The Brown Wedge

Oct 04


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THE ULTIMATE FUTURE SHOCK – by Al Ewing, scanned and uploaded by me. Enjoy!

Oct 04

Miss Teak

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Miss Teak
Stuff Ingenuity and Culture in Contemporary Danish Crafts.

This was the York Quay’s offing for the SuperDanish festival, held in the Harbourfront center of Toronto would have been perfect, an examination of northern culture and how it relates to aesthetic objects combined functional and non functional objects in a huge variety of media, mostly well currated. There was Astrid Krogh, who used neon to highlight traditional woven design patterns and Anne Fabricus Moeller who used traditional fabric methods (wool, on a hand loom, the same one used by her ancestors) to highlight radically new fractalised patterns. There were stools made from hip new materials (cut off baseball bats, because they were made from ash, which was a geographical signifier for both Denmark and Toronto.)

There was Gitte Jurgenson and Flemming Tevede working on a large, strange installation of 47 blown ceramic spheres arranged on a kelly green wall, moving from right to left, meandering downward from 7 feet up a wall to down almost to the floor, but next to this were hand thrown and hand carved bowls (Tobias Mohl). The commitment to traditional and radical crafts, the deconstruction of function, the commitment to sublimity and rigorous theory, and the openness to a new way of seeing marked the connections between Denmark and Canada (if we are connected, it is because of weather and place, craft thrives when one is bored 8 months of the year).

While the work was mostly placed with consumate care, some of the better examples were badly installed, and there were other practical problems. the biggest one was how Anders Ruhwalds abstracted, biomophic ceramics were treated. These peices, in autumnal colours like cornflower, pine and squash, curve and curl around themselves, are smooth and tumescent, with slots and spires so that light traps, and emerges in different places. They require a holistic view, because they are so complicated in there manipulations of light and space–they were placed three feet back on a white table, nearest the wall–so the colour of the wall and the distance from the viewer made a full understanding of the text difficult. As well, the neon rug should have not been propped up on a wall, but been underfoot, and some thought could be made on how to make the furniture fulfil its usefulness.

The biggest struggle should have been the least problemtic. This was the catalog. It was well appointed and laid out, with large bios and images for each artist, several essays and a schedule of events that related to the show. However it is impossible to consult in the gallery, or anywhere else, it is now on the floor of the caf’ in which I’m writing. (The thing is big–4 feet by 3 feet, and it is printed on heavy stock, so it cannot be folded, except in tow or carried comfortably. The purpose of a catalog is a reference material, and this is almost impossible to consult.)

With some more thought about placement and supporting materials, this would have been a show that would be talked about for a long time to come, even with the major annoyances, it will be well remembered landmark display, both formally and geographically.

Oct 04


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i think i blogged before abt how the real secret deep winner of the election in four days time will be watchumcall non-mainstream modes of journalism: here a smart old-schooler eloqently concedes defeat on exactly this issue

(the pervasive faults of american high-end reportage actually don’t pervade that much in uk newspapers – which have other faults entirely)

(via jay rosen)

(of course as a lifelong rockwrite derridawonk my basic feeling is we BEEN knowing this girlfren’!)

haha “It does not soil the breakfast cloth?: what a slogan!!

PCGMWatch: October

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PCGMWatch: October

A DUP councillor in Northern Ireland who subjected a colleague to a campaign of homophobic abuse and got successfully prosecuted for it. “On one occasion Templeton bent over in front of [victim], patted his backside and said, “Here you are, John”….earlier this year Templeton described his conviction as “political correctness gone mad” during an interview with the Belfast Telegraph.”

Filtering software on schools computers filters out the word ‘dick’, thus preventing pantomime promotion = story here. The Anglia Television presenter said “it’s political correctness gone mad”.

Rejection of Buttiglioni EC nomination for his homophobic views – Times of Malta weighs in“At best it looks like political correctness gone mad”

Yorkshire Post has strong views on “yet more health and safety nonsense” – fire inspectors are “first-class graduates from the school of political correctness gone mad”

Oct 04

Poetry in a foreign language

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Poetry in a foreign language

If you have the chance to go to the current Steve McQueen exhibition at the South London Gallery until the 7th of November, go. But if you do go, try not to hear anything about it beforehand. That’s how I went, on Sunday, and I was puzzled and moved, trying to find threads and meanings in a succession of images and noises. It’s tremendous, honestly. I found it very hard to leave. It made me late and I still haven’t had time to buy that rug I want.

So if you think you might go along, maybe you should stop reading now. For those of you who won’t get to the show, McQueen has sourced the images which were sent into space on the Voyager2 spacecraft to illustrate Earth and Earth culture. He fades from one to the next in an extremely dark room, to the sound of all manner of glossolalia, which sounds like poetry in a foreign language.

The website notes that the pictures show an idealised Earth, one without war or any of war’s horseman mates. I thought it felt more like Martin Parr had compiled “Boring Postcards: Earth”: such rich blankness, such a sense of possibility. And it’s easy to imagine the speaking-in-tongues making sense, imagine the sounds being creation myths or romances. Especially when one of the unseen speakers sounds for all the world like Brian Cant.

Oct 04

The Essential Essentials

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I did a ‘pick of the Trojan box sets’ over at ILM, which went down pretty well, then someone on I Love Comics asked for a similar view on the Marvel Comics Essential volumes (5-600 pages of vintage comics in B&W on cheap paper for about ’11, so extraordinary value when a 24-page comic costs around ‘2!), so since I’m even more familiar with them than with reggae CDs (and I freely admit to a bias towards the older stuff – I think Kirby and Ditko haven’t been equalled since)…

1. Fantastic Four #3 – Jack Kirby at his absolute peak, featuring Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Inhumans, and a great fake-Thing story after the cosmic epic.
2. Howard The Duck – some of my favourite comics writing of all time, by Steve Gerber, and one of my favourite individual stories in ‘What Do You Do The Day After You Save The Universe’ – see above for FF parallels!
3. Spider-Man #1&2 – absolutely magnificent Steve Ditko art. The scene where he is trapped under some huge iron machinery with water dribbling down is one of my favourite ever series of panels.
4. Fantastic Four #1&2 – you’ll enjoy 3 more if you read these first, and even the early ones, stupid stories and all (sometimes more stupid than you would imagine possible, e.g. the Skrulls in original-issue 2), are fabulous.
5. Dr Strange – the stories aren’t all very interesting, but no one has ever drawn magic or weird other realms as gorgeously as Ditko.
6. Avengers (there are four so far), especially #1, for some more prime Kirby and the persistently undervalued Don Heck, and the very moving return of Captain America in original-issue 4.
7. X-Men #1 (original run) – very variable quality, but a lot of the foundations of much of the Marvel Universe today is here, and there are a few great issues. I love the Juggernaut’s origin in particular.
8. Captain America – the old WWII tales are pretty dull, but full of magnificent Kirby. The Red Skull origin, where he has Cap tied up, is some of his very best work, showing his mastery of quiet moments and body language as well as the action he is more usually praised for.
9. Thor – some of Kirby’s mightiest and most bombastic art, though warning: quite a lot from really limp artists and crap stories early on.
10. Tomb Of Dracula #1&2 – beautiful Gene Colan art, and hilariously wrong UK locations and lingo (“Come on you blithers!” being my favourite). Volume 3 is due soon, and will be as good.

I wish I’d had room for Ant-Man too – not one of their top stars, but a lot of this is terrific (some fine Kirby, and Heck’s best ever work, for me), and it’s material far less reprinted than FF, Spidey, X-Men and so on. I recently learnt that there is a Defenders (Hulk, Dr Strange and the Sub-Mariner team up, basically) one coming – if they start at the beginning, I’ll be buying it mostly in the hope of encouraging a volume 2, which could collect all of the fantastic Gerber run, probably my favourite superhero comics ever that weren’t by Kirby, Ditko or Grant Morrison.

I saw the film I’m Not Scared in August

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I reviewed it here. It was alright. It did not leap out at me, perhaps because it struck me as a slightly more serious children?s film foundation attempt. In Italian.

I got the book for my birthday. Problem is I have seen the film, so I know what happens. And this is a story where, for at least the first half, there is a real unfolding sense of mystery. The mystery was not there for me, so instead I had to concentrate on the evocation of place (equally competing with the overly lush visuals of the film). The book is a first person memoir, and as such we do get to identify more with Michele than we do in the film (and perhaps at least vaguely understand why he acts the way he does). But this was not enough for me to ever shirk the film off. Would I have loved it if I had not seen the film? Maybe. Looking at my comments on the film, I think they hold for the book too: it is a grown up, evocation of a realistic version of the Famous Five. Do I want that? I am still not sure.

Oct 04

Naughty Norty!

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Naughty Norty!

Relive the Rogue Trooper saga, the 2000AD story that pretty much defined the ‘future war’ genre. The thing which struck me was quite how many Rogue Trooper stories there were (and even so this guide sensibly gives up after the end of the original main plot – later stories with Rogue as a hitman or tooling about on an alien planet or rebooted entirely are ignored). The story was a simple one – Rogue Trooper is a super-soldier on an incredibly inhospitable planet called Nu-Earth (as I recall the idea was that Old Earth had colonised a planet specifically to decide their wars on – very civilised of them). The planet hosted an endless war between Southers (well-meaning, incompetent, good guys) and the Norts (invariably treacherous and murderous, very bad, probably Communist). Rogue was a Souther but had been framed for our old friend, the crime he did not commit.

Rogue Trooper has achieved a sort of classic status, but of all the ‘great’ 2000AD characters he’s probably the least broadly liked. Gerry Finley-Day’s writing didn’t make too many concessions to humour, and the war didn’t often make for a captivating backstory. You were left with a killer character design and the Greek chorus of Rogue’s “biochip buddies”, dead troopers whose personalities were stored on talking microchips slotted into his gun, helmet and bag.* It was never my favourite 2000AD story, but once you’d got into it it delivered to a very consistent standard – looking over this list of tales there are very few I remember as being rubbish.

The strip is now being turned into a computer game – as Alan points out this is probably the medium in which it can work most effectively. At the very least, a shooter featuring a gun that talks back is a nice USP.

*(In a staggering but helpful coincidence, the three troopers who ended up in these bits of kit had been known in life as Gunnar, Helm and Bagman.)

Oct 04

magritte endorses kerry

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magritte endorses kerry:

“‘Sacre bleu, vive le France,’ say some other candidates. ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.‘”

(eg more political discussion from fafnir an giblets) (i kinda know this is not genuine frontline stuff, any more than chris morris is – really it’s just heartening respite for the ahem cognoscenti BUT it is my kind of humour…)

Oct 04

My Theory Of Magazine Buying

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My Theory Of Magazine Buying

Apologies if I have gone into this before. Inspired by a Dissensus thread on the well-meaning Observer Music Monthly.

Basically once you’ve got to the stage where you actually know about something it’s best to stop buying magazines about it. This truth lies behind about 50% of the criticism of pop magazines (my grumblings included) – we know too much about music to get anything out of them, any magazine is going to be imperfect (especially compared to the ones we read when we didn’t know too much). It’s going to leave stuff out, it’s going to get its focus wrong, it’s going to spend time giving readers all that context that we picked up years ago.

Magazines tend to aim at the enthusiastic newcomer, and this more than ‘demographic targeting’ is why their audience naturally cycles. I really understood this when I stopped buying music ones and started buying mags about football and computer games – subjects I am interested in but know a great deal less about. They were fantastic – so much information, so much wit, so much enthusiasm! Why wasn’t there a pop equivalent of EDGE or When Saturday Comes? – those mags were giving me the buzz I’d got off Smash Hits when I started reading it, or the Melody Maker when I started reading it, or The Wire when…

You see a pattern? I’m already sick of EDGE, as it happens – after reading for a couple of years I know its prejudices too well (drooling over another import-only Japanese side-scrolling shooter…eyes glaze…). WSC continues to enthral but another FT contributor – who actually writes for them sometimes – seems as cynical about that magazine as I might be about Mojo.

So what I’m saying boils banally down to “don’t like em? don’t buy em!”. But it’s not that simple. Because magazines do appeal to the newcomer rather than the know-it-all, it matters even more that they do the job well. Meaning? That they don’t pander to received wisdom and quick-forming prejudices, that they find angles the reader won’t have thought of, that they’re as happy to reach for generosity as cynicism… it may be no good me complaining about Q et al/ these days, because they’ll never give me what I want, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.