Posts from 4th March 2004

Mar 04

Fans of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 291 views

Fans of Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon should check out Garry Wills’s Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, if only for Part Two, ‘A Scientific Paper’. It’s not a novel – it’s filed under History of Political Science – but it’s full of stuff that goes into novels, especially the kind Pynchon writes, image-wise if not style-wise.

“Stretched out on the muddy ground, Rittenhouse held his sickly body tense with concentration under the telescope he had made with Harvard’s lenses… The first evidence of Venus’s approach was a trembling out toward it of the sun’s rim, fuzzing the moment of contact, then viscously engulfing the small dot. Rittenhouse, intent on the precise time of contact, saw this dissolution of his certitude, desperately signalled contact on a guess, and went into a swoon of six or seven minutes’ duration, a scientific ecstacy of fear.”

“Even in the White House [Jefferson] recorded the first appearance of 37 different kinds of vegetable in Washington’s market and charted variations over an eight-year period. He would govern his life by the transit of radishes.”

I’m not an instinctive fan

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 241 views

I’m not an instinctive fan of the works of Anton’ Gaud’. I find much of his work excessive and overwrought, and I just can’t get to the sense of awe others do. What’s more, a look at the facade of the Sagrada Familia demonstrates amply that the fellow was some kind of proto-Goth. And they’re talking about beatifying him!

Nevertheless, being in Barcelona, it seemed curmudgeonly to ignore his buildings completely. I saw inside two: the first was the beautiful and restrained Casa Calvet, where I ate one of the best meals of my life (WARNING! The price estimate on that page is very conservative!).

The second was the Casa Batllo, which is certainly pretty but felt decadent and unnecessarily ornate to me. It reminded me a little of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London with its crafty use of external light and unexpected internal views, but I was reminded how much Soane’s relatively quiet, obsessive madness resonates with me far more than Gaud’s status symbol architecture does.

Here’s what really put my back up, though: the guided walking tour telephone thing, available as part of the 10 Euro admission fee started off talking about how this was the crowning achievement of ‘the greatest individual genius of all time.’ Now, I’m sure something was lost in the translation, but as a way of predisposing me to dislike a building, it was supremely effective.

Firkin Pubs: Classic Or Dud?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 413 views

Firkin Pubs: Classic Or Dud? – I must shamefacedly admit to becoming nostalgic for Firkin pubs. There seem to be so few of them around now. In their pomp they were certainly the enemy, buying up and homogenizing a variety of venues. But later in the 90s an odd thing happened – firstly the pub-bar (Pitcher And Piano, et al.) came along and redefined standardisation. Secondly the Firkin boozers started to get a bit shabbier and more lived-in, and correspondingly more comfortable. And so chain pub evolution took its course and they began to die off: outflanked by Wetherspoons on price and All Bar One on branding I think they forgot what they were for, if anything. But I had some good times in Firkins – and for one definite plus, they almost always had a jukebox.

The Searchers is about some people searching. The Missing,

Do You SeePost a comment • 390 views

The Searchers is about some people searching. The Missing, which has ostensibly the same plot, is not really about the missing people at all. Its about The Searchers. In both senses.

The Missing articulates acutely how difficult it is in 2004 to make a Western. The traditional enemies are now a wronged, murdered nation. The traditional heroes are chauvinistic, violent and outside any real civilised understanding of law. The wilderness is no longer inviting, rather it is the threatening landscape of The Blair Witch Project. Where is the Western without moral certainty? Frankly the rot set in when the good guys started wearing black hats too.

So in this reconstructed Western for 2004 our lead is hard bitten rancher Cate Blanchett. Why is she so tough? Well her Daddy legged it when she was a kid leaving her emotionally scarred and self sufficient. We know this cos he conveniently rocks up at the start of the film, after living most of his life with Injuns. Because as we all know, Injuns ain’t bad folks. Except the girl stealing kind who then rock up and nick of Cate’s eldest daughter. We know these are bad injuns as, well they are stupendously ugly. This is directed by Ron Howard after all, who has never really been keen on baddies at all in his films. He rectifies this here by introducing the most one dimensionally evil portrayal of a native American for probably thirty years. Still we have good Injuns knocking around so this isn’t a racist statement. In many ways it is the most refreshing part of an otherwise rather formulaic film. The formula being out of date leaves us with some novelty. But rather than a psychologically more in tune, and thus less entertaining, version of The Searchers he could have given us a companion piece.

We are party to a couple of escape attempts by Cate’s daughter which pad out this rather bloated film. In these scenes is the alternative film, the real The Missing. The desperation of captivity, the camaraderie, the escape attempts, the loss of hope after the failed escape attempts. We’ve seen the film about people hunting, lets see a film about the missing..

ILM At Its Finest

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 260 views

ILM At Its Finest: The collective knowledge of 200 music heads pooled for the common good – this is more like it!

UNHEALTHY VEGETABLES: PART TWO: aka the The Parsnip Paradise

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 3,184 views

UNHEALTHY VEGETABLES: PART TWO: aka the The Parsnip Paradise: – hey you know, I don’t think I’ve ever started a post with so many colons. And on which tenuous and probably not-at-all-proven-by-science link, I do wonder what the eating of so many deep fried ‘nip chips is doing to my OWN colon, never mind my innards’n’guts. It’s not REALLY ‘deep frying’ if you are just using a WOK and olive oil, right? (Ah this reminds me I have now run OUT of olive oil, perhaps one might want to use vegetable oil in the future – I think I would have done that anyway but I’d ummm, run out). Before I embark on the task of giving you the parsnip chip instructions (they are so fool-proof they were first told to me in THE PUB and I still remember them), I must warn you to have some kitchen roll available. There may have been lots yesterday but it is very possible a flatmate in need will have used it all in relation to something a little less salubrious than cooking. Otherwise at the end of the process you rush about desperately to find your TOILET ROLL STASH to soak up the oil. Use a roll you haven’t started, or best yet even removed from the packet for this.



1. Fill the kettle with water and press BOIL.
2. Get some parsnips, peel and/or scrape em free of skin and then cut into CHIPS. If you are posh, perhaps the term I am after is.. julienne? You know how you make CRUDITES out of carrot sticks well like that. For crying out loud I am sure all publog readers are familar with CHIPS!
2. Fetch your WOK, pour in oil, heat it up – DO NOT INSERT NIPS.
3. Your kettle will have boiled, get another pan and BLANCH THOSE NIPS until the oil in the wok is stonkingly hot
4. Drain the nips, pat dry with KITCHEN ROLL and chuck a load of flour over them
5. IN THE WOK! IN THE WOK!! Avoid splashes and/or acting like a TV Chef at this point, although deep frying stuff yourself IS very exciting isn’t it?
6. Leave em until some of them look brown
7. Fish them out with some form of SLOTTED SPOON perhaps, maybe even a fish slice, I’m not picky, pat em free of grease again and then SCOFF.

They will be nice even if you forget about the blanching so you just end up putting them in hot water for about 15 seconds before getting bored and stuffing it. They are a wee bit nicer though so you should (and I will too) try to remember.

I can’t think of any more unhealthy vegetables off the top of my head, unless one counts carrot cake. Anything cooked in butter is unhealthy of course, and on that tip I might point out that peas, butter and garlic and VERY nice and only take about two minutes to cook an’ all. Yum yum.

Do You Hear?

Do You SeePost a comment • 360 views

Do You Hear? I just found on [file-sharing network] the BBC’s Lord Of The Rings dramatisation, first broadcast when I was 8 or 9 and unheard (by me) since. Much though I like the films this is my LOTR, and the opening theme still makes me quiver. The range of stentorian stars is still impressive (Michael Hordern, mmmmm) – unfortunately the MP3s are the edited 13 hour-long episodes, not the 26 half-hour ones (more practical and more dramatic). And also unfortunately with the distance of time it’s noticeable how much the actor playing Gollum seems to have based his performance on Pigsy from Monkey.

Can something be smug and heartfelt?

Do You SeePost a comment • 230 views

Can something be smug and heartfelt? After seeing three or four elderly dying person movies in the last few weeks, I am wary of how heartfelt any of them have been. Instead the dying relative is a universal way of ticking the viewers emotional boxes, we have all been there or fear it. Big Fish sentimentalised it, Pieces Of April used it to illustrate needless bitterness. The Barbarian Invasions treats it as part of life, and is probably the most honest despite the rest of the films overall smug tone.

The tone oscillates wildly from satire to sentiment, never really nailing either of these extremes. It is much better when it elucidates the effects of long-term friendships and relationships. The forays into grand statements about the world are rather transparent, as the characters themselves would probably agree. Running down the list of various political causes they had flirted with throughout their lives is amusing and also an illustration of both the dynamism of their thought and the dilettantism of the bourgeoisie. It is interesting what it suggests of the younger cast members, perhaps obsessed with price and value or just with not being their parents. I kept on getting really distracted though when the mulleted bloke from La Femme Nikita kept popping up though.

I was watching Man Utd vs Porto

TMFDPost a comment • 1,105 views

I was watching Man Utd vs Porto last week. Benni McCarthy got 2 goals for Porto, but what I’ll remember from that game is the number on his shirt – 77.

Permit me first a curmudgeonly statement of my true feelings – what in the name of all that is holy is a player doing on the pitch with the number 77 on his shirt? This isn’t American Football for god’s sake!

However, there is a more serious point here though over and above a traditionalist cry for the way things used to be in the olden days. We actually used to be more like American Football, as player numbers used to denote a position in the team; the goalie wore 1. The Midfield general tended to wear 7, with the number 9 reserved for the striker, or 10 at some clubs.

That was the thing; there was a culture. At some places – Newcastle for example – the number 9 shirt acquired mythic status; the club owned the number, and players aspired to wear the shirt. They didn’t own the number – they just represented as long as the manager consdidered them good enough to wear it. At Man Utd, Cantona became the number 7, filling the talismanic role of Bryan Robson, who represented the heroic failure of United’s decade of false promise in the 1980s; when the Frenchman retired, in came Beckham to fill the shirt.

Now, the roles are reversed, and conveniently, Beckham is the key figure again who best illustrates this. When he moved to Real Madrid, he struck out; he couldn’t have the 7 with which he was associated; that belonged to another player. He became 23, and so built a new symbol for the Beckham brand, and a symbol that was already conveniently associated with another stratospheric sports star – Michael Jordan.

The role is reversed then – the number is no longer the cherished gift of the club, and the pinnacle of a player’s career; the club is lucky to have Beckham 23 playing there and borrows the sheen from the number. You can see where 77 comes in here – the more memorable, the more marketable. We’re in ad-land now.

In such a world, Coax’s beautiful song will become a relic, not an evocation. Here comes my seventy seven really does sound like it’s about buses.


Do You SeePost a comment • 233 views


In his tremendous memoir, Times Square Red Times Square Blue, Samuel R. Delany spends a few pages discusses acting in porno movies during the 70s and early 80s: he was a gay man in the cinemas because they were also (mainly, in fact) male-male pickup joints, and he had to do something during till the right guy happened along, so he checked out the film – well, i’m never likely to be tracking these performances down, but Delany’s very positive about a handful of the stars, about how watchable, likeable and interesting they were as actresses… and it’s true, sex scenes in mainstream movies and TV are almost pure deadzone: soft-focus slomo undulating to lame music and THAT’S IT zzzz!! This new series of FW is still far too sluggish plotwise to be the new Queer as Folk, which seems (admirably) to be its intention – and I’m not sure I’d want to claim that Zo’ Lucker as Tanya has made some kind of acting breakthrough, but if she’s fairly one-note witchy with her clothes on, she’s been funny and daring during the other bits. OK, that probably just sounds pervoid and creepy, but what I mean is, she does stuff during the usual acrobatics which looks like the behaviour of someone with an active mind – which haha is of course proof in FW terms that she = Pure Evil.