Sunday, 26 August 2012

nick cave

in transit to the land of bergman i can't help but notice all these posters for lawless stuck about. at first i think it's some sort of new series for sky atlantic but then the realisation dawns that it's a new movie. a nick cave movie.

not to everyone's taste but for me the proposition was the standout film of its year, luminescent in almost every way (ray winstone will certainly never be better) and it's the same mob that're making this one. true, i have some reservations - there are lots more people in this one. and shia leboeuf.

but on the upside tom hardy, guy pearce and jessica chastain. there were many things to like about tree if life (neatly balanced by things not to like) but my favourite was jessica chastain. it'll be interesting to see what she does in cave's man-centric screenplay. and then there's the music. on the trailer at least it sounds a wee bit mroe mainstream than what cave did for the proposition but even so, one can hope..

but it'll all have to wait until i get back. there's no cinemas (or shops or much of anything) where i'm going, jsut a big sky and a load of silence. great nick cave landscape!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

viva la vuelta and that lance thing...

after the olympics frenzy it's nice to be back to the afternoon routine of proper bike racing (even if it means i'm going to have to find some place for a signal/sports bar on a tiny wee island in the baltic....). i don;t think it's unfair to say that there's been more incident in the first feel of the vuelta than there was in the entire tour de france this year. which is no surprise these days as both the vuelta and the giro are just better.

not just because of the comparison between the drab processions of the stages in this year's tour as opposed to ten (count 'em!) ten mountain finishes in the vuelta but just because it appears that the riders actually want to race. it's great! plus there's that subtext as the old school (valverde and contador) moves out of the way of the new (froome). in an action packed stage the other day valverde crashes and no body waits. valverde fumes (but neglects to mention he did exactly the same in the dauphine) and makes a frankly eyebrow raising chase back to the peleton.

back in the day i was a big fan of the then prospect alejandro but post doping he's only shown flickers of that previous promise so that a performance like that seems just a tad unlikely. then the mountains and what a joy to see contador jigging about just like of old. except at the sprint finish it's froome and purito rodriguez who're away and contador is left 'dehydrated'. perhaps his 'preparation' is not what it was.

such questions as these cannot, in any discussion of cycling now, have some nod backwards to lance armstrong. usada it appears have stripped him of all his titles even though it also appears they have no power to do so. this for me is the salient feature in all these shenanigans. even for that dwindling band of lance fans (go whom i was once one but those last comeback performances were filled with such arrogance it did it for me) there can't but be even the faintest glimmer of doubt that in an era blighted by epo etc it seems unlikely that lance was untouched. but equally it does seem somewhat odd, given usada's accusations of trafficking, that this will all not be let lie.

however, for me, this was never about lance but about usada and their efforts to position themselves. why armstrong still when that era and most of what went with it has been consigned to the dustbin. why are they not quite so full on when it comes to other sports, this last olympics being a prime example. who will get lances titles? what clean athletes were there back then? ullrich!! zulle!! virenque!! plus, if you coerce someone into testifying against lance is it really okay for them to get a gentle ease into retirement and a slap on the wrist and no title removement for them? the whole thing stinks of politics. that era was blighted and so was everyone associated with it.

much has been said about it all but, as ever, for me it's the badger who was most succinct.

Je m’en fous éperdument. C’est son problème pas le mien. C’est un problème qui aurait dû être réglé depuis 10 ou 15 ans et qui ne l’a pas été…

when i get old i want to be as grumpy as him!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

that nationality....

so, irvine welsh was speaking at the book festival the other day, 'tearing into' the booker prize apparently (the whole speech is in there on the guardian somewhere but i can't find it right now. that he should do so was signposted by alan bissett a couple of weeks before which might lead one to think that the cheeky wee scallywags had it planned.

my first thoughts were that her we were, recreating that conference yet again, as if it was the one thing that had happened in scottish literature ever. and at that, what with welsh's girning, i was like, didn't john berger do that years ago? whihc welsh should know, and probably does, but it seems a bit disingenuous but to acknowledge if he did, esp with his references to gramcsi which he seems to like and i've heard him do before as if he's doing some sort of undergraduate essay and he wants us to know just where his reference points are.

being edinburgh folk seem to have picked up on the scottish whininess, that 'we' have only won once and somehow there's an anti-scottish cabal at work, fuelled by their upper middle classness. the irony of this accusation, coming as it does (at a book festival ffs!) and, in bissett's case, in the pages of the guardian is the kind of blinkered comedy you just couldn't write. worse, in the lists of writers 'overlooked', certainly in comparison to the people who've actually won the booker prize, it seems there's an oddly familiar theme - they're all, almost without exception, white guys.

oh dear, perhaps the boys aren't quite as cutting edge as they thought they were. or maybe it's just the ladies, in their heads, perhaps aren't producing the goods for them. and is scotland so monocultural that list of our writers have to be so overpopulated by whiteys? and, wait a minute further, aren't all those books written in english? which isn't to suggest that either bissett or welsh are sexist or racist just maybe a wee bit more brain engagement before speaking might be in order. or being, cynical, maybe welsh has a new book out.

of the many comments, the most apt for me, in terms of both bissett and welsh, was ben okri's

The writer writes. As well as they can, as truthfully as they can from the depth of their spirits … If you say this space is Scottishness, you have limited the possibilities of Scottishness for all time … if you overdefine what is a national literature you will constantly reproduce a cycle of cliches.

i'm kind of bored of this whiny reiteration of old grudges and arguments whether it's the scottish thing, rhyme in poetry or the death of the novel. it seems a strange divisiveness that if say, you get a bunch of musicians together, they make music, but a bunch of writers and they start moaning and fighting (or, if you're ian mcewan, cosying up to politicians). as in 1962, so much stays the same.

it's a pity tho that what seems to have been overlooked in the online and print discussions around this were welsh's point about the londoncentric nature of publishing. not something the guardian so likely to complain about! yet welsh's point, regardless of whether you like it or not, that it seems unlikely that trainspotting would be published today as a result, seems a fair one. for me tho, again, this seems like the concern of just the sort of person welsh is pretending he isn't. as okri puts it - the writer writes. all the rest is gravy.

i'm a fan of the day job. in the parlance of pretend urban types like welsh and bissett it 'keeps it real'. competitions biased? you don't say! unreflective? surely not! so don't get involved with them. the writer writes and free from all that commercialism can write whatever they want. which, i think is kind of what china mieville was getting at. rather than trotting out the same tired old tropes mieville's vision (even if parts of it did tread on some of my own sacred cows !) seemed far more exciting. more people writing? now that's a world i want to see.

in ian mcewan's piece there's a bit about 'britishness' and the olympics. to be honest, scraping beyond that meniscus of flag waving and before soaking in that unreconstructed mire of online and print nationalism there was a something that was about people. people in all their wonderful diversity without their politicinans (however hard they tried), the isms they locate themselves by, all that jargon. just people. wandering about the streets of london those days was both a privilege and some kind of wonderful.

not so long before i'd been working on a wee collection of poems that were later described as 'unpublishable'. which was true enough whether it was in the world of that london publishing or the nationalist engaged sphere of the likes of welsh and bissett. and it was equally true for the people who weren't publishing my collection. me, tho, i wasn't so disappointed because i was happy and at the end of the day that's all that matters. the poems will come out in some other form - let's face it, there's never been a better time to read more by more people in a bewildering variety of formats.

it's not about winning the competition or whether you are being represented. better surely to present yourself. be in the present rather than the past. live the life rather than talk about it.

Monday, 20 August 2012

peter schaeffer

Juggler, Magician, Fool - A Pantoum

You mysterious jongleur, abstracted, absorbed, you slowly pace the street.
You stare, detached, through a curtain: silver balls in the air.

You slowly pace the street, tossing coins, cups, scarves,
silver balls in the air, making a skydance ---

tossing coins, cups, scarves, each in their separate paths,
making a skydance, chaotic, hypnotic;

each in their separate paths, dancing
(chaotic, hypnotic) the random paths of stars;

dancing through and around;
the random paths of stars, moons, comets, and the sudden flare-fade streak

through and around everything, the mystical hands tossing destinies;
moons, comets, and the sudden flare-fade streak of your hands ordering

everything. The mystical hands tossing destinies --- the feel
of your hands ordering the planets to dance.

The feel of chaos put in order. Tell
the planets to dance on your palm.

Of chaos put in order, tell the stars in their places in the lines
on your palm. Whirl

the stars in their places in the lines. You stare, detached, through a curtain.
Whirl, you mysterious jongleur, abstracted, absorbed.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

pica pica

my association with illustrators has, without exception, been fruitless and lamentable with every single project i've ever been associated with or wanted to complete with one of them in any shape size or form (regardless of whether i'm actually paying them money!) ending in complete failure. i've worked with every brand of anything you could conceivably brand 'creative' but for sheer feckless unreliability illustrators are absolutely top of the tree.

which is a shame as illustration is one of those things, especially if it's accompanied by a bit of text, i love above all else. which is why, aside from loving a magpie in our house, my eye was caught by daren newman at me and my pen. rotring loving he says and my how it shows.

once upon a time i'd have been straight on that email. these days it's just nice to look....

*just in case it's not clear - i have not ever worked or attempted to work with daren newman. i assume from the work on his website that the work he produces is on budget and to deadline. in which case he is a prince amongst his fellows.

Friday, 17 August 2012

john donne

The Sun Rising

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."

She's all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

yayoi kusama

you have to love the dots....

Monday, 6 August 2012

robert hughes

i was saddened to hear about the passing of robert hughes. he'd never looked the healthiest since his car crash but 74, while a good shout, seems just too early.

i have a fair few of hughes' books knocking about the house. the last, rome, took for the start at least a bit of a critical pounding from mary beard but the rest was vintage hughes and i was looking forward to what he'd be coming out with next as his opinions were certainly not mellowing with age!

my own favourites were barcelona, again not without its mistakes, but the best book i've read for capturing the spirit of the city. and then of course shock of the new and american visions, when i was in the states it was great tracking down these pictures i'd only heard hughes' rattling on about on tv or read about in his books.

here he is on damien hirst who, among others, he didn't like

and on anselm keifer, who he did

he didn't, in later life, seem to maintain the fervour he had for modern art at the time of the shock of the new and spent more time looking back, particularly at goya. maybe he did feel more and more distanced from the art around him. seeming sometimes like someone left over, a remnant. i hope, at the end of his life, he found some ease.

me, i'm glad i'm came across him. at a time when there seems to be so much bad art criticism about (and i use the term loosely) it' s a relief to get back to him, to hear that acid but endearing voice. as it continues to do nothing but rain i plan to sit down tomorrow and do some serious youtube, have a listen, discuss, argue, just the sort of things i imagined i'd do if i ever got to meet him.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

olympic book labyrinth

which i missed while i was in london. based on borges fingerprint apparently....

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

down at that olympics

tired of the sight of rain i decide to take t away down to her mum's for some south of england sun. at least that's the theory. t's mum says it was 32 degrees thursday past. as it turns out we brings the overcastness with us but it's still plenty warm for me.

we settle in for the opening ceremony. after deep ambiguity about the whole affair we were well impressed. i wasn't so happy about the whole nhs medley what with all the horrible cliches about nurses but sticking a bit celebrating the nhs in the opening ceremony given what the tories are about at the moment was a grand thing to see. i was a bit disconcerted by black people playing cricket and having a pastoral time in the fields as opposed to any accurate portrayal of britain's colonial past but the windrush finally appeared and the fact that doreen lawrence was helping carry the flag provided a nice counterbalance.

i'd seen the tiger feet clip prior to the event and it hadn't filled me with promise but in the end i was quite up for the musical section right up to the inclusion of dizzee rascal. plus the section for those absent with emili sande was both poignant and apt. by the end we were all (with me as the token non-londoner) happy with the opening as a representation of london. right, that is, up to the appearance of paul macartney. and off with the tv!

surprise of the night was the thomas heatherwick cauldron in part because of my heatherwick fanboyness but also because we'd been to the heatherwick thing at the v&a in the afternoon. not that surprising stylistically but beautifully executed. everybody we spoke to loved it.

back into town the following day for the men's road cycling. given it was the olympic road race i was surprised at dave brailsford's confidence prior to the race. and from lap 3, for me, the british team were in trouble. you just can't let people of that quality away in the break without either shutting it down or getting your man in there. we stopped briefly at the rapha cafe (stowed to the doors) but decided to get down to the mall just in case. being the olympics there's no public screens unless you pay for them so the assembled crowd were listening in on their phones. and, strangely, to me. i nailed the unlikelihood of a catch as well as the fact there was no way the australians or the germans were going to aid cav to a victory. then disaster as cancellara crashes (esp as far as we could make out he had the whole swiss team there - a lesson for team gb?). and then it was vino. you could almost sense the grimaces of the collected uci types. but, doping or no doping, vino attacks. and a great result for rigoberto uran. cancellara inconsolable at the end. but a great atmosphere and everyone loving it.

sunday we were back out but t's mum's dodgy hip stopped play for her. this time the rain was battering down so we decided to get the coverage back in the rapha cafe which was about a third as full as the previous day. cue a grumpy me re the support for women's cycling and women's sport in general. naturally it was a much better race than the day before with the team gb getting lizzie armitstead into the break and emma pooley taking her turn to control the chasing peloton. in the end there was no way armitstead was going to have more than marianne vos but a great finish (a sound recording of which will follow soon). i was heartened to see that armitstead followed my lead to have a mini-rant about sexism in sport off the back of her result (which the bbc obviously decided to more or less avoid).

more of the same when we got home and caught up with the team gb football. great games and great crowds but the attitudes that have so marked women's football still well in evidence in the arrangement of games and the coverage (this last of course not just restricted to football). and hope powell - black national coach? there's a lesson in there for the men's game!

it wouldn't be the olympics without some sort of controversy and t's mum alerted us to the comments over chinese swimmer ye shiwen. shiwen's just a wee lass and only sixteen so it seems unlikely she's been 'prepared' but such is the level of disillusionment about athletes and doping coupled with a reluctance by certain nations to accept they've been beat by scene else. no surprise then that ruta meilutyte is soon accused of the same. cos they're mad for doping down in that plymouth.

all of this coupled with the stuff about transport, the drip feed about how much this all cost (the taxpayer not the sponsors obviously), the nature of the sponsorship deals, the ugly nationalisms that seep round the edges of the athlets' 'journeys' seeps round the edges of the events.

travelwise the 'chaos' wasn't much worse than it's ever been while we've been in london, in fact in many ways it was better. the empty seat thing, initially blamed on those nasty corporations, now appears to be down to the olympic committees and the media, after which revelation the media fell rather silent. and not a cheep about just how many tickets wills and harry and their hangers-on plus shiny dave must've bought these last few days.

i think in the next few days roman abramovich and the apple boy have got themselves dispensations to park their super yachts (ships to you and i) on the thames so as they don't have to walk to far. you'd think in a city where you can still see the effects of the riots this might at least raise an eyebrow but no, everyone sits and sucks it up. there's even people on the streets telling you what pavement to walk on. this last bugged me the most, not because it affected me but because it might have. maybe it's some sort of 'i can walk where i want scottish thrawn-ness' but i was astonished anyone would put up with that.

all i could think walking about was bread and circuses, bread and circuses.....

all that said tho it was brilliant. london was, as i've always found to to be, at its friendly and open best. they love a flag and the houses were hung with them, faces painted and that oddly english desire to be festooned with union jackery was proper manifest. the town felt truly global, esp after the weekend, and we had to wonder, esp in asia but also france, if there was anyone left back there. the volunteers deserve special mention as they were everywhere, amazingly non-stressed from what we saw and ever helpful. our few days were easily too short and if we'd had our way we wouldn't have come back for the duration.

i put my niggles aside, still those voices as i watch wiggins doing the time trial, look at the size of the crowds on the roadside, listen to the noise. i'll never see that again...