Wednesday, 30 October 2013

bad few years

I watched No Way Out the other day. I liked it. Another movie which was massively improved by not having read reviews, previews, anything. I thought: Sean Young. What's her story. This is a bit of it, according to Wikipedia:

She was cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's successful 1989 film Batman. During rehearsals, however, she broke her arm after falling off a horse and was replaced by Kim Basinger. In an unsuccessful attempt to win the role as Catwoman (which was offered to Annette Bening but ultimately played by Michelle Pfeiffer after Bening became pregnant) in the sequel Batman Returns, Young constructed a homemade Catwoman costume and attempted to confront Burton and actor Michael Keaton during production.

Young was cast as Tess Trueheart in the 1990 movie Dick Tracy, but she was fired for not appearing maternal in the role. Young later claimed she was fired because she rebuffed Warren Beatty's advances, a claim Beatty denies. In 1991, she was awarded the Worst Actress and the Worst Supporting Actress Razzies for her roles in A Kiss Before Dying.

Monday, 28 October 2013

gay otter plus cowboy hat

Because I am childish, I was tickled to learn that there was a Tea Party congressman called Raul Labrador (he lives in Eagle, Idaho). I tweeted this information.

My friend Ned replied that he was only upset that Raul Labrador hadn't challenged Butch Otter in the Gubernatorial race.

Idaho's Governor is called Butch Otter.

Among his career highlights (Wikipedia) are: deciding against the priesthood; 30 years of sterling service with a company called Simplot International; marrying a woman called Gay Simplot, daughter of potato magnate JR Simplot, the sometime oldest American billionaire (Butch Otter and Gay Otter - oh boy); later marrying an ex-Miss Idaho called Lori Easley; and this:

In August 1992, Otter was pulled over on Interstate 84 near Meridien for suspicion of driving under the influence. He claimed the arresting officer observed him swerving as he was reaching for his cowboy hat, which had been blown off by the wind in his open car. Otter offered several explanations for failing the field sobriety test including: his stocking feet were stung by weeds and gravel, he had run eight miles (13 km) and his knee hurt, he was hungry, and that he had soaked his chewing tobacco in Jack Daniels. A jury convicted Otter in March 1993...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

don't make your trombonium out of bombastium

I think this has been all over the internet like a rash the last few days. These guys definitely practised. I found the whole thing mesmerising, but the time poor can focus on 2.30 and 4.30.

One thing you are probably wondering: isn't it tough doing all that stuff with a trombone? Don't you keep whacking people with the slide when you turn round? Good question. The Ohio State Band ('The Best Damn Band in the Land', 'The Pride of the Buckeyes'), has been backwards and forwards over the issue. They do use slide trombones again, and have done since 1980's introduction of the Bach Model 36 Stradivarius small shank tenor trombone. Before that they had been using tromboniums.

Trombonium? Surely that should appear on what I regularly remind people is the best page on the internet?* Nope. The trombonium is a valve trombone wrapped as a euphonium.

They also use mellophones ('drum Corps mellophones in G typically use V-cup cornet-style mouthpieces').

It's a whole world out there.

* 'An element each atom of which, when dropped in a barrel of water, is capable of generating a barrel containing a different flavor of ice cream, according to Carl Barks. It is discovered by the Brutopians. Scrooge McDuck pays one trillion dollars and six kitchen sinks for a soccer ball-sized sample of it in an auction in a 1957 story in Uncle Scrooge comics #17. In a Duck Tales story it is used to power a time machine invented by Gyro Gearloose.'

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

goodbye, shangri-la, or books with red, white and green covers

I've just read Lost in Shangri-La, which is one of those books with red white and green covers. In the last year I have loved The Lost City of Z and Unbroken. I liked Lost in Shangri-La very much but the underlying story, while very good, wasn't quite up there.

I learned some good things though: Shangri-La was a place invented by James Hilton for his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. Among other people, FDR really liked it, and he used the name for the all-new US Presidential retreat, later re-named Camp David. In 1934 James Hilton wrote Goodbye, Mr Chips. That's a good couple of years' work.

Hilton went on to write movies. He said: Tempted by Hollywood, a writer must decide whether he would rather say a little less exactly what he wants to millions or a little more exactly to thousands.

I thought of this quotation when reading this article about Harvey Weinstein. Of course there are many such articles, but this is a good one.

Also from Lost in Shangri-La: Gremlins. They were originally inter-war RAF folk-mythological beasts. Roald Dahl was in the RAF. Then, during the war, he was posted to Washington by the Air Ministry and he wrote his first book, The Gremlins, about a plane factory built over some gremlins' forest home, and the gremlins which take revenge by sabotaging the planes.

It was an international success, Eleanor Roosevelt was a big fan, it was hampered by paper shortages, it was nearly made into a Disney movie.

Bonus: William Shatner and gremlins.

Bonus 2: I love America, but this is a horrible story about their border guards. The time I got asked really pointed and aggressive questions was also when I was going there from Canada, interestingly. Is that interesting? Yes. If you don't think so, it shows how little you know.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


I might have said this before, but I really, really want MS Corley to design my book covers. (I love the cover for The Dazzle but still).

This message from a hellhole Russian prison, by one of the main Pussy Rioters, is shocking. I bet, given [everything] that it is sensationalised, to a degree but I also bet the degree isn't huge and I don't blame her one little bit.

Just in case you've never seen Matthew Albanese's photos of not-landscapes.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


The debate about whether Tottenham's fans should self-describe as Yids - they appropriated the term when opposing fans used it as a term of abuse - shouldn't be any more tricky than whether to stop calling the Washington Redskins the Washington Redskins.

Basically, while the vast majority of fans of both terms don't use them derogatorily, they also use them unthinkingly. The clearest proof that it's a bad idea is that very few Jews would call themselves yids, and very few American Indians would call themselves Redskins. I'm against mimsiness, but this just seems pretty clear to me. The Washington team name will change soon enough - lots of media outlets in the USA have decided not to use the word to describe them. And this should too.

Tottenham fans are subjected to hideous anti-semitic chants, they say. While that's nasty, it is worth remembering that most of them aren't jewish. Is there another way to respond than by proudly self-proclaiming themselves yids? (Remembering that they wouldn't self-proclaim as niggers, because that would obviously be offensive and people don't like other people thinking they're racist.)

I literally have an answer that I think might work. When fans of Chelsea or Man Utd or whoever it is start doing the awful things they do - which includes hissing in mimicry of gas chambers - chant back loudly, and in unison, and over and over again: Chelsea are racists, Chelsea are racists, Chelsea are racists.

People hate being called racists. 

Monday, 7 October 2013

night eyes, burning like chestnuts over an open fire

Warhorses fans will know why I am quoting this bit of Diamonds Are Forever:

"The word in Pinkerton's is that the Jockey Club are going to change to photos of the night eyes."

'"What are night eyes?"

"They're those calluses on the insides of a horse's knees. The English call them 'chestnuts'. Seems they're different on every horse. Like a man's fingerpirints."

Friday, 4 October 2013

closing tabs

1. I have been looking for Hal Hartley's Amateur for years, albeit in a dilatory sort of a way. I loved it when it came out. I've told loads of people how much I loved it. Now I can get it and I'm worried it won't be as good as I remembered. In a double whammy for exactly the same kind of thing, I'm also buying The Kingdom, which I watched on my own in a day-long marathon as part of a film festival and might be the favourite thing I've ever done in a cinema.

2. The Reign of Morons is Here:

We have elected an ungovernable collection of snake-handlers, Bible-bangers, ignorami, bagmen and outright frauds, a collection so ungovernable that it insists the nation be ungovernable, too. We have elected people to govern us who do not believe in government ... We have elected a national legislature in which the true power resides in a cabal of vandals, a nihilistic brigade that believes that its opposition to a bill directing millions of new customers to the nation's insurance companies is the equivalent of standing up to the Nazis in 1938, to the bravery of the passengers on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, and to Mel Gibson's account of the Scottish Wars of Independence in the 13th Century. We have elected a national legislature that looks into the mirror and sees itself already cast in marble.

Big up Charles P Pierce. It won't help or persuade anyone, so maybe it's pointless, and I agree with his pessimism that the Democrats are unlikely to benefit because the loonies are in safe districts and the Democrats are less likely to risk blowing things up in order to win this fight, but I enjoyed it. Maybe it will make people angrier and more willing to stand firm, but that feels like wishful thinking.

3. All poetry can do, in the end, is make the world bearable. It's engineering that gets you to the moon:

As many times stated, I yield to no one in my love of Brian Phillips. This is about a legendary, and legendarily single-minded, NFL Quarterback called Peyton Manning who, at the age of 37 and with a reconstructed neck, is rewriting the record books.

Again, this is a guy who has been compared to an atom bomb about 176,000 times on the Internet and whom you can absolutely believe would have a special room in his house for folding socks ... Look at it this way: There's a nervous disconnect between the way pop media portrays middle-aged white dads as bumbling dorks and the disproportionate share of American wealth and power that middle-aged white dads continue to enjoy. Manning quietly bridges this gap. He sends the reassuring signal that running the world is punishingly hard and that the world is nevertheless well run. That may be a lie, but on a Sunday afternoon it's often a comforting one. He's stressed out enough that you don't quite want to be him, but benevolent enough that you're glad he's out there. He's the sitcom doofus as culture hero. He is the Prometheus of dad rock.

4. Fisking the Daily Mail is shooting fish in a barrel, but the fish is in our barrel and it's biting us. What is incredible is that I have seen people taking issue with this fisking (for eg: I am sorry but I feel I am going mad, can nobody really see the connections? ... Can no-body see that this whole complaints thing has been dragged up by the labour party themselves to gain publicity for Ed). I almost entered into dialogue with these people, if you can imagine such a thing.

5. Who says who loves their country? Reductive ideas of patriotism are irritating. For a year or so - as I might have mentioned - I've been obsessed with this love song to England, which is not money, and it is not blood.*/**

* I love protest songs and angry songs; I feel a bit of a fraud for loving them so much; 'Do I have the right, when I am not a very angry person?' is my essential question. In this case, I am quite angry, and this isn't a very angry song, so it's definitely ok.

** As also previously stated, I am one of those quite large number of people whose nationality is 'British' rather than English, and who resents that I don't get to vote about the dissolution of that.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

miscellaneous art works inspiring photo essay

It's been a busy couple of weeks including, in no particular order, finishing Warhorses of Letters Series 3 and the first draft of this year's Mighty Fin show, writing my first short story (we'll see where that goes), keeping on researching the Dazzle sequel and a couple of other things.

But the main thing is that I had a massive meal at a friend's house and walked home down Willesden Lane. This is one of London's four or five most magnificent streets, as you can see from the above block of flats.

Irony! Isn't it hilarious! Etc. The thing is, above the bleak plate-glass of the lobby entrance are four little heads poking out like renegades from a very different building or an episode of Doctor Who:

What was the architect thinking? Was he being witty? I think he was (or she was). But the last one, even within the context of this being an odd quartet, is particularly odd. What sort of a mask is that? And what sort of hat? Is it a desert warrior? Or a ninja? I don't know. These figures are surprising, thought-provoking and, frankly, to me, pleasing. Hence: art.
The new shop over the road from the above. The pun would have worked better as Grillas, if we're being pure, but I think they made the right decision because people might not have got that Grillas was anything more than a snazzy spelling.

A missed trick, though: no gorilla branding.
If you go to Ghent to see the Van Eycks's Lamb of God (and you really should, because it is A. Mazing and B. Eautiful), you might fancy a wander round the Cathedral of St Bavo, where it lives. St Bavo is not one of the top saints. His dad was called Pippin and Bavo was no-good when young, and although he reformed, I think a lot of other saints reformed more. He is the patron saint of falconry.

Anyway, one of the other art works in the cathedral is this:
Really? Look more closely at the bit of cloth. That's dead faces. This is a very, very creepy sculpture.

Who was Damiaan? He went to Hawai'i in the late 19th c., ministered to lepers and died of the disease. He is the spiritual saint of lepers and outcasts, he shares his feast day  he seems like he was fantastic guy and in spite of all that this sculpture is still very, very creepy.

In Bruges, we saw a lot of great pictures by Flemish Primitives. One of the most interesting things about them was that the collection was big enough to show how, say, Gerard David, trotted out a load of standard pictures, bish, bash, bosh, and they're ok, but then someone would pay him real cash and give him a major altarpiece to do, and he would concentrate, and the result would be a whole different kettle of fish.

Basically, human beings are not always at their best. Think of that the next time you slag someone off for missing an easy chance at the far post.*

I'm not sure who painted this next painting, which is in the Groeningemuseum, like most of the Primitives. You only get a vague sense from my photo, but God is being really twinkly and proud, and Jesus is doing a massive 'Daaaaaad! Don't embarrasssssss me!' expression as he leans away. It's properly funny, even before you notice the bowling ball.
Finally for Bruges: outside the Sint-Janshospitaal Museum was a sculpture called Pax. You can't get a sense of its serenity-slash-melancholy from any picture, but it is absolutely excellent.

* Petworth House in Sussex is full of Turners. Lots are great. One, of Shakespeare's Jessica, is widely regarded as among Turner's biggest duffs. A critic on its first hanging described it as 'a lady getting out of a large mustard-pot'. I see what he means.