Monday, December 02, 2013

RIP Martin Sharp, 1942-2013

Martin Sharp, Australian artist most famous for his album covers for Cream and art director for Oz magazine in the 1960s, died yesterday aged 71. Note the cover words of Oz magazine (top), which should read 'Mr Tambourine Man' actually looks more like 'Mist Urine'. My favourite poster of his, which I've been meaning to buy for ages, is SEX!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Notes on Giles Gilbert Scott

It seems amazing to me that the man who designed the Battersea and Bankside Power Stations also designed the red telephone box, such defining, iconic images of London as they are. The future of two of them remains in doubt: the telephone box has been made obsolete by mobiles and poor Battersea Power Station has been left to rot and crumble for decades. At least now it's finally being redeveloped, and with Lord Foster and Frank Gehry on board (his first English project too), it's a vaguely exciting prospect.

Born in 1880, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott must have felt architectural tradition weighing heavily on his shoulders; his father, uncle and grandfather were all prominent architects. But Scott's greatest ability was to marry the tradition of the previous century's architecture with the modernity of the 20th century. His work includes scores of churches and cathedrals, bridges and memorials.

In 1928 Scott designed Whitelands College in Putney, now converted into luxury apartments. He also designed his own house (pictured), on the outskirts of Hyde Park, and lived there from 1926-1960.

Previously on Barnflakes:
2 Willow Road
Inside Battersea Power Station

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Random Film Review: Gravity

Dir: Alfonso Cuarón | 2013 | 90mins | USA & UK

My boon companion and I had arranged to see Gravity in Greenwich on Sunday. When we got there it was fully booked (we saw Captain Phillips instead). So we arranged to see it last night in the West End. We met early, somehow lost our bearings around New Oxford Street, entered a Twilight Zone, and proceeded to walk around in circles several times. When we finally found the cinema, it was fully booked (Orange Wednesdays, presumably). We headed to Marble Arch for a later showing. Due to some fault, there was no heating in the cinema and it cost over £30 for two tickets. By now, we hated the film. All the great reviews and packed cinemas had magnified it into the best film ever, a role the film would never live up to. Still, in the end, it wasn't half bad. Nearly beautiful, nearly riveting (I'll give it four stars). At least it was relatively short.

We arrived in time to see the trailers, including one for 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's latest film. It used to be that people in advertising would move into film directing (Ridley Scott et al); now it's experimental artists making mainstream movies. We had Sam Taylor-Wood's recent Nowhere Boy, about the early life of John Lennon, and McQueen's Hunger (2008), Shame (2011) and now 12 Years a Slave, which has received glowing five star reviews globally.

I knew someone who knew Steve McQueen whilst at Goldsmiths in the early 1990s; she said what she remembered about him most was that he worked really hard all the time. This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's posit that genius and success = 10,000 hours and Grayson Perry debunking the common notion of lazy art students in his recent Reith Lectures. Those who actually want to be artists work hard at it.

An ex-girlfriend's mother had been keen to see a photography exhibition of her favourite actor, Steve McQueen, some years ago in an art gallery. I can only imagine her surprise when, instead of shots of the iconic actor, she was greeted with one of artist/director Steve McQueen's experimental short films, Bear (1993), consisting of two naked black men wrestling. I don't think she went away altogether disappointed.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The old wooden kitchen table

The old wooden kitchen table has seen so much. All those breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Newspapers read and, once upon a time, letters written on its surface. Cigarettes smoked and tea drank. Joints rolled. Children drawing and painting. Card games and chess. Conversations, celebrations, good news and bad news. Sometimes sneaky sexual intercourse and once vomited upon one drunken Christmas Eve. Numerous spillages. The old kitchen table gets taken for granted. It's like the human body; it remembers everything, and has the scars and blemishes to prove it. Underneath the table, on its underbelly, children's graffiti from long ago. It feels so solid, like it's always been there, the wooden table, in the kitchen, and always will be. It will outlive us all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My top 5 unrealised film projects

Over the years I've tried and failed to write some feature film screenplays. I've never done anything with them and probably never will. But they'd all make superb films.

1. The Hills Were Joyful Together
I recently met an old friend I hadn't seen for years and he reminded me of my ill-fated cinematic adaptation of The Hills Were Joyful Together, a book I had first studied for A Level English (ie 25 years ago). Written by Roger Mais, the novel is set in the 'yards' (sort of shanty towns) of Kingston, Jamaica in the 1950s. Even when studying it as a 16-year-old I could see it as a great film. It has all the ingredients: colourful characters with lashings of sex and violence as well as elements of spirituality, beauty and poetry. Part heist movie, part prison movie, part romance, part rich soap opera that is life, part social commentary – it has it all. I always loved the title too.
What would it be like? The Harder They Come meets The Shawshank Redemption meets City of God.

2. Pigeon's Luck: Tretchikoff
I mentioned this recently (and not so recently), that I'd love to make a film version from Tretchikoff's autobiography: it would be a glorious 1950s Technicolor/CinemaScope musical in the style of Vincente Minnelli. As the book cover says, 'It reads like a thriller' and indeed the film would be an arty, kitsch mix of thriller, war movie, rags to riches tale exploring notions of taste, art and celebrity, spanning Russia, China, Singapore, Indonesia and South Africa.
What would it be like? Lust for Life meets I'm Not There meets Performance meets Douglas Sirk meets Powell and Pressburger.

3. Grey Belt
An urban martial arts film set in London conceived of around the time of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix, I wrote some of this over a decade ago in a small town near Cannes with a woman who developed a limp (detailed here). It features a horseback chase scene through Brixton and Wimbledon and a fight scene on the tube. We never finished it.
What would it be like? Well, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets (say) Bullet Boy.

4. Trilogy of Westerns
Yes, there's another more famous trilogy of westerns in existence but these ones, set in New Orleans, Tijuana and Jakarta respectively, are decidedly modern in outlook (maybe even post-modern). I wrote a few pages of dialogue with a waiter in New Orleans almost twenty years ago; it hasn't really progressed that much since then. But they do all involve a stranger wandering into town...
What would it be like? Erm, it would be like the best trilogy of westerns EVER!

5. Found Object
This is the time travelling antiques roadshow movie mentioned recently. It'll be a novel first, to be followed swiftly by a blockbuster movie.
What would it be like? Indiana Jones meets the Antiques Roadshow.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Homeless Movies, my DVD six years in the making.

See also: Barnflakes on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

2 Willow Road

What could be more perfect than walking around Hampstead on a glorious autumn Sunday morning listening to Nick Drake ('And I’m sailing downstairs to the Northern Line / Watching the shine of the shoes')? It was then I saw the brown National Trust sign proclaiming '2 Willow Road'. That's all the sign says, there's no other information. It's like a code. Those in the know know, those who don't don't care. It stirred a memory from years ago that I had wanted to go there (couldn't remember why), combined with a conversation in a pub on Friday night. I had met someone by chance who had read what I'd written about the Alton Estate (what are the odds?). Interested in architecture, we eventually got talking about Ernő Goldfinger. I told him the famous Ian Fleming-Goldfinger story: how neighbour Fleming had opposed Goldfinger's controversial plans for his house – Goldfinger had knocked down a row of Victorian houses to build his modernist vision; Fleming's revenge was to name a Bond villain after him... I know, I've mentioned this before). Anyway, on Sunday I saw the sign by chance, the cobwebs cleared and the light bulbs went off: 2 Willow Road was Goldfinger's house. To modern eyes, nothing remarkable from the outside, it's true, but inside is superb use of light and space. Apparently.

Monday, October 28, 2013

RIP Lou Reed, 1942-2013

I love Lou Reed so I'm very sad to hear this news. The Velvet Underground are probably my favourite band ever; the meeting of Reed and Cale far more exciting than (say) the meeting of Lennon and McCartney or Jagger and Richards. I love Reed's solo stuff too; I was listening to New York just the other day, and even like his collaboration with Metallica, Lulu. Anyway, another legend gone.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Last of the Legends
Top ten male singers
Nico's top ten lovers
The Velvet Underground Live 1972 & 1993

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gravy juice

No, not a euphemism but a new concept in consuming gravy. Drinking it from a can (or carton). It occurs to me I love gravy. I mean love it. If there's any left on my plate after a nice meal, I tip the plate up and slurp down the remaining gravy. When I do so I think to myself that I could drink a lot more of this. But let me get this straight: it's not just plain Bisto, it's homemade fatty gravy with all the tastes and sensations of the meal it's been in. So really, it's like the meal, but the best part of it. So it's a drink and meal in one really. In a can. And hot (like the Japanese having hot coffee in cans in their vending machines). Sort of like a soup, but tastier and more fulfilling. And different flavours: lamb, pork, lamb, beef, chicken (with vegetarian to come, maybe).

Previously on Barnflakes
Notes on Scotch Eggs
Nothing is Invented
The New Shape
Top 10 Great Ideas

Friday, October 11, 2013

Top 5 meaningless phrases

1. Pokesdown for Boscombe
(Train announcement)
2. Cleaners Sluice
(Toilets at Heathrow Terminal 5)
3. Dry Riser Inlet
(Train station)
4. Hearing Induction Loop Available
(Hearing aid assistance in bank)
5. Too many consecutive chunk parse errors
(Computer error)

These are phrases I've either seen or heard in public or on my computer screen that make no sense to me whatsoever. But I like them. Looking up the meaning of them has actually ruined them for me. I appreciated their mystery; they struck me as rather beautiful, surreal and abstract – and may as well have been written in a foreign language. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Image of the week: Octopussy

Diving Woman and Octopi (1814) by Kataushika Hokusai, part of Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art at the British Museum, running from October 3 to January 5, 2014.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Inside album art of the day: Naked City

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Introverts vs extroverts

Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.

– Matthew 5:5

Susan Cain's hugely popular book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, examines the notion that we wrongly undervalue the introvert in society and champion the extrovert*.

But in the workplace, it's usually the introverts who perform better; they tend to get on with the work, whilst extroverts engage in banter most of the day. Introverts should be allowed their own private offices to be able to concentrate as they work better without interruption; whilst extroverts should be allowed to get on with their banter and loud laughter (I'm convinced laughing loudest is the key to success in the office) in the open plan office.

Management like to hire bubbly, extrovert people who are going to get on in the office place and be popular, whether they are good at their jobs or not. Usually, they're not, and most extroverts are idiots. Interviewers mostly hire staff according to body language, whether they like them, and whether they're like them.

Society favours extroverts in all stages of life, from school and socialising to work and business meetings. Cain's book aims to address the balance, favouring the introvert who tends to be a creative, passionate and deep thinking person. The meek won't inherit the earth but may inherit the office one day.

(Malcolm Gladwell has also recently got on the loser bandwagon: in his new book, David And Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits And The Art Of Battling Giants, he argues that the underdog and misfit in society is more likely to succeed because of their disability. He also believes that underdogs and misfits can be more creative. This is nothing new, of course: the idea of the 'mad', 'eccentric' artist as genius has long been typified by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh.)

*I think saying people are either introvert and extrovert is slightly simplistic as we can all have both introvert and extrovert moments. No doubt the book explores this.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The offensive office 
Notes on afflictions

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Recent Poems


My muse
Wasn't amused
She'd heard the news
And found me in a mews
Post-booze blues
Having a snooze.

----------

That thing
Deep far below
Where the snow grows,
And the mistletoe.
Sand dunes
From billions of beads
Do not heed. 
Insects have their armour
But human limbs
Flail,
Fail
Grasping gasping branches
In the rain.
Time marches on regardless
Forgetting the first kiss
That I missed.

----------

In autumn
I travel the trains
Watching the leaves
on the trees change colour.
From green to yellow, red and brown.
But by the time I get home
All the trees are bare.

Previous poems here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Singles vs couples

People get pretty wrapped up with each other in relationships (especially in the beginning). Some people move seamlessly from one relationship to another (I mentioned this years ago; like with not leaving a job before getting another, these kind of people have a partner (I hate the term 'partner' – though it applies a bond of sorts, it has such a corporate, unloving feel to it. Still, it's not as bad as 'my other half') in the wings before they ditch the last one); others have been in the same one for years. I know plenty of people, all they've ever wanted was to be in a relationship; as soon as they got laid, they got stuck with that person for life. I'm very happy for them. But I'm bemused by both: how to stay in one relationship, and how to go from one to the other.

Either way, do we want to end up like our parents, bickering and boring and loveless? Apparently so.

'They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.  
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,  
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.'
– This be the Verse, Philip Larkin

Gotta love a bit of Larkin. I'm all for couples, but they are largely dull. They stay in, watch TV, have sex, eventually turn into one person and lose their individuality. My perennially single friends do loads of things, they're more adventurous and outgoing. But they probably only make an effort to do stuff because they're lonely. Having said that, one of the best things about being in a relationship, almost alongside regular sex, is having someone to go on holiday with. I'm told there's nothing worse than walking around Lisbon on your own in the rain.

It's easy to see how beautiful people get together, but I've always wondered how ugly people get together. How do they become attracted to each other? Maybe they just like each other and have great personalities. I suppose we all realise our limitations fairly early on and have to make do with what we can get. Maybe it's actually easier being ugly and meeting someone similar. But attraction is in the eye of the beholder, and most of us look roughly the same anyway: you know, two eyes, nose, arms, legs, etc.

(I don't really mean this. Ugly is a strong word; hardly anyone is actually ugly. If they are, it comes out in their personality, not their looks. I mentioned a few years ago my rather suspect theory about films and women, good ones and bad ones all having something redeeming, like a fleeting beauty, a gesture, an earlobe, a smile, whatever. I also remember Godard's maxim: a film is a girl and a gun. And Hitchcock's dream: boy meets girl.)

But even with beautiful people, one person is always more attractive than the other. The less attractive of the two is always paranoid the other will go off with someone more attractive. When one of the couple is a lot less attractive than the other, one thinks how ever did they end up with each other? Who knows, eh? That's the complex and mysterious chemical mix that makes up attraction. Or maybe it's just his money.

(We were in a pub in Camden. There was a couple that fascinated us: he was a tacky, roguish Italian skinhead in a shell suit with a gold chain, she was a beautiful classy woman in a polka dot dress and high heels. We couldn't understand it. Together, they looked like they were off to a fancy dress party. My boon companion suggested a drugs connection; I don't know, I suspected great sex.)

But what about love, you ask? Well, there's this (for example):

'somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands'
– somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond, EE Cummings
(Dodgy spacing and punctuation intentional)

The Larkin and the Cummings are my two favourite poems, ever. I first heard the EE Cummings in the Woody Allen film Hannah and her Sisters, where Michael Caine clumsily reads it out to Barbara Hershey, who he has an affair with.

Anyway, I'm not bitter or cynical in case you're wondering. I believe in love.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on Jobs and Girlfriends 
Women vs films

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Notes on William Morris

Woody Allen's comedy fantasy Midnight in Paris has Owen Wilson (in the only film of his I admit to liking) as a frustrated screenwriter yearning for the past in Paris whilst staying in the city with his fiancé. Wilson longs for the Paris of the 1920s with the cool writers and artists of the time – Cocteau, Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Modigliani et al (Allen's Husbands and Wives has the old-fashioned, romantic Liam Neeson wishing he'd been born in the 1800s). Sure enough, one night, a mysterious old Peugeot transports Wilson to this exact time and he adores it – and ends up falling in love with Picasso's mistress Adriana. Turns out Adriana is also unhappy living in her era, the 1920s, and yearns for the 1890s of the Belle Epoque. They are magically transported to this era via a horse and carriage. They get chatting to Cezanne, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec in the Moulin Rouge… and, yep, these guys are equally unhappy with their era and yearn for the age of the Renaissance as the pinnacle of human achievement. In short, the film is about nostalgia and how it creates an artificial yearning for a past that never really existed in the first place, but has been mythologised to make it look so.

I mentioned appropriation recently, and William Morris. Morris was equally disenfranchised with his own time, the Victorian era. He didn't like what he perceived as the clutter and tackiness of the time, and harked back to the medieval era. He yearned for quality and simplicity in all aspects of life. A true Renaissance man, Morris was a textile designer, writer, poet, publisher, translator, conservationist and socialist often at odds with the society of his time. Associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Morris was perhaps most famous in his time for his flourishing wallpaper and textile business, Morris & Co.

I recently paid a visit to the William Morris gallery in Walthamstow, north-east London, where Morris was born. The museum recently won the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013 and it's easy to see why. The museum tells the story of Morris' varied life and career through original designs, wallpaper, furniture, stained glass, books, ceramics and many other treasures. It's all housed in a magnificent, Grade II* listed Georgian house, set in Lloyd Park. William lived in the house for eight years as a young man (the house he was born in has been demolished). It's a stunning, fascinating museum and well worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

No entry signs revamped

A graffiti artist has recently been doctoring no entry signs in Putney and Battersea in London and, er, St Austell, Cornwall. The top two are from Isreali Road, Putney. The bottom picture I took in France last year.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My daughter's (aged 7) top ten films

1. Pocahontas (Gabriel, 1995)
2. Tarzan (Buck, 1999)
3. Star Wars ('all of them')
4. Scooby Doo! in Where's my Mummy? (Sichta, 2005)
5. Grease (Kleiser, 1978)
6. Aladdin (Clements, 1992)
7. The Last Unicorn (Bass, Rankin Jr., 1982)
8. Gulliver's Travels (Letterman, 2010)
9. The Fox and the Hound (Berman, 1981)
10. A Bug's Life (Lasseter, 1998)

Though this list will change on a daily basis (as all good lists should), many of the films featured remain the same from when I compiled her last list, two years ago: Grease, Star Wars, The Fox and the Hound, Pocahontas and Aladdin. Her obsession with the Disney Pocahontas is endearing if annoying (though I guess there are worse role models). I want to show her Terrence Malick's superior and beautiful version with Colin Farrell and Q'orianka Kilcher, The New World (2005), and take her to see the statue of Pocahontas in Gravesend, Kent, where she died of unknown causes in 1617.

Previously on Barnflakes:
My daughter's (aged 5) top twenty films
My daughter's (aged 3) top ten films

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book idea: Found Object [working title]

This is an idea for a book (followed by blockbuster film) I don't have time to write. I guess I would describe it as a time travelling Indiana Jones meets Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure meets the Antiques Roadshow.

Ned Reilly, a lonely, single, middle-aged man, runs a flailing antiques shop (sort of like the one at the start of Gremlins, though I can't decide if the shop is in Gloucestershire or San Francisco). He loves his job and shop – he loves antiques, their history and beauty, but times are hard, and eBay has almost put him out of business.

However, one day he acquires a bizarre yet fascinating artifact which he can't make head or tail of. It has unintelligible writing on it. Ned becomes infatuated with the object and spends days examining it. He realises a part may be missing. He searches days for the missing part, and eventually finds one. It suddenly becomes apparent to Ned that he has a functioning time machine!

Ned can't believe it at first. He spends hours tinkering with it, even shuts his shop, then the day comes when he's ready to try it out. Hesitant at first, but with nothing to lose, he takes the plunge and travels back to ancient China – to pick up a Ming vase (cue culture clashes with his clothes, race, language etc). Eventually, after being chased through 14th century Beijing, he manages to get hold of a priceless vase – only to find it smashed to smithereens when he travels back. Still, he eventually gets the hang of things and so begins his travels through time and space to distant lands (from Roman times to the 1960s), picking up now-rare items for peanuts in their own time to stock up his antiques shop in the present day (which does present its problems: he buys a job lot of paintings off Van Gogh only to discover in the present day they're worth nothing at all as he's flooded the market). Anyway, soon enough word gets around and Ned's antiques shop becomes very popular and he's rolling in it... then certain people begin to get suspicious...

There's also a romantic subplot involving the girl that got away, where Reilly visits his younger self to try and convince him she was the one. His younger self doesn't listen at first ("Get lost, creepy old man" – hey, I never said dialogue was my strong point), but, yep, he does eventually, à la Good Will Hunting. Er, not sure yet how this affects the space-time continuum. But it does, in a good way. Let me put it this way: there's a happy ending.

I know its corny and full of plot holes  – but hey, most blockbusters are.

Low budget gems Primer (2004) and the Spanish Timecrimes (2007) show how time travel films don't need special effects (there are absolutely none in either – but loads in mine). And going back or forewords in time just a couple of hours in the same place can disrupt the space-time continuum as much as going back hundreds of years to distant lands, maybe even more so. I like it when films make my brain ache.

Previous abandoned novels:
Life of a New Orleans waitress
The Tournament
Refractory

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top ten greatest film trilogies

1. The Dollars Trilogy (Sergio Leone, 1964-66) 
A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 

2. The Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray, 1955-59) 
Pather Panchali, The Unvanquished, The World of Apu

3. The Original Star Wars Trilogy (George Lucas, 1977; Irvin Kirshner, 1980; Richard Marquand, 1983) 
Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi

4. The Bill Douglas Trilogy (Bill Douglas, 1972-78)
My Childhood, My Ain Folk, My Way Home

5. The Before Trilogy (Richard Linklater, 1995-2013) 
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight

6. The Godfather Trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972-90) 
The Godfather, Part II, Part III

7. The Three Colours Trilogy (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993-94) 
Blue, White, Red 

8. The Andrzej Wajda War Trilogy (Andrzej Wajda, 1955-58)
A Generation, Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds

9. The Dead Trilogy (George A Romero, 1968-1985) 
Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead

10. Back to the Future Trilogy (Robert Zemeckis, 1985-1990)
Back to the Future, Part II, Part III

If you like your top ten trilogies peppered with Lord of the Rings, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron man, Jason Bourne, Toy Story and The Matrix et al, you are probably twelve years old and should look elsewhere.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top 10 movie sequels better than originals

Friday, September 20, 2013

Public Abuse

You know, in the city I mostly keep to myself, head down, fast walk, no dawdling. I don't really like interaction with strangers. I feel my face go bright red when I get accosted in public. In the last two weeks I've had a pretty high rate of abuse; nothing serious, nothing violent, but still, enough to make me go red.

First there was when I was walking through a narrow part of a pavement which had been partially blocked by a food stall. My head was down; I hadn't noticed someone was waiting for me to pass. When I did, he shouted out (sarcastically): 'You're fucking welcome mate'. I went red and walked fast. Next was the crazy homeless man who asked me for change. I said no. He had a rant at me. 'Do you know who I am?' (No). 'If you knew who I was…' (Yes?). 'Go wank in your mother's face!' And off he went, leaving me with that image and a lot of people looking at me. Then on the tube escalators, two women felt the need to tell me (loudly) that my shirt looked like a pyjama top.

Most recently it was raining and I was in the library. It was crowded but hushed. A woman stood up, came over to me and exclaimed in a loud, clear voice, 'Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Sven Goran Eriksson?'
'Er, no.'
'Well you do.'
'Well, thank you.' (Slightly sarcastic; I hadn't taken it as a compliment.)
'No, thank you.' (Very sincerely.)

I don't know, when I was younger I was told I looked like James Dean (fleetingly) and Bob Dylan (which I had taken as a compliment, though it was mainly to do with the hair). As I got older, it was Richard Gere and George Clooney (definitely the hair). But now Sven Goran Eriksson? Jesus.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Train tales #1: the nipple-tassled French woman
Hair tips

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bob Dylan Dream

'I was puzzled by a dream
It stayed with me all day in 1995'

Belle and Sebastian, The State I Am In

Bob Dylan's Dream is a 1963 song from Dylan's album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I hardly ever remember dreams but my dream last night was vivid and started with meeting Bob Dylan and ended with filing claims against Eric B. Go figure.

It started with Dylan visiting my home, which wasn't my home but a Gothic, ramshackle, gloomy kind of place with low lighting. I was nervous meeting Dylan, not sure what to say to him. He was very short. He was just hanging out, my family offering him tea and biscuits, which he declined. I wanted desperately to take a photo of him but I couldn't work out how to use my iPhone camera. I wanted a pen and paper to get his autograph but couldn't find any. Dylan was getting impatient. I was nervous. He made some attempts at conversation, but his voice was so mumbled I couldn't understand him so I just laughed nervously and nodded. Eventually, he said he had to go, picked up his guitar and left.

Next I was in a seedy kind of harbour, sort of King's Cross by the sea. Everything was dark, rainy, red and ramshackle. Things felt unsteady, in transition. I was there to meet an ex-girlfriend, it had been ages since we'd met. I didn't know she'd turn up, but there she was, by the sea, wearing a red coat. It was windy. When she turned around she looked different. In fact, she was literally a completely different person. It wasn't her, but it was. She assured me it was her. She said she looked different as she'd been to see three different psychologists that day. She was looking more like an ex-work colleague actually.

(My dreams are always like films and this scene was appropriated from two films I'd seen this week, and a song. In the final scene of Submarine, a 2010 British film, the lead character runs towards his ex-girlfriend on a beach to try and make amends for treating her badly. Previously in the film, he'd dreamt the same scene but when the girl turned around it wasn't her. In the final scene, it is her, and they go paddling together and make up. The film was okay, quirky in a self-conscious way, but great to see Noah Taylor again (the best thing in the film, playing a depressed marine biologist), not seen him since Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and just adored him in his debut film, The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and its follow up, Flirting (1997). I'm not sure of the connections between Nick Cave and Noah Taylor, aside from both being Aussies and having similar hair, but they've both ended up living in Brighton.

The other film was the awful but enjoyable R.I.P.D. (2013), where dead cops come back to life to work in the Rest In Peace Department to fight monsters. The film focuses around recently killed cop Nick Walker (played by Ryan Reynolds) and Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges in Wild West mode). Though they return to earth as humans, they look nothing like their former selves, so Walker returns as an old Chinese man, and Bridges as a beautiful blonde. Derivative to say the least, it was nevertheless an entertaining Men in Black meets Ghostbusters meets Monsters Inc.

The dialogue in my dream scene was reminiscent of the final stanza of Dylan's 1976 song, Isis:

She said “Where ya been?” I said “No place special.”
She said “You look different” I said “Well I guess.”
She said “You been gone” I said “That's only natural.”
She said “You gonna stay?” I said “If you want me to, Yes!”


Talking of appropriation and derivativeness, I don't really have a problem with either. When Dylan's autobiography Chronicles came out, there was cries of plagiarism that he'd nicked passages from Proust. I've written previously how ideas float in the air, ready to be plucked. I think the same of pre-existing art and literature. I don't think Dylan self-consciously pinched the passages from Proust, rather he'd read them years ago, and they'd stayed in his subconscious.

Appropriation isn't new. Joyce and Dostoevsky did it. William Morris did it. Peter Saville did it. Dylan does it. I'm in good company I reckon. I mentioned Dylan's new Bootleg Series 10 a while ago, Another Self Portrait. Okay, I moaned about it. But I love it. It's been playing non-stop on my CD player and iPod since it came out. Dylan's voice sounds so rich and warm, I just lose myself in it.)

Anyway in the dream, me and the ex walked around town. It was a gusty but muggy and intense evening. It felt like we were in Havana. She told me she knew Eric B, the rapper from Eric B and Rakim. Recently he'd been sending her sexually suggestive messages, and she was upset. So we went into a rickety building, climbing up cranky flights of stairs, to file a complaint in an office. The dream sort of ended there, or I can't remember the rest.

My dreams are like my life, I have no control over either. I guess this makes them both exciting and mysterious. I read Francois Truffaut's book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut years ago, and always remember Truffaut asking Hitchcock, “Do you ever use material from your dreams in your films?” And Hitchcock said, “No. Never.” And Truffaut said, “Why not?” And Hitchcock said he used to keep a pen and paper behind his bed so that if he had a dream and woke up, he could write down the idea and go back to sleep. It happened one night: he had this incredible dream, he woke up, he wrote it down, and he went back to sleep. And when he woke up the next morning, he looked at the piece of paper, and it just said, “Boy meets girl.” He said that was the last time he ever considered using an idea from his dream in a film. I love the 'Boy meets girl' concept, and always thought it was the basis of all cinema and literature.

I've never had dreams like falling or drowning or anything like that (and never sexual for that matter). They've always had a strong narrative, and I often view them as a film. The lighting is always impressive. Performances, so-so.

Previous dreams here

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Legoland Wildlife

Legoland, Windsor, is possibly my favourite place in the world. I like it when wildlife interacts with the Legoland Miniland. I think they find it fun; it makes them feel big, and there are no people getting in the way.

From top to bottom: ducks by canals in Amsterdam; pigeons on Canary Wharf tower; rabbit playing hide and seek; (same) rabbit by the railway tracks.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Lego Architecture
Star Wars Lego
Headless Movies

Friday, August 30, 2013

Random Film Review: Cloud Atlas

Dirs: Lana Wachowki, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski  |  2012  |  172mins  |  Germany

Cloud Atlas = Blade Runner + Last of the Summer Wine + Soylent Green + Ridley Walker + The Talented Mr Ripley + Erin Brockovich + Intolerance + The Fountain + Magnolia + My Girlfriend is a Cyborg (or I'm a Cyborg but that's OK)

Not an altogether bad mix. I'm not sure it was more than the sum of its parts but certainly an engaging 172mins.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Everything is four stars

The modern trend is for magazines, newspapers and websites to review films, music, theatre, restaurants, etc, on a five star basis, with five being the best and one the worst.* The majority of reviews, even when they are gushing about an album, book or film, seem to get an average of only four stars. I'm not sure where I stand on four stars: they're either the new three stars (i.e. average) or the new five stars (i.e. great). It's interesting to note that five stars is usually just reserved for re-issues and re-releases of older films or albums. It's usually quite rare for a contemporary film or album to get five stars. Maybe it just takes time and perspective for a 'classic' to be acknowledged (for example, Citizen Kane was panned in its day). On film posters, films hailed by magazines as 'Brilliant!' or 'Genius!' or 'Masterpiece!' still only get four stars. Yet four stars have become so ubiquitous in reviews that I don't expect anything above average from the rating any more, and three stars has become below average, unexceptional. Two is terrible and one unwatchable.

Certain publications, in my opinion, most notably Radio Times (for film reviews) and Q magazine (for music), seem to get the star rating so consistently wrong that I use them as reverse barometers.

*A notable exception is the influential music website Pitchfork music, which I look at on a daily basis. Pitchfork rates albums and songs out of ten (including 'points', e.g. 7.4), a rating that Uncut magazine has recently employed (though without the 'point'). I often don't have time to read whole reviews, but like to play a guessing game. If an album is rated highly, it gets a 'Best New Music' heading, meaning it's over 8.0 (I think). But you can't see the score unless you click on the review. So, I like to guess the rating. I'm usually pretty spot on. And it's usually 8.5ish, which translates as, yup, four stars.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Always the same age

"We are always the same age inside." 
– Gertrude Stein

Someone once told me they believed people are a certain age throughout their lives. That is, they act a certain age all their lives, no matter what age they actually are. We say someone acts like a child, or someone acts like an old man, say, in a general kind of way, and we all know people like this. But saying someone is an exact age all their lives is kinda specific, whether it's 8, 24, or 76. Or all three, depending on the situation, perhaps. The PAC ego model divides people in three categories: Parent, Adult and Child. Originally developed by Eric Berne as part of his Transactional Analysis theory, the concept postulates that whenever we communicate with someone it is from one of the three categories (with adult being the one to attain; parent tends to be patronising or aggressive, perhaps; child needy, despairing or apathetic). I occasionally ponder who the real me is, or if there even is one. Does it always stay inside me? Or is it when I'm with family, or friends, or my lover, or at work, or only when on my own? I think we are all slightly different with different people in different situations.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Barngains on Israeli Road, SX15

There are currently barngains to be had on a daily basis on Israeli Road, SX15. A very well-to-do road, it regularly sees people throwing 'quality' stuff outside their house for people to take. In the past fortnight alone there's been a skateboard, electric guitar (without strings), various bits of furniture, an owl print, a small wooden carved horse and four soft toys (pictured). I usually pass by, stop, ponder, then move on. Do I really need these things? Just because they're free should I take them? No, I don't bother usually. But with the soft toys, I took a photo and rushed back to show my daughter in case she wanted any. She wanted one. We rushed back and there was a woman with a baby who had knocked on the door near where the toys had been dumped to ask the owner if it was okay to take them. It was, and she did. I mentioned to her that my daughter wanted one of the four, but that was the one her baby really wanted. Okay, any of them, I suggested, but her baby wanted them all. So she loaded them all on her buggy, and off she went. Anyway, even though the residents lack the ability to walk five minutes to a charity shop (though admittedly some of the items, like an electric guitar with no strings, probably wouldn't be accepted; charity shops are so fussy nowadays), I like the freecycle ethos of leaving stuff on the pavement for anyone to take – at least it's not being chucked in the bin, and items do get taken within a couple of hours. In fact, Israeli Road is now my favourite free charity shop. It's impossible to guess what's going to turn up next.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Booking too far in advance

Nowadays if people want to get tickets for an event, be it concert, theatre, sports or holiday, they have to book months in advance, sometimes up to a year, in order to secure tickets. I'm always wary about such optimistic future bookings. Firstly, it's such a burden. How do I know where I'm going to be in six months time on that date? What if I make other plans? What if I don't feel like going? What if I get run over by a bus? What if I'm in Tahiti? What if I forget all about it? I can barely think a week ahead, let alone months. Secondly, and this applies perhaps most to a music concert, will I like the band I've just booked tickets for six months from now? It's probably doubtful. I'll either have played them to death and got bored of them or forgotten all about them. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, if I've booked a few tickets, to go with a girlfriend or friend, say, will I even be in touch with them that far ahead? No, the idea of booking in advance seems fraught with too many uncertainties.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This post is intentionally blank

This 
post 
is 
intentionally 
blank
__
___
_____
_______
_________

Monday, August 12, 2013

Barnacles™

Technology makes us tired
Paradise is a person

People with immaculate homes have filthy minds

Dream Job is an oxymoron

Remote Control For Life

Ants are more important than humans

Jack Kerouac never learnt to drive

Life should have an exit questionnaire

Don't just be yourself

I don't mind but I do care

It's a business doing pleasure with you

Memories are purchased

72.6% of UK offices have an employee called Steve

Only one of the Beach Boys could surf

Smokers are more interesting than non-smokers

Vegans shouldn't eat honey

Tradespeople always have two sugars in their tea

Average prices are more expensive than average

Holidays feel like work

Women aren't as funny as men

Class should be dictated by taste

 It's easier to start a fire accidentally than on purpose
The proof's in the pdf

You make your own luck – if you're lucky
Kate Moss is plain and dull
Raspberries aren't berries
Roads destroy communities

Arranged marriages work better

Computers cheat

Update or die

 Don't just do something, sit there
The need for speed is juvenile

There are 2,000 apple varieties in Britain

Aspire to be average
A speeding bullet travels only 4m under water

Posh people wear red trousers

If I want your opinion, I'll tell you it

Visual imagery is tautological

iMe

Accent is everything

Jerusalem artichokes are neither of the two

107,832,745,599 people have lived on earth

Life is a series of ruts

Consumers are abusers

Haste is waste

 H is the middle of nowhere
Carry on carrion

Knob is bonk backwards

Islam means surrender

Jesus had a wicked wine cellar

Died in event loop on un-typed exception

Be good to your fiends

Drugs are God for you

Music is better than movies

Stay clear of best sellers

Sunbeds are as bad for you as smoking

Horses need passports too

Kill time until it kills you

Fear is desire unlocked

Avoid notice by hiding in plain sight

Get tax back from smack

Wii is for wimps

Sunbathing was invented in the 1920s

If the bees die, we die

The best things in life have a fee

Snails have hearts but no brains

Your ears never stop growing

A duck's quack doesn't echo

Global warming isn't always warm

Only eat oysters during months with 'r' in them

The Dark Side needs women™
Lick the mirror or the house will die

Social networking is anti-social

Bees have five eyes

Nothing was invented; everything was developed

Too many cocks spoil the brothel
Beauty reminds us of death
Relatives are Relative
You win some, you lose most
I like to try it before I taste it
Like a rolling moan
I love the women whaling
Corrupt me if I'm wrong
Can't write for coffee
The 'burbs eat me up
I haven't been able to update barnflakes.com for years now, due to apathy and software/server issues. The above is an edited and amended Barnacles section. I had some real good ones to add last week but I've forgotten them; I'll add them if/when I remember.

NB: Excitingly, some of the above phrases have links to previous posts.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Image of the day: Altman & Cohen

This is my favourite photo ever, ever, ever. Have you ever seen two more handsome men? Answers on a postcard please. No need to send it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Incredible Tretchikoff

Back in 2009 I was contacted by Boris Gorelik regarding one of my favourite artists, Vladimir Tretchikoff. Boris had read a few posts I'd written about notions of good/bad taste and Tretchikoff and wanted to interview me for a book he was writing on the artist (unfortunately I wasn't able to make the appointment). Four years later, his biography of the man, Incredible Tretchikoff: Life of an Artist and Adventurer, is finally out, published by Art/Books, a small publishing company.

Boris' book is amazingly the first biography of the artist. Tretchikoff's partly ghost-written autobiography, Pigeon's Luck, has been out of print for years, and how much of it is actually true is open to debate, so it's great to have a biography of Tretchikoff. As it says on the cover of Pigeon's Luck, his life 'reads like a thriller', and I'd still love to see a Technicolour film made of his colourful and extraordinary life.

Buy Incredible Tretchikoff from Amazon.

Previously on Barnflakes:
How to Have Taste
Vladimir Tretchikoff: More than Pigeon's Luck

Friday, August 09, 2013

Checking you out

There's a common fallacy that opposite human genders are constantly checking each other out. This isn't always true. Mostly, men are looking at men and women are looking at women. This isn't a sexual thing (entirely) but a competitive thing. We like to check out the competition, see what they're wearing, their haircuts, their mannerisms. It happens in all walks of life – dogs do it, cats do it, and children do it. Children in the street, when they see a child of a similar age and the same sex, literally stop and stare at one another, they're locked in a stare battle. But generally, men are looking better nowadays than women (an observation I've mentioned previously) and I probably look at men more: they're just more stylish. In the 1970s, men looked terrible and women looked good (in the 80s at least everyone looked terrible). Now it's largely the opposite. Men, inspired by homosexuals, are looking great whereas women, inspired by, er, lesbians (and celebrities and hipsters and Primark and sports/leisurewear becoming acceptable mainstream attire), are looking dreadful and misshapen. As was mentioned to me recently, women nowadays look either overtly sexual or dowdy; looking feminine doesn't come into it.

• A recent study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that women do look at other women's breasts and hips more than their faces, probably to 'check out the competition'.

NB: This post has been labelled 'Controversial (Perhaps)' and is not necessarily the views of the author. But he does like a beautiful woman in a polka dot dress.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Souvenir from Iran

I got this in the post from my brother recently (thanks Dan!). It's not often I mention other people's blogs, but he is family, so I should point you in the direction of Daniel's blog, Vegan Duck on a Bike. A few years ago he cycled from London to Istanbul, a mere meander in the park compared to his latest venture, cycling from Istanbul to, er, New Zealand, via the Silk Road which includes Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and China. He's cycling about 200km a day.

Dan's documenting his journey with the blog and photos. The blog is very readable and his photos on Flickr are great. I've just had the fun task of uploading 2,000 of them. Be prepared for lots of pics of tiles and mosques. They are absolutely awesome.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Top 10 favourite words

1. Obstreperous
2. Bucolic
3. Mellifluous
4. Onomatopoeia
5. Serendipity
6. Lagoon
7. Factotum
8. Pluck
9. Nestle
10. Turquoise

(FACTS in FILMS: I've written about music in films recently but I also like obscure FACTS in films. In Barney's Version, a woman who Barney falls in love with on his wedding day tells him of the origin of Montecristo cigars – the women who traditionally rolled the cigars liked to have books read to them when rolling. Their favourite book was The Count of Monte Cristo. The phrase 'cellar door' is often cited as being one of the most beautiful in the English language; this is mentioned in a scene in the film Donnie Darko.)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Top 10 Greatest Hits

1. The Beatles: 1
2. Rolling Stones: Forty Licks
3. The Who: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
4. Bob Dylan: Biograph
5. David Bowie: Best of Bowie
6. ABBA: Gold: Greatest Hits
7. Queen: Greatest Hits
8. Roxy Music: Street Life – 20 Great Hits
9. Beach Boys: The Very Best of the Beach Boys
10. Fleetwood Mac: The Greatest Hits


The soundtrack to the eagerly-awaited Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, has just been released. Notorious for having limited musical knowledge and taste, Partridge's collection is actually surprisingly good, with Philip Glass, Bryan Ferry, Steeleye Span and the Sparks in the mix.

I'll always remember an episode of I'm Alan Partridge when the Norfolk DJ is asked what his favourite Beatles album is and he can't name one so eventually comes up with... Best of the Beatles:

Alan: Oh, yeah. I like all the bands. I’ve got a broad taste, you know. From the britpop bands like UB40, Def Leppard, right back to classic rock, like Wings.

Ben: Who’s Wings?

Alan: They’re only the band the Beatles could have been.

Ben: I love the Beatles.

Alan: Yeah, so do I.

Ben: What’s your favourite Beatles album, then?

Alan: Tough one. I think I’d have to say… ‘The Best of the Beatles’.

I never quite got this. I know it's meant to be a put down of Partridge's lack of musical knowledge but I'm kind of in agreement with him. Firstly, I probably listen to Wings more than the Beatles. Secondly, a Beatles' Greatest Hits is way better than any individual album of theirs. And it's the same with a lot of bands. The Stones produced very few great albums; in fact, all you really need is Exile on Main Street and a Greatest Hits.

In The Guardian: Alexis Petridis on Alan Partridge's musical taste and his playlist.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Greatest Hits

Monday, August 05, 2013

Overheard #8

On a train from Camborne to London. Four precocious young people; a doctor, two filmmakers and a DJ from Dalston via New York have been to a wedding the previous day. One of their friends is called Crusoe. His dad is called Robin. The only reason he was named Crusoe was so it could be said: 'Robin's son, Crusoe' [ie Robinson Crusoe] – a phrase which might not come up that often but when it did would be worth it. The dad has a wicked sense of humour. Absolute genius.

Other subjects of conversation were: Apple Apps (mainly, Tinder), modern dating (via the book The Game; oh God, is all modern life just a 'high-powered marketing technique'?), social networking, shooting films in LA / New York and how to save a drunk person who had swam in the sea at midnight, turned blue then collapsed under the kitchen table (put him in a warm shower). Somehow it filled a five hour train journey. I had no book and no headphones for my iPod. I looked out the window at the beautiful countryside passing by.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

She Leaves Vs Ship to Shore


I first mentioned this way over a year ago and Bruce recently got in touch with me informing his version was ready. I won't repeat my earlier post about it but just mention that Bruce has remade a student film of mine, She Leaves (above, made in 1993). He's called it Ship to Shore and can be watched here using the password whatever but with the es replaced with 3s. It contains more nudity than mine but is essentially quite similar, minus the leaves.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Google Glass Vs Apple iPatch


The world's two coolest technology brands, Google and Apple, are to go head-to-head (or should that be eye to eye) in releasing their wearable, hands-free computer devices simultaneously. Google's Glass is a set of eye glasses where the internet can be accessed using voice commands and viewed via an optical head-mounted display. The device can also take photos and record video. Apple's iPatch works in a similar way but takes the form of a traditional pirate-style eye patch which can also access the web using voice only. However, in Apple's case the voice can only be recognised if spoken in a 'pirate accent'.

Although a Google spokesperson referred to the iPatch as "naff", and many feel Apple has lost its way since the death of Steve Jobs, Apple may well be onto something, cashing in on the recent craze for pirates in films such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Apple is also hoping to target hitherto uncharted pirate-loving territories including Penzance, Cornwall and, er, Somalia.

Hands-free wearable computers could well be the future, but the jury is currently out on which looks the most ridiculous, the Glass or the iPatch. Virtual reality was all the craze in the 1990s, with films such as Strange Days (1995) taking the concept to extremes, but the idea never seemed to take off. However, the Glass and iPatch are bringing reality a step nearer in what was previously only the domain of science fiction and swashbuckling films.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Celine and Jesse go Boating*

Aside from the original Star Wars trilogy (1977-1983), Richard Linklater's three 'Before' films, Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013) are perhaps the most inspiring, optimistic and romantic trilogy of American films I've ever seen. Like Truffaut's Antoine Doinel films, or the BBC's Up documentaries, each film was made almost ten years apart (so spanning nearly twenty years) using the same characters/actors, which is the time span I watched them in, but watching them back to back is equally rewarding. I think I responded to them so much because Jesse, played by Ethan Hawke, is the same age as me so its been interesting watching him age in the films the same rate as myself.

All three films are simplicity itself, consisting of nothing more than the two main characters walking around, talking about the meaning of life, flirting, loving, arguing. But herein lies their beauty, especially in the age of the mindless, CGI-laden blockbusters, the films come across as a breath of fresh air, and more akin to European cinema, in particular the films of Eric Rohmer. The three films have an intimacy, warmth and natural realism that's never mawkish. There's something innately cinematic about them too, perhaps surprising with their lack of special effects or flashy camera angles. I think it's about observing their relationship grow on screen and the cinema being a place of intimacy (all three films have been written by the director in collaboration with the two leads). With each successive film it's like catching up with old friends, and spending time with them is always a delight.

The first film, Before Sunrise, has the two attractive leads, American Jesse and French Celine (played by Julie Delpy), meeting on a train and deciding to disembark in Vienna to spend the day together. The natural spontaneity and obvious attraction between the two is immediately apparent as we follow them in (mostly) real time with long takes and unobtrusive camerawork. Each film ends on an ambiguous note; at the end of Sunrise we're not sure if they had sex or not. By Before Sunset, nine years later, we find out they did, as Celine turns up at a book reading by Jesse in Paris (at the Shakespeare & Co bookshop, where I once spent the night in 1995). The formula is the same as we follow them around Paris, catching up with what they have been up to for the last decade, and why they didn't meet a year later after they first met. I usually say my favourite ending of any film is Fat City, but Before Sunset comes close with Celine in her kitchen dancing to Nina Simone and saying to Jesse, 'You're gonna miss your plane, baby'. Jesse sits on the sofa with a grin as wide as a Cheshire Cat and says, 'I know'.

Nine years later we find out soon enough what's happened, as we meet Jesse's son from a previous marriage and the twin daughters he's had with Celine. I don't know what's wrong with me but seeing Jesse and Celine still together after all these years bought tears to my eyes, even if they do argue a lot of the time. The film follows the now-familiar pattern of walking and talking, this time on a Greek island, where the topics are now more pragmatic than romantic. Nevertheless, the film ends again on an ambiguous but positive and romantic note.

* A pretentious reference to Celine and Julie go Boating, Jacques Rivette's 1974 film set in Paris, the setting for Before Sunset, where Celine and Jesse do actually board a boat; presumably Celine and Julie do too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tribes of Great Britain

I recently saw the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park (Jagger still moves like Jagger, in case you're wondering) and couldn't help but notice half the audience wearing Rolling Stones T-shirts. How uncool! It struck me how much us Brits love to pigeonhole ourselves, and literally wear our identities on our sleeves.

At gigs and sporting events it manifests itself in T-shirts; in the workplace it's suits or checked shirt and jeans on a casual Friday. Hipsters get a lot of flack for trying to look individual by looking identical to every other hipster in the land (ie ridiculous) but their painstaking, misguided effort is almost endearing (they're often compared to the hippies of the 1960s but lacking a political - or any - agenda, their look comes across as pure posturing). Sad couples like to wear matching outfits and posh people red or mustard-coloured trousers.

When walking in the countryside, walkers or ramblers like to wear their rambling gear, including walking sticks, as if they're climbing Mount Everest rather than having a gentle stroll in the Chilterns. Joggers too like to look the part. But in recent years it's cyclists who dress up more than any other tribe, and where a cycle through Richmond Park usually feels like the third leg of the Tour de France. But even cycling to work looks like it's a race for most cyclists, with their £1000 bikes and costumes costing almost as much (mainstream brands have also got in on the act with Levi's, for example, now producing a range of pricey and pointless cycling attire).

I don't know, to me, shaving one's legs and wearing a Rapha jersey and £195 Vulpine rain jacket just to go 0.3 seconds faster on a bike ride through the Surrey Downs on a Sunday afternoon strikes me as incredibly pretentious and ponsey. The cycling thing seems a mostly British preoccupation. There was a friendly, completely unpretentious cycling network I discovered cycling round France a year ago, with little of the competitiveness and expensive attire found here.

But uniforms of intent are with us throughout our lives, from babies wearing pink or blue to delineate sex (interesting to note pink was for boys and blue for girls up until the 1940s) to the elderly wearing hideous, ill fitting beige and pastel attire. There must come a time, perhaps in their late 60s, when old folk just think 'fuck it', I'm not out to impress anymore, I'm going purely for comfort and don't care what it looks like. I really like seeing the elderly still dressing well; the beige and pastel and slip on shoes makes me fear old age more than anything else.

I'm of the Groucho Marx school of thought where I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would allow me as a member. But mainly, and I realise it's unavoidable, I just don't like to be pigeonholed by haircut, T-shirt or shoes.

* The mobile phone in the air at concerts has long superseded the lighting of candles or waving of lighters in the air (am I imagining this or did fans used to do this in the 60s, 70s, 80s? Look at the cover of Before the Flood). It's funny how fans prefer taking out of focus photos at gigs rather than record the actual music (video would seem to be the most complete option), but the photo is proof of being there to post immediately on Facebook (naturally). It doesn't matter that Jagger looks the size of an ant in the pictures or that an audio clip would be far more representative (the girl in front of me was phoning friends during the concert and giving them a blast of Sympathy for the Devil when they picked up. Now this I liked as it was in keeping with the live experience, not to be saved, repeated or posted but enjoyed in the moment).