Posts from 6th September 2005

6
Sep 05

2002 A Chinese Odyssey

Do You See1 comment • 1,024 views

No. That is really its (Western) name. Drifted in and out of the ICA last year as possibly the most niche film ever, if reviews were to be believed. Reviews are not to be believed, 2002 is not just a Wong Kar Wai parody (though there is much of that in there). It also shamelessly parodies Chinese folk tale films, martial arts films and other genres that I cannot claim to have much but a touching knowledge of.

Question: How many aeroplane disaster movies do you have to see to find Airplane funny?

2002 A Chinese Odyssey has going for it what most great comedies have, a killer sense of fun. There are plenty of jokes that don’t work, but there are plenty that do. An appreciation of how lame any cross dressing plotline from Shakespeare on is decent set up for this silly movie, and since when was silly ever bad. Any film with a character called Solid Gold Love in it can’t be bad.

MY LIFE IN THE ABSENCE OF GHOSTS

Blog 7Post a comment • 238 views

my father’s father – a clever learned man who liked to present himself as bluff, sporty and no-nonsense – always wanted to meet a ghost: he planned to ask a series of tough questions, he claimed, about how they spent the rest of their time, why they bothered, the various logical-scientific conundra (LSCs) involved

of course, by courtesy of one of the more famous LSCs, those directly involved in the haunting game knew to avoid him, and successfully did so

in fact no one in our family (to my admittedly merely linear knowledge) has EVER encountered any kind of beyond-the-grave being or supernatural activity

all of which is strange, because the house my parents bought in 1972, which my dad still lives in, is by all accounts (except, like, OURS) spectre-infested: there is, insist the (now very grown-up) children of the previous owners, a “DARK GENTLEMAN” who flits along the landing, and in and out of two or three of the rooms off it. in all our years there, none of us had spotted or even felt such a presence, and – insofaras we thought about it at ALL – cheerfully recalled the old folk tale of a family, plagued by a boggart, who gave up and left home: a a neighbour, seeing them with all their furniture packed into the cart, said “so you’re off then?” and the boggart, poking its head up from among the furniture, said “yes, we’re moving to a nice new house across town…” ie we convinced ourselves, the DARK GENTLEMAN had clambered into our predecessors’ pantechnicon and moved away with them

then, about two and a half years ago, while becky and i were on holiday in wales with our invalid parents, we learnt from one of our regular carers – who had said she would pop in while we away to catch up with some domestic chores – that she had been chased away by a “presence” which turned the lights on and off… um ok (though we did slightly sort of briefly wonder if this was an excuse for not getting round to the promised chores, except no excuse wz really needed, beyond “I’m afraid i didn’t have time”): mulling over this (rather minor) potential LCS, we concluded that the DARK GENTLEMAN had not gone away w.our predecessors but instead run away to hide in the nearby wood, only coming out to haunt, sadly and feebly, when none of us were around to know

then after mum died, earlier this year, we discovered this same carer had for some time been seriously abusing the family’s trust, lying to us and generally messing about — and while she managed to present a face to us, when confronted, that wz boldly unguilty and injured, she wz apparently (ie other ppl told us) unwilling to spend any time ALONE in the house, bcz of the ghosts switching the lights on and off, and generally pestering and menacing her!! so we have changed our minds AGAIN abt the DARK GENTLEMAN

My sort of gadget

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 347 views

Philips Paper-like Display prototyped already! WOOOOOOOO! It’s something i will rant on about to anyone who cares to listen (i.e. nobody. where would blogging be otherwise?).

You can keep your super next-gen 4-D graphics chips and wireless synchronised blackberry bit-torrenting dvd players. What i’ve been waiting for more than anything is just a better sodding display. Specifically, an electronic paper that is “pigment” based and rollable/foldable. I hate that VDUs are all basically emissive – reliant on emitting light. and don’t get me started on cathode ray tubes. They have done as a “make do” until now. What a relief. Now where’s my widescreen paper telly plz?

THE FT TOP 100 TRACKS OF ALL TIME No.79

FT + New York London Paris Munich/5 comments • 1,887 views

Kim Wilde – “Cambodia”

Mark S says:

Writing a chart-song with this title in 1981 – Year Zero was 1978, as punky types (=me) liked boringly to remind everyone – sets some kind of dunderhead record, you’d think, for chutzpah, hubris and just not getting it. But of course “just not getting it” is what the song turns out to be about – avoidance of knowledge, self-deluded cocoonment, the SCREAMING WOUNDED ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – and pretty blonde Kim, with her cool expressionless nu-pop voice, was the ideal no-baggage vehicle. Born to the purple of the manufactured-hit family trade, she tells the story as if with minimal involvement: did it happen to HER? A “friend” Is she just the reporter/newscaster/bored raconteur at a party she’s not enjoying? The template is “Cool For Cats”, pumping bop-bip synth octaves, the ghost of Squeeze’s little cartoon cocknoid suburban tragicomedy shtick frozen down into desperate-housewives nembutal coping haze, Kim’s freon-based glide a forerunner of the Cocteaus/Lush/Goldfrapp bliss-hook, except (as regards storyline) with extra vivid if unexplained justification (the rather excellently terrible vintage pic sleeve – done cartoon-strip fashion by Rod Vass- hints that her husband pilots a Vietnam-style green insecticopter): “She didn’t wonder then/She didn’t think it strange/But then he got a call/He had to leave that night/He couldn’t say too much/But it would be alright” — What’s his mission? DON’T ASK DON’T TELL: “He used to cry some nights/as though he lived a dream.” Every question the tale demands, the music – Kim’s distracted and disinterested delivery tone, the sprightly know-nothing new wavey hummed chorus – leaves wide open, so open you can’t help sketching in every last semi-plausible scenario for yrself. “He used to fly weekends/It was the easy life…” The plasticised percussion includes a nice little whip swish, and he was “Thailand-based” — what kind of dreamsex Emmanuelle-style colonial utopia was this “easy life” exactly? And then at the end, the echo-drenched “White Horses” style reverie switches the feel back to kid-lit romanticism,. the nostalgising of being allowed not to be in the (adult) know.

The unspoken possibilities overwhelm the often trite words, the gumball-trinket form, setting and melody, and THIS EXPRESSIVE INADEQUACY what the song is about: the realisation that triteness is all many of us will have to hand when horror strikes.

Curious revealing sidenote: the lyrics as available on the net all end song as follows: “But there is only one thing left/I know for sure/She won’t see his face again” —well, there is one thing left *i* know for sure, and that is that kim actually sings “she WILL see his face again”: proof maybe that what the all-knowing affect-free carefully euphemising narrator means is (as witness the entire web’s affirmation): HE IS DEAD AND SHE DAREN’T FACE HOW OR WHY…

The Boom Bar Revisited

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 202 views

Last night saw me return to the Boom Bar, and an interesting return it was. Last time I was there I noted how good and friendly the service was. Unfortunately this was not the case last night. A few more covers admittedly, but from start to finish our six man group meal did two course in two hours. Our particular waiter, a youth who smiled nicely but seemed nervous of moving quickly or getting anything wrong, was dubbed Flash after his snail pace crawl to take our order. Coupled with a complete lack of knowledge of his own wine, beer or food menu meant his ineptitude only went so far in amusing us before we got hungry.

Luckily the food pretty much made up for it. The vegetarian with us was clear not over-enamored by the unusual meat friendly menu. We started with a few bits of smoked crocodile (one of our companions had eating crocodile before, and also knew someone who had been eaten by a crocodile). Smoked nicely it warmed us up for the big mains. Those of us who headed steakwards were happily served. An ostrich steak was exquisite, and the wildebeest steaks were pretty amazing slabs of meat. Carsmile was a little overpowered by the stew with his springbok, but he admitted to liking it.

Coupled with a few bottle of Tusker, Nigerian Guinness and a rather good South African cider the night was a success. But they were lucky that the put 10% service in, because we weren’t feeling too tip happy. I’d go back, but I would check the compliment of staff on.

Red Pandas

Do You SeePost a comment • 235 views

Pandas: The Great Leap Forward, a documentary my wife taped off Sky Travel, is chock full of marvellous giant panda footage from a big Chinese nature sanctuary. The programme is Chinese-made, or so we guessed from the footage recorded in the 1980s and 1990s, when China was generally less keen to have documentary crews wandering round on the edge of Tibet, even inside a panda reserve.

It wasn’t just political assumptions that made me think that, though – the whole rhythm and emphasis of the show was completely different from a UK-made wildlife programme. For one thing the editing was much less naturalistic – no UK nature prog (for adults) would have so much jump-cutting and Green Wing style sped-up and slowed down panda sequences. The whole ethos of British-made shows is to make the viewers animal voyeurs – the cuteness or comic potential of the animals is sternly downplayed in favour of the candid details of their life in the wild. The pandas show allowed its stars to play up to the camera, and edited with that in mind.

Similarly, no UK wildlife show is complete without moments of peril, or even gore – nature has its brutal side and the animals invariably run into danger. There was very little of this in the panda show. Being set mostly in a sanctuary the dangers of the wild would naturally only feature in the commentary, but British zoo or sanctuary programmes have their fair share of death and distress even so. In this show not a single panda died, or was even in much danger, and the 100% survival rate of cubs born in the reserve was constantly stressed.

This all made for a pleasant and comforting programme, even a refreshing one. Most people know that pandas are endangered, so something presenting some of the good news wasn’t unwelcome. Similarly, the reason the giant panda is so popular is nothing to do with its repetitive lifestyle or bizarre lack of survival instinct, it’s simply down to how cuddly it looks. So filling up a show with shots of pandas rolling plumply about is very enjoyable. In fact the programme’s approach made British productions (like yesterday’s oceanic epic Deep Blue) seem rather aloof and pompous.

But to someone used to UK wildlife conventions, the endless positivity also made me think “what aren’t we being told?”. I’m not sure whether this was a reaction to the style or a political concern – the film opens in Summer 1989, the summer of Tiananmen Square after all. And whether you’re buying bras or panda footage, dealing with China can involve not asking particularly hard questions.