20,000 Days on Earth

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20,000 Days on Earth reflects the number of days in Nick Cave’s life so far and this engaging docu / rockumentary starring and narrated by Nick himself looks back over those days and delves into the heart of his creative processes, how he goes about writing songs and then delivering those through magnetic live performances.

I’m a big fan of Nick Cave and have closely followed his musical journey since the implosion of The Birthday Party through to his 15th Bad Seeds album Push the Sky Away, the creation of which forms the primary musical backdrop to the film.  I think there are very few artists who have managed to mature so gloriously from such riotous beginnings and none who can match Cave’s brilliant lyricism that can conjure up images of such love and tenderness mixed with downright menace and intensity.

The film covers Cave’s fabulous career to date while charting his meanderings around Brighton (where he lives) for one day from dawn to nightfall interspersed with live recordings, either creating the album in France or taking it on the road triumphantly to the Sydney Opera House.  Cave drives round Brighton in the drizzle going to a fictional therapy session (with Alain de Botton) and visiting key Bad Seed collaborator Warren Ellis for some eel stew whilst delivering him a pair of stuffed birds that he has in the back of the car.  All the while he is chatting away and exploring his life and creativity and what that means.  As he chats people from various points in his career appear in the car with him and join in the conversation before fading away as if figments of his imagination.  Ray Winstone, Blixa Bargeld and Kylie all pop up in the car.  Of course not all elements of his life are included but through this quite unusual vehicle there is enough for you to grasp what he is about, where he has come from and what drives him.

Cave comes across as a highly intelligent, reflective, caring and funny man but above all someone in love with the concept of creativity through words and this comes across beautifully in many moments of the film, not least when he describes his love for his wife Susie and how she represents the distillation of all the beauty and fantasy that he can imagine.  A genuinely touching moment.

He talks of his writing process and how important it is to constantly write, to work on it, to have ideas, that each idea is a small flame and if you nurture it you never know how big the fire might grow, particularly when you hand your idea over to others and to see what happens through collaboration.  He stresses the importance of having a go and to trying things as it’s far better to try and fail that not to try in the first place.

I’ve been fortunate to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on a few occasions and there are few people who can match his intensity on stage where for me he appears like some long limbed Gothic karate kicking preacher here to wrangle and writhe and conjure up some Faustian pact before your very eyes.  This is captured in the final moments in the performance of Jubilee Street, which as it builds to a crescendo is mixed with flashes of Cave performing at all stages of his career before the film ends, at night on the seafront in Brighton with Cave musing on the flame of ideas.

I’ve seen lots of films of bands I like over the years and most music documentaries are to be honest not that great.  This is different in many ways and I was spellbound from start to finish.  Whether or not you are a Nick Cave fan go and see this it’s brilliant.

El Roto – Apocalipsis

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I was incredibly fortunate on my recent visit to Malaga to come across two of the best art exhibitions I’ve ever seen at the fantastic Centre for Contemporary Art.  I’ve already written up my thoughts on KAWS – Final Days but capping that was the astonishing Apocalipsis by El Roto which was one of the most powerful, thought provoking reflective exhibitions I’ve ever seen.  El Roto is one of Spain’s most important sartirical cartoonists, born Andres Rabago in Madrid in 1947, he has undergone various name changes but creats cartoons on a daily basis over many years that look at the human condition in a world of perpetual conflict that act as a moral compass to Spain’s history and politics.

Apocalipsis was based around the sequences in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal involving a game of chess between a crusader knight and death for the knight’s life.  271 cartoons were organised in four sections, each section containing 64 pieces (the same number of squares on a chess board) with the sections linked by chess knights and then a final selection of ten cartoons called epilogue depicting the end of the battle / conflict perhaps?  Each of the sections / boards had a theme – Ecology, Economy, Science and Violence.

Each picture was very simple with a minimum of colour used but the individual and collective power of each of the sections was truly remarkable.  Across the boards the economic and political problems of Spain (and the wider world?) were played out in starkly effective terms, immigration, war, ecology, famine, corruption, capitalism, religion, consumerism, politics, human relations, multi media, health, education and unemployment all featured but El Roto appeared to be pointing a way out of a worn out corrupt system in which we live.  Even with only about 4 words of Spanish in my vocabulary I was able to interpret the art even if I could not translate all of what was being said in some of the pictures.  I would have thought that for the Spanish audience this exhibition must have been nothing short of incendiary.

It’s very difficult to capture the scale of each of the boards here but to be able to drift round them, immerse yourself in the story that El Roto was trying to tell and reflect upon it was a brilliant experience.  To think that after I’d see this I turned a corner into the KAWS exhibition and you can perhaps understand what a fantastic overall experience this was.

Perhaps the final world should be left to El Roto “What my cartoons aim to show is not so much an attitude of despair but an indication of errors committed and thus the possibility of correcting them”.

Photos from far and wide- April 14.

Following my photos in January and it’s great success I enlisted the help of 9 others to join up for an April version of the same thing. Now before you think this is a group of people who all live in Leeds, you are mistaken, these photos come far and wide and have winged their way locally from Leeds, Sheffield, Chester, and Llandinum (its in Wales before you ask!).

I have had great fun collating all the pictures and seeing how people have interpretated the project, and one of the things that sticks out to me is my connection that I have to all the people. The mix of people involved include friends from twitter, neighbours, bestest chums, a friends sisters as well as a few of my family members.

The photos show imagination, excitement, fun and great colour and to me illustrate the commonality I have with all the people involved despite some of us being 100s of miles apart. Unsurprisingly there have been similar images of gardening, craft, cooking, food, the outdoors and architecture and all stand out as things that bring you all together through me.

Whilst gathering the images I asked for some feedback from people, the comments overall highlight that its been enjoyable, and has mainly enabled people to consider positive things and fun activities they have been doing. Below are some of their thoughts….

“Its been fun doing this but even more fun looking back over the last month and seeing how different each day is”

“I enjoyed taking the time out to find something special everyday, even in the ordinary like a trip to the gym. It’s so easy to forget and whizz past what’s important so this made me focus on that. The everyday, ordinary, important stuff!”

“It’s a tiny bit of mindfulness that makes you appreciate the good things”

“The days that just involve waking up, working and coming home can be tough, and it has been really rewarding to identify something that has made me smile”

“Had lovely time taking photos. focused the mind on particular point in the day”

“Doing the April ‘photo a day’ was great fun. It was sometimes hard to remember to do as time flies by at the moment and I struggled to not make every picture of my little boy (being an obsessed parent)”

“Surprisingly I never forgot to take a photo. Unsurprisingly they seem to reflect a busy life”.

Hope you enjoy looking at the photos, and thank you to everyone involved.

Daisy xx

 

 

10 Things Every Mountain Biker Should Do

 

I’m not one for lists really or come to think of it New Year’s resolutions, I just tend to bumble along trying to be a good person and enjoying myself along the way.  For those who read this blog (what do you mean you don’t read it) you’ll know that I love to be out on my bike but quite frankly I’m rubbish and lack just about everything needed to be a competent mountain biker.  I’m slowly (very slowly) improving with the help of lots of people this year but the thing is no matter how rubbish I am I just hugely enjoy being on my bike bumbling around trying my best and laughing at my incompetence.  Bikes are after all a toy and I’m just a big kid playing about, even if it does form my main form of transport into work.  Thing is I get pretty annoyed with most bike magazines and videos as I wonder who they are aiming at, certainly not me, and they often seem to encourage / promote a macho bullshit culture that is a total anathema to me and pretty much everyone I’ve come into contact with who rides.  I clicked the link to the above video with some trepidation thinking to myself, here we go another load of people flying off all sorts doing the sort of riding that I’ll never be able to get near to.  Yes there’s a bit of that in the film but it’s not about that it’s really about things that, no matter what your ability level you might be able to do and if you did would undoubtedly look back with a smile on your face.  I’m not going to stick this list up anywhere as my list is simpler – enjoy myself – but I did enjoy the ten things in it.  Cheers to @kristoffrides for bringing the video to my attention.

 

A Curate’s Egg

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I’ve always been a bit mystified by the term “A Curate’s Egg”, who was the curate ? what was he doing with an egg ? was it good or bad ? Why is that phrase sometimes used to describe things, usually art, literature or film ? For example “It was a curate’s egg of book/show/film etc”.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard the phrase more than once at boysbookclub and indeed am potentially guilty of using it myself to describe a book or film.  I have the feeling though that if I have ever used it I may well have used it incorrectly.  I have always thought it meant that the film/book was a bit of a mixed bag in that it had good bits and bad bits in it but on doing a bit of digging I think that’s wrong.

The phrase was originally coined in the cartoon above by George du Maurier that appeared in Punch magazine in 1895, and outlines a joke on Victorian values and social standing of the day.  The scene depicts a breakfast being given by the The Reverend, who is of a much higher social standing than his guest the lowly Curate.  The Reverend tells that Curate that his egg is off but the Curate, not wanting to offend his host and social better in anyway, replies that no some of it is excellent.  The Curate is trying to find something good in something that is bad so as not to offend his host who has already pointed out that the egg is bad, the egg cannot be both good and bad as once the egg is bad it is irredeemable.

This for me then is the nub, when a book or film is described as a Curate’s Egg of a book I think that people often mean that it is not good but it has got some redeeming features.  However in looking at the original cartoon I don’t think that’s the case a Curate’s Egg of a book is a book that is irredeemable, it cannot have any good features as it is like the egg served by the Reverend off and therefore cannot be salvaged.  I can think of many more books and films I should have described as a Curate’s Egg !

 

 

The difficulty behind creativity

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A few weeks ago I visited the fantastic city of Girona and the marvelous film museum there. In part of the museum there was a gallery of film posters, now I love film posters in the same way I love album covers – a single image that attempts to distill the nature of what you are going to see or hear. I’ve always enjoyed looking at them but never really considered the creative process that goes on in order to produce a film poster and to get it right. When I walked into the exhibition I didn’t recognise any of the posters and at first I thought that it was simply because they were perhaps for the Spanish market but then I noticed that they had the correct version in miniatures so that you could compare and that the posters were infact examples that didn’t make it through the creative process.

This got me thinking a bit of how hard it must be to try and and come up with images many of which have gone down as classic pieces of art in their own right but of course each idea before it comes to fruition must go through countless revisions before we the public see the final version. I managed to sneak a few snaps of the posters that didn’t make it, some I quite like but you can understand why they didn’t make it but others you have to wonder what on earth was going on in the mind of the artist. Going through this exhibition I think has definitely given me a new found respect for this creative process and I can only imagine the amount of hair pulling that must go on – perhaps that’s why so many designers seem to have shiny pates !

Have a look and see if any of these posters should have replaced the originals.

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The Iron Giant @ LeedsYoungFilm Festival

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This week has seen the Leeds Young Film Festival in full swing and it has been fantastic.  As well as a great programme of films and events the cost is phenomenally good value.  I bought a family ‘Golden Ticket’ which covered 2 adults and up to 4 kids for any film or event, and there were plenty every day, for …… £40.  Yes that’s right £40 so basically that’s covered me for a week of the Easter holidays and hats off to the organisers for having such an illuminating approach to ticket pricing as it enabled us to get the programme and have a look and plan a great week of film and activities without having to be selective due to cost.  Highlights have included My Neighbour Totoro, The Sparticle Mystery Event and The Odd Life of Timothy Green which I think is one of the most intelligent and emotional children’s films I’ve seen in years and in CJ Adams, the boy who plays Timothy, a real star has been found I think.

However despite all of the great films there was only one that I wanted to make sure I did not miss and that was the Iron Giant, a film I have seen scores of times but never on the big screen.  I wrote a preview for the film over on Culture Vultures and reprise much of that here as it is one of my favourite films and one you really should hunt down if you have not seen it.  The film is brilliantly by Brad Bird (of The Incredibles, Ratatouille and The Simpsons fame) from the Ted Hughes novel (The Iron Man).  Whenever I mention, ok rave, about this film I’m always amazed at the amount of people who have never seen it and indeed on release in 1999 it did not fare well at the box office but it is now rightly regarded as an animation classic and has garnered bucket loads of awards including BAFTA, Hugo Award, Nubela award nomination, 9 Annie Awards and was rated in a poll in 2010 as the 5th greatest animated film of all time.  So why haven’t people seen it?  At the time of it’s ‘failure’ on release Brad Bird criticised Warner Brothers for simply not understanding what they had on their hands, a genuinely intelligent animated film and failing to sell it to audiences.   If you love great cinema, brilliant storytelling, fantastic animation, multi layered intelligent children’s films then you simply must get track down this film and it was, I have to admit, sumptuous to watch it on the big screen for the first time.

Without giving too much away to those who have not seen it, the film tells the story of the friendship between a lonely 11 year old boy (Hogarth) and a giant metal robot that lands on earth.  Whilst there are a number of other themes in the film the key to it is the development of the friendship between Hogarth and the Giant. Who after all did not want a giant robot as a friend when they were a kid?  The giant has a childlike quality to him as he attempts to understand the world that he has landed on and the complexities of human relationships – why would other people be scared of him? – and Hogarth tries to explain the world around him.  Why do we have guns and what do we need them for?  Why do we die? What happens to us when we die? What choices do we make? – Big themes for anyone to get to grips with and one of the most beautiful themes of the film is that last one of choices – You are who you choose to be – as behind the childlike qualities of the giant there also might lurk danger, is he all that he appears to be or could he be dangerous? Are people right to be scared of him? There are elements here for those who know the story of Frankenstein, a creation to be feared or someone misunderstood?

Hogarth gets help to hide the Giant from the Town’s ‘alternative type’ Dean who runs the local scrap yard and is also a sculptor turning the scrap metal into art, something that quite clearly marks him out as an oddball in small town America in the 50’s, as well as his love of jazz and no doubt beatnik authors. Dean, Hogarth and the Giant make a great alliance.  The fact that Brad Bird chose to set the film in 1957 was a masterstroke as it enables the film to reflect on the paranoia at the time, Sputnik had been launched, kids were learning to hide under tables incase of nuclear attack, there was the fear of the Red Menace and this is brought out cleverly in the film.  I can’t help but think Brad is asking the question of America – have we moved on at all ? A government agent is sent out to investigate the reported sightings of the Giant and is determined to make his mark so that he can go back to Washington a hero with a promotion to something bigger.  As a result he has an agenda which will not let him see the Giant for anything else other than a threat and hypes up the possible danger in every report back to headquarters.  How prescient was this as a couple of years after the release real life government agents were exaggerating the threat posed by non existent weapons in the middle east which fed paranoia similar to the Cold War and also triggered an armed reaction.

Mansley (the government agent) tricks the army to attack the Giant – how will he react?  This again loops back to the choices we make – You are who you choose to be – and this triggers a part in the film that never ceases to bring a tear to my eye.  Tim McCanlies (script writer) said that “At a certain point, there are deciding moments when we pick who we want to be and that plays out for the rest of your life” he said that films can provide viewers with a sense of right and wrong and expressed a wish that the film would “make us feel like we’re all part of humanity which is something we need to feel” and that is exactly how this brilliant film makes me feel.

This for me then was a highlight among a week of highlights and thanks must go out to all involved for putting on such a great festival.  For those who have not been to the festival before, make a note in your diary now and get yourself along next year it’s a great way to spend time with your family over the Easter hols.