Posts from 30th October 2004

Oct 04

London Film Festival

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,246 views

London Film Festival: the hot news is, fuck the London Film Festival. It’s a kind of test case for reception theory: I used to think, sponsors be damned, here is an opportunity to watch lots of skill films. But such is the intensity of branding and general Murdoch fannydangle that my old position is no longer tenable. I’m not going to play the viral game and say what the ‘hot’ films are. I saw some good films and some bad, but I would have seen them eventually, in my own time, and without pressure at some point anyway. No film is ‘discovered’ at the London Film Festival: most of them have been bought for distribution already. This is true of the Cambridge Film Festival, which I boosted here. But that had charm, and an enthusiastic audience: this has awful non-fans. Last night I overheard a conversation along the lines of ‘I kind of got confused between [Faye Wong] and [Gong Li]’ — from someeone who had seen ’2046′ already at Cannes, ie who was likely High Up in the film world. Possibly I like going for days out (ie to Cambridge) more than to films. I dunno. Martin Luther was right.


TMFDPost a comment • 264 views


It’s possible if you decide to go wildly insane on us that you cd hunt down actual real grown-up discussions, pro and con, of the US system of choosing the President, the loved-and-hated Electoral College – and even read and absorb them all. The case that TMFD must make, of course, is that, whatever its creakily baroque drawbacks from the limited perspective of political science, it’s a system that allows for campaigns of tactics and strategy even more addictively detailed than Risk!: considered purely from the POV of gaming, it allows the fan-observer to examine and dissect – in advance and afterwards – every possible managerial decision and player move: eg “Michigan has come into view by Bush because of Kerry’s weakness among Catholics. In Michigan, Catholics comprise about 5% more of the voting population than the rest of the nation. However (and this is likely underpolled), there is also about a 5% bump over the national average of Arab-descent voters in Michigan, which has flipped from being pro-Bush to now pro-Kerry by a lopsided margin.” And from a non-gaming perspective, one of the potentially radical elements here is that fan-observers are now also (courtesy the interweb) more than ever potential participants: not just ahem “stakeholders”, but fund-raisers, agitators, commentator-critics, blue-sky imagineers, curators of the soul of a political project and/or prankish (re)movers of the goalposts…

[update: i just found THIS to stop me getting to bed at a sensible hour — i am ps not the ONLY superannuated uk “rock” hack to be unhealthily mesmerised by all this stuff, so i am informed]


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 370 views

freaky trigans w.better publogistical memories than mine will recall the name of the pub where we were canvassed by ‘kippers (= they shyly passed across to our table some rubbish leaflets, quickly leaving the pub before we cd begin our gleeful mockery of same): anyway the only excuse i have for dredging up this snippet of ancient taproom legend is it allows me to pass on this account of more recent events in that hapless political quarter – i’m not sure that the LRB’s haut-en-bas scorn here is that much more edifying (or fair) than our kneejerk geezaesthesis was back then, but still you can’t help enjoying the founder’s horrified summary of the current make-up of the party he left long ago: “aged xenophobes” and “meaningless fuddy-duddies with very little intelligence”

It won stuff at Cannes

Do You SeePost a comment • 235 views

It won stuff at Cannes, is tremendously over the top and violent and yet the film that Oldboy reminded me of the most was Amélie. Not just because it employs a visual toolbox which encompasses state of the art digital trickery along with some wonderfully choreographed camerawork. But that the film drifts in and out of the conscious thoughts of our lead Oh-Dae-Su, often picking up his hallucinations, flights of fancies and torture along the way.

Also like Amélie this is at its heart an unlikely romance. What with the films revenge film trappings the romance seems hugely out of place (which is why I managed to guess its significance). That said it is a cute counterpoint to the driven lead.

Oldboy is a frequently ludicrous thriller whose overall audaciousness married with some knife-edge acting makes it thoroughly enjoyable. If you like films where people eat octopuses whole, giant ants ride the subway and people get their teeth pulled out with a claw hammer. I might suggest therefore that if any of those things put you ill at ease, then Oldboy might not be for you. It certainly lacked the focus (and no nonsense title) of the same directors previous Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. What it loses in pathos, it gains in entertainment. But it is in its heart just a a violent Korean version of Amélie.

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS 2: Being Sober For The Rest Of Your Life

Blog 7Post a comment • 933 views

2: Being Sober For The Rest Of Your Life

Uh-oh. Check your hat in as you wander into Alcoholics Anonymous and sit in the corner watching the other boozer, losers and vodka users tell their litany of horrors. Surely the fear here is being drunk for the rest of your life, being slave to the demon drink.

I would like to say that when I first suggested this, I did not mean sobriety to be the opposite of drunkenness. Rather the more literal sense of being clear headed, unmuddled, certain, sure and dull. I would like to say that, and it may well be correct. Truth be told though alcohol is my drug of choice, and sober is the opposite of being drunk. So this probably means exactly what it sounds like. A fear of not ever being allowed to drink again. Since I fear it, perhaps it is something that might be a potential likelihood for me. Is this fear of actually being an alcoholic and then having to do something about it?

Obviously I was a bit tipsy when this list was made (wait til you see what gets to number one). We all were. The bouzey camaraderie is what I would miss, being the sober one while everyone else is getting sloshed is often less than fun. Like the fear of being alone for the last third of your life, it is about missing things which make you feel safe, loved, comfortable. Alcohol, or your drug of choice, does not do this loving for you. But it goes a long way to providing the situation where you can feel you are loved. Ironically though (I have always found it ironic) alcohol is a depressant. But then the point of mind altering drugs is to push us to experience those parts of our personality which do not always get an outing. Hmm, perhaps too much justification for a man who just wants to have a pint every now and then for the rest of his life.

At its heart this is a fear of change, a fear of this social crutch being taken away. It is coincidentally a fear of whatever would force this constant state of sobriety upon me: illness or a lack of control of ones own urges to drink. I am not a big drinker, but I do drink regularly. Could I do without it? Probably. Probably. But do I want my hand forced? No.

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS – 3. The Influence Of The Daily Mail

Blog 7Post a comment • 823 views

Three days before the US Presidential election, the day after Osama Bin Laden released a new tape aimed at the American people with potentially huge polling consequences, the front page of the Daily Mail screams ‘VILLAGES HELD TO RANSOM’. Indeed. According to the Daily Mail, “villagers are being blackmailed into paying exorbitant sums for land to keep Gipsies out”. It is hard to see quite what new evidence has come to light to force the reappearance of Ossie B off our front pages, but equally, this tells you pretty much everything you need to know about one of Britain’s most popular newspapers.

Hot on the heels of the terrifying gipsy hordes, Osama comes in at a slightly disappointing Page 2, taking up marginally less space than the coverage of Colin Montgomery’s new girlfriend and a montage of her various wealthy exes on Page 3. ‘See our photo gallery of other old charmers who attract beautiful women at’, a caption, hilariously, reads. Go on ladies, calm yourselves. The message is clear – this, ladies and gentlemen, is what you should aspire to. Unlike the ‘bored sisters, 14 and 15, in race to get pregnant’ on Page 11 (“and now they’ve succeeded, they both want council houses to go with their haul of benefits”).

Onto Page 4, where ‘Blair signs away our birthright (with no mandate from the British voter)‘ – the European Constitution naturally. Despite the fact that a) he is our elected representative, like it or not, and b) we get a referendum on it anyway.

But its the double spread on Pages 6-7 that’s the real killer. ‘70% say No to super-casinos’, apparently. Fair enough, the gambling bill is an important piece of legislation which needs to be debated and may have a major impact on the future character and appearance of many of our cities. The Mail, though, goes straight for the pictures of two women, horrifically battered, with the caption ‘How gambling addiction drove a thug to do this’. The gambling habits, or lack of, of Colin Montgomery and friends are not mentioned.

There’s the rub. Of all the discussion of various fears, both silly and genuine, on this blog over the past month, no one has really mentioned the exploitation of such fears. This is Daily Mail heartland – its tack is to scare middle-aged housewives round to its way of thinking. Understandable and genuine fears (violent crime and terrorist attacks, principally, but also unemployment and falling house prices) are used to engender distrust of immigrants, travelers, Europe, drugs, alcohol, big cities in general, anything the Labour government can even remotely be held responsible for. For god’s sake, just say ‘VOTE TORY’ and get it over with, will you?

Its easy to dismiss all this as mere tabloid hysteria, but the Mail’s air of outright respectability is what makes it threatening. The idea is that by appealing to the vicar’s wife (all those healthy eating and smart dressing tips), extreme opinions become acceptable (capital punishment, ffs). Whether you think it works is up to you, but I leave you with a story from about a year ago. The local community was in uproar! Someone had stolen the Blackheath donkeys which were used to give rides for children outside Greenwich Park. Pub opinion was divided over the motivation for such a crime, ranging from “I think someone just did it for a laugh”, from myself, all the way to “well, I think it was the illegal immigrants, stealing them for food”, from an otherwise intelligent and generally liberal acquaintance of mine. The fact that no one laughed in her face confuses and disturbs me to this day.

(For the record, I did actually buy a copy of the Mail today for research purposes. I solemly promise that I will give double the 70p cover price to a gay asylum-seeking single mother this very afternoon).

Miss Teak

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 290 views

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.