Posts from 12th October 2004

Oct 04


Do You SeePost a comment • 335 views


I’d like one ticket to see Saw please

I saw Saw last night.
The film is as sophisticated as the gleeful half jokes made out of talking about it. Ie not very, but wonderfully direct. I do not think that I have seen a more narrative based puzzler this year. A serial killer mystery told from the perspective of two of his victims, it reels out its backstory, and then its current story making seemingly unforgivable mistakes (you get just too long a glimpse of the killers face…). These make you feel clever and dissatisfied that you have worked it out long before you are supposed to. You haven’t. Saw is remarkably clever in its remarkable dumbness.

As for the Saw. Well it is a bit of let down. In a film that seems happy to gorge itself on sped up, hyper-kinetic camera effects, it completely lets itself down on the much more useful staple of sound effects. The audience know what the saw is for from the moment it appears, and luckily the films surfeit of narrative means that we are often distracted away from its presence. But when it finally comes into play, it almost works as comedy. Still for a really good, really satisfying story Saw is one of the best I have seen in a long time. You even forgive the arbitrary after-the-fact plot inconsistencies, because it entertained so much at the time.

Retracing long worn away steps without going anywhere

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 128 views

Retracing long worn away steps without going anywhere — of course the advantage of travel literature in many ways is the joy of being able to visit places in the comfort of an armchair, but then there’s also trying to find spots that just simply aren’t around anymore, and that fascination might explain why there seems to have been a rush of books about the Silk Road recently. Maybe it had something to do with the Afghani situation post-9/11 (the book in question I’ll be talking about was released in 2001 and had a followup preface for its American edition talking about just that to a large extent), or maybe it’s the increasing ability for more and more people to go just about anywhere if they so desire.

So as for this Silk Road book in question by Luce Boulnois, Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants on The Silk Road — it’s a bit less than I initially expected, in that I was sorta hoping for more color photos illustrating various areas as the beginning and ending of the book has in spades. But most of the text is just that, text — not a problem at all, but I admit I would have liked to have seen more. It’s a selfish conclusion, though, in that Boulnois isn’t so much focused on that aspect as trying to untangle a history of a concept as much as anything else, not so much the history of the idea of the ‘Silk Road’ so much as the cultural continuum created by a mess of different societies, cultural, political, both and neither, all interested in trading with each other because there was money in it and the end products were much desired.

So the ‘story’ as such starts not at the beginning but just at a point, and generally progresses chronologically but not overtly so. There are steps forward, backward, to the side and around again, anecdotal summations and grand overviews, notations of trade practices and campaigns and individual trips (and perhaps one of the nicest things about it all is the fact that it’s thoroughly non-Eurocentric — the Roman Empire is the fringe rather than the center, and comes in every so often but not as often as all that). And perhaps the key thing is the accounting of what isn’t known as much as what is, the speculation on missing locations, the impossibility to pin down descriptions to exact locations, the acknowledgement that so much has to be imagined, from caravan organization to what type of music many ancient societies played exactly. Boulnois’s style is informative and discursive, just the right side of digressive rambling, moving forward but taking the time to stop and consider, to pose questions rhetorical and not to the reader. I think this approach might be something increasingly French in identification — I’ve seen it conveyed in a number of recent translations of equally recent French work — but it’s a style that’s a joy to read precisely because it takes account of the side ruminations and trackbacks.

A nice, consistently enjoyable read. But I need to finish it soon, there’s other things to read.

The World of Pop According to Smash Hits

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 846 views

The World of Pop According to Smash Hits

Top Trumps – you remember, those stato-geek touchstones of the eighties playground – has produced a Smash Hits! deck, and, as always, its the killer cards and dismal failures at the top and tail of each category that make or break your game.

There are six catagories – here’s what you need to know:

Crew: Lisa So Solid wins by an urban mile, with the vague but intimidating 30+, although Blazin’ Squad’s 10 is a good bet too. The Polyphonic Spree are not featured.

Phwoar factor: Don’t be impressed by that cute-looking 82, this game is littered with 90-somethings. Timberlake boasts 97, with Rachel Stevens and Charlie Busted (a fearsome contender – see height) close behind. Duds include Madonna’s somewhat harsh 46, and Marylin Manson’s thoroughly generous 5.

Hits: Madonna has an unbeatable 58, Kylie’s good for 32. But the cards are forever frozen in early 2004, and so Busted have only four hits – and Girls Aloud? A mere two.

Age: Top Trumps are emphatic on the rule here: youngest wins. Bad luck and no double whammy for that those veterans Kylie and Madonna, its S Club 8’s fifteen year-old whippersnapper that scrumps the prize. Scandalously, this doesn’t stop him from having a Phwoar Factor of 79.

Height: Charlie Busted and Darius take the joint lead. The general consensus was that this category is a bit unfair on the female artists.

Smash Hits Factor: Lee from Blue wins, but why? No idea – the Smash Hits Factor is a number ranging from 38 to 49 whose meaning and derivation are mysteries. The best explanation we could manage is that it’s a sort of balancing item derived by the Top Trump statistics wizards to stop Charlie Busted from becoming an uber-card. But perhaps at Smash Hits central its all perfectly obvious – after all, everyone knows that Lee Blue is two better than Daniel Bedingfield, don’t they?

The most valuable lesson, though, is this: in the Top Trumps universe, there’s no-one, absolutely no-one, more useless to have around than Chris Martin from Coldplay.