What a glorious bastard Tarantino is…


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It took me a while but I just nicked into see Tarantino’s latest just before it ended its run.  And I’m awful glad I did.  This has many of Tarantino’s trademarks; crazy characters, led by Brad Pitt in a much more successful comedy role than he could pull off in the Coen Brothers’ lamentable Burn After Reading, but nevertheless outshone by the astounding revelation that is Christoph Waltz as the “Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa – this is surely destined to go down as one of the most absurd and memorable character parts in cinema history; crazy dialogue (but less cod philosophy than normal, indeed I’d say the whole thing is more godlike than codlike); insane violence (although slightly reined in compared to Reservoir Dogs), inappropriate music and sheer madness (like the occasional funky graphics that pop up).

But this is a Tarantino movie that really makes you think.  It looks stunning thanks to the classy cinematography and the concept, a mass extermination of the leading lights of the Third Reich, is in itself unlikely and interesting.

It’s slow too.  Very slow in places, but Tarantino uses that to really create almost unbearable tension, particularly in the opening 20 minutes and in the German bar scene.

It’s not without its faults.  The double sabotage denouement is really quite silly actually and the faux Italian saboteurs are too slapstick for my liking but it held my attention, vice-like, for a very long time.

But it is ultimately a thing of great beauty and class.  It has stuck with me all of the day after viewing and made me want to go back for second helpings.

Confined Human Condition by Cryptic


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This was the first time I’d seen a Cryptic production and it certainly will not be the last.  It’s a double header with the first, The Baghdad Monologue, featuring a performance in silhouette behind three semi opaque white perspex screen shrouded in wire cage set to an interesting soundtrack by Alejandro Vinao and performed by Frances M Lynch.

This show was the best lit theatre production I have ever seen.  Congratulations go to Nich Smith. Technically stunning!  But the performance too was gripping and interesting as it charts the point of view of an Iraqi woman who has lost her son, Kamil.  It’s a brilliant satire and critical annihilation of Bush and his “Shock and Awe” strategy that is ultimately as moving as it is visually compelling.

The second is equally clever technically, Terror of Love finds a woman (Lore Lixenberg) trapped among her dreams on a viscious red Chaise Longue.  Behind her through back lit mirrors her dreams come to life as Clare Roderick gradually strips naked.  It’s entertaining certainly but lacked the resonance of the first.

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Nevertheless, the evening as a whole is highly recommended.

Recent reading. The maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills


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In contrast to the aforementioned D-Day, The Maintenance of Headway could be consumed in an afternoon.  It’s the sixth novel (it’s a novella actually) by one of my favourite British writers; the bus driver who is Magnus Mills.

And this book is clearly autobiographical as it is something of an essay on the issues that face bus drivers in an unnamed city sporting an Arch and a Bejewelled Highway that must be Oxford Street.  It has certain similarities to his earlier masterpiece (the Scheme for full employment – an allegory based, I think on Napoleon’s grand scheme of the same name). Similar, but totally different, and, I think, less allegorical.  It has no real beginning, middle and end.  It has no plot to mention but it is a delightful and whimsical take on the little things that drive people’s day-to-day existences in whatever line of employment they find themselves.

Spats, cliques, politics all brew up as the depot’s drivers face up the inspectors in a class ridden micro ecosystem.

The mantra that bus drivers should be ‘driven’ by “the maintenance of headway” challenges individuals on a daily basis.  The ultimate goal of every driver is to finish his (or her) shift a few minutes early and keep moving throughout their day.  The inspectors are driven barmy by early running buses even though the population at large continue to arrive at bus stops early fully expecting their buses to arrive late.

Mills gentle humour is punctuated by the odd outburst of totally unexpected foul language by one of the more aggressive and anti-establishment drivers which makes for laugh out loud moments.

Magnus Mills is a national treasure.  Take this book to your heart.  A stunning return to form after his weakest outing to date (Explorers of the New Century).  Read it as a companion piece to The Scheme for Full employment then delve into his back catalogue.  I promise you much joy.

recent reading. D-Day by Antony Beevor


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It took longer for me to read this than it took the Allies to take Paris.  That’s because it is an intense and extremely detailed account of the D-Day landings, the Normandy battles and the march to Paris.  It covers the action from four sides; the British under Monty (portrayed as a fool throughout by Beevor – he clearly has a thing against Monty), the Americans under Patton (The top dog in Beevor’s eyes),  the Germans under Hitler and Kluge and the French under De Gaul.

Actually, the D Day section is no more than quarter of the book.  The vast majority is dedicated to the battles in Normandy, and focusses heavily on the ultimate victory when the allies trapped the Germans in the Falaise Pocket.  His description of the feelings of the Allies landing on the beaches of Normandy are so vivid and visceral that it makes you flinch.

If you don’t like extreme detail this book will not be for you, but if you can deal with the unceasing map reading and referencing, and if understand your east from your west and your left flank from your right you may well love this.  The language is real and hugely engaging.  But the thing that really grips one in reading this account is the huge degree of human suffering, unneccessary death and the sheer scale of retribution, rape, murder and looting that went on on all sides.

The French play a big part in this book as both heroes (it would not have happened without The French Resistance) and villians (there was an incredible amount of both forced and willing prostitution going on all over France).

For me the single most engrossing aspect of the whole thing is Beevor’s description of The Bocage.  Thousands of tiny Normandy fields with huge hedgerow surrounding them that had to be taken on a field by field basis with German booby traps and dug in Panzers everywhere.  To say progress was slow and dangerous would be the understatement of the century.

Beevor’s skill is to turn the delivery of historic fact into a form of prose that grips one from start to finish.  He truly is a unique talent.  Stalingrad is equally compelling and I would not hesitate to recommend either of them.

The NABS Music Quiz 2009


The Nightfly

The Nightfly

Oh, what a night.  In the end 72 finely honed competitors turned up for the third NABS music quiz, including reigning champions Multiply who doubled up their effort to see if they could defend their hard fought trophy.  But they were reckoning without Mino (Fucking) Russo who ringed for the winning team.  More on that later.

From my perspective the night got off to a stinker.  Jeana, who had the PA, the questions (and answers) and the marking team in the boot of her car chose to leave the house (40 minutes away) at the time I asked her to arrive.  As a consequence a great cloud of gloom and frustration hung over the Nightlfly’s head (that’s me) as we set up at the last minute.

Not a moment was available to spin those wheels of steel.  In fact the wheels of fucking steel weren’t even working to begin with.

But in time we got things going and the evening commenced with a satisfying enough and incident free first round about numbers in songs.

Hmmm.  Interesting speech Kate.

Hmmm. Interesting speech Kate.

Team names were as good as you’d imagine from the creative world.  ie not very.

Thin Quizzy

The STV opt outs

Troy Division

Michael Barrymore’s swimming club (who were deducted a point for bad taste)

Guy Robertson’s Home Wreckers

Quiz De Burgh

Let’s get quizzical (surely googled)

Drumb and Drumber and Richard the C***

Now, the Drum were publicly admonished for calling their editor a C*** in the team mate and also docked a point.  I can reveal that this issue rolled on post match and after consultation with his mother Richard has confirmed that the team name was indeed appropriate and the point has subsequently been reinstated, not that it matters because they were pish.  (Coming in 16th of 18).  Well I caveat that; they were excellent in the musicals round where Stephen (the virgin) Lepitak showed all the skills of a forty something housewife and swept the board.  (Shame they didn’t play their joker, which in fact they did in the first round with all the tactical nous of Kevin Keegan.)

We go to 11 (get it?  I didn’t.  It’s a Spinal tap ref)

Def Lepers (nice)

Jackson 4 (tasteful)

Anyway.  Round 5 had to be cancelled  (the highly controversial itunes genre round) because I forgot to print out the answers and my entire family fell out with me because their late arrival had set a 9.6 out of 10 stress level in me and I was a touch touchy to begin with.

But as the evening wore on it became more and more convivial with record bar takings.

The bonus points awarded to best dancers for The Time Warp were scooped by The STV Opt Outs which helped them in their bitter war of attrition with the Scotsman (Thin Quizzy) with the final result being a wafer thin victory to STV (88.5 and a creditable 5th place) to The Scotsman’s (87 and 7th place).

It ain't fucking 'strictly' is it...

It ain't fucking 'strictly' is it...

In the end quality shone through and Newhaven’s team led by Troy Farnsworth (Troy Division) held out to win back the trophy they won in the inaugural competition in 2007 by 7 points to beat Spinal Crap into second (after a stewards enquiry arithmetical incompetence by my daughter Amy revealed that the team we thought were second (the DP’s) were in fact third with 91.)

The scoreboard (note lack of fifth round)

The scoreboard (note lack of fifth round)

That means Mino (fucking) Russo got his hands on the trophy for the second time.  He worked at Fopp you know.  He may be banned next time from playing a ringer’s role.

Mino (fucking) Russo and 'that'

Mino (fucking) Russo and 'that'

Recent listening – a Hidden gem


Eg White is pretty much unknown.  Well, have you heard of him?

Initially he and his brother were in an 80’s band called Brother Beyond who had a number two hit with “the harder I try”.

He left the band and in 1991 released a masterpiece with Alice Temple (as Eg and Alice) called 24 years of hunger.  It is one of my favourite pop recrords of all time.  Beautiful, poignant and with superbly crafted electronic songs.

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We’ve had to wat 18 years for its follow up, Adventure man, which I discovered in the secondhand section at Avalanche late last week.

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But he hasn’t been posted missing totally, initially joining the Stock, Aitken and Waterman writing team in the late 80’s he has penned hits for Alison Moyet, Duffy, adele, Sophie Ellis Bexter, James Morrison, James blunt (rhymes with….), Emilianna Torrini.

He wrote ‘Chasing Pavements’ for Adele (the stand out track on her excellent album) as well as Warwick Avenue (the stand out track on Duffy’s debut.)

So the boy can write.  (indeed he’s won a bunch of Ivor Novello’s)

And me, well I think he can sing too.  On Adventure Man things pretty much take up where ’24 years’ left off.  He doesn’t have a classic voice, it’s a bit on the thin side but it’s the songs that count and in ‘But California’,’ Broken‘ and ‘My People’ he has three songs that will finish the year among the top of the year.

But you know what?  Unless you do something about it he will remain in public obscurity whilst being a megastar industry-side.