Posts from 13th November 2003

13
Nov 03

Certain days require anything but the hard graft of a gritty drama, so it was a pleasure to find Stephen Fry swearing elegantly this evening.

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Certain days require anything but the hard graft of a gritty drama, so it was a pleasure to find Stephen Fry swearing elegantly this evening. He was on QI - a deliberately barely structured conversation of a programme, which hopes to muster eloquence and wit from an alchemy of televisions wags and cards. It often succeeds, too.

The producer, John Lloyd, all but created British television comedy in the eighties, with Not the Nine O’clock News, Blackadder and – I think this is right – some of Spitting Image to his credit, before disappearing for a decade, with only a couple of Barclaycard adverts to interrupt his hibernation. This new programme was devised as a vehicle for the obscurities and curios of knowledge he hoarded his wilderness years, serving to both guide and rescue the deliberations of the players. No one has a chance to revert to their repertoire – this esoterica simply doesn’t fit.

Fry hosts, and, for all his polyfarious abilities, this is what he was always supposed to do. His charm, even in terrible rudeness, deprives the proceedings of any sense of competition, and rightly, since the game is the victory here. Alan Davies is another regular, and this is a surprisingly good fit for him. He’s belligerent and he’s a foil. And he wins a lot.

It’s light, but not mundane. I never plan to watch it, but am always pleased to find it on. In its own way, it can educate, inform and entertain, even though it’s no more an education than Schott’s Miscellany. A brief, transient confectionary, then, but still a treat.

Chinese jade

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Chinese jade

There are about ten 20th Century prints in a corridor near the Korean room; and in the lobby of the rear entrance a case holds about as many very old pieces of pottery; and so much for Japan at the British Museum. Prehistory and the last century, and fuck the rest, apparently. They converted Japan’s modest permanent space to offices earlier this year, and the section downstairs that staff told me was its new home only lasted a couple of months before changing its focus to Tibet. Is that great culture not as deserving of some space as, say, Korea? Could Greece not give up another room full of urns much like the hundreds we can see in the previous room?

Anyway, this leaves the half a room of Chinese stuff (doesn’t warrant its own room, apparently, so shares with another minor world culture, India!) as my favourite section. This lunchtime I spent in the corridor leading off of the far end of this stuff, that likes to call itself room 33b, I think it is. It’s easy to miss, but worth finding as the exhibit entitled 7000 Years of Chinese Jade is a beauty.

Obviously the first half of that period makes up a tiny part of the show, and that’s understandable – though some of those early vessels (named cong, pronounced tsoong, square in body with a cylindrical hole) and flat discs (known as bi, used as some kind of burial token) and axe heads are spectacularly lovely. It’s also impressive if you know how tough jade is to work – steel tools are insufficient! – and that grinding it into shape could be the work of months of toil, besides the artistry involved.

Once you get into the last four millenia, the variety increases and there are some exquisitely rendered little animal figurines and filigreed openwork carvings, as well as some simple dining containers (though with subtly articulated surfaces) which seem to me to be ineffably perfect, and two glorious little snuff bottles, an established taste of mine already.

It’s a small show, that you might only spend fifteen minutes in, but it is worth a side trip from the blockbuster mummies and ‘Elgin Marbles’.

Things that do make me proud of one of my adopted teams

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Things that do make me proud of one of my adopted teams: Manchester City’s Bell End. Well done Colin and big smelly BOOs to John Wardle, who HATES FUN.

H is for… Hit Parades

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Meanwhile… Back to lists and stats! The dementedly thorough everyhit.com should provide ample entertainment for those of you missing Tom’s Popular blog these last couple of weeks. Among other things, the site has pleased us greatly by noting that the record for the longest note held on a UK top 40 single is held by Morten Harket for ‘Summer Moved On’ (no. 33, June 2000) — one of great lost single of recent years – beating Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’ by a whole 2.2 seconds.

G is for… Goths
This week is your last chance to see Kyoichi Tsuzuki’s exhibition ‘Happy Victims’ at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. Tsuzuki’s photos illustrate a kind of consumerist version of the Vermorel’s Starlust book, featuring ‘individuals who have turned the act of shopping into an indefinable obsession, lying somewhere between artistic expression and an unusual kind of fetishism’. Maybe this kind of thing should really be blogged over on DYS, but isn’t pop just as much about emotional investment in fantasy worlds as it is about the boys-own world of lists and stats? Among the label victims and style slaves are: ‘the three young Osakan girl-goths who share their lives, their apartment and their love of Jane Marple, a designer who defines the Japanese Goshiki or gothic style.’

F is for… FEAR OF A FULLER PLANET
Last nite’s two-hour prime-time binge of The National Music Awards was, in its own sweet way, even freakier than anything Xtina’s stylists could dream up for last week’s MTV beano. Produced by the Granada team behind Pop Idol, the event felt like a very, very long trailer for the day, coming soon, when Simon Fuller is unanimously elected Emperor of Earth (via 25p per min. phone lines). Gates, Young, Stevens and — bless — even the Cheeky Girls, accepted awards from GMTV presenters, smiled sweetly and thanked their mums. Awards were presented for ‘Favourite Theme Tune of the Year’ (Ant and Dec’s ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ — A&D wisely accepted their gong via videotape) and ‘Favourite Music in a TV Ad’. This all might have been campy fun had the event had one scintilla of the hysteria of, say, the Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party. The high point of the evening may have been the dawning horror on the face of Ronan Keating as he realised that this new MOR makes even him seem left-field.

Meanwhile, Ananova reports:

Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller is reportedly planning to screen an international version of the show. World Idol will feature 12 winners from around the globe in a giant Eurovision-style talent contest.

I hope

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I hope Magnus is being straight-up in professing joy about Paul W.S. Anderson, but whether or not, there’s an angle worth noting here. Before Aliens Vs. Predator was a film (but after it was a comic and a fan-joke) it was a video game. And Paul Anderson’s Resident Evil is one of the only two video game movies to be as entertaining as the video game that spawned them.

This is, in fairness, partly due to the the fact that the original game made a brilliant virtue of necessity by treating the PlayStation loading times as a source of constant! terror! as every transition between two different prerendered scenes became a slowly opening door. Cheap scares, but cheap scares that still work as well as they did in Roger Corman’s The Pit and The Pendulum. Survival Horror games of this sort should translate fairly directly into horror films, due to their commitment to scare.

Other video games essentially have a goal of triumph of some kind, which is entirely untranslatable to the screen: it isn’t you up there, it’s some actor. The traditional example here is “Raiding tombs fun, watching Angelina Jolie raid tombs no fun”, but this lets that trainwreck of a film off far too lightly.

This also only half explains the genius of Paul Anderson. Fighting games are an obvious exception to the above rule: we don’t have to feel involvement with the fighters in order to enjoy people beating the crap out of each other. But the right balance between laying out the labyrinthine plots and sending them up is hard to get. Double Dragon and Street Fighter both screwed up differently in 1994, and then a year later Mortal Kombat hit exactly the right note, thanks to the direction of, er, Paul W.S. Anderson. So, it’s clearly vital that he directs all video game adaptations ever. Someone should tell the producers of next years’ Alone In The Dark, Resident Evil: Apocalpyse, Crazy Taxi, Deus Ex and 2005′s Spy Hunter and Bloodrayne.