Posts from July 2005

28
Jul 05

…A Mythical Land Called Gibraltar

Do You SeePost a comment • 243 views

Blue Sky is a Korean anime film. It is set in a dystopian future where climate changes has wrecked the Earth and everyone lives in an intelligent domed city called Ecobahn. This is quite possibly the technological solution to global warming that George Bush is keen on. And of course not everyone lives in the city protected from the deadly toxic rain. There are rebels (quelle surprise) and of course all the workers that mine the toxic sludge that feeds the city full of rich people. But we don’t like to talk about the underclass.

Anyway, it is always raining toxic rain, we are told in a mightily lethargic introduction. Except actually on screen it never actually seems to be raining at all. Still, that is a minor problem, and possibly due to the poor fit between all the backgrounds being computer animated and the foregrounds being hand drawn. Computers don’t like rain.

Still if it isn’t actually always raining, it is always cloudy, which is almost as bad. Cos like it is threatening to rain. As such the idea of Blue Sky (NAME OF FILM ALERT) is legendary and thought of as myth. Along with the one place on earth where the sky is ALWAYS blue. Where is this mythical shangri-la/xanadu/paradise island.

GIBRALTAR.

You read that right. The ratty town home of little Englanders, crap throwing apes and an airport where they have to close a road to land a plane. The thorn in the side of the Spanish, is the home of the legendary always blue skies. Not when I was there. Still, this was the final nail in yet another incomprehensible, po-faced manga based pile of toss. A genre that I thought I might like is dying by the minute. Not very pretty to look at, with a plot that is full of people heroically dying for no reason, and taking their time doing it. Anime is almost certainly dead to me now. Sky Blew it away.

27
Jul 05

warning: two-dimensional projection of N-dimensional diagram alert

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,150 views

herewith (courtesy an f.kogan email a few days back) a MAP OF MUSIC, but organised by what criteria? (viz “adam and the ants“)??

i. i declare it scientific bcz
ii. i like the way the names kinda dance around

warning: it is addictive possibly

Not The Full Pint

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 422 views

Continuing CAMRA baiting week, I grab a copy of North London CAMRA’s monthly free sheet The Full Pint last night. Full of wonderful revelations, including the article about which postcodes are in North London Branch’s remit. Fascinating. But it was nice to see The Oakdale Arms, Carsmile’s local, getting pub of the year. Less nice to see that it might be getting knocked down.

What was most pleasing though to see, was the lack of the Thoughts Of Chairman Mick. This was a regular column where the errant leader of North London CAMRA would muse on something, usually beer related, and make conclusions that made no sense (probably beer related). But Chairman Mick is nowhere to be found. What has happened to him? And his incoherent thoughts? Too much Budvar Dark?

(The Full Pint also reveals that the Lord John Russell is the only place in Britain where you can get Budvar Dark on tap).

Summer Holiday Weather

Blog 7Post a comment • 440 views

The rain over the last few days nagged at me. Not really annoying the rain, I thought, but odd timing. Why was the onset of rain int he last week of July bugging me. And then I remembered. The kids summer holidays have just started. Hence it starts raining.

Nice work God.

Houston: We Have A Problem

Do You SeePost a comment • 215 views

I like John Sayles a lot. Lone Star is one of my favourite films. Unfortunately his new one, Silver City, is not. Which is a great pity because it shares a lot of similarities with Lone Star, and has some terrific turns from Chris Cooper and Maria Bello.

But sometimes you get a perfect match for a character and actor, and in this case that appears in Danny Houston, youngest scion of the Houston clan. Danny plays the private investigator who used to be a journalist sent to hush up a sensitive political story. Instead of hushing it up, he investigates it and causes a stink. This is a really rubbish character. He is in no way sympathetic, stupid and injurous to most characters around him: he is supposed to be a loveable fuck-up, he is an annoying fuck-up. Problem is that Danny Huston does not have loveable in his repetoire. Rather he plays it as a less sympathetic, slightly less fat Oliver Platt. So as the political machinations continue, you lose touch with the plot because you could not care less about the crusader.

26
Jul 05

Cruise Control : PLEASE

Do You SeePost a comment • 404 views

Why is War Of The Worlds (the book) any good. Tom points out the catastrophist nature of it here, and it is this which has been regularly cited. The Orson Welles radio drama is never lauded for its exciting plot developments or ending, but more for the suckers who panicked and took it to be an actual invasion. This piece of radio history is important: it marked the first nail in the coffin of media trust. But not because anyone listened to the end.

War Of The Worlds is based on a trick. A pretty good trick, both radio and book, but both tricks you cannot do again. The radio version fooled people that it was reality. The book points out man’s hubris: that mankind can do nothing to stop these creatures, but bacteria can. Problem is, when you know the trick, you won’t be fooled again. Maybe it does not hurt to know the ending of a film before you go in (maybe – hmm) but if you know that the characters you are watching will have zero effect on the ending then the watching becomes curiously dislocated.

So I go into the cinema of Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds with a heavy heart. Not because they did not show it to reviewers. If anything this might be because they may have a trick of their own. A completely different plot to Wells? It would certainly be consistent with the history of WOTW. A few more tricks? But there is only one trick that would have really worked, and a trick that the casting of Tom Cruise ruled out. The only way to have made War Of The Worlds anything more than diverting would have been to have killed off Cruises character in the first half hour.

This is not just a dislike of TC coming to the fore. Consider it. This film is predicated on the unstoppable alien force ultimately being stopped by something not made by man. All we know about it is Tom Cruise is in it. Hence, unstoppabg machine kills “hero”, who turns out not to be hero cos the little guys (bacteria) did the job for him*.

Instead we got a tedious film where Cruise is a rubbish Dad who comes through, and no-one he knows dies. Some catastrophe. The film tries to show what invasion is like to the ordinary man, but Cruise is not an ordinary man EVEN WHEN HE IS PLAYING ONE. This is clearly the case even in WOTW because despite acting like a knob all the way throught he film, his family still survives. And he gets to kill an alien: Yah-boo sucks! As did War Of The Worlds.

*This kind of plot twist was attempted by the film Executive Decision, which bumps off Steven Seagal** in the first twenty minutes. Executive Decision fails because who is left also includes another action movie hero: Kurt Russell, who despite wearing glasses, is clearly the macho goto guy).

**One of Stevenb Seagal’s next roles is the wonderfully titled Cock Puncher in the Untitled Onion Movie Project. I assume an Area Man Is Eagerly Awaiting it, if no-one else is.

Expectations: John Wyndham

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 299 views

(I had the idea a while ago of using blogs to talk about my expectations of something before I read/heard/etceteraed it. This would, I thought, be an interesting reference point once I had, uh, consummated my whatevers with it. It might also be awfully boring to read. Hope not, eh?)

My mother read John Wyndham books – Triffids, Krakens, Lichens et al. – and no other science fiction. When I asked her about this she said that John Wyndham books weren’t science fiction. Which reminded me of a bit of doggerel Brian Aldiss quoted –

“SFs no good, they howl until we’re deaf
But this looks good! Well then, it’s not SF”

But Aldiss also didn’t seem to think of Wyndham as ‘real’ sci-fi. In his Billion Year Spree, BA describes JW as a “cosy catastrophe” writer. A sub-genre which seems to bear the same kind of relationship to proper meaty speculative fic as the much-derided ‘English murder’ story does to the crime novel.

What happens in cosy catastrophes is this: a Bad Thing happens to destroy or otherwise upset civil society, specifically middle-class English society. The protagonists then have to struggle for survival, a process which generally involves other middle-class English people and at least one inevitable military lunatic. The book ends with some promise of normality.

There are two basic things you can do with a catastrophe novel. You can use it to demonstrate the fragility of society, or you can use it to show the resilience of man in extreme circumstances. An ur-text for catastrophic fiction is The War Of The Worlds, of course, which takes the pessimistic approach. Cosy catastrophe, I’m led to expect, is more optimistic. So I wonder about the extent to which Wyndham fits this template – how far away from normal are we at the end of things?

(Catastrophe fiction can also be Dire Warnings – vague jeremiads about the greed of meddling man experimenting with what he oughtn’t. I am not sure Wyndham falls into this category – though in the Day of the Triffids at least, he convincingly demonstrates that society is vulnerable to cultivating man-eating plants and then being collectively blinded by meteors).

So what are my expectations? Well-observed character pieces with a smattering of the fantastic for plot motion and titillation, I guess. Time to go down the bookshop and find out…

Sometimes entries just write themselves…

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 337 views

Despite my love of all things ale-y I have never made it to the Great British Beer Festival, mainly out of laziness rather than solely due to my disdain for CAMRA. Clearly Thursday is out of the question though, “just a bit of fun” or not, they are called tw@ h@s for a reason…

Also, is this anyway to celebrate what would have been the queen mum’s (gawd bless ‘er) 105th birthday? I imagine Youngs will be pulling out of the event in protest…

The Descent Of Woman

Do You SeePost a comment • 444 views

A few things to say about The Descent, the mostly terrific Brit horror film by Neil Marshall.

a) He knows what he thinks is scary and he sticks to it. Mainly he thinks quickly stabbing people in the eye is scary. He is of course right.

b) Initially it seemed that having an all female group would neatly sidestep the “Last girl” phenomenon of horror movies, where it is easy to spot which one will survive. Unfortunately from minute one we have a character given much more backstory than the rest so we know that she might at least stick around longer.

c) That said, Marshall is a dab hand at knocking up tiny bits of characterisation to make you like the other characters, and knows that killing off sympathetic ones can really hurt.

d) I jumped much more at this than any film in quite some time.

e) Is the ending disappointing? Initially yes. Later not so much. But I wonder how much control Marshall had over it. (I would imagine a lot). There are interesting ambiguities, but perhaps too many.

f) Less is more sometimes in scripts, and here a few well acted hints go a long way.

g) He should have stuck to his guns, and made it a worthy counterpoint to The Thing. With the exception of the opening sequence, this is a horror movie without any men in it at all.

24
Jul 05

Liz Daplyn

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,573 views

Liz D, a good friend of many of us, and a regular contributor to Freaky Trigger, was killed in the bombings in London on July 7th.

This is a compilation of links to Liz’ posts for us about food. I was planning to put together some of my favourites and put them in the essays section. Looking at them again this morning I realised they were all worth reading. They were a small part of her online presence, and a tiny part of what made her special. But they do have some of the wit, gusto and elegance that made it such a pleasure and privilege to know her. And if you didn’t know Liz, but you do know food – then prepare for a treat.

How to be a domestic goddess (Sept 04): “we spent a good and very enjoyable hour getting thorns stuck in our shins while scrambling through brambles in search of the wily blackberry, many of which we scoffed messily instead of placing safely in our capacious punnets.”

Frogspawn for the new millennium (July 04): “Adding the reserved semolina and stirring it all together in a large chunky wine glass, I congratulated myself on the creation of a fine-looking beverage and then swigged the lot.”

Mystery Meat (July 04): “Meat that looks like more or less like it did when it was walking around scares people.”

I have always enjoyed sucking bones (Feb 05): “We fitted our two together and speculated about how far along the tail they’d come from, poking fork tines curiously into the spinal canal.”

Salad for men (August 04): “Reader, I made a salad.”

Indie Chicken: probably Liz’ most famous contribution to the Publog, a series of reviews of late-night greasy chicken houses, the kind that seem horridly welcoming when the pubs shut. Further indie chicken here, here and here.

A whole kilo of MEAT: “Now, Czech cuisine really does not muck about, one good reason for visiting in winter being that you need healthy walking around in the cold to burn off the damned food.”

yuk vagonu tekerlek (Aug 04): “A strange sense of otherness swept over me, like being on holiday and eating a custard cream, only different and foreign.”

Filthy, dirty and wrong (Jun 05): “Mix peanut butter with real butter and far too much sugar, pack into tin and press down firmly. Pour melted chocolate over the top. When set, cut into bits. Fill face. Feel slightly sick.”

O emporia! O mores! (May 05): “The piles of beautifully packaged tea, the extensive range of mustards, the vats of buffalo mozzarella: all this overloads the senses like a very expensive hangover.”

And from her first post here, introducing herself:

“I like cooking and eating but am no Heston Blumenthal. I am very easily bored and thus a novelty junkie, but always return to old favourites that my granny taught me as a mere spawnling in her terribly English country kitchen. There really is no equal to gorging oneself on toast spread sumptuously with fresh guinea-fowl egg lemon curd that contains not a little of one’s own fingers, grated finely and enthusiastically along with the zest.”

RIP Liz, and thanks.