Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Terms and Conditions Apply

At the tail end of my post about the brilliant Stanley Kubrick exhibition, I wrote that I would have stayed for longer had I not been up against the clock to get to a TV studio on the other side of the city. I added, somewhat cryptically, "...but that's another blog post, for another day." Well, today is that day, and this is that post.

Specifically, I had to get to the BT Studios in Here East, Stratford. In their own words, Here East is "a unique campus where creative businesses growing in scale join businesses of scale growing in creativity." In reality, it's a concentration of very fancy new buildings that have sprung up in the Olympic Park, close to the Copper Box Arena, where lots of very fancy, high-tech companies have set up shop. That's where I had to be... and I was going to be late. For I had a free ticket to watch the filming of Dave Gorman's new TV show, Terms and Conditions Apply. Doors opened at 3pm. I rocked up at 4.15...

I almost didn't bother. The only other people in the queue when I arrived were a couple who had turned up too early for the evening recording. Still, I waited my turn and spoke to the guy on the reception desk. And fair play to him, he didn't hang about. "Let's see if we can sneak you in," he said, before slipping a BT Sport wristband on me, and leading me through a maze of corridors. "You haven't been through security," he said, as we walked, "so I'd better just look in your bag." Which he did, just as we arrived at the studio.

The house lights were already down. The audience were all in their seats. Dave Gorman was on stage, having a conversation with whomever was on the other end of his ear-piece. Guest panellists Rose Matafeo, Phil Wang and Marcus Brigstocke were also on stage, quietly waiting for proceedings to start. I had clearly missed the warm-up. But filming had not started. My receptionist friend had a quick word with who I assumed to be the floor manager and I was ushered through to the audience, stepping over cables and weaving between cameras to get there. I took the nearest available free seat, to minimise any disturbance or inconvenience, and settled down to watch, laugh and learn.

Dave's new show looks like it's going to pretty much pick up where the lauded Modern Life Is Goodish left off, except this time Dave - who famously ended MLIG after revealing he spent 100+ hrs per week on it whilst filming - has some help to do the heavy lifting, in the form of a panel of his comedy chums. So whilst we are used to Dave poking fun at the absurdities of modern life, this time he leads others down that path, via a series of games inspired by the weird and wonderful things that he finds on the Internet. One such game during this episode revolved around the ridiculous names companies like Farrow and Ball give their paint colours (which made me wonder whether Dave had been reading C's blog... or just decorating his new home in Brighton).

Anyway, I don't want to review the whole show, for fear of inadvertent spoilers. I will say that it looks like it'll be worth watching, when it hits our screens later in the year. Phil Wang started slowly and was cooking by the end of the show; conversely, Marcus Brigstocke started strongly and went a little bit the other way; Rose Matafeo was consistent throughout. And Dave was Dave... and it is always good to see him clicking his way through Powerpoint slides on a big screen, whatever the format. I hope this works for him. Some years back, he tried to transfer his Genius radio show to TV, and it didn't quite work so well. I hope this fares better.

What I really wanted to capture though was the experience of being in the studio, watching a programme of this nature being recorded. I counted seven cameras in all, six conventional and one mounted on a jib that swung around over the audience. Because of my late arrival, I was sat directly behind the camera with Dave's autocue attached, so whenever he spoke to camera, it felt like he was talking to me. The audience - I'd estimate 200 people - were mostly my age and older, perhaps unsurprising given the mid-week, afternoon recording time. They were very into Dave's slide-based japery, again unsurprising since his mailing list (including me) get first dibs on free tickets like this. Interesting to note though that the loudest applause was always from the floor manager - as were the whoops and whistles you'll also hear from the audience. I was also interested to learn how the pick-ups work - pick-ups are bits that are unclear or mangled on first recording, so are re-recorded for clarity. In this case, each time the show got to what would be a commercial break, Dave would have a bit of a conversation with whomever was on the other end of his ear-piece, the floor manager would do the same via a little walkie-talkie, and then a certain line would be re-shot. Presumably the rest is then done in the edit, for our seamless domestic viewing pleasure. Another interesting point of note was that other end of Dave's ear-piece, i.e. the production team sat above and behind me, in a gallery looking down on the studio. I didn't know they were there until something Dave said in one of those "ad-break" one-way conversations made them all laugh out loud. I don't know how many were in that gallery, but I counted fourteen people on the studio floor, including the floor manager, cameramen, make-up women, and various runners who, among other things, moved props and assembled stage furniture.

All in all, I was in the studio for about an hour and three quarters, for the recording of a single show. Bearing in mind I missed the warm-up and set-up, this was quite a long time. I found the whole experience fascinating, and had one of those "I wish I had a different career" moments - not for one moment would I want to be up on the stage with a camera pointing at me, but I do think being up in the gallery, directing proceedings, could be very interesting.

Anyway, this is an interesting post for me, but maybe not so much for you. So as a reward for reading, here's a bit of Dave from his masterpiece, Modern Life Is Goodish, specifically an example of something missing from the new show: a Found Poem.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Sunday shorts: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Cheating, a tiny bit, by using a session version (rather than the regular studio recording) to squeak in under the two minute limit...

Friday, 26 July 2019

Blue Friday - Surf

Roddy Frame is one of those artists for whom I have a bit of a blind spot. I know, I know, what a parochial heathen I am. But I heard this on Radliffe and Maconie's 6Music show a few weeks back and it floored me. So here it is.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Trawling back through the memory card on my phone, I'm reminded that in August 2015 I found myself at the market in the French seaside town of Dinard. The outside of the market building had a series of tiled mosaic pictures around the outside (and still does, look). I took poor quality photos of my favourites, and remember wondering at the time whether these pictures depicted French folk tales with which I was unfamiliar, or were merely ways to evoke the produce on sale in the market (seafood and fruit, in these examples). But I never did find out. Two minutes' basic Googling leaves me struggling to find any kind of folk tale about a mermaid turning a suitor into a lobster. I haven't even bothered looking for one about magpies eating cherries... but look - that cherry has a skull inside! What's going on?

I think they're quite interesting, whatever their backstory, but does anyone have any thoughts? Or knowledge of French/Bréton folklore?

Click to enlarge

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Go!

To anyone quibbling the timestamp on this post, the Eagle landed at 02:56:15 UTC on July 21st. UTC pretty much lines up with GMT. So in BST, as we currently are, that's 3:56am.

Don't you wish we had a leader of the free world today who would stand up and say something like "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before [a] decade is out, of halting and perhaps reversing the effects of man on the climate of the Earth." Because here, perhaps, is the ultimate example of what can be achieved with motivation, enthusiasm, knowledge, funding, ingenuity, bravery and ambition.

Can't hear this enough right now either.

Sunday shorts will (might) return next week, when there are fewer momentous historical events to post about.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.

This is going to be a long post. So, as a public service, I'm going to offer up an abridged version first, before the main event.

TLDR / Abridged version (contains a bold, underlined spoiler)

If you have any interest at all in film and/or the art of film-making, the Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum is an essential, must-see event, regardless of how far you have to go to get there. It's on until 15th September 2019. You can, and must, book your ticket for it, right here, right now. The end.

Unabridged version
[All photos can be embiggened with a click...]

The Design Museum, established 30 years ago this year by Sir Terence Conran, sits at the southern tip of Holland Park - this affords you a lovely, leafy approach from the Tube. The Museum is worth a visit on its own merits but right now, and until 15th September, it is pretty much an essential part of your trip to London, for it is home to "Stanley Kubrick: the exhibition". It is hard to imagine a more detailed or more lovingly curated insight into the mind, and work, of the godlike genius; if you are a Kubrick nerd, like me, you will be in raptures but even if you're just a film fan and/or interested in the mechanics of film-making there is still so much for you to enjoy here.

On entering the museum, the first thing you see in the foyer is the striking orange beauty of the Adams Brothers' Probe 16, aka the Durango 95 that Alex and his droogs steal for a night of the old ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange. One of only three made, this is a properly rare car even without the film provenance, and is a striking (if impractical) piece of automotive design that evokes an immediate Pavlovian response in film connoisseurs and petrolheads alike.

Once you've got your timed-entry ticket (and you'll want to book in advance, it's proving very popular), you enter the exhibition through a passageway that is carpeted in the famous tessellated pattern of the Overlook Hotel, between a bank of 32 monitors that provide what amounts to a montage of Kubrick's greatest hits, clips spliced together from his most famous works and scored with Also Sprach Zarathrustra (what else?) - the effect of all those monitors is slightly kaleidoscopic and, to this reviewer at least, also served to highlight Kubrick's well-known love of symmetry in a shot (I felt the need to walk down the very centre of that short passageway as a result). The montage ends with a shot from 2001, entering the monolith, which seems apt as you enter the exhibition proper...

The first room focuses on Kubrick's life and development as a film-maker, and his uniquely meticulous preparation for, and approach to, each new film project. This is also where his early career is covered, both as a photographer for New York's Look magazine (there is a separate, and free, exhibition of his photos from this period on the first floor of the museum if you have time) and nascent film-maker: Day of the Fight, Fear and Desire, The Killing and Killer's Kiss are all covered in this room. There's also this great quote, that describes how he came to transition from still pictures to moving ones...

My fantasy image of movies was created in the Museum of Modern Art, where I looked at [the work of] Stroheim and DW Griffith and Eisenstein. I was starstruck by these fantastic movies. I really was in love with movies... I remember thinking at the time that I didn't know anything about movies, but I'd seen so many movies that were bad, I thought "Even though I don't know anything, I can't believe I can't make a movie at least as good as this." And that's why I started, why I tried.

There's also a great illustration of Stanley's research process - there are shelves of books that constitute a small part of his personal Napoleon archive, for example, along with hand-written, colour-coded notes for the great unmade film that he thought could be so good. I also got disproportionately excited about some of the scripts and screenplays on display in this room - these felt more like quasi-religious artefacts to this fan-boy... as did the array of lenses, some custom made to Kubrick's personal order, and clapperboards. Most quasi-religious of all is Kubrick's editing table - I hadn't realised the extent to which he was involved in the editing, cutting film by hand with a razor blade. That's one of many ways in which this is perhaps the most fascinating room, especially for fans who already feel they know the more celebrated films inside out. I loved a notebook of Stanley's, open at a page from 1965 which began "A story is a means of holding interest and steering matters into certain areas of interest."

There's more here, of course, so much more, especially for 2001; Kubrick's Oscar for its special effects; a detailed explanation of the slit-scan methodology developed by Douglas Trumbull for the Stargate sequence; a scale model of the centrifuge used to enable the "jogging around the Discovery" sequence, and more besides. And perhaps of more niche interest, certainly less well-known, are the black and white photos of Kubrick's early years, behind the scenes of those first four films. Oh, and a exploration of the importance of chess to Kubrick, not least as a way of hustling income as a young man but also in his films, and on set. I blew an hour in this room alone, and could happily have stayed longer.

After this, it's essentially one room per film for each of his more renowned pictures, starting with Paths of Glory, a 1957 anti-war film based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Interestingly, I learned that all of Kubrick's films save one were based on novels by other people (+5 kudos points on offer here to anyone id'ing the exception). Kirk Douglas starred as the French officer with a conscience, an experience that would undoubtedly benefit all concerned when later reuniting on Spartacus. There's also an interesting aside about the only woman cast in the film, Susanne Christian, who would later become the third (and final) Mrs Kubrick. She's pictured left, looking for all the world like she belongs on a Smiths album cover. There's also a looping video of the film running that splices key scenes together, here ending with the firing squad scene and Douglas's return to the trenches a changed man - powerful stuff. The looping video montage idea is repeated for every subsequent film in the exhibition, and works very well too.

I had sort of expected, hoped even, that the films from thereon would be in chronological order but no - rather, the films have been loosely grouped thematically, or at least that was my interpretation of the ordering. For the next film is Spartacus, again starring Kirk Douglas as the titular slave turned gladiator turned rebel. This was the only Kubrick film over which he did not have complete artistic control, having been drafted in by Douglas's production company after original director Anthony Mann was fired after only a week. It was also notable for going public with the fact that Dalton Trumbo was the screenwriter, at a time when he was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, following a McCarthy-led witch-hunt investigation of communist influences in the film industry. Hence, Kubrick described Spartacus as the "only picture I've worked on where I was employed." Of course the looping video montage in this room includes the famous "I'm Spartacus!" scene but other note-worthy props include a costume worn by Sir Laurence Olivier. This room also has what might just be my favourite picture of the whole exhibition, not just for its scale and vague sense of the abstract but also for its illustration of Kubrick's meticulous nature - here it is. Stanley gave every extra on Spartacus a number, so that he could direct them all individually. Fine, if there were five or ten extras... but Spartacus had hundreds...

The third in what I thought of as the war-themed rooms centred on Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick's Vietnam masterpiece. Memorably a film of two halves, the looping video included clips from each. Notable props on display included Joker's iconic "Born to kill" helmet, complete with CND badge. There were also a lot of photographs of Hue, taken by Don McCullin; these, and Hue in general, were the basis for the shell-struck town Joker and his fellow soldiers encounter the sniper in. Since Kubrick, by that point, famously made all his films in the UK, great lengths were taken to recreate Hue: Beckton Gas Works, a derelict coke-smelting plant of more than 600 acres, deputised ably, after six weeks of selective demolition and the addition of 200 living palm trees flown in from Spain... plus 100,000 plastic tropical plants from Hong Kong, four M41 tanks from Belgium, M79 grenade launchers, M60 machine guns and a whole host of leased Sikorsky helicopters painted the appropriate military green - such were the lengths Kubrick would go to, to avoid flying around the world to make his films. Much is also made here of a Kubrick quote: "I don't see the characters in the story in terms of good or evil, but in terms of good and evil." Although not explicitly tied to FMJ's Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, it is shown next to a recruitment poster featuring an uncannily similar drill sergeant...

Now here's where my amateur interpretation of the sequencing of the films comes unstuck, for if it was as simple as "stick all the 'war' films together" then Dr Strangelove would be next, right? But no. Instead, the exhibition turns at right-angles into what I think of as a sex/desire/controversy triptych of films, the first of which is Lolita. Interesting to learn that a lot of promo for the film at the time centred on "how did they film this?" The answer, as you'll know if you've seen it, is to reverse the book's storytelling order, to make for a more conventional narrative, emphasise Humbert's infatuation with Lolita rather than his lust, and cast 13-year old Sue Lyon to play the titular character. Also key to the film's impact was the fact that Nabokov himself wrote the screenplay, although this was not without its complications - seemingly unwilling to cut much, early drafts of his screenplay were unworkably long. Lolita was another Kubrick-Harris production; here's a photograph of the director and producer with their starlet, Sue, that I'm not sure how I feel about. Easy to draw parallels with how they're looking at her with how Humbert would look at Lolita... or am I just adding that interpretation because of the context the film adds, perhaps? Either way, a great photo. Sue would make a few more pictures after Lolita but then fade from the limelight, but she continued to write to Stanley regularly throughout his life - the exhibition includes one such letter from Kubrick's correspondence archive. Also, the looping video clip for Lolita includes Peter Sellers making an "I'm Spartacus" joke - not the last time Kubrick referenced his own work.

Next up in the sex/desire/controversy theme is A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick's 1971 adaption of the Anthony Burgess novel. There are some great props on display here, most notably from the Korova Milk Bar. Although perhaps I shouldn't call them props, after learning from this exhibition that artist John Barry almost withdrew permission to use his work over use of the word "prop" to describe it. Of course, such art (including the penis rocking chair, reproduced here) wasn't the only stylistic method Kubrick used to evoke a near-future dystopia - the exhibition nicely draws attention to the use of Thamesmead, then a relatively new development, as a key location, and highlights the brutalist architecture (especially in the film's second half) as reflective of the society in which Alex lives. Given the furore that followed the film's release, with allegations of copycat crimes and the like, Kubrick eventually withdrew the film from release, where it effectively remained until his death. Viewers had to seek out underground screenings. In light of the (somewhat hysterical, in retrospect) moral outrage that forced Stanley's hand, and the feared impact that such a film would have on the nation's moral fibre, I found this quote from him to be especially interesting:

The point I want to make is that the film has been accepted as a work of art, and no work of art has ever done social harm, though a great deal of social harm has been done by those who have sought to protect society against works of art which they regarded as dangerous.

Oh, and if you have good eyes you can spot another Kubrick self-reference in one of the many photographs on display for this film. And of course, the looping video montage includes, but is not limited to, this famous scene:

The third film in this thematic block is Kubrick's swansong, Eyes Wide Shut. Ostensibly a film about desire, and the paths it can lead you off onto, Kubrick pulled off a masterstroke in casting (then) real-life husband and wife Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as the film's married protagonists - it definitely added a certain something for the viewer, especially in scenes of particular emotional intensity (love-making, arguing). One criticism often levelled at the film is that the New York street scenes were unconvincing; of course, by this point in his career Kubrick would not leave the UK to make this or any other film. The exhibition is at pains to illustrate just how much time and effort was spent identifying locations in London that could double for parts of New York, to no avail - in the end, Kubrick had his streets built on set. Perhaps they aren't completely convincing but it doesn't detract from what is an under-rated entry in the Kubrick oeuvre. It's an provocative film that examines the power of secrets when revealed and, perhaps, examines the knife-edge relationships (especially marriages) tread in maintaining their equilibrium. Perhaps this is why it wasn't an out and out smash, and continues to feature some way down any list of Kubrick's best films - it's uncomfortable viewing for many. Anyway, there are some great original props here (and I emphasise original, since some of the props in other rooms are reproductions): a selection of masks from the secret ball, the "Fidelio" napkin, and the letter given to Bill (Cruise) to advise he desist in his quest to understand what has been going on at the ball...

My theory about thematic linkage of rooms/films starts to fall down at this point. Never mind because next up is The Shining, for my mind one of the greatest films of any genre, by anyone, ever. On the one hand, this is a conventional horror film about spooky goings-on in an isolated location. On the other, this is a disturbing portrayal of the unravelling of Jack Torrance. Kubrick was intrigued by this duality, and is quoted here as saying that the source novel, by Stephen King, "seemed to strike an extraordinary balance between the psychological and the supernatural in such a way as to lead you to think that the supernatural would eventually be explained by the psychological." Of course, King would famously profess not to like Kubrick's interpretation, perhaps because too much was changed in the transition from page to screen. I have to say, much as I love him and his work, I think there might be some small element of hubris colouring King's judgement, for Kubrick's Shining is a masterpiece. This room in the exhibition has some terrific props - the Grady girls' dresses, Danny's Apollo 11 jumper, a scale model of the Overlook maze (complete with cryptic instructions on how to escape, that could be enough on their own to tip an unstable caretaker over the edge), some prototype axes, and more. The exhibition also highlights the fact that this is, in part, a film about obsession - for Jack, his writing, and his inability to write. In that regard, perhaps this room follows on thematically from Eyes Wide Shut rather well. Oh, and although I have seen it dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, that scene, included in the looping video montage, in which a wigged-out Jack confronts a freaked-out Wendy, only to receive a baseball bat to the face... well, it's a powerful movie, how much more can I eulogise?

Next up is Dr Strangelove, a film that could quite easily have been placed with the war-themed movies (so perhaps that's another hole in my sequencing theory). Kubrick's A-bomb paranoia movie, featuring a notable dual performance by Peter Sellers, is rightly regarded as an anti-war classic. It some ways, this room does follow nicely on from Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining, given the similar themes of how sanity and equilibrium are such fragile qualities, easily derailed. The exhibition includes a beautiful 1:20 scale model of the war room, pictured left, plus plenty of sketches highlighting Ken Adams's terrific design work for the film. In what is essentially as much a very dark comedy as a piece of socio-political observation, it was interesting to learn from the exhibition that Kubrick spent five long days filming a pie fight scene for the end of the movie... only to not use it at all. Turns out he feared the slapstick, clownish nature of the scene would lessen the film's anti-war message. Good call, Stanley.

The penultimate film room in the exhibition concerns Barry Lyndon, Kubrick's 3hr historical drama. Now I'll be honest, this is the film on Stanley's CV that I've always struggled most with. That's not to say it isn't a beautifully crafted piece of work, because it is. It's just... I don't know. Maybe I'm just not, by nature, going to be interested in 18th Century historical dramas, however wonderfully crafted. Maybe I just don't buy American pretty-boy Ryan O'Neal as the titular hero (I wouldn't be alone in this view). Tellingly, the only photograph I took in this room was an information sign next to a display of three-wick candles; Kubrick specially ordered these as they produce a brighter flame than regular candles, allowing more light to be captured. Such attention to detail (and the specially commissioned lens he used, a reconstruction of a NASA lens design originally used for shooting in space) enabled an authentic look and feel to the film - indeed, Barry Lyndon, as much as any other Kubrick film, stands up as a visual work of art. I just need to appreciate the story more. A repeat viewing is in order, I think... whenever I have 185 spare, uninterrupted minutes.

The final room in the exhibition is, for this reviewer, the most important of all. It focuses on the film that got me into Stanley Kubrick in the first place - 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a childhood fan of Arthur C. Clarke's fiction, especially that which would now be called YA, making the transition to 2001 was easy, especially as I then won a early form of laser disc player, complete with 2001 and Logan's Run on disc (you had to manually turn the LP-sized platters over half way through - no wonder the CED format didn't catch on). Anyway, it is a glorious, glorious piece of visionary film-making, that I've blogged about numerous times before (and watched far more times than is healthy)... so I'd better try to keep my eulogising on topic here, i.e. about the exhibition, not the film. There are holy grail props galore here, for starters, including the Moonwatcher primate suit and highly intricate head, Dave Bowman's flight suit, the PanAm stewardess's "bump" hat, Dave's space helmet and various other parts of his space suit, a recreation of HAL and his monitors, a recreation of a section of the orbiting space station (featuring the Hilton Space Station 5 and Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room), the actual watch and cutlery used in scenes on-board Discovery... I could go on. Such were the innovations in this film, the 2001 room could have been a lot, lot bigger - bear in mind, for example, that an explanation of the slit-scan technique and discussion of the centrifuge built to shoot "revolving" sequences are covered in the earlier, introductory room. And I haven't even mentioned the Harry Lange drawings, the technical design nature of which lends them the air of blueprints. Oh, and the models... lots of models: the PanAm Orion III space plane that takes Heywood Floyd into orbit; the moon shuttle that takes him to the Tycho monolith; and a beautiful, elegant, long Discovery, complete with tiny pod in front of it. cradling Frank's body in its arms and waiting, hopefully, for HAL to open the pod bay doors. Of course there is also a looping video montage too... and then, finally, you past underneath the Starchild, suspended from the ceiling in front of a sign that says simply "The End". How fitting is that?

There is, of course, a fine exhibition gift shop, next to the regular shop, at which you can buy all manner of Kubrick-related merchandise. I had to restrain myself quite hard here, but still blew £35. What I can tell you is that the Taschen Stanley Kubrick Archives book is an absolute steal at £15. Even if you can't make it to the exhibition, you might want to consider buying that.

I realise, scanning back through what might be the longest post I've ever written, that there's lots I've neglected to mention. The most glaring omission is the coverage given to Kubrick's characteristically intense interest in getting the soundtrack for his film's exactly right, whether that's Nancy Sinatra and Surfin' Bird in FMJ, Beethoven in ACO or the choral works of Ligeti in 2001. Tarantino gets lauded for his use of soundtracks as plot devices, but Kubrick did that too, every bit as much. Also, whilst I mentioned Napoleon, I didn't mention AI. Or the iterations of film poster design for The Shining. Oh, and I really wanted to include this quote, about editing, that should apply to writers every bit as much as film-makers:

When I'm editing, I'm only concerned with the question of "Is it good or bad?", "Is it necessary?", "Can I get rid of it?", "Does it work?". I am never concerned with how much difficulty there was to shoot something, how much it cost, and so forth. I'm never troubled losing material. I cut everything to the bone. When you're shooting, you want to make sure you don't miss anything and you cover it as fully as time and budget allow. When you're editing, you want to get rid of everything that isn't essential.

All in all, I spent well over three and a half hours in this exhibition, and could happily have spent much longer had I not been up against the clock to get to a TV studio on the other side of the city... but that's another blog post, for another day. In summary then, it's exactly like I said at the top: "Stanley Kubrick: the exhibition" at the Design Museum is an essential, must-see event; go while you can.

+3 kudos points if you read this far. Who did?

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Sunday shorts: Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

With some short songs, however good they might be, you can't help but feel they would be even better if they were just a bit longer...

...but not this. It is perfect, a short song archetype. 112 seconds of Morrissey/Marr that will still sound perfect in ten, twenty, a hundred years.

I know you all know it already, but pop on your headphones, close your eyes and listen...

Friday, 12 July 2019

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Earworm

Woke up with this in my head, so am blogging to put it in your head too. Sorry.

Should I ever produce a gentle, Sunday-afternoon-on-ITV4-type crime drama, where someone who isn't a police officer solves crimes as a hobby, this will be the hero's theme music.

N.B. The spoken word preamble here isn't part of the song, but has been added by the YouTuber.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Monday, 1 July 2019

Things I haven't blogged about

As I mentioned last month, I'm consciously blogging less in the hope that: (a) I have more time for other writing; and (b) I blog better when I do blog. So far the jury's out on both of those ambitions, but anyway.... For the record, here are some things I would have blogged about last month if I had been posting more...

  • The brilliance of film American Animals, which cleverly mixes documentary talking heads with the dramatic retelling of a bizarre but incredible true story. You can (and really should) watch for free on Amazon Prime if that's your bag.
  • Seeing Paul Weller live, for what I think was the sixth time, and, with his second encore, being treated to what I think might be the best encore run of songs I've ever experienced: Start!, Precious, Move On Up and A Town Called Malice. Top that, anyone!
  • Seeing Stereophonics live, and being struck by how they are a Jekyll and Hyde band - when they are indulging their obvious heavy rock tendencies, they almost bludgeon you, and listening live is like being hit with a club hammer. But when they take their foot off the pedal just a little bit, go more AOR, they are so much more engaging and effective.
  • Wanting to watch Good Omens so much, and loving how the opening minute of episode one put me in mind of the 1980s TV adaptation of Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, but then being unable to stay awake beyond the first fifteen minutes. Am I too tired, or is it not good enough? Should I try again? Third time's the charm, as we used to say...