Posts from 5th August 2003

Aug 03


Do You SeePost a comment • 326 views


In Howard Hawks’s mostly unoriginal (it’s almost a remix of Rio Bravo) but very fine 1967 western El Dorado, a teenaged girl shoots John Wayne early on, because she believes he is a hired gun who has killed her brother. He is badly hurt, and when it comes to the climactic shoot-out with the real bad guys, he collapses in pain, almost paralysed, as an after-effect of that first shooting. As he is about to be killed, down the street strides this teenage girl, shooting the bad guys and saving the hero!

Obviously seeing such a straightforwardly old-fashioned male hero, as good a symbol of the old macho man as any, being saved by a cute young girl is pretty wonderful in itself, and I think very fresh and rare back then, but really I wanted to mention this as my biggest HOW CAN I NOT HAVE SEEN THIS ACTOR AGAIN? moment. She was Michelle Carey, and while cursory research reveals a few other roles, I can’t recall any of them. Maybe it was just this one smallish but great part, and maybe she didn’t have so much, but I’ll never forget that moment.

possessing photographs

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 340 views

possessing photographs

My sisters like to accuse me of inventing memories that never happened in the first place. Older sister says this because the memories are so obscure, and seem to have no place in the order of other memories; like the time the entire family sat down to a pot roast dinner, I put ketchup on my own roast, and turned my eyes toward the blazing television in the living room, which was proudly displaying an episode of Doctor Who. A random memory. I have no idea how old I was — 5 or 6? Because it seems to be senseless, random, and obscure, it has been assumed to have been fabricated.

The other night I read an article in Conduit about mental imagery. According to this essay, from the moment we first see, or experience an image, the image becomes fuzzy and immediately starts to be forgotten. We, as humans, have complex abilities to perform a series of difficult mental and physical tasks; we can send men up on the moon, clone sheep, but yet, we can’t remember our own phone numbers or our family members birthdates–or, even simpler, the color of someone’s eyes or whether they write with their left or their right hand. When someone is experienced, it’s like they dissolve into a polaroid picture developing backwards. It’s clear, then less clear, then suddenly–it fades. This is where the imagination kicks in and we invent things.

I remember when I met up with a sort-of old boyfriend a few years ago. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. During our meeting, he looked at me strangely, and said: “I clearly remember you having beautiful blue eyes. Now I see you don’t have blue eyes at all.” He’d forgotten all about me and started on inventing some imaginary me that never existed in the first place. Sometimes I forget the things that have happened in my life, and when I get an inkling that they actually happened, it seems bizarre, unnatural, like I am watching someone else’s home movies or looking at another life’s photo album. The faces seem familiar and distant at the same time. It seems like my life moves in big chunks of puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together; like a series of photographs that have started to fade and have been discarded. Once they disappear, a new series begins. Right now: I can remember everything clearly, with exact detail. I haven’t begun to invent anything new.

Bridget Riley at Tate Britain: Size Does Matter

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 398 views

Bridget Riley at Tate Britain: Size Does Matter

Some of the later work is rather limp, though I like some of her vertical/diagonal grid paintings, with colouring that may be on some scheme that I’ve not grasped yet, but is anyway sometimes compelling. Still, of course the main interest is in that astounding ’60s work, the brain-boggling patterns that everyone sort of recognises even if Riley isn’t so hugely famous herself. Looking at these doesn’t feel like many other experiences in the history of painting, which is an extraordinary achievement.

The best surprise in this show is a room packed with cartoons and sketches and plans for her work, all carefully calculated on graph paper and at least partially executed. You get to see the workings (and a couple of large photos in the anteroom tell us more), and you also notice that scale is so important, that the effects of miniaturised versions are different in quality, not simply quantity, from the full-scale works, in a way that is true of some other great Modernists such as Rothko, Pollock and Newman, but I’m not sure was ever true of any paintings before the 20th Century. Of course you generally get more from seeing most paintings life-size rather than in little reproductions, but I’m talking about getting something entirely different, and I think that might be quite new.

Everyone loves cheese right?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 564 views

Everyone loves cheese right? Cheese Net certainly do. You might expect a site with some rather good info on cheese but it is also garnished with a cheese of the day, troubleshooting section called Ask Dr Cheese and a Cheese Poem of the week. Their fanatiticism borders on the obsessive.

Cheese Poem of this week by the way is by Katie Morgan:
I love Cheese,
From my head down to my knees.
When someone asks me
I yell Please,
I yell please for cheese!!!

A Computer called LEO

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 617 views

A Computer called LEO
There have been enough documentaries covering Station X, Alan Turing and the Enigma code for most people to make a decent stab at some of the details of the birth of the digital computer. But aside from the urgent need to get one up on the Nazis, what were early computers used for? Why were they built? After the war, many universities built their own computers to academic ends. This book covers a story less glamorous than secret codes, and more practical than pursuing mathematical theorems: the development of the first business computer by J Lyons, a company famous for Tea Houses and Restaurants.

It’s the pragmatism of these British pioneers that grabs you — they wanted to make a computer that actually did something. Not something to twiddle its thumbs for the boffins. They wanted a computer that would do the payroll, that would calculate the ingredients needed to bake a thousand cakes and to make enough ice-cream for the summer. They built it from scratch, and they made it more reliable than the academic computers of the time.

That they succeeded so well, when the British computer industry, as we know had now all but failed to compete with the US, is perhaps a familiar story, but one no less worth reading with a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake.

Lessons from LEO
Radio 4 programme on LEO

A computer called LEO is out in hardback right now. It’s too expensive. Wait for the paperback, eh?

Do you fancy prison food?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,249 views

Do you fancy prison food?

Here’s a little something to keep those days in clink a little more nourishing, a great little article from a very good site for all things culinary.

Nick Crowe – Getting On

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 221 views

Nick Crowe – Getting On

It’s about slow-acting guilt. We wander along as part of a Sunday afternoon pub – gallery stroll and decide to drop in at the Chisenhale because Steve was taught by Nick Crowe. It had been billed as “a meditation on youth and age in contemporary Britain” (or something like that) in Time Out but past that, and the fact that we’ve generally had good luck at the Chisenhale, we knew nothing.

The show consisted of the quietish sound of Deutsche Gramophon popular classics and a bunch of mobility scooters. I note to myself that these are called Granny Scooters in my world and I feel a brief pang of guilt.

We’re encouraged to get on a scooter and have a ride. We do. It’s not really like bumper cars, although all the scooters are occupied and moving. No-one in there is over 40. Mostly people avoid bumping into each other. We’re laughing: it’d be funny to ride one of these around under ordinary circumstances, never mind in a proper art gallery. It’s fun but the show feels very slight and I’m not sure that it says anything about youth and age in contemporary Britain.

Later, I’m thinking about how “Getting On” was supposedly about youth and age and how I was riding around and laughing when a Granny Scooter is a life necessity for some people (not all of whom can afford it). And I feel a bit guilty. And I feel a bit guilty about not remembering to call them mobility scooters. And I’m thinking about what it’s like to rely on one.

Oh! Sly.

It is too hot.

Do You SeePost a comment • 185 views

It is too hot. The British temperament does not deal well with extremes of weather, and at the moment if I’m at home I’m generally reduced to a sluggish sack by about 2 at the latest. Time, then, for the PS2. So hot has it been lately though that even the relative mental exertion of LMA Manager 2003 has proved too much and I’ve been reduced to the ultimate in gaming inertia: wandering round already-completed bits of Jak And Daxter.

J & D is a free-roaming platform-style game with cartoony characters and a marvelously gentle learning curve. It’s good fun to play but what really makes it is its world-creating aesthetic. The landscapes the heroes start off in are lush and the vibe is gloriously lazy: you stroll round beaches, swim in the sea a bit, pick up yummy looking eggs, beat up the occasional crab, and have a leisurely yomp around hills which are luxuriantly green. As evening falls in the game the colour palette shifts to blanketing, warm purples and blues, with the lights from distant fires visible as you turn to look at the village. It’s blissful, a hippie paradise without the smells and the bongos.

(OK, with the bongos – but even their soundtrack presence is bearable).

The whole thing is one of the best ambient gameplay experiences I know, a refreshing wallow compared to the cynical, thumb-wearing frenetics of most console titles. Naturally, then, Jak And Daxter 2 will be ‘grittier’ and revel in an ‘urban’ setting. And so another dream of idle gamers sadly dies.

This should be a welcome post for Do You See?

Do You SeePost a comment • 255 views

This should be a welcome post for Do You See? explaining all the wonderful things that this all new offshoot of Freaky Trigger will be giving you in the field of TV, film and the like. Instead it already degenerates in to me backing up the half remembered memory of a lousy ITV game show against those who call me liar.

Scavengers (the name eluded me in the pub) was one of a few attempts by ITV to repeat the success of Gladiators. Presented by the not currently shamed in the tabloids John Leslie, and some woman in a metal bra – it made the terrible error of being a game show with a plot. (cf Ice Warriors and The Interceptor). Somehow two couples were whisked out of their ordinary humdrum lives in Osset or Bradford and transported to the far future to scavenge debris from a spaceship. Then I think they went back in time and were given CD Walkmen – which in 1997 were a big deal.

All this is of course apropos of nothing, but at least should give Leslie solace in these dark hours, at least he is not still presenting this pile of shite.

The links are from UK Gameshows– which is on of those “old shows you had forgotten written about in a snarky way” sites – but a good one.

Survivors – Grim Reality TV

Do You SeePost a comment • 272 views

Survivors – Grim Reality TV
No not Survivor the rubbish reality TV show that went down well US of stateside, I mean Survivors. Created by Terry Nation in the 70s and assigned to that dumpbin of all things telly: the “cult classic”. Recall TN was Mr Blakes 7 and claims to have invented the Daleks, but it does have a lot more going for it than that would imply. Listen.

The SciFi setting is modest and a lot more compelling, simple and well thought-through than Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (another BBC cult show in the following decade). Plus it’s cheap to film. Briefly: 99% of humanity wiped out by a careless (and significantly Asian-looking) scientist unable to hold on to round-bottomed flasks, but with a better grip on his rapidly-stamp-filled passport. As the cities fester with corpses, the action is stuck in the countryside, and the remaining survivors set about rebuilding a society.

The show initially appears obsessed with technology: various characters point out repeatedly that they were over-reliant on technology (yes even in the 70s) and lived within an infrastructure based on the division of labour and specialisation. However there is a more fundamental issue to survival. When none of the people around you are either friends or family, trust and the social contract are a fragile thing. This is where the drama comes from of course.

After a few episodes to bed-in the initial premise we can get to the juicey stuff about watching how these strangers interact. In other words, it’s Big Brother. A small group of people cut-off from the outside, the arguments, alpha-males butting heads, the forced jollity of a party with an acoustic guitar, the trading of extreme views, the flirting. Plus no incidental music until, at the end of each ep, the theme music swells up underneath the action and dialogue and then the credits cut in. It’s better than BB though, because it has i) no geordie voiceover ii) no “i got a third” telly psychologists, iii) the prospect of terror sex. And they shoot the retard. Brilliant.

My advice to the producers of BB for next year: let the house mates take in shotguns. That’ll get things going.

Survivors is available on VHS if you look very hard on eBay and the internet