Posts from 11th August 2003

11
Aug 03

Tigers and Cockerels and Lobsters

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 253 views

Tigers and Cockerels and Lobsters

I’m a big fan of Japanese arts, and I hadn’t been to the British Museum in a few months. I was disappointed that the regular Japanese room was closed, but there was something in one of the print rooms (4th floor at the back). And it’s not just prints.

It’s a museum, not an art gallery, but the Japanese don’t make the same art/craft/design/utilitarian distinctions we do anyway. There are containers and ceramics and armour and weapons and paintings and fans and lots more. The blade of a sword could be a major work of art in Japan. A lot of what’s here is second division in art and historical terms, and its span is huge and its focus non-existent.

But there are highlights. Some lovely willow-pattern-blue and white ceramics, especially a dynamic plate with lobsters painted on. The samurai armour with its whiskered facemask, and a bow that must be more than 7′ long, are the most spectacular exhibits. There are some gorgeous 19th Century folding fans, especially two with magnificent paintings of bamboo leaves (one of my favourite classical subjects) by Tani Buncho, and one with some beautiful calligraphy in the cursive style by Ota Nampo. There’s a terrific 16th Century Zen landscape painting, jagged and energetic (actually this is minor really, but I love this school and style above almost any other in the world ever). There’s a woodcut print and an early cartoon for same by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, both of some impressive hero amongst flames with some breathtakingly vigorous drapery.

Best of all are two major works by genuine giants. A cute but potent tiger in an extraordinarily narrow scroll format (about 6″ wide, 4′ high) by Maruyama Okyo from 1775, when he was probably Japan’s most revered painter, and an astounding cockerel and chick fan painting by the unpredictable Hokusai. We rarely see his painting – his prints and books of drawings are vastly more numerous and famous – but this is wonderful, almost expressionist in its washes of colour, and surprisingly painterly. It looks more than a century newer than it is, but that is almost commonplace in Hokusai’s work.

Don’t ask me when it closes. The attendant says it’s permanent, the new space for Japanese exhibits, a poster says it ends August 17th. Maybe something different will be there next week – I will check.

Last Thursday evening

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 516 views

Last Thursday evening I saw the trailer for the five-part Matthew Barney art flick The Cremaster Cycle. I’d heard a little bit about this series, caught the few last words at the end of one or two conversations. Little Adam said, “like a music video.” Guy-with-stained-shirt relayed some of the imagery: bizarre phallic objects, vaseline sculptures, testicular muscles.

After I saw the trailer I had to see The Cremaster Cycle. Just those thirty seconds of sneak-preview reminded me of the strange sort of images that seem to dissolve after waking from an unworldly dream. Friday afternoon I spent about two hours googling its ass, reading not-so-great reviews, watching the trailer (again), and viewing still images from every installment.

Cremaster Cycle was not the best film I saw this weekend. The remake of Freaky Friday was far superior.

702 – “I Still Love You”

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702 – “I Still Love You”

Pharrell,

“I Still Love You” still makes me float after at least 100 plays. It’s like Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness” that way – it’s a romantic song that I will forever associate with summer. I like the way you and Chad didn’t try to make that primary synthetic string bit sound anything like a string section. The handclaps are so crucial, and the simple bass-drum pattern hits me square in the chest. I’d be surprised if the song took more than ten minutes to write. I have yet to see a video for it, but I’ve become attached to this vision of Irish, Kameelah and LeMishah fluttering through a showery meadow with a rainbow above. Their heads are their heads but they have butterfly bodies. You are a bumblebee with a Pharrell head. Rabbits thump their hind legs on drums held up by big grasshoppers. Squirrels play stringed instruments with their tails.

One question though: How can you decide that you love someone? That line basically ruined the song for a couple of my friends.

PS1: I wonder what the chorus of frat boys sounded like when they were singing along to “Frontin'” when you were on Jimmy Kimmel the other night. They weren’t really trying to pull off the falsetto, were they? I know they looked funny.

PS2: I need my Rush bootleg back.

What was and what might have been

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 238 views

What was and what might have been

so, MissVicky had a birthday and obviously it was a perfect occasion to go to a restaurant we had both been lusting after for quite some time. Moro is a mediterranean restaurant with a big reputation, the reviews for it are excellent and the people I’ve spoken to who’ve eaten there raved about it, so we went with a sense of real anticipation…..

It was a very very hot evening, but the fans were in full effect and we took our table, one immediate impression we got was that the insides were far less imposing than they seemed from outside, which is kind of odd, probably to do with smoked glass and a smart entrance but hey, the place was filling up and the food smelled great. For starters we ordered a tortilla of salt cod and potato (well duh) for V and the unusual-sounding wild chanterelle and prawn bruschetta for me, along with a bottle of Galician wine. A wait ensued and our starters arrived……. but no wine, we had to look pleadingly around until the waitress came over, getting half way before she realised she’d forgotten the wine, ah well we though, a minor cock-up and no harm done.

The dishes were fantastic, especially the tortilla, which looked rather daunting for a starter but was in fact deliciously light with a taste reminiscent of childhood food which we couldn’t quite place. The prawns and chanterelles worked really well together, the earthy mushrooms contrasting against the sweet prawns and the delicately garlicky juices soaking into the bread.

So far so good, in fact no more surprises/annoyances for a while.

Mains arrived and looked very impressive, for myself there were two huge slices of belly pork. These were so tasty, with really crispy skin and meltingly soft flesh, neatly accompanied by a cold potato salad. V’s main also looked impressive, a good few slices of rare lamb, cooked to perfection, with chunks of aubergine on the side that had been deep-fried in gram flour batter. These were possibly the star of the whole meal, crispy on the outside and so meltingly soft on the inside and the tastiest aubergine I’ve ever tasted. Things started to go a bit awry. It was getting progressively hotter in the restaurant and so was the wine. We noticed that everyone else had wine coolers but we didn’t so we asked for one, it arrived……unchilled, thereby insulating the slightly heated wine nicely.

After that the next thing was the second that our last forkfulls of main course entered our mouths, then a waiter came along and whisked away our plates, now I can understand that restaurants sometimes need to get people out for the next sitting, but after this we waited 10 minutes for the dessert menu and a further 25 minutes after ordering them before they arrived. “I hadn’t forgotten about you” said our waitress “things are taking a while”. I could understand this for elaborate puddings, but for some figs with honey and greek yoghurt and two scoops of malaga raisin ice cream with sweet wine poured over?(which incidentally was gorgeous) I doubt it.

I may be making it sound as if the meal was an unmitigated disaster and to be fair to the restaurant it wasn’t, it’s just that when you spend a decent amount of money in a restaurant with a sparkling reputation then you expect to get something a bit special. The question is though, would I go again? And I think the answer is yes, the food really was good enough to give them a second chance.

One of the best reasons to go to a barbeque

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 510 views

One of the best reasons to go to a barbeque is not so much the food, as the eclectic selection of sauces, chutneys and relishes that people have in their cupboards. This weekend at a Dulwich barbiel I had the tastiest hot sauce I have ever smeared over a charcoaled chicken. Bajun Hot Sauce with Cucumber – which I now can find no reference of on the interweb. Friends Ant & Nish brought this firey little devil back from Barbados which is now running up my list of must got to for culinary reasons places.

The sauce. Bright yellow, mustard based with hints of scotch bonnet and gherkin (I assume that was the cucumber). A bottle of this stuff would not last long round my house.

UPDATE: Other barbequers suggest that it was Bajan – not Bajun – and this does have plenty of saucey links – though none to the cucumber hot sauce. Still for your enjoyment I’m sure these are just as zingy.

Ending 24-2 (or 48 as I liked to call it)

Do You SeePost a comment • 276 views

Ending 24-2 (or 48 as I liked to call it) with a cliffhanger was a terible idea. It is one unfortuantely picked up from the rest of US season based TV that do not have such tight ongoing storylines. In those cases the season cliffhanger exists mainly to make it harder for the networks to cancel them. Leave the audience up in the air and risk a letter writing campaign from hell.

Problem with 24 is that it is merely one grand narrative punctuated at hourly intervals by cliffhangers. By not giving us a resolution the final episode does not feel special, does not supply the full stop. I am waiting for the next episode with the knowledge that I am waiting for half a year – and feel a bit let down. Certainly I can see them wanting to emulate the tremendous ending of season one – the death of Jack’s wife by Nina was a grand conclusion. Poignant, shocking and leaving us satisfied – and waiting for more. Season two does not really feel like it has ended, there are too many loose ends knocking around.

It was still great to watch Palmer take control again, Tony and Lady Tony get their come-uppance on Chappelle and the final shoot out – but the assasination attempt seemed rushed. What would have worked a lot better would have been Jack’s heart attack from the previous episode – it would have been tied into the storyline and not left scheming baddies in the wings. This has been part of the problem with this series, especially post The Bomb. The lengths my imagination went to trying to work out the next twist was rarely surpassed by the scriptwriters. Still, I am waiting for next year: 24 with its serial narrative is the only show I actually do work my life around. So despite my minor niggles, I’m waiting for another long day.

The Grave Maurice

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 1,318 views

The Grave Maurice (on Whitechapel Road) is not what it was. Popping in there for a swift post-curry pint yesterday was a sorry experience. The barman was terrific and the people were friendly so it wasn’t actively nasty, but the place is falling to pieces and doesn’t look long for this world. Morissey’s repeated advertisements for the place don’t seem to have done much good. I hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Lord Rodney’s Head, now the silvery Funky Monkey.

It needs an urgent facelift to undo the damage which may have been caused by the bodged one a couple of years back. The Maurice has never been swanky but it always had a toughish pride and was together and smart. I used to love the wood panelling in there, which looked paper thin but well-kept. Now the place looks scruffy at best. I once saw Mad Frankie Fraser drinking in there in a suit.

A genial old fellow was there with his two parrots, one of which had recently undergone major surgery and was as a result partly plucked (“oven-ready” the barman said). This was scarier than it may sound, because the scrawny featherless skin and bone bird reminded me of a spooky skeleton ghost monkey. This would not have been a problem if the bird hadn’t been so friendly, scuttling along the bar towards us. “She won’t bite you” said her owner (who had perhaps one or two more teeth than his part-feathered friend), “I’ve had her sixteen years. Just hold your arm out and she’ll climb up it”. He wasn’t very impressed when we shuddered and ran away into the insalubrious back corner.

To second Martin’s Lawrence Block appreciation below

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 309 views

To second Martin’s Lawrence Block appreciation below – I am a dipper into detective fiction and it only really sticks when I hit a character I like. Chip Harrison was the clincher for me, a bumper library collected edition with a ridiculously pulpy cover from the crime sectiuon of the library. So I did not expect the first book to contain barely any crime in it and the musings of a runaway sixteen year old who is desperate to have sex.

Those who were on holiday with me last year will probably remember the lurid cover and my occasional exclaimations of how rude the whole thing is. The second book is equally joyous. (The third and fourth relocate Chip as a pseudo Nero Wolfe assistant and whilst are perfectly entertaining and retains his vibrant style are nowhere near as exciting as the first two). The Affairs Of Chip Harrison is a flipside to The Catcher In The Rye, no angst – lots of urges (which eventually, though tortuously, get satisfied).

Keeping an eye out for Block then led me on to Matt Scudder, the alcoholic loser deadbeat archetype of a private dick. Which he is for about the first five books. Then things start looking up. We notice he has more friends, he gets a sidekick and later even marries one of his clients. This is soap opera, but good soap opera because as said below – it also has guns in it. It may be a sign of genre fiction that they retain firmly fixed on running characters, but it strikes me that saying the novel must be a self contained form is disregarding the joys of serial fiction (something 24 fans may sympathise with).

Snackspot

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 462 views

Snackspot should be called “I Love SnaXXoRs”. OK, I only know about it cos of NTK. It’s half-blog, half-chat obsessed with consumer snack food spotting, and you are encouraged to “Submit a sighting” (recently spotted: Mini Smarties and Yogurt, Cadbury’s MagiMilk, Snack-a-Jacks Crispy Creamy Lemon flavour). Typical comment:

” My girlfriend and I were more than dismayed to learn last night that Ben and Jerry’s Peach Ice Cream, which was nothing short of amazing, has now been discontinued. Or so says the manager of UCI Surrey Quays Cinema”

<geek>Seems like a poor RSS feed though</geek>

My links are in a dreadful state

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 221 views

My links are in a dreadful state – I was meaning to update them this weekend but I haven’t. Thankfully the oldest rule of the weblog still applies – keep an eye on your referrals and the links they will come. I Feel Love is a music blog written by someone I don’t think I know, and I enjoyed it a lot – thoughtful, perceptive, nicely laid out, good taste, says nice things about Freaky Trigger, etc etc. (Yes it’s a backscratching world online but honestly check the site out).

Auspicious Fish is written by ILM/Stylus guy Nick Southall, who I do know (online at least). He has a confusing thing going on where he describes the FT relaunch as a “defeated slide into adulthood” but then a paragraph on castigates Hornby and young fogey Tom Cox for still banging on about music when their fire’s gone out. Few are less of a Hornby fan than I but you can’t have it both ways, Nick! Anyway it’s a fair cop though my ginger toehold on ‘adulthood’ feels more like a hard-earned victory than any kind of defeat.

Nick also fingers me with the attempted murder of the music review – again a confession is easily extracted though the fucker seems stronger than ever before, two 150-word reviews springing Hydra-like from 300-word corpses wherever you look. NYLPM is filled to the gills with reviews of course, but my philosophy is broadly that if you’re going to be all consumer guide and tell someone to buy an album, then just tell them to buy the album, don’t waste even ten words on it.* The thing is that you should only be in a position to do that if you know them and they know you – my favourite and most reliable reviews are asides from friends. How do you get the reader into that happy position? That is the ongoing question.

*unless you’re getting paid, in which case waste as many as you can get away with.