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Category archive: Movies

Saturday March 22 2014

As anyone who noticed the sudden piling up of moronic spam comments here may have suspected, I had an internet disconnect crisis last night, and it was still in effect this morning.  I fiddled about with wires, last night and again this morning, because the last time it happened this is what solved it.  I did lots of rebooting last night to no avail, so didn’t bother to do this again this morning.  Instead I rang The Guru.

It was amazing how much The Guru was this morning able to learn about the problem, by which I mean to learn what the problem was not, just by unleashing his remote control Superpowers.  He then suggested another rebooting, and I did this, just to humour him, and back it all came.  But why?  What was I doing right, all of a sudden?  Very troubling.

It’s like that pivotal moment in movie history when Harrison Ford, in one of the first and good trio of Star Wars movies, got a bit of electrical kit in his spaceship to work properly by smacking it.

Sunday February 23 2014

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.

So anyway, here’s the link.

And here is the quota photo:


That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos.  It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.

I like the water on the window.

Saturday February 15 2014

Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.  Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege.  Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH.  If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance.  But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:


What strikes me is how modern it looks.  It’s just a big box.  The decoration is no more than a gesture.  I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down.  But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.

Monday January 06 2014

Taken on Christmas Day:


What I like about the crane is that, in this photo, it looks rather sinister, more like a tower in a Nazi prison camp in a war film than a regular crane.  It’s the barbed wire square, about half way up that does it, I think.  Plus, the slightly spooky light.  It doesn’t look like actual getting dark light.  It looks like getting dark light in a movie.  Blue instead of grey, in other words.  Cameras turn everything blue if given any opportunity, unless they are black and white and nothing else allowed cameras.

Of course, this effect would be greatly enhanced if the plane was not so obviously a very post-WW2 jet.  It should be a plane like the one in the opening credits of Where Eagles Dare, one of my most favourite movie sequences, because of the visuals and because of Ron Goodwin’s music.  In my opinion, nothing else in this movie is as good as this opening.

See also this earlier photo here, also of a big crane and a small plane.  I found out about this earlier posting when I tried to load the above photo with the name “Crane+Plane”, but was told that this photo title was already taken.

Monday November 25 2013

Yes.  I spent my blogging time today fretting about the finishing of this.  So, no time to do much here.

But there’s an internet out there.

Here’s a very quick vid, of Kenneth Williams opining (which would be a good word for him to say) about specialisation.

And here’s a slightly longer bit of video, which is a snippet from one of my favourite science fiction movies.  An astronaut argues philosophy with a bomb.  I found it here.  And I do mean here.


Saturday November 16 2013

And here’s a really good photograph, to make up for the really bad photograph in the previous posting.  I say really good photograph.  What I mean is a photo taken by me that is okay, of a really good photograph, taken by a seriously Real Photographer.  Limited edition, perfect paper, perfectly printed, framed, the works, worth hundreds of pounds:


Yes, it’s Dumbledore, making himself smile for the camera.

He’s been having his ups and his downs lately, it seems.  As do we all.

At the Do I attended last weekend, just after taking the photo in the previous posting, this photograph was one of the items being charitably auctioned.

This is the first charity auction I can remember attending.  But, despite my ignorance of how to do such a Do, let me offer you a tip, for if you ever organise a charitable auction.  Be sure to hand round a cash bucket immediately after the auction bit of the evening finishes, to enable all those who feel ridiculously guilty about not having bought any of the things being auctioned to part with a manageable amount of cash, without being encumbered with a unnecessary Thing, or worse, a Complicated Experience.  If they had done that at this Do, I reckon they might have increased their money by twenty percent or more.  They’d certainly have got twenty quid out of me.

Wednesday November 13 2013

… in among all the stuff that does not.

Foster’s flaccid Gherkin used to advertise erectile dysfunction treatment.  Personally, I don’t think the Gherkin looks like a penis, more like a vibrator.  Certainly not a gherkin.

And: Synthetic creature could “save nature” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.  Has this woman never seen any horror movies?

Related: Will Jellyfish Take Over the World?

Thursday November 07 2013

Yes, incoming from Rob Fisher:

That’s images from the past, but colorised. Suddenly they don’t look old.  (Reddit comments on that can be found here.)

I am fascinated about why old things look old. Certainly print quality is part of it. Change, too: the Heinz beans logo (which has never changed as far as I can tell) does not look old in the way that some of these logos do.

I’m guessing this is follow-up to what I said here about how photography used to make people from the past look overly solemn, and what Rob said there, in jest, about the past being all in black and white.

Mark Twain must surely have been a bit more merry, in general, than he looks in the photo of him there, now colorised but still very grim looking.

What a lot of the colorised photos look like is stills from “historical” Hollywood movies.  You expect Brad Pitt, dressed in olden times clothes, to step forward at any moment.

As for the logos, it is noticeable (although this doesn’t apply to all of them) that in quite a few of them, there was a flurry of (often quite radical) changes in and/or up until the 1950s and 1960s, but somewhat less in the way of change since.  Often the later changes (see for instance: VW) are mere polishing.  It’s like they were trying to get it right, and then they do get it right and stuck with it.  At first they didn’t know quite what a logo was for and what logos are.  They they did know.  That is reinforced by the Firefox logo, which started in 2002 and then did the one early change in 2003, and that’s it.

How has the internet affected logo design?

Sunday February 10 2013

Yesterday, I lived my life, but I am determined, having started, to finish telling you about last Thursday.

So, okay, I have now arrived at Westminster Tube Station.

Most tube stations consist of lots of underground tubes, not just for the trains but also for the people.  Westminster Tube Station is different.

In its original form, it was a regular tube station, made entirely out of tubes.  But then they built Portcullis House across the road from Big Ben and Parliament, the one with the giant chimneys on top, where MPs now have vast new quantities of office space to wreak their havoc.  Many think powerful MPs are a good thing, because they will “hold the executive to account” better, but what they mostly now do is nag the executive to bite off more and more unchewable activity, and complain if the executive ever doesn’t.

While they were building Portcullis House, they combined that with doing a total rebuild of the tube station right underneath it.

And this time around, instead of grubbing about in the ground like moles, they just dug a huge, huge hole, like they do when building any other new building.  Just deeper.

As a result, the process of getting from station entrance to train, or from train to train (what with the station now being an interchange between the District and Circle Line, and the newer Jubilee Line - which is the one I was taking), is as dramatic and theatrical as battling through a regular tube station is grim and demeaning and demoralising.  At Westminster Tube, you now go up and down inside a huge open space, like a department store with no stuff in it, and grey rather than all spangly and coloured.  I love it, even though it has a decidedly fascist feel to it, maybe even because it has a decidedly fascist feel to it.  At least its stylish fascism, rather than just lumpy and cloddish.  But mainly, I think I love it because it is so different from a regular tube station.

While there last Thursday, I only took one shot, namely this:


Had I known I was on a Blogged Odyssey, I would have taken many more shots, of all that dramatic open space with science fictiony structure in among it, supporting the building above and the escalators within, but on Thursday all I thought I was doing was taking the tube.  I would have taken shots like the ones here.  Someone really should set a movie gun fight in this place, don’t you think?  Perhaps they already have.

As for my picture above, it puzzled me for a while.  At first I thought the right-way-round Westminster tube sign was some kind of double reflection, but there is only one sheet of glass involved, so it can’t be that.  In the end I cracked it, metaphorically speaking.  The Westminster tube sign is where it seems to be, but how it looks is confused by the reflection of the wall behind me.  It looks like the sign is projected onto the wall.  In fact, the wall behind me is projected onto the sign.  To the left, you can see the regular wall that the tube sign is actually attached to.

That white circular thing behind me, actually a fire hose I think, looks like a full moon.

Once again, I fear most may not care.  But photographed reflections are a thing of mine.

Friday November 18 2011

Overheard while channel surfing last night:

Her, trying to persuade him to carry on with the romance: “Do you believe in fate?”

Him: “No.”

Her: “Neither do I.  You see.  This was meant to be.”

This is from the movie Wedding Daze.  One of those unregarded little movies which only gets two stars in the Radio Times, but which I think is a bit better than that.

Thursday April 21 2011

Frank J:

Think about it: What’s the best way to make sure there is only goodwill out there towards Muslims?

That’s right: Kill all the bad Muslims.

It’s the way that he combines hate-the-hateful speech with everyone-live-in-harmony speech that makes it so funny, right speak with left speak.  Reminds me of that great speech for the defence in Animal House.

This evening I attended the ASI blogger bash, and one of the speakers, Harry Cole, said something along the lines of: Lefties are better at comedy than the Right.. Which I suspect is a lot truer of Britain than it is of the USA.  Closely related to that observation is that in Britain, as was also discussed, we are years away from anything resembling a British version of the Tea Party.  The British Right, in other words, is not in tune with the Zeitgeist, or even any major slab of the Zeitgeist, the way the USA Right is in the USA.  And even there, it may just be a temporary consequence of the Obama phenomenon,, which is a huge attempt to turn the USA into something entirely different.  Europe, basically.  When that attempt gets switched off, whenever that happens, the Tea Party may die with it.  By which I mean either go home or else turn entirely into dull old regular politics.

LATER:  Further illustration of the same proposition.  When Cleese was funny, he was, if not Left, then at least anti-Right.  Now that he’s not funny, he’s Right.

Monday January 31 2011

I am continuing to read Leo McKinstry’s book about the mighty Avro Lancaster, and of course I continue to track the cricket in Australia, where England have been suffering a characteristic one-day anticlimax following Ashes success.

So I was rather charmed to encounter, in the Lancaster book, this quote (p. 263) from an interview with one Norman Boorer, a draughtsman who worked with Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the famous bouncing bomb, which was used to destroy two big dams in Germany in May 1943:

Wallis had studied old naval cannonball techniques, where the bomb was fired on a low trajectory and bounced, giving it more range.  In his experimental work, he also found that backspin would allow it to bounce two or three more times.  George Edwards, who was working closely with Wallis, was a very good cricketer - he could probably have been a county cricketer if he had not been a designer.  He was a fine spin bowler and he explained that if you spin it backwards it will shoot and if you spin it forwards it will dig in.  There was the other point that when the bomb hit the dam, if it were spinning backwards, it would hug the face and roll down, whereas if it were spinning forwards there was a chance it would climb up over the top of the dam.

So there we are.  Cricket won the war.

Bomber Harris was a virulent opponent of the dams raid, as he was of anyone or anything which, in his eyes, diverted anyone or anything from the job of flattening German cities and slaughtering German civilians.  Even after it had succeeded, he remained a sceptic.  Too bad he wasn’t similarly sceptical about his own obsession with winning the entire war only with his own preferred sort of bombing raids.

I am delighted that McKinstry’s Lancaster has a chapter about the dams raid, having long wanted to learn whatever might have been patriotically wrong about the famous film they made about it, which I first saw when I was a mere boy, and which was based on this book by Paul Brickhill, which I first read when I was a mere boy.  It would seem that Brickhill’s telling of the story is pretty much right.

Tuesday January 18 2011

Came across this photo, here, having been sent there to read something else that I’ve forgotten about.  Let’s backtrack and see.  Yes, apparently I was reading this, for some bizarre reason or other.  Plus, rootling through these photos also got me paying some attention to aqueducts.  So anyway, the photo (slightly flattened):


A chance for the New York Post to get in a dig at the Israelis for being horrid to the Palestinians:

The fishermen go out every morning hoping that they will be allowed to go out to sea, but Israeli navy forces rarely allow them to leave the shallow waters.

Because after all, under no circumstances whatsoever could “fishermen” possibly be doubling up as anything else.

So, also a chance for me to link back to a posting here about how my attitude to Israel is one of unconditional positive regard.

But putting all that to one side, nice photo.

Friday December 24 2010

Someone asked what the new mainframe looks like.  It looks like this:


On the front, big black rectangular nothingness, like the Monolith in 2001.  The Monolith, unlike Dawkins, is sort of a God, because it taught that monkey how to make a space ship by throwing a bone into the air.

But the nothingness at the front of my new mainframe is more prosaic than that.  It is a big plastic door, which you open when you want to play a CD or a DVD or something.  Besides which, I conjecture that many geeks have computers which they refer to as The Monolith.  Dawkins, not so many.  Dawkins it remains.

Thursday December 23 2010

Some months ago I began reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which is a blow by blow account of twentieth century classical music.  Reading and greatly enjoying.

Trouble is, it’s a very big book, even in paperback, which makes it not-ideal for carrying around London, travelling being one of the main ways I read books.  (No internet to distract.) So, despite liking this book a lot, I now realise that I stopped reading it and that I switched to a succession of other equally enticing volumes that were not so big.  I am only now back with it, having resumed at a time when I was at home, but de-internetted by new computer turmoil.

On page 317, Ross says something I have long thought, but never myself put into written down words, or even said out loud very much:

Hollywood may have been hazardous territory for composers, but they at least felt wanted there, as they never did in American concert halls. The shift to talkies had created a mania for continuous sound.  Just as actors in screwball comedies had to talk a mile a minute, composers were called upon to underline every gesture and emphasize every emotion.  An actress could hardly serve a cup of coffee without having fifty Max Steiner strings swoop in to assist her.  ("What that awful music does,” Bette Davis once said to Gore Vidal, “is erase the actor’s performance, note by note.")

Well said, Bette.

But things improved.  Ross continues:

Early movie scores had a purely illustrative function, which composers called “Mickey-Mousing”: if a British frigate sails into the frame, “Rule, Britannia” plays.  Later, composers introduced techniques of musical distancing and irony, along the lines of Sergei Eisenstein’s counterpointing of image and sound. Music could be used to reveal a hidden psychological subtext, ...

Indeed.  There then follows an admiring description of the music written for The Grapes of Wrath by Aaron Copland.  Very influential, says Ross.

This soundtrack-composer-usurping-the-actors style of movie music only completely died out in the sixties and seventies, when they started using pop music for soundtracks, music with an insistent beat of its own which is quite unable to supply this kind of detailed and non-rhythmic “help” for actors.  What a relief that was. Suddenly the actors were revealed as able to act perfectly well without such help.  Every so often, I watch an old movie on the telly, starring someone like Doris Day, and suddenly we are back with that awful oh-look-she’s-adjusting-her-hat, she’s-a-bit-sad, ooh-now-Rock-Hudson-has-just-cheered-her-up style of movie musical accompaniment.  I realise now that Doris Day was perhaps not a completely god-awful film actress with all the subtlety of a container ship trying to win a round-the-harbour speedboat race.  It was just that the people writing, directing, editing and musically accompanying Doris Day’s performances were all tasteless idiots.

Another reason I am now reading The Rest is Noise is that I recently attended a lecture given by Ross at the British Library.  The lecture rather outstayed its welcome, for me.  Ross had about twenty interesting minutes worth of stuff to say about descending base lines as a way of signalling sorrowfulness in sorrowful songs, but took an hour to say it.  Nevertheless, the point was a good one and there were many delightful musical illustrations, my favourite being when he played “Hit the Road Jack”.

Afterwards, having already read and liked some of the earlier Alex Ross book, I bought a signed copy of the latest one.  But, not having finished reading the previous book, I wanted to do that first.

No welcomes outstayed in either of these books, or not so far.  Almost every page of them contains stuff just as worthy of blogvertisement as the above bit that I happened to choose.  And if, when you are reading a book, you fancy a break, you can have one.  Lectures happen in lecture time.  Books can be read in your own time.