Posts from October 2004

Oct 04

It won stuff at Cannes

Do You SeePost a comment • 236 views

It won stuff at Cannes, is tremendously over the top and violent and yet the film that Oldboy reminded me of the most was Amélie. Not just because it employs a visual toolbox which encompasses state of the art digital trickery along with some wonderfully choreographed camerawork. But that the film drifts in and out of the conscious thoughts of our lead Oh-Dae-Su, often picking up his hallucinations, flights of fancies and torture along the way.

Also like Amélie this is at its heart an unlikely romance. What with the films revenge film trappings the romance seems hugely out of place (which is why I managed to guess its significance). That said it is a cute counterpoint to the driven lead.

Oldboy is a frequently ludicrous thriller whose overall audaciousness married with some knife-edge acting makes it thoroughly enjoyable. If you like films where people eat octopuses whole, giant ants ride the subway and people get their teeth pulled out with a claw hammer. I might suggest therefore that if any of those things put you ill at ease, then Oldboy might not be for you. It certainly lacked the focus (and no nonsense title) of the same directors previous Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. What it loses in pathos, it gains in entertainment. But it is in its heart just a a violent Korean version of Amélie.

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS 2: Being Sober For The Rest Of Your Life

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2: Being Sober For The Rest Of Your Life

Uh-oh. Check your hat in as you wander into Alcoholics Anonymous and sit in the corner watching the other boozer, losers and vodka users tell their litany of horrors. Surely the fear here is being drunk for the rest of your life, being slave to the demon drink.

I would like to say that when I first suggested this, I did not mean sobriety to be the opposite of drunkenness. Rather the more literal sense of being clear headed, unmuddled, certain, sure and dull. I would like to say that, and it may well be correct. Truth be told though alcohol is my drug of choice, and sober is the opposite of being drunk. So this probably means exactly what it sounds like. A fear of not ever being allowed to drink again. Since I fear it, perhaps it is something that might be a potential likelihood for me. Is this fear of actually being an alcoholic and then having to do something about it?

Obviously I was a bit tipsy when this list was made (wait til you see what gets to number one). We all were. The bouzey camaraderie is what I would miss, being the sober one while everyone else is getting sloshed is often less than fun. Like the fear of being alone for the last third of your life, it is about missing things which make you feel safe, loved, comfortable. Alcohol, or your drug of choice, does not do this loving for you. But it goes a long way to providing the situation where you can feel you are loved. Ironically though (I have always found it ironic) alcohol is a depressant. But then the point of mind altering drugs is to push us to experience those parts of our personality which do not always get an outing. Hmm, perhaps too much justification for a man who just wants to have a pint every now and then for the rest of his life.

At its heart this is a fear of change, a fear of this social crutch being taken away. It is coincidentally a fear of whatever would force this constant state of sobriety upon me: illness or a lack of control of ones own urges to drink. I am not a big drinker, but I do drink regularly. Could I do without it? Probably. Probably. But do I want my hand forced? No.

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS – 3. The Influence Of The Daily Mail

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Three days before the US Presidential election, the day after Osama Bin Laden released a new tape aimed at the American people with potentially huge polling consequences, the front page of the Daily Mail screams ‘VILLAGES HELD TO RANSOM’. Indeed. According to the Daily Mail, “villagers are being blackmailed into paying exorbitant sums for land to keep Gipsies out”. It is hard to see quite what new evidence has come to light to force the reappearance of Ossie B off our front pages, but equally, this tells you pretty much everything you need to know about one of Britain’s most popular newspapers.

Hot on the heels of the terrifying gipsy hordes, Osama comes in at a slightly disappointing Page 2, taking up marginally less space than the coverage of Colin Montgomery’s new girlfriend and a montage of her various wealthy exes on Page 3. ‘See our photo gallery of other old charmers who attract beautiful women at’, a caption, hilariously, reads. Go on ladies, calm yourselves. The message is clear – this, ladies and gentlemen, is what you should aspire to. Unlike the ‘bored sisters, 14 and 15, in race to get pregnant’ on Page 11 (“and now they’ve succeeded, they both want council houses to go with their haul of benefits”).

Onto Page 4, where ‘Blair signs away our birthright (with no mandate from the British voter)‘ – the European Constitution naturally. Despite the fact that a) he is our elected representative, like it or not, and b) we get a referendum on it anyway.

But its the double spread on Pages 6-7 that’s the real killer. ‘70% say No to super-casinos’, apparently. Fair enough, the gambling bill is an important piece of legislation which needs to be debated and may have a major impact on the future character and appearance of many of our cities. The Mail, though, goes straight for the pictures of two women, horrifically battered, with the caption ‘How gambling addiction drove a thug to do this’. The gambling habits, or lack of, of Colin Montgomery and friends are not mentioned.

There’s the rub. Of all the discussion of various fears, both silly and genuine, on this blog over the past month, no one has really mentioned the exploitation of such fears. This is Daily Mail heartland – its tack is to scare middle-aged housewives round to its way of thinking. Understandable and genuine fears (violent crime and terrorist attacks, principally, but also unemployment and falling house prices) are used to engender distrust of immigrants, travelers, Europe, drugs, alcohol, big cities in general, anything the Labour government can even remotely be held responsible for. For god’s sake, just say ‘VOTE TORY’ and get it over with, will you?

Its easy to dismiss all this as mere tabloid hysteria, but the Mail’s air of outright respectability is what makes it threatening. The idea is that by appealing to the vicar’s wife (all those healthy eating and smart dressing tips), extreme opinions become acceptable (capital punishment, ffs). Whether you think it works is up to you, but I leave you with a story from about a year ago. The local community was in uproar! Someone had stolen the Blackheath donkeys which were used to give rides for children outside Greenwich Park. Pub opinion was divided over the motivation for such a crime, ranging from “I think someone just did it for a laugh”, from myself, all the way to “well, I think it was the illegal immigrants, stealing them for food”, from an otherwise intelligent and generally liberal acquaintance of mine. The fact that no one laughed in her face confuses and disturbs me to this day.

(For the record, I did actually buy a copy of the Mail today for research purposes. I solemly promise that I will give double the 70p cover price to a gay asylum-seeking single mother this very afternoon).

Miss Teak

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 292 views

Miss Teak
Stuff Ingenuity and Culture in Contemporary Danish Crafts.

This was the York Quay’s offing for the SuperDanish festival, held in the Harbourfront center of Toronto would have been perfect, an examination of northern culture and how it relates to aesthetic objects combined functional and non functional objects in a huge variety of media, mostly well currated. There was Astrid Krogh, who used neon to highlight traditional woven design patterns and Anne Fabricus Moeller who used traditional fabric methods (wool, on a hand loom, the same one used by her ancestors) to highlight radically new fractalised patterns. There were stools made from hip new materials (cut off baseball bats, because they were made from ash, which was a geographical signifier for both Denmark and Toronto.)

There was Gitte Jurgenson and Flemming Tevede working on a large, strange installation of 47 blown ceramic spheres arranged on a kelly green wall, moving from right to left, meandering downward from 7 feet up a wall to down almost to the floor, but next to this were hand thrown and hand carved bowls (Tobias Mohl). The commitment to traditional and radical crafts, the deconstruction of function, the commitment to sublimity and rigorous theory, and the openness to a new way of seeing marked the connections between Denmark and Canada (if we are connected, it is because of weather and place, craft thrives when one is bored 8 months of the year).

While the work was mostly placed with consumate care, some of the better examples were badly installed, and there were other practical problems. the biggest one was how Anders Ruhwalds abstracted, biomophic ceramics were treated. These peices, in autumnal colours like cornflower, pine and squash, curve and curl around themselves, are smooth and tumescent, with slots and spires so that light traps, and emerges in different places. They require a holistic view, because they are so complicated in there manipulations of light and space–they were placed three feet back on a white table, nearest the wall–so the colour of the wall and the distance from the viewer made a full understanding of the text difficult. As well, the neon rug should have not been propped up on a wall, but been underfoot, and some thought could be made on how to make the furniture fulfil its usefulness.

The biggest struggle should have been the least problemtic. This was the catalog. It was well appointed and laid out, with large bios and images for each artist, several essays and a schedule of events that related to the show. However it is impossible to consult in the gallery, or anywhere else, it is now on the floor of the caf’ in which I’m writing. (The thing is big–4 feet by 3 feet, and it is printed on heavy stock, so it cannot be folded, except in tow or carried comfortably. The purpose of a catalog is a reference material, and this is almost impossible to consult.)

With some more thought about placement and supporting materials, this would have been a show that would be talked about for a long time to come, even with the major annoyances, it will be well remembered landmark display, both formally and geographically.

Oct 04

Javascript on Freakytrigger’s Front Page

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 244 views

Javascript on Freakytrigger’s Front Page
I just want to flag up that i’m concerned that the front page isn’t very “low tech”. It’s mostly javascript to dynamically update the lists of blog items and (recently) essays. Now I’m not really fussed, and the javascript is v simple and unlikely to cause errors, but if you want to complain (or otherwise). click on the comment link…

(the javascript is simple document.write statements generated by CGI scripts – but that’s just server-side messing about that doesn’t involve YOU the user)


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 163 views


i think i blogged before abt how the real secret deep winner of the election in four days time will be watchumcall non-mainstream modes of journalism: here a smart old-schooler eloqently concedes defeat on exactly this issue

(the pervasive faults of american high-end reportage actually don’t pervade that much in uk newspapers – which have other faults entirely)

(via jay rosen)

(of course as a lifelong rockwrite derridawonk my basic feeling is we BEEN knowing this girlfren’!)

haha “It does not soil the breakfast cloth?: what a slogan!!

Rational yet Irrational. Part 1 – Eric S Raymond

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Rational yet Irrational. Part 1 – Eric S Raymond

I don’t think we’ve ever blogged a link to madman Eric S Raymond’s Armed and Dangerous blog – so drink up, it’s bonkers stuff. Eric was the author of the famous The Cathedral and the Bazaar open-source polemic, and is by many accounts an intelligent human being. Fortunately for the vanity of lesser mortals, his intelligence has very tight limits, and rarely extends to anything that anyone else would be interested in. As NTK put it (ages ago) “[he] uses logic and free thought to reach the same certainties that sixteen pints of ‘Ayn’s Old Prejudicial’ and a roomful of cab drivers might manage in an evening”.

Highlights of the current blog: “If Kerry is elected, the terrorists will have won” (some Democrats REALLY seem to hate Republicans, WTF!). And “Liberals are fools, [but] Republicans are villains”. The main-stream media IS left-wing of course. Also he solves the problem of Free Will (via the usual crass red-herrings and a startlingly un-novel approach that he somehow managed to miss in all the literature).

There’s something in the way he constructs sentences, even when they make sense, that makes me picture him gazing into nothing with little fires dancing at the back of his eyes. Dangerous indeed.


Blog 7Post a comment • 1,042 views


4. Castration

Oh, bollocks.

It is probably fairly clear at this point that the fear list jury was made up mostly of men. Freud would have been proud of this entry, which perhaps deserves to be taken psychologically rather than literally (yet another instance where it’s hard to imagine a circumstance in which it might happen). You have to bear in mind though that I’m as qualified to talk about psychology as “Dr” Gillian is to talk about grape nuts. But here goes –

The fear of castration is a fear of emasculation, of powerlessness – and powerlessness is what lies behind nearly all the fears on our list. (So in a sense all male fears are castration fears). It’s a specific form of powerlessness, though – the removal of potency, not simply the state of being without power. It’s not a fear of ‘becoming female’ – it’s a fear of being reduced to a state of sexlessness. You need only look at some of the mocking, nervous, finger-pointing coverage of the ‘asexual’ movement to see that this is a deeply held dread.

My understanding is that life as a castrate wouldn’t be so bad (“it should not be confused with penectomy” says Wikipedia) – for one thing if castrated after puberty one would still be able to have sex, though not to ejaculate. In fact – again this is from Wikipedia – many harem women preferred eunuchs as lovers due to their ability to last longer. So again, this fear is about what castration represents, not about the fact of it. A final note – the Chinese (and yes, you can no doubt guess my source on this) used to use castration both as punishment and as entry to the civil service. In the era of office work and business hierarchies, it seems rather appropriate.

When you’re in a hole…

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 427 views

When you’re in a hole…

keep digging.

PCGMWatch: October

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 295 views

PCGMWatch: October

A DUP councillor in Northern Ireland who subjected a colleague to a campaign of homophobic abuse and got successfully prosecuted for it. “On one occasion Templeton bent over in front of [victim], patted his backside and said, “Here you are, John”….earlier this year Templeton described his conviction as “political correctness gone mad” during an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.”

Filtering software on schools computers filters out the word ‘dick’, thus preventing pantomime promotion = story here. The Anglia Television presenter said “it’s political correctness gone mad”.

Rejection of Buttiglioni EC nomination for his homophobic views – Times of Malta weighs in“At best it looks like political correctness gone mad”

Yorkshire Post has strong views on “yet more health and safety nonsense” – fire inspectors are “first-class graduates from the school of political correctness gone mad”