Sunday, 17 January 2021

Going South at 2am

 This is a photograph of Southwark, but we haven't got there yet. The walk from my flat to Waterloo Bridge is pretty much a straight line. Last night I found this:
 
  I don't know what the sign was for, or if this person's meant to look like they're drowning, but it works on a lot of layers, so I left it alone for others to appreciate. Something else I found on my walk last night:
 

 If you deviate from the straight line, there are tiny entrances to casino car parks, crammed frantically with statues and palm trees, a small garden centre's worth. I left these alone too. Continuing south, I recorded evidence of Theatreland's devastation:

 This play had gone so wrong that literally every word of its title was now back to front. Just south of this, someone had tied the traffic lights together.
 
 I crossed the Thames, into the sanity of Southwark. Nearly every job I'd had in my twenties was here, somewhere along the South Bank. 
 
  After graduation, I got a job at the British Film Institute, working as an usher, or behind the reception desk, or in a little booth in the Museum of the Moving Image where visitors could buy videos of themselves being asked pre-recorded questions by Eamonn Homes or Zig and Zag.
 
 Later, when I moved out of my parents' flat, I worked in another museum behind the Oxo Tower. The theme varied. It was free. Everyone from Shunt happened to work there as well. We froze, and read books.
 
 The Museum Of... had great, rattly animatronics from Tim Hunkin, and a room at the top with a fountain, and shelves stacked with thousands of small Body Shop bottles filled with water from the fountain, bearing labels on which visitors had written decriptions of what made them cry. No one was using these rooms for anything else.
 
 I then worked at the London Dungeons beneath London Bridge station. Shunt coincidentally moved next door the following year. Both venues would occasionally, accidentally, and independently, shut the station down with their smoke machines.  
 
 A lot of the buildings I passed last night must have gone up since then.
 
 Once the Shard was built and the station renovated, my most regular visits to this area were as part of the Ghost Bus Tours, which was started by Big Ben from the Dungeons.
 
  If the tours had time, we'd pull up outside Redcross Way, make everyone get off, and take them into a tunnel whose walls were decorated with a kind of Dalek pelt which, the last time I visited here, I noticed had been stipped of it its nodules. But last night the nodules were back, newly tinted.  
 
 That other tunnel between the eyes is painted with swans, and takes you to the site of a pauper's grave, Crossbones – now a car park – and the memorial garden just beyond. That's is where we'd take the groups.
 
 The garden is fenced with the old car park gates, to which locals tie gifts honouring the "outcast dead" or more recent, personal bereavements. None of this looked any different last night.

 Normally I'd take the riverside walk, but I'd heard hollering from the bank, and while I know that's also what fun can sound like, I favoured the privacy of the main roads.
 
 So, that's how I saw all this shiny new stuff, and it's possible that at two in the morning, at the height of a global pandemic, is the best time to see it. I remember when City Hall was just hoops.
 
 I hope I don't find it too difficult whan I finally have to stop being alone. I turned back when I got to the giant ants.
 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Dr. Stella Nyanzi Has My Attention

"At the risk of sounding crude, I don't think we need more vaginas in power, I've made this point many times. It matters what sort of vagina is entering parliament."
 
 I keep thinking I hate the idea of heroes, and then coming across heroes. According to wikipedia, Stella Nyanzi practices "what scholars have called 'radical rudeness,' which is a traditional Ugandan strategy of calling the powerful to account through public insult." It is glorious to witness. There's more on her "radical rudeness" here, and this might seem an odd day to post such a hopeful video, with the Ugandan elections now over, and opposition leader Bobi Mine apparently under house arrest, but I didn't know about any of this until just a couple of hours ago, and still feel we could all do with a shot of what Dr. Stella Nyanzi is giving out – the courageous, warm and unashamed Yes to this and No to that.

Friday, 15 January 2021

The Evil Lord Such-and-Such Round

 Ahh, Star Wars. 
 All the Star Wars...
 Because, of course, there wasn't just the Star Wars, but all the Star Warses they made as well as the Star Wars! Yes, the success of that first "Episode IV" meant I grew up in a cinematic landscape silly with fantasy, and never had to make do with westerns – whatever westerns were – or, I don't know, kids solving crimes? Knights? What did children get out on video before Star Wars? Did children even get out videos? No, I don't want to have to think about it. Here are pictures from just the tiniest fraction of those other Star Warses, and all you need to do is match – pitch, if you will – these ten baddies...

1.
 
2.
 
3.
 
4.

 
5. 

 
6.
7.

8.
 9.
 10.

 ... to their relevant motley band of heroes. Here's this post again if you think setting them side by side might help. The answers, as ever, will be posted in the comments. And may the path be kind to your protons...

A.
 
B.
C.
D.
 
E.
 
F.
 
G.

 
H.
 
I.
 
J.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Sometimes this blog will just try to describe how good Enrico Colantoni is in "Galaxy Quest".

 An excellent oral history of the Galaxy Quest can be read here
 A lot of great things are also said in the documentary about its making, Never Surrender. What's left unsaid, yet still pleasingly integral to the documentary's structure, is how important Enrico Colantoni, who plays Mathesar, might have been to letting all the love in.
 

 Somehow, immediately upon seeing him, we know Mathesar's not only a genuine extra-errestrial, but that this is not his real body either, and that's a strong start. The alien-as-innocent isn't a new idea, but they'll normally be played as a kind of child-friendly robot butler; this is not how the Thermians are played. They have the monotone of a B-movie aggressor, true, but it's playful rather than haughty, a sign of vulnerablity, as if human speech is a frequency they're constantly having to tune in to. Nothing Mathesar does in the movie will signal anything we've seen before, yet we will understand him perfectly, even painfully. 
 

 Like Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, Colantoni successfully imagined the expression of emotion in a body just one day old. Below is the scene screenwriter Robert Gordon said was the moment he finally knew what he was doing, before going on to write what David Mamet apparently descibed as one of only four perfect movies ever made; if you haven't seen Galaxy Quest, it's a very safe film to watch with someone for the first time – as my support bubble happily proved – so, like Mamet, I recommend it, but maybe don't watch this next clip. If, however, you've seen it, you know what's coming, because every decision Colantoni makes here is unforgettable.
 

 And Tim Allen's definitely great too, isn't he, faced with this, and suffering what Alan Rickman apparently called "a sudden attack of acting" (though, arguably, Allen seems more comfortable playing a version of himself than Alan.) Maybe Mamet was right. Everyone does seem to get everything right. Like Casablanca, this is one of those films that's Great because it's great. Casablanca though, on top of everything else, had an actual War going on to help with the emotional heft. But Galaxy Quest, on top of everything else, has Enrico Colantoni.
 
I wonder if Nancy Pelosi's also a fan.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

"Let me blame"

  More bits of walk. (I don't know how closely you follow Hansard, but they've closed the golf courses.) If you prefer, imagine these images filled with birds I was simply too slow to photograph: plodding coots, seagulls, adolescent grey-billed swans and row upon row of crenellating pigeons. Imagine seed and freshly peeled fruit along the tow path. Imagine clear water, because the water was very clear today, and clouds that come down to your socks.