This week's diary quote:
'The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.'
Alfred Hitchcock, 1889-1980, British film director
When you've spent what appears to be forever watching Jude Law and Nicole Kidman look mournful, it becomes quite hard to argue with Hitch on this idea. Even Pirates, a film which contains absolutely no-one being angst-ridden (unless you count Orlando Bloom pouting a bit), could stand to lose five minutes. I suspect the habit of making movies a minimum of 2 hours these days is a side effect of two things:
i) no supporting features
ii) home entertainment
Even as a kid in the 70s, a Saturday at the cinema involved two movies, with a mad scramble for the toilet in between Spiderman and Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger. Now films are standalone events, and should be watched in a reverie, with reverence. We're just not encouraged to pop out for a quick break. And if we're watching at home, we go the other way: just having the movie on whilst talking, making cups of tea, wandering off to the loo. So films sprawl in a way they never did in Hitch's era. Apart from the numbing Gone With the Wind (maybe it's just American Civil War films that go on forever?).
My top 5 Hitch films:
Yes, it's an obvious choice. Everything about this film works though. The camera trick to create the illusion of vertigo is still delightful. The strange Kodakcolor of the film stock gives it a slight sense of hyperreality. The plot is neat, simple, alarming and revealing. And I've not even mentioned the obvious superb titles and music.
Iconographic. A study in darkness. Cary Grant's faint air of erzatz charm used to disturbing effect.
We're into the lady thief genre here, as exemplified by Pyscho, and there's something vaguely sadistic about this story. Connery excels - it just makes you wish he'd not got typecast as Bond. (Gus Van Sant talked a little about what he was doing with his remake of Pyscho in the Guardian the other week)
Another cod-psychology piece but one which is definitely having some fun with symbolism. And a dream sequence by Dali...
5. The Thirty-Nine Steps
An action adventure piece. I just have an absurd liking for the boys' own adventuring of this story. It shows Hitch's background, with the sequences with the East End music hall etc. Perfect for a crappy winter afternoon in front of the telly.
That Paul Morley review of Joss Stone is now up in full at: BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight | Review | The Soul Sessions
I think she's like a post-modern Lena Zavaroni I think she parrots it - I kind of don't feel it for a moment. Every syllable is so over the top, the demonstration of I have got it - it's just as objectionable as a Pop Idol or Fame Academy winner and they're setting it up as if there's some kind of integrity when, in fact, they're just as manipulative...
What box do you get put in?
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"That has to be the worst pirate I ever saw."
is not quite what Mark Kermode said to provoke Sam's ire, but it's what it amounts to. Aside from the fact I can't think of a harder decision to make than chosing between Johnny Depp's gorgeous insanity in Pirates of the Caribbean and Bill Murray's astonishingly dry turn in Lost In Translation as "Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, I just don't agree that the performance "had absolutely no merit". Phooey to the old curmudgeon.
Watching the Late Review last night (hurrah! Paul Morley spitting venom on pop soul!), the review of Big Fish got me all sentimental for Tim Burton and I decided to watch my old off-air tape of Edward Scissorhands. And discovered that, some time between my recording it and my watching it, the final ten minutes had been taped over with an Alan Partridge Christmas. I suspect the Beloved Ex of sabotage. I also noticed that quite a lot of the wonderful hand gesturing Depp does as Captain Jack Sparrow is not dissimilar to Edward's when in twitching mode.
More on graffiti and stencils. Wandering about town to get the photos, and looking through the archive, has reminded me why I'm interested in well-designed and executed street art. And why it leaves me bored when it's out of its natural context.
Like fanfic, 'zines and mash up music, the appeal is connected to the amateur nature. Not in the perjorative not-very-good sense of the word but in the passionate not-for-profit way in which these forms generate and replicate without any official sanction or financial consideration. This is culture reproducing itself without the mediation of commercialism: people appropriating what they like and, by re-interpreting it, making it their own and spreading it onwards. It's a system of cultural reproduction which comes up from the subcultures rather than coming down from the arbiters of taste. Active co-option rather than passive absorbtion. It also has the ability, through being embedded in the public space, of jolting you out of the eyes-down, getoutofmyway charge through daily life. It wakes you up to your surroundings.
Just before Christmas, I went to Santa's Ghetto in London. They didn't have any photos online before I went, so I was expecting something a little more anarchic and haphazard, a little more like a street bazaar, than the bog standard cooler than thou art gallery. I find it rather ironic - and gods, I hope it is meant to be - that the pictures on walls collective claim to be "art for everybody, made by nobodies" and then sell it on the names of Hewlett, Banksy etc. I like Banksy's work, like it a lot. The Tate Britain escapade is one of those things you want to do yourself*. I first saw the stencil stuff on old wooden hoardings in a dirty side street south of the river and it gave me that jolt. That jaw down, laugh out loud, wow jolt. Seeing it pinned to a wall, tagged with a label and a price, all that sense of spontaneity was drained out. It's not an "illegal = cool" thing (got past that a decade ago), it's a context thing. By pricing something, it is devalued. It's become a commodity, a possession to be bought rather than an idea to be appropriated (coincidentally chequebook vandalism was the first Banksy I saw). It's preserving something rather than letting it evolve.
I'm fairly positive I could do an over-extended metaphor involving butterflies at this point, so I'm going to stop. I've already had to edit out the word 'capitalism'.
*I've had an idea for one for a while now, it's just getting the wherewithal to create it and the confidence to do it.
That's a result I can cope with. Apart from the whole baby thing. And the lawyer thing.
Well, at least it isn't Charlotte. Or Samantha.
Which Sex and the City Player Are You? Find out @ She's Crafty
Meanwhile, a day later but in the same post so as not to be too quiz-obsessed, I'm John Cusack:
Good. You know your music. You should be able to work at Championship Vinyl with Rob, Dick and Barry
Do You Know Your Music (Sorry MTV Generation I Doubt You Can Handle This One)
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Yesterday lunchtime was spent trolling for images for the photo projects I want to have online next month. I seem to have gone from one simple plan into two seperate but connected projects (one finite, the other open). The closed project will be up at the end of January. The open one, with the unimaginative working title of 'signs & portents', would have been started last night but see previous posts on deadlines and the dodging of them. So all I'm uploading for now is an image of one of the bill poster* sites in town.
*what became of the 'bill poster will be prosecuted' signs that used to provoke the inevitable "who's Bill Poster and what's he done?" question?
This week's diary quote:
'A bestseller is the gilded tomb of a mediocre talent.'
Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865-1946, American-born British essayist.
I have to do no work for this: my opinion of the current bestseller is here.
I've got a deadline tonight so naturally I spent the afternoon wandering about town, playing with the digital camera Carrie has lent me. I'm supposed to be getting a photo moto but there seems to be endless confusion over it, hence the borrow of an actual camera instead. The reason for upgrading my moto is so that I can do digital photos for the blog without either carrying yet another piece of hardware about or drawing attention to the act of photographing.
There is a lot I'd like to write about the idea of lomography and blogging, and about the act of documentation altering the object being perceived. This was the idea at the heart of History 101 after all: how the 'documentary arts' - film, photography, even painting and history - have a quantum physics element to them (Schrodinger's Box Brownie, if you insist). However, I do have to get this work done for the deadline, so instead here are a couple of the photos I took today (click to see full image).
These are taken in the underpass I go through every day on the way from home to the city. The underpass and the bridges right next to it are a boundary: walking through them I move from a personal to a work mentality. I've always found the underpass a strange place. There are three routes through it: to the city centre (green), to the bypass (blue), to the river (red). Where all three meet is a circular tiled space, sometimes used by buskers for the amazing acoustics. I swear I have occassionly heard strange machinery sounds when I'm at the very centre of it, like some underground pumps.
The red wall this message has appeared on is a specific spot to me: just before Christmas, I was walking through and realised that there was an old dosser lying on the floor and a young dosser standing over him saying "just give me the money". Like others, I almost walked by but then turned around and stopped. Asked what was going on, told the younger guy to back off. Another passer-by stopped when I did and the apparent mugger backed off. Then at the end of one of the other passageways I saw a young family calling the police. Now this message, this call to action, has appeared on the wall. It feels very strange, as if the site is starting to build up a new resonance. Whilst taking the photos, I noticed that everyone slowed and read the message. One woman laughed out loud, saying it was fantastic. Doubtless the council will get rid of it in the next week or two, as it's defacing the gloomy red seaweed.
The other photo is from a stairwell nearby and I just liked the use of stencils and tags. And that it could be any city, rather than Exeter. Carrie just (lunchtime, 19th Jan) sent me a link to the Exeter Stencil archive, which documents some of the best stencil and freehand graffiti in the city (including the S T O P on the steps up from the red arm of the underpass).
Whilst there are some debates about the extent of global warming (listen to a rather interesting Radio 4 programme on the politics of climate change here), it's a little hard to deny that there has been a gradual change occuring to the seasonal cycle. There's even statistics to support it and the Woodland Trust is undertaking a survey on the arrival of spring (not that statistics are ever without question). And then there's experience.
I'm happy to put the memories of 'proper' winters in the 1970s down to the unreliability of childhood. This photo, however, shows part of my camellia and was taken on 17th January 2004. It's very pretty, in a rather blowsy way, and was brazenly looking straight into my kitchen window yesterday morning. There's one reason why this is mildly alarming: according to my gardening books, camilleas don't bloom in the UK (even in the relatively warm south west) until early March. The Guardian has reported early spring all over the UK this year and it's possible it's just a result of the very mild winter so far. But the trend for spring to be earlier each year in the UK suggests a longer term change in climate.
Strange thing I noticed this morning: the guitar of Elvis's Viva Las Vegas is exactly the same as the one in Brazil. Just a lot faster.
You are Drama.
You are extroverted and like to show off, but can be very subtle and intelligent when you want.
As an expert at story-telling, you love attention and have developed the skill of keeping it.
You get along well with Literature and Film.
What form of art are you?
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I'm only five inches above the average height for a British woman, and of my siblings I am the shortest, but I seem to get called tall a lot. I always say it's because I'm a Marmite addict and it used to be known as the growing up spread you never grow out of.
Blogged recounts their favourite method of eating the stuff. Bizarrely, blogged favours cold toast. Whereas a couple of slices of wholemead bread freshly toasted, still hot enough to make you drop it, thinly spread with olive oil margerine and then thickly coated with Marmite is my prefered quick fix. I love the way it half melts, half soaks into the hot bread. Variations include it with a strong cheddar cheese in either a white three seed bread sarnie or a hot cinammon and raisin bagel. And an extra layer of quorn chicken slices doesn't go amiss, to provide a cool moist counter sensation.
Moosifer was particularly taken with Marmite, but his favourite way of eating it was to lick it off my finger or, if I wasn't fast enough to hold it out of reach, from my toast.
Sometimes I suspect he was a slightly strange cat.
(I've only ever found this loaf - which has poppy, sunflower and some other, yet to be indentified by me, seed in it - in my local bakery so people will just have to trust me that it's very nice)
This week's 'inspirational' quote:
'Simply seek happiness and you are not likely to find it. Seek to create and love without regard to your happiness, and you will likely be happy much of the time.'These are from the A4 week-to-view WHSmith desk diary, BTW.
Dr M Scott Peck, 1936- , American psychiatrist
The thinking behind the quote I can grasp - the concept of releasing one's obsessive quest in order to achieve that quest is a familiar one from both Arthurian myth cycles, especially that of Percival, and from the Taoist work I've been interested in over the last two years - but I find the expression a little trite. I dislike work which over-simplifies and uses the jargon of self-help. Obviously, the Taoists are also putting over generalized panacean ideas, but by putting it in a poetic or allegorical form, the reader is given something to consider. By working through the underlying meaning, the reader has undertaken a greater journey than by reading the message explicitly. Spiritual and or psychological progression doesn't come from obvious soundbites that can be quoted in a desk diary.
It seems Peck has come under some criticism, both from the realms of critical analysis, and from some more fervent Christians in the US. Peck revealed, in a Guardian interview that he was 'called' to write The Road Less Travelled.
Oddly, he also mentions that as a young man, he convinced a publisher to publish C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces which was the first novel I read after leaving home. One of the few other books I took in that first move - or collected from home in the first few months, I forget which - was a tattered copy of The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin. One novel is from the perspective of a woman who did not believe in the gods and was proven wrong by a spiritual messenger. The other is from the perspective of a priestess, a believer, who is forced to confront her gods by a stranger and comes to doubt them. Tenar's journey out of the labyrinth - the thought processes that lead her from blind faith towards self-determination - remain more appealing to me than Orual's epiphany. Which comes back to my initial thoughts on Peck: that his aphorisms provide answers rather than encourage the seeking of knowledge.
Hmmm. I'm mildly bothered that the quotes so far have developed a religious theme, but at least I got a chance to link to PPH's lovely blog. And the Monkey Pow link in my fads blog shows Journeys to the West can just be an excuse for playing with flash animated kung fu grrls.
Your score was 99. Very quirkyalone:
Relatives may give you quizzical looks, and so may friends, but you know in your heart of hearts that you are following your inner voice.
The site itself, with its rejection of "saccharine, archaic notions of romantic love", has a certain appeal.
"Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can"
John Wesley, 1703-1791, British religious leader
Got a new desk diary at the day job this week. Like all such things, it has 'inspirational / humourous quotes' in the Notes space. Above is the one for Week 2 (5th-11th January). I was reading something the other week about diary compilers (I suspect it was in Metro since it seems like the type of thing I'd only read on a train) so I'm thinking of making use of these often banal quotes as a subject for the blog just to indicate that someone reads them, if only as a means to avoid looking at all the actual work to be done. So, despite having an unshaking distrust of all religious leaders...
John Wesley was one of the founders of Methodism (aka Wesleyanism). One of his favourite preaching grounds was Gwennap Pit (a semi-natural ampitheatre) in Cornwall, where (allegedly) up to 25,000 stood to hear him preach. What is more interesting is his context. Open air preaching began as a means for a cleryman barred from the physical church for heresy to continue to proclaim his beliefs. At the time, Wesley was "denounced as promulgators of strange doctrines, fomenters of religious disturbances; as blind fanatics, leading people astray, claiming miraculous gifts, attacking the clergy of the Church of England" (wikipedia). As was another visionary Christian of the time, also with connections to the West Country.
Joanna Southcott first became aware of her calling whilst attending Wesleyan meetings and is probably best known for her box. I've been looking into it (purely from a historical perspective since the Panacean society have kept the physical item in a secret location for generations). She was also, however, a writer of reams of doctrine and one of many visionaries of the day to go in for apocalyptic prophesy. Just to top it off, as an old woman she claimed herself pregnant with the Second Coming of the Christ child. When nothing came of it, despite the cribs and clothing prepared, and Joanna herself died her followers were undaunted. They announced the child had been born in spirit form.
Where these two Enlightenment characters differ is in the survival of their doctrines: Wesley effectively formed a modern church with an estimated 38 million members worldwide, Southcott has two rather elderly followers in Bedford (as revealed in Maidens of the Lost Ark - a Channel 4 documentary). Perhaps it was because Wesley was an Oxford educated cleryman whilst Southcott was a barely literate Devon farmgirl? Certainly, it is only in the last few years that she has regained a place, even if it is a marginalia, in history.
The eighteenth century seems to throw up no end of spiritual and political visionaries: Swedenborg (whose philosopies I first read within Uncle Silas); Blake; Richard Brothers; Richard Allen; Ann Lee (founder of the Shaker movement); Thomas Paine (the Rights of Man) and Mary Wollstonecraft (the Rights of Woman); the revolutionaries of France and America. Everyone seemed to have an idea about the future and their place in it.
Links that can't be placed:
Joanna's cups in Exeter Museum
William Dalrymple on eighteenth century mystics in London as part of his Long Search series with BBC radio.
Two new reviews up at shiny shelf:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves covers Lynn Truss's best-selling punctuation book.
Let there be Light compares the exhibitions 'Enlightenment' at the British Museum and 'The Weather Project' at Tate Modern.
Despite not actually living there, I have a love of London in its gritty, messy haphazard way. I'm fascinated by the acruing of history in its geography: that the long run of Holborn to Hyde Park is the same path trodden by Roman citizens two thousand years ago. I have book upon book about the city, far more than about my own. And the following London-related things have caught my eye recently: An Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond ; 58 London Things; Booth's poverty map (with modern counterpart).
In fairness to Exeter, whilst the city has existed since pre-Roman times (and was a Roman trading point), it's not really on the same scale as London. The local museum, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, is a fine example of the middle Victorian municipal museum with rooms devoted to most subjects. A recent exhibition, Exeter's Choice, features objects chosen from the archives by local people and included a map of pre-WW2 Exeter. It is only when you step close enough to look for your own house that you realise it was a map drawn up for aerial bombing. When I bought my house, the old woman in the sweetie shop opposite my flat told me that where my garden is now there had been a bomb crater. The terrace on the other side of the gardens has two new buildings in the middle of it: a classic architectural sign of a bombing. It was only when I looked at this map, though, that I realised that the old building that is now my kitchen was once part of a long complex of outbuildings. Carefully drawn and shaded on a map which was used to destroy them (whilst actually aiming at the munitions factories a quarter of a mile away). It is this same sense of history deep in the stones of London which so fascinates me.
New Year's Eve was successfully managed, despite an impressive lack of fore-planning. We eventually wound up in the Cavern. I used to go there a lot, back in the days of road-protest stuff, until they went heavily into drum'n'bass. Now it's gone back to its punkier roots. Well, as punk as a place can get when back in the late 80s it was a townie bar called, IIRC, the Hop & Grape (not so lovingly known as the 'Hope & Grope'). The toilets are as sticky and suspiciously wet underfoot as ever. The music was the usual mix of ska and punk (all old skool - no skater boy punk stuff - and I clearly remember dancing to On My Radio by the Selector and getting kudos from some guy for knowing some track off Super Black Market Clash). The beer was cheap and offensive. Stayed until maybe 3am then went to crash at someone's house.
Got back to find my house was surprisingly tidy still, despite having had people over before going out, and have decided my New Year attempt of a resolution will be to keep the place more sorted. Spent today inspecting the usual Mysterious Bruises of Unknown Origin (something I often seem to acquire when clubbing), curled up drinking lots of tea and watching season 4 of Buffy.