Saturday, 30 November 2019

Le Mans '66 - a 7000 rpm movie


I wasn't sure what to expect with the Damon/Bale movie about the Ford Shelby car construction. I didn't know the background except that Le Mans is where people drive round and round for 24 hours. To be honest, I'd got it mixed up with Nurburgring in my mind.

But the movie was fine. Gritty car action with a playful relationship between Christian Bale attempting a Brummy accent and Matt Damon attempting a Texan one.

The directors added Typhoo tea swigged from an enamel mug for Bale to boost the authenticity and a JR hat for Damon, but really, it didn't matter. The storyline was simple and un-nuanced. America needed to invent a car to trounce those troublesome Italians. Hence the `US name for the movie: Ford vs Ferrari.

It all played out predictably, including some epic car races, which really benefitted from all the immersive sub-woofers and surround sound available in the tiny 40 seater cinema. The crowd in the cinema actually cheered when Ford won the Daytona 500.

Sure, there was referances to bits of cars in it but it was playfully hot brakes and jamming doors that created the drama rather than ECU remapping. And I now know what the 40 in Ford GT40 stood for. And what the wooden wedges were used for.

Indeed, the whole movie was delightfully analogue with dials, buttons and small clock sized stopwatches.

A Saturday morning picture for the boys. Vrrrroooomm.




Friday, 29 November 2019

London



I'm in a room tonight with blue lights flashing past outside the window. It's London, and I'm used to a certain amount of first responders going about their business.

Tonight it's different. It's once more because of another murderous terrorist incident in London.

As one of many, I've walked past the bustling area where it unfolded around five times in the last few days.

Like most Londoners, I'm used to the heightened state of awareness. The messages on public transport, "See it, Say it, Sorted," and the frequent and sudden disappearance of rubbish bins from train stations. That shared look on the Piccadilly line for the silly tourist that has left their airport luggage unattended. Bomb alert prompt scripts in the workplace.

When the last knife attacks occurred around Borough Market in 2016, I could scarcely believe it. Then we had the truck driven down the pavement on Westminster Bridge. I realise I'm getting used to it again, like when we used to get evacuated with IRA bomb scares.

Like many others, I've watched with casual interest as new safety bollards are added, and smiled that some streets get special flashy protective bollards styled like the ornate masonry such as along Parliament Street and Whitehall.

I'm used to seeing flatbed trucks carrying portable barricades around and dropping them onto a pinch point. There was plenty of that type of action for the Olympics in 2012.

And as I crossed over the road by St Paul's Cathedral the other day, I cast an eye along the road to one of the old blue Ring of Steel control points left in the road but unmanned since the end of IRA bombings.

It's almost impossible to predict this cowardly terrorism, but fortunately proud London's spirit is uncowed.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Dora Maar - strangeness and charm


I visited the Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate today. It was one of those occasions when I was struck by just how many excellent photographs she had created. I could hear my inner photographer saying "nailed it" time after time as I walk around the early rooms.

Maar moved from assignment photography towards surrealism later, and then across into painting, when she was also famously a lover and muse of Picasso. Born as Henrietta Markovitch, she adopted her well-known name around the time that she went into an association with Pierre Kéfer, a set designer and painter.

Then flows a series of portraits of the good and great of the French scene, all well-lit, posed, angled, focussed and cropped - hence my frequent thoughts of their good quality.

Later Maar went through a reportage phase using a Rolleiflex waist height TLR camera, before the eventual move towards surrealism and ultimately into painting.

It was the early works that stood out for me at the exhibition. It looks as if she developed and printed the majority of the pictures herself which explains their consistently high quality. Whether a stunning photograph for a fashion magazine, a street scene from London or Barcelona or a rabble of painters playing cards in a smoke-filled room, she captures the essence.

Maar brought an artistic sensibility to her technically clever pictures, filling the frame, using the lens to its full potential, so that whether the picture was targeted for a wall or a page in a magazine it would create an impact.

The middle section of the exhibition deals with the surrealism, which some would say she is most famous for, having worked with, for example, Picasso and Man Ray.

I'm less certain about this middle era, and even notice a small drop in her amazing technique on some of these pictures. But I guess I look through modern eyes and at the things that can be done with layers that Maar pioneering to represent with double plane negatives. I suppose 'Bravo' would be my better response.

Then, via a few portraits of herself, sometime self-portraits sometimes the work of Picasso, we arrive at her painting phase. Here she eschews the camera, but we can still see the compositional sensibilities in her artwork. Picasso's head was turned, with this his intriguing awkward picture of his partner Marie-Thérèse Walter with Maar, in The Conversation. Rememeber that portrait in Fleabag II? Possible homage?

And then, finally we see the mixed use of paint and photography. Elusive, mysterious and challenging. Elemental.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

a bulk delivery of boris one-lie-ners


Today I received my personalised mass-customised letter through the Royal Mail from Boris Johnson. It felt like opening one of those Black Friday offers. It opened with a lie about getting Brexit done and then waded through many more one-lie-ners about other topics. There was small print too, where it said it had been sent to me via DJ Jupp, who I think is the aspiring replacement yes-man for the county.

Mr Jupp, if that's how you start, then rest assured I will never ever vote for you. You realise that Boris will weaponise the cream tea if it is in his interests?

Slightly disturbing was that the letter referred to the fact that I was a postal voter. Somehow Boris knows I'm a postal voter and is able to mechanise postal mailing lists accordingly. Smacks somewhat of State monitoring?

I haven't chased this down, but according to The Mirror I see I the Conservative Party has been hoodwinking voters into visiting their website by paying Google to place links above official advice on registering for a postal vote. Naughty-naughty, it's like something gangsters would do.

Maybe the Tories are harvesting data from people trying to even register for a postal ballot? Curious because my postal vote is a long-standing arrangement.

More sinister is the way that the Conservatives are chopping up the demographics to facilitate sectarian campaigning. Back to Black Friday again. Special offer 50% truth.

Black Friday sales came the day after Thanksgiving and was named because the downtown traffic was bad, but was soon urban mythologised into the first day of the year that stores moved into profitability, hence black instead of red. That's the kind of repurposing that the Tories are looking for with Jupp's suspicious letter from Boris, with the equivalent of a built-in 'Up To' and 'From' sprinkled around the offer percentages. Brexit done? Nope. Only just started...

I'll be more wary of Tory stealth tactics with mystery personalisations bubbling from the slime of their deception-filled cellar.

Instead, give me the lost days of Filene's Basement anytime. Before they closed in the wake of the internet, they used to run a store in Boston, with an all-the-time sale, but it was straightforward. 25% off for 14 days, then 50% off for a week and then 75% off for another week. I got a great coat there.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

nanowrimo 71035


There's been an interlude in my writing for Nanowrimo.

Today I hit Compile for the first time on Scrivener and it's turned out a Word unproofed 300 pager. Time to sharpen the pencil now for an edit.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

London's Calling at the Museum


You can't go around on the tube at the moment without noticing the London Calling adverts. It's a small Clash exhibition at the London Museum (Who'd have thought it?) and I thought I'd go along for a look.

It's a free-to-enter densely-packed exhibition, with various posters, clothes and other artefacts from the Clash, redolent of London. The's the original Pennie Smith photograph of Paul Simonon bashing his Fender Bass, and artistically in front of it, there's the guitar relic itself.

They've positioned them in such a way that it is possible to capture both together in an iPhone snap. Then there's the lyrics. Scribbled into anything and equally fascinating to see with corrections and reworks, there's the original Ice Age, which includes many London's Calling lyrics, partly formed.

And, the album cover itself, adjacent to the Elvis album from where it borrows typography and general design.

Still poignant.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

wanderings through Highbury and Islington


Some times plans don't quite work out.

Keda and I considered meeting at the Braggster gig, but ticket availability wouldn't allow it. I had tickets and was still heading there, but in my mind I had a particular venue selected. Union Chapel, with the Library (pub) opposite as the perfect meeting place.

Julie & I came out of the tube. "Look," I said, "That's the queue!"

It wound around the corner and off along another street.

We joined it, having abandoned ideas of the pub altogether.

Eventually, we reached the main entrance.

I showed the computer tickets from my iPhone - I was already thinking about the sneaky side stairs to reach the balcony.

The man looked blank. This gig is "Show of Hands," he eventually said.

I looked at the little electro-ticket on my phone "Assembly Hall," it said.

"Oh, dear," I thought, as we started the 4-minute walk to the second venue, where another long queue ensued.

The irony is that Show of Hands is a popular local folk band, that is, really local, they come from back home in Topsham, Devon.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Billy Bragg in Islington


Time for a topup of Billy Bragg at the Islington Assembly Hall. As luck would have it, this was the middle day of a row of three, during which he played from his 'chop and clang' repertoire, which comprises all the songs I know best and can sing along.

So, it would seem, did much of the rest of the audience gathered, and Milkman of Human Kindness and New England were largely crowd assisted.

Billy Bragg's banter with the crowd was as fine as ever and he did that thing of bringing an immediate new and newsy item to the stage, when he told us about Jeremy Corbyn's latest election pledge, which most of us would have missed, being in transit to the gig.

Then we were treated to an express train of his songs, accompanied on the shiny guitar, the green Burns Steer and the acoustic, all three of which he's played on for much of his gigging time, even sporting the same straps.

In between, he speaks with conviction and fervour about the state of the Union and which side are you on? (clue: vote tactically) The largely London audience were suitably contemptuous of their ex-mayor and some of those little fibs he's been spouting.

A glorious evening of entertainment, with Billy's tunes still ringing in our ears as we made our way back to the tube.

I didn't take pictures, instead here's waiting for the great leap forwards from Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, where Billy blends some racing handlebars into the lyrics.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

the light burns on


A day in Bath, for some training. I spotted an exhibition whilst there, something to do during lunch. The first part was elaborate sculptures for sale. Oddities like a mirror made of teapots. Not my cup of tea, if you know what I mean.

Then I found myself on the top floor. Looking at a tiny picture of an angry shouting man. An artist, no doubt. But wait! It's only a young Rembrandt self-portrait.

I cranked the contrast up on this picture and made it internet friendly, but the darker, scratched original, with its glassy reflection, was a wonder to behold.

I'm amazed sometimes by the small size of some well-known artworks. This one is only 2 7/8 × 2 7/16 in or 7.3 × 6.2 cm. It's the same for many well-known photographs and one can almost sense it with the gallery displays being amped-up to show the artwork as large as possible.

I'm just sorry about the reflection from the glass caught in my iPhone picture. Then to another gallery, this time with Henri Matisse.

More sketches, The one I've chosen at the top of the post has the confidence of less than 60 pen strokes.

Well, I managed to get around the gallery during the lunch break, and my mind felt suitably expanded.

The light burns on : Clark-Hutchinson

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

modern life is streamin'


Twitter seemed to be at a loose end yesterday when it had all the tweets about Paul McCartney headlining Glastonbury. The Shiny-shiny babblers saying bad things.

I don't get it.

There's a load of music that wouldn't have been made without The Beatles. We've seen the film, "Yesterday" and some of the other landmarks that were missing because "no Beatles" automatically deletes various other downstream cultural references.

I expect Paul has an eye on a Beatles 2.0 reboot.

Then there's that resurfaced Terry O'Neill interview from 2016 where he talks about photographing the Stones carrying their stuff to a practice at the Donmar Warehouse.

Terry alluded to there being less 'real music scene' shots in recent years. Similarly with the artwork. I noticed the Instagrammers have been busy shallowly re-imagining some well known albums.

Paul McCartney and Peter Blake designed the concept for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band subsequently filmed by Micheal Cooper's assistant Nigel Hartnup. The gang's all there in the alternative take, which was a full on performance.

Jann Haworth, Mohammed (Robert Fraser’s driver), Peter Blake, Andy Boulton (junior assistant), Trevor Sutton (assistant), Nigel Hartnup (leaning on the drum), Mme Tussauds worker, Michael Cooper, Mal Evans.

Someone else doing a 21st Century take on it somehow shoots wide of the mark. They can't even position the band brand correctly. The Beales? Bea-Les? They must really resent them.

There's an irony in the same publishers showing a piece about branding.


It's the same with Nirvana's vacuously reimagined album cover.

It somehow misses the point, doesn't it? Shoving an iPhone into the deconstructed picture? Is that all you've got? A few more album remix attempts are similarly flawed. The fragmented lego banana of the famous Velvet Underground cover is a particular disaster - Yeah, I get it, Factory. Maybe derisory?

Perhaps Blur's album shoot nailed it?

Although, come to think of it, Blur went for an alternative 126mph cover. That was a Nigel, too. Sir Nigel Gresley.

Like Lyra, I think one needs to stay aware of the parallel.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

tactical


Well, I've decided. I looked at the choices on offer but it's a bimodal distribution.

My old MP looked realistic sitting in his green leather armchair, although just a little too comfortable. He did eventually answer my second letter, although I think my content must have got mixed up because the reply was something harmless about supporting the Queen's Speech. And that was after I'd carefully laid out my points, numbered in a proper Civil Service format. You'd think, with the £140,000 he pays for office staff, that he'd get things a bit better organised?
So I have to choose between the blatant lies from Boris or the dither and distracting absurdism from Jeremy. Neither are attractive and both smack of making a decision between the least worst- Again.

I suppose I'm one of the stranded middle. The Liberal Democrats around this way are pretty strong in several of the seats, but not this one (1300 votes). The only way to unseat our comfortable replacement Tory would be to vote tactically. That's what I think I'll do, although even that process is fraught with error, if the tactical vote selector is, say, run by one of the media moguls.

I've taken a look, It appears that our sensible sounding, local, Independent candidate (circa 21,000 votes) is best placed to challenge the Tory (circa 29,000 votes).

Friday, 15 November 2019

One is a lonely numberism


I was out of contact with political coverage for e few days, but have now returned to find that it hasn’t really moved anywhere. We’ve seen:

  • Rees-Mogg revealing his true colours
  • A few more despair defections from the Tories
  • Dominic Cummings doing his best to hide Boris in a deep hole
  • Boris serially lying about everything and spraying blame
  • A perhaps medicated Jeremy Corbyn sending out contradictory messages every time he is interviewed.
  • Everyone making up vast spending plans that are, of course, fictitious.
  • Parliament closed (again)
  • Gove, Cleverly and others making slippy 'on message’ pronouncements in support of their own personal futures and agendas.
  • UK being side-stepped as too unstable by Tesla for its new electric car factory.
  • Gaffs and unfunny blunders a-plenty from the lead clown.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

still rollin' along


Well, the flaming spear might have burned my ear, but I am still rolling along.
35,000 words so far and the trusty players in my Nanowrimo have managed to get themselves into a similar pickle to Dick van Dyke and Barry McGuire, but they, too, are still singing a happy song.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

In which the COMAND wheel breaks


Well, I've driven quite a few miles recently. Mostly using the sat-nav. And then, suddenly, it stopped working. I was in a pub car park, in Kings Lynn, about to head the 276 miles back to home.

I'd selected "My Address" and just wanted to zoom out to check the route it would take me.

Nada. Nichts. Nothing.

I twisted the COMAND wheel and the zoom didn't work. Reboot the system. Still nothing.

A failure, probably in the hardware of the satnav.

I had to scroll the route manually and diagonally on its 0.5 miles zoom view to check that the car was providing a sensible route.

Back at base, I checked Dr Google. It showed the control wheel and the small plastic shaft that can break inside the unit. It costs £10 to machine a metal replacement. I considered a home repair, but decided that this would be one bridge too far. To dismantle the car's console, then to dismantle the spring-filled Controller unit. Then to replace the connections that interfaced to the telematics of the car, and the digital signals that operated most of the car's components.

There are too many things that can go wrong with this ostensibly simple repair.

The COMAND wheel was the heart of the control system.

Instead, take the car to the dealer. Practice not inhaling too sharply when I'm told how much the repair will cost. Think instead of the tens of thousands of miles I've driven under the control of COMAND.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

wary of complications


Complications. Thats what the Apple watch calls it.

Take today.

Suited-and-booted, I was travelling back from Bournemouth when the phone rang about an appointment that I need to change on Friday. Another suit day.

To my watch...Siri "Remind me about Friday."

"What do you want to be reminded about?"

"Things that need to change"

"Ok, added."

Then, homeward bound, another change of direction.

Literally doorstepped, "Could I take the canapés to the Museum?"

Who was I to argue? A speedy pickup and then off to the town. I could almost hear the Goodfellas helicopter.

I reversed into the single track lane by the side door of the museum and we unloaded the canapés from the car. Several bags and plates of home made items.

I don't usually venture as far as this in my car. Bicycle maybe. It's single track back to the Quayside and some of the drivers that use this route regularly will take no prisoners.

That old dodge where they'll pull up alongside and then see who can best extricate themselves without scraping anything.

It's always when I've clocked 100 or more miles and then meet local three mile drivers out in force that I'm extra wary.

MSM/PSL Hazards and all that. Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre/Position, Speed, Look

Friday, 1 November 2019

going for NaNoWriMo

I haven't participated in NaNoWriMo for several years, although my heritage goes right back to 2007 and I've part written seven(!) novels in that time.

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel during the thirty days of November.

Now, each year on November 1, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. That works out to 1,666 words per day if one is on track!

I feel it's about time to try again, although I will shake free from the characters I wrote about in The Triangle. That was written on Apple Pages and was a good experiment.

This time I'll use Scrivener and perhaps Dragon Dictate to help speed me through the word count.

Buckle up.