Posts from 14th February 2005

Feb 05


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 516 views


It’s theer mon, rake it eawt ~

This pint kills fascists (unsure if it can shut up mayors of London).

What I Did In The Holidays

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 299 views

What I Did In The Holidays
Well, I’ve now held a copy in my hand so I’m finally prepared to believe it really exists. Not sure when the official publication date is (tomorrow according to the publisher, “not yet” according to amazon. It’s a bit expensive, but if you were to order it through a library (or for your university library, if you have that kind of power!), there’d be one less copy sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

sooner is better than later

Do You SeePost a comment • 240 views

sooner is better than later

when i proposed joan of arc: the messenger for the FT Top 100 i had actually only seen the first half, and wouldn’t have wanted to expand much except to say how peerlessly* FAB this half is: OK now i’ve seen it all, soup to nuts, and i want to rave (more) unrestrainedly, since

*i. i really do mean peerlessly: i can’t think of another film JoA much resembles, in tone and style, given its much-less-unusual epic-fuel topic
ii. the whole film – but esp.the seige of orleans at the centre – drives faultlessly from gory slapstick to unsettling python parody to geniune revelatory grimness, and back, turning on a groat between modes => this is energised fun, to say the least, a replication in film form of something comics are perhaps better known for (of course besson is a known fan of metal hurlant)

ii. it dispenses with and i think demolishes a bunch of out-dated readings of the medieval: from the catholic church’s own (= whatever nostalgia-for-feudalism it had in mind when it canonised JoA in 1920); to the Pre-Raph idea, all pale-saint moralising and pastily sublimated sexuality (i think the ingrid bergman versh is fatally spoiled down by this); plus – love it tho i do – python antigrailism ==> the besson version so supercharges the shifts of tone (and the siege is so brilliantly choreographed and timed a set-piece) that it kinda outscales MP in all directions
iii. the main one being something python (primarily a genre comedy) barely attempts, which is to get convincingly into the logic of the time and show us (on OUR terms) why and how joan appeared, had the effect she did, and then failed: i don’t mean JoA is good realist history – though it seems true enough to the few facts we know, almost all from the transcript of her trial – i mean that, where so many of the assumptions of the time are so distant from us, it’s hard for us to get properly into the heads of any of the participants… other versions of the story SHOW us what happened, but they don’t dramatise the logic especially
iv. here we see only too clearly, as a kind of doomed love story, how the grizzled leaders of the french army, experienced, cautious, almost exhausted (joan died aged 19 in 1431, some 95 years into the 100 years war), might – to rid northern france of the occupying english – risk all to gamble on the teenage vim, utter idealistic conviction and sheer unspoiled GO of what was, after all, an uber-tomboy teen with NO experience of techniques of warfare: a peasant’s daughter, she couldn’t even read (though she was clearly very shrewd)… but somehow, like the girl-elvis of domremy, she coalesced contradictions into irresitable momentum, and turned sexual orthodoxies upside down, just by the way she moved (=rode) and sang (= spoke)
v. ie the film converts her historical charisma into classic modern-era popcult teen-appeal:basically: she becomes everyone’s focus for and icon of self-transformation, stripped of piety (her voice is often an uncontrolled and “unmanly” riot-grrrl tantrum-shriek), a condensed mess of impatient surface certainty and inner goth doubt, india-rubber physical invulnerability and tirelessness, and the untainted courage of no family ties and not knowing any better — the relationship between the soldiers, with their wary, exasperated amusement turning to excitement and back to wariness, and her headlong dauntlessness turning more and more to inner callow torment (as she actually begins to see and think about how incomrehensibly ghastly medieval war is, and how corrupt and unsaintly and self-interested medieval nation-building kingship is, as well as – most affecting of all really – the gap her voices put between her and EVERYONE ELSE (kings, peasants, soldiers, statesmen, bishops): one of her voice is dustin hoffman, and he’s more horrible to her than not, constantly testing and twisting her pronouncements, asking her how can she be right when ALL THIS is what resulted…)
vi. finally, the end goes somewhere quite unexpected – given that this is the age of melgibsonian self-laceration-as-self-love: after a trial in which the bishops are desperately trying to find a WAY OUT for her (this reading has some historical justification), and in which she holds her own w.winning teenage stubbornness (ditto: the trial transcript is full of replies from joan which amount to the 15th century equiv of “whatEVerrr!” and “BOORing!!”), we jump straight into mid-burning – joan screaming (something she’s already done a great deal of) – and then cut to a face and head so totally in flames we can’t see it, we just know that it must already be charred and skeletal: i wasn’t sure it worked till i thought about it afterwards… certainly it’s unnervingly sobering, given the film’s ability to be absolutely sceptical about the reality of joan’s visions even as it loivngly recreates them (yes yes SHE can certainly see them, but she is – QUITE PLAINLY – very very mad, albeit world-historically inspiring in her manic phase) (it’s nearly 600 years since her birth, she didn’t reach 20, she LOST BIGTIME in military and political terms, and yet who the hell doesn’t know who she is?)

Underwater Gnome Threat ‘Returns’

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 422 views

Underwater Gnome Threat ‘Returns’: shudder.

(Filed under ‘when art installations attack’)

the science of (in around and about) storytelling

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 259 views

the science of (in around and about) storytelling

if you tell a story and it has a particular effect on you and the ppl you’re telling it to, and you tell it often and the effect is easily and obviously repeatable, as well as useful and beneficial to all, then you’re likely to end up feeling that, since the telling has a value to it, the tale has a truth to it

elizabeth k’bler-ross – born an identical triplet in zurich, died last august in arizona, aged 78 – told several such stories, as a result of her lifelong work caring for the dying: i think the amount of truth in the tales varies, but the variation highlights a sharp dilemma within the interface between the scientific world and the world of the healer

the first story is this, the distillation of the five stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance… in her 1969 book On Death, she argued that not all of us experience all five, but that everyone goes through at least two. I don’t know if this claim constitutes science (let alone truth), but the fact that the five stages have entered popular-TV clich’ territory certainly attests to their ordinary-language usefulness, helping us map where we are not just facing our own mortality, but in situations of bereavement, loss and just disappointment — in other words, what science would have to do to overthrow this diagram as fact, is supply not just a better fact scientifically, but a practice that was just as helpful when it came to healing (or, perhaps, more to the point, to dealing with situations when healing is no longer an option)

the second story wasn’t hers: it was very old indeed – starting in the early 70s, she began researching near-death experience to gather evidence for the afterlife

third, she started to describes angels and voices and children’s imaginary playmates as “spirit guides”, actual real people now dead who are returned to advise us on life and how to cope when it comes to a close, a close which (she increasingly insisted) was no such thing anyway, merely a transition stage to a different kind of life

throughout all this – this decline of a thinking mind, some would argue – she continued to work caring for the dying, helping popularise the hospice system to america

opponents of her legacy have several very hard battles on their hands:
i. they have to demonstrate that the lifelong practice of care for the dying, with all the anecdotal wisdom that accretes, has become a codification of care in a bad rather than a good way
ii. they have to work out what they want to think about the concept of denial is (ron rosenbaum at slate, linked above, makes merry me-decade quips and asks if it isn’t time for the “denial of denial”: but you could just as well argue, surely, that EKR’s increasing commitment to the idea of life-after-death was an enabling denial on her part)
iii. if EKR turned to ancient myth, legend and superstition to argue that, before the modern age, people had developed pragmatically effective systems of coping with death, and indeed flourishing, only to commodify it, to turn it into a codified and sentimentalised industry of faux death-facing, modern medicine has (still) to answer the charge that it is, itself, an intensely commodified industry of faux rationalism which had – self-evidently – failed to come up with methods of coping or caring that people wanted to give themselves over to
(not least bcz the experiments necessary to make scientific distinctions in this area threaten to abandon some patients in the experiment to the cruelty of the bad care which science, advancing after the fact, would only subsequently abandon) (if ppl running hospices are doing so fuelled on beliefs you yourself are more than a bit suspicious of, you still have to admit that THEY are the ones doing work YOU might well balk at, and be daunted by: in which case, horse-forcourses and whatever-gets-you-through-the-night etc)

(i guess my feeling here is that – as EKR would no doubt herself have said – this is an unresolved conundrum, which is to say, an unfinished story) (which is to say, death is NOT the end, except just not quite the way EKR interpreted this…)

Superheroes and Philosophy

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,138 views

Superheroes and Philosophy: how you react to this project will depend on how you react to a sentence like:

Tom Morris is the most active public philosopher of our day, and is author of sixteen previous books, including Philosophy for Dummies, The Art of Achievement, and the highly acclaimed If Aristotle Ran General Motors.

Popjustice are usually right

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 405 views

Popjustice are usually right, but this surprised me. I downloaded it yesterday after a tip-off on Dirrrty Pop and thought it was bloody awful (The Alcazar track is a bit ripe too. I like one of the ballads best, because I’m an old man). “Refrain” sounds like someone from Dead Ringers ‘penning’ a ‘skit’ about how awful pop music is and I could barely get to the end of it.

(We had Pay-TV’s previous Eurovision entry on PopNose back last March sometime, so if they do become marvellously famous and cool I will delete this entry and say that I was ‘there’. They are a side-project of dance bod Hakan Lidbo, by the way.)

In happier PJ-related news, Rachel Stevens’ “Negotiate With Love” has finally leaked and it’s terrific.


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 392 views


While the current version can only raise the alarm, it could be adapted to corner an intruder and neutralise them with a disintegrator if the customer wanted, Mr Hulth added.

GF Watts

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 304 views

GF Watts
Among the green waves of the North Downs and straight outta the tiny village of Compton is the GF Watts Gallery. No more than a coaching post between Guildford and Godalming, it is a quiet rural place with an extraordinary gallery. ‘Celtic Art Nouveau’ says the leaflet. We laugh, but cannot describe it better.

Watts was a product of the Victorian era. In the context of the times, his heart was in the right place and his wallet backed it up. He donated money to the poor and established Postman’s Park in a London churchyard; publicising tales of local heroics. He was once dubbed the English Michelangelo, something that pleased him initially and then stalked him forever.

As a painter he was prolific, churning out portraits and landscapes. He was a contemporary (and friend) of Ruskin, Burne-Jones and Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite style is in every pout and chiselled cheekbone.

The gallery and family chapel are both Arts and Crafts designs; every stone ripe for decoration and each door laced with iron. Watt’s second wife added the chapel after his first forage into marriage (with the actress Ellen Terry) was annulled. She was 16 and he, a little more experienced at 47. It didn’t last long.

Considering its location, on Saturday afternoon the gallery is packed. I’ve always thought this style of painting has an unfashionable stigma around it. Something to do with the forced morality behind some paintings or because Andrew Lloyd-Webber likes it. Here it works, perhaps because the last thing you expect to find in a village on the North Downs is a gallery full of Victorian melodrama.

So I finally got around to playing

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 353 views

So I finally got around to playing Human After All (still haven’t dared approach the huge ILM thread!) and, well, it’s alright. What lets them down is their workrate – if this had been a side project, Daft Punk Explores The Wonders Of The Talkbox, nobody would feel betrayed. Or if they put out an album once or twice a year and HAA was seen as an experiment, I think it would be quite well received. As a long-awaited follow-up to a landmark record – um.

For what little it’s worth I think the blockiness and ugliness are surely intentional, effective when they work (“Steam Machine”, “The Brainwasher”, even “Robot Rock”), awful when they don’t (the last three tracks). To enjoy it even a tiny bit you need to like the tone of crudely treated voices and keyboards at least slightly as much as Daft Punk obviously do. Dancing to most of it is clearly impractical but a ‘dance-punk’ band could do worse than covering the title track.

And that’s all, really.