alexsarll: (default)
It is, as has been widely observed, Spring. Markedly earlier than last year, albeit marred by the loss of several trees which always made my commute a little less of a chore (lost to developers' cupidity, too, rather than the storms). Though I did also get to see some of the more impressive consequences of the storms when I took a trip down to the margin of the English Riviera to see the Dawlish destruction (and peculiar retail complex Trago Mills, which was a scene of carnage in an existential rather than a weather-damage sense).

Back in London, I've been to a model railway show, which apart from its inherent delights (tiny trains!) was a real corrective to any idea that the crowd at the Geeks Inc Doctor Who and comics pub quizzes could be considered particularly male-heavy or poorly-socialised. I've learned that some pubs think a table booking is for a two-hour stretch (yes, that is 'pub', not 'prestigious restaurant'). I attended a late opening at the Wallace Collection and enjoyed the empty rooms more than the performances, especially when we found the armour you could try on. I've taken pointlessly precarious routes across the junction of the Limehouse Cut and Bow Creek, had the first ice creams of the season, marked Purim and encountered the usual run of new pubs, some to be cherished (the North Pole and its range of oddly appropriate ciders) and others less so.

Not very many gigs lately, and two of the ones there were were at Paper Dress, a thoroughly Hoxton boutique/venue hybrid which is a lot less annoying than that description would have guaranteed a few years back. Both Mikey Georgeson and the Soft Close-Ups did pretty well there, which I suppose indicates that they at least pay proper attention to sound &c, rather than treating the juxtaposition of functions as sufficient gimmick in itself. Would that all venues could say the same. The last time I went to Power Lunches, they were steadily running out of drinks through the evening, in the manner of shambolic venues everywhere. This time, they had a solution to that - don't have anyone serving (upstairs) until the first band takes to the stage (downstairs). And, just to make absolutely sure there's a rude cunt talking at the back of gigs at your venue, why not hire him as the sound engineer? Though even he had the sense to shut up during Quimper. As who wouldn't, because while they're lovely folk offstage, during the performance they seem to channel something altogether alien and unfriendly (this is a good thing, obviously). Next up was Pete Um, of whom I've heard much and by whom I've heard a little, but whom I've never seen live. This turns out to have been a major oversight. Somewhere, in a world where the story of pop begins with and is dominated by John Shuttleworth, punk sounded like this.
Had something of a disagreement with the minicab driver after; fortunately, weaponised posh accents won the day for the cause of justice. See, they're not just for destroying the structure of the nation.
alexsarll: (crest)
So that was Christmas. Wondering whether to take the decorations down today or tomorrow; will Sunday evening or Monday morning have its inherent melancholy more heightened by the task? There were moments when I felt suitably festive - a binge of spooky BBC festive classics and mulled cider, seeing the Covent Garden lights and the miniature (but still pretty enormous) London made from lego in a walk-through snowglobe, the afternoon party with so much booze and so many small people one could barely move - but it always seemed to dissipate again. I suppose the late getaway, with the added stress of the transport Christmapocalypse, was always likely to shred that careful accumulation of misty goodwill.

I don't appear to have updated on my general movements since mid-October, either. Homerton, for instance, turns out to have some OK pubs and bars now, even if they are fuller still of beards than other areas of East London (the Islamic Republic possibly excepted).
The Museum of Childhood - wonderful, if it didn't have so many live children on the loose. Lots of toys one remembers fondly, at least one I used to have and knew even at the time was a bit shit, but the item that transfixed me most was that fabulous mother=-of-pearl Chinese diorama, like blue-and-white porcelain's pattern somehow brought into fragile, solid life.
My year's ticket for the Transport Museum has now expired, but I did manage to get in a visit without the Cthulhuchild who - fond as I am of him - does just tend to want to play on the trams and buses. Whereas solo, I can look at vintage posters and disused typefaces and letters from Victorian commuters, which for some unaccountable reason are things of no interest to toddlers.
The Inns of Court in autumn are fabulously autumnal. And do me the service of saving me a trip to Cambridge, because they feel so much like a college I never quite got around to visiting, and so the nostalgia is less pointed than if I went back now to one of the ones I did.
The Earl Haig Memorial Hall in Crouch End has finally opened up, its imperialist trappings intact, but now host to all manner of entertainments for the slightly-less-manic-than-we-were local. Perfect timing, really, given all the attention its namesake will be getting this year.
Lance Parkin, my favourite Doctor Who writer, launched his very good biography of Alan Moore, my favourite comics writer, with a live interview (and film screening, and so forth). The footage is here, though I've not listened to it myself in case I am too embarrassingly audible as the one person thoroughly amused by the line "What can Brian Lumley teach us?"

The slightly too pat, but still moderately fun, revenge-on-idiots comedy God Bless America appears to be the only film I've seen in ages, until I finally got round to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa last night. Which was...quite good? Fairly amusing, surprisingly engaged with the very real plight of local radio in the 21st century, but not half so side-splitting as I'd been given to understand. There was also the Doctor Who anniversary, of course, which for all the furious initial back-and-forth on other, more rapid-response sectors of the Internet, seems to have bred a fair degree of consensus. With which I agree: 'The Fiveish Doctors' was amazing, ditto An Adventure in Space and Time bar Reece Shearsmith. The Day of the Doctor was a stunning achievement in making concentrated fanwank a coherent and exciting show for die-hard and casual viewer alike, which made the saggy mess of The Time of the Doctor all the more disappointing. But thank goodness it all came right at the end, and hurrah for Capaldi.
alexsarll: (default)
Feels like life has been fairly quiet of late, (except when it hasn't, of course - Hyde Park picnics, Leyton pubs that are at least decently apologetic about hating my people, SE14's answer to the Shaftesbury). But in early summer, especially this year as it's still picking up from the tardy spring, I don't mind that. The evenings are still simply beautiful, without that complex melancholy they acquire later on - though it would help if I had the park for them, when instead it's being turned into some sort of prison camp for Madchester arseholes (sorry, tautology, I know). Still, I've had my chances to go a-roaming - up trees, over banks, through hedges and across a Heath resplendent with buttercups like I've never seen. Even got to share a tree with a jay at one point - a much better companion than parakeets, who may be beautiful, but in prolonged proximity are no better than the sort of person who wears Beats By Dre headspeakers. Guessed a stranger's dog's name, too - though given my guess was Slobberchops, based on obvious physical features, I don't think that's much proof of psychic potential.

Been watching a lot of adventure series lately - The Avengers, Brisco County Jr, Adventure Time - and hardly any films. One exception: Night of the Eagle, which as the name suggests is close kin to the MR James adaptation Night of the Demon. Peter Wyngarde - excellent value as ever - plays a sixties Richard Dawkins who discovers his wife's a closet witch and makes her burn her "protections", after which their lives go about as smoothly as you'd expect. There are loose plot threads all over the place and it doesn't even seem quite sure whether magic works or not in its world, but it's thoroughly eerie nonetheless. Spartacus ended for good, and Doctor Who for now; the former was the downer it was always going to be, the latter much better than I'd dared expect, though it may have helped that I had the contrast of having just finished the rambling Reign of Terror, the first full Hartnell I've attempted in a decade or more.

And then after 'The Name of the Doctor' there was Eurovision, in which as ever the worthy victor was robbed - this time it was Romania (or rather Romoania) with the gay dubstep vampire. We left after that and Bonnie Tyler to see The French Electric live down the road, sounding like the National before they went boring, covering songs from Dare! and getting away with it. They were followed by a tragic act who could have sounded like Mazzy Star or Lana del Rey if only the drums had been turned down (or preferably off), which was my cue to depart. Thee Faction and Joanne Joanne at the Buffalo Bar were excellent, same as last time they played there together, and once again I drank entirely too much. Possibly because I'd realised that, if they're a genderswapped Duran Duran and Keith and I had been hanging with them in the pub earlier, that made us genderswapped 'Girls on Film' video babes. I should possibly be seeing them again tonight, but outside was calling, and I'm still in a certain amount of gig-shock after seeing the Art Brut birthday gig on what they weren't allowed to call the Glass Ceiling Tour. Ten years! They've learned a lot in that time, though. And the Scala...I'd forgotten how much I liked that venue. I'd forgotten how much I like the rare big gig - and it turns out they do still exist - where the crowd Get It. And the support slot from Keith et al wasn't bad either - I think the best show I've seen them do since the Devant support with the spiralling, near-infinite 'One Thing After Another'. They're a big band, a big stage suits them.

Anyway, my dears, I think I need another cup of decaf tea before Justified. It's a rock'n'roll life and no mistake.
alexsarll: (default)
So, since last posting, I've been to new places. Kensal Green, land of the golden Nando's, whose great graveyard is home to many grand figures whose resting places we didn't find, and one murderous quack of whom I might still be ignorant were his epitaph not so passive-aggressive. More exciting still, a lovely long weekend in Margate! Which in places is a sort of North-London-on-sea, as against Brighton, which is of course East-London-on-sea. [ profile] xandratheblue chose well when she booked us into the Walpole Bay Hotel, which is essentially the sort of place Poirot stays, but festooned with Tracey Emin napkin art, alarming mannequins, a room full of hats and so forth. If Sir John Soane were a hotelier, the result would be along these lines. A similar spirit of eccentricity pervades the town; there's the old world stuff, like the hotel, the Shell Grotto, the Mad Hatter's tearoom and the decrepit lido; but there's also the huge array of wind turbines out at sea who can be dimly seen on the less cloudy days, standing sentinel, and the surprising number of rockabillies for a fairly small town. It is, in sum, Unusual, mostly in lovely ways. And especially so last weekend, because we'd unwittingly turned up at the same time as GEEK, a computer-game-centred thing which enabled Alex to talk knowledgeably about computer games while I pouted at the lack of the advertised strawberry cider. In your gender-defined face, gender roles. The other result of this was that whenever we attempted to just go look at some art, we kept on getting lured into INTERACTING. Fine when it was the squishy stuff in Turner Contemporary, less so when we were sent on a somewhat confused melon-themed treasure hunt/RPG around town, or found that what we'd thought was a small gallery with a show of automata was in fact a couple's basement workshop. Still, at least the latter meant we got tea. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy all the community art, you understand, so much as I wasn't expecting it. And being ambushed by art does start to make one a little nervous after a while.

Margate also has one of two very fine pubs to which I've been introduced recently, the Lifeboat, which doesn't quite have a sea view but otherwise - casks of local cider, lots of wood, a roaring fire - is pretty much how I picture the ideal seaside pub, just as the Earl of Essex is exactly the pub I always hope to find in quiet London backstreets. Both are let down only by some of their food; take your own ketchup to the Lifeboat (outragrously, there's none on the premises!), and avoid the risotto at the Earl.

All the TV I've watched lately has been going for an overall mood of 'unsettling'. Black Mirror, still not quite perfect, but better to have Charlie Brooker not quite being Rod Serling on C4 than degenerating into Harry Hill on the BBC. Utopia, which managed that rare feat of genuinely shocking violence (as much in how it was shot as in who was shot, stabbed, and so forth) in a conspiracy thriller which didn't feel as played-out as the rest of the recent glut of conspiracy thrillers - maybe because spoilers ). Breaking Bad, where the second series had fewer moments of 'Go Walter!' than the first, and a lot more wincing. Even the Honor Blackman episodes of The Avengers all seemed to be predicated on Steed's uncertain loyalties, and beyond that to be odd in so far as they still didn't quite feel like The Avengers yet, and predicated their plots on such TV-friendly themes as the Companies Act 1928, and the evasion of inheritance tax. Whereas the few films I've watched have been thoroughly straightforward good vs evil stuff, with square-jawed heroes - Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, Christopher Reeve in Superman, which is every bit as charming and *right* as I remember from childhood, not to mention much smarter than I ever picked up on.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Snow again, and I've not posted since the last bout, in which I got to cross St James' Park by twilight. It's not my favourite London park, but that little chalet by the lake does look ludicrously idyllic when the weather's this Alpine. I was there in between my inaugural visits to the museums Petrie (dry) and Grant (terrifying), and Parliament, where I was headed mainly to see Paddy Ashdown talk. And good heavens, he's still full of fire. I miss him.

So I went to see a Tarantino film in the cinema, which I've never done before (and it was Dalston Rio, where I've never been before, but which is rather nice, isn't it?). Django Unchained is neither as thorough an explanation of the monstrousness of slavery, nor as gloriously OTT an exploitation romp, as Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successor series. But it is pretty fine nonetheless, and oh, those landscapes looked magnificent on the big screen. Some - including Charlie Brooker, whom you would have hoped might know better - have complained that this isn't historically accurate, simply because it's not a tediously worthy slog, but the only time I found myself unconvinced by it was when they were discussing business at the table, with a lady present. Really? Beyond that, I think this is the most plausible South I've ever seen on screen. Interesting, too, to see Christoph Waltz, the link to Quentin's previous not-quite-history film, and wonder if his part as the Good German here was by way of an apology; certainly his last line was ventriloquising Tarantino.
Less seriously: Will Ferrell and the weird guy from The Hangover in The Campaign, a very silly film which, like Django, is far better on a serious issue (here the dirtiness of US politics) than an entire awards ceremony's worth of more desperately serious films on the same topic. It even has the alarming stuff liable to upset some viewers (warning: contains scenes of pug distress). Plus, it is clearly a love letter to Trading Places.

Comedy: Ben Van Der Velde was a bit too Mission for me (Dave Gorman, so much to answer for - that structure really is the bane of Edinburgh shows), but James W Smith did very well considering his planned show about whether he was ready for kids was derailed by the fact that yes, he's now expecting one ready or not! And admitting that to strangers 12 weeks into the pregnancy = very brave. Given which, you could forgive the show being rather unformed - much like the baby at this stage, I guess.

Gigs: I've seen a fair few acts I've seen before and they were still jolly good, but the news is the venues. Like: the Water Rats is returned to us! And still has one of the same bar staff. Like: there's a half-decent venue just across Finsbury Park from me, and how come nobody I know has played there before? Or clubwise, the basement of Aces and Eights, which is just like all those basement venues we used to go to which I thought had all been tidied up and sold off. Pubwise, the Catford Bridge Tavern - a proper old pub, and I am much more likely to forgive the pint of cider I ordered being off if it is one of five draught ciders rather than the only bloody one.

Also, we completely owned the Monarch's Doctor Who quiz, even in the face of a BBC Worldwide team and other pro geeks. Result.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Last weekend, I got the equivalent of one of those experiences where people who baffle me go into a sauna (bad enough in itself), then run out into the snow. Saturday night: the first big gig I've been too in a year or more, Crystal Castles. Who at least have an audience smaller than those at the last big gig I went to, Magazine - they mostly appeared to be tiny children with brightly-coloured hair or Siouxsie Sioux eye make-up, which makes for an adorable agglomerate. Brixton Academy remains a great venue, despite the management's best efforts, and Crystal Castles continue to be one of the few modern electronic bands who really impress me, on account of having a bit of Digital Hardcore somewhere in their make-up - that old idea of a song at once physically painful and catchy. Plus, all the lightshow one generally only sees at gigs which are supposed to be A Bit Much in films. In short: delicious overstimulation. And then, on Sunday, Boring, a day of talks devoted to the mundane. Obviously the idea is that considered in enough detail, the most superficially tedious things can reveal fascination - or terror, in the case of ASMR, a subculture of which I was happily unaware before [ profile] rhodri's talk.
Conclusion: they were both lots of fun. But I still have no intention of rushing out of a sauna into the snow, thanks all the same.

Otherwise: went for a wander with Paynter and found various odd little London delights along our way, all of which were supposed to be closed but, because it was one of those evenings, weren't. Such as a Soho gallery full of clocks become castles, and mutant taxidermy. Or an enormous free tire slide plonked in Leicester Square as promotion for a film where Wolverine plays the Easter Bunny. Finally managed to beat Charlie Higson and David Arnold at the pub quiz - but on a week where they weren't on form, so as to still only make third. Perhaps we shouldn't have named ourselves after a supervillain team, given their success rate? Saw the Pre-Raphaelite and Turner Prize exhibitions, each containing some good stuff alongside a great deal of embarrassing filler, though obviously the dead guys' ratio was a bit better. Went to another gig, at more my usual level, where Joanne Joanne were again delightful (they've started to incorporate songs from the cocaine soul years now), and Shrag played their song very well. Went on a Tubewalk, and discovered that in Lambeth it's easier to find leopard pigs than a bearable pub; the first was playing the sort of jazz that gives jazz a bad name, the second too full and too gastro for words (and had signs urging us to 'follow our banter online'), and the third was set on closing half of its floorspace for no apparent reason. And they wonder why people prefer to drink at home now.

The Guard is a black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson, a man whose face is so expressive that I could happily watch a film of him doing his weekly shop. It somehow comes across as low key in spite of all the swearing and violence - much like In Bruges, which also stars him and whose director is The Guard's director's brother. Also like In Bruges, the rest of the cast is packed with great actors - Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong as a particularly philosophical drug dealer, Don Cheadle as the FBI agent out of water in rural Ireland. Strangely moving, unlike How to Steal a Million, which I'd seen years ago and which is still as gorgeously empty as prime Wodehouse, a beautiful insubstantial rainbow which would evaporate without Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn anchoring it by sheer charm. Both are of course vastly better than Prometheus, two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing but the bleeding obvious. But then, I've already discussed that on Facebook, haven't I? The same place we all now tend to put anything pithy, anything intended to get a mass response. The latest wave of spambots has taken me back to a few old entries on here, just to delete their spoor, and I'm amazed each time by what a busy poster I was. So young, too - there's a spot of anti-RTD hysteria in one of the entries I saw which makes me sound about 12. Even some of the longer, more considered content isn't here anymore - my book reviews are on Goodreads now. And yet, this is kept going, in part simply because it has been kept going, and so it would seem crazy to abandon it now - a very London attitude, beyond which, I never did like lines drawn under the past. And I suppose now, unlike February, June, July and October 2012, I've made it at least one more month with more than a single post. Livejournal Abides.
alexsarll: (Default)
Been on jury service this past week, and while obviously I can't say anything about what happens inside, I can say that it chucks out earlier than work, and closer to home, and while this weather has been a little hot, better now than in the rain, right? So I can stop off in a park to read and bump into the Cthulhuchild and family en route to the slides, or wander via Ally Pally to see the inflatable Stonehenge (though I didn't bounce myself - far too many rules for something called Sacrilege). And I have to admit, the Olympics haven't been the bane I thought they would. Transport has been standing up, there's a certain quiet happiness in the air, and even if I still don't care myself who done the best swim or's all very nice. Perhaps because everyone is on the same side, as against that nasty tribalist twinge to the footballism? Even the opening ceremony, which I skipped because a) sport and b) it's a decade since Danny Boyle made a decent film - well, by the sound of it modern masques are more his forte than films now. I was rewarded with the emptiest streets I have ever seen in Finsbury Park or Dalston, though.

Other expeditions:
Peckham Rye, a park I've never quite found before, for the first picnic in too long. I think we got out of the habit of organising them, when summer seemed to have turned traitor. They have been missed.
Camden for a quiet afternoon pint, which turned into a pub crawl home. If nothing else, I have now finally been to Kentish Town's Pineapple. It is quite good.
Devon, to see the parents. Did lots of active, rural things, like hefting logs up hills, and clambering around on cliffs just along from where there was that fatal landslide a few days later. Didn't die, obviously, because I'm not a loser. But I did get melancholy over the way the streams, beaches and fields in the distance always seem so unattainably lovely, and when you get there, they're perfectly pleasant but ultimately just a stream, or a beach, or a field. This point has already been made by better writers than me, of course. I think this feeling was accentuated by coming back on a Sunday, which may have been a mistake - instead of returning to London's bright lights and fun, it just feels like the end of the holiday.
alexsarll: (bernard)
So I'm reading back through the week's LJ, and seeing excited posts about the return of Soul Mole/Don't Stop Moving - which from the vantage point of The Future, I now know to have been gazumped, because most London venues are run by vermin. And I have a rotten cold. At the weekend. Thus far, 2012 is not going entirely to plan.
However! I did manage to drag myself out last night for a bit, so I've finally been inside Aces & Eights, which I've passed dozens of times and thought looked interesting - and indeed it does, having that American bar (but still doing pints) vibe that T Bird used to before their identity crisis. And on Friday Guided Missile put on a whole bill of bands who are all about the live experience (Keith TotP, the Angry Bees and the London Dirthole Company), and made me think Bill Drummond-influenced thoughts about the limitations of recorded music as a medium. Not that I'd go as far as Bill and write it off entirely, you understand, but part of the point of Bill Drummond is that he goes further than everyone else.
Also this week: I watched Hussein stand-in flick The Devil's Double, which is almost as good as I'd heard, and saw a Celeb! getting Papped! in Soho without having the faintest glimmer of a clue who she was.
Right. More Lemsip, then I need to brave Tesco. If nothing else, I suppose I can spread my sniffles to the gormless hordes who infest it on Sundays.
alexsarll: (Default)
So, last day of hols - and given it is general hols, I'm a little surprised there wasn't more going on yesterday. For a few years New Year's Day drinking seemed to be a thing, and I liked that, because it almost seems more important to get the new year off started than to round off the old - look forward instead of back. But Hell, the weather was frightful yesterday, and there was Sherlock to watch (best yet), and Hacks (passably amusing), and I also had Super, which is pretty much the mid-point between Kick-Ass and Defendor in terms of films about real-world superheroes. It stars that guy from the American Office who looks like an inbred dog, minor spoilers ) And it really shows up the problem with *real* real-world superheroes, which is that even the best of them, like Phoenix Jones, are failing to hit criminals in the head with wrenches.

Before that: a birthday, which went to plan, and a New Year's Eve which didn't quite, both at N19. Dancing to ALL THE NINETIES at Never Forget, which I've been meaning and failing to attend since its arrival. The annual Freaky Trigger pub crawl, which I joined as it went in and out the Eagle, then followed through the horror of the Bavarian Beerhouse to the archetypal old man's pub that is the Prince Arthur, then high-fiving a small dog as we headed through Hoxton and into unknown territories, where pubs look set to be horrific, but serve their cider from earthenware flagons. It hasn't been a bad little week, all told.

In brief

Oct. 18th, 2011 07:58 am
alexsarll: (Default)
- I imagine when Cronenberg's Shivers came out, the parasites and the sex zombie behaviour they cause were pretty shocking, but now they can't compare to the fear and revulsion inspired by the styles worn by uninfected 1975 suburbanites.

- I like the Buffalo Bar, which is why it saddened me that after seeing dozens of gigs there with my umbrella safely in hand, one of their bouncers has now decided it is a problem - and worse, started quoting bullshit 'Health and Safety' and 'it's the law' claptrap to that effect.

- I need to find out why part of the Regent's Canal, not far from Little Venice, is lined by the aggressively private grounds of oddly squashed Regency palances. But I know that when I do it will be a disappointment. Still, I love the almost post-civilisational greenery of that part of town.

- Bevan 17 covering the Sugarcubes' 'Hit' was lovely. 47th Street Demon Exchange covering Therapy?'s 'Nowhere' slowly was inadvisable. Mr Solo covering Cypress Hill was...I don't know what that was.

- Sons of Anarchy came back from the debacle of the Oirish season with a finale which used one of my favourite narrative tricks, and not one I would normally have associated with this show. But also lots of badasses staring each other down. Obv.

- If David Shah hosts another night at the Wilmington he needs to give himself more stage time with the Soft Close-Ups, and parodic examples of the singer-songwriter genre a lot less.

- Community choirs performing in pubs: a lovely idea, so long as you're not too close to them.

- Enjoyed the Nuisance band's take on Blur, with [ profile] steve586 as that hitherto inconceivable creature, a Graham Coxon I don't want to punch. And for all that Nuisance invariably attracts some bell-ends, we had already seen the evening's finest en route, when a yellow Maserati got into a race with our bus, and literally every passenger on it was making jokes about the motorist's inevitably inadequate manhood.

- Amusing to see Hamas agreeing with the line from the old Israeli joke about how one Israeli is worth a thousand of theirs.

- The Tate's John Martin exhibition is excellent. Yes, maybe he couldn't do lightining or faces - the former more of a problem than the latter - but he's still the go-to man for shit getting real. When an empire - or a mountain - falls, John Martin is your man. Or, when you want the great timeless cities off in the corner of an immense Arcadian landscape where I could quite happily lounge for an infinity or two, he does those also. Wonderful.
alexsarll: (Default)
The headline would have to come out of order, and that's my stand-up/lecture/thing at Bright Club on Tuesday, which seemed to go down pretty well. I'm sort of tempted to put the text on here, because I can't see when I'm ever likely to need to give another comedic talk about Emperor Frederick II, but you never know...

- Paul Gravett giving a talk at the library about graphic novels, and slightly fluffing it. The guy is very smart, and engaging, and he knows his stuff, but he pitched this wrong. Too much of it was miserable autobiographical project after miserable autobiographical project and yes, that's exactly the way to get a reading group or broadsheet literary critic on board, but not this audience who were already reading comics. It's not the way to get the general public interested, either. Even if you don't want to talk about superheroes (and I can respect that, if only as entryism) then talk about Scott Pilgrim, Shaun Tan, The Walking Dead, the renaissance in crime comics, Bryan Talbot. Talk about the real variety in comics, not just the various settings from which people can extrude navel-gazing yawnfests.
- Runebound, which like Talisman takes place at the exact point where board games start to become simple roleplaying games. Yes, I am a geek, what of it?
- Spending more than an hour in the Camden World's End for the first time ever, and feeling very old, but strangely at home. I love that London, with all its infinitely diversified tribes, can still have somewhere that feels like The Indie Pub in a provincial town.
- [ profile] thedavidx's Guided Missile special, with the birthday boy covering Adam Ant songs, and the Deptford Beach Babes, and Dave Barbarossa's new band (nice drumming, shame about everything else), and Black Daniel whom I still don't quite get even though I was in the mood for them this time. Plus, the return of the 18 Carat Love Affair! Now a slightly looser, rockier proposition, a little less eighties. Not a transition of which I have often approved, but it suits them.
- Realising that not only had I finally, definitely found De Beauvoir Town, but I was drinking in it. Then going home to be disappointed by Boardwalk Empire, which I will still doubtless finish sooner or later, but which I am no longer cursing Murdoch for nabbing. Not to worry, there are still plenty of other things for which to curse him.
alexsarll: (Default)
Doesn't the weekend seem a long time ago now? Even more so for the approximately 50% of people I know who were in chalets, falling in love with Frightened Rabbit, I suppose. But London had its share of inadvisable festive drinking too. Red absinth was a bad idea. I've also finally been to the new pub at the end of the road, the Stapleton. Which is a lot less depressing than it was in its previous incarnation as the Larrick, but then you could still say that if they'd replaced the Larrick with a concentration camp where the furnaces were soundtracked by Avril Lavigne. The Stapleton, on the other hand, is Actually Rather Nice, strangely cosy for such a large space, helped by the most enormous Christmas tree I've seen indoors in ages.

Otherwise: viewing! I have another DVD rental trial thanks to Aug, and while I'm startled at some of the films that aren't available (I'm not talking obscurities either, but stuff starring Liz Taylor, or Orson Welles, or directed by Cronenberg) they did start well by sending me Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Which I want to say is a great film, but that would in some ways be untrue. It has a particularly annoying use of that crappy fake night-time effect you see in old colour movies, where they film through sunglasses and hope you won't notice the shadows. And the entire supporting cast is rubbish. But that sort of works, because be they wise antiquarian, or land speed record holder, or great bullfighter, none of them is anything in the face of myth. And Ava Gardner, as Pandora, and James Mason, as the Dutchman van der Zee, have all the grandeur of myths. As they dance around each other in the dream-like, vaguely Felliniesque port of Esperanza (no, the names aren't subtle) they are simply mesmerising, and everything around them partakes of that and becomes so too. Meaning that a film about the cursed immortal van der Zee's quest to escape this world has a camera that's utterly in love with it. Flawed, but well worth seeing.

I've been meaning to watch lesbian cult classic The Killing of Sister George for about a decade, and it was worth the wait. They don't make battleaxes like Beryl Reid anymore.

While I no longer hate Colin Baker Doctor Who like I used to, I still can't deny that most of his TV stories were rubbish. Vengeance on Varos is an exception. Mostly. Shown in 1985, it's a prescient vision of a society sedated by watching people tormented on TV (Jason Connery is a bit wooden in the victim's role, though still considerably more lifelike than Gillian McKeith) while rations are cut. The rulers are powerless figureheads, while unaccountable corporations grow fat through the insistence that there's no other way, and if their demands aren't met they'll simply leave. Admittedly, some of the enactment of this theme involves the old Who standby of wandering around corridors, narrowly avoiding a series of baffling and inconsistent traps, but the sentiment and vision are there, and so is most of the script. Excellent work from Martin Jarvis as the poor bloody Governor, too. He almost makes one feel sympathy for modern politicians. Almost.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
A few visits this week to remodellings. Around where I used to work, there's a whole stretch along the edge of Pimlico which seems to have suddenly gone up in the world, and most shocking of these gentrifications is the Cask. Formerly a dog rough estate pub, I suppose it always had potential if only because the estate in question consists of buildings called Noel Coward House and Aubrey Beardsley House, and looks like a red brick Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And now the old Tram is a genteel, polished wood affair, more gastro than I normally like a pub but somehow getting away with it, and offering booze that wouldn't be out of place at Ale Meat Cider. Approved.
Similarly, North Library's renovation has worked out nicely. Too often library renovations seem to end up with more 'accessibility' and fewer books, but this is the opposite, and while the old shelves are gone, there's a delightfully labyrinthine aspect to the new ones. And, one of the books in pride of place for the relaunch is a shiny new copy of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire.
Finally, the Silver Bullet, another rubbish pub reborn; it's now the venue which I'd always felt was the one thing Finsbury Park really lacked. It's been there for a while, I was just waiting 'til it hosted a band I wanted to see. Last night was Performance, and they played 'Surrender', so I was happy. Now all we need to do is see about getting all the bands I know with local members to play a local gig for local people there.

Zowie Bowie's debut feature, Moon, perhaps impressed me less than viewers without a science fiction background, because conceptually there wasn't much new to it - but it was beautifully executed. And if you're going to make a film that's pretty much all one actor, who has to be both versatile and mesmeric, then Sam Rockwell is a hard choice to beat.

Russell T Davies' The Writer's Tale is excellent. I know we all loved nitpicking his Who, comparing his scripts unfavourably to Moffat's and so forth - and we were right to do so, and if you come to this book expecting much in the way of mea culpa, you're going to be disappointed. At times, you'll even be shocked by how close he came to being even worse - it's only his correspondent here, DWM's Ben Cook, and Moffat, who dissuaded Rusty from bringing back the sodding Daleks, again, for David Tennant's finale. But this is also the man who wrote Midnight and Turn Left. Who moved heaven and Earth to bring back Doctor Who, and made of it something which the public and - mostly - the fans could love. And this is the behind the scenes story of how he did it, or at least the bit from Voyage of the Damned onwards. It is also a very useful book for writers generally (anything Who-specific is footnoted), not to mention a hefty 700 pages which can be applied firmly to the head of any luddite fool who says the era of the email and text means we'll no longer get collected correspondences. There are fascinating glimpses of stories as they might have been - Planet of the Dead was almost a Star Trek pastiche, or might have brought back the Chelonians long before Moffat did. Kate Winslet was the first choice for River Song. There's a brilliantly slashy Master/Master scene that was never going to make it to TV, but the script survives here. The title 'Death of the Doctor' floated around the main series for a while before ending up on Sarah Jane, as did the idea of a mysteriously empty London from this week's episode. And so on. But the most exciting bit is that sometimes, as Davies is tapping out an email to Cook, he's basically thinking aloud, and we see the exact moment an idea is born into the world. Here you will find the exact moment when it becomes clear that Wilf knocking will mark the Doctor's end. And for all the things I'd have liked him to have done differently, for all the moments where he comes across as a bit of a daft old queen, the abiding feeling which remains is of a man who loves TV in general and Doctor Who in particular, and good on him.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Tom McCarthy's C made the Booker shortlist and had lots of people talking about a rediscovered ambition in the British novel (by which they of course mean literary novel). And yes, OK, it's not about adultery in Muswell Hill, or indeed adultery among the Victorians. It's about sex, drugs, war and the birth of the modern, about secret connections and correspondences, and above all communications. It depicts a dizzying world underlaid by occult traceries. Does that sound familiar? It should, because it is quite blatantly a shorter, less lunatic Gravity's Rainbow. Is that really so impressive? There are some wonderful passages in here, paragraphs about codes, signals - and thus, implicitly, the novel itself - which sparkle with insight and poetry. But which also make me think that McCarthy might be a lot better off as an essayist.

Hallowe'en weekend obviously meant packing in as much spookiness as possible, starting on Wednesday with a trip to the Crypt Gallery on Euston Road. It's a wonderful space, which even saved work I wouldn't have found too interesting in the normal white-walled room, and made good pieces better; my friend's film piece had a caryatid's jug (not like that) outside its alcove door, and the rubbings of the Bank of England seemed like Rosetta stones. There was, however, one piece which in any setting could only have looked like a bell-end.
Friday was perhaps not that spectral; Ale Meat Cider did have on one cider called The Devil's Device, but it was overshadowed (de-shadowed?) by an incredibly cheerful dog called Jasper. Saturday I did my usual and dressed up as Dracula (the Christopher Lee version this year, thanks to Mark Gatiss reminding me of the joy of Hammer) for a trip to the Lexington. And Sunday was centred on the Psychoville special - I liked that they gave everything but the framing story to unreliable narrators, so freeing us from any worry about canonicity or resolving last season's cliffhanger, and leaving them free to concentrate on chilling the blood. Not that any of it could be quite such agonising viewing as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip last night. So uneventful, yet so very savage.

Solomon Kane is one of the other, less famous creations of Conan author Robert E Howard. He's a Puritan swordsman whose defining characteristic is his determination; he does what needs to be done. Solomon Kane is a film in which James Purefoy supposedly plays him. Except here he's a dithering arse, who having done evil in the past now thinks that only being peaceful - to the point of allowing children to be murdered in front of him - can save his soul. Now, these scenes have a valid point to make about the moral bankruptcy of pacifism, but they're deeply anachronistic for the morality of 1601 in general, nevermind the character of Solomon Kane. But this is not a film much bothered about anachronism or fidelity; we also see the great Puritan taking refuge in a monastery (itself a fairly rare commodity in England in 1601). Purefoy is also affecting what's meant to be a Devon accent but in fact serves only to extinguish his sex appeal, and several times we see pistols (one-shot weapons back then) used to put the wounded out of their misery, rather than saved for emergencies. On top of which, they make the same mistake as the Judge Dredd film; a character who is largely meant to be a force of nature ends up in an all too human plot about his family. It's not wholly worthless - the opening scenes in Africa get the authentically Howard feel in for some carnage both human and demonic - but it's still a massive misfire.
alexsarll: (Default)
I was in a radio version of The Oxford Dons. You can download it here. But change the price to zero before doing so.

So. The last week, what's to report? Let's start with Saturday, because Saturday was awesome. I like Glam Racket but I'm not sure I've ever stayed for a whole one before. This time I did and...Bowie and glitter and kissing, oh my. Plus bonkers songs I'd never heard before ('Pantherman') or had never realised were quite as dodgy as they actually are (Slade's 'Skweeze Me Pleeze Me', there, with the lyric "And I thought you might like to know that when a girl means yes she says no"). Proxy Music were live, showing off their new Eno who definitely looks more the part, but perhaps doesn't quite have the presence to front two solo tracks. Other expansions include a very fetching new female Andy Mackay, a Lene Lovich cover (a bit off-message, but still pretty good) and the encore - 'Mother of Pearl'. I always said their repertoire should include at least the third Roxy Music album, which even Eno (who had just been sacked) knows is their best. And now it does. Bliss. Before that I'd been in the Pembury. I'd heard a lot about the Pembury but never been there before, and it seems to be essentially a family-friendly Ale Meat Cider, without the cider. Well, they had one, and it was OK, but it seemed to take them about half an hour to change the barrel at one point. Why must they persecute my people so? This was an especially severe contrast given Ale Meat Cider had this week had something like seven or eight ciders on, including one called Moonshine which tasted like Christmas.
Friday was [ profile] rhodri's birthday, meaning the entire internet was crammed into the Hope & Anchor, even down to such rarities as [ profile] dafinki and [ profile] strange_powers. The birthday boy's own Gentlemen's Agreement are still way too smooth for the venues I see them in (they should be in an eighties cocktail bar at all times, ideally one with red leather sofas), but headliners Scaramanga Six suited the sweaty rock'n'roll basement perfectly, even if one of their singers does look uncannily like Derren Brown's tougher brother. I especially liked the track which begins with a breakneck spoken word section ending "You should have killed me when you had the chance!"
Then on to No Comment, the first time I've been upstairs at the Garage since it had the refurb and embarrassing rename. I'm nothing like an expert on industrial, meaning I only recognised two tracks and one of those was Empirion's mix of 'Firestarter' which at the time I didn't really approve of. But after all these years, I can admit that it's very good for stomping around in. There is, however, a limit to how much stomping one can do in cowboy boots (my only shoes capable of taking the weekend's torrential rain) so I didn't make it to the end.

I've watched two films this past week: Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen's Zack and Miri make a P0rno, which is a lot better than I'd heard, and Hot Tub Time Machine, which isn't. Both have Craig Robinson, an actor I have never knowingly seen before (though apparently he was in Pineapple Express), in supporting roles. This may be the least noteworthy coincidence ever, yet I am noting it nonetheless, because that's just how I roll.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
...though at times it still didn't feel all that massive. Saturday night, for instance, seemed to have nothing much doing so we just ended up down the local, where a possibly misguided attempt was made to embiggen proceedings via the medium of pink vodka. And on Sunday, walking down through Islington to see the Deptford Beach Babes, every pub I passed was Sunday quiet not Bank Holiday Sunday busy, and most other venues seemed to be shut. The DBB were playing the Cock Tavern in Smithfield, of which I'd heard but never before had cause to visit. And if I ever do again it won't be in anything like peak time, because as a man who should know observed, the bar staff seemed to be on ketamine. Weird place even beyond that, feeling like it should be hosting a provincial wedding reception rather than a suave rockabilly crowd. The Babes were excellent, and for the first time I was in a position to see their drummer, who can only be described as real horrorshow - not just fun to watch but a proper performer, miming ennui, possession and craze as appropriate. The only other acts I caught, given the dearth of service, were two burlesque girls. I have seen burlesque performers who did something a bit different, every now and then, but these were more at the 'striptease except it's classy because there's no fake tan' end of the bracket. Not that they didn't have nice breasts, but it's still not really art, is it?
(Also: bad form of the promoters to say the night was £6.66 and then actually charge seven quid. Yes, I was wondering what the Hell their float must look like, so I'd brought sixpence in coppers because I'm thoughtful like that. Charge what you like for your night, but stick to what you said, no matter what. There was also a terribly intrusive photographer, but I'm not sure whether he was theirs or an independent)

Before that - Friday, with a trip to see Don Juan in Love at the Scoop. The comedy and the horror worked a lot better than the romance, though I may have been slightly distracted at times by certain people giggling at "an impoverished and corrupt nobleman" comparing himself to Alexander*. Then on to Cheeze & Whine, of which what I remember includes 'Rhythm Is A Dancer'. Oh yes. And on Monday, off to Devil's End (which for security reasons goes by a different name on most maps) for a pint at the Cloven Hoof, titting around Mr Magister's church in a fez and general hijinks, culminating in a small child on the village green getting mouthy about the crack in time and space which could be mistaken for a tear in [ profile] steve586's trousers. Good times. Especially given we were out of there by sundown.

The weekend was especially welcome because last week had been so thoroughly quiet and wet and dreary. Spent most of it watching films, many from another DVD rental free trial but one I'd taped years back (and the property show trailer beforehand was more of a blast from the past than any of the wartime setting). Contraband was an early Powell & Pressburger which initially seems like a forgettable flag-waver about how important the decency of neutrals can be. But then their strangeness and charm take hold, especially once we hit blackout London, and like everything else they did, it becomes very special. Not something one can say of another war/espionage film, GI Joe - The Rise of Cobra, which I watched mainly to see prima donna prick Christopher "too good for Who" Eccleston as Destro. Also with tax bills due when they got the call were Joseph Gordon Leavitt, Jonathan Pryce, and Adebisi from Oz who at least gets to cradle a bazooka in each arm and be a hardass. It's really not very good, but I am of the demographic that is always going to find some appeal in a film where ninjas Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight in a pulse cannon generator in an undersea base beneath a polar ice cap. Oh, and the Team America comparisons you may have heard are unfair - well, except in the Paris scenes.

Sillier still is Frank Miller's take on The Spirit. This is not the charming action-adventure strip which is about the only early comic I can read with enjoyment; instead we get a brooding Central City which looks uncannily like Sin City, a Spirit who wear's Dwight's Converse and is generally somewhere between Miller's Batman and Looney Tunes. So yes, it's Miller's spirit not Eisner's, but what are the alternatives? Another unnecessary panel-to-screen transition of a comic which, even more than Watchmen, was designed to work precisely as a comic? Or another Spirit comic in which Miller does his take? At least this way we kill two birds with one stone, and probably up the sales of the Eisner collections into the bargain. And one thing Miller and Eisner do have in common: they like the girls. So Sand Saref is here, out for "the shiny thing to end all shiny things", and Silken Floss is Scarlett Johansson in a Nazi uniform, smoking, which excuses a lot in a film (and makes a Hell of a lot more sense than Samuel L Jackson in a Nazi uniform) "Is every goddamn woman in this goddamn Hellhole out of her goddamn mind?" asks a very Frank Miller take on Commissioner Dolan. Well, yes, but that's what Frank Miller does.

Oh yes, and I finally saw The Hurt Locker - accidentally good timing given this was the weekend of America's withdrawal from Iraq. The basic idea is brilliant; so often the climax of a film is a ticking time-bomb, so why not make a film about bomb disposal teams where the whole damn film is like that? And Kathryn Bigelow films violence like Oliver Stone on a good day, than which I can offer few higher compliments. A rare film to win big Oscars without being preachy middlebrow dreck.

*Finally watching Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes the next day, I am amused to see that film also mentions a performance of the tale, albeit in its Don Giovanni version, as Holmes and Watson pass Tower Bridge, or at least its beginnings. It's heartening that, when either Guy Ritchie's version or the BBC's could so easily have become Sherlock Holmes in Miami, neither did, both Cumberbatch and Downey sharing an essential Holmes-ness with Brett and Rathbone. Also - age suits Downey a lot better than I'd ever have thought.
alexsarll: (howl)
Not that Nuisance ever sees much in the way of sobriety, but everyone seemed even drunker than usual on Friday; possibly because I'd already been for drinks beforehand at T Bird (which is good again! Hurrah), within an hour of arrival I found myself thinking what a beautiful ceiling the Monarch has. Yeah. That aside, it was largely a picnicky sort of weekend, the greyness of this August notwithstanding; on Saturday I was in Kensington Gardens with Stationery Club, and Sunday was Brumfields in Highgate Woods. Both had plenty of comedy passing dogs (especially Brumfields, where one joined in most tenaciously with a game of frisbee, and another snaffled two Jammy Dodgers in one mouthful), and other Local Colour en route. Alongside the Serpentine I saw a teenager on a penny farthing with no idea how to get off, and someone on rollerblades using an umbrella as a sail; in Highgate I was asked for directions by an unusually attractive tranny just as the Passage's polymorphously perverse 'XOYO' started up on the headphones. Then later, back along a Parkland Walk which seemed oddly still, even where someone was playing woodwind - not apparently for money - under one of the darker bridges.

Watched two films the last couple of days, both sequels which don't require any familiarity with the original, both featuring possession by ectoplasmic mists. And that's about all they have in common apart from being damn good. Evil Dead 2 is a gleefully gory romp, man versus the supernatural presented as almost slapstick. Whereas Hellboy II - which feels much more like a Guillermo del Toro film than its predecessor, even though he directed them both - is a terribly sad and elegiac thing in amongst all the fighting and 'aw, crap'; every monster vanquished is a strange and wonderful thing which has now passed from the Earth, and when Hellboy is being tempted by the genocidal elf-prince (played, bizarrely but very well, by Luke from Bros), you at least half-want him to go for it.

I remember Jimmy McGovern's The Lakes being much-discussed in the nineties, mainly in terms of the sex. For whatever reason, I never saw it, but on a free trial of one of those DVD rental services I thought, well, John Simm stars, has to at least be worth a look, right? Only problem is, Simm is playing a scouser. Within minutes of his arrival in the Lake District, he's twice faced prejudice over this - ah, thinks I, this is about him showing the locals not all scousers are feckless gobshites. Except it rapidly becomes clear that he is; he's a thieving, idle little weasel who gets a local girl pregnant and whose compulsive gambling leads to the death of three kids. And Simm is still at least a little charming, but he gets that whiny voice down pat enough to almost extinguish it. Oh, I forgot to mention the music, which is like some nightmarish antimatter universe Nuisance; in the first episode alone, two major emotional scenes are soundtracked by Cast. There are some fine performances - especially the village priest - and lovely touches (some business with milk-sniffing, threaded lightly through the whole show, is astonishing) but overall it's a nasty, mean little show. And I really don't get why even my hormonal peers thought it was sexy.
alexsarll: (Default)
Went to the Bowie Bar last night and it was atypically packed - plus, they'd run out of cider (which is a bit rubbish, but it happens) without putting an empty glass on the pump handle (which is never, ever OK, because it wastes customer and bartender time, and anyone failing to mark an empty pump in this or a similar way should never be allowed to work in a pub ever again, and that's the moderate version, because at the time I generally think in terms of limb removal) so we decamped to the Defoe, which is a fine and spacious pub and long may it prosper. En route, I saw a tortoise clambering around the muddy bed of the empty New River extension. Was it wild? Had it escaped? How does a tortoise make a break for freedom anyway? But other than that, I've mainly been watching films:

A Very British Coup was actually a TV miniseries, but on DVD it has no episode breaks, so who's counting? Ray McAnally (get 1 x deed poll, dude) stars in a fantastical tale of an outlandish alternate 1980s in which Keith Allen has hair and a thoroughly leftwing Labour party wins a landslide election victory. But, like any good alternate universe story, everything after that one crazy premise follows with the utmost plausibility. It helps that, in 1988, TV was obviously less scared - so unlike The Thick of It, the Labour and Conservative parties are named rather than implied, and while the vile cable and newspaper baron may not actually be called Rupert Murdoch, they barely attempt to disguise him either. As crazy as much of the action now seems - part of the reason Harry Perkins becomes PM is that, after uncovering massive malfeasance in the financial industry, a load of bankers ended up with gaol sentences, rather than the bail-outs and bonuses we now know they'd receive - this feels like it could have been the real world, right down to those tire-track mugs everyone had back then. In many senses even the coup itself is just a lens to magnify the real fate of every PM or President elected on a wave of hope - the loss of momentum, the end of the honeymoon, the tiredness. And the way a rumour, no matter how untrue, can cripple a politician - well, just look at the Swiftboating of John Kerry, or the ludicrous accusations Obama can never shake to the satisfaction of large (if idiotic) swathes of his nation.
A last crazy detail: among the advisors on this tale of a Labour leader who abandons off the record briefings, whispering campaigns and the like, the credits list one Alistair Campbell.

Miranda (not the sitcom, though I saw an episode at the parents' and it's not as bad as the trailers suggest) should be an excellent film. It has Christina Ricci and John Simm as the leads, supported by Kyle McLachlan and John Hurt. Even the minor roles have the likes of Tamsin Grieg and Julian Rhind-Tutt; drop them into a tale of love and library closures, and you should have a cult classic, right? But while Simm has the best hair I've ever seen him with, Ricci is looking unsettlingly like a pug, and the plot hangs interesting incident on a skeleton that's simply too generic. Also, the music is by our old friend Murray Gold who, perhaps inspired by the presence of a Twin Peaks star, seems to be trying to emulate the Bad Angel, and not doing it terribly well. Why is this man still employed?

The Sweet Smell of Success is one of many films, most of them very good, which I checked out because the Flaming Stars nicked the title for a song. Tony Curtis plays the impossibly handsome, sharp-suited and near-totally amoral publicist Sidney Falco, roaming the night of quite the most archetypal screen New York I've ever seen, trying to get himself back in the good graces of JJ Hunsecker (a mesmerisingly powerful Burt Lancaster), whose newspaper column seems to be regarded as the word of god. I suspect that most journalists want to be that columnist, possibly combined with Woodward and Bernstein (Hell, give that mixture a bowel disruptor and fancy shades and you've got Spider Jerusalem) and if the film trips over itself a bit when it has to resolve the plot, the journey there was still well worth it.


Jul. 12th, 2010 09:52 am
alexsarll: (magnus)
"Tonight, he thought, even if we fail with this first, we'll send a second and a third ship and move on out to all the planets and, later, all the stars. We'll just keeping going until the big words like immortal and for ever take on meaning. Big words, yes, that's what we want. Continuity. Since our tongues first moved in our mouths, we've asked, What does it all mean? No other question made sense, with death breathing down our necks. But just let us settle in on ten thousand worlds spinning around ten thousand alien suns and the question will fade away. Man will be endless and infinite, even as space is endless and infinite. Man will go on, as space goes on, for ever. Individuals will die, as always, but our history will reach as far as we'll ever need to see into the future, and with the knowledge of our survival for all time to come, we'll know security and thus the answer we've always searched for."
Sunday afternoon, and I'm sat in the John Snow. I'd been at a birthday which was perfectly pleasant until the pub staff literally started pulling the stools from under people because it was apparently going to be standing room only for the Eighty Years War retread of an accursed footballist finale. Later, I'm going to hang out with Bevan 17 in the studio as they answer the question, what if, when John Cooper Clarke was living with Nico, they'd made a record together? But for now I'm sat watching the dust sparkle in the sun in a pub which still feels like pubs should feel on a Sunday afternoon, where etiquette has not been upended and nobody looks like they're in a Tango ad, and I'm reading Ray Bradbury. And just before I reach that passage above in 'The End of the Beginning', I am gripped by terror as I apprehend something monstrous: we're all on Earth. Well, yes there are a handful of people in near orbit, which amounts to the same thing, but all our eggs are in one basket. We are the last. As should be abundantly clear by now, I love London, and I think Arthur Machen was right when he described it as an emblem for infinity. But imagine knowing that beyond the last of London's lights, there was no one. That's where we've let ourselves end up. My copy of The Day it Rained Forever was printed in 1963. That story sat on this paper on a shelf somewhere as man fulfilled its promise and went to the Moon...and then sat there still as we turned our backs on the moon, mothballed even the poxy Shuttle, decided to stick to Earth after all. It's not a good feeling, being ashamed that your species has betrayed a yellowing paperback.
alexsarll: (Default)
Spent Thursday evening sat in friends' garden until gone 10 and a fair amount of Friday reading in the park, then yesterday there again for a pleasingly languid picnic interrupted by one attempt at skipping, which I'm sure didn't used to feel so terrifying, but then that was about 20 years ago when my legs weren't so long and easily caught. Also my first ice cream of the year, except it turns out there age hasn't changed so much, and I still get the sauce down my front. Other weekend activities: Nuisance, which in amongst the beloved and the half-forgotten and the not-really-Britpop-but-it's-ace-so-who's-counting*, once again managed to redefine 'going too far' with an airing for Kula Shaker's 'Mystical Machine Gun'. Just as the Beatles' 'All You Need Is Love' is justified by its use in the final episode of The Prisoner without in any way being redeemed, so with 'Mystical Machine Gun' and Phonogram. Not that even 'Mystical Machine Gun' is as bad as 'All You Need Is Love', obviously. Nothing is.
Still, good night otherwise. Also, one of the Monarch's bouncers talks like a Mexican Darth Vader. Brilliant.
Then on Saturday, one of my occasional forays into DJing, this time at a masked ball. Turns out I'm no worse on the decks than usual without my peripheral vision, but it's amazing how badly even a little mask affects other stuff like dancing, stairs &c. How Doctor Doom copes I shall never know. I was what I believe the professionals call 'back to back' with [ profile] augstone. But not like that. You can probably guess who picked what.
No more music, thank you and goodnight )

Otherwise - the final Ashes to Ashes. Which reminded me a little of A Matter of Life and Death - never a bad thing - but even more so of another wartime film I once saw whose name I can never remember, where a group of people who have all had near misses on the way to the docks are on a cruise liner.spoilers, obviously ) Wonderful.

On the other hand - Doctor Who. I had assumed that with Russell T Davies' departure we would also see the back of the hopeless Chris Chibnall, but no, apparently he has incriminating polaroids of Moffat too, so he doesn't just get to do one episode, he gets two! Reintroducing the Earth Reptiles! As soon as we see that he's called his Welsh village Cwmtaff, it's clear that the cluelessness and laziness we expect of Who's answer to Jeph Loeb are unimpaired, and so the episode lurches predictably from unoriginal and unconvincing jeopardy to cackhanded Issue of the Week speeches (as has been noted elsewhere - if you're doing a Middle East analogy, it might be better not to cast giant lizards as the Jews). And the redesign - ugh! So boringly human. I am of course blaming Chibnall for that, whereas all credit for the city visual at the end goes to the design team, and any good bits - the Doctor's conversation with the boy, for instance - are clearly attributable to Moffat on the final script polish. Seriously, though - eight minutes to cover an entire village with a surveillance network? That felt improbable, and since it accomplished nothing, it wasn't even an improbability which served a plot purpose. It was filler of the worst sort; you might as well just have had a chicken ride a unicycle around the church for three minutes singing 'Copacabana', that would at least have been novel.
(Who fans might also be interested to know that Radio 7 are airing a new series of Eighth Doctor stories - afraid this is the second, but I only barely caught the first myself)

*Although the ex-Menswear guest DJ did push it when he played Dolly Parton.

January 2016



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