Wednesday, 1 May 2019

POW NYEEOW PEGASUSES BANG tink tink tink - Two "Avengers: Endgame" thoughts

 Stark staring

"We're not beginning to... to... to mean something?"
Samuel Beckett, Endgame
 Am I wrong, or have Marvel movies changed what film stars are, changed them back to what they were? These charming, witty, principled but troubled and surprisingly middle-aged heroes of Marvel Phases 1, 2 and 3 aren't the kind of blockbuster surefire things I or even my Dad grew up with. They're Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and like those stars - and unlike the singular Schwarzenegger or Connery - they're legion. If Disney really is buying all the cinemas and Netflix all the telly then the Studio System might be returning, and I don't know what to feel about that because I've always loved old movies... That was one thought I had after "Avengers: Everyone". The other's a SPOILER, so anyone who doesn't mind those, meet me under the table, and everyone else, BYE x

Okay the other thought was:

SPOILERS, REMEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She lets him die. "We're gonna be okay... You can rest..." The more I think about it the more gutted I am. I've never recorded on this blog before how oddly important Downey's "piping hot mess" has been to me. Iron Man wasn't a comic I knew anything about and I'd always found RD Jr a bit too get-out-of-my-way in previous films, but from "Iron Man 2" onwards Futurism was suddenly a thing again, and curiosity and hope, all served with newly smart grasp of the USA's unique relationship with fantasy, and this excited me. And I loved Tony Stark. So to see him finally diagnosed with a death wish, and to see that wish granted by the person who cared for him most was devastating. There were other reasons he had to die of course narratively speaking: as an idealisation of post-War America, Stark's mini-Hiroshima with the finger-click couldn't go without a reckoning (just as the earlier murder of Thanos had to turn Thor blurry). But I'd hoped for a happy ending with "Endgame", and feel something has been let go, and that it being let go is final proof it was untenable. And I don't want to type the words "Rest In Peace" again either I don't think. At least the alternative "Fare Forward" avoids the idea life's a chore. Ideally I'd just like to say from now on "Sorry you've gone"... Good film though.

Clark staring

Monday, 29 April 2019

Kenny Everett interrogates John Lennon about Abstraction and Misery and I share it.

My mate Ollie Ford, who originally put this extraordinary 1971 artefact up on f*c*book, writes:
"This is a brilliant interview. Kenny Everett is so funny and John clearly likes him. He asks why his first solo album was so sad when he has so much and John starts to play the Laughing Policeman on his guitar and sarcastically asks if he’d prefer his next album to sound like that. There is also a heartbreaking bit when he tells Kenny how he’d like to die..."

I'm putting up a second post today not because I'm ashamed of the previous one - it's clearly a beautiful tale vividly told - but because I'm trying to make this the place where I share stuff now, and this is definitely worth sharing. The anarchic sweetheart who would later go on to shout "Let's bomb Russia!" at Young Conservatives on the advice of Michael Winner pulls surprisingly few punches questioning the choices of the troubled genius who would later go on to sing "Imagine no possessions" sat behind a white grand in Tittenhurst Park, and perhaps what's most extraordinary is just how cosy the interview remains despite Cuddly Ken's unresolvable problems with not only John and Yoko's politics but their art. It's all parsecs away from Lennon mucking around with Peter Cook a decade earlier or Everett mucking around with Bowie and Freddie Mercury a decade on, but there's no bad faith here, and it's fun...

Liana Finck. Here's the linck.

... Which hopefully leads me to why I'm sharing the interview here on this blog rather than on, say, twitter. Because it's literally impossible these days to go more than thirty seconds on that site without encountering a fight. Neither that site nor f*c*book are really doing what we want them to any more - which is stay in touch - and they're both on our phones now, and our phones no longer fit our hands, and I'm increasingly concerned about what's in charge of who sees what. Joe Mande posted something beautiful about leaving twitter only today: "That's the problem with most things that are stupid as fuck: they're usually pretty fun" and Rick Webb's Internet Mea Culpa remains very sound, but of course there are many incentives to stay on, because one's work requires attention, so I'll keep linking to the blog on both sites. If you've any comments however, I guess, please post below? Or just enjoy.

(If you're unfamiliar with the work and impact of Kenny Everett - whom I love - you're probably also unfamiliar with Joel Morris and Jason Hazely's "Rule Of Three" podcast - which I also love - so you might want to start with this one.)

And I'm still on instagram. Sure!


 "Well I don't know what we were expecting to see..." muttered Zorian.
 "You - You guys didn't think that was wild?! I thought you'd really dig - No, uh, no problem, there's other sights!" But Plok could see his fare slipping away...

Ilustration by Ed Valigursky.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Teaching Kids to Love Theatre by letting them Hate It

Nige is in a sensational kid's show at the Unicorn Theatre called "The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens". Yesterday afternoon Tom and I went to sit at the back. Most of the rest of the audience were school parties of, I don't know, seven- to ten-year-olds, and witnessing them stand and scream the following at the stage was without a doubt one of the best experiences I've ever had in a theatre:







And one more Nige passed onto us from another afternoon's show: "YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE! YOU STAND WHERE YOU STAND!"

Photos by Camilla Greenwell. Hopefully you can still get tickets here.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

"At just a little under a dollar a word, becoming fluent in Na'vi is a very expensive investment."

Re: the implausibility of humankind ever actually visiting another inhabited plane... Avatar!

Commenting on the previous post @tealin wonders if hopes of encountering higher intelligences might be as much about a kind of "looking-glass colonialism" as they are about angelic conversations, and of course she's right, but the success of "Avatar" suggests a third and opposite fantasy - the desire to re-encounter the "Noble Savage". Were that ever to happen, the video below is probably as accurate a prediction of that encounter as we'll get. Some of my happiest viewing recently has come from discovering and then bingeing upon the work of youtubers who share my fascination with theme parks, and if that sounds niche and crass let me inform you that Lindsay Ellis's piece on Hobbiton was just nominated for a Hugo, so keep up, old-timers! I'll share more of Ellis's stuff in another post - but what we're here to enjoy today is the work of Jenny Nicholson, specifically her hilarious fifty-nine-minute-long account of a visit to the newly opened Avatar theme park in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Why not search for images of "Avatar theme park", and see if you can immediately distinguish
the concept illustrations from photographs of the finished park?

Now I appreciate this might not sound like everyone's cup of tea - an hour-long monologue about a theme park based on a nine-year-old movie - but the sustained simplicity of the presentation is part of Nicholson's genius. My favourite detail is the Jordan Peele-y ambience of dread she notices pervading the park as a result of its invented backstory: the world's indigenous Na'vi have welcomed this second human invasion we're told, there's statues and framed photographs everywhere celebrating human and Na'vi cooperation... but no Na'vi. Nicholson also just describes the rides, and I like just descriptions of rides, I won't lie, but these too add to the portrait of an idea that has over-reached itself just enough to be ceaselessly entertaining. Enjoy...

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

What I REALLY think about Space

Happy St. Earth's Day!
(Africa actually much bigger in real life. How many more mistakes can you spot?)

Below is a terribly on-brand TED talk (painful intro, but good meat) delivering a potted literary history of some of the lunar fantasies which might have inspired space flight, and namechecking Cyrano De Bergerac and the Baltimore Gun Club both of whom can be seen above toasting a cosmonaut alongside Baron Munchausen in one of my favourite films of all time. I'm a sucker for this kind of cataloguing - I love finding out where ideas come from, especially if the results involve illustrations of Jacobeans borne over a pointy island by a rig of geese - and as long term readers of this blog will know, this historical symbiosis of stark pottiness and scientific innovation was a big influence on me finally rolling up my sleeves and writing a whole two episodes of "Time Spanner".

But. There must have been a reason I made the narrator of that show a dead dog, and located its traditional scifi tropes not in outer space but in "Heaven", a dimension of things that don't exist, and with Extinction Rebellion taking so well to the streets I've been growing more honest with myself about exactly what it is I expect humanity to be able to pull off, and reconsidering just how very big space is, and I reckon Alex McDonald's talk misses something very big - that Carl Sagan, who was right about so much, might not have been right about this. Guys... I don't think we're going into Space. Sorry, but even if we survive for another million years I just don't think there's anything out there worth the intergalactic faff. I mean it's really far away, and those tales we told ourselves of other worlds were hangovers from sea-faring days, the hopes of encountering higher intelligences a hangover from angels, and so the idea that these exciting space adventures might have inspired billions upon billions' worth of scientific research seems more hilarious to me now than wonderful. Wasn't "flight" once synonymous with fleeing - hence "fight or flight"?* But we're never leaving home, not really. Because what's out there isn't Heaven, it's at best a well. And however much we lower into it, if there is such a thing as human destiny I'm pretty convinced now that it will be played out on this pale blue dot. We need something else to explore then, which is good news, I think. I don't know what NASA should be doing in the meantime though, apart from splashing out on a few more lady space suits. Drugs?
You're welcome.

Actual size of Africa (from back when BBC1 was the whole world.)

* I also found out recently that "cope" comes from the French "coup", so it's not a synonym for bearing at all in fact, but for fighting. Like I say, I love finding out where ideas come from.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

help (noun)

I thought this was ten years ago. Actually the fire happened on the 8th. Huh. It was painted by Morgan, the next door neighbour who heard Dan's cries for help while I was unconscious from smoke inhalation on the ground floor. That's Dan in the window. Residents of South London, from Brixton to Waterloo to London Bridge to One Tree Hill, might recognise from this some of Morgan's other great works, on shop fronts, shutters, electricity boxes, bins, murals, the Imperial War Museum, and the totem pole on Peckham Rye. And friends and blog readers with excellent memory will know that I moved into his house and found a lot to be very happy about. I started writing "Time Spanner" there, and imagined Martin and Graham living somewhere similar. It's the only home Morgan's ever known, and then last November, on my birthday in fact - the anniversary of Laika's first and only flight into space - I learnt that Lambeth Council were evicting him from it after forty years. It was his mother's council house, and his mother didn't live there any more. That's why I mention it. There was a fund to help him, a legal fund, and the legal fight may now be lost, but Morgan might be homeless this Winter is my point, and he helped save my life what I thought but now realise having checked wasn't ten years ago, and he took in everyone, and I love him, and money might still be useful. If you'd like to donate, go here.

In other words, this call to donate to an "artist's resistance fund" was posted too late. But there's a lot of bad news going round and I couldn't bring myself to add to anyone's fat upload of online grief at the time. So, sorry if that's all this news has done. But Morgan makes me happy, and an introduction to his work is always, I hope, a little like a chink of light. Heavens know we all deserve better, but Morgan most. Here.

And, you know, everywhere. That's a bin.