Posts from 22nd March 2005

Mar 05


Do You SeePost a comment • 803 views


the one that isn’t dub dob dee = kerensky

The Machinist is a film where Christian Bale plays his old nemesis Nick Dastoor

Do You See6 comments • 485 views

The Machinist is a film where Christian Bale plays his old nemesis Nick Dastoor and challenges for thinnest man in the world status. It is a psychological thriller which uses the plot twist du jour (cf Hide’n’Seek and Secret Window) but at least does it for a much better reason. You cannot help but think that Jennifer Jason Jamie Janet Leigh Curtis Blow is wasted as yet another tart with a heart though. Considering the shaky reality of all the supporting characters, and the frightening way Bale throws himself into this role, it might have been an idea to get him to play everyone. Though that may well have tipped off the twist a good five minutes before you actually realise it (ie five minutes into the film).

Corporate Social Responsibility.

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 842 views

Corporate Social Responsibility. Don’t you just love the sound of a phrase that is instantly abbreviated into meaninglessness as CSR. What does it mean? It means that those of us who run bars are socially responsible for making sure that the punters do not get pissed off their tits every night. So we push for shooters, premium strength lager and happy hours. Sorry: we don’t do those things. Not any more.

Three years ago I was told that there was no market for cooking lager any more. The session drinker is chasing stronger and stronger beer. The acceptable face of cooking lager is now Carling, an unpleasant lager that is still over 4% abv.

Now I have been told that actually cooking lager is making a resurgence. Why? CSR of course. It seems that venues want to be able to serve a session lager that the Friday night lads will knock back without causing trouble. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the daftest marketing idea since Chris bought something to Freakytrigger that we are not allowed to talk about. Can I introduce you to Carling 2 O.

Carling 2 O (the two probably being a subscript) is pretty much what its name suggests. Watered down Carling. The 2 O is a reference to its strength 2.0% abv. This is mooted as the solution to binge drink Britain. To which I riposte BOLLOCKS! This is the sop for CSR that pubs have been crying out for. Have a Carling 2 O pump and sell none. BUT you are offering an alternative which should stop alcohol abuse. The fact it tastes like lager flavoured water and has a stupid name won’t put off the wife-beater drinkers. CSR and Carling 2 O: a match made in cynical marketing heaven.

Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages No.4 – Rachel and James, Manchester

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 261 views

Mike’s Pop Pilgrimages
No.4 – Rachel and James, Manchester

A different sort of pilgrimage this time. Rachel was a college hanger-on. One of those lost souls who drifts about campus, knows everyone, but doesn’t technically belong there. A rumour surrounded her and excited a lad of my disposition and record collection; Tim Booth of James wrote Come Home about her.

Anyway, she fell into my orbit. This was Manchester. Hang on, it was 1992, this was Madchester and my taste in fashion was curated by Afflecks Palace on Oldham Street. Cool as Fuck t-shirt? Tick. Flares? Sorry, but yes. Tendency to use the word ‘sound’ to convey appreciation? Aye.

So I’m at the Boardwalk one night at (forgive me sweet lord) a Northside gig, when Rachel flashes her lashes in my direction. The band are chugging along in their bowl cuts, playing Conference level indie-dance and saying “fookin’ yeah!” between songs. I tuck curtain hair strands behind my ears. Rachel has a beautiful lilting Irish accent, a voice that sings through sentences. I’m enraptured and better still, I’m in.

So we head back to my digs in the hard-to-find-beauty of Bolton, where the mills that Blake found satanic are just crumbling away, a town living on past glories of looms and spinning mules and where it never stops raining. The house is asleep although upstairs I can hear one housemate, Good Looking Grant, playing Sonic on the Megadrive. She puts a shushy finger to my lips and we retire to the lounge. We drink homemade beer from stained coffee mugs. I try, with subtlety, to confirm the rumour about the James song. This approach is skipped around, so I just blurt it out, “are you the Come Home girl?” She smiles a maybe, says she knows the band well and tells a complicated story about Tim Booth, Attila the Stockbroker and her teenage runaway self. It sounds feasible and before I get the chance to interrogate she kisses me and storytelling for the night is at a close.

She left town a week later and I never did discover the truth. If this sounds too romantic, let me tell you she also got it on with Good Looking Grant before she went.

YES OK I ADMIT IT I like The Bravery

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 264 views

Or “The Bravery single”. This was the dread revelation that came upon me after buying Now 60, as headphone listening transformed “half-memorable blur on the office radio” into “sharp well-produced pop single”. Web opinion seems to link this lot to the Killers, in a “second-rate” kind of connection. I think this one song is much better than the Killers for the following reasons.

– actually sounds like Duran Duran (i.e. has a kind of pop-funk bassline you could imagine DD using)
– good motorik indiedisco beat
– better use of keyboards to colour same
– does not include the words “I got sold but I’m not a soldier” (yes, I know, this is the 20th time I’ve complained about that on NYLPM but honestly…)
– actual chorus line is plain-speaking aphoristic angst rather than the overly wordy choruses of something like “Somebody Told Me” or “Mr Brightside”
– best Strokes single since “Hard To Explain”
– the whiff of the generic hardly harms them: this song is the sound of new-new-wave (or whatever) worked into a viable and expertly applied pop formula.

Crap singing but you can’t have everything. I will probably hate anything else they put out.

I have never liked Richard Jobson

Do You See17 comments • 2,451 views

He always struck me as a Scottish version of Tony Wilson, though without Wilson’s luck of occasionally helping create something great. Ego is a useful thing, it can get you through an awful lot of self-doubt. But 16 Years Of Alcohol, Jobson’s first film as writer/director, coasts on ego alone. Strip away Jobson’s stab at doing something important, and there is not much here except a cannibalisation of many much better films. Most notable is for a film called 16 Years Of Alcohol, we barely get to see those years. Instead we watch about two years of sobriety, and the piety of ex-alcoholics is not much fun.

It is a good film for the Edinburgh tourist, or at least it would it was not for the incessant violence outside every tourist attraction on show. Self-conscious writing remind you of a sixteen year olds school play, and of course the psychological angle dumps it all on the parents again. I am beginning to think that film studies should start thinking more about Larkin than Lacan: since the subtext of most films these days is “they fuck you up your Mum and Dad”. This is a tragic story for all the wrong reasons, a film which discards redemption for a nice cyclical ending and fundamentally has the wrong target. This film is not about 16 Years Of Alcohol, but rather 16 Years Of Violence. And there is little attractive about that.

a born bystander’s deliberate legacy

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 417 views

a born bystander’s deliberate legacy:

Ransome played chess with Lenin (and beat him). As a young geezaesthete in bohemian Chelsea, Ransome hung out with G. K. Chesterton’s brother, as well as future war-poet Edward Thomas. Ransome’s second wife had been Trotsky’s secretary: her father was one of the Tsar’s gardeners. Ransome’s mentor was W. G. Collingwood, heir to Ruskin’s intellectual domain. Ransome’s at the time well-regarded book on Wilde’s critical theories got him sued by notorious vexatious litigant Lord Alfred Douglas (Douglas lost); it also contained ideas developed by pioneeering “New Critic” IA Richards. As a child Ransome had been shy lieutenant in pranksterdom to the cheekier and wilier Ric Eddison, later – as E. R. Eddison – author of one-of-a-kind fantasy The Worm Ouroboros. “Missee Lee” was based on the personal character (but not the biography) of Soong Ching Ling, wife of founding Chinese revolutionary Dr Sun Yat Sen, and one of the three remarkable Soong sisters. In 1895, during the ‘great freeze” which inspired Winter Holiday, AR was taught to skate, on Windermere, by saintly anarchist Prince Kropotkin

Only two of Ransome’s run of 12 children’s books – Peter Duck and Missee Lee – are full-on Stevensonian adventures, where children engage with pirates and win. In all the rest, the adventure on offer is conspicuously less romantically implausible: they may invest their holiday activities with the imagined language of Treasure Island, but the perils they face, and their dilemmas of honour and honesty, are “realistic” in a way which seems almost mannered when compared to the scrapes and issues of Ransome’s own life. Which is not to say that the perils aren’t serious – most often drowning, obv, but also being buried alive in an abandoned mine or caught in a fell fire. In the somewhat feebly titled Coot Club, the twins Nell and Bess (known as Port and Starboard) accept a series of riverboat lifts from complete strangers across the Norfolk Broads to catch up with their friends in another boat: Ransome as ever keeps the sense of parental worry at such risk-alden behaviour turned right down, but it’s never turned OFF.

In a curious way, i think the complaints that his work is class-bound and parochial, bland cosy fun for the middleclasses, is a sign of his achievement: his will to create a non-magic space where children could look after themselves and learn to cope with problems without heavy-handed adult intrusion. His relationship with his own daughter, Tabitha, was fraught at best, and ended sadly – largely as a result of his own inability to trust her, or see her as a person in her own right (as distinct from his besotted but slightly mad first wife Ivy). He deals with family tensions almost subliminally: the parents he gives his child heroes are mostly the BEST OF ALL NATIVES, and yet – and this is surely the point – there really are still problems of trust and fear to be negotiated (I haven’t reread We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea yet, cz it was shelved in the wrong place at my parents’ house and I didn’t find it till the last day: this most attractively titled of the series is the one where these elements are most toughly tested, I suspect). And of course, though the Walker father is merely off somewhere with the Royal Navy, the story of fatherless children having somewhat to bring themselves up is central to the larger tale of the 1920s, in the lee of the Great War.

i read these books when small without evolving any yen at all to take up boating or mountain-rambling, or to move to the Lakelands or the Broads: what i liked then and what i like now is the exploration of the principle of relative autonomy — its possibilities and its difficulties — and its settings are just pretexts. It’s silly not to admit these books are indeed dated – the far-from-well-off Blackett family has both a maid and a cook – but complaining that Ransome decided to make his subject what he DID make his subject is surely a bit like complaining that the main problem with Treasure Island is that it isn’t set in a future where a ghetto child flies to the moon.

I haf written my first FT essay as such in a while

FT + New York London Paris Munich7 comments • 544 views

I haf written my first FT essay as such in a while — I suspect some will look at it askance. Attempts to talk about things in a broader scale as well as a specific one, so hopefully who the essay is about won’t annoy, well, most everyone. ;-) Might possibly revise and rewrite it, so all suggestions welcome.