Posts from 3rd September 2003

3
Sep 03

Step in the Arrhenius

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 157 views

Step in the Arrhenius: the cartoon wall Pete links to reminds me of a couple of amazing Lars Arrhenius pieces I’ve seen over the last year or two: his terrific A-Z (at Peer) which had one of those flow-diagram comic art thing laid out across the A-Z map of London (also available as a large-format pseudo A-Z book); and as a kind of high-water mark of the flattening of his super-smooth graphic style, the life story of a stick man which was shown at Victoria Miro last year. This latter piece (I’ve forgotten its name, sorry) managed to be funny, optimistic and fatalistic all at once, as various life choices left the stick man at similar ends. (You can see a flavour of this at the magic “The Man In Replay” if you like.)

At the same time I’ve been looking at Matt’s terrific “Cary Grant“. Reading the whole 200 frames one at a time on the web slows the whole process down such that it’s a very different experience to reading it in a comic book, never mind (like the Arrhenius stuff I’ve seen) all at once on a wall. I wonder whether putting this kind of work up on the wall makes me pay it more mind than putting it in a book would?

And so here’s the thing: I’ve sat through enough dreadful art films to cause me to worry that many films in art galleries are simply films not good enough to justify being shown in cinemas. I’m not much of a comics person, as you can probably tell, but is the same thing true of comics: is comic art in the gallery always liable to the horrible suspicion that it simply couldn’t cut it on the shelves?

I believe I am suffering the dilettante’s fear of the snob, only exacerbated by the fact that the snobbery I fear is inverted and possibly imaginary.

THE LIBERTINES – ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, BASEMENT JAXX – ‘Living Room’

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What a difference a beat makes! Both of these tracks are channelling the spirit of ’81 Tim Hopkins was talking about below – a kind of wired weakness, a sussed vulnerability, a stumble into hoped excitement – I was wondering if the guy on the Jaxx tune is really actually Vic Godard! But The Libertines track doesn’t quite get there – it raises the same smile-meets-wince as Morrissey’s rockabilly singles. ‘Living Room’ on the other hand raises the same laugh-meets-shiver as early Adam Ant. And the gap between the two is surely rhythm – The Libertines ride a jerky washboard beat which keeps coyly interrupting itself; The Jaxx’ drums stutter too, but the pulse of the song never falters even when the stutters turn into fuzzed fibrillations and the whole of the track seems likely to break down. And they sound so good too! It’s a pop lesson, maybe – whatever else you play with or plunder, always make sure your drums are up to date.

Golborne Road

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 396 views

Golborne Road in West London is a variety-show of foods. Portuganese pastries, Carribbean food stalls, Moroccan restaurants of course, and there’s even “Cockneys” just round the corner on Portobello Road selling cheap salty-mutton pies, mash and liquor (and eels, but never when I’m there, worst luck).

In terms of “street food”, the best, for my money, is the little van/stall outside the “Morocco Masjid” Mosque (on the north side of the road, number 76). It’s usually surrounded by its regular clientele, and they do cheap lentil soups and teas, but it’s the chicken sandwiches I go back for. Meat cooked and seasoned right there on the griddle with chips, chilli sauce and salad inside an enormous baguette/bap, all for ‘2.50! They do a beef-pattie and egg thing too. Great to keep you going round the flea-markets all afternoon.

A few additional points to Pete’s comments on

Do You SeePost a comment • 375 views

A few additional points to Pete’s comments on That’ll Teach ‘Em. First – it was hardly overlooked by viewers and did amazingly well in the ratings, in the top 2 of C4’s programmes, far outstripping the likes of Teachers. Second – the discipline system was great. Being unable to cane the little darlings, the teachers had to think up a variety of cruel and unusual punishments such as holding weights in the air for 5 minutes and having a short back & sides, so it turned into quite a study of sadism. Third – the kids lost over 15 stone (210lbs) between the 28 of them over the 4 weeks by eating post-war food and having to do 1 hour of exercise a day. For Daily Mail readers bemoaning kids today and their many and varied flaws I’d say this was the best bit of evidence in favour of a 50s upbringing. Maybe the 50s diet will take over from Atkins?

Inspired by ‘The Man Who Ate Everything’

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 196 views

Inspired by ‘The Man Who Ate Everything’ (which is pretty much inspiring every aspect of my life at the moment, more on which later) I ventured into Baby Sainsbury’s last night determined to cook myself something. Sainsbury’s which live inside petrol stations are not best set up for the home gourmand, catering for that generation of feckless singletons who want to whap ready meals in microwaves. Still I have a pretty well stocked store cupboard for the three days a week I do cook for myself, all I needed was some key veg and meat.

I not quite sure why I don’t braise meat more often. It has all the joy of frying (smells, sizzle) plus the moisture of the super flavour concentrated cooking liquid. In the end I plumped for some chicken legs, which I rubbed liberally in garlic and fried in very garlicky olive oil with a green pepper. Once brown I tossed in some stock with a good handful of puy lentils, some cinammon and crushed dried chilli for oomph. There are no measurements here, we are taling a constant sup of the juices to guage quality. After half an hour, a large splash of very old red wine, a little splash of worcestershire sauce the thing was ready to be eaten by some raisin and clove couscous.

It was a touch too salty, but it took half an hour and was amazingly theraputic tinkering. Dipping the last bit of bread to soak up the final bit of juice I wondered why I don’t do this more often. Then someone rung me up and asked if I wanted to go to the pub. Aaah, that’s it.

Unpacking My Library Dept.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,794 views

Unpacking My Library Dept.: Last year I started buying a lot of books again for the first time since I was 16. The next trick is finishing some of them. My shelves are stuffed with admissions of defeat: maybe one time in four I’ve lasted until ‘The End’. Sometimes I’ve got twenty or thirty pages in, sometimes halfway through, sometimes I’ve been perverse enough to think “no more!” with only a chapter to go. Reading non-fiction makes things even worse: so many books front-load their arguments and run out of steam. Some just put their whole point in the introduction – why even read something like Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield Of Achilles when he’s so helpfully summarised it before the book’s even started? (Not for the prose, that’s for sure!).

When I read novels I almost delight in stopping them early – I resent the assumed contract the book has with me, that I care about the end of the tawdry story. Some books – titles by Nicola Barker and Michel Houellebecq for instance – I wish I had stopped early; it wasn’t that the endings were bad (though Atomised‘s is a bit lame), just that the mood of the book seemed not to require one. They might as well just finish halfway through a sentence, like I often do.

Maybe I should feel bad about this habit, but I don’t. I’ve never sat well with the idea that a book is a sacred object – it’s an object is all: altering, adding to, playing with it are acts of respect not disrespect, they show you care enough about the thing or the words to not just accept them. When I was small I used to eat while I read, tearing the corners off old children’s books, rolling the yellow paper into stalks and biting through it, lost in reading. The books are still marked by my passage through them: I can hardly remember what was in them but I can summon their taste in a moment.

I did not go to any of the seminars at ComICA

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 224 views

I did not go to any of the seminars at ComICA – the comics season at the ICa in late July, but whilst I was seeing a film there I did have a moment to peruse the large comic wall being drawn on the way to the bar. And some nice person has now put the whole thing on the web, with a rather nice scrolling interface. Just think Japanese and follow the arrows, the main narrative goes from right to left, the way you would walk into the bar. (Zooming out it looks uncannily like the kind of map you used to get for the whole of the mansion in Jet Set Willy).

Some bits are great, many bits are so so, but it was an interesting project and one I hope will be done again.

ILX is being as useless as the woman on the Orange Film Commission

Do You SeePost a comment • 317 views

ILX is being as useless as the woman on the Orange Film Commission, so I’ll have to pose my thorny problem here. That’ll Teach Them – the overlooked* third of the current British television triumvirate of teacher based shows finished last night. Did it succeed is its stated, and rather Daily Mail-esque – aim of proving that O-Level’s were a lot harder than GCSE? Or that 1950’s boarding shcools were hell-holes of seemingly arbritary discipline, a bullies charter as our news media today would put it. Or did it show that smart kids are generally cocky cunts?

The premise was simple. Take a bunch of schoolkids who have just finished their GCSE’s (year 16 mandatory national tests Johnny Foreigner), and place them in a school run along the lines of a 1950’s one. Teach them the way that kids were taught then for about two months, and then make them sit the same O Levels. Of course follow them incessantly with cameras and tease a few reality TV friendly stories out of the kids too. It is the 1940’s House but with school.

If the program had stuck to the compare and contrast mode of living then this would have been a rather jolly piece of social history. However, as its position after the watershed suggested, it was a lot more interested in its thesis that young people today are thick and have no discipline, proving this with all the basics of reality TV and docusoap trickery. By rollerskating near the edge of the serious debates about educational standards and what education is for, and being much more interesting in the fat kid that smuggled in some Rolo’s it was unclear how the program wanted to display its protagonists. Sixteen year olds are awkward at the best of time.

The program was not quite thought through – else it would have been called That’ll Learn ‘Em. Which brings us to the main flaw of the film. As this was a test to see how the cream of todays students deal with 1950’s style exams, these were all the bright kids. The swots. Not your run of the mill schoolkid. The worst the boys got were a bit sarky (Richard Miles, arch prankster and repeatedly punished was just a bored sixteen year old, who incidentally did almost the best in the exams). The girls, well the girls were as nasty to each other as girls always are, because deliquency and school performance are not mutually exclusive in most comprehensives. The discipline therefore was wasted on this bunch who would not have been punished if they had also had bogey flicking dropouts sniggering in the back row.

The social history aspect was much more interesting in the end than the trials and tribulations of these half formed adults. There were some nice human stories (it was reality TV after all) but if you got anything out of it, there was an insight into teachers mentalities. Some are just bullies. Some really do not understand children. And as was seen here, with Mr Vince, an inspirational teacher does not change no matter what system he is using.

*By Do You See that is, not by viewers – see Emma’s post above.

Is there anyone who

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 292 views

Is there anyone who isn’t working with The Matrix now? Is there any way in which “Sleeping With The Light On” differs from a Matrix ballad anyway? Will The Matrix’ own record (ye gods) be the pop-rock answer to N.E.R.D.? Why do I like most of the songs The Matrix have ‘assisted with’ but not the idea of The Matrix as an entity? Nice to put names to brands, though.

In case you hadn’t heard – TONIGHT

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In case you hadn’t heard – TONIGHT is the third Freaky Trigger club night, at Parker Place, on Parker Street, off Kingsway, very near Holborn Tube, in London, from 6.30 until closing time. Come along if you’re at a loose end and say hello! We’ll be playing pop music, as usual. There are drinks offers, good Thai food at reasonable prices and (we’re promised) working decks this time! And it’s FREE.

So that’s Holborn Tube Station -> Kingsway -> Parker Street -> Parker Place -> WORLD OF FUN. Just so you know.

(Here is the flyer, too.)