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|Saturday, March 1st, 2014|
|Writing about reading about writing.
I'll start with a plug: I've been listening on and off to a podcast story called 'Valentin and the Widow', a Victorian pulp adventure story about a lady, who discovers that her angelic ex-husband is in fact one of the leaders of a world-spanning criminal gang, and a burly Russian sailor who saves her life and becomes her bodyguard. It's a very solid two-fisted action story, short of sexual tension between the leads - she is very much not looking for companionship, he is not adverse to it but generally finds it with other burly men. If it sounds like what you might enjoy then I recommend it highly, it is 100% what it says on the box - the only note of caution is that it's read by the writer, Andrew Wheeler, so there is an occasional inadvisable accent.
Anyway, the writer also has a tumblr, and it was through a reblog that I came to read a post of his - or rather a response by him to an earlier post of his.
His first post
includes some of the history, when someone asked a writing question of Brian Michael Bendis, who generally manages the tricky feat of combining being a famous comics writer with being a rude arsehole. The question was originally about writer's block, but quickly became about the assertion that you're not a writer if you don't write every day - which obviously some people took considerable objection to
. Andrew Wheeler's point was that there were two groups involved in the discussion, and the one being more prescriptive was the one that contains all the professional writers. Which is true, though it struck me that the writers in question were largely comicbook writers, IE spirit of a novelist, form of a columnist - they can cover the same subjects, but unless you're Alan Moore-level, you need to produce 24 (or 48 or 72) pages a month or baby doesn't get fed. Self-selection/-survival would probably be a large factor in what side they end up on.
Anyway, the analogy Mr Wheeler used was between someone who really likes cooking, possibly blogs about it, and a chef - which I think is an interesting way of looking at it, though there people
continued to disagree
. (It would of course be nice to have some way of seeing, say, all the responses to his first post a) in one place or b) without having to read down past the full text in each page, but unfortunately Tumblr is terrible).
His second post
was a response to one of those, and took it off to more metaphysical You've-got-to-have-the-hunger territory - this of course also had it's discontents
, though it's this one that I first saw, through the writers that I follow on Tumblr recommending it.
And since then - well since then the discussion has tapered off as per - people reblog people they follow, and follow people they reblog, an reblog from a stranger gets no response, and have I mentioned yet that Tumblr is terrible?
I think I'm basically just asking what ye think of this, I know I have a few writers on my friendslist. I am not a writer myself, I mean I am capable of it (and one thing that I forgot in my end of year post was how nice it felt when something I wrote on Facebook ended up being shared 29 times - 15 of which weren't even visible to me!), but I certainly don't write daily, my time is circumscribed by everything else I'd rather be doing (and my job) - see for example the fact that I'm only writing this up now because the articles in question were about to drop off the two-month cliff on my RSS reader. I would like to think that I would take to it naturally and with great verve, but then I'd like to think that about a lot of things, and have long ago reached the conclusion that I'm by and large happier as Walter Mitty.
|Saturday, January 18th, 2014|
I took a week off in the middle of December (because I had holidays to burn before the end of the year) and generally had a nice relaxing time after the months beforehand. I took one day to go to the cinema though, and saw four films - ironically I could probably have fitted in more on a weekend - you get more 10am/10pm shows then.
The films I think largely cover the points of the cultural spectrum:
Gravity starts with a long shot in a couple of ways, a full 17 minutes without a cut. Alfonso Cuarón isn't new to that - there's a half-hour compilation*
of all of his takes from his previous film, Children of Men, which run longer than 45 seconds - but this really is a masterwork, moving from an image of the earth in space towards the Hubble, introducing the characters, and then setting things in (sorry) motion. It'd be great to watch in any context, but assuming you know going in that it's not 90 minutes of pals pal around in space, it's also a great ratcheting up of tension - the perspective seems forced by the imaginary camera rather than the character or the normal plot beats, so you get to see some things in the background which the normal contract of film would demand that the camera follow, or acknowledge, even if the characters don't.
After that, the film continues on its path, not diverting very much from a series of predicaments and how the leads get out of them - not much in a sense happens but it's consistently gripping (and occasionally funny). Sandra Bullock is effective throughout, which is pretty much all the role calls for. By comparison George Clooney is used
effectively as his own shorthand, cocky and twinkly with hidden depths. I'll be interested in contrasting it to All Is Lost when I see it.
Also it's worth pointing out that it's very very worth seeing it in 3D - it's an amazing show of masteryby Cuarón, and will hopefully be very influential as it's turning from gimmick into medium.
*Obviously you shouldn't watch that if you've not seen Children of Men. You should go see Children of Men as soon as possible instead.
Escape Plan is a fairly straightforward sell - Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger sharing billing at last (after a few brief cameos by Arnie in Expendables movies). The problem unfortunately is that when they're actually on screen together, only one of them has the charisma to actually propel the scenes through the dialogue. It's effectively a heist movie - Sly is an expert in prison security who tests them by breaking out, until he's tricked into a prison that has been built to the handbook he's produced, and has to rely on the genially deranged Arnie to help him get out.
Most heist movies are, like sci-fi, logic oriented, and so we get an origin sequence, Sly breaking out of a prison and then explaining his feat to the Governor - here's what he can do, here's how he works. And then, like any good magic trick, the situation adapts to nullify his powers (literally codified as his handbook on the serious prison's Governor's desk), and then the restraints are further defeated, or ideally turned on themselves. The problem I had with this is that, past a certain point, Arnie and Sly get access to guns, and it switches from a magic trick to magic - they have the protection of a pure soul that they are used to, their bullets never miss while the baddies' always do.
It's still a largely entertaining film though, some of that coming from Arnie cheerily playing a nutball, some of it a christmas pudding of casting - Jim Caviezel! Vinny Jones! 50 Cent! Vincent D'Onofrio! Unsurprisingly, if you think you might enjoy it, you probably will.
Leviathan also starts very slowly, in complete darkness and a growing mechanical noise. Eventually something starts to appear in the bottom right of the screen, bright orange and indistinct, and then eventually slowly it becomes clear that you're in a boat, viewing the scene from a spray-covered camera perched on a hat worn by one of the crew, looking over at his co-worker as they silently drag in a chain, connected to a larger chain. Our point-of-view man yells over to tie the chain around the metal post nearby, which his colleague doesn't do, and already the overwhelming sound and grimness of demeanour causes me wonder, partly from having seen Gravity, whether this film would also open with a death in the first shot. But it doesn't, and instead the machinery continues with it's purpose, dragging in another enormous catch of fish to be processed.
It's billed as a documentary, but to be honest, I'd describe it more as an art film which happens to be about stuff that's actually happening, similar to the Andy Warhol's work. The comparison to Gravity is strengthened a bit by the length of the shots - I would describe it as meditative, if you were up to meditating on the noise of heavy machinery and gurgling waters. I may have fallen asleep a few times (in the very cosy second ICA cinema), but each time when I woke up, the scene was still going on. There was a laugh in the cinema right a the start for the announcement that the film's rating was due to "One use of strong language", but to be honest I don't remember one use of language.
Also like Gravity it's worth seeing* in a cinema, not for the video but the audio this time. The trailer gives you a good idea.
*I am aware that there's not a lot of use in me saying this now, as opposed to a month ago when I saw it.
And the last film of the day was Frozen, which I'd been a little apprehensive about, but went to on the grounds that it was boasting a pedigree of Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, and as tattered as the claims of "from the makers of" usually are, being willing to claim those films at least seemed worth rewarding. In fact it's co-written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee, who was one of the writers on Ralph, which is actually (and appallingly) the first Disney film with a woman in a director's chair.
It's a (considerable) reworking of the The Snow Queen, where the queen is Elsa, one of a pair of princesses, some of her later actions forced by her love of her sister Anna and wish to protect her from Elsa's powers. If you might be thinking that this sounds slight familiar, the casting director has got there ahead of you, and so Ella is played by Idina Menzel, the original Elphaba from Wicked:
In fact if there's a problem, it's that the film sets this up all so heart-breakingly, and then leaves most of the time to Anna's love triangle / attempts to reach Elsa / funny snowman sidekick. None of which is bad at all, and it's definitely enjoyably on it's own terms (plus, songs by the song-writers of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) but a film with more Elsa would have been great.
|Sunday, January 5th, 2014|
|The Drowned Man
So, myself and G went out at the end of November to The Drowned Man, the latest Punchdrunk piece, in an abandoned (and soon to be knocked down) Royal Mail postal office.
I'm not sure which genre Punchdrunk is generally situated in - I heard someone describe it as Immersion Narrative, which is a pretty good start. It takes place in a large multi-room multi-story space, through which the actors move, coming together for the bigger scenes and then wandering off with their own motives. All of the audience are wearing masks, and are instructed to remain silent throughout - and ideally to explore by themselves alone. Certain actors may certain times turn to any following audience and pick one to take away to a private space for a "1-1", which may involve taking their mask off and an interactive (this covers A LOT) experience. There are also black-masked staff around, as security-cum-stagemanagers. One thing that I don't know if it is or isn't specific to The Drowned Man is that the story is in a loop that repeats 3 times over the three hours - at the end of the last loop the black masks will usher everyone towards one space for a finale.
The (non-spoilery) story of the Drowned Man is that it's twin main stories - one in a Hollywood studio, one among the denizens of the desert town outside. Some characters move between them, some just stay as their own. There's a lot of sources but one is Woyzeck, so laughs abound.
Dudes, it was amazing. The set dressing for a start is incredible, apart from the main areas (Sounds stages, saloon, town main street, terrifying Lynchian red-curtained chessboard dancefloor), there's a lot of tiny nooks each, with some hint or other to one of the stories. I did spend some time acting on the principle of "If an actor is rushing one way with their comet-trail of audience behind them, I'll see where they're coming from". This in not in fairness a great principle, but I did get to see a fair amount of the set.
This amount of passive detail is also useful if it turns out that parts of the performance are in an idiom you are not fond of EG dance. Actually that's not fair - there's a lot that I found fascinating, including both* chessboard set pieces, but I early on made my way over to the town side to see some people dancing "I am so in love with you!" and later two fellows dancing "We are friends but we are having an argument!". I did also later get slammed into a wall by a couple dancing some vigorous sex, but I didn't mind so much at that stage.
I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy it, G had sent me link to a gradated-spoiler guide
and I wasn't very certain about the instruction "If a character starts to stare at you, hold the gaze, if they offer you their hand, take it, if they open a door for you, go through". Of course one of the first things that happens once you put on the mask is that you become an anonymous member of a (well-mannered) mob, and when my chance came - I flinched and someone else was chosen. But I regretted it!
One of the other effects that can happen is as one of the main actors rushes off to another scene, their trial of audience will get longer to navigate stairs and corridors, until it turns out that they have unbeknownst to themselves merged with another actor's trail, or just got lost entirely. I generally found this amusing.
Time flies in there though - when first I saw the same scene repeated I thought "that can't possibly be an hour", and when the black masks impassively ushered me towards the finale I was amazed that it was three hours. I enjoyed it a lot and I'll be back, I hope.
*that I know about.
Also I got a great story as a present on my birthday - one of the actors, when the time came for one of his 1-1s, selected a lady from the audience and gestured to take her hand. The large man standing next to her, though, indicated that this was not a good idea. The actor, being in his place of power, and checking that the lady seemed up for it, tried again, to a more serious (but still silent) refusal from the man. So, the actor took both of the into the room. It's obviously not usual, but the actor is firstly a professional, and secondly is due somewhere else in 5 minutes. So he removed their masks and delivered his usual routine about how Hollywood is a terrible place that will grind you up and spit you out, and how you yes you should just give up now and return to where you came from - to Madonna. Who was completely into it (far more than her bodyguard) - indeed when you think about it, getting to assume anonymity and wander about for three hours for £50 must be something of a bargain for her, whatever else is happening around.
|Saturday, October 12th, 2013|
So, Andrew, what've you been up to?
Held a dinner party! only seven people (which is probably a bit too many for the current configuration of the kitchen/dining room, but good to see them nonetheless. Also much productive inter-household discussion of what a dinner party really is
and whether a large plastic mixing bowl is in fact a salad bowl. Still, now we have metal and wooden salad bowls, and the property value of the street rises a little more.
Gone on a bender! Or rather, asked the interwebs of a Friday if anyone fancied a pint and ended up going for "just the one" with shewho
. Which turned out to be… just the one, but artful organisation via magical mobiles meant that after that I had an appointment at Holborn with pippaalice
where all the nice pubs were full, so to the Wetherspoons and a few pints and some in-depth conversation, and then it was 12:30 and Jesus Fuck what happened there? And then packing myself on a bus and sleeping past my stop, and getting my first random kebab in quite a while whilst waiting for the bus back. And then a contemplative Saturday.
Had a splinter stuck under my fingernail! I am still not entirely sure how this happened - I think I was sitting down at my desk (on the swivel chair that has largely stripped the floorboards beneath of varnish or glamour) and reached down? to take my shoes off? But anyway the sudden visceral wrongness, and then when I looked at my hand, an enormous splinter! I ran to the bathroom, took some of it out, then set to work with nail clippers and tweezer trying to get the rest of it out. It was strangely numb for the first while, which I thought was odd - this is The Thing That Hurts, isn't it, the thing that'll get people down in your dungeons telling you what you want to hear. But in the end all that was left were two dark smudges under the fingernail, one full of the blood that appeared after a minute and needed to be held under a tap, and one with a tiny splinter hidden beyond reach of the instruments to hand, that's been slowly shyly working it's way out - I can press the flesh back a little and see a tiny dot, but it'll do until I next need to clip my nails.
Started shaving differently! I had a period of lowered personal maintenance about a month ago, and when G pointedly asked if it was time for me to start shaving again, and I allowed that it was, she asked if, this time, I might be interested in a different pattern, leaving the sideburns to keep their access to my facial hair, but clearing off my chin in a circus strongman style. I thought that might be an idea, and so presented the results to her next time she was down in London. What we'd both forgotten was that my previous goatee+sideburns was at her instigation, and G has in fact spent the vast majority of our relationship as out of sight of my chin, as it has been out of sight of the harsh world. Its initial appearance to her as some sort of bleeding potato has over time softened as she has grown used to it, and I have learned how to shave it again. Also helping has been shaving up to the jawline, though I enjoyed the period where I appeared to be protesting my eternal love for the Wu-Tang. In the last week or two though, as the weather has caused me to wrap up more in scarves and hats, glimpses of myself in reflective surface seems to indicate that it's thrown me up an age category, turning me more avuncular...
Gone home! … which is fair enough, as I've been back in Navan at my avuncular duties as well. The triple birthday (sister / first nephew / other sister's girlfriend) was on the Monday of last weekend, so I was able with clear conscience to stay up in Dublin on the Friday - meeting a bunch of very old friends in one of those visions of a coherent social milieu that lasts until one of them exclaims that they never actually see each other much any more. I was chancing my arm as regards where I'd actually stay, but ended up heading back to sleep on the sofa of Clare, who in my absence has met a nice chap and had an 18-month old child, probably the biggest jolt from my "OIh it's all as I've left it" default.
And then home properly - seeing Mum, seeing my sister's family, who are 5 and 3 ½ and just over 1 (oh yeah I missed Tom's birthday, good uncling there Farrell) and very loud and very active and just about playing well together. It was good to be home, and together me and my sister managed to get Mum a tablet computer, and loose her on the internet, for which we may not be forgiven in the final analysis. The end of the weekend was packing into a kid's adventure playground on an industrial estate, bright plastic climbing and balls and slides and a TV playing Robin Thicke in the grownups pen.
"How to I get to Brighton police station? I'll just… oh"
"What comics collections was I going to get from Dave's? I had a list… ah"
"I wonder if one of the non-direct trains would get me up to London Bridge quickest? I'll just … hrm"
There is as they say an app for each of these. And I own (in so far as one can own ones and zeros yadda yadda) the apps. But it isn't much use to own them if their incarnation, on my iPhone, is somewhere in the back of the taxi that I took from Brighton station to G's last night. In fact, I have a reasonable idea where it is, as there is an app for that too, which will run on my laptop and let me trace it in its loops from and returning to the station last night, and where it woke up this morning.
But there is a bright side to this (apart from the insurance, and the ability to restore a recent backup of my old phone onto a new one that the insurance may give me), which is that I'm not using the phone either as the internet, or as an internet link for the laptop, so I do actually have time to write some posts for you fine people while on the train back up to London Bridge.
Well, some time - the fruits of the trip to Dave's (Buffy Season 9, Young Avengers, Three, Fatale, Sex Criminals, A very odd and lenticular relabelling of Justice League that is actually the final mind-dump of China Mieville's run on Dial H, Uber, Iron Man, and 2x Mighty Avengers) have mostly taken my time on the way up, leaving only enough to actually write this out. But there'll be another trip back down this evening, so we'll see what that brings.
|Monday, September 16th, 2013|
I went out to see this in the mighty Peckhamplex, with moleintheground
It the third (after Oblivion and After Earth) of the "man, fvck this planet" trilogy, made by that nice man who made District 9. You're quite possibly aware of the premise - All the rich people live in a lovely satellite ringworld, all the poor people on Earth can suck it. Here comes Matt Damon to sort things out!
The story's not that much more complex than that, most of the attraction comes from good stunt casting - William Fichtner as evil factory boss! District 9's Sharlto Copely as a shaggy Afrikaner "operative"!* Some guy who I was convinced was one of the hobbits! - and from some excellent special effects work. It does have serious case of Moppets Wise Beyond Their Years, and also does sloow down at the end, quite literally in places - it's worth remembering that District 9 was in fact "brought to us" by Meaningful Slomo addict Peter Jackson.
I think I'd really like to see Neill Blomkamp direct a film written by a good sci-fi writer - until then this is a very watchable way to spend your time.
* As a white South African, Blomkamp is more than happy to play on the fact that audiences are quite happy to love to hate white South Africans. Arnold Vosloo cannot surely avoid his casting calls forever.
|Friday, August 9th, 2013|
|Cycles: Shots around London
As I mentioned back in May, I took that month's Bank Holiday Monday and went off around London on my usual cycle. The last few times I'd done that, I'd enjoyed seeing things off in the distance and wondering what they were. I thought this time I'd take some photos and then one of my tasks for the year (spoilers: the year is nearly up, and the hit rate is not great, but there will be a new year along shortly) would be to return to the site of the photos and try and navigate across London to the site in question. So, here's some of the shots:
Tiny in this, but several of the blocks along the north side of Grosvenor Road, as it heads up to Chelsea Bridge, have between them straight lines of sight to a minaret-topped building - of course by the time I thought "Hey I should make that my first shot", the straight lines has stopped, hence the 'spot the ball' nature of this photo.
What could this terrifying tower, just before Chelsea Bridge be? Once I noticed it was next to a hospital, the word 'Incinerator' did swim into mind...
An exciting looking bulge over by the Battersea Bridge.. but when you see it from the river, it's just apartments to see the river from.
I know where this is - Upper Richmond Road, about to hit Queens Ride, but not what - it's enormous and looking largely disused - I didn't get a shot where you can see the sun shining right through from one side to the other.
Again this is not a mystery (Central London from Richmond Park), but I totally love the feeling of "I was there!" - particularly since I started the cycle from work IE nearly exactly below the Shard.
North from Richmond Park this time, a mysterious red tower, our first real candidate...
The faint arches against the sky were exciting until I realise I was far enough out that they were actually Wembley (similar to thinking "That plane's pretty low... oh yeah Heathrow")
Someone's got a nice front lawn, in Bushey Park.
Big house or car battery (or as I've just figured out, the big house at the NW corner of Richmond Park)?
... and this is the first real candidate again, at the point that the ride takes you quite close to in Kew. There's nothing but some cranes there on Google Street View, so I can't tell you what it is, but some of the challenge has evaporated.
What is that exciting urban artifact, north of Notting Hill's Landsdowne Crescent/Gardens? Spoilers: it's the Westway.
There's a tricky turn right at this point in Aldgate, which was not made easier by the sudden appearance of this - I swear it wasn't there the last time I came through
North from the Narrows over Limehouse Basin, Crimson Jesus on a Chimney was not what I was expecting to see - but again not hard to place.
In summary then: Psychogeography me arse.
|Tuesday, May 21st, 2013|
|Haps x5 (from the weekend before last)
3 minutes per hap GO!
- Europoptimism, featuring songs from around Europe and the occasional track actually featured on Eurovision. We met invisible_al in the venue and he was treated to what was in fact a gangs-all-here version of this fine night. Much jumping up and down, including Praga Khan's Injected with a Poison, which I have not heard out in A While
- Electromagnetic Wave
- G was talking at this day of talks and events, which is usually held as a festival called Electromagnetic Field, but this time they got a boat off Canary Wharf, so it's called... yeah you get it. It was interesting, and G's talk (on Ethics for Engineers) was both excellent and packed with Tony Stark gifs.
- Big Cycle
- On the Bank holiday Monday I went for my usual London Bridge - Chelsea - Richmond - Twickenham - Hammersmith - Shepard's Bush - City - Isle of Dogs - Greenwich - London Bridge cycle - it was about eight and a half hours, and I didn't falter on the hills at Greenwich and Richmond, which was nice. I did stop halfway up Richmond, but that was more as part of the plan to photo Far Off Things and navigate to them later. There's a vague plan that at some point in the future myself and G may pick up a Boris Bike at Chelsea and do the prettier half of the route, returning the bike at Hammersmith. Also the route around the back of the Dome is available to people again!
- Book of Mormon
- And after that it was a swift shower and change of clothes, and out to the legitimate theatre - George got me a ticket to see this as a Birthday present, and we saw the hell out of it. I don't really want to say more, but if you think you might enjoy it, I think you'll love it. You might want to be aware that Parker and Stone really really love Musicals - I don't think there's a scene which doesn't end with a song.
- New tooth
- One of my teeth cracked around the filling a while back, so I made an appointment to get a crown put on, my second
one. I idiotically managed to break the temporary filling on it using er toffees and so got the see the stumpy glory of what they file the tooth down to pre-crown. The actual placing was much more painful than the first crown, even now it rides a little high and is the first contact whenever I close my mouth - reminder of the flesh, I suppose.
Well, I completely blew my schedule there, so here's the two biggest bits of news since: I'm off on Friday to Mexico, where G's brother will be getting married next week - G will be coming down from Santa Barbara, where she's currently researching, and then we'll come back separately on the 2nd. And then a fortnight later, she starts her new job, as a Knowledge Associate at the Royal College of Arts for the next 2 1/2 years at least. Exciting times ahead, folks...
|Friday, January 18th, 2013|
|Holiday, Sunburned Leg 2*
Hello, it's me! I'm still here. No wait, I'm not still in Australia! But you probably guessed that from the last post, as my plan to sneakily stay on board and spend 48 hours watching more films came to naught.
Anyway, after I was talking to you last we:
- Stayed in Canberra, with G's family. Canberra is very planned and has very nice schools and is very very dull. It was nice to meet the rest of the family though: G's aunt who is a documentary film maker and moved back from London was glad to snatch us away and chat (while driving us out to the bush to see Kangaroos!). G's grandma (Who the aunt moved back to be near) was also great, 94 but sharp as a tack - only a shame I didn't get to see her grandfather too, who sadly died last year.**
- To Melbourne, where we mostly just relaxed and wandered the coffee houses like some sort of fucking hipsters. We took two trips out - one by train to see a friend's mum and step-dad up north in Kynton, great big house full of carefully chosen stuff and enormous outdoors, and a big pirate flag in the back yard, and one by slow bus up to Phillip Island, to see
Fairy Little Penguins, tiniest of all the penguins. They gather on the sea side of the shore every evening, waiting until it's dark enough and they have enough strength in numbers to make a run across the beach to their homes in the dunes. They gather, they start tentatively making their way across, they run back, they gather, they go, they run back, we all die of cuet. But mostly we sat around and drank coffee discovered the breakfast Bloody Mary with Marmite, and I was properly introduced to the Proper Australian Meat Pie and the Proper Australian Lamington.
- To Sydney, where we saw in the new year with ozgirlabroad (Sydney Harbour Bridge! Fireworks! Getting there five hours in advance and filling up the time with memes!) and my 39th year with a trip to the beach (Sun! Sand! Falling for the overcast trap and getting massively sunburned!). Unfortunately my body started to betray me at every turn
- the New Year's day trip to the beach, where I actually did take appropriate care sunwise, featured a bit of me wandering about barefoot on hot sand & brick, which seemed to bring on a very sudden massive blister on the bottom of one of my feet. A blister plaster took care of it until it started to heal, but still odd lumps of dead flesh hanging around staring at you (er, if you stare at them)
- The aforementioned sunburn, all over my shoulders and on random bits of my legs (One knee! A strip down one shin! The other ankle, really really painfully to move!), which wiped out the 3rd, complicated the 4th, and largely did for any chance of solid sleep on the plane. It's also the longest-lasting in effect - my ankle finally peeled off at the start of this week, and is still tickling. In general though I think it's not a bad birthday omen - I'm 38 now, it's worth remembering that mistakes have consequences.
- A really incredibly annoying twinge in my left thigh, down in/near my hamstring if I plant my left foot and advance my body much past it. It turns out I put my leg in that sort of situation a lot, including when I'm trying to get comfortable in a bed with massive patchy sunburn.
- And, as you may have seen on Facebook, the capper to a long and not overly sleepy trip back to Heathrow was overbalancing in the gents and smashing my forehead into a coat hook - cue much bleeding and another hour in the airport instead of going home and sleeping as every atom in our bodies were crying out to do.
- Er er, but I had a nice time really! Sun is in general a good thing, the beaches are very nice, and also this holiday thing might catch on eventually.
* Both my legs were sunburned. Is joke!
** Chatting to her at Christmas Dinner, I asked if she'd ever actually met the Queen. Oh no, she said, when her husband Dick was knighted it was in Australia, the Queen didn't come down to it. Oh that's a shame I said, and she said yes, but he'd gotten the Distinguished Flying Cross (for some serious war-time adventures
) when he was in England, before they met. So he'd seen the Queen, then? No, he'd been presented with it by the King - there then follows the sound of someone remembering that really old people are really rather old.
|Sunday, January 13th, 2013|
|On films seen on an airplane
Being, as previously discussed, similar to bands watched at a festival.
Firstly, we were I think flying BA to Bangkok the way out, then QANTAS on the other three flights (->Sydney, Sydney->Singapore->London). They were all well equipped with films, but the last leg was on an Airbus, which took it to ridiculous extremes. Yes, we will have two more from the current range, and four more from the 'Encore' range, and oh how about a new category called Oscar-Bait* with 95 films, including basically every classy English-language film of the last decade? I made a list of about a dozen films that I'd like to be seeing from the shorter menu - in a way I'd quite like to just spend 48 hours of a holiday watching films I've missed and occasionally being fed, were it not for the fact that the jetlag would kill me boom dead.
*name may not be accurate, but Oscar was definitely in there.
On the way out:Madagascar 3
, as previously mentioned.
Men In Black 3
, from a series which could probably coast on the genial interaction of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith for a while - though I'm not sure that I saw MIB 2, so I might be wrong there. Anyway, this is basically formed around a genius bit of casting - an old enemy pops back to 1969 and kills Jones's Agent K, so Smith's Agent J also takes the trip back to before the murder and meets the young K, played by Jones's No Country for Old Men co-star Josh Brolin. Brolin's impersonation is pretty good, and the story rolls on with the same beats as you'd expect (including stereotypical reaction to a black man in a sharp suit and a sharper car in 1969). There's a chase or two, some shooting, and a lovely turn as Emma Thompson as the new head of the service post Rip Torn - though the new history of her and K having A Thing in the past does kind of take the shine off the high point of the original MIB
Ponyo, the latest from Hayao Miyasaki (so,
4 5 year old then), which I had gotten the impression was a more minor work (and which I almost felt like I'd seen already based on the sheer amount of 'making of' material I'd seen when we visited the Studio Ghibli museum in Japan three years ago). It's a smaller film, the inspiration is to an extent The Little Mermaid, but it's also based in a small coastal village, so some of Miyazaki's gentle environmentalism appears when the forces of the deep come to retrieve the titular sea-creature-turning-into-a-human. It works largely because Miyazaki is as equally skilled at depicting the comfortable routines of village life, the precariousness of that life in the face of uncaring nature, and the usual dreamlike presence of mystical non-human beings. And it reminded me of course that one of the more unsettling aspects of things dreamlike is not that weird things are happening, but that everyone else seems fine with them.
On the way back:
Avengers & "Only the Joker scenes of" The Dark Knight (IE about 85% of it in the end): these are obviously both great at what they're doing - an interesting comparison of the "Ahaha it is my plan to be captured do you see" where, for all his later protestations of "Do I really look like a guy with a plan?", it's the Joker that has clockwork in motion, and Loki who is basically just turning up to throw rocks at the spinning plates. It is an awful shame though that we won't get Batman 6: Ah Heck With It, Here's Another 90 Minutes Of The Joker.
, which was the only pre-Avengers film that I missed. I sort of meant to see it, but basically I reckoned I had the basics - skinny kid, Super Soldier serum, punching Hitler, probably something to do with the Red Skull. They were unlikely to decide that his parents were spies or that he was a clone, for example (though I've just remembered that the new Spiderman movie did go for that first one). And sure enough when he appeared in the Avengers, he worked pretty well by himself - the only thing I wouldn't have expected was a pre-existing connection to the Cosmic Cube, and they cleared that up pretty well.
As a side note, I really hadn't considered how much Chris Evans actually brings to the job until I watched some of the Avengers without sound over on someone else's screen on the flight over, and was wondering "why are these superheroes listening to the galoot with the head-cap?".
So, anyway, for an entirely inessential film, this was a lot of fun. It's pretty funny in a lot of places, including at least 15-minutes about Captain America's first post-serum job, appearing as propaganda to sell more war bonds. Also let's hear it for the stunt casting!
- Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, world's most put-upon Nazi genius
- Tommy Lee Jones (again) as Tough Gruff General
- Dominic Cooper as Leonardo DiCaprio as Tony Stark('s dad)
- Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, the human-hating head of Hydra
- hilarious sfx as Chris Evans's weakling lower body
- Stanley Tucci as Doktor Erskine: "Yes I am a German, but I am not one of those Germans that idolises physical perfection, you have me entirely wrong there. I value strength, and will, and around these we will build physical perfection - oh what is everyone staring at me like that for now?"
- New Doctor's companion Jenna-Louise Coleman as the blind date
30 minutes of Bernie
- there is not in general a Richard Linklater film that I don't want to see, but possibly not the ideal venue for a gentle comedy about murder in Texas.
20 minutes of The Master
- also not the right venue, but I think re-engaging with this will involve walking into a showing when it's 20 minutes in rather than be hit in the face repeatedly by the incisive characterisation that Joaquin Phoenix's character is possibly a little obsessed with sex.
Total Recall: God this is terrible though. I spent more of the film than I expected sitting through the moderately entertaining action and chase setpieces, appreciating the admittedly fine world design, waiting for the stuff from the trailer to finish and the film to start. Shockingly the arrival of Bill Nighy is a trend for the worse, as he talks wee Colin Farrell through the basics of "Dude did you ever consider that our version of reality is based on what you can remember?" - this shortly after they have actually brought to the front and disposed of the actual "is this real?" ambiguity in the plot. I have to confess that I've not seen the original of this - of the three great Verhoeven movies that are getting remakes, I have only seen Starship Troopers, not the original of this or Robocop. I should probably fix that, huh?
|Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013|
It is not only 2013 here, which I saw in watching the fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge (but sans any actual countdown?) with xxxlibris
, and to pass the five(!) hours between when we found our spot and the festivities, we filled in the meme. And furthermore it is not New Year's Day, where we went to Manly Beach and splashed around for a bit then came back. And furthermore it is very nearly not even my Birthday any more, for which we went to Manly again and I forgot that the Sun doesn't care if it's overcast, and boiled myself stupid. So basically this is quite late but there you are.
01. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?
Celebrated Xmas in Australia (also, without going to Navan within a month either side). Rang for an ambulance at 3:30 in the morning.02. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I think they were basically "Get through the list of To Do stuff", which I really didn't, no. But I will!03. Did someone close to you give birth?
My sister! Young Thomas Kane, on the 26th of August.04. Did anyone close to you die?
No.05. What countries did you visit?
Ireland, Germany, Spain, Thailand (for 5 hours), and Australia.06. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
Focus, as always. Promotion in work. More things done off the list, particularly the ones that I know are there because I avoid them.07. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 27th - Olympics Opening Ceremony08. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Actually ringing for an ambulance, however inaccurate that ended up.09. What was your biggest failure(s)?
A few months late in the year when I really wasn't the best boyfriend at all.10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yep, massive anxiety and stress, now all gone.11. What was the best thing you bought?
Bike! After previous version of bike went walkabout.12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
G's!13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Politicians - British, American.14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage - I will get a bit worried if this isn't the answer for the next 20 years!15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Olympics Opening Ceremony!16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, also possibly Gangnam style (if it doesn't end up reminding me of 2012-2025)17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. Fatter or thinner?
Definitely fatter, thanks to holiday eating.ii. Happier or sadder?
A little sadder, but more hope for next year.iii. Richer or poorer?
Poorer - I've only just really started saving again recently + getting to and living in Australia is monstrously expensive.18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
More things off the list would be nice.19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Playing useless video games, dicking around on the internet.20. How will you be spending Christmas?
In Canberra, with G's Aunts & Uncle and her amazing grandmother.21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
Probably mum - it's more Google Chat with G.22. Did you fall in love in 2012?
Stayed in Love23. How many one-night stands?
None.24. What was your favorite TV program?
Olympics Opening Ceremony25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't think I knew who Todd Akin was last year, so yeah.26. What was the best book you read?
Journey in Mystery by Kieron Gillen / Prophet by Brandon Graham / Dial H by China Mieville27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Chairlift / Thea Gilmore / Alex Clare28. What did you want and get?
Stuff done around the house - some shoring up, some exciting expansions (well, shelves)29. What did you want and not get?
A promotion, more things off the list30. Favorite film of this year?
It's been a great year, but the one that best matches big-screen entertainment, smart & funny dialogue, a tricky job done exceedingly well, and general Pandering To Me would have to be The Avengers. Not that it's easily comparable to EG Holy Motors or The Queen of Versailles!31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 37 and I woke up with G in Brighton before heading down to London for the traditional gathering in the pub - I think it's the first time that me, dawnage
's kid Iris and shewho
's chap Johnny all clapped eyes on each other. We all got along quite well.32.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A promotion.33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
The usual for most of it - combats, walking shoes, bike helmet. And then for the last fortnight a sudden shift into Aussie Bloke - same shoes, shorts, sun hat.34. What kept you sane?
Not much, and in one obvious instance nothing.35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No-one really, I think.36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Environment - or rather what stirred me the most was its near-complete non-existence as a political issue.37. Who do you miss?
Martin38. Who was the best new person you met?
, though that was one-time meet and then the rest over t'internet.39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012
Ring the ambulance.40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year
I don't really so, no.
|Monday, December 10th, 2012|
|Sightseers / Antiviral
This wasn't an intentional double bill as such - I was due to head down to Brighton last Saturday to hang around with G, and we thought "We could go to the movies!", and Film 1 was the film that we most felt like watching (the best of a bad bunch, I thought as I surveyed slim pickings) and then Film 2 G had seen at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival
a few months ago and had enjoyed, and was happy to sit through again.
Sightseer is the third film from Ben Wheatley, the director of Kill List and Down Terrace, which I'd not particularly heard of before. It's a black comedy about an English couple who go on a short camping holiday, upon which the bodies start to pile up. I imagine we're all aware that there are a lot of ways that a film with the previous description can go wrong, but oh, it gets it all right. The characters are well-drawn, the killings start off as a believable extension of standard English simmer frustrations, a lot of it is funny about class without turning into lols at the lower-middle, and a lot of the violence is properly gruesome. Also there's a lot of excellent use of music, including a few shots where the film seems to be getting as disgruntled as some of the characters, referencing the fact that the English film industry used to make some of these vistas properly terrifying, but not they're just Visitor Centres.
Antiviral is the first film from Brandon Cronenberg, and the apple has not fallen very far from the unhealthy-looking tree. It's a film slightly at odd with its backstory, which is a satirical look at celebrity culture run out of control - our protagonist works for The Lucas Corporation, which sells to fans diseases based on those recently caught by their idols. The film doesn't really play this for laughs though - it essentially a corporate thr-iller. And I have rarely seen someone as ill looking as Caleb Landry Jones, who mopes balefully through the entire film with an intensity that you can almost see the fever lines coming off - a cross between The Pin in Brick and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Gormenghast. Since this is a) a a Cronenberg film and b) specifically called anti-viral, you would have thought that I might've twigged that my phobia of needles might come into play, but seriously, there are an awful lot of needles in here, along with a fair amount of Body Horror scenes - including a dream sequence that might stop you sleeping for a little bit. I probably sound a little down on this, but it really is very good and I'm glad I saw it. Not really sure what is happening as regards general release - but go see it if you can!
|Friday, December 7th, 2012|
|on The Londoner
I've been generally aware of the Rich Kid Lifestyle Blogs, have been largely keeping away from them because did I mention blood pressure, but G recently linked The Londoner
so I had a look. It's fairly standard - rich kids looking glossy in expensive locations, regular links to "You can buy this here!", though as G pointed out they have embraced austerity by not telling you what the prices are on the blog and occasionally saying "And I picked this up on the cheap for £20!".
So far, so No War But Class War. But there's one post with a very interesting aftermath - it's Christmas Jumpers in Chelsea
from early November, which is largely what it says on the tin - except for the last line, which says "PS if you can please remember to go vote for Obama tomorrow!".
Cue 250 comments. But most of the comments are people entirely in favour of this*, with most of the dissenters based on "Don't comment on the US, non-USer!". There's also a spirited defence
from The Londoner of her position, based largely on women's rights and character issues.
I'm sort of curious about what to make of this, which I imagine you'll agree is at least a little unexpected. Usually politics around these circles are dodged as something best left alone, or with "I don't think I really know enough to say" (which I imagine we're all clear is code for "I'm voting Tory and have no intention of discussing it with you").
It's possible that a generation of young women today are strongly in-their-bones feminist, independently of any joined-up thinking about other inequalities. I've occasionally moaned about the younger generation's Year Zero mentality, where everything has clearly always been as it was when they first started to pay attention, and ideally always will be. But one of the things that I've appreciated is that the female half of the kids in my work have as part of this unshakable basis the surety that anything available for men is available for themselves too. They haven't done the hard thinking about how revolutionary this idea is, or how other attitudes / modes of talk act to undermine this, but they're young yet.
It is also possibly the case that some of the right are happy to join some of the left in not considering Obama to be much of a threat the economic status quo, for which there's much evidence - the financial planners still in their jobs, income diversity increased over 4 years ago..
Or a synthesis of these two - past a certain point in the hierarchy, you can be reasonably sure that all of the economic stuff is happening below you, and can concentrate on social stuff (or rather you can pretend they're unrelated, despite EG the work of the Chancellor yesterday).
Someone down the comments thread says "but but but - you're a Tory!" and is answered (not by the Londoner) that it's okay, the Tories aren't nearly as extreme as those Republicans, not so interested as being soul-crushing to women, it's actually quite difficult to map the three main UK parties to the US system.
Which suggests that David Cameron may to an extent have gotten away with it, to have shaken off the claims of the Fawcett Society (which I'm now fascinated as to whether The Londoner is a member) and convinced women (above a certain station) that any collateral damage is an accident, that Nadine Dorries is just an outlier.
Also of course it suggests that the Republican party is completely fucked and will need to take a Damascene revelation sometime in the next few years, if they are losing their natural economic allies to this extent. Or are rich Tories generally uncomfortable with jumped-up US millionaires, with their smiles and suits and barely 200 years of history?
Or, you know, probably all of these to a greater or lesser part.
*Okay, most of the comments are entirely in favour of the sweaters.
|Saturday, December 1st, 2012|
Bah sorry about that, dudes, work flared up a bit at the end.
Actually that is the first thing, the rule proved by exception - it is very nice not to be starting a post by apologising for not having posted in a while.
By the same measure (and partly for that reason) I've enjoyed posting regularly getting into a rhythm, it being no big thing.
I'm not sure that daily quite suits though, some of the posts have been posted with a few things I'd like to polish a bit more but it's coming up to twelve (or after and backdated - shhh!). I think I'll probably try every other day or thereabouts.
Also those of you who've been doing the daily posting - you are all great! I am sorry if I didn't comment on most of them.
|Sunday, November 25th, 2012|
|Thursday, November 22nd, 2012|
Slightly apposite: I am thankful that Rian 'Brick' Johnson's third film is a good'un, as I had worried after hearing bad things about his second, The Brothers Bloom. Maybe I should even go watch the copy I have in the sitting room, one of these days?
ANYWAY. Things that time-travel is used for in Looper, Rian Johnson's third film, starring Joshua Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt:
- Underplayed irony.
- Hair-raising body horror.
- Establishing undeniable but asymmetric connections between "different" characters.
- Providing Jeff Daniels with enough gravitas to basically do a decent impression of Jeff Bridges.
- An excuse for putting Joshua Gordon-Levitt in makeup that makes him look like a young Bruce Willis.
Things that time-travel is not used for: providing a clear, consistent and linear series of events that definitely happen. In fact, not one but two characters explain that this is not a useful or worthwhile way to spend your time. I wrote something a long time ago about the distinctions between sci-fi films (resolution makes logical sense) and fantasy films (resolution makes emotional sense) - I am wondering if some of the complaining and overthinking I've seen about Looper would be if it was a magical portal that chucked you into the past, rather than a science fiction device.
Anyway - it is very good, it deals in emotion rather than logic, but it earns the emotions and you will like it (I think).
|Wednesday, November 21st, 2012|
|My exciting day.
It's not very nice out there in N15 by the way - it's cold and wet.
With cars parked on both sides, our road is basically one-way (or one-and-a-bike), and the first thing I saw when I left the house this morning was a car reversing at speed past me, and tucking itself into a space only half as much longer than itself. It seemed almost unreal in the speed and precision - vroom-vrpp - and I later realised that I should probably have taken this as a Lynchian omen.
Anyway, on my bike I went, not loving the elements - hating and fearing the elements to be honest. I had a change of underthings with me as usual, and a jumper in my backpack (jumper beneath the cycling tabard always seems a good idea but never ends well). But what I didn't have was a change of trousers, and my combats were getting soaked. Being combats, 10 minutes draped over a radiator (or a computer) would have sorted them out, but would you believe it, even that is too long to be wandering around in your boxers at work in this new age of "P" "C".
And so my mind chuntered merrily onwards, up to the point where I realised, 10 minutes from work, that I was supposed to be working from home today. Not for no reason, not on a whim - because I had a dentist's appointment at 9:00 - half an hour before my realisation.
And not a cursory standard dentist's appointment either, a quick once around your mouth with the tiny mirror and some harsh words about flossing, but the kind of dentists appointment that you book yourself because the nice thing you were just eating became unexpectedly flavoured with Bits of Tooth. The side of one of the teeth has gone, you can see right through to, er, the filling (I'm guessing no-one is shocked that I have a lot of fillings). Initially it felt much worse, but the tongue can really give some bad readings on things - I guess because it is used to working in a small space, so it will report "right half of jaw gone, sir" and when you have a look and it's half a fingernail's worth. But still, quite alarming.
So after a bit of Swearing Out Loud, I turned around and made my miserable way home. Another thing that should be added to the loadout for journeys this year is gloves - on the way back my hand entirely slipped off the handlebars, providing some wobbling about that was alarming to me as well as the car behind me. And then home with few minutes to spare, to jump into the shower and throw the wet, gritty clothes (another another thing - mudguards) into the washing machine. But here I am now in tracksuit bottoms and hoodie and warmth and cleanliness, and the appointment is back on next week, and all will be fine, provided I don't leave the house.
|Saturday, November 17th, 2012|
One of the things I did during my time off recently was take time off to go see a bunch of films in a day. Greatly helped by having a bike to get me between the BFI, The West End, and Mayfair.
Samsara - I might've dozed through a bit of the early parts of this, but it's a decent companion piece to Baraka, and a descendent of Koyaanistqatsi in being a multi-subject documentary full of slow shots and ambient music. A little surprised by the reviews saying it was pretty but no message - it seemed to be clearly saying "Here is the state of humanity in 2012: Better luck next time, eh?"
Brave - I'm amused by the idea I saw that that it fails the Bechdel test, largely because it also is the Bechdel test incarnate. And a decent Pixar film as well.
Resident Evil Retribution - As you know, I'd (re/)watched and generally enjoyed the earlier films on my iPhone earlier in the month - this was actually the first one that actually felt like it would have a video game adaptation of the movie, which is not a good look for the series. Also too much Aliens in its DNA.
The Queen of Versailles - This I have ranted to a lot of you about, a documentary about a very rich man and his wife, and their plans to make the largest house in the world - before and after the 2008 crash. I liked that this was largely amoral on the subjects - meaning that they damned themselves out of their own mouths by and large. That said, one of the shots caused a noise of disapproval such as I have never heard from a theatre.
Killing Me Softly - This is a fairly simple story of a robbery that goes wrong and a tough guy brought in from out of town (Brad Pitt) to clean it up. I'm surprised that none of the reviews I've seen have mentioned the Coens - apart from anything else, Richard Jenkins was both A+++ and reminded me of JK Simmons in Burn After Reading - except here everyone except Brad Pitt is a dope.
|Friday, November 16th, 2012|
|This is not today's post but...
I've just been doing some pruning - no humans, just removing a lot of syndicated feeds that I now read on Google Reader - and because the friendlist modification page on LJ is so rubbish, this is just a note saying that if you are reading this and I unfriended you, it is totally an accident and let me know.
|Thursday, November 15th, 2012|
This is a film I saw out in an actual cinema! Myself and G went to see it at the Odeon Marble Arch, which is a bit of an adventure if you're cycling from the direction of the city.
I haven't generally warmed to Daniel Craig that much, some of this is possibly hometown pride in Pierce Brosnan, but there's also an extent to which if you have a sexy dashing spy saving the world, I am happier if that's flagged as Rollicking Fantasy rather than given a veneer of Realism.
That said, this is in parts the best of the Craig Bonds - it has a keen awareness of a rich cinematic heritage - IE it steals from a bunch of stuff. The most striking is the early sections of Bond and M discussing their uncertainty about the nature of the problem in MI6 and their resources in combating it, which was very Tinker Tailor, and actually managed to drag 10-15 minutes of acting out of D. Craig, as well as a sense of weakness. This disappears after a while of course, replaced by the usual blank magic; One of the things that the Bourne films that inform a lot of these Bonds have in their favour is that someone holding a gun on our hero is a problem that needs to be solved - Bond just seizes the gun and with a single bo(u)nd he is free.
The rest of the film is put together from excellent sources - Ben Whishaw as Richard Ayaode, Javier Bardem as Hannibal Lecter (and indeed as Heath Ledger's Joker), and an ending sourced from the least likely part of Bourne. It is not without concern, but it's still a good film, and a great Bond for what that's worth.