Posts from 20th April 2004

Apr 04

At Five In The Afternoon is the second film I have seen this year regarding the situation of women in Afghanistan.

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At Five In The Afternoon is the second film I have seen this year regarding the situation of women in Afghanistan. Osama was set under the regime of the Taliban, At Five In The Afternoon is set afterwards, and the difference is initially stark. Yes both have women dressing one way to suit parents or society, and then changing to suit themselves, but in At Five In The Afternoon it is only Noqreh, our lead, who seems affected. A twenty year old who is finally allowed to go to school she talks of becoming the first female president of Afghanistan. And despite all the cultural challenges surrounding her, you get the feeling she might just make it.

Osama was a tragedy, wheras Samire Makhmalbaf’s film is something quite different. It is more a picaresque tale, with Noqreh encountering various factions and parts of modern Afghanistan (refugees returning from Pakistan, a smitten man, a French soldier). Wildly inconsistent it lurches from polemic to beautiful cinematography, from comedy to tragedy. And yet the mess coalesces as a whole, there is no one Afghanistan, and if Noqreh wants to lead it to a better future she needs to understand that. Whilst the ending is ambivalent, with the potential of tragedy around the corner, the film is happier to settle on a vaguely hopeful note.

Makhmalbaf has attempted a very ambitious state of the nation address of a nation that is not her own. As such is this an Iranian or Afghanistani movie, and does the Iranian viewpoint colour things a touch. As much as the European patronising the Iranian patronising the Afghani possibly. Makhmalbaf the younger is probably my favourite of the current Iranian directors I get to see (Rakhshan Bani Etemad – my favourite – not being shown all that often) and probably because she poses such questions without being as smug as her father or Abbas Kiarostami. Always watchable, At Five In the Afternoon does not need to resort to forced tragedy to explain the difficulties of women in Afghanistan. But in expressing some sort of hope, it is much more interesting.

In the world of electronic and synthesised pop there are pioneering classics

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In the world of electronic and synthesised pop there are pioneering classics, and there are lost pioneering classics, and there are lost pioneers who have classic status thrust upon them (does anybody actually listen to the Silver Apples?) and then there are quirky records that aren’t quite early or good or fashionable enough for anyone to pay them much attention. Such a record is Hot Chocolate’s “Put Your Love In Me”, Top 10 in October 1977, which was a bit of a surprise to me since it sounds like the guy from Tindersticks howling over a very early Human League track. “Disco” only by the vaguest association, it’s a horribly overwrought record but also a weirdly compelling one. It’s one of those records which summons up the queasy, dread-laden, obsessional side of lust – more grist to my drunken Friday night theory that Hot Chocolate invented Pulp. They were a strange band in many ways, casting their net very wide but with a real gift for cheese; very populist but carrying a vicious self-loathing streak (listen to “Mindless Boogie”! And they called an album Going Through The Motions.)

Treasure Island:

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Treasure Island: a reply to ms.

Wendy Katz’s ‘Introduction’ to the Centenary Edition (Edinburgh UP, 1998) comments that ‘inquisitive readers have attempted to match the historical data with the fictional dates in the text to establish, among other things, a time for the journey of the Hispaniola, conceivably about 1760’. However, I will have to wait until Friday before I can get to a library which holds a copy of the journal article she refers to, since Glasgow Uni doesn’t hold it. But I think her point is that: it doesn’t matter!

Now the reason *I* don’t think it matters is that Treasure Island is not set in ‘real’ history but in ‘textual’ history: the prefatory poem makes this clear, the island belongs to ‘the old romance’ and with ‘Kingston, or Ballantyne the brave, // or Cooper of the wood and wave’. Turning the romancers into pirates, Stevenson turns Treasure Island itself into an act of piracy committed on ‘history’ understood as linear, sequential, progressive, etc.

So like the fact that the flora of the island are Californian, not Carribean, accuracy of correspondence to a real topography or history is by the by. After all the story of the book, as opposed to the story in the book, begins with Stevenson’s founding act of cartographic invention. That writing as an act of legislation precedes its representational function is also one of the lessons Jim must learn, as he becomes his own author within the novel. What he also finds out is that such self-creation is necessarily violent, and deeply anarchic. The foundation of the law depends on the murderous suspension of the law.

But perhaps this is also what mark means: Treasure Island doesn’t simply refuse or cancel its referential dimension; it negates any privileged position we might ascribe to it. Treasure Island names itself, as well as the island within it: but if we search for the buried treasure of the text, for some hidden correspondence, like the pirates we will find ourselves facing a pit from which the gold has always already been removed.

Sickened by science.

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Sickened by science. Ananova reports of the man whose penis exploded during sex. A godsend to religious celibate sthe world over, the scientific basis seems a wee bit scary. If this is what happens when all the blood cavities in the penis burst then is it not just a touch dangerous that those blood cavaties fill up like nobodies business during sex to provide the appropriate hardness. Yet another human design flaw.

I am starting to reach a similar conclusion to Alan (see below).

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I am starting to reach a similar conclusion to Alan (see below). For me, though, it’s not a lack of interest that’s making me slightly regret the games investment (are you counting the cost of the consoles too? Eek.), it’s a lack of patience and more significantly a lack of dexterity. The problem is that I am simply not very good at games. Boss battles that should fill me with anticipation instead lead to mere dread at the sure knowledge that I’ll be spending the next two hours/two days/ever stuck fannying about with a stupid combo move/boomerang/fucking ridiculous backpack squirter nozzle before giving up in a sulk and then watching Vic Fluro finish off the baddie in two minutes.

The only games where I can really feel the old fire are strategy and management games, though most of them involve managing something poxy like a railroad. Civilisation keeps me happy though, as does LMA Manager 2004. Even there my lack of patience keeps me rooted at an easy level or unwilling/unable to make the leap to Championship Manager.

My dream game would have the immersive atmosphere and design of, say, Ocarina of Time, but be absolutely peasy on a reflexes front. (I’ve been fondly remembering LucasArts point-and-click games, for example, but the humour in most of them hasn’t aged well.) Maybe Alan is onto something with this IF lark…

All out of love

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All out of love
From the time I bought a 2nd-hand N64 in the late 90s I reckon I have spent about 800 quid on video games ‘ that’s an opportunity cost of something like 70 brand-new CDs. And what I have discovered is this: I do not like video games.

I have no problem saying I like, or even love, music. Even though there are lots of genres I have no regard for, there still remains tons of music I really love, get excited about, listen to again and again, and hope to discover more. I can no longer honestly say the same about video games. It is another area of art/entertainment that has succumbed to my inner curmudgeon, my uber-choosy snob id.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some games I have loved. I have experienced enough “what’s that light in the sky? oh it’s morning” moments to know I can get seriously hooked on the odd video game. But this accounts for two or three games and all of the same very narrow genre ‘ adventures of exploration and puzzle solving, and only well designed ones at that. So that’s basically Zelda in, and, for example, the Resident Evil games out.

There just aren’t enough video games out there to like. I feel I shall soon retreat to my previous computer-based gaming love, Interactive Fiction, long since neglected after that first Zelda cartridge, but fulfilling that exploration and puzzle-solving bent. Ironically, though a lot of the great games of IF are cheaper than chips, or free, I would need to buy a computer to play them on ‘ more money not spent on CDs! GAME OVER

ps Who am I kidding, eh, readers? Now to get back and finish Prince of Persia…

I HATE MUSICALS2: West Side Story

I Hate Music1 comment • 977 views

What I went to see was a gritty exploration of the clash between the dissaffected youths of the Puerto Rican and Italian immigrant communities in New York in the early 1960’s; taking into the account that the neo-tribal warfare betwixt these two groups merely had the effect of keeping those communities down and distracted them from the treatment by a conservative government who only wanted them for cheap labour.

What I got was some kids cliking their fingers in a vaguely menacing manner.

Mine’s A Galaxy

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Mine’s A Galaxy

TINY TIM – “(Ever Since You Told Me That You Loved Me) I’m A Nut”

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TINY TIM – “(Ever Since You Told Me That You Loved Me) I’m A Nut” (aka PopNose10): A track from Tiny Tim’s biggest hit album, God Bless Tiny Tim. Whether it’s representative of this novelty-act-cum-cult-figure I don’t know but it’s been a favourite of mine for a long time, marrying berserk sincerity to a stomping good tune. As Alex T twigged, it’s a revival of a 20s pop number – now largely lost to history. Cut off the unsettling intro and what remains is sheer bottled glee. Tiny Tim’s slightly cracked sincerity has made him a sort of icon for both ‘Outsider Music’ fans (ambulance chasers and otherwise) and, more curiously, Current 93 and some of their mates: “English underground” label World Serpent put out a Tim record in 1995. Like most of his albums, it’s out of print – you can get an import of God Bless TT at Amazon, though.