Friday, 30 March 2012
The pre Easter heat wave we are having is kicking up a lot of dust in the perpetual development of Kings Cross, giving York Way a bronzed chromium sheen. Facsination for the austere Art deco world of the 1930s in the 2012's I believe is called deiselpunk.
Here are some pics
Just up the road from the development, the disused York Way tube station closed in 1932
Still from Things To Come
View from Kings Place third floor
Kings Cross new concourse exterior (opened last week)
Kings Cross interior
Kings Cross Parcel Room, the newly renovated bar
St. Pancras behind more Kings Cross exterior
Not relevant but included anyway: on the way home, the Scala, still a spiritual home
the only historian, or even aspiring historian, to you use the phrase 'freaked out', what he lacks in professionalism and accuracy he more than makes up for in enthusiasm.
He seems to be sourcing so many books it is hard to keep track (Dunkirk Fight to The Last Man is one) but at least he is picking the right material, he plugs them relentessly and you can't fault his effort.
This much I already knew, but the podcast fills in the poltical detail in the French Government and makes it imediate and fascinating. The Fall of France was not not just an inevitable pathetic collapse it was a real tragedy of lost opportunity, like the Spanish Civil War in fast forward, with every single setback exploited to the full by the enemy and every atempt to fix the situation playing into the hands of those who ultimately would be happy to work with the Nazis. What that does to the national consciousness I would hate to think but if the defense of Britain in 1940 were somehow to depend on say, the force that failed to defend Singapore, we might be a little less ready to ridicule.
In 1939 the French Army was still considered the best in the world, and the French Republic it protected was a beacon of civilisation and stability. Six months later, by the sumer of 1940 was a lost world, all gone in a chromium dust storm of fast moving events and poltical treachery.
Sunday, 25 March 2012
I delayed finishing to savour Zero History and I regret it. I should have powered on through, forgotten about the rest of my life and stayed in-mode, with my prose perception tuned to William Gibson's dissonant portrayal of reality and characters. As it was, I got distracted. Lost my edge.
The tight surreal descriptions of surroundings that make for such great poetry-punk in describing Gibson's contemporary 21st century really get frustrating when describing action scenes. When Zero History briefly turns into cyber-SNATCH at the end the need to read every paragraph twice stops being clever and quickly gets irritating.
The re-introduction of great characters from Pattern Recognition is a let down and although the characters from the near impenetrable Spooky Country are much better shown here they are continually undercut by a new boyfriend or new henchman appearing from nowhere to save the day.
The more the arcane characters of Blue Ant (the accidental SPECTRE of ad agencies) and Curfew recede into the background and the more convenient romantic foils feature (I did not believe in Gareth or Fiona for a second) the less interesting Zero History became. The director or Blue Ant lets his daughter have a career as a dispatch rider in London? I'm not sure I would have believed in something like that in Neuromancer let alone the supposed reality of contemporary London.
Still, aside from the characters and the action which are problems common to the rest of the Bigend trilogy, Zero History has moments of real dazzling imagination and poetry. Reading most of Zero History was a real pleasure. More and more with Gibson the actual plot and characters are receding into the background behind the poetry of mundane detail. Less and less influenced by Philip K Dick and Ridley Scott, he's becoming more like Brett Easton Ellis and Ballard.
Cabinet, is virtually a character in itself
I particularly like this, which fits easily with my experience of life:
Milgrim, speaks of Bigend's personal philosophy
He believed that stasis is the real enemy.. Stability is the beginning of the end.. we only walk by continuing to fall forwardIt also gives us a fresh look at London from a foriegn perspective. WG is obviously obsessed with the retro-fit in London and Paris, and has never hesitated to tell us the the nationality of every person we meet - still influenced by the multinational Los Angeles bequeathed by Ridely Scott and Sid Meade in Blade Runner.
Gibson created another world out of that, The Sprawl, and the similarly other worldly and deliberately obtuse nature of his prose is hard but rewarding work to adjust to. It is just possible that had I not deplayed my pleasure to savour the book and stayed in mental WG mode to read straight through to the end I might have enjoyed a lot more.
In one chapter he makes more of an Ekranoplan than Sebastain Faulkes does throughout the entire of Devil May Care, which now I think about it was the last thing I finished. Maybe I should stick to Ekranoplan related fiction.
So, despite delay, I was feeling pretty good about actually finishing a book in pretty good time. 400 pages in two weeks.
Then I hear, back in Parracombe, Peter Goode has finished the new Neil Stephenson ('his 'pattern recognition'), REAMDE, 1040 pages, in two days. "Very good, bit too much gun touting for my personal taste, but very readable, great characters I think and fun plotlines."
- Portions of this blogpost previously appeared in a drunken rant 24/3/12
- The automating line spacing and formatting in Blogger continue to be a mystery to me. If I formatted documents like this as part of my job I would be taken out and shot.
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
then driving my car from there to Gibraltar.. and then driving it back (via the Arctic Circle)
then I got a job in Whitehall
then I got a job at the Guardian
(and started this blog)
possibly the flat out wierdest thing of the lot,
was being told when I got back to Parracombe
by a local mystic/wasted teenager
that the village in Exmoor in which we both live, was featured very briefly in a montage of British holiday postcards in Beatles YELLOW SUBMARINE (see below)
At 4min 11seconds in Part 3 (linked above).
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Following on from the carrier blogpost, this is a great, fair, article about the Falklands including detail I didn't know, such as the Argentinians built Stanley airport...
from the article above
That November, Margaret Thatcher sent a Foreign Office minister, Nicholas Ridley, to the Falklands to sell the deal.
Falklanders have long memories, especially for perceived betrayals, but Ridley's visit is remembered with particular bitterness. Ridley was a self-confident, not particulary empathetic minister, the kind of Whitehall figure some older Falklanders do mocking impressions of to this day.
Fowler attended a public meeting with him in Stanley: "It was fairly late in the evening. He was being heckled. He got cross. And he said, 'If you continue with this intransigence [against leaseback], on your own heads be it. We will not be sending a gunboat.' "
Less than 18 months later, Argentina invaded. For this reason, the Thatcher government is less fondly recalled in the Falklands than British conventional wisdom would have you expect. "It was her mismanagement of the situation that caused the invasion," says Mike Summers, one of the islands' eight elected politicians. In Stanley, there is a street called Thatcher Drive, but it is short; H Jones Road is longer.
Sunday, 18 March 2012
Rounded off with a trip up the road to a pub Rich recommends called The Water Rats, which seems to be the Intrepid Fox of the 1950s interior wise. Apparently Teddy Boys used to hide razors in the rim of their hats and do people across the face You can really see that happening in there..
Anyway.. the middle band on was The Lukins, who I'm delighted to find were from Plymouth and I must look out for them (sorry about blurry photo). Generally great poppy metal I thought was more "the new Garbage" than "QOTST molested by Blondie" on their myspace page.. until their last song which opened up like vintage Paranoid era Sabbath. Aside from being generally all round competent and like able they showed off some great songs, the only dud was actually a cover, a metal version of Cliff Richards Wired For Sound which you have to give them at least balls for trying.
Saturday, 17 March 2012
Friday, 16 March 2012
ALTERED STATES, is I remember, a very strange ken Russell film and I think some of the younger audience were a bit surprised by it. Instead of crazed nuns, OTT sex and art horror the movie plays now more like the cusp between Kubrick and Spielberg. It is incredibly sober and well put together for a KR film with a magnificent oscar nominated soundtrack by classical composer John Corigliano and dialogue written by Paddy (NETWORK) Chayefsky from his book.
KR could be brilliant with his actors and the central romance angle to Altered States is very strong. Seen from then, in the early 80s, dominated as it was by the incredible effects sequences, we compared the movie with Doug Trumble's BRIANSTORM and AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Seen from now it is the brilliant characters carved out by William Hurt and Blair Brown (among others), which stand out and make it closer to the human Goldblum/Davis tragedy within THE FLY of later that decade.
On a big screen in HI-DEF ALTERED STATES would be amazing and would stand comparison with 2001. Those who like a bit of humanity and characterisation may even prefer it.
BARTOK was one of Ken Russell's rarely seen BBC Monitor documentaries on the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok. Long classical black and white music videos, this initially looked like hard going but eventually came good (perhaps because I recently visited Budapest and really liked the place). Highlight was KR's video for Bartok's BlueBeard. Bluebeard leads his wife down to see his final terrible secret -- through a stylised 70s building (New Zealand House apparently) to her eventual doom. Looked amazing even in crackly black and white.
After six months of not finished a book I am tearing through William Gibson's Zero History at flank speed. Much easier to read than Spook County (previous one) it is perhaps because London 2012, Hubertus Bigend and Blue Ant suddenly seem a lot more real and believable. Got into a great routine listening to the magnificent LL show every day. I must be in a good mood, I quite like the sound of the new Paul Weller album.
The Guardian has me doing a hi-tech Time Team archaeological dig looking for and collecting old documentation.
From the new flat I'm house-sitting on Grays Inn Road I'm reading. writing, updating my blog playing good computer games and getting out and about - where am I finding the time for all this?
(TV in flat is broken)
Thursday, 15 March 2012
One more reason to go back someday I guess...
Tuesday, 13 March 2012
It is likely to make for a fascinating Easter budget statement.
If you thought you knew how much the new Royal Navy carriers have cost the UK budget, you are probably wrong. Originally budgeted at £3 billion, now at 7, likely to rise to an eventual 12, the real cost of disastrous budget decisions on this subject going back to the 1960s has been closer to £30 billion, plus the lives of hundreds and British and Argentinian servicemen and a long running international dispute which poisons Britain's relations with the entire of South America.
The first of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers is due for launch next year without any aircraft. The preceding class of ships, the much smaller but Illustrious class, have just been scrapped early due to budget issues, leaving the Royal navy without any carrier capability for nearly a decade. While this happens the other Royal Navy carrier veteran from the Falklands War, HMS Hermes, will continue to serve, as it has done for decades, as INS Viraat, the flagship of the Indian Navy until 2020.
What happened to the the management and procurement of the Royal Navy's assets to allow billion dollar assets to be sold and scrapped while their even more expensive replacements sit useless for years?
In the 1960s The Royal Navy had six carriers, all laid down just after World War Two, all in various states of refit. The two major assets where the 50,000 ton Audacious class carriers, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Eagle, capable of flying the biggest baddest jets of the era, the supersonic Phantom II. The others, of which HMS Hermes was one, were half the size at 26,000 tons but considered useful as helicopter platforms. The plan was to replace the larger ships with one or two large but easy to use ships, codenamed CVA-01 , and keep one or two of the smaller ships for the Royal Marines.
Unfortunately the fleet flagship, the Audacious Class Ark Royal, was an infamous lemon, an expensive money pit who spent more time in dockyards being fixed than at sea. Her sister, HMS Eagle, was much easier and cheaper to run but had missed a crucial upgrade to her flight deck in the 1950s (cost cutting already).
Hesitating at the decision to replace the larger carriers with the new CVA-01 design, a decision was taken shortly after to abandon all Royal Navy operations East of Suez and to scrap the entire carrier fleet.
Monday, 12 March 2012
Sent from my iPhone
Isn't The US version of News Quiz "Wait Wait.. Don't Tell me?"
If Lewis Black is doing this instead of Sandi Toksvig I would expect it to be a lot more profane and bloodthirsty than the UK version and way WAY too brutal for US poltical satire (on radio anyway - NPR? you must be joking)
Thursday, 8 March 2012
I was explaining to a young spurs fan the other day how Tottenham might yet do well this year - as Manchester City haven't spectacularly collapsed in a while.
He scoffed at the suggestion. This was a new City, full of talent organisation and resolve instilled by their Italian manager Roberto Mancini
It's true, they are packed full of talent and a bankrolled by a family than controls apparently 10% of the worlds remaing supply of oil. it is only a matter of time before they conquer every arena in football. But they still remain Manchester City and it is in their DNA to have at at least two more Biblical screw ups on their way. Roberto Mancini's cool italian will just trail off into disbelief, because when the wheels next come off this giant panjandrum a soundtrack by Henry Mancini will sound more appropriate.
My young friend only had memories that go back to Newcastle United level fuck ups and collapses. When that great Geordie Circus starts to go wrong (King Kev and its sequel) it has a real element of tragedy, like a good Woody Allen film. When City goes wrong it's like a Naked Gun sequel directed by Cecile B Demile.
(see Alan Ball, theatre of base comedy etc etc)
How, from here, does this team, which thrashed United 6-1 at their most recent meeting go wrong?
Well the characters are all their waiting for the storyline to coalesce around them. A large collection of the best players from second tier teams that have won nothing are sprinkled liberally with some timeless comedy genius. Headbanger matrial artist Nigel De Jong, who tried to kick a Spanish players head off in a world cup final, serial sulk and Mutley look alike Carlos Tevez, ex footballer turned millionaire sofa pilot Wayne Bridge.
And Super Mario, who it is actually very difficult to wish ill of as his antics have apparently captured the hearts of even United fans.
The fugitive Italian is misunderstood in Italy apparently but 100% understood in Britain's north west. 'Daft' probably translates into Italian as 'mentally ill ' but in large parts of what was Lancashire it is a valid lifestyle option, in the way that 'dandy' or more recently'Sloan' might apply in London.
Mancunians love Mario Ballotelli because they have known and loved his like before. George Formby, Norman Wisdom, Frank Sidebottom.... Bez.... All cool in a particular Lancastrian style that looks so appropriate to Super Mario you would think Franny Lee discovered him doing keepy uppy football tricks in The Pheonix club.
It will be a tragedy for Ballotelli when his team blows up, with a great comedy fart noise, in some future football final but he is essentially a great player as well as a comedian, and the real laughs at that point will come from the uncomprehending stare and gestures of Mario's straight man and manager. Much of the Norths existenial meaning and Manchester City's place in the cosmos will be lost until "Bobby Manc" learns what Daft is.
(I feel compelled to add that the aforementioned 6-1 thrashing started with a brilliant goal from senior Ballotelli)
Sent (direct from the drunken notes) of my iPhone
Bo Ningen was the headliner, a raving psych guitar band. I actually preffered Sekaiteki Na Band, a slightly more garage band outfit with some of the best lead guitar work I've ever seen. Teta Mona was fun.
At no point was I bored throughout any of the bands and would go a long way to see them again. I am a confirmed J-Rock fan (or maybe it's just reignited - see the review of Shonen Knife in my ancient Reading review on here somewhere)
Picture is of Electric Avenue packing up from the Overground station
Being in your mid 40s is mostly plusses. Personal fixations recede into the background, everything is much more chilled and in perspective. You do your own thing and enjoy it a lot more etc etc. This is all partly because The End is just over the horizon and you want to get as much in as possible.
However there is an inevitable Slowing Down and the challenge of the 40s is handling that without completely giving up and metaphorically climbing into the coffin decades early.
On a physical level a good friend got me into running, which I now do at a very low level (ten minutes jog around the block) as often as I can. Makes a huge difference phyiscally and mentally.
What is the main thing turning me old before my time? Radio 4's The Today Programme.
Don't get me wrong, I love it. Funny, smart it is just about the best current affairs show on any channel anywhere and makes me proud to be British. When I was in my 30s it made me look forward to growing old. "Old people can be that cool! Awesome! Can't wait to get there"
The Today Show really is a British instititution, as wierd as the The Shipping Forecast , but apparently as powerful as the admiralty. You wouldn't say it makes you glad to be alive but it does make you glad to be British.
So, now I've moved temporaily into my London pad on Grays Inn Road (full report next time, if I have't been moved out) I found a radio tuned to a different channel and have just stuck with it. Another big help was a trip to see three fantastic J-Rock bands.. BO NINGEN + Sekaiteki Na Band + Teta Mona in a fantastic venue, The Windmill Brixton.. completely re-ignited my interested in live music. (Thanks Richard)
The music radio station is BBC Radio 6, which at least in the morning (before LL), turns out to be at least as aggravting (Shaun Keaveny, what a p**k) as The Today Show, but here is the big reveal - morning radio is meant to be background noise. It's meant to be barely audible content that isn't distracting you from getting your shit and your head together for work. You shouldn't be ranting at Thought For The Day beacuse you should be brushing your teeth.
The Today Show is really for people whose 'Today' probably won't involve leaving the house.
So how do you enjoy Today without it turning into a daily sliver of death taken just after you wake up from sleep? The answer, not for the first time recently, is podcasts (see my last post). You can ingest Today in little doses via the Best of Today podcast, and like Rasputin with Cyanide, you can slowly build up an immunity.