"generally genuinely repentant"

Food Since the story seems to have moved on - oh you web and your short attention span -- I've not seen this first interview with the editor of the now notorious Cook's Source linked anywhere else.  So here it is, largely covering the narrative from her point of view and with that still prevalent approach some parts of the media has to the social web as slightly mystical unapproachable land:
"Bogus Facebook pages purporting to be run by Cooks Source have posed a particular challenge for Griggs because they have dragged some of the magazine's advertisers into the fray with harassing emails and phone messages. A handful of advertisers have parted ways with the magazine, while others remain skittish, the Gazette learned. Griggs said she has had difficulty contacting Facebook administrators to get the situation under control."
She sounds generally genuinely repentant though I suspect the single comment underneath will probably sums up the web's reaction.  One other quote worth mentioning simply because I can't quite bend what's left of my brain around it. Does she have a point?
"She questioned how a chef using a recipe he or she finds online for profit in a restaurant is any different from a magazine publishing one found online."
An apology has been posted at their website.  This seems like another occasion when something which might otherwise have stayed relatively local even a few years ago became larger than any of the people involved thanks to social media. 

"Wide awake behind closed eyes"

Sound Tim Parks on the search for true silence:
"It was humiliating. Wide awake behind closed eyes, struggling to focus on tensions I couldn't find, the words went on and on. Now I was remembering a bad review from years before. Word for word! I writhed. Until finally, the obvious occurred to me: all that noise in the world outside serves precisely to drown out the noise in our heads. To reach any deep silence we must tackle this inner noisiness first."
The only time I ever seem to enjoy a near-silent world is late at night when all the sound I can hear is the distant ticking of a clock, the hum of a freezer and perhaps the cooling fan of my PVR recording something on BBC Four. Sadly, I'm also too tired to enjoy it for very long. Unless some drunk people are shouting in the park outside, then I'm wide awake.  And swearing, probably.
Elsewhere I've review this week's Sarah Jane Adventures. Not my best work, I'm afraid, I'm a bit burned out this week. I also nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard the Nazi call Clyde what he called him (I can't repeat it even in text). Can anyone remember the last time that word was used in a kids sci-fi entertainment show?

Lost In Time.

TV One of the story ideas for the new series of Doctor Who which I’ve coveted over years but is unlikely to happen is for a good old fashioned pure historical, one in which the only sci-fi element would be the Doctor and his plus one. I know these were largely curtailed in the 60s due to poor ratings, but the contemporary twist would be that the TARDIS team and the audience after decades of conditioning would assume that a monster or some other fantasy element is the cause of whatever mischief is, but in the end historical truth would assert itself. In other words, a reverse of The Time Meddler.

While we wait for Moffat or his successor to come to his or her senses, Lost In Time is an entertaining stop gap, with enough historical exposition to keep Lord Reith’s ghost from haunting Mark Thompson for a couple of nights at least (or at least until Strictly’s on and the poor John’s grave rolling begins again). It’s also one of the more blatant homage’s to the classic series, The Key To Time season retold in just over fifty minutes. Oh how Russell and Rupert Laight must have chuckled as they made sure one of the objects was an actual key. It’s just a pity Lalla Ward wasn’t available or willing, probably.

But this is an episode filled to the brim with homages of one form or another not least in the figure of the Shopkeeper, who appears from Mr. Benn, casting the team out to the various points in time, albeit without a new choice of fancy daywear. Cyril Nri tries his best with a part that mostly replicates the cast of Trial of a Timelord in standing around commenting on the stories and offering some much needed cliffhanger acting when required. Who is this mysterious figure, one of the Trickster’s lot or something else? Perhaps there's another Shopkeeper out there holding the balance of power, their constant Sinden/Davies-like rivalry a cosmic version of Never The Twain (but fighting over the health of planets and moons rather than a cheap bit of Carltonware or a mahogany table).

Each of the three yarns also looks towards other fictions. Rani’s story, though based on fact has the beating heart of a Philippa Gregory novel, putting a recognisable human face on a historical queen. Demonstrating that a quite complex drama can still be told on the BBC in a couple of rooms, a cast of few and some entertaining corsetry, this neatly describes the events leading up to the scene in Paul Delaroche’s painting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey which hangs at the National Gallery, actress Amber Beattie sympathetically portraying the doomed young monarch rather misused for religious point scoring.

Given that for some younger viewers the second world war is as distant a memory as the Nine Day’s Queen, perhaps we should be cautious in welcoming Clyde's story, Theories abound on whether the Nazi’s did indeed land on England’s mainland shore as depicted here and in its anticedents Went the Day Well?, The Eagle Has Landed, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, um, The Curse of Fenric. But the exposition is clear enough to explain that Thor's so-called Hammer is changing history so instead let’s just give a cheer for what is a really ripping boy’s own adventure of the kind which seem all too rare now and no I didn’t see that coming. I did indeed yelp.

Sarah Jane’s segment is almost pure Sapphire and Steel, with just a pinch of Moffat magic and a public information film from the 70s. Arguably the weakest of the three, it does still have a peachy performance from Gwyneth Keyworth as a Charley Pollard alike and the random casting of Lucie Jones from last year’s X-Factor as the kind of figure Princess Superstar warned us about. The problem is perhaps that this the story with the least direct jeopardy for the main character (apart from returning hime obviously), though at least kids might get the message that its dangerous to play with matches.

The editing challenge of running these three distinct stories next to each other is carried off well, even better perhaps in cutting between distinct timeframes than The Hours or Julie & Julia and without their direct plot connections. On reflection, both of those films would have clearly benefited from a fez wearer offering a running commentary to his parrot ("She's running out time! There's no way she'll manage to cook all of those recipes in a year! Why do they all look like Meryl Streep?" "Sqwark!"). The trick is in giving Clyde the majority of the action beats, balancing the pacing and having using the old hyperlink cinema trick of matching the shapes of shots in different locations.

What also ties the episode together is the willingness to, for want of a better phrase, “go there”. In both of their stories, Rani and Clyde are the victims of discrimination. If Rani’s is the same kind of euphemistic public school insult endured by Martha Jones during Human Nature, the Nazi’s description of Clyde is absolutely shocking, especially for this timeslot. The strong way that both of them deal with it is how role models are made, both Anjli and Daniel motivated to give some of their best acting of the season (last week’s near two-hander accepted). Too late sadly for forthcoming dvd documentary Race Against Time, but a welcome detail nonetheless.

Another excellent story then in what’s turning into what might be the best series yet, despite the Fordist Rentaghost influences. Continuity buffs will also be pleased to see, thanks to that newspaper clipping, we finally have a date for when these episodes are happening, contemporaneous with broadcast and so definitively after The Big Bang and so confirming the reset of the extra year which was a legacy of Aliens of London all those years go, although as I’ve just discovered it's all a bit of a mess anyway since The End of Time is apparently supposed to have “happened” in 2009 before Planet of the Dead and The Eleventh Hour in 2008 when Saxon was in power (breath). Yes, I know, the silence, the cracks, the time war, the Faction Paradox ...

Next Week: Speaking of which, the Earth wasn't as defended as we thought judging by the weaponry.

"If I let some sentences be short that's a formal decision."

TV At the Illuminations blog, John Wyver reviews Matthew Collings's latest arts series Renaissance Revolution. I like it. It's a good review, especially since it opens like one of my Behind The Sofa things by writing in a faux-Collings voice:
"Hi. That's Matthew Collings. Hi Matt. Matthew makes films about -- art. He knows a lot about -- art. He's pretty good. I like watching him. He's just been on BBC Two talking about -- the Renaissance. He talked in three films called -- Renaissance Revolution. The films are pretty good. I like them. I'm happy that the BBC commissioned them. I like the BBC. A lot."
I've not had a chance to see the shows yet (this is the week that Doctor Who series fnarg has been released on optical disc) but John's post puts it right at the top of the list. What John probably wasn't expecting was for Collings himself to leave a rebuttle in the comments in which he takes umbridge at the notion that the films are too polished:
"I constantly agonise about the relationship between images and words. If I let some sentences be short that's a formal decision. They were longer at an earlier stage of the script. The musical ideas in the series are my own, based not on whimsical perversity but personal association, which I could indulge, because the BBC has a blanket rights agreement on a very wide range of material. Again the tie-up of music, words and pictures involves endless experiment and change."
Until I see the films, I can't really say who I agree with. What I will say is that Collings's comments are well worth reading in and of themselves in offering an insight into the difficult production process of presenter led arts documentaries.

the US equivalent of Liverpool's Liverpool Direct

City Ordinance 311 is the US equivalent of Liverpool's Liverpool Direct, an enquiry and information service for local government, but on a much wider scale. That scale allows better analysis of the data gathered and in this long article with diagrams for Wired Magazine, Steven Johnson investigates what that information suggests about New Yorkers and their needs:
A data-driven approach to urban life makes sense, because cities are in many respects problems of information management. But the problems take various forms, depending on whether you confront them as a public agency or an ordinary citizen. Governments want to know where the messes are so they can prioritize cleanups. But for city dwellers, the challenge takes a different shape, because we need to know which resource we should use to satisfy our present need."
The phone line was instrumental in solving their Maple Syrup mystery.  By mapping were the biggest concentration of phone calls were coming from and the time of day, the location of the source revealed itself quite naturally.

averagely legible

Books In defense of writing longhand:
"And to my surprise, the easiest way turns out to be writing longhand. Not printing, mind you, but composing with a long, flowing, and delightfully irregular script that fills the page like a river of words. I sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and a thousand words roll out in a flash. And not only does it often take less time than typing, I think I write better longhand."
Everything in this piece at Lifehacker is quite right. Some of my most thoughtful, most literate writing has been done in shorthand. Most of the best bits of these Biennial reviews are verbatim type-ups of something I've written down whilst standing in front of the work.

Unfortunately, my handwriting is atrocious because I've been using computers for everything since I was in my mid-teens (early 90s) and lost the habit and once I have a long hand version I'd still have to type it up to be useful and go through an editing process to make most of the text legible and grammatical.

So I continue to type even though I know whatever's creeping out of my fingers is only averagely legible at best, a crime against English at worst (and in the case of this very sentence a little bit of both).  Most of us just don't have the luxury of being able to write everything twice.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: MA Fine Art Exhibition at Liverpool School of Art and Design, Duckinfield Street.

Liverpool School of Art and Design

Art Seems strange to think that in just over two weeks the Biennial will be over. Will there be a party? I can but hint. Having reached all of the main venues, there's just time to try and locate some of the smaller shows, at least those which are still open. The Liverpool School of Art and Design MA Fine Art Exhibition sits in an exhibition space at the back of the building, its mostly glass walls looking out onto Brownlow Hill, somewhat resembling one of the living rooms Kevin McCloud gets excited about. Another venue I didn't know existed until someone put an exhibition there.

In one corner are the results of a twelve month research project by Jane Fairhurst and Tim Fielding into the now not so new town of Skelmesdale in collaboration with Lancashire Museums and the North West Film Archive. There are original planning models for the houses and shops, and though a contemporary video shows the area after forty years of rot, it's impossible not to feel the sense of hope seeping out of the contemporary promo films with their vibrant editing and excited, if not entirely convincing voice over which includes such lines as "residents can enjoy the fresh air blown in from the sea ... just twelve miles away ..." (my emphasis).

But aesthetically, my favourites in this show are David Hancock's numerous illustrations or to list their titles in full, Crash #2, Crash #3, Raw, Hero, Auto and Crash #1. These are a series of near monochrome watercolours of various youngsters playing Playstation games (judging by the controllers) against white backgrounds. Beautifully detailed each retains the intensity of play in each pair of eyes as well as the blank face of concentration, accentuated by that blank background which suggests that the only world that now exists for them is on the screen.  I would invite gamers to visit and see if Hancock is holding a mirror up to them.

Do you like me?

About I've added one of these to the sidebar:

I'm not sure what use it is yet, other than confirm what I already know, probably.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Sachiko Abe, Antti Laitinen and the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at AFoundation.


Art Visiting AFoundation is always a disconcerting experience. I worked there, as an invigilator, during the 2006 Biennial and each time I've walked around since it's been impossible not to look at the spaces without filtering them through the memory of the work which I knew so well from back then, dozens of installations strewn through the many rooms. It's especially difficult this year, since only two artists are represented. The spaces seem particularly spartan though I imagine someone else might consider it a pleasure to be able to see work in such an uncluttered atmosphere.

Drawing the most media curiosity during the opening and somewhat since is Sachiko Abe, not least because unlike most of the performance artists who graced us with their presence during the opening weekend, she's stayed and continued her work rather than leaving the aftermath in the space for those of us coming late to ponder (see this Min Oh). Abe is still offering matinee "performances" twice or thrice daily and it's one of the most intense experiences I've had during the festival.  Judging by the comments at the AFoundation's blog, I'm not the only one who feels that.

In Cut Paper, the old factory floor at the back of the building is now entirely empty but for, at the centre, a giant constructed of web of paper drawn upwards to the ceiling like a spider's web. The giant space echoes with the sound of scissors cutting and we look up to see the source, Abe sitting on a small balcony above the manager's office delicately shaving around the edges of the paper pieces of which fall to the concrete ground. She's deliberate, intent and undistracted by my plodding presence blundering about. Below her sits an invigilator, in the case of my visit reading a book and trying to blend in.

The visitor participates simply by being there, simply by looking.  It's captivating. A religious person might search for some kind of spirituality in the scene, some deeper meaning being expressed. I on the other hand pondered the level of concentration required, not just to cut the pages with this skill but to also ignore all other distractions, though photography I think is banned now so that must help. Throughout the period I was in there, she didn't flinch, only now and then stopping in a bid to reignite the momentum of the cutting.  Which she always did.

But there is also the concentration of the invigilator; when no visitors are passing through it's simply them and this living sculpture and the constant sound of the cutting. They only interact at the close of each performance though Abe is clearly open to questions. The invigilator told me that Abe has been cutting this paper for over six years and that initially it was just something she did to pass the time, only later did she turn it into a performance, perhaps realising that it's always best to try and make money from the thing you're good at.

Sharing the AFoundation is a retrospective of Antti Laitinen's work from the past decade which also includes the artist himself creating a site specific piece, a wooden boat which will eventually set sail. Laitinen was indisposed when I visited so I concentrated on the video records of his earlier pieces.  In it's own way, It's My Island, is just as compulsive an expression as Abe's cutting as he constructs a tiny desert island made from sandbags in what looks like the middle of an ocean. His motive seems to be to demonstrate that even though no man is and island, this one man can at least build one.

Until 28th November. 

Across the way is Bloomberg New Contemporaries the annual exhibition of work by recent graduates and new artists, this time selected by Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri, Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey and painter Dawn Mellor. As ever it's a bit of a mixed bag with plenty of work in which an artist hasn't had the funding to follow through with it, plenty of money but no good ideas or precious little of either. But as I've discovered with all my failures, you don't discover what works until you at least try. David Hockney and Paula Rego are both alumni. And Damien Hirst too if you think that's a good thing.

Both of my favourites hinge on great ideas, literally in the case of Theodoros Stramatogiannis's Untitled. Yes, I know I have a general disdain for "untitled" but this is worth making an exception for since as an object it's perfectly legible. It's a door. A massive white door which constitutes the entrance door to the exhibition and stretches well into the space (causing the visitor to have to dodge around it), which looks almost but not exactly like the doors I have in my flat apart from the fact that its seven of them all stuck together.  And it has a lock.

It's simplistic, it's surprising, and once I'd realised what was going on I was skipping about on my feet saying "It's a door, a massive door" in a way I've not done since being Le Defence in Paris and shouting at The Grand Arch, "The Grand Arch! It's a grand arch." Brilliantly (according to this explanation) its purpose is to simply draw attention itself and that it's up to the viewer to decide if this apparent doorway is instead functioning as a wall. In other words what John Cleese says of the TARDIS in this video:

But the award for a little going a long way is Daniel Cichtman's Untitled in which artistic endevour is reduced to a Power Point presentation displaying a series of letters which its implied where written by him as a child. They're not terribly detailed, are often filled with mundane items about breakfast and friends (oddly always listing using their full name, christian and sur-) slowly building up a picture of a suburban middle class family with all of the compulsion and subtle pain of some of the more melancholy stories of This American Life and it's impossible to take your eyes away.

Until 14th November.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Tactful Rituals in the "Quebec Pavillion", part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Tactful Rituals in the "Quebec Pavillion", part of City States in the NOVAS Contemporary Urban Centre.

Art If the intention of certain aspects of City States is to offer a tantalising taste of the Biennial’s rival festivals in other corners of the world, it more than succeeds. Passing into the area designated Quebec Pavilion, for example, an exhibition called Tactful Rituals it’s impossible not feel the sense of entering a different cultural époque (because I can’t think of another word), even if the actual work isn’t that different, especially since the Touched part of the Biennial gathers international artists anyway.

In Catherine Sylvain’s Femme-Chien we’re confronted by Yuly, a two metre tall inflatable white dog behind which is a tiny screen showing her embracing the plastic animal on a traffic island in Montreal in 2003 (or is it Mantrevil, France in 2007?). She trying to understand why she saw more man/dog pairings on the streets than man/woman couple. It’s the Roger Sanchez video for dog lovers with the public surrealism of a Dom Jolly skit. What I wasn’t sure about was whether I should be hugging Yuly too; I decided against it. The gallery might not have a puncture repair kit.

Also worth noting are Adad Hannah’s two video pieces. Four Hands shows a table filled with food with some hands hovering above just ready to pounce. The more interesting Dinner Date offers a girl climbing over a table in a cafe to kiss her Chris Martin alike manfriend, limbs all over the place. Both initially seem like freeze frames, but after not too long we notice that the hands are quivering and that the kiss is causing both of the participants to look increasingly uncomfortable; these are actors recreating in actuality what a dvd pause button might do virtually.

The kiss is sustained for eight minutes and we can’t help watching to see if it progresses at all and yet through an act of certain will power, neither laughs at the predicament, no stage giggles. What we have instead is a piece that becomes increasing erotic as it progresses and we take in the different elements of the moment, were their hands are, the aftermath of the movement on the geography of the table and question if this is meant to represent a spontaneous act. My only disappointment is that we don’t see the aftermath the moment when they have to break because they’re unable to hold the pose any longer.

Until 28 November

"the sheer difficulty of seeing much of it"

Film Joe McBride's biography of Frank Capra, The Catastrophe of Success, was required reading on my film course with its incisive skewering of the fiction Capra weaves in his actual autobiography (late night liaisons with dwarves etc.).

In this Sight and Sound piece, he considers Capra's earliest work, or more specifically the films I didn't need to write about because I chose essay question three rather than four when it came time to doing the assignment:
"A major reason that early Capra has been neglected by audiences and critics has been the sheer difficulty of seeing much of it. A US distributor, Kit Parker Films, circulated Capra silents and early sound films on 16mm decades ago, but only a few of his features for Columbia Pictures from the 1920s and early 30s have been made available on VHS or DVD. On the other hand, many of the films he made with silent comedian Harry Langdon (first as writer and then as director) have recently shown up on DVD. Most of Capra’s early Columbia films long existed in bastardised prints of indifferent quality, often preserved only because of the efforts of European collectors and archives. Joseph Walker, Capra’s indispensable cinematographer, told me that Columbia president Harry Cohn was too cheap to take good care of the studio vaults in Capra’s heyday."
Which was the other reason. As with the missing believe wiped items in the BBC's archive, few in old Hollywood had any inkling of the cash cow they were leaving to rot after it's theatrical distribution.  Luckily, some of it may be in Russia.

"I need to make time."

Books No matter what he says, I think Edward Stourton is having a book storage crisis. If only I had the room. My problem is, for all the reading I do, I don't seem to be able to find the time, or concentration to read books, the latter especially. I need to make time.

Liverpool Biennial 2010: Cristina Lucas at Europleasure International Ltd.

Europleasure International Ltd.

Art Look at this photograph, really look at it. Because I stood in front of the building taking it, stood for a few minutes deciding on the correct angle, waiting for the cars to be in the right position, waiting for the pavement to clear, worked for the composition I wanted and at no point did I notice what had happened to the windows, not until I was uploading the thing to flickr ready for posting here. Even though it's perfectly obvious from the picture in the mock-up in the Biennial catalogue too, even though it's the title of the work itself.

But Cristina Lucas's Touch and Go has plenty of surprises. A fusion between installation and video piece, inside the building, accessible via the Scandinavian Hotel and past the room inhabited by the Alfredo Jaar piece, a film is being projected in which a series of older, respectable looking people, unionists, hurl bricks and stones at the building breaking these windows, aptly representing and re-igniting the public unrest of 1968. The screen is set on the floor of the building which still has, strewn across the it, the aftermath of the video, the broken glass and I think stones.

The surprise is that one of my neighbours is in there, proudly giving a house brick some welly, catching a window pain at a good angle. I've known her for nearly twenty years (blimey) and it's the last thing I would expect to ever see her doing, so proudly and with such a sense of defiance. But perhaps conscious that adults should not be seen to be doing anything too destructive, the brick enters slow motion as it hits each window pain and jingles as we see an interior shot of it flying through the air thereby nullifying, just a little bit, its destructive threat.

Until 28 Nov.