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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Alex S' LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
    8:52 pm
    Listening to the album whose launch you're too enervated to attend
    Had one of my occasional weekends at places outside the usual orbit - gay pop night Duckie on the Saturday, country at Come Down And Meet The Folks on Sunday. The former would be in my usual orbit if only it were as easy getting back from Vauxhall as it is getting down there; I can't recall the last time I went to a club and they didn't play a single dud song. The same cannot altogether be said of Come Down..., but they did adopt one innovation which would be welcome at other gigs: the opening acts do two songs each. Enough to whet the appetite, not enough to bore anyone. I've seen so many support acts who'd have benefitted from being restricted to that sort of teaser.
    I did two numbers myself at Bingo Master's Breakout a couple of weeks back, covering GK Chesterton and Alphaville (and even my apophenia struggles to divine a common thread between those two). Ciccone were there as part of their comeback tour; one of the first bands I ever saw in London, quite by chance, long before I could know I'd end up knowing them, walking the other Parkland Walk with one of the core personnel. It all knits together, one way or another. The other show was at the Windmill, whose gents' is not exactly salubrious, but at least no longer reeks of piss. Likewise, returning to the Rhythm Factory for the first time in a decade or thereabouts, I was pleased to find it no longer full of bad drugs (even if they had been replaced by furries and steampunks; nowhere's perfect). These small tidyings-up, I can forgive; I'm not against all renovation, even all gentrification, but when a once-welcoming boozer like the Noble ends up looking like the departure lounge at a shit airport, something's awry. I try not to worry about London, knowing that every generation is convinced it lives at the end of an era - but sometimes, even knowing that, it's hard to resist.

    What else? James Ward, formerly of this parish, seems to be attaining mild celebrity with his Adventures in Stationery; I went to the launch, where he was interviewed by fellow ex-LJ star Rhodri, and it ended up altogether too much fun for a Monday. John Watterson aka Fake Thackray is another for the list of tribute acts I've caught lately, though readier than most to play the hits, in so far as Jake Thackray had hits. The X-Wing habit is proving hard to kick, even if my results remain patchy. tigerpig returned to the other side of the world, her passing marked by events including a noise gig which, perhaps down to the occasion, managed to fit a surprising amount of feeling in amongst those dissonant frequencies. Albeit not quite so emotional a show as Martin Newell's Golden Afternoon; Gershwin's 'Summertime' is one of the first songs I remember, one of the first things to make me feel melancholy, long before I knew the word 'melancholy'. Combine that with Newell's natural affinity for the moment where summer's waving goodbye, turn it into a duet with Lorraine Bowen on that most poignant of days, Sunday...yes. Bless the mad old bastard.

    Current Mood: recumbent
    Saturday, September 13th, 2014
    10:57 am
    September's here again
    Planning to write up my seaside trip with xandratheblue, I realise I haven't even documented the previous Devon excursion without her, when I climbed the hill-fort to hang out with the dragonflies, and hit the country show. The sun was glaring then - enough to turn me into a literal redneck over my brief stay - but it had barely warmed the sea. Whereas this time the light was gentler, and the sea almost warmish once you got used to it. As well as which we took in the model village, the funicular and the ramshackle bookshops, and were generally twee in a fashion I think my parents find more bearable than most other people.

    I've still not entirely come down from the Kate Bush show. Despite failing at the final hurdle when tickets went on sale, I was still quietly confident that the world would work itself out, and lo, after a tense weekend we were at the first show, a dream of fish and birds and most of Hounds of Love (one of the best albums ever, as even the boring rock mags have recently started to realise) live for the first time ever. The problem with that being that all other shows afterwards tend to pale for a while, not least the immersive Lovecraftian theatre thing we attended not long after, Dagon. Sorry guys, you have some good stuff here, but your fish people aren't the best ones we've seen this week. Also seen: Mr B and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra, the Indelicates (still amazing even when Simon is dicking around for much of the show), and the Mechanisms, whose steampunk worldbuilding and charismatic frontman are sadly not matched by their slightly lacklustre songs. Plus, the bands at the Spa Fields Festival, which is essentially a village fete with better music/jumble sale contents/location for my convenience, and thus much to be encouraged.

    New things I have tried of late include Persian and Nepalese cuisine (each having at least one dish I deem pleasing, neither of the names of which I can properly recall - go food blogging!), and some new clubs. For a given value of 'new', given that Glitterati was essentially playing familiar pop and such, and Glampires is pretty much a revived B-Movie (which was itself already playing music from an earlier period at the time). Still, both fun, and looking at the new music I've been enjoying this year, there's precious little of it that would work in a club - even FKA Twigs, who is somehow bafflingly thrown in with dancefloor genres by too many lazy critics who don't seem to be hearing her even as they recommend her.
    (I also went to a Britpop night in Shoreditch, but that is very much filed under 'let us never speak of this again')

    Current Mood: sneezy
    Saturday, June 14th, 2014
    5:36 pm
    Spending warm summer days indoors
    Went to the eerie free-standing church tower in Crouch End last night for an evening of music and ghost stories. They had it done up wonderfully, at once properly uncanny and not too terrifying for such kids as were brought along...and then blew it completely. The first teller seemed to be reading his tale for the first time, and it wasn't like the material was going to save him when it had Mayor Richard Whittington in the 17th century (or, at one point, the 19th) and gargoyles falling where no gargoyle had been. Site-specificity is not a cheap way to add heft, it needs work. We left still disagreeing over whether the subsequent cellist's faux-rap was outright racist, or just really shit. A missed opportunity.

    Last weekend, though - that was the first big weekend of the summer. You could even measure it from Wednesday (because normally Thursday is the new Friday, and I had Friday off) when, in a happier use of a normally disregarded space, the funny little community hall on Whittington Park hosted Philip Jeays' comeback show. At first a little uncertain after 18 months away, by the end he looked ten years younger and reminded what a gift he has. The support included two acts who were good if they were character comedy and alarming if they were not, plus - most unusually - a quite good poet, Sophia Blackwell. Don't think I've seen that happen since Murray Lachlan Young.

    Then into the long weekend proper, celebrating lovely xandratheblue's birthday. First comedy; Josie Long (whom I'd never seen do a full set before) and Thom Tuck. Thom's show this year didn't make me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe, unlike his last one (and unlike John-Luke Roberts, who with Nat Metcalfe had done the first Edinburgh preview show I caught this year - yay local comedy mafia). But it's lingering with me like few comedy shows I've seen. I'd like him to get famous, at least cultishly Kitson-style (because I somehow can't see him doing arenas). Then on Friday, to East London and its already famous (though oddly, not to other cult East London businesses) cat cafe. Which does indeed have a lot of cats, even if only two of them seemed particularly keen to talk to us. I suppose if you wanted guaranteed friendliness, you'd have a dog cafe instead. Up to the Geffrye Museum, one of the dwindling band of London museums I'd never visited (it has good chairs), and pubwards for the evening. Saturday, picnic; no pinata this year, but my first ever go on Cards Against Humanity, which is every bit as excellent as the Daily Mail's hatred of it suggests. Plus, someone brought a dog! See above re: friendliness thereof.

    On Sunday, because it was if anything an even lovelier sunny day, I went to sit in a municipal building to listen to a grumpy man. But it was Jonathan Meades, one of our finest grumpy men, so that's OK. The Stoke Newington Literary Festival is somehow even more North London than I'd expected; you even get given a free atheist periodical on the way in.

    Current Mood: content
    Monday, June 2nd, 2014
    9:09 pm
    A month without an update there, when really I should have posted about the blossom and the moon, the Wapping waters, the Salisbury and the Constitution, and actually watching Eurovision again now the Russians have pissed off enough of their client states to ruin the bloc voting. Ah well. There was an end to Her Parents staying together for the kids, and I finally saw the Indelicates do 'Dovahkiin' live, and orchestral, with a half-lit giant heart the perfect backdrop. And sticky though that venue was, it still has nothing on the decrepitude of the Electric Dog Show's cave, where Quimper and the venue remain unsound, in different yet somewhat complementary manners. Gyratory System are more upbeat, less pummeling than usual - like the music from a Soviet animation about a happy factory. And headliners Howlround do cruel things to old tape, like they're trying to send a 1960s supercomputer insane. Not sure I'd listen to it at home, but mesmerising to watch.
    And I even went to a biggish gig, the sort I normally avoid on account of the sort of audience they attract. Turns out the Union Chapel must be enough to deter the talkers, because Mick Harvey (aka the talented one from Nick Cave's bands) was received in appropriately stunned silence as he played some of his Serge Gainsbourg reworkings. It wasn't entirely reverential - how could it be, when he turned the end of 'New York USA' into a wonderfully black joke, or played the obligatory 'Je t'Aime' as deliberately half-arsed karaoke? But people were paying enough attention only to laugh or talk back when it was mandated, to remain spellbound and silent for 'Initials BB' or the heartwrenching possessiveness of 'Sex Shop'.

    Went to the Boring conference on Saturday which, unlike its predecessor, was at no stage actually boring. Alas, managed through drink to mislay most of the delegate pack (Chewits, puzzle book) and also the programme, so I can't remember the names of half the speakers. The biggest surprise was the perpetrator of Comic Sans, whose entrance I felt I could not applaud, but who turned out to be OK. His original impetus was valid - a cartoon dog does not talk in Times New Roman. It's not his fault that precisely the same mistake which inspired Comic Sans now applies it indiscriminately where it doesn't belong. Still, I wonder if Alan Moore knows Watchmen was one of the font's key inspirations and, if so, whether that's another reason he considers its influence to have been so poisonous?

    Films: Behind the Candelabra is exactly the mixture of camp and misery I'd expected, with only Rob Lowe's scene-stealing a surprise. The Wind Rises is as painfully beautiful as Miyazaki's farewell was always going to be. Kill List confirms Ben Wheatley as a properly uncanny talent, its bad men in the edgelands leaving a creeping sensation akin to a British True Detective. This Is The End, conversely, is an American The Trip, albeit with more sodomy. Maybe Coogan and Brydon will head that way next series. Godzilla was my first IMAX experience, and what better film for a format all about the BIG and LOUD, while BBC4's Duchess of Malfi was equally terrifying on the intimate scale.

    Current Mood: relaxed
    Monday, March 24th, 2014
    8:13 pm
    Disjointed catch-up
    It is, as has been widely observed, Spring. Markedly earlier than last year, albeit marred by the loss of several trees which always made my commute a little less of a chore (lost to developers' cupidity, too, rather than the storms). Though I did also get to see some of the more impressive consequences of the storms when I took a trip down to the margin of the English Riviera to see the Dawlish destruction (and peculiar retail complex Trago Mills, which was a scene of carnage in an existential rather than a weather-damage sense).

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

    Not very many gigs lately, and two of the ones there were were at Paper Dress, a thoroughly Hoxton boutique/venue hybrid which is a lot less annoying than that description would have guaranteed a few years back. Both Mikey Georgeson and the Soft Close-Ups did pretty well there, which I suppose indicates that they at least pay proper attention to sound &c, rather than treating the juxtaposition of functions as sufficient gimmick in itself. Would that all venues could say the same. The last time I went to Power Lunches, they were steadily running out of drinks through the evening, in the manner of shambolic venues everywhere. This time, they had a solution to that - don't have anyone serving (upstairs) until the first band takes to the stage (downstairs). And, just to make absolutely sure there's a rude cunt talking at the back of gigs at your venue, why not hire him as the sound engineer? Though even he had the sense to shut up during Quimper. As who wouldn't, because while they're lovely folk offstage, during the performance they seem to channel something altogether alien and unfriendly (this is a good thing, obviously). Next up was Pete Um, of whom I've heard much and by whom I've heard a little, but whom I've never seen live. This turns out to have been a major oversight. Somewhere, in a world where the story of pop begins with and is dominated by John Shuttleworth, punk sounded like this.
    Had something of a disagreement with the minicab driver after; fortunately, weaponised posh accents won the day for the cause of justice. See, they're not just for destroying the structure of the nation.

    Current Mood: hmmm
    Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
    8:11 pm
    Today I appear to be alliterating
    Very nearly went a whole calendar month without seeing any gigs there, which is most uncharacteristic. Just managed to avert that on January 31st, courtesy of Desperate Journalist at the Monarch, whose Friday nights were once Nuisance &c, and are now hip hop nights for tiny children in very few clothes. It was well Polanski. The next night, Joanne Joanne at the Dublin Castle, which has not changed, nor is it ever likely to; and since then, Gene covers at Nuisance and the newly-expanded Soft Close-Ups. Which is to say, I'm back in the swing. Earlier gigs I never got round to writing about include Dream Themes in Kiss make-up, the McDonalds (who are apparently not a novelty band), or Untitled Musical Project's drummer having some kind of meltdown at their comeback show. Alexander's Festival Hall have gone pleasingly 'el, and exliontamer's third band, Violet Hours, make the best musical use of 'The Waste Land' I've heard since the late nineties, when it was incorporated into one of the few bits of DJ mixing I've ever appreciated.
    I've also been to more Daylight Musics than usual. Somewhat to my surprise, it really suited the Penny Orchids - when they're a little quieter, in a much bigger space, the nuances of the sound get much more room to affect, especially when hospitalsoup takes lead vocals for the first time I've seen in far too long. The festive Festivus show was also a joy but, as ever with Daylight Music, you don't half get some odd stuff turning up on the bills. When it's a man playing Philip Glass on the massive organ, that's a joy. But it might equally be someone like We Used To Make Things, a large band who are half brilliant (a suave brass section, a black Rosie the Riveter with an almost holy voice) and half terrible (four Mumfords, one played by Robert Webb, plus a singer who appears to be the horrible result of the realisation that Bobby Gillespie = Bee Gee).

    Aside from gigs, there's been X-Wing and arm-wrestling, brunch and - most of all - Bruges. Which really is, as a wise man once observed, a fairytale fucking town. Some of its sillier museums (plus the one thing we wanted to see while changing trains in Brussels) were closed due to our visit being slightly too off-season, but we could still see the Belfort and the Bosch, canals and churches, the windmills and cormorants guarding the perimeter from the modern day. It's remarkable how it can be so mediaeval and yet still alive; you'll see a wall decorated with memorial medallions, assume they're all centuries-old, then look at the dates and realise that while some are, others come up to the 1990s. Yet still the continuity and style are maintained. In that sense it feels far less stuck in its own past than an ossified city-that-was such as Paris. I can also see exactly why they're filming Wolf Hall there; accordingly, it made for the perfect holiday read. But of all its strange and marvellous sights, the most remarkable must be the Michaelangelo sculpture. Not because it made its way outside Italy in his lifetime, but because it's a woman who actually looks like a woman. Madness.

    Viewing: Anchorman 2 and Hobbit 2 are both much what you'd expect from their predecessors, and of course that works better for the former than the latter, which is still fundamentally a mess. There's simply too much happening, and too much of that jars with the original story even if it's ostensibly part of the same world. The abiding impression is of those stories which, in trying to make the most of a shared universe, instead simply draw attention to its cracks, and leave you wondering why Superman doesn't sort out all those non-powered crooks in Gotham. On the other hand, I also watched the first American Horror Story and while that's likewise wildly overstuffed with characters and incidents, the effect is much less queasy - simply because they were always conceived as parts of the same whole in the way the Necromancer and comedy dwarves so clearly weren't.

    Current Mood: catching up
    Sunday, January 5th, 2014
    5:24 pm
    Waiting for the miracle
    So that was Christmas. Wondering whether to take the decorations down today or tomorrow; will Sunday evening or Monday morning have its inherent melancholy more heightened by the task? There were moments when I felt suitably festive - a binge of spooky BBC festive classics and mulled cider, seeing the Covent Garden lights and the miniature (but still pretty enormous) London made from lego in a walk-through snowglobe, the afternoon party with so much booze and so many small people one could barely move - but it always seemed to dissipate again. I suppose the late getaway, with the added stress of the transport Christmapocalypse, was always likely to shred that careful accumulation of misty goodwill.

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

    The slightly too pat, but still moderately fun, revenge-on-idiots comedy God Bless America appears to be the only film I've seen in ages, until I finally got round to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa last night. Which was...quite good? Fairly amusing, surprisingly engaged with the very real plight of local radio in the 21st century, but not half so side-splitting as I'd been given to understand. There was also the Doctor Who anniversary, of course, which for all the furious initial back-and-forth on other, more rapid-response sectors of the Internet, seems to have bred a fair degree of consensus. With which I agree: 'The Fiveish Doctors' was amazing, ditto An Adventure in Space and Time bar Reece Shearsmith. The Day of the Doctor was a stunning achievement in making concentrated fanwank a coherent and exciting show for die-hard and casual viewer alike, which made the saggy mess of The Time of the Doctor all the more disappointing. But thank goodness it all came right at the end, and hurrah for Capaldi.

    Current Mood: melancholy
    Sunday, December 15th, 2013
    7:16 pm
    Albums of the Year
    I remember doing one of these with 52 entries, an album which had really impressed me for every week of the year. Last year, 20. This year - a Top Ten. Wow. Obviously there were lots of other albums with brilliant bits (Her Parents, Teeth of the Sea), ones which were pleasant enough backdrops (Ejecta, Edwyn Collins), ones which were only moderately coasting (British Sea Power, no pun intended). But when you're summing up and trying to make 'almost as good as an Elcka comeback album might be' (Filthy Boy) sound like a warm recommendation, you know it's time to hack and slash the list. Honourable mentions to Lady Gaga, Mike Patton and Monster Magnet - who, if still a long way from their imperial height, have made stuff a lot more worthy of ear-space than most of their work in the interim. Dishonourable mentions to David Bowie, Adam Ant, Suede, Justin Timberlake and George Pringle. Between them, each has made music that gave sparkle to a decade. Together, they've convinced an old triskaidekaphobic that 2013 was indeed destined to suck.

    Read more...Collapse )

    Current Mood: weary
    Sunday, November 10th, 2013
    5:46 pm
    Films
    Didn't quite do anything proper for Hallowe'en or November 5th this year, though there was some dressing up and you can hardly fail to see some fireworks over what's now more like Guy Fawkes' Fortnight (Guy Fawtesnight?) - that's the problem with festival creep, where you can't even quite fix on one of the adjacent weekends as the consensus alternative. Dear world, please stop getting festivals wrong, ta.

    Accidentally let my Netflix subscription run over after Breaking Bad was done, but regardless of how the US version has a lot more stuff* there was still plenty I'd been vaguely meaning to watch on the UK site. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, for instance, with Robert Mitchum exuding the shabby grandeur of a moth-eaten lion, or the gloriously absurd and none-more-eighties Lifeforce, in which a mission to Halley's Comet unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague (complete with Prefab Sprout posters visible in the background as they devastate London). The most notable casting is probably Patrick Stewart, who (SPOILERS) gets possessed by the sexy naked lady space vampire and so proceeds to do some gaying up (although it's shot in a way which would probably disappoing anyone going into the film just for that). Seven Psychopaths is the thoroughly meta and possibly even better follow-up to the delightful In Bruges, and more meta still is A Film With Me In It, which manages a surprising amount of bloodshed for something starring Dylan Moran. The Cabin In The Woods, on the other hand, I'd dismissed as a slasher movie with a twist (and Whedon dialogue), until I heard one recommendation too many to ignore. First surprise: the twist isn't, it's there from the start. And what that enables, and what lies behind it - that's utterly ingenious. Add me to the list of recommendations. Which is not something I can really say about Don Johnson in Harlan Ellison adaptation A Boy and his Dog; post-apocalyptic black comedy it may be, but I found the whole thing just a little too queasy, and not always in a manner that seemed intentional.

    Watched elsewere:
    Ian Hislop's dramatisation of the story of trench samizdat The Wipers Times. As with Blackadder, the horror of the Great War always hits hardest for me when it's presented with the gallows humour of the Tommies intact.
    Doctor Who: The Web of Fear - a story which, this time last year, I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. And it stands up a lot better than most classic Who that runs past four episodes, helped by the claustrophobic, iconic location - running down a corridor feels so much more satisfying when that corridor is part of an identifiable tube station. Victoria is still a dreadful companion, mind.
    Idiotic horror White Noise: The Light, which xandratheblue and I watched on the simple grounds that Katee Sackhoff and Nathan Fillion would be suitable casting to play us in any film of our incredibly exciting lives. Sadly, it turned out to be a bad Final Destination riff - but with more dodgy theology! And nonsensical numerology! And lots of RUNNING REALLY FAST.
    Repo Man, which remains as profoundly peculiar and entertaining as ever (and I can't believe it never gets mentioned as an influence on Lebowski). The Blu-ray extras are deeply rum, and include Harry Dean Stanton talking about life for 15 minutes before singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', and Alex Cox showing the deleted scenes to the real-life inventor of the neutron bomb.

    And on the big screen - Thor: The Dark World. Certainly not the best of the Marvel films, but I find it oddly reassuring that they can stumble now without falling flat on their faces, and still produce a fairly entertaining picture which will fill up a cinema with casual viewers (you can tell them from the geek hardcore so easily, because they're the ones who don't even stay for the first credits scene, let alone the very end). Also, pleasing show of public right-mindedness in the way that everyone in the auditorium, regardless of class or race, agreed that the family with a screaming baby should take it the fuck out of the cinema - and rather than grumbling passive-aggressively, fetched ushers to enforce that verdict. See! Superhero films encourage viewers to take more responsibility for making the world a better place.

    *Such as Bob's Burgers, which I saw round the house of a friend who's hacked the relevant bits of science to watch the US menu. Like its fellow H Jon Benjamin animation Archer, this is allegedly on Freeview channels, but gets thrown away in graveyard slots. Baffling, given how funny both are at their best. NB: do not look for H Jon Benjamin's face online; you'd expect him to be less attractive than Sterling Archer, but I think he may even be less attractive than Bob.

    Current Mood: nights drawing in
    Monday, October 21st, 2013
    8:59 pm
    Moments seized in the shadow of the beast
    Been playing Space Crusade again, after a gap of a couple of decades. Back then, I imagine people thought it would lose its appeal once I worked up the courage to talk to girls. More fool them.

    Align is a tricky one to classify; not quite a play, nor a lecture. Call it a performance, it's probably as close as we'll get. Taking place, perfectly, mere yards from the actual Bridewell, it is a story of London's sacred geography which never gets too swivel-eyed, is far more 'wouldn't that be interesting?' than making foolhardy statements about what is or isn't true - and yet feels none the less mystical for all that. Rather than hang around afterwards, I feel driven to strike out along the Strand Ley about which we've just been hearing, and it's all delightfully numinous until I hit the smell of a freshers' event at the LSE. I doubt the bacchanals of our ancestors were any more fragrant, but I can edit that detail out of my daydreams.
    Also tricky to classify: Neil Gaiman reading his new book Fortunately, The Milk, with Chris Riddell illustrating it live. Already a little multimedia, but then you have it being acted out and sung and generally turned into something quite its own creature through the assistance of TV Smith, Tom Robinson, Mitch Benn, Lenny Henry, Tori Amos' daughter, Andrew O'Neill, and Faith from 'Jimmy's End' (who is much less haunted when she's playing a pirate queen, so that's handy).

    Lots of gigs by the people whose gigs I see a lot - to whose ranks the Soft Close-Ups were temporarily restored when augstone was briefly allowed back in the country. Neither show was quite as melancholy as the Sunday afternoon show a few months back, but still, when on a wet Wednesday night they played their adaptation of that Housman poem about death (tautology, I know), any plans I had for a straight edge gig crumbled. Good suppors at both shows, too - Parenthesisdotdotdot, aka Tim from Baxendale dressed as the chap from Dr Caligari, and Marcus Reeves, who is essentially my friend dr_shatterhand playing Marc Almond. At the latter show they also had me returning to the wheels of steel for the first time in some years. I always did prefer playing quieter sets. Read more...Collapse )

    Other shows have been further from my usual orbit:
    Martin Newell playing his annual show in a converted Colchester church in the shadow of the appropriately-named Jumbo water tower, bearing a curious resemblance to William Hartnell as a Teddy Boy pirate. He's a charmingly shambolic raconteur, an occasional ranter, and a mostly mediocre poet, but once he's singing, oh, the songs.
    A violinist plays Bach in another church, this time right on the border of the City. I conclude that Bach may be the music to whose condition art is said to aspire.
    A distinctly white trio, playing the hipster pub sat incongruously opposite the East London Mosque, play a nameless and heavily highlife-influenced jam. Against all odds, it works.
    In a bar inexplicably decorated with biscuits stuck to bricks, a jazz band have one singer who thinks Seasick Steve is a role model rather than a terrible warning about the gullibility of authenticity bores. But the other singer sounds far more like Billie Holiday than any modern Briton has a right to.
    (And because you can't win them all, there was also the act who appeared to be Jack Whitehall fronting Reef)

    Current Mood: strangely lively
    Sunday, October 6th, 2013
    5:33 pm
    Breaking Bad
    Not only for length, and permanence, but because here, unlike Facebook, there's no risk of a spoiler popping up on someone else's page and causing upset. I was a latecomer - I think I watched the whole thing over almost exactly a year. And maybe it's because I didn't live with the characters for as long as a lot of people, but while I liked it, that widespread temptation to give it The Wire's pedestal? I don't see it. Not least because fundamentally it's one plotline from Babylon 5 with all the aliens removed so as not to trouble the viewing public, who may have been able to handle Battlestar Galactica but that was just humans and robots. spoilers follow, obviouslyCollapse )

    Current Mood: Sunday
    Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
    10:29 pm
    While I wait for the Jimmy's End Cycle to download:
    Just finished reading The Thin Veil of London, a book loosely concerning the great Arthur Machen, and a companion to a walk I went on a couple of Sundays back. Elements which could have felt like am-dram instead felt like they were genuinely ruffling the surface and some Thing might chance through at any moment, as we walked streets I'd never seen within ten minutes of where I've been working for two years. And Machen's grandson was there, now old enough to resemble the great man's jacket pictures. Truly an experience to treasure.
    Other London adventures:
    - Victoria Park, which I have passed but never entered, finally visited. Would be lovely if it didn't have so many wasps and men who think they're it.
    - The Archway Tavern has now become a tiki bar, and not in the half-arsed manner one might expect - there's even an indoors water feature. Also tequila girls and bog trolls. They come with the venue. The night, being loosely glam, had attracted a bafflingly mixed crowd, including some full-on townies and what looked like US-style good old boys as well as the obvious. Most terrifying, though - one man who looked like a seventies TV presenter, and one girl wearing the classic 'sexy school uniform' look. In defiance of all laws of comedy, they didn't seem to know each other.
    - I've never sat in Greenwich Park and not faced the view North before. Around the bandstand it feels like another park, less London, older. I like it.

    Saw Menswear again on Friday; I say 'again', last time it was Johnny Dean and the Nuisance band, but a rose by any other name would smell as Britpop. When I wear a suit, I can even confuse other nineties indie celebrities into thinking I am him.

    I was dimly aware Art Everywhere was coming, but it was very much background knowledge until I glanced at a billboard and thought, hang on, what the Hell are they trying to sell with John Martin's fire and brimstone? And they weren't; it was just saying 'Hey, look at John Martin! Isn't he good?' Second one was Samuel Palmer. I don't go to a lot of single-artist exhibitions, but I've been to see both of them. Approved.

    War of the Waleses is, by its dramaturge's own admission, 'sillier and nastier' in its current version that first time out. I can see how the shorter version, with fewer actors, is much better suited to the practicalities of Fringe life, and making any play crueller about Princess Di is fine by me (the new line about her "simpering sedition" absolutely nails it), but I miss some of the Shakespeare resonances lost - especially when it comes to John Major and the vanished John Smith. The comparison of the two takes set me thinking - Major was our Yeltsin, wasn't he? By which I mean, a very long way from perfect, and you can entirely understand the pisstaking at the time, but it was a brief glimpse of doing things a slightly different way before the ancien regime reasserted itself, more dickish than before in so far as that dickishness was veiled around with a new insincerity.

    I'm up to the end of Breaking Bad's third season, whose pacing and tone seemed a little off - too often the show overegged the comedy, before slipping into mawkishness when it pulled back from that. Too much old ground was re-covered in the tension between the leads. And then I saw an interview with Bryan Cranston where he claimed that other TV shows were about familiarity, about seeing the same character each week, and nobody on TV has ever changed like Walter White. And I thought, no. Absolutely take your point about most network crap, and even some very good shows, but never say never. Because Babylon 5 had Londo and G'kar, and they changed like nobody's business. So this nudged me back towards my paused rewatch of B5's second season, and I realised, it wasn't just the general principle of a character who changes: Walter is Londo. He's a proud man, feeling his time has passed, staring the end in the face. So he makes a deal with the devil and at first he's thrilled by the power, before realising that he has become something he hates, and there's no way to get off the ride. He even has a conflicted relationship with a younger sidekick possessed of a certain inherent haplessness!
    Other television: Justified got a fair few articles this time around about how it deserved more attention, which is more attention that it used to get, but still not as much as it deserves. I'm intrigued by the way other characters were built up this time out, especially among the Marshals - it could almost survive without Timothy Olyphant, I think, not that I'm in any hurry to see it try. The Revenants was good, even if it did cop out a little by going to a second series WHICH HAD BETTER BLOODY ANSWER EVERYTHING. Speaking of cops, French police uniforms suck. I did love how unashamedly Gallic it was in scattering sexy superpowers around the populace. And BBC4 continues to brutally beat down every traitor who ever dissed the holy BBC. Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter as Burton and Taylor was a suitably meta final outing for their big dramas; just as Cleopatra marked the end of Hollywood's grand era, so this brought down the curtain on BBC4's days of riches (at least, until I rule the world, when the accumulated wealth of the entire Murdoch mob - and the proceeds from sale of their organs - will all go to bolster the licence fee). But they still have their documentaries, the sort of shows other factual broadcasters pretend they're going to make, before wheeling out a load of gimmicky recreations, recaps and silly music. Consider the recent show about Ludwig II of Bavaria; I'm by no means unfamiliar with him, but there was so much here I didn't know. His grand castle Neuschwanstein is the basis for the Disney castle - but I had no idea it was itself a theme park, with modern architecture and engineering hidden behind the scenes, council chambers which were never used - essentially a private playpen. All this was the work of a constitutional monarch conscious modelling his private realm on absolute monarchies - yet at the end they talk to young citizens of Bavaria who acclaim him as too modern for his time. Most broadcasters would be unable to resist a honking noise then, a reminder of the mistake, but BBC4 trusts us to make our own connections.

    Current Mood: ecstatic
    Saturday, July 27th, 2013
    11:19 am
    Has not been read back, may make no sense at all, but let's live in the moment
    A few weeks back, Livejournal stirred into something approaching life, and in the manner of the old days there was A Meme. About what people were up to a year ago, five years, ten. And the nostalgia of it all...well, people sometimes forget that the '-algia' in there is pain. That was an apt precursor to The World's End. Shaun of the Dead was already a film about the pain of growing up, so stack the best part of another decade on top of that, then go see it with some approximation of the old gang, and even a film assembling this much comic talent (and there are plenty of laughs) is going to feel like a twisted knife in places. I can't recall such a bittersweet comedy which is still so successful qua comedy since Withnail. Part of the power is in the way it dodges polemic: yes, refusing to grow up is seen as a sad and sorry way to live, but so is growing up. In so far as there's any kind of answer, it's the knowingly grand and ridiculous grab for another, impossible option which reminds me of the Indelicates' 'Dovahkiin'. It's not just a self-regarding elegy, mind - it also has lots to say about how the new cinema ideal of bromance is no more realistic or healthy than the Hollywood take on romance. Which is obviously no less saddening. I'm going to miss the Cornetto Trilogy, not mollified by their being in part films about missing the films you grew up on.
    Also seen at the cinema (on the same day, which I don't believe I've ever done before - it does the trailers no favours): Pacific Rim, in which Guillermo del Toro has giant robots punch monsters, and vice versa, in a delightfully solid way which always feels like a Guillermo del Toro film, until the humans start interacting with each other when his normal sureness of touch deserts him, and even normally dependable actors fall oddly flat (one excellent and un-publicised cameo aside). And not at the cinema, but on the same day as its cinematic release, A Field in England. Which I applaud, even while thinking that a little more forethought about the casting might have made it more instantly convincing as the psychedelic horror it wants to be, rather than the oddball comedy as which it inadvertently opens.

    More nostalgia: the Buffy-themed bash at the GNRT. Even more so, back to the Woodbine for the first time in a while, and the last time was itself the first time in a while too. As if to emphasise how long it is since that was a regular haunt, there's foliage growing into the Gents' and a wine called Tempus. Subtle symbolism there, Life. Still, there have been times of living too. Celebrating the Solstice atop Primrose Hill, and walking back from Mr B and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra along the dusky Parkland Walk, eternal moments when the level of drunk and the setting are exactly as they should be and one feels no longer apart from the world but in contact with the infinite and suffused with joy and peace. Took xandratheblue to Devon and, in the five years or so my parents have been there, this was the first time I swam in the sea, as against paddling, because for once I'd timed it right weatherwise. And we found a dragon skull on the beach. Then to lovely little Sherborne, and up Dancing Hill, which is in fact rather steep for dancing but I guess satyrs are nimble. Back in London, we were greeted by St Paul's and it's blue trees as a reminder that, lovely as holidays can be, this is the place to be. Though we did then go see Eddie Argos in an Edinburgh show about holidays, which might have made more sense before rather than after our own. Still lovely, mind.
    (Other Edinburgh previews seen: Henry Paker, being powerfully bald, and Jeff Goldblum and his prawn (aka Ben Partridge). Not seen near so many this year as the last couple)

    Wrapping up, since who knows when I'll get round to posting again: having chance to dance to Pink for the first time since Don't Stop Moving stopped moving, and 'Elephant Elephant' for the first time full stop, was a delight; I like the view from Telegraph Hill, though not the walk there in the sun (and it should have kept the old name, Plowed Garlic Hill); and I love how in a European city the Holy Thorn Reliquary would be in the cathedral, what with having part of Jesus' crown of thorns inside, but in London we just stick it in a back room of the museum, because we basically have the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark but let tourists wander around it 'cos we're cool like that.

    *I've seen the Indelicates and Keith Totp (&c) twice since I last posted, and the Indelicates don't even play London that often anymore. Even seen the very seldom-sighted Quimper, who are coming into their own with the new live set-up, all disturbing projections and shadowed lurking. Also Desperate Journalist, who already had a good soundscape going, but are a lot more compelling now exliontamer has started really going for it on stage. And Mikey Georgeson aka Vessel aka Mr Solo, formerly a frequent fixture (and I think probably still the performer I've seen live the most times) for the first time in a year or so. He was, of course, excellent - the new tracks as good as ever, in particular 'I See What You Did There' and the waltz which sounds like imperial phase Bowie working with Tom Waits.

    Current Mood: recumbent
    Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
    9:00 pm
    You and your baby doll never went to the beach
    First weekend of June was very much the first big weekend of the summer. Started early by playing to stereotypical associations of 'Japan', packing out xandratheblue's local sushi place and all being a bit disturbing. Saturday was her official birthday, in Highgate Woods, with a pinata who died too easy. I the interests of keeping the jovial violence going, wrestling ensued, as a result of which I am still nursing a slightly stiff ankle I SAID ANKLE. In between - Nuisance with JOHNNY RUDDY DEAN FROM MENSWEAR fronting the house band for a set of Bowie covers - and, inevitably, an encore of his own material. All of it excellent, except perhaps the rather idiosyncratic choice of 'Crash' among the latter. The final track was a version of 'All the Young Dudes', which also featured Jaime from Marion and the word 'YOLO'. A perfect fusion of seventies, nineties and 2010s, right?
    On the Sunday, my Cthulhuson was most impressed by all the diggers and forklifts clearing up after the Stone Roses clusterfucked Finsbury Park. I can't say I was quite so fascinated, but it was certainly more appealing that watching a tuneless homophobe and three hypocrites massacre songs that used to be quite good.

    The week after that had little to report here - certainly not our ignominious placing in the Doctor Who pub quiz, which wasn't even the only Whocentric socialising that week, not that I am a geek or anything. Then a quieter weekend, off to deepest Middlesex to see where wardytron lives now he's allegedly a grown-up. Say what you like about the suburbs, and I do, but I will always be likely to approve of any party with a friendly dog. Then home via another party, with me refusing vodka on the train - not because I hold to the laws on that, or had suddenly turned abstemious, but simply because it tasted like Malibu. Ick.

    Made my first visit to Finsbury Park's new theatre last night. They've had various exciting new dramatists' stuff already, so obviously I went for the classic - School for Scandal. I've never seen any Sheridan before, and I'm still not entirely convinced that watching Sheridan is as good as reading Cabell's chapter about Sheridan as epitome of the "glorious mountebank" in Beyond Life, but the sheer wit and deviousness and moral vacancy of the whole affair was a delight. Could perhaps have done with spending more time on choreographing the key farce scene, though, and less on the musical interludes they'd added.

    Current Mood: content
    Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
    9:35 pm
    London, summer, 2013
    Feels like life has been fairly quiet of late, (except when it hasn't, of course - Hyde Park picnics, Leyton pubs that are at least decently apologetic about hating my people, SE14's answer to the Shaftesbury). But in early summer, especially this year as it's still picking up from the tardy spring, I don't mind that. The evenings are still simply beautiful, without that complex melancholy they acquire later on - though it would help if I had the park for them, when instead it's being turned into some sort of prison camp for Madchester arseholes (sorry, tautology, I know). Still, I've had my chances to go a-roaming - up trees, over banks, through hedges and across a Heath resplendent with buttercups like I've never seen. Even got to share a tree with a jay at one point - a much better companion than parakeets, who may be beautiful, but in prolonged proximity are no better than the sort of person who wears Beats By Dre headspeakers. Guessed a stranger's dog's name, too - though given my guess was Slobberchops, based on obvious physical features, I don't think that's much proof of psychic potential.

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

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

    Anyway, my dears, I think I need another cup of decaf tea before Justified. It's a rock'n'roll life and no mistake.

    Current Mood: wistful
    Sunday, May 12th, 2013
    2:39 pm
    For the record
    Had a couple of weddings last month, out of London to varying degrees - one in a home counties barn, the other in Compton Verney, which is not the most accessible location but does mean you can have a reception surrounded by Cranachs, Holbeins and a coral nativity diorama which some enterprising Neapolitan crafted centuries back, and climb atop a bloody big rock if you need a break from the band. I'd decided to go straight from there to Devon the next day, simply because going back into and then out of London again appalled my sense of progress. This might have been a false time-economy, but the resulting vaguely diagonal journey did take me in a reasonably straight line across large swathes of the country I don't often see - a real 'How fares England? sort of journey. And despite what one might fear, every train involved was punctual bar one which was deeply apologetic over being a minute behind schedule. Inevitably, by the time I got to the seaside the warm spell had passed, so it was all sea mist and chopping up telegraph poles and being disappointed when local country acts didn't emphasise the side of their oeuvre which most appealed to me (the unspeakable bastards).

    Other exotic locales I've visited include Walthamstow Village, where I attempted to convince people even less conversant with the area than myself that model butterflies were simply the giant fauna of Zone 3, and Peckham Rye, which seems to have a higher concentration of brilliant dogs than anywhere else in London (also a boy trapped in a tent, which is always good entertainment). And, as the year has made its stuttering advance into Spring, the Edinburgh previews have begun: I've already seen Thom Tuck (excellent as ever, even in the very early stages), Nish Kumar, Sara Pascoe and, as a late sub for Ben Target, Matthew Highton - who looks like Frank Quitely drew him and tells stories (perhaps not wholly true) of a life Peter Milligan could easily have conceived.

    Not a great deal of clubbing lately - though Poptimism did offer a chance to dance to 'Only Losers Take The Bus', so what more does one need? - and my pub quizzing, if successful, has been sparse. But there have, as ever, been gigs. The Bull and Gate is no more, because apparently Kentish Town needs another damn gastropub, so Keith TotP et al played a send-off - the first time in a while that I've seen the Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band on a stage large enough to contain them. In support, Dom Green's latest band, with a very apt set formed by pulling together songs from all the bands he'd been in before that had played there - and yet ending with a new one which may be the best thing he's ever written (but then, I was always a sucker for epics about London). Rebekah Delgado, supporting a bunch of steampunk tits at a rock pub, then off to Shenanigans. The Indelicates, still the best band of the moment, ever more romantic and ever more doomed. But I think my favourite overall event was the Soft Close-Ups show which was the only reason augstone was allowed back over to visit us. They've always been a fairly melancholy band, but with the immigration-based reminder of how fleeting things can be, and a Housman poem set to music, this outing was especially mis. And yet, gorgeous. icecoldinalex supported and, for a note of bathos, the venue was decorated in vintage soft p0rn. The sort of inexplicable afternoon which comes along too seldom.

    The current series of Who has for the most part continued on its profoundly underwhelming course, with a revival of hopes occasioned by 'Hide', 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and Gatiss' campathon undermined by last night's inexplicably middling Gaiman effort, but between Bluestone 42, It's Kevin and Parks and Rec's second season, there has at least been plenty of good comedy on the box, and these are surely times in which we need cheering up, so thank heavens for that. I've barely seen any films of late: Iron Man 3 at the cinema, which was a joy; Skyfall and Terror by Night on DVD, which were a little less so. I just can't quite buy Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, he's far too socially adroit - even clubbable.

    When this goes up, I'll still have more than a year's worth of posts on one page, where once a page would have not been sufficient for some months. And yet, we persevere, in some limping fashion.

    Current Mood: Sunday, Sunday
    Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
    9:44 pm
    What would Peter Wyngarde do?
    Last time I posted here, I wasn't really aware of the comedian and Being Human star Colin Hoult. Since then, I've beaten him at a comics-themed pub quiz, where he was teamed with Stewart Lee (of whom I am very much aware), and seen him play the romantic lead in a musical also featuring Thom Tuck, Kevin Eldon and catbo (ditto). So well done Colin Hoult for effectively increasing awareness of your work among the key barrysarll demographic. Because I was watching Kevin Eldon narrate martylog's adaptation of ETA Hoffman's "last and worst" book, I had to iPlayer the first episode of his deeply uneven sketch show, and then further wonder why it was scheduled against another BBC show clearly appealing to much the same audience, the excellent zombie rehab drama In the Flesh, which has been by some distance the best thing on TV recently. And Bluestone 42's not bad either - between the two of them, they're in danger of giving BBC3 a good reputation. Doctor Who, on the other hand...well, I went in to the mid-season whatever you call 'The Bells of St John' with low expectations after Moffat's last two episodes, and it was at least better than I expected, but I still can't decide whether it was actually any good.

    In less grand gig news, not taking place in hidden Hoxton music halls, I've caught up with Bevan 17 successor entity Desperate Journalist, who have a very Banshees sound, and otherwise mainly seen former members of Luxembourg. 60% of them were playing 'Mishandled' and 'The 2 of Us' at a Suede tribute night in the Boogaloo, which was spine-tingling, and another 20% was taking pictures. I asked if he'd fancied joining in, but he insisted that it would only dent the chances of a big money reunion a few years down the line. And then the final 20%, Jonny Cola, was playing his first gig in a while, but given he's now down two of his old kidneys and up one of his fiancee's, maybe it was more like 19%? It's like a glam rock Ship of Theseus. Anyway, they were all better than hearing an oompah band covering Coldplay in a venue devoted to the consumption of beer and wurst, followed by a trip to Covent Garden's Roadhouse, a club where I suspect rohypnol and Red Bull is the house cocktail. A shame, as that day had previously been going pretty well, if you count loud discussions of dogging and Ulysses in a riverside pub as a good afternoon, which clearly I do.

    Other than that? Photo exhibition launches, book launches, the general whirl of media scumbaggery. Waiting for the Spring to finally arrive, like everyone. Watching Yahoo Serious' Mr Accident (it's no Young Einstein). Being astonished that an unremarkable Earl's Court pub can charge £4.55 for a pint. Hoping that the Leisure Hive does well, because clubs like that make me feel a little less old. Writing this at a gallop because if I dither now it'll take another fortnight.

    Current Mood: optimistic
    Sunday, March 3rd, 2013
    11:30 pm
    Not my most deathless prose, but I want to get this on the record, and I also want to sleep
    So, since last posting, I've been to new places. Kensal Green, land of the golden Nando's, whose great graveyard is home to many grand figures whose resting places we didn't find, and one murderous quack of whom I might still be ignorant were his epitaph not so passive-aggressive. More exciting still, a lovely long weekend in Margate! Which in places is a sort of North-London-on-sea, as against Brighton, which is of course East-London-on-sea. xandratheblue chose well when she booked us into the Walpole Bay Hotel, which is essentially the sort of place Poirot stays, but festooned with Tracey Emin napkin art, alarming mannequins, a room full of hats and so forth. If Sir John Soane were a hotelier, the result would be along these lines. A similar spirit of eccentricity pervades the town; there's the old world stuff, like the hotel, the Shell Grotto, the Mad Hatter's tearoom and the decrepit lido; but there's also the huge array of wind turbines out at sea who can be dimly seen on the less cloudy days, standing sentinel, and the surprising number of rockabillies for a fairly small town. It is, in sum, Unusual, mostly in lovely ways. And especially so last weekend, because we'd unwittingly turned up at the same time as GEEK, a computer-game-centred thing which enabled Alex to talk knowledgeably about computer games while I pouted at the lack of the advertised strawberry cider. In your gender-defined face, gender roles. The other result of this was that whenever we attempted to just go look at some art, we kept on getting lured into INTERACTING. Fine when it was the squishy stuff in Turner Contemporary, less so when we were sent on a somewhat confused melon-themed treasure hunt/RPG around town, or found that what we'd thought was a small gallery with a show of automata was in fact a couple's basement workshop. Still, at least the latter meant we got tea. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy all the community art, you understand, so much as I wasn't expecting it. And being ambushed by art does start to make one a little nervous after a while.

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

    All the TV I've watched lately has been going for an overall mood of 'unsettling'. Black Mirror, still not quite perfect, but better to have Charlie Brooker not quite being Rod Serling on C4 than degenerating into Harry Hill on the BBC. Utopia, which managed that rare feat of genuinely shocking violence (as much in how it was shot as in who was shot, stabbed, and so forth) in a conspiracy thriller which didn't feel as played-out as the rest of the recent glut of conspiracy thrillers - maybe because spoilersCollapse ). Breaking Bad, where the second series had fewer moments of 'Go Walter!' than the first, and a lot more wincing. Even the Honor Blackman episodes of The Avengers all seemed to be predicated on Steed's uncertain loyalties, and beyond that to be odd in so far as they still didn't quite feel like The Avengers yet, and predicated their plots on such TV-friendly themes as the Companies Act 1928, and the evasion of inheritance tax. Whereas the few films I've watched have been thoroughly straightforward good vs evil stuff, with square-jawed heroes - Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, Christopher Reeve in Superman, which is every bit as charming and *right* as I remember from childhood, not to mention much smarter than I ever picked up on.

    Current Mood: listless
    Monday, February 11th, 2013
    9:56 pm
    Black Mirror cannot be as disturbing as the show currently preceding it
    Snow again, and I've not posted since the last bout, in which I got to cross St James' Park by twilight. It's not my favourite London park, but that little chalet by the lake does look ludicrously idyllic when the weather's this Alpine. I was there in between my inaugural visits to the museums Petrie (dry) and Grant (terrifying), and Parliament, where I was headed mainly to see Paddy Ashdown talk. And good heavens, he's still full of fire. I miss him.

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

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

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

    Also, we completely owned the Monarch's Doctor Who quiz, even in the face of a BBC Worldwide team and other pro geeks. Result.

    Current Mood: anxious
    Monday, January 21st, 2013
    9:41 pm
    Screen dreams
    So, it is January. Which means cold, and little on, and even when snowy not really quorate for a proper snow day given all the departures from parts Finsburatic. And hence, films. From rewatching Powell & Pressburger's strange and timeless Canterbury Tale (I remembered its profoundly English mood, and even a little of its plot, but had never registered before that it had a character from the Seven Sisters Road and a minor role for Charles Hawtrey), to what I'm fairly sure will be the only viewing I ever afford The Watch (Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are on complete autopilot, but in places Richard Ayoade *almost* salvages it).

    Tintin and the Blue Oranges is at once an incredibly faithful live action addition to the boy reporter's canon, and quite stupendously gay; the short films of Jan Svankmajer are even more rum and uncanny than I recalled, especially when live animals meet stop-motion. In comparison, Steve Aylett's ridiculous Lint: the Movie almost makes sense. But only in comparison.

    The Dark Knight Rises, as I noted on Facebook, seems to have been inspired less by any of Bane's comics appearances than Disney's Princess and the Frog, whose plot it strips of charm, drenches in portentousness, and then serves up as Serious Cinema. Also from the House of Mouse: Scotcom Brave, which does a very good job of finally providing a Disney princess you wouldn't be utterly depressed to find a friend's daughter idolising*. And which, like so many Pixar films, is *almost* eclipsed by its delightful accompanying short, in this case 'La Luna'.

    At the grittier end of proceedings: Shame, which is good, but not as good as a film featuring Magneto and Sally Sparrow naked ought to be. And, in more of a rush than it really deserved, the first season of Treme. Sometimes I love it when a bold artist realises they've had a big enough hit to get a captive audience, and goes for broke. This was one of the other times. Truism though this has undoubtedly become, David Simon created something astonishing in The Wire. Many of the same components are here, but the problem is, now I can see the working. Political points felt like they emerged naturally in his Baltimore tragedy; too often the commentary on post-apocalyptic New Orleans is preachy. And there's a lot of jazz. Not even the good sort of jazz. Nonetheless, I burned through ten episodes in a week; despite himself, he can't help but create intriguing characters (mostly: some of them are just planks, and worse, this time out, unlike with eg Ziggy, the show doesn't always seem aware of that). Simon also contributes, incidentally, to Storyville: The House I Live In, a painfully well-argued documentary about America's 'War on Drugs'. One of those remarkable pieces which you assume will be preaching to the choir, but leaves you realising you were nowhere near anti-enough something you already thought utterly asinine.

    But back in 2012 (Do you remember 2012? Is it time for the 2012 revival yet? I bloody hope not), I did go to the cinema. A whole twice! Miracle on 34th Street was utterly, tear-jerkingly joyful, and cannot meaningfully be discussed again until December. And then there's that astonishing mess Peter Jackson has made of The Hobbit, a film trying at once to turn a children's story into an epic (just as the Narnia films so spectacularly failed to do) and create a backstory to The Lord of the Rings. The problem being, as so often with retcons, that you violate both your stories in the effort to tie them together with appropriate guest appearances. spoilerCollapse ). And as much as the narrator's intro may be much-loved, you can't give those lines to Bilbo if they result in him explaining what a hobbit-hole is like to Frodo! The jeopardy levels are inconsistent with the results, turning one sequence in particular into a show-off's Mario run-through. And yet, for all that, there is not the remotest chance of me not catching the rest of the unnecessary trilogy at the cinema.
    (The best piece I've read on the film, which to be honest renders most of my thoughts there superfluous, but having already written them in note form, I was damned if I wasn't going to Speak My Branes)

    *Yes, obviously Leia now counts also, but that happened after Brave.

    Current Mood: accomplished
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