Posts from 18th March 2005

Mar 05

THE FT TOP 25 ANIMALS – 13. Penguins

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Penguins are so great that you could easily construct a top five of penguins. So easily that even though Blogger just et the first run round of this post, I am doing it again.

5: The Emperor Penguin
Looks like a butler, yadda yadda. Falls over when planes fly overhead (no it doesn’t!) The Emperor Penguin is undoubtedly a cool looking creature and that cannot be denied. This is not the reason why it is so great however. Rather its name gives it an undeniable position in the hierachy of animals. Now I know that an Admiral Butterfly is not really equipped to command a flotilla of boats: and equally no penguin should ever be left in charge of an empire. But you do give it that extra bit of respect nevertheless. In the ice kingdom the emperor penguin is king.

4: The King Penguin
Or at least would be if it wasn’t for the king penguin.

3: Penguin Books
Certainly middle-class houses in the UK are held up almost exclusively by their stock of Penguin Books. And the man who designed the classic look, the two colour paperback hoops, was designing for fifty years on and secondhand bookshop browsing. A wonderful smell and retreat into England comes with the apwing of a vintage penguin. Of course the spoilerific introductions of Penguin classics leave a lot to be desired, but great penguins nevertheless.

2: P-p-p-pick Up a Penguin
They always say how Murray Walker and Salman Rushdie wrote some iconic ad slogans. Well I do not know who wrote “P-p-p-pick up a penguin” but odds are that is because it is such a bloody great slogan he got paid loads to stay in the business. He elevated the simple chocolate covered bourbon biscuit into the high of kiddie desire. Familial favouritism could be bought by a mere penguin save din the biscuit tin. I knew my parents did not love me because we never had penguins. They are best served from the freezer by the way.

1: The Penguin
Not Tim Burton’s rubbish version. As hilarious as the idea of a deformed baby raised in a penguin enclosure by penguins is, it does not make for a good villain. Indeed what marks The Penguin out as a Batman villain is his lack of grotesquery. He is a mobster rather than a monster. Of course Batman could beat him and his silly umbrellas in a fight. But the bemonicled baddie would never go mano et batmano. He is a fixer, a mover, a shaker and a thinker. The best kind of villain. And lest we forget, played by Burgess Meredith in the 1960’s TV show. Before you mock, that guy taught Rocky all he knew about fighting.

Does it have a name?

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Does it have a name?

This, you know, guitars and ties and actual high sales thing we’re drifting through at the moment? Is there a useful agreed name for it yet? If there isn’t, I think that’s quite interesting. What are its backers calling it?

Yours Grandad.


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Further egg mystery from Ananova.

C81 vs C86

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C81 vs C86: a defense of the latter would surely (and appropriately) rest on r-ck-st criteria such as ‘coherence’ and ‘flow’. C81 feels like a tape a knowledgeable friend made for you at semi-random. C86 feels like a ‘real album’. You could also point to the way that C86 has come to define a particular and lasting aesthetic, even a movement – it succeeded in a way that the well-meaning, barely remembered rainbow coalition of C81 simply didn’t.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 283 views

3: In The Midst Of Death

Like many a regular Freakytrigger feature, my chronological, collecting reviews of Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder novels has recently dried a touch. Not completely due to my own crapness: for the more basic problem that the third book In The Midst Of Death was impossible to find. Remember my own rules restricted me to the Orion editions that I came across ina shop. London failed me. So as this project floundered I broke my own rules and went to the Amazon marketplace and for the princely sum of ‘0.72 + postage I got myself a copy.

It was the wrong edition (and different tothat pictured). A not inconsiderable part of this project was to have a shelf full of books that all look like they should live together. Anal, but this was me trying on collecting for size. I had turned down the gift of a couple of Block’s from Tim for this very reason. So now I have this dilemma. If I find In The Midst Of Death in teh right edition do I buy it? And what do I do with my perfectly readable, perfectly serviceable older copy. Well what I do in the short term is review the blasted thing.

Still hard drinking, not seeing his family and tithing to churches, the Matt of In The Midst Of Death is probably the point at which all the later character developments are a reaction against. It is clear that the drinking, the tithing are just convenient tics for character colour – though Block is starting to realise that extrapolating some of these might lead to more interesting writing. He is not there yet, and this is a slim novel because of it. Elaine does turn up briefly, as a source on prostitution, and as a contrast between Scudder and his bent cop client. The book is still, for better or worse, the mystery.

A plot which muses on celebrity (much as his big New York novel “Small Town” does) and corruption. Matt’s past as a cop is always presented as principled but pragmatic. He took the odd bribe where it greased wheels. Block examines this with a cop who takes sexual bribes, and is trying to expose corruption. But clearly nothing is what it seems, and in this case Block is still playing the game by the classic rules. Therefore if you apply the rule of the least likely, you will almost certainly guess who did it. I did. (4/10)


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True in the comedy Russ Abbot sense of atmosphere and pleasingly also true in as much as if the Moon & Sixpence had an atmosphere of just ice particles the drinkers would be even more dead than they often seem.

Why was Kia-ora too orangey for crows?

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But OK for dawgs?

The FT Top 25 Animals – 18. Meerkats

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You know the rumbling swell of laughter, that starts with one influential person in the office, and then the scrawny middle manager, the one who goes RUNNING, you know the sort don’t you – well, she starts laughing too, which gives her favoured minion the green-light to start laughing too, and then the people from the next office come over and ask what’s so funny, and then the so-called office-humour gets passed on, and then in a Teddy Pendergrass sense, the whole town really is laughing at me. And why? I’ve only pondered the perfectly innocent question of “how big is 10 inches“?

AAHAHAHAHAHA, goes the office.

I look up from browsing for meerkats on eBay, my face flushed red.

“It’s a ten inch MEERKAT PUPPET!”, I try and declaim to the massed hordes of mockery, but they have none of it.

I suffer for my meerkat love. But hey, at least I have a toy meerkat now!

Meerkats generally spend their time running around various African plains being filmed looking cute, and avoiding SNAKES, but in my mind they’re the true futur-pop stars of the animal world. I can imagine them teaming up and going into dance routines. You can’t imagine that with the noble stand-alone BADGER, can you, or the tuxedoed penguin, or the scurrying ANT? Of course you can’t. Meerkats STAND UP and LOOK AROUND. What do lemurs do? SURE they have big eyes, and long tails, but do they look like they can disco? Not one JOT, and for these flimsy yet firm held opinons, the meerkat will hold a tight grip on my heart until death takes me to the great den in the sky. Sadly, meerkats GNAW and don’t make good pets (I’ve already researched). Does anyone want to buy me a Gobi Plain?

Duck Season is a minimalist shoestring Mexican comedy

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Duck Season is a minimalist shoestring Mexican comedy, which barely scrapes through its ninety minutes running time with some judicious arty shots of MC’s housing projects at the start. The rest of the film stays firmly inside an apartment where two bored kids are just trying to play video-games all day: if it were not for the continual power cuts.

I think it was Kevin Smith that let on that it was probably cheaper these days to film in colour than black and white, or at least black and white film-stock is easiest to get. (You can do post in black and white with less expertise I guess.) Anyway, Duck Season is in b/w which makes it seem all the cheaper, but also transforms one of the key sequences of the film. Our video-gaming kids playing the pizza delivery guy for the right to not pay for the pizza. They play a football game (Manchester United vs Barcelona) and we get to see the glorious visuals full cinema screen: in black and white. It is an odd moment which makes you consider the visual dynamics needed for a game and those for a film. The jerky, predictable movements, the unrealistic turning on a sixpence is necessary for a game, but looks weird in cinema. And watching computer Ryan Giggs celebrating a goal in black and white is one of the most unnerving and funny things I have seen all year.

Book ’em

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 310 views

Book ’em

Scrapbooking is the purview of sad old ladies with too much time on their hand. Its too cute, too chaotic, too colourful. The fonts are all wrong. They try to hard. There are too many accessories. They try to do things like make pompons from paper. Its not abstract enough. Its for children. Why don’t you leave the design up to the professionals–and woe be to any professional who tries to use the design of scrapbook–they actually might look silly. This is what the bitch from Design Observer says here:

Scrapbook is done by our mothers, like quilting was done by our grandmothers and samplers were done by our great grandmothers. It is a communitie’s way to store memories. It is done to preserve rights of passage (weddings, baby births, graduations). It features the bright and joyful spirit towards life, a radical view that foregrounds the importance of everyday domestic. There is nothing wrong with cute, because cute has more honesty then hygienic modernism, cute is lived.

Less is bore said Venturi–but he thot too much about it and every time I walk into a scrapbook store, I get a grand formal hard on. How many ways can you have blue (the sea, the sky, the lake, the feather of a mallard, the t bird of an old Chevy, uniforms, serge, denim, garbage trucks–its all there). Everything is fun, everything pops from the page–the fonts are used for maximum visual impact, an impact bomb to the back of the cornea–but after seeing everything in polite san serifs, in greys and blacks, in sly ironic winks and wincing irony–the cornea needs an impact bomb. Let the impact hit us directly–let us live with a maxium of surrivived experience.

The children do this of course, but then everyone does. The one scrapbooking class I took everyone was there–infants to grandmothers. They supported each other–they gave each other tips. There was an exchange of information, of help, of websites and of magazines. (the grand thing is how quickly these people have developed the webs–many of them share patterns over bit torrent and p2p–they are not naive and they are not overly simplistic–there is a well honed sophistication.) There is a sophistication of the design too–but a refusal for that simplicity to leech out anything. A compounding then.

I say let us keep the venacular, let us hire the relief societies for our design–lets add colour and cute. Lets fire the designers who think they are too good to note how everyone else gets things done.