Posts from 19th May 2004

May 04

Broadway Market, Hackney

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 774 views

Broadway Market, Hackney

On 8th May 2004, this ancient chartered market in East London was reborn. The market straddles an old drovers path to the City. London Fields was the last common grazing area for livestock before the final leg into town and the market grew alongside. It fell victim to the 1980’s recession.

I went along around midday and the majority of the 40 odd stalls were beginning to run out of stock. The market ran until 5pm but traders erred on the side of caution and seemed surprised by the response. Organic is the order of the day with everything from fruit and veg to that politically correct but tasteless sludge, organic fair trade coffee.

The model for Broadway is the rejuvenated Farmers Market in Stoke Newington and the emphasis is on a mix of fresh food and dairy products. If the market pulls in the punters then there are plans to expand to around 120 stalls including vintage clothing and (whatever this means) USA streetwear.

Not everyone in Hackney is down with the programme. At the Italian cheese stall with its sign saying Italian Cheese pinned to a map of Italy, the guy in front of me insisted in speaking French to the trader.

“I’m sorry I don’t speak French.”
“But you sell cheese?”

The market is on Saturdays from 9am to 5pm. Nearest overland station, London Fields. Tube? Nah mate, this is Hackney, but Bethnal Green is a brisk jog away.

BRITNEY SPEARS – “I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun)”

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BRITNEY SPEARS – “I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun)”

The intricacies of Britney marketing relegate this to an In The Zone bonus track in some countries; a non-release in others. Which is odd, because you could imagine it being a post-“Toxic” single. If Kelis’ “Trick Me” hits big then Britney’s people might think they’ve missed a trick: “I’ve Just Begun” bounces along on a similar stiff-limbed skank. Britney being Britney though there are plenty of embellishments – she rarely tries or suits sparseness, one reason her Neptunes tracks never quite convinced. The Neptunes’ space-toyshop productions are full of gaps which a Justin Timberlake can fill with eager charisma, always working the crowd. (Timberlake keeps the mouseketeer spirit alive much more than his ex does.) Britney was never comfortable with them: her studied moans click best when she’s surrounded by production that can match her glossy, showy engineering.

That’s why “Toxic” was so great, because it was so busy, a collection of glittering ideas supercollided until they catalysed into a song. People complained that Britney sounded anonymous; they missed the point, that Britney has always sounded happiest as a component in a pop machine, the huger the better. “I’ve Just Begun” piles on the blips, buzzes and squeals and then dollops on a “Toxic”-ish string jab for good measure: the result is high-quality, if generic, ’04 Britney. Its one difference is the pre-chorus, an amusing bite of Timberlake’s style that turns the track into a subtly specific kiss-off tune.


Do You SeePost a comment • 1,525 views

Introduction: Methodology

Last year Sight & Sound returned to a perennial subject, the top ten films of all time. At the same time Channel Four happily filled six hours with a very similar (in theory) list show, which soon got devolved into the Top 100 love stories, comedies, and films with monkeys in*. The AFI in the States seems to be in a constant pregnancy and birthing list after list, canon after canon – and why should Freaky Trigger be any different. Everyone loves lists. Everyone knows they are bollocks too, no matter how clever, well-versed or respectable the contributors are.

Our list is lousy from the methodology up. Which oddly does not undermine the usefulness, interest or fun of the list. It just means that we admit from the get go that some odd things may happen along the way. It is still has just as much authority as the Sight & Sound poll.

So the methodology then. A long pub crawl. (The Mornington Crescent for those who are interested). About nine O’clock after six straight hours of drinking. Ten Freaky Trigger contributors sit down, and we start at number 100. First person names a film that they think deserves to be in the top 100. The film needs two other people in the group to back it. However if everyone else in the group vote against it, it does not stay in. If rejected, the next person nominates the next film. This methodolgy ensures that a film is judged good enough to be in the list by at least three people, and not so controversial that it survives excess hate.

So over the next three months the Freaky Trigger Top 100 Films…Of All Time..2003 will be posted here, on Do You See, and then later collected as an article. Number 100 starts tomorrow.
(Note is contributors would like to write shortish 100-200 word pieces on films on the list e-mail me and I’ll send the list and you can pick some. I’d rather not do it all myself).

* If you include King Kong, it is King Kong, but if not it is obviously Dunstan Checks In.

The Scar – China Mieville

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The Scar – China Mieville

I’d been meaning to try Mieville for a while, due to recommendations and reviews. Weirdly, I found the book pretty different from what the critics has led me to expect. The first one inside the cover has the Telegraph claiming that his fantasy world is “utterly coherent”, and this is nonsense, and pointless as praise. You can see any number of coherent fantasy worlds in the genre, and they are almost all completely dull. Mieville ties this sprawling complex of ideas together pretty well, but it doesn’t fully cohere – but then again, I don’t think the real world does. Also, although he writes very well, I really don’t think the prose is as gorgeous as say M. John Harrison, another writer in that same low-tech SF/fantasy territory.

It’s the ideas and their interaction that appeals a lot. Who could resist this, one of the main climaxes: the floating pirate city at the heart of this tale has tamed a gargantuan sea monster, miles long; a spy has stolen secrets and a magic idol from a bunch of monstrous sea creatures; these creatures come to get it back, and team up with a gang of vampires to attack the pirates, whose defence is led by the most charismatic creation in this book, a martial arts master armed with a sword that kind of embodies quantum possibilities. How can you not get excited about a book bringing all this together? Who else has brought us vampires plus sea monsters versus pirates plus a martial artist? What more could you want? Actually there is much more – ancient magics and superscience, mosquito women and cactus men and all sorts.

He structures this long novel (about 800 pages) superbly too, building up plot after plot to terrific climaxes, introducing new characters and ideas throughout, all with energy and skill. It’s an exciting novel all the way through, full of intelligence and adventure and thrills – the delicate weaving of themes and motifs (scars and communication in particular) is beautifully done. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be one of my favourite writers.

Fundacio Miro and other Barcelona notes

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 190 views

Fundacio Miro and other Barcelona notes

One major point about this excellent museum: don’t think you can walk up there from the nearest metro station – it’s a long way up. Anyway, it restructured Miro in my mind: this has some magnificent late work with bold lines with the humour of Klee, an extraordinary fabric hanging, and several featuring drips and splatters and other excellent attempts to grapple with the American abstract expressionists. And it’s not just Miro work: there is quite a lot by other people, the highlight of which for me is Alexander Calder’s fountain (more of a cascade and a mobile really) with mercury instead of water.

The Museu Picasso is mostly disappointing, very weak through his peak years, but there are a bunch of lovely late ceramics that really made me smile. Otherwise in Barcelona, leaving aside all the obvious Gaudi highlights which are as wonderful as their reputation, the thing that pleased me most was in the very attractive gothic church (the cathedral is impressive with very pretty cloisters, but not much is different from what you’ll see in a hundred other such places) of Santa Maria del Mar, which has many conventional stained glass windows, then suddenly one abstract one, an extraordinarily lovely piece in blue with white and red, allegedly about Saint Pancras (presumably a saint rather than a train station). I bought a postcard of this, but it doesn’t credit an artist, and I don’t know the techniques used, but they clearly aren’t traditional.

Portrait Of An Artist, As An Old Man – Joseph Heller

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 297 views

Portrait Of An Artist, As An Old Man – Joseph Heller

I’m a sucker for metafiction, and this is full of it. Heller, in his last novel before his death, tells of an old writer who started with a critical and commercial smash, who is trying to write something else as spectacular before he dies, a finale worthy of him. We get this man pottering around and talking to his wife and agent and editor about this, and we get lots of abortive starts and fragments, all fun but all dead ends. It suggests Heller was looking to write a final masterpiece, but whether he thought this was it, or if it’s intended as an apology and explanation for not producing such a book, I have no idea, but it’s an intelligent and imaginative novel, referencing all sorts of other writers (not least Roth’s Zuckerman books, plus Updike, Barth and several others) and full of enjoyable ideas.

Gates Of Eden – Ethan Coen

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Gates Of Eden – Ethan Coen

I didn’t know that one of my favourite filmmakers ever had written a book until I came across this. It’s a collection of short pieces, a few reading like radio scripts, and it has all the strengths of his screenwriting: striking characters, perfectly pitched dialogue, weirdness and lots of funny stuff. My favourites were the ones dealing with small time criminals, which were mostly hilarious – the hapless boxer getting beaten up time and again in the ring and by petty crooks, the private eye who goes deaf, the A&R man listing people who might have something against him to the cops, a dazzlingly funny telephone call from a mobster instructing a hitman, the title story featuring a would-be hardboiled weights and measures inspector. These are among the most enjoyable and funniest stories I’ve read in years.

The more serious ones, those with a rather elegaic air, work well too – Ethan Coen has a successful career in prose if he wants it, though I don’t suppose the film work will dry up, so I don’t suppose there will be that many books coming our way.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 304 views

Diagram from the news story that Pete links to (below) LOOKS A BIT RUDE. (Tilt head to left)

o tempora o meerkats!

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 317 views

o tempora o meerkats! As a child the little painted pirate heads I only ever saw in shops on the Aberdovey sea-front somewhat fascinated me – you put them up on the wall (eg like flying ducks) but I have never discovered the proper name for the moulding or painting technique (see illustration):

Anyway this is just a cultural heads-up: in Porthmadog last week I noticed that meerkats have now entered the ‘craft figurine’ animal canon, esp. if standing in a line obv

The days of private spaceflight are almost upon us.

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 382 views

The days of private spaceflight are almost upon us. Which means that perhaps my ambition of going into space before I die still may happen. If I managed to become a billionaire. But before we cheer the incoming privateers of space (and the attendant space operas that go with them) let us pause to mark what may have passed. It appears to be the end of spacecraft having really cool names.

Sputnik, Soyuz, Apollo XI, Challenger, Saturn V – what great names. Burt Rutan, the man behind this private bid, may have a shit name himself (though of course a name of one of Doctor Who’s least seen and best designed aliens), but that is no excuse to give his rocket a shit name too. SpaceShipOne is only funky with regards to its run-on and capitals. Imagine the history of the automobile is the notably not imaginative Henry Ford had plumped with the Ford Car.

(Admittedly the Ford Ka is knocking about now – but hey, that’s irony.)