What the deuce?

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‘Chucking the deuce’, the pose of two fingers straightened and held sideways, is common in photos poses across the world. It crosses language barriers, religions, music and continents, and has disputed meanings and origin stories. Millions from all backgrounds adhere to it when photographed impromptu. Occasionally, and somewhat offensively, known as “Ghetto fingers”, it’s normally coupled with a blue-steel, tilt of chin, half-smile, squinting eyes and/or a all-out pout.

Deuce-chucking has many meanings, and even more disputed origins. We know it originated in American gang culture over thirty years ago, while more recently a Houston-based Youtube video somehow laid claim.  Whether West-Coast or East-Coast is contested, and whether Hispanic or African American is also up for debate – but more sources point to Latino culture in early-80s South-Central LA, with a big influence from card-playing.


To ‘Chuck’ is, of course, to throw, while deuce is a two of dice or cards.  A two doesn’t win much, indicating the player has nothing left to play and is out – so the gesture was originally a gentle parting shot to friends. From the late 80s onwards, elements were added to it as specific gang signs, as well as later allegiances to tribes within Hip Hop. It morphed from a “See ya Later” to a “This is us”.

Nowadays,  in club-poses, the gesture is most commonly  a wonky “peace out”, a sideways departure – as seen in Chris Brown and Beyonce videos. In Brown’s softly-sung bitchy rant “Deuces” it’s a not-so-subtle “See ya” to an ex who was wise enough to figure out that this man could be enough of an emotional runt to write an angry song when things don’t go according to his plans. Even this appalling song didn’t stop Deuces being the most common pose in nightlife photos across the world when subjects aren’t necessarily leaving the premises.

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But while fist-pumps have become a simplified universal Hi-and-Bye, also with disputed origins, Deuces rarely comes without the forced facial expression – the squint+frown, or pout – which gives it a stranger meaning now – an attempted affiliation with a mood or identity, more than a gesture, and more often from individuals who wouldn’t immediately be associated with gang culture.

Some groups are vocally angry about the use of deuces, or unaffiliated hand-signs – for cultural appropriation. In clubs where people are simply conforming to a comfortable pose, at least in this respect it can be seen as a positive reference to either American Latino or African American culture. While Bloods and Crips developed a complicated language of finger gestures and identification signs, Deuces are more commonly used now by millions who are neither of these  – which for some, makes it a sign of being more open-minded as a global collective – more willing to identify with and reference cultures other than our own, largely thanks to the spread of Hip Hop music, than simply a vacuous pose for lack of imagination.

Even if the head-tilt is seen as an attempted allegiance to being tough or hard, people have the right to pose any way they want, although the topic becomes more foggy when both of these specific racial groups currently suffer more from cultural mis-appropriation than many other ethnicities across the world, and in their home nation, are fighting a very bitter struggle for equality on a number of fronts.

It can be argued that Hip Hop culture, one of the biggest cross-cultural movements in the world in the last forty years – arguably the biggest – is one of the chief reasons for its popularity, but you will typically see deuces thrown at anything from a House music night to a teenage birthday party.

In a world where boys from Bombay, Amman or Rabat are heard to call themselves Niggas,  blonde ladies “native”-up for Coachella, Despasito can be mimed by Justin Bieber, Arab-Fro’s are common, and much of popular sneaker culture is intricately farmed by global corporations far removed from its origins, who’s to say what people can and can’t do, appreciate or affiliate with? Which cultural police decides where the lines of positive reference or negative interpretation lie, within all aspects of appropriation? Just as ‘tribal’ and prints are cyclically high fashion (and surely we are all, always in tribes) – where does the reference stop or the disrespect begin?

Either way, wherever and whatever its origins, in our selfie culture, Deuces are here to stay, in the same spheres as Joga poses and self-affirming quotes and #blessed.  If we all tried to be entirely original in every image of ourselves, or knew the origins of every element of what we like, we might panic at the possibilities, explanations, defamations or appropriations. There can be comfort in sticking with what’s done, and not caring where it comes from. It just depends what, and who’s watching.




1,520,000 pairs of eyes & ears…


Infiti makes beautiful cars, but car ads, across the world, are interchangeable, predictable and patronising. I do the odd bit of brand consultancy and regularly explain this to clients, who take it on board, then carry on peddling the same bollocks. Car ads use the same words, the same gruff male voiceover, the same angles of studio car-shots placed out in the open then re-touched to buggery.

The twin peaks of my Advertising career were car ads, made at TBWA, where Elisa Arienti and I were the creatives behind ‘Inspired Light’, and ‘Chromatic.’ With a team of talented, insanely-hardworking individuals, we were able to create something iconic, and world-reaching. Across Facebook and Youtube, Inspired Light received over 300,000 views, while Chromatic is currently at about 1.22 million.

“Inspired Performance” was our brief, and after the success of Inspired Light, we pursued a route that would fuse design, music and animation, where the cars were not simply instruments, but made up a new kind of audio-visual fabric, one that would ebb and flow into new characteristics. We wanted to achieve a collaboration that would beautifully mess with your mind. A slow, electronic acid trip that was Suitable-For-Work. And if we could apply Chromatic to a 3D projection experience, I’m pretty sure I’d implode.

Cars have made music before. Honda’s Cog, Volkswagen’s choir. it’s hard to make something listenable, but not new. Our client Francesca Ciaudano bravely took the gamble with the three opinionated ladies sitting opposite her in the conference room again, and it paid off. Two Italians, two Egyptians and an opinionated brit sat down and figured out how to make this work, and then to recruit a German and Australian to make some magic.


There’s something to be said here for the fact that beside the composer and motion-designer, the team was all female. It’s no secret in the Business world, and particularly Ad-Land, that while men are very good at talking the talk, and ‘bigging up’ their part in proceedings, women tend to get their heads down and get on with it. It’s why Sheryl Sandberg needed to write “Lean In”. It’s why you don’t get many female Creative Directors, and it’s why for the past two years I’ve been working on a book aimed at women from 16 – 25 called “Big Up Yourself” (- watch this space). It’s also why we were able to roll up our sleeves and make this happen, among ourselves, without two many cooks filling the pot with egos.

It’s rare that big brands root global projects in the creativity of this region; this ’emerging market’ that is both evolved and incredibly complex in beautifully segmented ways. Once we’d figured out how to describe what we intended to do, (and storyboarding what was essentially a moving abstract piece, reacting to sound was an absolute nightmare), we set about finding the right people for it. UAE-based producer Megadon Betamax created a dance track in his own distinct style, entirely from scratch, from the sounds of the cars of the Infiniti range. We knew he could compose it, and make it listenable. It was hard, and he was inspired in his process of collecting the sounds just as much as composing them together, but as a classically-trained musician and just as passionate as we were, he was our man.

Motion Designer Misha Shyukin, who had recently created visuals for Amon Tobin, was the perfect candidate to task with creating a hyper-responsive video to articulate this sound literally, and unpredictably. Take a glimpse at the visuals on his site and you’ll see this was a brief he eats for breakfast. His task was to route the visuals entirely on arabesque patterns of Islamic Art, in monochrome, because, you know, Chrome-atic. (See what we did there… but also – Monochrome always looks badass). The results were a feat of design that, if you pause at any point in the video, gives you a stunning composition worthy of a framed poster. And Shyukin’s skills are made even clearer in black and white.

I recently watched Chromatic in an office playing ‘Billy Jean’ simultaneously – and they worked beautifully to that too…

When we first heard the finished music our hearts were pumping. When we first saw the visuals we felt shivers.

Chromatic is one of the most precious projects I’ve ever been part of. It’s also the reason I left Advertising for Art – because if something as tangible as this; a long-running, arresting visual that now has paid-ads by other car-brands appearing before it when viewed on Youtube…  that gets over a million views, not by being sponsored but by being beautiful, can barely make a ripple within the very agency that created it, or by the right applications within the awards industry, (going in for packaging design, which, I’ll admit, was done beautiful too) this was not the Industry for me. The MD never once asked about the project.

While sounding like another in the army of jaded creatives that exit agency life with a bitter taste, it’s hard to understand or feel part of an industry that rewards posters stuck up a month before award season, seen by 25 people, with an expensive video to boot, and overlooks a multi-disciplinary project that gave artists reign to make something new.

Sure I’m biased, but here in the Middle East is a forward-thinking brand, doing what other, bigger brands should be doing, doing what’s preached at awards/creative-events across the world – a CAR brand, enhancing experiences, attracting without invading, and inspiring, with the product still at the heart of it, without being an outright ad, with a story to it, and a conversation around it. 98982924249897.56331c1b8398c.jpg

Here’s the project on Behance. 


I’m under a ‘Dragonmart’ ban. Not outright damnation, but I’m not allowed to bring home unnecessary ‘weirdshit’ from the Beijing Outpost 30 minutes out of Dubai – inflatable wrestlers, replicas of wooden ship masts, 3 metre-wide painted fans, Kites… and Mannequin heads. 2-foot bald mannequin heads with a listless, snooty look.

Dragonmart’s where I met Drusilla. Patient, calm, never interrupts, a brilliant listener (although earless). She’s not bothered about who-said-what, never lets the language barrier make anyone feel awkward, (Cantonese is her native tongue), doesn’t take Selfies, instagram her breakfast, pull ‘Ghetto Fingers’ in photos, or send me Fruitloop text messages.

Her hazel eyes are permanently aloof; all-knowing albeit bored, and she’s not ashamed of her alopecia or diminutive height. Wherever she goes, she maintains poise and immaculate repose.  Sure, she still smells of the plastic factory she grew up in, and when she goes for a swim, brings half the pool home, and her eyelashes need re-gluing, but she’s loyal, constant. Unperturbed.

I can’t tell you what she means. A statement about the overly hygienic aesthetic of marketing Dubai, a  plea for attention, a bald, plastic embodiment of showboating ‘eccentricity’ to others, or a  toy I like taking pictures of, but she’s a muse of sorts. It’s fun to see people’s eyes widen when she comes out of the bag at a barbeque. Or the people who try to determine the point, and their friends’ willingness and outright intent to suck her face, have a photo with her and parade her around the dancefloor.

Yes, it’s silly, makes no sense, has no purpose. Particularly in Dubai. But it’s Armless fun. Meet Drusilla. She does Dubai.http://instagram.com/drusilladoesdubai  

Her Instagram Profile...

Her Instagram Profile…


Video & Ting.

I don’t make animations. This isn’t one. It’s more of a Slideshow Musickness-Accompaniment-ism. But an MC in Dubai gave me his CD, and I wanted to give it a try.

THIS LINK RIGHT HERE is the article I wrote about the same artist and two more that inspire me for Uprising, the brainchild of Scott Goodson, rather clever founder of Strawberry Frog, an agency made up of individuals creating things they and their clients can feel proud of, that people can enjoy seeing.

UAE HipHop and R&B in Uprising

I’m going to make another Hypermental-Slideshow Musickness-Accompaniment-ism, but for the next one I’ll be learning some proper editing packages and make some actual footage and actual stuff.

And for a chuckle at my expense, this here is the first animation I ever made back in 2003. It’s Medium-Rare Crappola, but made me laugh today by how perfectly terrible it actually is.