Friday, October 2, 2009

Trying to get to everything

Starting a million things at once and then trying to keep them all going is not a great idea. A good number of them will suffer - this blog being a case in point. It has been rather inactive for the best part of 2 years.

I have been incredibly busy, but hey life is all about marking our priorities. In any case, I'll post some suggested albums for 2008-09 and perhaps get to talk about books as well. Who knows?

At least just writing this makes me have to turn some energy this way.

Thanks for the comments, guys, they are appreciated. I was just out and about (or in and drowning under deadlines as the case may be).

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Politician's Wife

As if the whole Sarkozy and Carla Bruni affair wasn't enough, now it seems Hugo Chavez and Naomi Campbell have a thing going. Hugo Chavez! The clear suggestion is that political power wants glamour in the bedroom and on the presidential arm.

This is not actually new: many wives of political figures had once been coveted beauties, the difference is that fame has entered the equation. On googlefight, you can see that Naomi Campbell gets 20 times as many mentions in the search engine as Hugo Chavez. And Carla Bruni gets two and a half times as many as Nicolas Sarkozy.

Which means the public eye is going to peeled even more while watching these relationships take off. Aznar had Berlusconi and Blair as the witnesses at his daughter's wedding. Maybe the next step will be for world leaders to not just sell their exclusives to Hello! or the like, but also to make sure that the front row has been demographically tested to make sure enough outlets in enough markets take up the story.

And how many is enough?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Copying Beethoven? Copying Amadeus

Oh dear. Settling in to watch good old dependable Ed Harris playing Beethoven at the orders of Agnieszka Holland (of Europa, Europa fame) was a terrible mistake.

A tin-eared script full of out-and-out plagiarism from Amadeus (the mooning, and fart noises; the deathbed transcription scene) and Dearly Beloved (the deaf man has to turn to hear applause scene). An invented lead character so anachronistic (Diane Kruger as, um, a feisty young woman who might as well be contemporary) as to never for a second be believable. A mother superior (Phyllida Law) borrowed from a million other movies, with the same hoary old lines. A stolen quote from Samuel Johnson without reference (about the dog walking on its hind legs). A suitor who climbs the convent walls.

It's like a time travel movie without the time machine. Salieri reinvented as a pretty female student, rather than an embittered middle-aged court composer. What were they thinking?

Plus points? Some nice photography and the moment when the choir blasts out the main theme from the 9th Symphony, conducted by the deaf Ludwig but...

Minus points? ...then we get a ridiculous close-up of his useless nephew being all tearful. And plenty of other moments of appalling dialogue. Also some telegraphing in dialogue of scenes we were then shown as if we hadn't got it the first time (like showing the deaf conductor leading the orchestra astray).

Again. Oh, dear.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Bourne again (three times)

The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum

Probably the least informative book/film titles ever, and they remind me of a classic tennis commentary where there was talk of the Edberg forehand succeeding in getting the ball "over the Lendl head". However it must be said that the series (or 'franchise' as its techies would have it) has received a new lease of life. Paul Greengrass has cooked up the last two and there's plenty of sedition going around, and rightly so.

Greengrass... The name was not just familiar from Blood Sunday and Flight 93... There was something else...

Of course! The second name, the co-author, on Spycatcher. He's been immersed in this stuff. And now he has the opportunity to play around with technology and the ended Cold War in making the updated adaptations of Robert Ludlum's fairly indigestible airport thrillers.

Actually, the whole rogue spy shtick is perfect for these lawless anti-terrorist times and Greengrass lays it on thick in ...Ultimatum (2007), from the CIA staking out a Guardian journalist and chasing him to Waterloo Station with murderous intent, to the use of Maghrebi assassins (one of whom uses capoeira moves, maybe a subtle comment on the Brazilianness of Jean Charles de Menezes?), to the idea that waterboarding your own man makes him into an indispensible 'asset' and killing machine.

The action sequences are quite brilliant (particularly the Waterloo scene and the Tangiers medina scene) and Matt Damon has the breathless deadpan killing machine down pat. His counterpart in the earlier version of this story was Richard Chamberlain. Chalk and cheese. Damon drives (some of) his own stunt cars. And pretty well too. Check that out on the DVD extras.

Otherwise I liked the sense of technology being a wild beast that the dark forces of spydom had in no way tamed. They're civil servants after all: some couldn't be bothered reading up on the latest applications of Bluetooth, others are just waiting for their retirement payoff. And technology can be used to bamboozle as well as to chase. A necessary evil, and this film did a great job of showing some real-time usage, like Jason Bourne buying a prepaid phone at Waterloo Station and dropping it into the journalist's pocket, then calling him on it while the CIA bodies yell "how the hell did he get another phone!"

Damn, why do I never think of things like that when I'm at a station with so many kiosks full of cutting edge apps?

In all, a rollercoaster ride that wows with humanity rather than CGI. That's a good thing. That it gets all subversive on asses is another plus. That the Guardian gets such a plug - well, it's nice to see a real newspaper rather than The Daily Planet or such like. It also makes you consider the reality of rendition flights and security services monitoring the media.

Hmm, perhaps I'd better stop discussing this...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Music in 2007

A selection of some new albums that I've been getting into over the course of this bizarre year:

In Rainbows - Radiohead
The download thing was the ultimate cool step, the music had some inspired moments, I'm still finding things in this one. Check out: Jigsaw Falling Into Place (which is what it actually sounds like!)

Boys and Girls in America - The Hold Steady
It's really from late 2006 but hey. It's like Springsteen's early albums getting a Manhattan 00's makeover, but it's better than that. Check out: Chips Ahoy ("How am I supposed to know that you're high if you wont let me touch you? / How am i supposed to know that you're high if you wont even dance?")

Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
I know it's also from 2006, but this girl has got a superb shtick going: lippy soul jazz. Slapped on fingernails for the complete ripoff of Ain't No Mountain High Enough on the verse of Tears Dry On Their Own. Check out: You've heard the whole thing many times already.

Easy Tiger - Ryan Adams
People, like me, who were a little turned off by his Princeisms and arrogance of 2002-03 are going to come back to this guy over the course of many years. This is not prime Adams, but some great songs here. Check out: Two (he really does have a great voice and great phrasing)

Comicopera - Robert Wyatt
The old geezer gets some real connection in here, some tracks that really stick with you. Commercial!?! Just about... Check out: Just As You Are

Lady's Bridge - Richard Hawley
Elvis and Roy in Sheffield. Hawley's back on top form here; songs good enough that's not just a guilty retro pleasure. Check out: Valentine (kicks the album off nicely, just like Coles Corner did on the last one).

Sky Blue Sky - Wilco
They pulled a surprise again. They headed back to the middle of the road. They wrote some self-help songs. It disappointed at first and then it thrilled as we grew with them.

Cease to Begin - Band of Horses
Ben Bridwell sings autistic fragments that somehow form a beautiful whole. Critics go on about pastoral and short, but this is a great collection of songs that never drags.

Live in Dublin - Bruce Springsteen
He's having a blast. He gets to do jazz, folk, even ska, the band goes with him wherever he likes. Check out: the opening rush of Atlantic City!

Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem
NYC served up with a mix of rock and beats born (more or less) in my era...

The Real Thing (Words and Sounds Vol. 3) - Jill Scott
Ooh she's a lusty lady, and her lyrics slide poetically into all those places other voices can't reach. Some seriously good grooves.

Era Vulgaris - Queens of the Stone Age
Not a classic, but some seriously good riffing going on here and an eclectic collection of songs.

Raising Sand - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
It didn't sound like much on paper, but the open ears heard on Mighty Rearranger that Planty is a great voice and a vital musician, this went one step further. It just worked.

Boxer - The National
Another fine effort from a band that takes Cohen lyrics into soundscapes and sets up some tricky guitar-based grooves behind them. If you haven't heard them, and you like the Tindersticks (which I most definitely do), then you should.

Lets Stay Friends - Les Savy Fav
File them near The Hold Steady but don't give them the keys to your bar.

Our Love To Admire - Interpol
Love the opening track Pioneer To The Falls. Joy Division given a 00's makeover. This one's a touch more produced than the last two, but it's still offbeat and edgy.

Favourite Worst Nightmare - Arctic Monkeys
Not quite as arresting as the first one, but some great stuff nonetheless. Worrying that it didn't drive one to keep listening again and again, but I think they'll be back with something restless and worthwhile. Gang of Four guitars'll do it every time...

Aman Iman (Water Is Life) - Tinariwen
If you've ever been to the northern Sahara, this is the sound of the caravan nights with electric guitar added. Late hours with rhythms and whisky, get up to dance, fall over, smile, sand in your hair.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


This blog was born in the dying days of 2007, with the aim of forcing opinions (my own and others) into the open, as well as sharing information. Which is what all of this is good for.

Soon I'll get a music and literature site up and running for my various projects, but here we can discuss it all, whoever created it!