Waiting for Sunrise

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I was first introduced to the author William Boyd in the book club. We read Any Human heart and I was sold on his heart rending historical drama / realism style. It translated very well to television last year although the book for me is a monumental piece of storytelling and one of my standout books over the past few years.

Unusually for me, I’ve read a few more of his books ‘in my own time’ ie not book club books. This is unusual as the discipline of reading a book per month in book club often means other books often get the scraps of your reading time. But Boyd is a master story teller and I am a willing reader of his tales.

His latest book is a story set in world war one featuring soldiering wartime exploits, espionage, acting and lashings of intrigue. I devoured it in a day or two and enjoyed it immensely. It’s a screenplay essentially, with the book written so cinematically it’s virtually good to go on the big screen. It’s resonant of Boy’s Own literature for the grown up generation and I was drawing parallels with John Buchan’s 39 Steps.

Highly enjoyable fun, let me know if you’d like to borrow my copy.

Brave

So when a new Pixar film is announced there is much eager anticipation in our house (and not just from the younger audience, ahem!) and the trailers have been wetting our appetites for Brave for about a year so it was great to head to the flix to see what the latest wizardry from Pixar would entail.  We all very much enjoyed the film but from my point of view it is not one of Pixar’s best, more Bolt than Monsters Inc and it felt very Disney to me. I’ve no idea what influence Disney have over the animation studio but this film lacked some of the quirkiness, intelligence and surrealness that has been a hallmark of Pixar.  Having said that it is by no means a poor film, after all an average Pixar film is considerably better than most of the children’s films that get produced. 

The story centres on Merida, a fiesty firey red headed celt, who would far rather be out shooting her bow, climbing cliffs, riding her horse and generally have a good time than doing her duty to the clan and becoming the proper princess that her mother is despairingly trying to turn her into so that she can be married off to the most suitable heir from among the other clans.  The scene is therefore set for the age old coming of age, duty and responsibility verses freedom, mother and daughter story that has been played out across the generations since storytelling began.  Can you change your destiny ? 

One of the lovely winks to the history of storytelling in the film is the idea that the myths and legends that are told to Merida, and that the clans uphold, are because they are based on ancient truths which is of course mirrored in the animated storytelling that Pixar specialise in as they look to reflect upon and retell us tales based upon the kernals of truth that have been handed down through the myths, legends, folk and fairytales over the years.

One thing you can guarantee in a Pixar film is the quality of the animation and a special mention must be made of Merida’s hair which is quite incredible and catches the eye in a way I’ve not seen since being astonished by the way the Sulley’s fur moved in Monsters Inc.  In fact if they had spent half the time they had spent on getting the hair right on character development across the whole film then they would have hit gold.  I was also mesmerised by the will o’ the wisp who attempts to guide Merida on the right path as she seeks to change her destiny, they reminded me greatly of the underwater Alien in Abyss – mystical, shifting beings who’s motive you are unsure of the.

So overall the film is good fun, there are plenty of laughs and although the plot loses it’s way a bit it does all come together at the end.  However whisper it but Mulan does this storyline in a much better film.

Art under the Influence

 

The argument of mind expansion through imbibing substances be that alcohol or drugs has long been a point of discussion in artistic pursuits and in particular whether or not it improves what you produce.  Of course many is the artist, writer or band who has clung to this idea while slowly descending into irrelevance, idiocy and often death and talking of bands that did that the Doors spring nicely to mind, who of course took their name from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, in which he describes his experiences when taking mescaline one afternoon.  I’ve read the book and must admit it didn’t do a great deal for me, perhaps because I was not sitting in a sunny garden after just taking some peyote.  I was musing on this recently as I came across a somewhat disturbing, voyeuristic but also fascinating collection of self portraits by the artist Bryan Lewis Saunders.  Since 1995 Bryan has been drawing a self portrait of himself every day and has currently over 8,000 of them, i’ve no idea whether he became bored as he was doing this but for reasons best known to himself he decided to add chemical substances to the mix and has been taking a different drug every day and then drawing the self portrait (I’ve included a few in the post), a frankly scarily dangerous escapade I’d have thought which is having a serious effect on Bryan as he himself describes

“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of the self. So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence. Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time. I only take drugs that are given to me.”

I’m not sure what I think of it all (other than I wouldn’t recommend copying him) but there is an element of Hunter S Thompson’s gonzo journalism here which is fascinating.  Disturbing but fascinating and that is often what the best art is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Here Now and Then

Be Here NowI bought my first record 15 years ago, and by first record I mean one that I actually went to the shops on my own, with pocket money that was mine, rather than pleading with my mum to buy Timmy Mallet’s Itsy Witsy. I was thirteen and at the time I was no music fanatic, I liked what my parents listened to, the staples; Bowie, Madonna, The Beatles. Two years previously I’d discovered Oasis. There isn’t anyone reading this who isn’t aware of them, so I won’t go into detail waxing on about their scope, how they were cool Britannia and what was to happen post ’97. Instead I’ll concentrate on the record I bought.
Be Here Now. It was released on a Thursday and sold nearly a quarter of a million copies in its first week. It was an event, people queued to grab it at midnight, it was raved about and then a couple of months later, turned over and ridiculed. It was the beginning of the end. The bandwagon pulled to the side of the road and everyone jumped off. The two studio records that were to follow had a handful of great songs between them, and as they were clawing their way back, the band imploded nowhere near as spectacularly as they once could have done.
This is the record that burst the bubble then, a huge, blustering record apparently recorded with Noel doing 9grams of coke a day (I measured that out in flour once, it’s a scarily impressive amount).
Personally I’ve never understood the derision of it. Not then, not now. Maybe because I treat as my own, recall it with the same fondness I do my first kiss and trip to Wembley. Whatever, I’m here to defend it even despite Noel’s having given up on it.
What makes it great? I hope, I think, I Know’s the best thing they ever wrote. It has a fist pumping chorus, punk drumming, Liam sings it like he means it. It’s fast, it’s furious, it’s genius, simple as that, and it sits like a crown amongst powered up, amped up, rock and roll jewels turned way up past eleven.
The opening three tracks, fuelled like Lance Armstrong, go triumphantly soaring on without tiring, and how can you fail to be won over by All Around The World? The longest number one ever. Noel wanted to do it as a Eurovision song contest number. I’ve heard it described as a Beatles pastiche and for some reason coming out with the (tongue in cheek) audacity of taking on Hey Jude has people’s backs up. What about if we call it a homage? That didn’t hurt Tarantino in Kill Bill 1 when Uma Thurman’s spinning round taking out more suited members than The Matrix, nor is anyone kicking Van Gough’s whole career.
And what of the depth in Stand By Me and Don’t Go Away? There’s yearning and heartache in there, this album is textured (albeit with a hell of a lot of guitars.)
It’s major problem was timing, while they were in the celebratory bubble of Morning Glory and Knebworth, everyone around them was coming down. This was the year Radiohead released OK Computer, Spiritualized Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space. The party was over, but they were too wired to notice. There’s no fear of what’s round the corner, because as the title tells you, it’s all about the now.
So rejoice, Be Here Now is not just a record I should be proud in owning, you can take yours out from behind the CD rack where it accidentally fell down and enjoy it for everything (admittedly sometimes preposterously) it is.

Summer Photo Fun – Week 5 – Shadow

So the penultimate week of our summer project has finished and I must say that I’m a little sad that next week will be the last week as it’s something that we have enjoyed so much and it’s brought me into contact with people that I otherwise would not.  The kids have said that this week has been their favourite theme so far and yet again a massive thank you must go out for the various photos that you have sent in.  I really enjoy the little descriptions on the tweets before I open the picture, never sure what I’m going to find and each week the photos bring little drops on sunshine into my world.  As always you have come up with some good imaginative plays on the theme, one of the pet owners explaining that the dog follows them round so much it’s like a shadow, one of my kids took a photo of a book called Shadow, there is someone in the shadow of a glacier and I particularly like the Rothkoesque one above as well as the photo of Hank Marvin (get it ?).  In a similar vein to the float theme that had a photo of the pictures of the disappeared in Argentina floating in the breeze, this week has a very poignant photo from the concentration camps – an event in history that has cast one of the longest shadows and will always move me to a place of reflection.  Anyway have a browse through the collection and let us know what you liked.  The final theme will be tweeted out tomorrow so if you are reading about this for the first time follow me via @ianstreet67 to get the theme.  For those of you who have been playing along with us I hope you stay with us for the final week and help spread the word to make it a good finale.

 

The Lone Ranger

I want you to make those darting runs down the flank, no behind the front man…err…

The formation. It’s always about the formation, just ask any journalist who’s covered the England team in the last twenty years.
I was watching Chelsea (who are no doubt some people’s title favourites) play at home against Reading, who though play some decent football, will surely be struggling in the lower realms of the Premier League come the end of the season.

What struck me, as the clock ticked down towards half time with Reading 2-1 to the good with their fans singing loudly about how they now adorned the top of the most coveted league in the world, was that Chelsea were playing with a solitary striker.

Why were they so concerned about packing the midfield, at home, against lesser opposition? Sure they have a forward who when on form (wearing a liverpool shirt) can do the job of two, but why the negativity? What is it with the rise of the lone striker? Just think of the problems this would have caused in ’96, no longer a brave Who Dares Wins, but a signal of distress, and we didn’t require it back then. Why the 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 or 4-1-3-1-1? Are modern managers trying to find something as powerful as the fibernacci sequence? Does it boil down to what Johan Cruyff famously said, “if you control the midfield, you control the game”? which anyone who watched the European championships earlier in the summer will have seen taken to the nth degree by the Spanish, who could have played a 3-2-2-2 and still come away with the title. They’d won the previous two major tournaments with different systems after all.

Which means does the formation matter or is it simply the players that count? Is there too much emphasis on the shape of a team, talk of fitting players into positions or buying players to play roles? We could take a specific look at Barcelona, who have dominated European football for the past five years with a fluid formation from midfield to attack, not to mention a tiny central midfielder at centre back and a right back who spends most of his masquerading as a right winger. Yet last season they won neither of the major two trophies and there was talk of this due to them not being willing to change their formation and tactics. Surely it was simply down to percentages and the fact that no team is invincible (alright apart from the Arsenal invincibles that one season)?

The question is then, would the Dutch team of Total Football actually have won silverware if they’d swapped a second striker for a disciplined holding midfielder, or would they have slipped into obscurity like those really short shorts and the sweeper system?

Champion Jack

It wasn’t just the music, in fact it wasn’t the music at all. Before I heard his laconic, loping, booging piano and wooging singing I discovered, through a photograph, that this New Orleans bluesman, used to live in Halifax, West Yorkshire just around 20 miles from these typing fingers.

When I eventually heard his music the fact that Champion Jack Dupree spent a portion of his life just over the hills, gave the songs extra intrigue and immediacy. Not only that, he also grew up with Professor Longhair, surely one of the funkiest critters ever to have walked this earth.

I’d always thought that music of Champion Jack’s magnitude was something that happened far, far away. Not down the A58.

Halifax isn’t known for its blues. It’s better known for its bank, Mackintosh toffee and the birthplace of Blue Peter presenter John Noakes, and Big Daddy. Granted, the name Big Daddy wouldn’t look out of place chalked up on a board in a honky tonk but he was a wrestler, rather than a musician. Champion Jack on the other hand, as well as being a musician was also a boxer, hence his nickname.

The photograph that alerted me to the existence of Jack was part of an exhibition of Terry Cryer photos, at, I think Dean Clough in Halifax, sometime in the late 80’s, early 90’s?. Some of the images I remember include Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the axe-wielding gospel singing legend, the Jimi Hendrix of her day, some guy with a monkey on his shoulder and Champion Jack Dupree.

The pictures were amazing. Some were taken locally, of blues and jazz musicians performing, practising or just sitting, standing around. A lot of the names were new to me Clara Ward, Zoot Simms and some more familiar, Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong.
But the one that stuck was Champion Jack.

Years later I got in touch with the photographer Mr Cryer, after he’d retired and closed down his darkroom, but he agreed to do me a print of Jack. He also invited me in for a brew and to look at some other amazing photos and contact strips.

Look here for more of Terry’s photographs…

http://www.terrycryer.com/photographs.html

And to get a bit of Champion Jack…