Posts from April 2005

Apr 05

The Awful Truth…

Do You SeePost a comment • 402 views

I tend to think that all screwball comedies of the thirties are a priori better written, directed and acted than any comedies being made these days. The awful truth is that this is not the case, and actually the superior batch are a small bunch (Preston Sturges and His Girl Friday amongst ’em). How do I know this? I just watched The Awful Truth, Cary Grant & Irene Dunne in a flyweight divorce comedy. It has its moments, Cary Grant is as blasé and debonair as ever. But the film lurches from set-piece to set-piece without any real investment from the viewer.

The film starts with Grant trying to hide from his wife that he has actually spent his two week holiday in California rather than Florida. She wanders in late with her Italian singing teacher who she has spent the night with. The pair distrust each other so agree to get a divorce. There is a very artificial plot device of the divorce taking eighty days to take effect, not that it would matter if reunite afterwards. And the film apportions blame very one-sidedly. Dunne’s socialite is shown to be the match to Grant, be she gets to burden all of the blame, there is never any real investigation of his infidelities. In the end the film brings the warring couple to the understanding that for all of (or because of) their flirtations they cannot live without each other. It could be quite a forward looking piece. But it is just the cinematic forerunner of Mad About Alice (terrible Jamie Theakston sitcom), as episodic and on the whole lumpen. Which for all its gaudy screwball trappings, cannot be considered a good thing.

The Torch Is Passed

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 317 views

Just as we long ago nicked the idea for the Focus Group from ‘legendary’ US zine Radio On, so the Focus Group itself has now been borrowed by Stylus magazine for a weekly feature in which a panel of the great and good – now including me – review each week’s UK single releases. It was with immense satisfaction that I discovered that my harsh marks on my maiden outing may have prevented the completely execrable Helen Love from winning it this week. (Originally I thought I’d run the reviews not picked by Mr Swygart here but it seems bad form somehow, plus he seems to have picked the right ones.)

I expected to see the themes, and the overall story of The Graduate in Charles Webb’s original novel.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 224 views

I really, really did not expect to see the set pieces directly in the novel. Mrs Robinson naked and the whole race to the church at the end are so visual, such staples as classic cinema that it comes as quiet a shock to see these described almost identically in the book. You can see why they made the film. The book pushes the zany runaround more than the film, and it’s Benjamin is a lot less likeable. But it is a breathtaking two hundred page read, which does urge you to watch the film with it in your hand. The film is probably more iconic and will outlast its snappy but perhaps more ironic source. Pointless middle-class angst seems like a remarkably tame subject now, but Webb does eviscerate it mercilessly. It gets into much more dangerous territory with its idea of a love affair. Frankly Benjamin is a scary stalker and Robinson Jr should stay well away from him. But at least in the book he is a convincing 21 rather than the dirty old man in a young mans suit Dustin Hoffman played him as.

EMP FALLOUT #1: More tubas

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 131 views

Akwid – “No Hay Manera”

The EMP pop conference mixes journalists and academics to good effect. They form a continuum whose parameters are argued and sketchily defined over three super-stimulating days. At one end of the continuum are the heavily jargonised theory papers which make zero concession to the untrained: the giveaway here is people using “speak to” when they mean “talk about” (“Can you speak to the specificity of identity in your ideas of the cyborg?” “I’m glad you asked me that”). At the other end are extended magazine features – hey hey listen to THIS and THIS! and THIS!!?. All my favourite papers were in the middle but some of the most useful were on that kind of fannish tip. Elijah Wald’s paper on the intermingling of nortena and hip-hop, for instance, liberally sprinkled with sound samples of which the most fascinating were by a band called Akwid. Here is an Akwid album) Wald concluded by exclaiming “We NEED more tubas in hip-hop”. I tracked down an Akwid track and was delighted to find that the band sounded just as entertaining as they did splashing colour into the EMP auditorium.


FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 583 views

You will notice:

– a new logo.
– the staff Top 10 is back.
– we are going to be an MP3 blog from now on, except for those entries when we’re not. We’re going to try and think of interesting ways to present and discuss MP3s.
– I’m going to have a purge/rebuild of the sidebar links to make them a bit more useful.

is the best politician the one who wins?

Blog 7Post a comment • 229 views

it’s not that complimentary to be known as a “good politician” (cf the phrase “he got off bcz he had a good lawyer”) – but is the victor in an election simply by DEFINITION the better politician? process-heads would i imagine argue – as they do in fact in re the evils of cynical legalistic gamesplaying – that the value of the system we have is that it works pretty well not DESPITE the gamesplaying but in fact through and out of the gamesplaying (ie a pol’s own ambitions, self-love, “technique” etc, combine w.all the other forces present to produce the NEEDED result, even or especially when this is distinct from the DESIRED or WILLED result). also “honest conviction” is NOT in itself enough, as any fule kno: better that a rogue get a good policy enacted than a saint fail*

on the other hand, ppl call eg churchill a GREAT politician bcz – apparently in the service of the Greater Anti-Tyranny Good of Humanity as a Whole blah blah – he oversaw the effective dismantlement of some of his own personal deepest commitments (viz to the continued health of the brit emp: he chose a course which saw the shut-down of the BE, yet stuck w.this the clearer it became) (and interestingly WSC skipped straight from “failed” to “great” w/o ever passing through “good”): eg churchill’s grebtness lies somewhat in the gritty selflessness (aka colossal vanity if you like) of his opportunism

i’m askin this i think cz i feel that
i. blair is the most cannily intuitively gifted politician of our times (by some way) , but
ii. if he wins BECAUSE of this, this may actually be a bad thing (it will demonstrate the effectiveness of all manner of dodgy shifts in process), and
iii. he may actually LOSE bcz of this (which makes no sense i know)

*(this is ps the second but more important weakness in the verit4s platform: rks = a villain who thinks himself a hero, but the constituency for the kind of hero he thinks he is is SMALL)


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 203 views

I stumbled across The End on BBC3 last Thursday, and a more jolly, optimistic programme you could not imagine to find in the schedules. An hour long show, predicated on Groundhog Day where a scientist trying to get to America to run his potentially world ending Black Hole generator is constantly scuppered by the world ending in other forms. So twice he is prevented from getting on the plane by an earthquake, a tsunami, he is quarantined due to a deadly virus outbreak and diverted because of a meteor strike. And the global threat du jour ? the Jellystone Supravolcano destroys much of North America before he can get there. Luckily for us though in the final scenario he makes it to New York, generates not a black hole but some “strangerons” which proceed to gobble up Planet Earth. Like I say all jolly stuff.

Also rather cheap stuff. The program was on the main a bit of stealth recycling. The hour contained about twenty minutes of original acting, plus constant bogus news reports (the BBC love using bogus news reports to tell us the plot these days). The incidental TV?s (in Curry’s and at the airport) seemed to be stuck on some sort of Horizon Channel, as all of the explanatory science bits were all cobbled together from old editions of BBC2’s flagship science show. Amusingly they were all much the same.
a) Scienitists tell us about the mechanics of disaster
b) Tell us that it is already long overdue
c) Say, in funereal terms “It is not a matter of if it will happen, rather when!!!”
The only exception to this was the Black Hole generator which everyone tended to agree was about as dangerous as winning the lottery three weeks in a row. Which doesn’t sound dangerous to me at all.

It should also be noted that these world ending scenarios tended actually to just destroy the US or Germany. No idea why these two countries were constantly singled out.

does ANYONE know ANYONE who thinks simon hoggart is any good?

Blog 7Post a comment • 788 views


i have to confess it is stuff like THIS which turns me most chomskyish abt the uk press: i find it reactionary, intellectually corrupt, cynical, diversionary ect ect PLUS ALSO NEVER EVER CLEVER OR FUNNY!!?!

Biggest Star Wars fan loves ep 3

Do You SeePost a comment • 358 views

“Look, this is a movie I was genetically predisposed to love” says Kevin Smith. At no point does he say “It’s daaaaaarrk, innit”

Apr 05

Won’t Play Your Silly Games

TMFDPost a comment • 699 views

We had an offsite middle management meeting in Croydon yesterday. It was everything you might expect an offsite middle management meeting in Croydon to be, including the dread words on the agenda “interactive game”. When you are a small child and dislike games, you are told that in real life you will have to do things you don’t like and compulsory games are good training for this. What they don’t mention is that the “things you don’t like” will in fact include compulsory games, without even the figleaf of exercise to justify them.

Actually I did bunk off the game yesterday – all four of our department’s representatives bundled into our head of charting’s car during a drinks break and made a run for it before the fun got underway. It turned out that the game involved creating and performing a short ‘sketch’ in which a business manager was received as a hero in the pub for something they’d done for the company. Everyone canvassed described it as excruciating. I guess the idea was to encourage us to take pride in our jobs but all these things do is put an embarrassing gloss on an otherwise productive day.

FUN MUST BE OPTIONAL OR IT ISN’T FUN. I don’t understand why this isn’t a universally accepted piece of common sense. There is nothing worse for morale than being forced to do something unneccessary and unpleasant in the name of entertainment: whereas if you get to opt out and then discover that you are missing out you’ll be much more likely to join the game next time. I’ve found that “creative” people in companies tend to be fiercely dogmatic, though: embarrassment or reticence is to them a sin that needs to be frequently and publically expunged.