Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Witness to a modest piece of unsung magic.


Paul Greengrass is undoubtedly a very skilful director - The Bourne Ultimatum is a masterclass of a mainstream action movie: full of imaginative flourishes, a tight script, excellent acting - and refreshingly, best of all, a recasting of a government organisation as the baddies - and there lies something I've yet been unable to reconcile.

The US administration has a lot of previous for mythologising real life events, of which Private Jessica Lynch's 'escape' story would arguably be the apotheosis, and you may recall Greengrass's penultimate work Flight 93, a film which lovingly retells this 'Let's Roll!' American hero narrative just as the discredited 9/11 Commission would wish for.

After all, let's be honest, film has formed the modern basis of our understanding of historical events - from 300 to Jesus Of Nazareth to Braveheart to Pearl Harbour and so on - that's what's memorable in people's minds, and that's what becomes the effective reality. Ever since the movie industry began, it has been used as a potent propaganda tool by governments of all flavours.

So, how is it that the same director can make two consecutive movies with such contrasting agendas? All I can think is that, as brilliant a filmmaker as Greengrass patently is, he simply does what he's told by his producers, and that's that. I mean, it's 2007, so what price integrity?

Monday, August 20, 2007


#9: magic
So yes, no 'k'. Because rather than alluding to some questionable Rosicrucian 'psychick' ritual spell, or even Melvin pulling a rabbit out of a fucking hat, magic is to me something special nevetheless. My own definition is a relatively simple one, yet within it there is incredible potential for creativity and exploration. It's the realisation (or actualisation if you prefer) of something you used to think was utterly impossible and unachievable. That's it.

Doesn't sound like much, except the more you begin to contemplate those words the more you begin to come to terms with how very much that truly encompasses. How many pleasures have you never experienced because you thought you never would? And indeed, how much of it can or could you stand? What in fact are your limitations?

Wherever you choose to set that is the boundary between the you and magic. And that's where I want to go.

The realm of magic in this sense is indeed vast of which I could pen hundreds of pages, and as far as creativity is concerned, one very powerful technique of getting there is the utilisation of what I term the transparent concession, a notion to be discussed in a forthcoming post.

#10: and
As a child, I went to over a dozen different schools. Don't ask why. And at one of them in particular, a private one, you wouldn't believe the stick I'd get from teachers for commencing sentences with conjunctions like and and but. And whose infuriation I naturally would keep enflamed by wilfully continuing to do so. It all probably goes to explain a lot.

Anyway, fuck 'em. And is one of the most powerful and misunderstood words that exists. So small and seemingly insignificant, it's almost invisible in its fleeting appearances in real time, yet so much meaning is contained therein that, even if you looked up the definition in the most bloated dictionary in the world, you would not find.

And my love of and is because of its implicit presupposition that two things are linked together in a relationship, or cause and effect, and it's its very smallness that allows that implication to be unconsciously accepted like a ninja creeping under the fence in the dark of night. Indeed, whenever I found myself using that horrid word but which is the linguistic equivalent of the delete key on your computer, effectively communicating to a person that what you're about to say is more important and superior in value to that which you've just been told ('yes, I agree with you, but....'), I learnt to switch it to and.

And I now wish I'd ended more sentences at school with and.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Having chanced upon this amusing discussion, I began to wonder what indeed was the point of guitar solos in rock songs?

There was a time in the early 70s when only hardened hairy bloke geeks could possibly enjoy the interminable live solo sections, whether guitar, bass, drums or keyboards. In fact there were so many transgressors in those dark days that it would be totally unfair of me to name Rick Wakeman alone. They would all (perhaps unwittingly) bore the fans senseless with interminable slots of indulgence. Punk's reaction to this culture of self-indulgence was refreshing - guitar solos reduced to a few seconds long, and usually just one or two notes (despite an enduring recollection in 79 of that pitiful band The Police doing a 15 minute version of Roxanne).

My own theory is that a guitar solo in mainstream music fulfils a different kind of role to the one commonly perceived as an aspect of the dynamic, melodic and harmonic structure of a song. I see it as an example of a demonstration skill: in other words, a way of showing off your main potential through a minor technical showcase.

For instance, walking on water is a fairly pointless action, yet it demonstrates to an audience in need of say, salvation, that by implication there must be so much more to offer. Of course, in this same way, demonstration skills are extremely effective ways of influencing, impressing, and persuading in all sorts of scenarios, not just in music.

A long-time friend of mine, Alan, a talented graphic designer, once had a prospective client in his office witness him quickly finishing off some Photoshop work. Without ever touching the mouse, Alan's fingers in a Paganini-like blur of shortcuts and keypresses, would resize, open, close windows on the screen, apply filters and conversions, and magically make paper disgorge from the printer. And understandably, this awestruck customer was convinced (quite rightly) that this guy must be the man for the job - but interestingly, without ever seeing his work.

To me, guitar solos have much the same effect, in much the same way as do Bach's flamboyant free-form preludes to fugues, they give enjoyment to the listeners who feel comfortable in the knowledge that the performers are talented, thereby adding credibility to the music; and as long as they don't start to fall in love with the belief that their solos are an end in themselves, they are a worthwhile component to a traditional song. I bet you didn't expect to hear me say that.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Ghosts Of Cité Soleil (Asger Leth, 2007)

It's really hard to knock a guy that's genuinely put his life on the line to make a documentary film like this - even Iraq In Fragments, which I reviewed recently, isn't set amidst such casual cheap violence as the US-style gun culture enacted out by the portrayed thugsters and gangsters here in the metropolitan neighbourhood of Cité Soleil on the outskirts of Port Au Prince. And undeniably it's nothing less than captivating throughout.

You can't blame the subjects of the film who are already born into a total disaster area of poverty and deprivation - it's an underlying tragedy that the corrosive effects of military and cultural colonialism will simply not disappear despite the country's nominal 200 years' independence.

But, part of all that is Asger Leth with his 85-minute wide-eyed MTV rap video that the amazing original footage has been converted into; it's also Lele, the silly French 'relief worker', who can't see any bigger picture beyond her next overseas shagging opportunity, and who should be more than old enough to know better; it's US troops once again being pointlessly thrown into narrow squalid street alleyways on some vague political imperative; and let's be honest here, it also includes oneself the viewer/voyeur lapping it all up for an evening's entertainment.

Haiti deserves a lot better than this.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


For anyone who might be interested, Carl Holmes has kindly sent in the full hitherto unpublished transcript of an interview I did for a Vice magazine article in Berlin late last year. The theme was 'poverty' which was why we got onto that topic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Albini once said to me how he believed in the fundamental principle that good music sells - that's all there is to it, if it's good, it'll sell. I agree with that to a point, yet a lot more people will see Rush Hour 3 this weekend than will have seen almost any David Lynch film, with the possible exception of the dreadful Dune. Ironic?

Inland Empire is shot on video which takes some getting used to having been accustomed to the director's usual high production values and cinematography. Beyond that incongruence however, this is very much classic Lynchian territory - and he gives free rein to his exceedingly fertile and surreal imagination over the entire 3 hours of the movie in ways that go beyond even my previous (and still) favourite, Fire Walk With Me.

In fact, although many mainstream reviewers (predictably) complain that it's too weird, and that it doesn't make sense (where have we heard that before?), while without wishing to second-guess Lynch's original intentions, to me at least, it's a fascinating and powerful exploration of a person's, in this case a woman's, layers of the unconscious mind - the wild ocean of possibility where any thing can happen, where any thing is possible (see EXOTERIC where I discuss this in relation to my own work). The fears, the lists of what needs to be done, the social pressures, the desires, the doubts, the relationships, the internal conflicts. Even the title itself can be summed up thus.

That the sexiest actor on the planet, Jeremy Irons, also stars is yet another reason for seeing this incredible work. Not, of course, that another excuse is in any way required.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I might be extremely pleasant, and indeed I am, yet it hasn't stopped me from calling Simon Reynolds on his bullshit.

Amidst the bad grammar and typos of one of his recent chewy posts, you notice there's no irony lost on this hapless yet harmless copy'n'paste merchant as he helpfully includes some definitions of Racket for us all, and thus allows us to enjoy one of those exquisite moments when the art itself acts not only as the reflection in the well, but the hands pushing him in. Makes it all worthwhile.

We can see that, in his usual slack sloppy style, Reynolds clearly doesn't know the lyrics ('why should I?' you can hear him protest, 'Gen's already told me everything I need to know'), for otherwise he'd soon realise that his own entire career is a poignant embodiment of the point he's trying to make; and the fourth applicable definition of Racket, sadly not included in his Collins, is an it he will never get, even if we were to dedicate a further three decades to it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Check this must-see collection of cloud formations seen in Iceland by my good friend Akiko Hada. Doesn't it make you want to visit?



This last week's films I've enjoyed (for the sake of sparing embarrassment, the turkeys don't get a mention):

Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Hustle & Flow (Craig Brewer, 2005)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Monday, August 06, 2007

++++ 2

Yes, and as I look at you now I can see why people might love you.

I can see exactly what they might want from you. And what they desire you to do for them. In a way, it seems to make sense in them wanting that, from you; in willing you to do it, for them. So fucking desperately. Because in their minds you've got what they want. And sooner or later they'll also find out that they can't get it because you simply won't give it to them, will you?

One day we finally learn the lesson which is that to give people what they want from you is not to give them what they want from you. Life's pretty fucking easy from then on.

And now that I've already been given what I want, the way I can now really touch you deeply is to give up that desire to want it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


You're not waiting, you're hanging about. Aimlessly. That's precisely what you're doing - just fucking around watching the passing show when it happens. It's perfectness and it's all there. It's not being in the right place at the right time because that might imply some reasoning, some intent, some kind of choice. Let's not rationalise this. You're here and I'm here and that's how it is. That's how we meet.