Posts from 6th January 2004

Jan 04

Mark S Invents Parkour

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Obv when v.small the key to survival – during sermons, lectures, recorder concerts, nativity plays and the like – is to find a way to teleport yr wee brain elsewhere: my game, which I recommend to one and all, was to gaze up into the vast roofspace of the room I was trapped in (assuming it was vast) and calculate ways to clamber round the top of the walls without need of ladders, ropes etc. Old interior architecture is tremendous for this: there are always odd little ledges, beams, walkways, friezes and the like – sometimes also inexplicable doorways into mid-air, hatches, port-holes and so on. And if the room was small but had a window (of it it’s a bus) I’ll gaze outside and do the same, if I could see how, with ornamentation or balcony or fire-escapework or shop marquees, leaping in my daydreams from roof to flagpole to catwalk to…

Well some edgy banlieu kids went and turned it an actual real proper grown-up sport without asking my permission. Now it’s called “Le Parkour“‘ and it’s suddenly all kind of psychogeographical and situationist the way they do it, all fit and young and wearing complicated trainers. Turn yr lame nabe into the Self-Taught Acrobats’ Quarter!! *sigh*
Luckily the C4 TV documentary about it – Jump London, (re)transmitted during the Holiday Season – kind of blew it, veering wildly off into stupid arty camerawork bcz they didn’t end up with the great footage they evidently hoped for (plus the Bigwig London Buildings the team were commissioned to jump – like the Albert Hall and the Wobbly Bridge – were more constraining than liberating). They were at their most exciting in the first third of the show, when they were jumping up and down and over fire escapes or small walls and sheds, or balancing on bollards in some godforsaken concrete Paris suburb.

Lordy. Finally it is over.

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Lordy. Finally it is over. The last ever Only Fools And Horses. Please this time let that be true. Ending again with a birth, a couple of discarded old plots, a deus ex machina and the creekiest David Bowie joke I have heard in a long time (Ziggy Sawdust indeed). The only notable thing was the scene where Rodney finds out his true parentage. Showing the 1960’s photo to Cassandra he pans across: ‘whose that’ he asks. ‘It’s you.’ She replies at a spived up Nicholas Lyndhurst in the photo. For a brief second it was almost as if in his lack of any decent plots John Sullivan had gone and nicked the entire premise of another Nicholas Lyndhurst starring sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart*. Alas it was not to be. This was merely one of those cases where fathers look identical to their sons. Still, for a brief moment’

*Goodnight Sweetheart is one of the most abstruse sitcom to show on the BBC. It involved Lyndhurst as a man who discovers that he can travel back to 1940’s England at which point he lives a bizarre double life as a time travelling adulterer making his money by writing Beatles songs twenty years before his time. An honourable mention should however go in this category to Mulberry, a Karl Howman sitcom where he plays Death who can’t be arsed to knock off a little old lady.

As a keen student/pedant of juker science

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As a keen student/pedant of juker science you’d have expected me to have tried one of the new-fangled Digital Jukeboxes before now but in fact the ILX pub crawl on the 30th was my first such encounter. And fogeyishly enough I’m not sure I entirely approve. The range of tracks is pretty overwhelming – how many there are in all I couldn’t tell you. And that’s my first problem: as a jukebox user you need to have some idea of the scale of the thing, otherwise you’re struck with the nagging feeling you might have wasted your ‘2 on the comparatively sub-par. And because each song is listed separately, with a big picture of the band next to it, you can only see 8 or so tracks onscreen at once: the standard flip-over jukeboxes showed 4 CDs worth and the rotating-spindle ones around 30 CDs! There may not even be any more tracks on a Digi-box than on those for all I know.

So it’s lacking in practicality. It is easier to use though – gone are the mistaken button-presses that led to you returning to your table in taste-triumph only to find “Female Of The Species” by Space echoing around the pub. But the worst thing about the Digital Juker is that it’s organised by genre! The pub jukebox ought to be a pop fantasyworld where all music can mingle to delight the drinker’s ear – the boozy punter may well approach the machine with the full intent of putting on nothing but U2 but such is the variety on offer it is likely that he will be led astray by nostalgia or ‘guilty’ pleasure. The last thing you want is for your juker to be encouraging Johnny Rockist in his singleminded wrongness but this is exactly what genre-sorting does.

Verdict: looks flashy, but a qualified thumbs down.

Blatantly edumacational link #1

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Blatantly edumacational link #1 Photograph 51 explained ‘ a quick exploration of why Rosalind Franklin’s (and Raymond Gosling’s) photo allowed Crick and Watson to make a good guess at the structure of DNA.

Not very punk, sorry, Geeta. I’ve just read the Maddox biog and was looking around for stuff about the photo on the net. I did crystallography at college and was rubbish at x-ray scattering photo interpretation, though the physics underlying it was dead easy.

Since I have professed my love for the banjo before,

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Since I have professed my love for the banjo before, it will come as no surprise as to how much I like Nelly Furtado’s Powerless. Despite the classic second album “poor ole me lyrics”, the other Nelly has managed to strap her trademark slightly annoying vocals to the best pop banjo backing since – er – Sing by Travis. Okay, perhaps I am not selling this to you. Then settle for the nice juxtaposition between Furtado being annoyed at the way her record company has manipulated her image to sell records, and the meaningless, sell records by the bucketloads, chorus where she does indeed “say what she wants”. And what she wants to say in the only easily comprehensible part of the song completely ignores the thrust of the rest of the, admittedly great, pop song.

David Thompson, in his discussion of Carl Franklin as a director in his Autobiographical Dictionary Of Film

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David Thompson, in his discussion of Carl Franklin as a director in his Autobiographical Dictionary Of Film, mentions how good he is a directing multi-racial films without drawing attention to this aspect. Out Of Time is another addition to this canon. And for the most part it is a fun con thriller, for once concentrating on the mark rather than the all too smug grifters.

Unfortunately for Denzel Washington’s slightly dim police chief to get his (potentially undeserved) revenge, our conmen also have to be even dimmer. This flaw in construction and the fact that the film does not have enough gags prevents it from being anything more than well acted, well directed but poorly written fluff. The credit sequence suggests a nice and Keysey Carl Hiiasen / Elmore Leonard bit of fun. Did nobody tell the writer than this is the hardest thing to do? You don’t just need likeable characters, but you also need a plot which makes sense and whilst also being quirky enough to be amusing. Instead all the elements here are thrown into the air, without any thought as how to successfully land them. And would a homicide detective ex-wife really return to her corrupt ex-husband just to stop him doing something so stupid again? It is great to have a film where the women are the most intelligent characters, just don’t make them belie that intelligence at the end for the sake of the Hollywood ending.

Critics have been moaning that the new live-action Peter Pan

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Critics have been moaning that the new live-action Peter Pan dwells far to much on the burgeoning sexuality of Wendy. What the fuck do they think Peter Pan is about if not the horror and fear of adulthood and all that this entails? Other critics have bemoaned the fact that as Peter, Jeremy Sumpter is the only character with an American accent. One could cruelly suggest that this is appropriate for the character who wishes to forever remain in childhood. And not the innocence of childhood, a thoroughly alien concept to anyone who has ever met a child for more than five minutes. Rather the state of lack of responsibility, with all the viciousness this entails.

What PJ Hogan’s version does nicely remind us is what an absolute cow Tinkerbell is (petulantly brought to life by Ludvine Sagnier). And what a ragbag of knocked off storylines the plot is. These days I daresay we should be pontificating about how JM Barrie’s tale shows that true immortatlity remains in being in the story and how archetypes are stronger than their actual stories. But I would much rather cheer the Indians (hurrah!), hiss the pirates (sssss!) and marvel at how clean Wendy’s nightdress manages to remain (ting!).

OK it’s the indie bit!

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40. BROADCAST — ‘Colour Me In’

It starts with a lever being thrown on an old calliope machine found in a cave in the middle of an ocean of ice. The frozen gears begin to turn, the painted metal shrieks with stress, rimed lights glow weakly, and a girl sings.

39. THE CLIENTELE — ‘The House Always Wins’

The album (The Violet Hour) won my heart by being comforting late-night background music so picking a track of it seems a bit pointless. (I chose the longest one.) Also listening to ‘The House Always Wins’ I realise I have completely lost whatever powers of description I once had when it comes to this sort of music. Buy the album and leave it in your CD changer is my advice: you may skip it a few times but the moment will come when it is playing and you start noticing the most lovely little melodic turns and moments forming in the fog. Shall I be awful and call it micro-indie?

38. DR. RING-DING — ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’

Kicking off with a read-through of selected Commandments, this stakes its claim as the year’s most righteous song immediately. It’s also one of the funniest, particularly near the beginning, as Ring-Ding’s deadpan dancehall flow makes the most of lines like ‘Flicks from the Wild West really fascinate me’ and ‘Everything must be free / Especially the gas’. Every anti-war argument is sardonically and effectively ticked off, and as Jess has pointed out the matter-of-fact contempt is stinging.

(I think in the ‘blogosphere’ it was me who found this song, an obscure German reggae tune. It has really been great to see it in a few end-of-year lists, which shows the power of Interweb word-of-mouth on a small scale, but more pertinently demonstrates once again the miracle and wonder of file-sharing: I did not go looking for ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’, I plucked it at random from a search on ‘riddim 2003’)

37. THE STROKES — ‘The End Has No End’

As usual the best Strokes tune is the one with the most basic beat — a 4/4 thump with a monochrome bassline, steady all the way, leaving Voice Stroke and Guitar Stroke to ring the changes on top with a succession of pretty quiet-loud hooks and that gorgeously exhausted singing. They still could do with being more disco but even that’s becoming more a quibble than a criticism.
ALSO: ‘What Ever Happened’, ‘Between Love And Hate’

36. BELLE AND SEBASTIAN — ‘Stay Loose’

One last spin around the old block, then. When I first fell for Belle And Sebastian — something that happened hesitantly, publically, on this website — something that struck me was Stuart Murdoch’s talent for building a track, spinning his listeners along, making them promises and then keeping them. Really it’s no more than verse-verse-chorus but if you can do that well then your hooks will always sound ten times better than they are. That’s what happens on ‘Stay Loose’. You accustom yourself to the bass stabs and the organ and the jerky pastiche rhythms; the verse starts, builds; drops out and avoids the chorus; then builds again and finally! ‘What about me…’ — but then another tease! ‘All I want is to stay — ‘, and it cuts off, back to the verse, more keyboard this time, and then a proper chorus, and this time the chorus surprises you with the ‘lights are out’ hook and it sounds ACE! And you hum it to yourself later and really, it’s not all that.

I can remember why I used to like B&S lyrics but I don’t like anything here apart from the ‘play Mother Hen’ bit. That doesn’t matter. And nor does the way the song piddles its energy away in the last two minutes. The first four are lovely, a gleaming Chinese Box of a song and a great way of parting company on amicable terms.