Forget that I work with online content. For the next five days the internet fully justifies its existence purely through the following services:
Quod petis, hic est, Est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus
Forget that I work with online content. For the next five days the internet fully justifies its existence purely through the following services:
It may be a consequence of not paying close enough attention during the strike-laden seventies (in my defence, I was in the park playing football for most of the decade), I have only just got a handle on meaning of the ‘Spanish practices’ of which British Airways has been accused. Quite why the Spanish are identified with long-standing unofficial working practices escapes me.
Don’t double back like we did, doubting your map reading skills and silently cursing under your breath which by now is laboured from the constant up and down of your confused meander across the fields filled with cow pats. No, take a right as the paths converge and carry on up the hill. Don’t think as we did ‘this can’t be the way. I canít see the remains of the ancient settlements on the distant hill. Lets turn back and walk all the way back to the falls’. No, donít do that. Carry on up the hill, up, up until you see the horizon and the path vanishing over it. Then and only then will you stumble up over the rise and notice up on your right the remains of the Stone circle of Acharn. It was just like an artists impression of a ruined stone circle high up the hills. You stumble up the hill to it and at first it underwhelms you. You turn around and look at Loch Tay spread out below running left to right with the tiny boats leaving faint lines behind them like fingers tracing a line on a frosty window and it blows your mind. This was the place. This was the ‘perfect moment’ I had been looking for. As I looked at the circle, ruined now with one stone lying on its side and one stone almost certainly broken up I saw it as it had once been. Complete, majestic and magical.
A fine example of the headline writer’s ability to spin nonsense from the ever-engaging South London Press:
Man Dies 30 Years After Car Crash
Tarkovsky’s 1972 film is typically stately and melancholic. It starts with weeds undulating slowly in a river. A horse wanders into a barn. Eventually Stanislaw Lem’s philosophically laden plot about the difficulty of communicating with a sentient planet starts its laborious exposition.
The film snaps into black and white as Kelvin, the protagonist, watches film of a troubled flight over the mystery planet. There is nothing but dense white mist filling every corner of the screen: no, wait, there is a flicker of something moving in a gap. It’s gone again, whatever it was.
Tarkovsky sublimely prefigures the journey to Solaris with a five minute sequence of cars winding through the tunnels and overpasses of a modern Russian city. This is big, confident, grown-up film-making, unafraid of becoming ridiculous. It’s saved from this by its mesmeric, shimmering, elegance.
Shortly after arriving at the lonely station above the planet (this is about an hour into the film, mind), Kelvin dares to stand with his face next to a porthole. The camera teasingly zooms into the blackness outside, then eases back again. Has something happened? It’s difficult to know.
Then, without warning, we’re back to the white mist. I strain to make out anything moving deep within it. Was that something? No, it was my shadow on the screen.
Hell, this is daring. The whiteness just goes on, unbroken. Unforgiving.
Then it goes black. And stays black.
It continues black for another minute.
Unless every review and listing of this film is in on some enormous practical joke specifically upon me, this blackness is not, I realise, part of Tarkovsky’s artistic vision.
In fact, the final two-thirds of the film is entirely missing from my tape. My lovingly produced British Film Institute video of this classic movie is a dud. Curse it. Curse it all. I am destined never to see this film; either version.
Although the Soderbergh version is now out on DVD, and I’ve seen a cheap one on sale on the market stalls down the end of my road of a Saturday. What are the odds of that being a dodgy, incomplete copy too?
Only one way to find out…
After my prime football moment ended up online last week, courtesy of Paul, it behoves me to acknowledge that in this weekend’s match he beat me with a fine lobbed shot from just inside the halfway line. I expect a diagram to follow.
Allow me to mention, however, that my team won the match.
In other sports news, by virtue of having mighty Michael Vaughan at one end and rain at the other, England may yet save the first Test.
Vaughan’s 156, his ninth Test century, was even better than Paul’s goal.
Like many British film makers, Schlesinger started in documentaries and ended in Hollywood. Unlike most of them, he made some important and emotionally vibrant films before being swallowed up by the system. In recent years he complained that it would not be possible to make a film like his own Midnight Cowboy any more. He was probably right, and we are fortunate that between 1961 and 1971 he was able to make seven films in a row that should be seen by anyone with an interest in film.
Schlesinger’s first feature was a day in the life documentary about Waterloo station, Terminus, that won a Golden Lion at Venice. He followed up with a powerful early contribution to the Angry Young Man genre of the early sixties, A Kind of Loving.
1963 brought an adaptation of the Keith Waterhouse novel and play, Billy Liar, in which Schlesinger allowed the young Tom Courtenay to charm and rant his way to stardom as the eponymous idle fantasist. The film also brought the fabulous Julie Christie to international attention, Schlesinger giving her one of the great entrances in cinema, striding her way back into a bleak post-industrial town, swinging her handbag and, with it, bringing the first intimations of the swinging sixties.
Schlesinger worked very successfully again with Christie over the next few years in Darling and Far from the Madding Crowd, helping to establish her as an icon of the sixties.
At the end of the decade Schlesinger went to America to make what is now his best known film, the haunting Midnight Cowboy. His last major film was the thriller Marathon Man in 1976. He carried on making films right up to the end of the century, his last being the weak Madonna vehicle, The Next Best Thing.
When fellow New Wave director Karel Reisz died at the end of last year, the coverage was disgracefully thin. If, as seems to be expected, Schlesinger dies imminently, I fear the same will happen with him; we may be lucky to get a late night showing of Midnight Cowboy, as if everybody hasn’t already seen it.
The man is one of the greatest British exponents of cinema, and deserves a proper retrospective. So how about making your own little John Schlesinger season at home? The British Film Institute recently included four of his films in their Top 100 British Films of the 20th Century. Why not start with these?
The four are Billy Liar, Darling, Far from the Madding Crowd and Sunday, Bloody Sunday. Your local video shop almost certainly won’t have any of them, but try a specialist store or your local library. Failing that, the ever excellent Movie Mail will sell or rent anything currently in print in the UK (which sadly, doesn’t currently include Sunday, Bloody Sunday; just imagine the French or Italians allowing one of the 100 most important films made in the country to become unavailable).
Me, I’ll be watching and remembering Schlesinger’s role in launching a new and vibrant British cinema, alongside Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson. And I’ll be remembering Julie Christie, forever swinging her handbag in some northern town, reflected in the glass windows of the new shopping arcades, defining a hopeful new Britain that got lost somewhere along the way.
The single-mindedly, unequivocably rubbish performance that England are giving in the first day of the first Test against South Africa is excellent news.
It means that I can safely consign the game to the dark recesses of the mind where performances of the national team usually lurk, looking dishevelled and dispirited. Any desire I had to eavesdrop on the score, discuss it with colleagues or even nip into the pub at lunch to watch, is lumpenly dripping away like, well, dripping.
Hooray! I will get so much more done this week, as a result.
Unless, of course, Dazzler and Freddie can start to enforce some bowling discipline, leaving Tresco and Vaughan something to aim at…
Professor Greer finds herself in the news for a forthcoming book that will provocatively challenge preconceptions about female sexuality and the taboo.
I am sure this is all a terrible mistake and she has no idea the amount of column inches that will be devoted to agonising the morality of it all.
I’ve only just noticed the London by London email. It looks to be a particularly undigested sort of a digest, but certainly worth a go.
The publishers are also about to launch a new magazine for London with an oddly Victorian title.
Sometimes, for no publicly discernable reason, local government decides to get involved in a historical exercise. Ideal Homes is one of those moments. Its subtitle is ‘Suburbia in Focus’, a phrase with all the glamour and cachet of ‘The romance of planks’ and ‘Limpets through the ages’.
Nevertheless, its South London remit covers my neck of the woods, which means I’m sold on it.
Getting hold of hard-to-find books used to be an involved business of, first of all, researching which sellers might deal with the book in question, second, seeing if anyone has it, third, putting the book on their ‘wanted’ lists, fourth, fifth, and sixth, waiting.
Fortunately, there is abebooks. Ten minutes of research located very affordable copies of three different books at three different UK booksellers. I put them in my shopping basket, hit the button, and forgot all about it.
When I logged on this morning I found that all three booksellers had acknowledged the orders and dispatched over the weekend. I don’t know what cut abebooks takes, but it must surely increase the simple number of books each seller handles. For me, it’s so simple it almost makes me pine for the dogged, long-winded pursuit required in the good old days.
Why do American authors so frequently use their middle initial in their names?
Unrelatedly, I’m impressed by the list of cities in which technical publisher O’Reilly is based:
Beijing · Cambridge · Farnham · Köln · Paris · Sebastopol · Taipei · Tokyo
Is there a name for this list of cities? I can’t believe that such a term-happy industry as publishing would let it go untaxonomised, but I’ve never heard it named.
In addition, a world-beating list suggests itself for some unimaginably fantastic and obscure publishing house:
Algiers · Bogotá · Chihuahua · Córdoba · Djibouti · Ephesus · Hammerfest · Hobart · Irkutsk · Jerusalem · Kingston · Kyoto · La Paz · Lerwick · Mecca · Milwaukee · Montevideo · Odessa · Port Moresby · Rangoon · ReykjavŪk · São Paulo · St Ives · Shangri-La · Sofia · Tripoli · Ur · Warsaw · Zanzibar
Now all I have to do is work out what they would publish.
Friday afternoon; being both selfish and hurried, this is a dump of useful resources on the semantic web and its precursors. Normal readers may safely ignore.
Doing anything good for the weekend?
And I don’t think I ever linked to Capital Numbers either. So there we are.
The great Google-Blogger double-whammy appears to be kicking off.
The new version of the Google toolbar has a ‘Blog This!’ button. The idea is that when you’re on a page you wish to post about, you click the toolbar button and a post is generated with a link to the page in question. If you’ve highlighted text on the page, that is included in the post.
Hmm, hmm, hmm. It only works with Blogger. A shame, if not a surprise, as the idea is sound.
Watching Tony Hancock’s The Rebel, which really isn’t that good, I’m stopped in my tracks when he tells someone “me dogs are barking”.
I’ve never heard that one before.
He means “my feet are sore”. But why? It’s not rhyming slang, and I can’t think of any obvious correlation between barking dogs and sore feet. The normally reliable Jonathon Green only offers that ‘dogs’ are US slang for feet, which doesn’t help much as this is clearly a cockneyism.
The good news, however, is that ‘My dogs are barking’ is also the name of a foot cream*.
* Or rather, foot ‘creme’, which appears to be one of those pharmaceutical affectations like listing water as ‘aqua’ in lists of ingredients.
Things magazine continues to focus its steely (or occasionally melamine) eye on all sorts of, well, things. The weblog is more than just an add-on to the print magazine, it’s a high-density composite that spikes out in all sorts of unexpected directions.
Lest we forget. From Plato’s Phaedrus:
SOCRATES: At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god,
whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him,
and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation
and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery
was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of
the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt
which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by
them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that
the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he
enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised
some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them.
It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in
praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This,
said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories;
it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O
most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the
best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users
of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a
paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a
quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create
forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their
memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not
remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid
not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth,
but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and
will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will
generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of
wisdom without the reality.