links for 2009-06-06

  • Retro fun. Hurt me plenty.

  • To test a new Spotify feature, playlist posting to Delicious. Also wanted to highlight a very remarkable boxset which pulls to together music and news clips, including early Obama.

  • Compulsive viewing then, redundant now. Nice catch up with the original 'cast' though only Anna and Nick were willing to talk. "Sada Walkington was last heard of waitressing in Earl's Court." etc.

  • What does God need with a starship, indeed.

  • Fairly good defence. There's nothing particularly bad about the film, assuming you're quite happy for Spock to have secret half-brother (and where was he in the Abrams view of the Roddenberryverse?). Perhaps, as the writer here suggests, people were harsh about the movie because they thought it was the last time they'd be seeing these characters. I don't imagine the same re-evaluation for Nemesis.

  • The largest word is 'people'. Muslim and muslims appear almost as much as America and world. 'Must' is very prominent as is 'peace'. It's almost as though his speechwriters fed it through Wordle before he gave it just to check that the balance was just right.

  • Crumbs, I'd forgotten about the Jo Whiley chatshow. And Macy Gray.

  • ... and becomes Tom Tortoise from Adam & Joe's Toy Review. But somehow, we'd be disappointed if he'd actually liked it and hadn't thought it boring and tedious.

  • Sample: "Have you asked him?" "I've given my answer and the answer I'm giving."

  • "Seriously. I own a copy of Lost Girls. Under the new laws, that makes me a criminal. God only knows what that makes Alan Moore."

  • For the title. I mean really.

  • I don't agree with the assessment of Kim Walker in Heathers. My French film tutor always reminded us that films are not reality and that some elements of plot and character exist and meant to work purely on a symbolic/structural level. As Marc says, she's: "the catalyst, a bitchy, insecure alpha female catalyst to push Winona Ryder and Christian Slater together and then apart" in which case as a supporting character she's a function of the story, the villain, so she doesn't need to have "depth, real emotion or moral ambiguity". It's not that kind of film.

  • Marina Hyde suggests that Caroline Flint is in the process of gaining backing to become a unity candidate against Gordon Brown. I've not read this anywhere else, it's probably speculation, but it would make sense, and would at least be entertaining. I've just read that not too long ago she was backing Hazel Blears (whose campaign she ran for deputy-leader) and saying that she should not be sacked. But at this point, anything Flint said pre-resignation is a bit suspect ...

nice things

Life Annette's posted about her visit to Liverpool. I don't think I've had someone blog about me before after having met me, but she says lots of nice things, thank goodness. It was lovely meeting her (you!) too. My synopsis of the event is here.

The Spotify Playlist

The Time in the Cupboard, originally uploaded by BuzzCuts.

A Day In The Life

Here is my favourite truism about days and the best way to deal with them.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it.”

Who said that?

Margaret Thatcher.

The one person who we sometimes wished had lounged around and done nothing, now and then.

links for 2009-06-05

  • "The California Digital Newspaper Collection offers over 200,000 pages of California newspapers spanning the years 1849-191l: the Alta California, 1849-1891; the San Francisco Call, 1893-1910; the Amador Ledger, 1900-1911; the Imperial Valley Press, 1901-1911; the Sacramento Record-Union, 1859-1890; and the Los Angeles Herald, 1905-1907. Additional years are forthcoming, as are other early California newspapers: the Californian; the California Star; the California Star and Californian; the Sacramento Transcript; the Placer Times; and the Pacific Rural Press."

I'm not a particularly sweary person ...

Politics With our political correspondent ...

I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.

Wow, Caroline Flint. I first properly noticed the now former minister for Europe a few weeks ago when The Observer delivered this interview; she came across as witty, clever and self-deprecating, rare qualities in a politician as we've seen in the past few days. Her actions today have only gone to increase my admiration.

Only last night she was pledging her support for the Prime Minister in his darkest hour. Just two hours before her resignation she was talking to a reporter from BBC North and continuing to back the leadership. Then, whilst said leader was delivering his make or break press conference (more on which in a minute) she releases her resignation letter to the press in which she effectively brands him a misogynist and who generally ignored her.

She reveals that she's only been invited to attend cabinet once since last October and not even to the very meeting about the upcoming European elections, so you can see why wouldn't necessarily want to continue in a role which does indeed look like window dressing. Good luck to Lady Kinnock.

I appreciate that Flint has had to defend her expenses claims and that in saying one thing and doing something else she's simply underscored the duplicitousness we all feel politicians are capable of. But you have to admire the guts, haven't you? To keep a completely straight face then sticking in the textual knife? As far back as that Observer interview, she denied experiencing any sexism from her colleagues. Again, I say, wow.

It reminds us that when Shakespeare created a character like Lady Macbeth he wasn't simply producing caricature, people like her can and do exist. Macbeth's wife welcomed King Duncan to the castle, offering him her hospitality, all the while thinking of the best way of persuading her husband to do the bloody deed. Caroline Flint hasn't committed murder, but she has pulled the limelight away from her old boss.

When the breaking news ticker on BBC News should be talking up the cabinet reshuffle, instead it's quoting choice cuts from the letter, the bits about "two-tier government" and "female window dressing". Perhaps Gordon Brown should have worked harder to keep a strategist like this on side, instead of keeping her, in her words, "in a peripheral capacity".

You'll always get two questions.

The one black mark against Flint, is that though I admire the strategy, like the whole damn lot them, it's not inspirational. I want my politicians to be inspirational. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have the potential, which is why I'm backing them, but even they don't have the heart punching, blood rushing, pulse racing ability to build hope of a Barack Obama when he's at full pelt.

Watching Gordon Brown at his press news conference was like seeing a car crash in slow motion (which I know is a cliche and not a very nice one, but I can't think of anything else right now, I'm not terribly inspirational myself you see which is why I want someone else who is). Just at the moment when he should be getting us all onside, making us care for him again, he's looking terribly small behind his podium.

There's a point when Gordon Brown makes a speech where suddenly the words stop having meaning. He'll throw in synecdoches (thanks Charlie Kauffman) like schools and hospitals covering whole issues, words like 'package' and 'future', but the internal tissue that knits them together lacks substance. Somewhere along the line, he might as well be a character in Spike Milligan's short film Rhubarb, Rhubarb for all the sense he's making.

He has presentation issues. During the Q&A, he seemed obsessed about how many questions journalists were asking, berating the likes of Nick Robinson for asking a follow-up even though, in actuality they were simply trying to get a straight answer for the first one. He persistently thumped the podium, which now and then rocked, inadvertantly underscoring the flimsiness of what he was saying.

As you can read, I'm becoming increasingly angry about all of this. I'm not a particularly sweary person, honestly, I'm not, but whenever yet another politician appears on the radio or television refusing to answer a direct question, reframing an answer, all I can do is swear. "Fucking answer the question", I'll shout (and especially when they start blaming the media even though they got themselves into their own mess).

Basically, we're screwed. When Gordon Brown eventually goes (and under normal circumstances he should), there's no one to take his place, at least no one better (better than that?). The Tories will win the next election either way and they're going to be just as rubbish, and all along, those of us who are desperate for something to believe in are going to continue to be sidelined in favour of greed and make-do and mend and the usual lies and spin.

I'm very tired. And emotional.

I worked the election yesterday. The day seemed longer than usual, though the turn-out in our area was rather higher than in most European elections. There's not very much to do in the fifteen hours you spend at the polling station; I mostly read a book, ate sandwiches and listened to the rhythms of the school in which we were based, remembering the routine of the day from when I was that young.

I can't tell you what the political temperature was like; some said it was their duty to come out and vote, others voiced their concerns about this party or that. Some I suppose you could put in the mature category said it was the first time they'd come out and vote and we had to describe how to do that, which is the opposite of what some journalists were predicting -- that disenfranchised voters would stay at home. For these people, the act of defiance was to vote despite everything that is happening, which all to the good (depending on who they voted for, obviously).

geocities rescue


Although at times I must have been somewhere in the area, Groupie-ism really passed me by. I don’t think it’s ever really been a male thing (although I heard that a middle age man changed his name by deed pole to ‘Status Quo’ and followed them around on tour), not in that way.

Watching ‘Almost Famous’ and the various films which have been made about The Beatles hysteria, I do see what I missed. There is a definite kinship between groupies, a kind of unconditional love for these quasi-fantasy figures, without all of the religious strings attached. Like a 24 hour rock concert with extra passion and heartache.

The closest I think I’ve ever got to the feeling was a few years ago during the ‘Deacon Blue’ comeback tour. Two thousand people, packed into a small theatre belting out the songs CD track word perfect to the point that the band themselves seemed merely to be offering backing vocals. I think it might well be one of my most cherished memories. So perhaps it isn’t too late . . . ‘Alicia’s Attic’ are back around . . .

the potency of her own sexuality

Film Shadow of a Doubt was Alfred Hitchcock’s own favourites because it captured exactly what he was repeatedly trying to do in cinema, bring strangeness to the familiar. A long lost uncle, Joseph Cotton, returns to his family who, with the exception of the eldest daughter (played with an almost pathological level of golly-gee by Teresa Wright), are oblivious to the fact that he's essentially a serial killer, marrying widows for their money before bumping them off to claim the inheritance.

Hitch is back to his genre games here and I think he was more aware of it than in Foreign Correspondent particularly in the use of photography (created by Joseph A. Valentine who previously worked on Saboteur). Cotton is a figure straight from noir territory bringing his dark presence to the quintessential 1940s small town America of Frank Capra. When the family meet him at the station, the platform is bathed in sunlight until the train pulls in bringing with it a shadow that hints at the darkness to some.

As the initially innocent Wright, understands the situation she's be thrust into and the potency of her own sexuality, its almost as though this noirish cinematography of Cotton is spreading like a virus which everyone but Wright is immune to. Often it seems to change in the same scene from the sweetness of her younger siblings to her own troubled shoulders, a constant reminder that she alone has the ability to protect her family, Hitch demonstrating how little would be required to unpick the fabric of this mini society.

links for 2009-06-03

links for 2009-06-02

20% off

Food The BiTE discount card, offers 20% off at the kinds of cafes and food outlets that happen at railway stations, Upper Crust, Pumpkin, Caff Ritzzia, that sort of thing. There doesn't seem to be a catch, and there's also a temporary version available as a .pdf to use in the meantime [via].

I've had the following idea

Life In my ongoing effort to do something, I've had the following idea:

Researcher/Curator at large

Researching and writing didactic/explanatory/educational texts for places that can’t afford to have someone in a full time post doing same.


Art galleries without time to write explanatory labels.
Film festivals requiring publicity text.
Theatres needing material for programmes.


Never tied down.
Horrendously interesting.
Plays to my strength of having a good working knowledge of a range of random curiousities.
Requires lots of what I like to do most, reading/watching/listening, writing and thinking.
Meet loads of new people.
Project-by-project basis so goal orientated, something I thrive on.


Never tied down.
Freelance – tricky accountancy/tax issues.
Never permanent, project based, no job security.
Difficult to quantify price to charge without a track record.
May not even exist as a profession.
How do I broach the subject?


Environment Natalie Imbruglia talks to us about water:

Bit of a trojan horse this. It passes on the message about how much water we're individually polluting on a daily basis, but all the while it temps the nosey-parker in you (me) and you're (I'm) thinking: "She's gone blonde. She's got the same taps as us in her bathroom. Ooh, look at her kitchen." Clever.

Miranda July's The Hallway.

Art Miranda July's The Hallway. An installation at the 2008 International Triennale of Contemporary Art in Yokohama, Japan:

The Hallway from The Hallway on Vimeo.

I wonder what happens when you go 'this way'. Perhaps the text is the same, to suggest that it doesn't matter what you do, either way.

"Weeelll.... More of A question really."

Neil Gaiman suggests how the Doctor (mark 10) might tackle the big one ...

links for 2009-06-02

a powerhouse of periods

Museums If you stand in front of the old main entrance to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, much of Port Sunlight behind you, its small, but well proportioned façade beckoning you forward, without the important tourist information giving the game away, you might wonder what lies within. A library perhaps, or a high quality bath house. In fact, within its stone walls, its founder William Hesketh Lever, the local soap magnet, collected together one of the most important art collections in our British isles, a powerhouse of periods that amazes those tourists who take the uncertain trip across from Liverpool.

Even if I hadn’t worked there briefly, indeed even if I hadn’t visited dozens of times before, I’m sure I would still be saying this.

In Public Art Collection In North-West England, Edward Morris dedicates six and half pages to the gallery in comparison to some of the others which share a similar footprint and only command a couple of sides. He has to. First of all there’s the history, of how Lever, having made his money from the success of Sunlight Soap became an art collector and philanthropist, amassing a large collection of art, initially as illustrations for his own advertising, slapping SUNLIGHT SOAP across the image of a washer-woman or whatever. After filled his various homes with Victorian and Italian art Lever commissioned his architects, William and Segar Owen to produce the building that now stands in the centre of the village he originally built for the workers from his factory in the late 1800s.

But Edward also has to deal with Lever’s impeccable taste. Many of the galleries I’ve visited would give their right wing and part of their café for something by many of the artists listed here. He mentions Frith, Leighton, Millais, Walker, Mason, von Hermomer, Burne-Jones, Holman-Hunt, Wilson, Reynolds, Romney, Stubbs. Ford, Goscombe John, Derwent Wood, Reynolds-Stephens, Pomeroy, Etty, Turner, De Witt but there’s also a Vigee-Le Brun, one of her best in fact, Lady Hamilton as a Baccante (clever Lever). When The Guardian’s political cartoonist Steve Bell drew ex-speaker Michael Martin on his hind legs in the middle of a barren landscape and apologised to Holman-Hunt, he was referencing Holman-Hunt’s The Scapegoat which usually hangs in the Lady Lever (unless its out on loan which it often is). There’s more splendour here than in the municipal art galleries or some major towns and cities.

So of course, with all of that in mind, another visit for the purposes of saying I’ve visited because I’m visiting all of the galleries listed in Edward’s book and so that I can write about it, there shouldn’t be much left for me to discover in the same way that I might discover at one of the out of the way places, even taking into account the rehangs and refreshes due to conservation and loans (no, The Scapegoat wasn’t there when I visited). I was wrong. What actually happened was that because I was paying a bit more attention, because I wanted to find something I hadn’t noticed before, all kinds of secrets were revealed, the kinds of secrets which only reveal themselves when you really are paying attention, in plain sight, but only noticeable if you know where to look. I still managed to fill pages and pages of my note book.

A typical example is in a room filled with Greek Pottery, there’s a woodland landscape by Joshua Reynolds, whose dark, forbidding forest is like a hundred childish nightmares inspired by the Brothers Grimm. Only the edges of the trees are visible against the black silhouettes of the trees, the only hope a pinpoint of light in the distance through which we can see blue sky and the road home. In the main hall, away from the luminous pre-Raphaelites, is a giant canvas by Hubery van Kerkomer, The Last Muster, in which an old solider has died during a chapel service and only one of the multitude of other Chelsea pensioners is aware of it. What gives the image such power is the scale of the painting, the mass of red tunics, the detail of the faces of these men betraying a life led, and the light which seeps in through the windows near the ceiling poignantly indicating twilight.

As I said, I have pages and pages of notes and I could regurgitate them all: my admiration for Philpots The Marchioness of Carisbrooke who judging by her clothing can afford the latest fashions but whose face suggests an empty life; how cleverly George Richmond has captured Napoleon reading his abdication letter just before being forced from office by coalition forces, still strong, still professional and business-like, perhaps sensing that his exile won’t last too long and he’ll be back in power within the year; at the bottom of a stairwell (unlabeled so I don’t know who the artist is) a cinematic image of Leonardo Di Vinci at court demonstrating a prototype for his new flying contraption to the rapt attention of some, derision of others, painting in such detail that you can almost see the fabric shifting within the space.

In the sculpture gallery which used to greet the visitor when they first entered the gallery. On one of the side walls, slightly unheralded, is a bronze figure of Psych sculpted by Francis Derwent Wood. This seems fairly innocent, well as innocent as a nude can be, until you spend time running your eyes up and down her torso and you realise just how erotically charged the piece is. In this realisation, Cupid’s consort is reaching up and lightly caressing the underside of her breast with her forefinger and she might well be standing up, but her face and body seen from below offer an impression of extreme orgasmic ecstasy. Only now do I realise that this is a theme running right the way through the collection; nearby Edmund Weber’s docile Hygeia is letting a snake drink from a dish, the kind of symbolism you don’t need to be a writer for the Erotic Review to decipher.

I’ll stop here. I think you get the idea.

The Lady Lever reminds me of the The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, another attraction and collection generally overlooked when people think of the galleries of the local area. Stepping in through the new entrance, just off to the side, through the new foyer and into the main gallery area which runs through the centre is to find yourself transported. This might not be some great Baroque cathedral or palace. It’s just unusual, even in these visits, to find a place which manages to cram so much great art into such a relatively small space.

a chord

Life A paragraph in this rebuttle from Natalia Antonova of a recent piece by Elizabeth Wurtzel strikes a chord:
"Beautiful or not, as you get older, your possibilities get narrower. You dream less and less, because you can’t afford it anymore. Even those of us who are incredibly good-humoured about the entire process have moments of panic about it. We can concentrate so much on doors that are closing that we miss the ones that are now standing open."
There can't be many of us not feeling like that right now.

Extract from 'I Want New York' by Ogden Nash

"I think those people are unreliable are utterly unreliable
Who say they'd be happy on a desert island with a copy of the Biable
And Hamlet (by Shakespeare) and Don Quixote (by Cervantes)
And poems by Homer and Virgil and perhaps a thing or two of Dante's.
And furthermore, I have a feeling that if they were marooned till the millennium's dawn
Very few of us would notice they were gone.
Perhaps they don't like my opinions any better than I like theirs,
But who cares?
If I were going to be marooned and could take only one thing along
I'd be perfectly happy if I could take the thing which is the subject of this song.
I don't mean anything that was bought either by the post man or the stork.
I mean the City of New York."

the new girl in a film role

TV This is fantastic. Desperate to find something to say about Karen Gillan, the Doctor's new companion, the BBC News website decide to focus on a new film that she's appearing in, New Town Killers, directed bt Richard Jobson. Loads about the film, some repetition of her biography. All sounds rather exciting, a chance to see the new girl in a film role, find out what she's like. Then you see the character name. Oh. As Jonathan, who led me to this said, "Sounds like a big role!"

noisy, noisy

Life In Armando Iannucci’s rather wonderful meditation on John Milton’s Paradise Lost (which was broadcast on BBC Two in the week and you might still be able to catch on the iPlayer if you’re in the area), the comedian talked about how the young poet, whilst at school was very much focused on his academic success, so much so that he would spend his evenings on homework, sat in the attic of the house until midnight learning multiple languages including latin and reading all of the great books of the day.

On hearing that, I at first decided that it must have required a massive amount of concentration; I can barely sit down to read any book these days without some kind of distraction even if it’s the thoughts in my own head, modern life and the rubbish which has been churned in between my brain cells leading them to wander off into a meeting about what makes Simon Cowell so contemptible in the middle of working my way through the biography of a baroque composer. How ever could Milton get through the Psalms? Latin conjugations? French punctuation?

One of the reasons Milton could concentrate, of course (other than being very clever), was because in the 1630s, life was rather more quieter. Locked in that attic he was probably dead to the world, his only focus the text in front of him and his own thoughts. He said later himself in Paradise Lost “The mind is its own place, and in itself. Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” The only sounds he could hear were possible the odd rumble from downstairs, or if it’s a cold and stormy night, the weather outside. Near total silence. No distractions. Sounds like bliss. I’m not sure there’s anywhere you can do that these days, even in a library.

When was the last time you experienced total silence, silent enough that you felt you could genuinely concentrate on anything?

I can’t remember.

There’s not much that can be done about the hustle and bustle of the streets, the sometimes annoying, but often comforting sound of life happening. Yet even at home, our existence is punctured and punctuated by clatter whether it’s the sound of a television from a different room, the hum of cars outside the window as is happening right now, dance music pumped in from a soundbox in the field. Even when everyone is out, and everything potential entertaining is turned off, there’s the tick of a clock or the lift in the building going up and down. Even late at night when everyone is in bed, in the darkness, I can still hear the changing settings of the freezers in the next room.

Modern life is a noisy, noisy thing.