Posts from 14th July 2004

Jul 04

I don’t read books by comedians (anymore).

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 347 views

I don’t read books by comedians (anymore). Oh I used to, there was a terrible phase in my late teens when there seemed to be a connection between live stand-up and novels written by said stand ups. Only later did I realise that said connection was generally large chunks of material shoehorned in to fit. So yes, this is probably snobbery, but its hard fought snobbery at my own youth.

Luckily the N19 Library had anticipated my snobbery and put a big red sticker over part of the name on Shopgirl. So taking home the latest by Teve Martin rung no bells at all. Yes, I know Teve is not a very ordinary name, but if your surname was dull like Martin you might have an interesting forename (see Neve Campbell). And I’m glad I did.

Shopgirl displays little of the wild and crazy guy that makes someone with a similar name to Teve Martin so annoying. Indeed unlike most books by comedians (or people with similar names) it runs very low on dialogue or observation – aka chunks of schtick. Instead it is a short melancholy meditation on damaged people slowly trying to make sense of their lives. There is a lovely crisp prose style and its hopeful happy ending seems remarkably bold. What is clear about it is that it is a novel. It is not stage ramble or a screeplay in waiting*. And it is mercifully short too – rocking in at a perfect length of 150 pages which emphasises both its economy and slightness. I was able to devour it in one session which felt like luxury. You go Teve Martin.

*Which of course make this a terrible idea, I blame Steve Martin.

Good old Barnet

TMFDPost a comment • 598 views

Good old Barnet, back again with the great fundraiser from last year. Bid the highest and play for five minutes against Arsenal. Now the cynic in me would say (and did say) that this is surely an ideal time for a Spurs/ Manyou/ Cheslea fan to come up and do some serious damage to their rivals*. But of course that did not happen last year, and why would it happen this year? And also, Wenger is unlike to be playing all his top stars in the last five minutes. Or indeed in the eighty five minutes preceeding it.

* When I say rivals I include Spurs merely for historical reasons. There is obviously no way they are going to be finishing in the top five this year. Again.

The British Film Festival

Do You SeePost a comment • 447 views

The British Film Festival is something I’ll return to after I’ve visited Cambridge’s own this weekend, but meantime Edinburgh has announced this year’s line-up. I’ve gone the last two years but can’t really afford the kind of rates demanded by hotels during the festival month.
There’s also the problem of what Edinburgh is meant to be: an international festival a la Venice or Berlin, or a local one like London — or even Cambridge, which, although it has only three screens, is pretty shit-hot this year. Although Edinburgh talks the international talk, it’s only walking the national walk: it has nothing to match ’2046′ as a festival boom-shack-a-lack stone killer. Like Cambridge and London, it basically takes the best of other fests.
This is, in many ways, a good thing — for the filmgoers of Scotland. Just as Cambridge is a good festival for the South East. So here endeth my rationalization of doing Chichester, which shares an opener with Edinburgh (‘Motorcycle Diaries’), instead.

Vice Photo Issue.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 150 views

Vice Photo Issue.

With all of the good things that I have said about McGinley, he is sure a shitty editor–one of the good things about Vice used to be the imagery and this time he has almost failed to deliver. Of the 75 examples of what are supposed to be to the best of the young and transgressive, maybe 5 do anything to the mind and heart.

There is Asher Penn’s photo of an apple and a branch floating in a perfect blue sky. Transgressive because it has none of the sex and violence expected, just a lovely technician’s exercise that turns into something with a solidity. It is almost a freshman’s accident, and that newness comes through as well. The return of not beauty but decorative prettiness is here.

Angela Strassheim’s subject, the pretty student nurse Liza has a perfect suburban bedroom. She is photographed on top of her mint green sheets, behind the pistachio walls, with a gossamer curtain over the picture window. To her right is a white dresser, on top of which are a vase with five perfect daisies. It is one of those House Beautiful and all is right with the world photos, until you realize that Lisa has most of her toes missing, and the ones that aren’t missing are cadaverously blue. She was a victim of Toxic Shock Symptom, and although the text doesn’t say it, there is an attachment of the femininity of the background to the femininity of the disease.

Jerry Hsu’s little Kansas farm boy, and the delusion on his face, that one could trade a skateboard for a handful of plastic trinkets is heartbreaking–and hope dashing, cause you know the asshole won’t give him the board.

Most of Thatcher Keats photos of a road killed deer slaughtering have that new york hipster disdain for the work of the rural poor, but the one where you can see all the guts hanging out has the majesty of a Renaissance still life, who knew the innards of mammals were so diverse in colour and shape–crimson streaks on the bucks flank, the surgical scrub green of the liver, the graphite grey of the bowels, the tawny husk of skin all show a tautness of emotion and skill.

These ones, from a federal prisoner, are not very good photographically but show the kind of anthropological attention that vice takes care of, and other publications don’t. The details, of knowing how prisoners are transfered, and how they keep the families they have made in check with monthly photos. The idea of heavy, tough, angry men having the tenderness imparted in cheap and easy point and clicks says more about the prison system then almost anything i’ve seen.

“Why do people go on Wife Swap???”

Do You SeePost a comment • 406 views

“Why do people go on Wife Swap???”: this is my despairing cry every week. It’s despairing because I know the answer. It’s not just because they want to be famous, really – that’s a harmless enough ambition for all that we like to look down on it. No, I think it’s often something deeper – they go on Wife Swap because they are sure that their way of life is right. This was starkly clear last week with the cleaning-obsessed rich woman, and even more nakedly – also more sympathetically – clear with the hippies on last night’s show, whose whole life was an act of hopeful example-setting.

The dynamic last night was the clash of motives: the other couple just wanted a bit of time in the spotlight and considered their lifestyle normal. When paired – predictably – with a couple who wanted to critique that normality it was fascinating how Mrs.Normal went from someone who consumed supermarket food and TV to an evangelist in their favour. The conversation at the end was revealing – a very riled Mrs N insisting on using the word “normal” where her husband wanted to use the more politic “conventional”.

Of course the programme made a hypocrite out of me. I watched it on a TV, surrounded by the comforts of home and munching on chicken straight from J.Sainsburys – and still it was hard not to reflexively see the conversion of the eco-friendly kids to telly addicts as a serpent-in-Eden moment. This is where the programme makes me feel most uncomfortable: the impact on the kids of the swap – it’s only two weeks but that’s a long time for a four year old. (Though kids tend to be much more resilient than I give them credit for.)

(The show also got me thinking in another way – results here.)

What has been nice about the recent Japanese horror wave

Do You SeePost a comment • 209 views

What has been nice about the recent Japanese horror wave is that it has generally resisted excessive exposition. Whilst the body of the film of The Ring was trying to find out why people were dying after watching the video, this took a resolute back seat to actually trying to break the curse. Dark Water went a step further just taking as read that a horrific death would lead to ghosts.

Ju-On: The Grudge goes even further in that it barely explains anything that is going on. All that can be relied on is that people are continually going to be stalked by that scary kid and then die. The film being chopped into segments mainly named after this chunks victim, reinforces the inevitability of the cycle, as does the non-sequential narrative, leaping back and forth in time. Some of this leaping around leaves us with a few problems, how much time has passed between the deaths of the ex-cop father and his daughter (one would think at least three years, but this would leave this as being a murder which takes place after the films apparent conclusion). With no clear way of asserting what started the Grudge, we flounder around looking for reasons. Is it the boy, is it the woman? Is it something to do with the old lady. Who taped the kid up? None of these questions are ever adequately answered, which in turn adds to the mystery and hence horror of the film. There is little gore and nothing leaps out and you to scare you in your seat. Instead Ju-On relies on mystery and a fair amount of death to unsettle its audience. Generally it works. It certainly makes a good case for not volunteering for social services.

That said, with the short length of each of the episodes within the film, I have no idea how the Hollywood remake (by the same director who has made this film about eighteen times now it appears) is going to service the needs of having a star in it. Sarah Michelle-Gellar will be playing the lead, but it as it stands, this is a film resolutely without a lead role. Interesting.

Here’s an idea – Pop Swap!

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 389 views

Here’s an idea – Pop Swap! Two people swap record collections (OK, not the whole record collection, say 20-30 CDs each or digital equiv.) for a week AND provide ‘rules’ regarding their typical use of the music – when they listen to it, where and doing what. They try to follow the other’s rules and listen to the other’s music as much as possible and keep a blog or diary or something of the experience.

This complicated and unworkable feature idea inspired, obviously, by Wife Swap.

OWEN BRADLEY – “Big Guitar”

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 478 views

OWEN BRADLEY – “Big Guitar”

I downloaded this minor 1958 hit while browsing on a whim my old USENET stamping grounds – the 60s-and-earlier MP3 groups turn out to still be well worth a look if you’re interested in older soul, country or pop: the groups for more modern music are dominated by Rush bootlegs and the like – steer clear. The encoding quality wasn’t great but the charm of the song still came through – and something else; the shuffly glam rock beat, a ringer for the Rachel Stevens record and a real surprise! Google reveals Owen Bradley as a Nashville grandee, but while the guitar here is adequately large the appeal rests on the rhythm matrix of handclaps, fret-clacks and drums.

(Update: link now works – enjoy.)

There is a new ad campaign for Smirnoff Black Ice currently bedecking London Buses.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 855 views

There is a new ad campaign for Smirnoff Black Ice currently bedecking London Buses. The concept is that the formular of the flatter of the two Ice’s has changed. It is now less sweet, and has more “bite”.

How have Smirnoff decided to emphasize this extri “bite”. Why they have obviously decided to place lots of bottles on their side threateningly to suggest some sort of alien invasion or pirahna attack, and insert lots of little teeth in the mouth of the bottle. This has the effect of making the bottle look like the evolutionarily unclear “inner mouth” of the alien from – er – Alien.

Anyone who has ever been scared by the facehugging, chest bursting, acid blodded alien may subconsciously make this link and run a mile from this new repackaging. NICE WORK DIAGEO!

An old story but more proof. Drink red wine!

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 292 views

An old story but more proof. Drink red wine!
You may have to read through some gene-y (as opposed to genie) crap to get to the point.