Posts from 2nd December 2004

2
Dec 04

Catherine Yass: Wall

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Catherine Yass: Wall (Alison Jacques Gallery)

When I think of Catherine Yass I mainly think of that upside-down descent from the Canary Wharf clouds to the construction site ground, a piece I found slowly thrilling (from cloud-cuckooland to a false wonderland to mud and sweat construction world). I saw that again in the Turner show a year or two ago, and again in the fantastic municipal museum in Bilbao, but this room in Alison Jacques still feels like its home to me, in town, in this commercial setting rather than in the remove of the museum.

So it’s nice to see her new work here. As I struggle past the curtain into the darkened room, it seems broadly similar. Another silent film: this time the picture slides gradually along a wall made of great slabs of grey concrete. There’s a bit of ground and a small sliver of blue sky visible. First impression is of a building site, but the film’s going on for ages and the site would have to be huge. A few bits of graffiti in an unfamiliar script, and the idea’s slowly dawning on me that the wall itself is significant, some division in some sort of warzone (later perusal of the promo blurb for the show informs me that it’s the wall which divides Israeli and Palestinian controlled territory).

I’m on record as being a lover of concrete, which and for me this film is about the impulse to sit back and enjoy the texture of the pictures, and its conflict with the urge to think about the wall itself, the many things it means, and its intervention in the glimpsed world around it.

I saw this a few minutes before the Bernard Cohen show I wrote about yesterday. A difference between how I felt about the politics I inferred into both is that my memory of the World Trade Center attacks remains drenched in images, while I don’t really have much of an idea what life looks like in an Israel-Palestine, or anywhere, divided by a massive concrete wall.

Or, to put it another way, and re: MS’s thoughts a bit back) could I stand the horror of “Guernica”‘s figure falling from the window applied to the WTC, when I’ve seen television footage of people jumping from the Towers? I suppose the answer’s no, and that that’s also a kind of answer to the question I asked myself about the Cohens: images of planes and mangled grids are not enough of a re-presentation of the images I have in my head already to feel worthwhile.

The first record I ever bought was Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie

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That’s not the coolest opening sentence I’ve ever written. It’s a song that I loved, then hated with a passion and it now sits in limbo beyond like and dislike. What it does contain is all my childhood Christmas memories.

I don’t know how many years this covers for they all blend, but they all had the same characteristics; a sense of warm, a feel of home and my dad; really pissed.

Every year we did the same thing, we never went anywhere and my grandfather always stuck a rosette to his forehead. I divide these childhood memories into two: pre- and post-Spectrum. The pre-Spectrum period was mostly characterised by Lego. Upton Park? Built it. The bridge of the Starship Enterprise? Took a while, but looked bloody great (reminds self to upload photos). You had to be careful in my childhood bedroom, one misplaced step and whole communities were displaced.

By the Spectrum era, I was less social. In pub quizzes my knowledge of early 80’s television is hopeless. Solely because I was sat upstairs trying to finish Atic Atac. Or Avalon. Or those bloody Level 9 text adventures. I could still hear that Jonah Lewie song parping away downstairs.

I don’t know when Christmas changed from being a childhood treat into something a little less full of surprises. As a child on Christmas Eve, I could never sleep with so many stomach butterflies. Nowadays, I normally pass out on the way home from the pub.

I jumped out to get a sandwich this lunchtime and heard Stop the Cavalry for the first time this year. The silly words, the horse neighing, that irritating horn. It still takes me back, though. Even in Benjys in Romford, on a Thursday lunchtime. Surrounded by chavs.

RUB QUIZ MORE LIKE.

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RUB QUIZ MORE LIKE. Comments on the boorish, unfunny compere at the movie quiz in my local minor sleb hangout would be better suited to Pumpkin Publog, so I won’t make them here. But the content of the quiz itself is indicative of wider trends (really OLD and CRAP trends). Not one question on non-US cinema. Hardly any on films from before ‘The Godfather’. And, here speaking as a member of the only team to have a female component exceeding 49%, a distinctly laddish, Hotdoggish bias: successive questions on the careers of Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken! And in NO WAY is my snarkiness related to my crew’s poor showing. Certainly not.

THERE WERE GIANTS IN THE EARTH IN THOSE DAYS…

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THERE WERE GIANTS IN THE EARTH IN THOSE DAYS…

“1940: On September 22, actor David Niven, now serving as a Captain in the newly formed Commandos, was married to Miss Primula Rollo, grand-daughter of the Marquess of Downshire, whom he had first met a few months earlier at the fashionable Cafe de Paris in Coventry Street. The ceremony, which took place in a tiny Norman church on the Wiltshire Downs, was enlivened when a small flock of sheep drifted into the building.”

“At the end of the month, a bomb fell on the London Zoo and a zebra escaped from its cage and raced across Regent’s Park towards Camden Town, pursued by the Zoo’s secretary, Professor Julian Huxley, and members of the public. Coaxing the beast back into its shed later, Huxley found himself ‘wedged into a corner with its hind quarters six feet from my face.'”

(promoted from comments box, now with correct year)
“1943: A few days [after the New Year, Lord Moran] resumed his duties when he flew off with the Prime Minister to Casablanca for further consultations with President Roosevelt. During the flight, Churchill caused a sensation on the plane by crawling around in his silk nightshirt, presenting his huge bare bottom to anyone who cared to look.”

[Note: the use in transitions of the passive voice and/or collective subject is key thoughout: viz “Attention now turned to the newly refurbished Grand Hotel, Leicester, where… “]

“On February 20, Noel Coward, currently touring England with three plays, was found in a suite at the Grand Hotel, Leicester, basking under an enormous infra-red lamp and wearing only a garment described as a ‘triangulo’.”

“1950 [November 2, playwright Bernard Shaw’s] old friend, Lady Astor, immediately took charge of [his] funeral and cremation arrangements and invited reporters into the house to view the body. Shaw’s ashes were later mingled with those of his wife and scattered in a flowerbed, where, it was said, they took on the appearance of slug poison.”

(all from Gossip 1920-1970, see below)

As I settled down to watch the Incredibles I thought

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As I settled down to watch the Incredibles I thought, “Hmm, I would really quite like a French poster of this film”. Why? Well the French world for Incredible, Incroyable, is probably my favourite Gallic word. It sounds like the English version, but better. Perfect for rolling those French R’s. Les Incroyables would just look good on poster.

How did I know The Incredibles was going to be good after five minutes. The first supervillain in the film turns out to be French (with the tremendous name Bomb Voyage). And when meeting his nemesis Mr Incredible he does indeed say, “Aha, Monsieur Incroyable!” Safe hands.

The Advent Calendar Of Comics: Dec 2

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The Advent Calendar Of Comics: Dec 2

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF CHRISTMAS FILMS 2: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Blog 7 + Do You See + FTPost a comment • 534 views

(Obviously compiling this list a few weeks before December means that true Christmas spirit had not settled in amongst the electorate. However one must imagine this is exactly the same problem that the TV schedulers have when programming Supergirl on Boxing Day every year.)

This made a strong showing in the FT Top 100 films too (at 56), and I wrote about it here. Don’t really have much more to add except to say that I saw it last year with my nephew, who had never seen anything muppety before in his life. The in-jokes, the intelligence of the muppet casting were lost on him – and yet he loved it. He loved the colours, he loved the songs, he loved the story (I assume it might have been the first time he really saw the story of A Christmas Carol too). So it works. And hopefully will keep working.

Pub Science Experiment #1 Pub 3: The Railway Tavern, Commercial Road E14

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Pub Science Experiment #1

Pub 3: The Railway Tavern, Commercial Road E14

Category: Railway

Ten or fifteen minutes’ walk from Globe Road is another Railway Tavern. The railway this one’s next to is of the Docklands Light variety (Limehouse Station) and the pub’s nestling under a railway bridge looking much older than the DLR. My interest in Railways does not extend to an interest in railways, so I can speculate no further on what this all means.

This Railway is, at least by comparison to the last one, a friendly kind of place. The nice Scottish lady behind the bar smiles and has a little joke as I order what turns out to be a perfectly acceptable pint of Tetley’s. The fellows at the bar seem cheery enough, apart from the regulation old geezer hawking stuff up from the back of his throat over there. I’m served a bag of crisps. The football’s on. Everything’s OK.

It’s small enough to be cosy in here, and a cosy wee boozer in this bleak stretch of Commercial Road, near the northern entrance of the Rotherhithe Tunnel, would be a blessed relief. But a recent unsympathetic refurb knackers any chance of that. The wooden seating looks clean, and not in a loving-homely way but in a B&Q way. There is far, far too much pine tongue & groove in the place, it’s ugly and unwelcoming. Still, this is the best Railway I’ve been to so far, and as time knocks some of the corners off the decor, it might grow into being a good pub (again?). Not yet, though.

Overall mark: (out of 10): 5