Posts from May 2005

May 05

The Invention of Bad

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,392 views

I’m thinking a bit about childhood tastes at the moment*. What I’m quite interested in is the moment at which a kid gets the level of visual sophistication which allows them to identify a visual effect as ‘rubbish’. Be it a bit of cheap SFX, or poor animation, or a badly constructed set, there’s a point at which the suspension of disbelief departs.

Actually even calling it ‘suspension of disbelief’ is wrong – there’s no disbelief to be suspended. There’s an awareness (beyond an age I can’t even remember for myself) that what’s being watched isn’t ‘real’ but there’s no sense that certain things are being wilfully ignored by young children.

I’m not sure older children suspend disbelief, either: when they notice something they dislike they can turn against it very quickly. I kept watching Dr Who** in the late 80s out of habit and despair at the show’s apparent decline: when I returned to it as an adult I was shocked to find that several late episodes were regarded as very intelligent, well-acted near-classics. All I remembered was the naff designs and crappy lumbering monsters.

Watching old TV shows as an adult I’m able to ignore the quality of the effects at will. The circle seems complete – from ignoring crappiness unconsciously, through being hypersensitive to it, to simply not factoring it in critically. But occasionally I still get an odd jolt. In one particular old Who episode, a supporting villain was aged into a skeleton. This terrified me, my only real behind-the-sofa moment. In my memory not only was the effect wonderful but the whole tone of the scene was creepy and dramatic. In fact the effect was awful, the actor hammy and the scene played at least half for laughs. So how did I fill in those gaps? I thought of this while watching Saturday’s episode, with its morphing CGI gas mask faces. “Wow, that’s a bit ropey” I thought, and then thought that a 6 year old watching would never forget it. This isn’t a nostalgic wish to be less sophisticated, more groping for where and how ‘sophistication’ develops.

*OK, for several years now.
**come on, you knew it was coming.

Football Reports #2 – The Tabloids

TMFDPost a comment • 241 views

The tabloids often stumble across a decent pun (I remember the Freund or Foe headline for a Spurs vs West Ham game some seasons back that sadly can never happen again). But for each of these there is a counterpoint in Chop Souey and Kieran Dire. Over and over again.

I find the reports themselves aren’t too dissimilar to the broadsheets, although the format is rather fractious and complimented by more action-orientated photographs. Paragraphs are generally shorter and punctuated with brassy headings, ‘Cruel’ and ‘Giant’ for the cup final on Saturday though the references are oblique.

What I like about the tabloids are the player scores. Objectivity and memory are minor factors in determining these marks out of ten. Cross-referencing to the report itself is another reconciliation process fraught with auditing issues. It goes something like this: All players score sixes or sevens unless, scored a goal = eight, sent off = four.

Earlier in the season, Juan Ugarte of Wrexham scored 5 in a 6-4 win. The NOTW gave him an 8. I also remember the same paper giving the Czech tackle monster Tomas Repka a zero after one shite performance. And it flattered him.

Football Reports #1

TMFDPost a comment • 334 views

I’ve been giving a little thought to what I like and dislike about football match reports.

The best ones translate like an impressionist painting; expressing the feel of a game without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of corner counts and possession. Chronological reporting or (more crass) obvious bias are the worst and I generally find that last gasp equalisers or late winners skewer the report as (I guess) it’s mostly written by the final whistle and balanced towards the result after 85 minutes or so.

The stretched analogy is another process which irritates me. At its best, say Stuart Hall fixing on Imperial Rome or a Russian Circus and wrapping his report around it, you’re carried along in the slipstream. Delivery plays a part of course, but others stretch the theme until it snaps under tenuous pressure. I recall a Bradford City report from the Sunday Times incorporating Peter Mandelson, the US election and Angus Deayton. The game itself barely got a mention and Bradford were relegated that day.

oh my god it almost made me WATCH IT!

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,008 views

“Father Dowling’s evil twin turns up again, and causes more mischief”

O emporia! O mores!

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 577 views

Posh food and steeling the nerves to buy it

Visiting Brindisa, the very lovely purveyor of quality Spanish goods in Clerkenwell, on the way to the first night of the Beijing Opera at Sadlers Wells, was always going to feel like something a woman with much more expensive shoes would do. Still, I manfully knuckled down to it, and managed to buy some nice chorizo, manchego cheese and bittersweet paprika without breaking down in gastro-social anxiety; not without effort, as a silver fox businessman (in his suit and tie) breezed through shedding ’50 notes while discussing the evening’s dinner with his (presumable) trophy blonde on a high-end mobile.

I had naturally trained for this boutique experience, having wandered around Fortnum & Mason‘s food hall the other week after taking in the recent Jenny Holzer exhibition off Berkeley Square (I find that combining culture with epicuriosity is beneficial, if conducive to terminal smugness). The piles of beautifully packaged tea, the extensive range of mustards, the vats of buffalo mozzarella: all this overloads the senses like a very expensive hangover. There is something very pornographic about it the whole experience, but maybe that’s just my middle-class anxiety showing. I will admit to getting freaked out by the 57 flavours of balsamic vinegar available at even the humblest of supermarkets, so the range of shiny boxes, packets and bags of exotic and potentially delicious goodies to be found within these exclusive temples to the guts are bewildering.

It’s really the quality of the bags and packing that set quality epiceries aside from the common herd (in experiential terms rather than product quality – to a certain extent, you do get what you pay for foodwise): Fortnum & Mason’s precious duck-egg blue in heavy-guage matt plastic (lovingly filled by one assistant wrapping while the other rings up the cost behind a nice oak counter), Selfridges‘ the familiar strident yellow, Brindisa’s fetchingly translucent so a hint of the products purchased coyly reveals itself. Until fairly recently, Krispy Kreme doughnuts were only available in the UK from a concession in Harrods, and a flat logo-strewn box awkwardly poking though a flimsy transparent bag and bruising commuters’ knees on the tube was a sign of the rich ironist popping home to host a terribly chi-chi dinner party. Now that every Tom, Dick and Tesco has a proprietary cabinet prominently displayed, one has to wonder if the same cachet applies.

Finch flying out from Johns

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 325 views

Reading this catty, and bitchy review of the new Johns show by Charlie Finch, of Caluga and Most Art Sucks fame, caused me deep anger. Not only because it seemed to be homophobic, but also because it is so canonical and not very creative—below an iconoclast like Finch?who is usually a complicated and astute critic. But the assumption that from the beginning, was that johns work was queer work?that his discretion and dislike of interpretation could be viewed as being closeted?that all of his work was queer work, and that the work got worse because of his hermeticism.

Now that his newest colleges, is his most sexual, the only work that directly concerns issues of male bodies working together queerly, people are on the attack. What happens if this is the only work that is gay?what if before this and after this, johns work was about formal concerns, about repeating colours, shapes and found objects reclaimed as high art. Could we talk about it in relation to classical connections to copreality (targets), or what language recreated as painting looks like or a wry comment on hi/lo classicism (The Ballantine).? Does every man who sucks cock make every peice of art about cock sucking ? Up to this series, it was not clear at all that he sucked cock at all. (and with the subject matter, title, and ambugities—the new works called Catenary (which is the muscle that holds up both the penis and the labia) is much closer to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster (which rises the testicles), a rampantly phallicly agressive peice towards women)

It is like what Rauschenberg said about Hughes assuming the Goat in the 1959 combine Monogram was about sodomy?namely wondering why he didn?t get run over more often, suggests the wry dismissal of critical tactics that both encounter. This is because, in the case of these two, the critics take the literal and refuse either the symbolic or the formal.

What if he is shallow? Am I letting him off the hook? Is it not just banal romanticism that we assume that every work is a coded work about the author?s deep personal trauma? Maybe Johns refuses to acknowledge biography because it rewards shallowness?

Worst idea ever*

TMFDPost a comment • 208 views

Please don’t do dis dis dis dis dis dis dis gol

* Apart from anything Sepp Blatter’s said.

May 05

What no Lenny and Terence?

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 482 views

First vital step in the rehabilitation of Carter USM – a tribute album! Nay, two tribute albums. And what’s this down at the bottom….”Art Brut – Falling On A Bruise”!??!! Whoa.

Crazy Frog Wuz Robbed

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 546 views

This week’s Stylus singles jukebox, with a mixed bag of comments from me. In not-commented-on news I gave high marks to Gwen S and Arcade Fire and a pretty good mark to Teedra Moses. In comments-not-printed because Stylus cannot take THE TRUTH, British Sea Power and the Magic Numbers both got a 2 from me. The BSP entry was, like the song, just the usual shit, and here’s what I said about the Magic Numbers, in best throwaway NME-in-’94 style.

There is a tiny, tiny part of me which still reacts with puppydog glee to the idea of bands writing “perfect pop tunes” and really hopes that the new bands hyped for same are going to be wonderful. In more ways than one, this is equivalent to habitually replying to dick enlargement spam. When I saw a Magic Numbers song on the download list I was honestly quite excited. As it happens though my personal first rule for writing perfect pop songs goes “Sound as little as possible like The Thrills” so you can imagine how fucked off I am right now. [2]

Ten ways to avoid annoying your waiter

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 414 views

It has been a trying weekend at the restaurant, and as I contemplate one more shift before some blessed days off it occurs to me that if diners abided by a few simple rules the entire experience would be a lot more enjoyable. For us, anyway.

1) If you should hear the crash of plates or glasses as one of our harrassed and overworked staff momentarily loses their grip (or possibly is caused to by a thoughtless customer), do NOT call attention to with cries of “wahey” or “sack the juggler!”. This does not make you a hearty bon viveur, an amiable observer of life’s vicissitudes. It makes you a cunt.

2) If a waiter comes bearing a tray of drinks, do NOT start taking them off the tray where they have been so carefully balanced, as it tends to lead to 1.

3) Similarly, do NOT try tidying up the plates and stacking them for us. We’re better at it than you.

4) When ordering garlic bread, DO order it in the style of Peter Kaye. Garlic? Bread? We just love that, and at no point have we ever heard that before. Bonus points if you follow up with cheese? cake? you brain-dead parrot.

5) Do NOT wander off from your table to the bar to order drinks. See that guy there in the waistcoat? The one with the order pad and the pen? That’s a waiter. Don’t see him? You’re in a Wacky Warehouse.

6) DO ask us half an hour after last orders for a taxi. We see it as our bounden responsibility to get you home safe and sound, and very much enjoy negotiating with surly minicab firms at one in the morning.

7) Do NOT, however, ask us for more drinks whilst you’re waiting. Remember half an hour ago, when I told you the bar was shutting? What did you think I meant by that?
And whose fault, precisely, is it that you don’t have a taxi booked? Whose?

8) When in a large party DO pay for all your drinks individually as you go. In no way is that a massive fucking nuisance. Better yet, when the bill comes, why not spend half an hour arguing over who had what, scrooge? After all, that Garlic? Bread? costs at least a whole pound.

9) Waitresses love attention from drunken men. Make sure to tell her how pretty she is at every possible opportunity (in fact, without wishing to give the game away, most of my waitrsses fancy every single man who walks through the door).

10) Finally, there is no reason whatsoever to turn up when you say you will. We only do table plans for a laugh, anyway. The kitchen won’t be at all bothered if fifty meals come on at the same time because all the seven thirty bookings turn up at eight. The ovens, like the TARDIS have an infinite amount of space inside.