die. Perhaps it is our way of saying, “I was here. I existed. And here’s my collection to prove it.” Not that I intended to end this post on such a morbid note— I for one believe eternity in Heaven will be indescribably better than this mortal life. But in the meantime, what will happen in years to come, I wonder, when bemused descendants stumble upon 9000 banana stickers, several boxes of neon water guns, enough bellybutton fluff to stuff not just a cushion but a number of small teddies, or over a thousand hand drawn pictures of a creature with a horse’s body and a lizard’s head? What will become of our prized collection then?

While we’re on hybrids…

Karen’s brought us treats! Treats from Scotland! What’s that you ask? Fudge? Shortbread? An emergency sewing kit with a tartan cover? Not quite…

Exhibitionists

From what I gather these creatures are either a.) Exhibits in an Edinburgh art gallery last week or b.) reject characters from “The Wuzzles LIVE: When Taxidermy Goes wrong.” That one’s probably going straight to DVD.

These rum characters would make the squirrel-stuffing Janitor from Scrubs proud, but now the burning question –

Is this art?

One hand in the air like he just don't care

Hybrids

Since time immemorial, mankind has been fascinated by what happens when you put this bit of this onto that bit of that, there.

This oft-simple but inspired preoccupation has led to some of the worlds most pointless yet underappreciated objects.  By combining the work and aesthetics of two into one glorious whole, the world has been enriched by:

The bean bag lap tray

Stylish

Jazz Fusion

Bill Chase

And the almighty SPORK:

The Spork

Indeed, within the realm of fantastic beasts and terrifying monsters, none are so prolific as the kaleidoscope of wild hybrid creations, like bat and human! Wolf and human! Fish and human! Horse and human! Goat and human! Ox and human! Turtle and human! Human and human! (Or vampire, werewolf, mermaid, centaur, satyr, minotaur, ninja and Julia Jekyll (yes, I know) in that order.) The imagination!

Wandering off this time-honoured path, however, we find ourselves in a land where invention is superseded by innovation – not what’s new or even convenient, but what new arrangement or purpose can be given to things that already did what they did very well but didn’t do enough different things moderately well, combining more and more ideas into one bulky, cumbersome brick or shoddy garment that doesn’t do anything very well at all, and conveniently has a working lifespan exactly equal to its novelty. This leads to a gaudy array of new-but-not-new fad items and questionable trends that fail to make any lasting imprint or meaningful contribution to the world at large. Observe:

Butt-tastic

JEGGINGS

All of the cellulite-bearing hideousness of the legging, none of the practicality of jeans! Why, society, WHY?

Here’s why: to an extent, our imagination is limited to the things we have experienced, so it’s no wonder there’s such a proliferation of technology and design that unifies two or more pre-existing concepts. While the marriage of aesthetics or functions can sometimes be both an awe-inspiring triumph of science and a breakthrough for humanity, it can also result in lazy throwing-together of two already-existing concepts in the name of new ideas (Skorts, Frappuccinos, Breakbeat Garage…why go on?) or even solutions to elusive scientific quandaries.  This slapdash mix-and-match philosophy edges us towards a twisted hybrid dystopia in which the Jetsons hobnob with the Flintstones and a photon is both a particle and a wave at the SAME TIME. Dya hear me kids? Don’t wear jeggings.

Maybe it’s just that we already have everything except the space to put it in, hence the condensing of all our vital needs like voice recognition dialling and the ability to tickle a virtual Stalin into a single tictac-sized device. But if necessity is the mother of invention, I’d say this necessitates it pretty well:

Unipant

It’s not trousers crossed with a skirt or even half some shorts, nope, that there’s trousers crossed with a SKORT which is already a hybrid. Mother mercy.

But not all hybrids are 8-megapixel cashphone cows waiting to be eMilked. Some hybrids, are things like THIS:

Manllow: half man, half pillow

You can’t even to begin to imagine just how awesome this actually is. And by awesome, I mean terrible. And by terrible, I mean look at this:

Robert

This description from the seller/creator’s etsy website:

“For all the twilight crazed lonely women in the world, Edward Cullen is finally here to be with you and only you. Sleep with him, cuddle with him, use him as a neck rest, the Edward Manllow is there to be your man and pillow all in one.”

This person is selling stuffed goods crafted into the not-quite-shape of the upper torso, neck, head and arms of Robert Pattinson of Twilight and Harry Potter fame. In this photo it appears to be  slowly dragging itself towards me with its mangled feet-hands all the while fixing me with a mixed stare of teen sulkiness and silent disgust. Imagine if you were Robert Pattinson and you came across this?! But by far the most disturbing thing about this fixed-expression, pelvically-challenged nightmare is that it’s SOLD OUT.

What does Robert Pattin-Pillow have to say about all this?

Getting cosy Manllow-style

Thought so.

While if there were a blog dedicated solely to just this sort of web tat I would be an avid subscriber, I’m aware that this is fast becoming that blog. Reel it in!

Back to Porl

So, giving these screen-printed delights a nice wide berth, we can adventure safely into the creative and philosophical realm of hybridites and marvel at the fun curios that thwart the boundaries of the possible via the medium of PhotoShop: Worth1000 Surf and Turf Contest 4

Some of these are very skilled, take this Zebra-Lionfish for example. This is a charming beast, usually spotted skulking by a B&Q shed department reeking of wood stain.

Zebra-Lionfish

Back in reality, even nature dabbles (with a bit of help): Animal hybrids

Zorse

A Zorse!

This is from the “Zorse” Wikipedia page under “Notable zorses”:

“A zorse (more accurately a zony) was born at Eden Ostrich World, Cumbria, England in 2001 after a zebra was left in a field with a Shetland pony. It was referred to as a Zetland. This was the inspiration for the 2003 ‘Song For the Zorse’ by London band The Coronets. According to local lore brown zorses have been spotted in the foot hills of the Appalachians in and around Charlottesville, Virginia.”

Really makes you think.

Sometimes when two things are mixed they manage to transcend their disparate origins and become a new thing, much like Porl. Indeed, the whole point of Porl at the time (there’s a point?!) was to argue that something with the head of this and the body of that is no longer bits of either of those two things, but a whole new thing that just happens to have those properties.

So as we wade through the sea of skorts and frappuccinos ever searching for the breakthroughs that hold a glimmer of potential or spork of interest, we hold dear the instances when things stop being a hybrid of two parts and become one better whole, like an alarm clock fused with a kettle that evolves into the sublime and retrotastic “teawaker”, or more commonly, “teasmade”. Anything that brings tea one step closer in the morning without even having to push a button gets my vote any day: 1900…

Early 1900s teawaker(How Steampunk-fabulous is this? “Automatic Teamaking Apparatus”. Delicious.)

…or present.

Teatime

Like our friend the light photon, who is not an awkward combination of two disparate theories but a something else in its own right that lacks better description, we give you, Porl, Champion amongst hybrids.

So that brings us (really, really loosely) to the main feature of the day.

In the mid-80s Disney were after a new show and set of toys to match the popularity of the height-of-fashion-at-the-time Care Bears. In a bid to create something distinctive and original, the Wuzzles were thrust upon the world: lovable freaks of nature made from bits of two different animals mushed together with human hands and no legs to speak of, just knees and feet, with names lovingly crafted from their constituent animals. This host of new characters ranged from the cute:

Bumblelion (half bee, half lion), Butterbear (half bear, half butterfly), Eleroo (half elephant, half kangeroo) and so on… (feels like we’re steering dangerously into Manllow territory)Wuzzles

…to the downright weird and awesome-sounding “Deerdillo”: half Deer and half Armadillo, “Spiraffe”: half Spider and half Giraffe, and “Pandeaver”: half Panda and half Beaver. Not to mention “Snakhorse”: half Snake and half Horse, and “Frizard”: half frog, half lizard. (If anyone has pictures of any of these I implore you to send them in. You will not be named.)

And it is here with these paragons of (in the words of their own theme song) “originality, living with a split personality” that I feel our own hybrid is worthy of honorary membership, warm and disneyfied amongst his fuzzy counterparts, facing life one cute folly at a time. In keeping with the premise, a “Porl” would have to be something like half Pony, half Squirrel, or half Porcupine, half Mole. Ouch. But, new and transcendant as he is, Porl is nothing if not composed of horsey, lizardy bits, so his options are twofold: “Horserd”, or “Liz-arse”. So, to introduce you to the Wuzzle that never wuz (ahem), ladies and gentlemen, I present:

LIZARSE

Lizarse

Half horse and half lizard, a winsome yet accident-prone fellow voiced by the stroke-suffering Costingtons clerk from The Simpsons. Springy, zany and HD-ready, Lizarse is no longer the oddest-looking chap in the room when he’s with the illustrious Wuzzles. The series may only have run for 13 episodes, but their read-along tape was bitchin’. FLANTS.

I hope hybrids crop up as a theme on the next series of QI, and that when they do, it’s just like this…

Lost Porls Part I

Ok, so… from time to time, the odd Porl might somehow be… “unaccounted” for, and spend a little bit of time hanging out in one of my books o’ crap, a coat pocket or a letter rack, but that doesn’t mean we value them any less. In fact, I am most delighted when I stumble across them a year or two later. And now you can be too! I am delighted to present, for the first time ever into the light of blog, the *Lost Porls*. Let’s start with this delightful fellow:

Porl by Irene

This is a simply adorable chap in a delicious Friesian flavour. Let’s not go into the mechanics of it, but even this cross-species curiosity is not the strangest incarnation of Porl we’ll be featuring here today. For example:

Porl by AustinNow this, I love. I think it might well be the first and only instance in which Porl has a horse’s body and a lizard’s head to the extent that he is in fact a chap in possession of a horse’s body and a lizard’s head. A possible explanation is offered: Perhaps he is a scientist? Perhaps. Perhaps he is the increasingly desperate purveyor of a failing ventriloquism puppet double-act who has resorted to mishmashing anything he can get his hands on into a semi-operational soubrette capable of both complex emoting and slapstick solely by the means of hand-control in an attempt to regain his once great following as The Legend of the South Creek Sideshow, where for threepence you’d get unlimited rides on the jig-a-ma-round and a peep at the bearded lady before elbowing your way to the front of Porl’s Grotto to be amazed by the realistic and hilarious stylings of his puppet antics. But really, it could be anything – comments are open for suggestions below. Moving swiftly on,

Porl by Jamie

The goings-on here are far more peaceful. This pleasant Porl of the two-legged variety has nothing to fear from the deranged ventriloquist sort, he’s got just the stocky build and stiff upper lip that will see him fend off any form of assault at the hands of a puppeteer without having even to raise an immaculate eyebrow. There is nothing to fear here, ladies and gentlemen, let us then proceed:

Porl by Eoin

A terrible horse? I’d say more just slightly unreasonable, going by his crossed arms – stubborn, maybe. He does though have the air of one perturbed, perhaps he has just lost a slanging match and is now forced to resort to the hunched stance and sticking-out-of-the-tongue, which is just the sort of insolence-up-with-which-we-shall-not-put. On to the next:

Porl by Kieran

There’s a lot happening at once with this Porl: he himself seems to be engaged in a little chomping of dried herbs hung from the kitchen rafters in a Regency home, which he does with a noticable degree of angst. It could be because someone has struck him very hard on the croup wearing a striped Cath Kidston oven glove, leaving him thus imprinted. Or it could be the small bit of tree that has implanted itself just behind his eye there. Or perhaps his microchip collar is playing up, applying unwarranted electric shock therapy all day, every day, resulting in this jittery character of the spindly legs. And is that a 5 o’clock shadow? The state of him! Let us move on so that we can now come full circle to this reverse-Friesian variety:

Porl by James

Here is a smart beast with ample neck and an expression of great purpose. A fine Porl, ladies and gentlmen: take note. And thus our little tour is concluded. Thank you for coming, please take a flyer on the way out.

Moral of the tale: If you’ve drawn a Porl but it’s not in the book, the Facebook group, or here, you might be one of those lucky folk who gets a second attempt at drawing Porl! Oh ho!

And yes, of course I’m very sorry I have mislaid your drawing. It won’t happen again.


Artists: Irene, Austin, Jamie (a “Devonshire lad in Oxford”), Eoin, Kieran and James. All c. 2008

Anniversary Edition – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

As Porl celebrates his ninth year flitting from imagination to imagination, from pen to paper, from scanner to book, from computer to blog, we’d like to invite you back for a little retrospective.

From humble beginnings etched onto lined paper in a highschool drama changing room to an idea reimagined more than 1000 times over 55 different countries, Porl has touched many people right in the soul. As an existential thought experiment he was quirky and inspiring, now as a character that is never the same twice he represents to us the spark of creativity that’s in everyone, their interpretations making him so much more than he could be if we’d never shared him or encouraged others to ask what or who they think he is. When we repeatedly see him depicted in ways that we just never would have thought of, it forces us to ask, can anything be pinned down and defined? Do we take our own ideas and perceptions for granted and think them not unique or  special? Do we forget how different another’s perception could be, when we think we have it all worked out?

So on this note, I invite you, dear reader, to perceive these. These are the first two drawings of our friend Porl, scribbled by his loving creators all those years ago in Karen’s daybook, not knowing at the time what he was to become. Perhaps you imagine they will be wild and creative images, artfully fashioned into the very essence of an intangible dream that no other being could perceive? Let’s take a look.Porl IHmmm. This would be more one of those dreams in which a strange being who insists that you spell his name P-o-r-l appears licking jam off a manhole cover being carried by bearded hawks and then turns to smile benignly at you just as you wake up craving toast and unsure if you’ll ever look at a horse the same way again.

But this is unquestionably an adorable image. Porl has just sprung into visual existence and seems to be loving every minute of it! And why wouldn’t he? Let’s move on then, to this:

Porl II

Convinced that what this creature is decidedly lacking is a big horsey neck, a second attempt is made to capture him, his lizard’s head now perched at the top of a long neck complete with mane. However, I can’t help but feel that this might have been at the expense of more attention being paid elsewhere.

He appears with an intriguing inscription, could that be “Porl?” or “Porl’s”? And if the latter, does it continue just under where he’s been cut out to say “got four of the funkiest legs I’ve ever seen on an animal and a tongue so big a chameleon wouldn’t touch it with yours”? I guess we’ll never know. But Porl has come a long way since then, a long long way indeed.  Witness:Porl by GrahamAnd just to echo a sentiment that has come up a few times, “If I’d known it was going to turn into something like this, I’d have drawn it better!!”

Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

Porl by Kevin Artists: Karen and Rachel, February 5th, 2001. Graham, Kev.

Happy Birthday Porl!

Porl is nine years old today – happy birthday, Porl!

A full anniversary deluxe blog edition will be up tomorrow, enjoy your celebrations in the meantime darlings.

Porly