Couple of Good Things

‘It Takes a Killer’ on CBS Reality

It’s not Mad Men or Girls, but I really can watch episode after episode of this. Each instalment chronicles a real-life murder or series of murders and the police investigation around them. The show is very fast-paced and has an assured, modern style. The video-game Metal Gear Solid springs to mind. Stuff flashes by: photos, maps, text, talking heads, stock visuals and snatches of reconstruction. On paying a little closer attention I noticed that every move is accompanied by either a ‘whoosh’ or ‘blade unsheathing’ sound effect. The guy working the sound board must surely have developed arthritis. The voice-over is as you’d expect from the title- grave, heading towards devilish- but not dorky and overdone in this case. The experts are compelling characters in their own right: Weary LAPD guy, distant 30-something English woman and slim pork-pie hat dude. It’s quality stuff; there’s a lot of background material, footage and police evidence from each case, some of it jaw-dropping, and interesting wider perspectives are presented. I think much care has been taken. Two thumbs up.

Podcasts

I first heard the term ‘podcast’ back in 2009/10. To me it sounded like something both second-rate and troublesomely technical. I was aware that Ricky Gervais was doing one and I didn’t like the sound of it either- him and his mate laughing at a buffoonish third guy. That was it for me until 2014, when the podcast ‘Serial’ appeared and had HBO-like credibility. They’ve crept up in a big way since then and I have various ones on all the time now. Life is better for them- it’s ‘take what you’re given’ no longer culturally speaking (or even more-so now anyway), plus they make dull tasks tolerable.

 

 

 

 

 

Louis Vuitton

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I saw this ad on the back of a broadsheet newspaper several years ago, a Sunday paper I think. It was huge- the entire back page in fact. I couldn’t do much but stare at it for a few minutes, mouth agape. It’s Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones, in an ad for Louis Vuitton. ‘Some journeys cannot be put into words’ the tagline reads. You’d laugh to hear that said out loud, but in the context of the ad it’s convincing on some level. They’re flashing such intimidating credentials you’re in no position to argue. The ad is transparently an effort to lord it up over the viewer, and not much besides. Pretty joyless affair. Ok ok, Louis Vuitton, you win, I surrender. Pricks.

Sucka

There’s a clothes shop I quite like called Pull and Bear- it’s like H and M, but originating in Spain, and the clothes are slightly better and £10 more expensive. Their masthead reads ‘Pull and Bear 1991’. I was a bit surprised at that. They’re going all ‘Gap 1969’ on our asses, romanticising the year. That’s jarring for me because for ages I was fully convinced the early 90s were nothing more than a joke. The entire time I was growing up that was the received wisdom, and I didn’t question it. MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, ho ho ho. But now I turn around and it’s ‘Pull and Bear: Birthed in the cultural firestorm of 1991’, kind of thing. Probably there’ll be an ad with a languid whispery voiceover (or maybe a more assertive tone is the thing now, I’m not sure): ‘Pull and Bear: Nighting nighty one’. They’re completing an about-turn that started a few years ago. It appears I’ve been a pawn in some vacuous cycle. All just a bit of fun you could argue, but I’m pissed to realise that I’ve been holding fast to an idea, about the early 90s, that I had no input on. It was handed down to me by the fickle overlords of taste and I complied. I still hold it, this post was originally going to be me joking about ‘Pull and Bear 1991’ being silly, but I realised the joke’s on me. Someone more enlightened than me is going to come along and explain that 90% of my opinions are like that, that this is just a glaring example of it. You live and learn anyway. Blogging saves the day again.

 

 

 

 

 

I Just Called to Say I Love You

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Your Number One.”

What was the #1 song when you were born? Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.

It’s ‘I just called to say I love you’ by Stevie Wonder, or Steven Wonder, as he must have been originally. I don’t like that song at all. It’s miserable. I get frustrated even trying to sing that title line, with the dreary pace of it. You could get up and get a glass of juice in the dead air between ‘I just called’ and ‘To say’, then go ahead and make a sandwich and reply to a few emails before ‘I Love you’ finally arrives. You need the patience of a saint. I didn’t always hate it though. It was in the air when I was very young. In fact I was completely fascinated by it, this person calling to say ‘I love you’. It pulled back the curtain on a netherworld of adult autonomy and telephone use and making weird meaningful declarations to other people. And it wasn’t just some shit sentimental song, as I recognise it to be now, no- it was definitive; that’s what life was like out there mood-wise, I understood. Until the next song came along presumably.

Birmingham

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I was in Birmingham, England yesterday, for no important reason. This is the polished bit of their city center, where the nice shops and the good shopping center are. Isn’t it nice. It was a 20 degree day as well, with a warm breeze. I sat at that cafe and drank two beers. Two icy cold Stella’s, in those classy rounded pint glasses with a stem. It was lush. My walk to the museum afterwards took me past all the heavyweight Victorian-era monolithic stone buildings, with their carvings and engravings. Belfast city center has ’em too, like Birmingham it was also a player in the industrial revolution. But Birmingham is more impressive in that regard I’d say. The museum was a washout for me. I was pretty tired, didn’t really didn’t have the energy. But it was a good one, I’d go again. A series of rooms took you past a real bounty of stuff on the walls, mostly religious, as is the way of it it seems, moving backwards through the centuries- the last room being chock-full of 14th century Church ‘triptychs’ and ‘diptychs’ produced by individuals who were probably certifiably insane by modern standards. I exited the museum and immediately slumped down on the steps outside, basking in the full glare of the sun for a few minutes. In my knackered state I had the less than inspired idea to tilt my phone when taking this picture of the town hall to my left:

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It looks like a snap in a cheesy language-learning school textbook: ‘Marta and Elena took a bus to the city center. Marta loved the town hall, but Elena wasn’t so keen!’

Dante’s Peak

The movie Dante’s Peak has been on TV a lot lately. For reasons I don’t understand, I simply cannot get enough of it. I find it hard to tear myself away any time it’s on. It’s strange, because I can’t stomach even five minutes of other disaster movies from that era, like Deep Impact or Armageddon. Everything Pierce Brosnan does in Dante’s Peak is him embodying a particular conception of perfect masculinity and maturity. I liked the idea of trying to subvert that fantasy, using a sequence of events from the first half of the movie. I’ve done it in pairs of paragraphs, with the Dante’s Peak version first, then my version:

Brosnan’s instincts are spot on- the volcano is going to blow; everyone else is wrong.

Brosnan hasn’t been known for having good instincts, and the on the job training he’s received has gone to his head in embarrassing and unforeseen ways. His shallow understanding of volcanos and his arrogance are a big problem in this delicate situation. He’s been fixated on a paper he read which documented a similar previous case where the volcano did erupt. He took the best part of a weekend day over reading and understanding the paper and now he can’t hear anything that contradicts it or provides counter-evidence.

…….

He is dismissed from the project by the team leader, who instructs him that he ‘needs a vacation’. The team leader is a more conventional mind, unable to fathom Brosnan’s heightened sensitivity, mistaking it for erratic behaviour.

He is dismissed from the project by the team leader, who instructs him that he ‘needs a vacation’. The team leader is finally taking the action necessary to prevent this puffed-up idiot wasting any more of the team’s time.

…….

The team enter a bustling, cozily lit establishment that evening for a drink. They see Brosnan sitting alone at the bar, contemplative, a bottle of beer in front of him. The old barman turns obediently as Brosnan calls for the ‘same again’. The team leader takes a stool at the bar next to Brosnan and attempts to explain himself, talking about the muddy politics of putting a town on alert, the economic fallout that could result, the feathers that could be ruffled. Brosnan listens patiently, lets him finish, and after a pause looks him square in the eye and says ‘Ok’, before shooting a peanut into his mouth- using his closed fist like a cannon in an interesting and decisive gesture of impatience that concludes the scene.

After being suspended Brosnan buys some booze and heads directly back to his motel room. He cracks open the wine he got and as his laptop boots up he gets half a glass in him, while huffing a cigarette too quickly over by the window. He’s jumping out of his skin at the offense of it all. He’s going to email the team leader and tell him what’s up. The bastard got the best of him in the face to face encounter, he’s no good on the spot. Some time later he’s done. The finished email is good, he’s pleased, even if he did interrupt the writing of it for a wank. He fires it off, tops up his glass and heads over to the window to rake another fag, this one well deserved. His motel is situated in the center of the small town and the sounds of Friday night revelry are filtering in through the window. With the wine nearly gone he makes the sudden decision to head out, emboldened by the booze. At the bar he buys his drink and makes a beeline for a shadowy spot off to the side, by a column. By the time the team walks in several pints later he’s graduated to a chair at the bar and is testing the young bar guy’s patience with his attention-seeking chatter. The team leader somewhat reluctantly invites Brosnan to join the team at their table for a drink. The team are uncomfortable with Brosnan’s brash drunkenness and take the opportunity to leave when he goes to the toilet.

Good Tunes of Late

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)- The Rolling Stones

I’m not an expert on The Rolling Stones, or any music for that matter, but this is the most exciting song of theirs I’ve heard. It was on the end credits of a documentary I watched, one of those showstopper moments where the song kicks off as the screen goes black and you think ‘Wow- what’s this!?’ The lyrics are about the cops in New York recklessly shooting someone ‘right through the heart’. So the chorus continues: ‘Heartbreakers! With yo’ .44! I wanna tear your world apart!’ Not sure what Mick Jagger knows about .44’s, with his economics degree. Maybe a lot, what do I know. I suppose they’ve been around.

Everything Goes My Way- Metronomy.

I listened to this track on repeat while I was out for a jog the other night. Every time it drew to a close I would be running with my phone held out in front of me, stabbing at the screen trying to hit the back button. I was pretty much delirious after five straight listens, but I couldn’t face moving on to something potentially less motivating. It’s amazing for jogging. A cascade- the vocals of what sounds like a female android with a voice like honey, dying away and immediately rising again and again, a horn tooting, hand claps, a swaying guitar – all falling forward together- the momentum of the high beats per minute saving it from collapse.

I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From- Kings of Convenience

This band sounds exactly like Belle and Sebastian, but they’re from Norway. This is a very lovely melancholic tune involving the interplay of two acoustic guitars and a caressing male voice. It made my friend go ‘What’s this?’, which was satisfying.

Mercy Mercy Me- Marvin Gaye

The sorrowful rhythmic guitar riff in this song, which never flags from start to finish, is what makes it great. Far-away sounding ‘oooh’s’ rise and fall at certain points, complementing it. It’s physically difficult not to bow/shake you head sadly when they come in. As it happens the lyrics are all about pollution and are very lovey-dovey: Radiation under ground and in the sky/Animals and birds who live nearby are dying… I think this could be where Michael Jackson took his cue from, with his Earth Song etc.