That annoying man in the voting booth

So I went a-voting, and it was a council election.

I know that our national democracy is a deliberately-broken sham, but I went in not even knowing what system the local elections use. Often, different elections even in the same country use different systems. Even the political parties don't use first past the post to elect their own leaders.

So then I faced the voting slip: put down two crosses. Each party except the TUSC had two candidates, meaning you could vote for the Sam England party twice.

I backed out of the booth and asked for the system to be explained to me.

How hard can it be, they must have thought - you put two crosses down with the same party. Then these crosses are counted up. Why are you finding this so difficult?

So many questions I had about how this stupid voting system works, and it came across as 'how do I vote?'
I wanted to know if the votes for different councillors from the same party would be counted separately or together. I wanted to know if we were voting in blocks or as a single city. I wanted to know why such an obviously flawed system was being used for a city-wise election, when counting. Why were there two options for the main parties, when this meant I ran the risk of splitting my own vote and having neither vote count for anything.

I had so many questions, but i was answered s someone who'd simply asked 'where do I put a cross' or 'who do I vote for?'

If I came across as stupid, it's because the system was so warped that I couldn't even begin to ask. Or maybe just that the voting help people only ran on certain lines and weren't ready for a discussion about why the whole thing was futile.

Either way, it made me look stupid and annoying and like I was making a fuss out of nothing.

Bear that in mind next time you see someone like that. Maybe they're not the problem.


Boss baby issues

I watched boss baby several times with the children and I need to say a few things about it:

Complete lack of breast feeding. It's bottle all the way in this film, maybe they thought that breast feeding was inappropriate in a children's film, which itself is just a symptom of how wierd our culture is.

You might think this is excused by the 'magic baby formula' plot, but it isn't because at the end, we see the new-born baby drinking from a bottle straightaway. 

This film is such a missed opportunity. It's a great concept, that works as a really great metaphor for a new baby's control freakery, especially seen through the eyes of an older, previously only, child.

That metaphor last until about 20 minutes into the film, for which time it is an effective and heart-rending look at the trials of being new parents for the 2nd time, and the impact on the forgotten first child.

However it is at this point replaced for the remainder of the film by a plot strung together with flimsy dream-logic that is completely meaningless, other than as a bizarre device to allow the two children to get along. The metaphor is completely abandoned, which is a shame because it almost moves into more sophisticated territory by talking about a lowering birth 
-rate. The problem is that apparently this is happening because puppies are so cute.

That's not a real problem. I they had *even metaphorically* referenced the real world it could have been a decent twist, but it's just complete nonsense. So you switch off.

Then I thought, well maybe the dream logic hour of the film could make sense, if this section was actually a dream. Elder child could have fallen asleep at the point they get out of bed and discover boss baby on the phone, up until when he gets up again and goes downstairs. 

Still, doesn't make sense. We see plenty of times the reality, from the parents perspective, where the children are playin mildly - telling the audience 'this is an exaggerated version of reality' rather than just pointless nonsense. We'd also have to accept the baby arriving home twice, since he had already turned up, well before we can establish a dream sequence.

There's no way to save this film. Why is sad, because when you watch something like Inside Out, you have to admire the effort that went into making the cold outside reality parts make sense. You can string together the reality parts of that film and it works as a drama. But nothing makes sense at any level in boss baby.

Also: the boss-as-a-baby metaphor doesn't work, which is sad because there are some decent trump-style metaphors that are missed.

Also, my 3yo son watching it was deeply influenced by the angry boss lady in baby land. That's his first impression of a ladyboss and it will stick with him. That's real harm the film makers have done.


My satan

My Satan is my hero.

I've known a little about 'modern' satanism for some time, but I've known less than i thought. I always thought of satanism as being like Buddhism, where the character is revered but not worshipped. They are seen as an ideal, as an example, but not as a deity. 

Watching 'Silicon Valley', and the 'I'm a satanist, me' character Gilfoyle, gave me the impetus to get off my arse and do my reading. I was disappointed in what the Levyan Sayanists believe, which ends up in Social Darwinism and self-centred philosophies akin to Ayn Rand. 

I was surprised by this, as that's not my Satan. Mine is the Satan of Milton, who fights tyranny. When the rebels are sent down to hell, the first act is to build a parliament, not a dictatorship. Satan is the embodiment of 'you can do what you like to me, but I'm going to do it anyway' punk. 

My Satan is the Orc of Blake - Jesus in his rebellious spirit, and if Blake thought he wasn't shaping this character from Satan, why would he call him a name meaning 'from hell'? My Satan isn't waiting for anybody else to reward him in the afterlife; he's going to build Jerusalem here. Now. My Satan isn't going to wait for the second (or even first) coming; he is his own messiah.

My Satan fights illegitimate authority. My Satan does not ignore the dispossessed, but fights for them. My Satan is not a social Darwinist - that's the establishment mindset. He's egalitarian.

Thinking back, what this tells me that what Satan is, is a blank slate. I see what I want to see, the Levyans see what they want. We make our own heroes by projecting what we want onto legendary figures. What I have done is no different to the tump voters who bizarrely (to outsiders) see a Christian patriot where there is no such thing.  

There is no Satan; my Satan is just as real as anybody else's. The point is about my Satan, is that it's me.

Which is strange, because 'be your own messiah' or 'be your own role model' are maxims I've had for a while. My role model for 'being your own messiah' was Satan. And hear I am, realising that what I mean is 'be your own Satan.'
In other words, be your own hero.

[some credit must go to the book 'tell me a dragon' for the pluralism in this post]


Killing music

Streaming services are killing music

Reissues are killing music

Laptop speakers are killing music.

If anyone wants t-shirts with these slogans, please send me your address.

From an improvised email:

'Reissues are killing music (and they should be illegal)'
I wish there were no reissues/repressing. i wish if you wanted to find that archive record that Mojo magazine had on the cover, you had to get out to a record fair and dig on your hands and knees until you found it (like in that episode of black books), churning up loads of other lost gems in the process.
case in point: I recently acquired an LP of Julie Tipett's record "sunset glow" for the sole reason that it is mentioned in Robert Wyatt's biography as 'a companion to [his magnum opus] Rock Bottom'; perhaps they were written about the same holiday in Tenerife, or just capture the same vibe? Julie tippets seems to have only three mentions in the biography but they appear to have been very close.
According to discogs, the album has only been reissued once during the 90s, and then only on CD. 
The sender included the original inner sleeve, as well a more recent improvement to actually house the disc. It is an utterly excellent record, heavy psychedelic jazz. No-one I know (outside of the bloke in the record shop) has heard of it. It's not on Spotify.

my local record shop is drowning in nostalgic deluxe reissues and carrying very little actual new music. new artists are strangled like by the parasitic vines of their parents' and grand parents' back catalogues. Old records should just I saw that SFA were putting out a reissue of Radiator, with a 2nd cd of all the bsides. Great, I thought, at last, I could get all the SFA b-sides I always wanted. basketed it. and then... realised I neither needed nor wanted nor deserved it. I decided not to go back, dwell in the past in the familiar warm glow of 90s necrostalgia, but save my money for new and informative experiences. Experiences that make me feel like I'm still alive, rather than that life was something that happened when I was young.

What's more, what you say about the sounds quality is critical, but you forget that 90s records were mastered for 90s stereos and 90s ears. you physically can never hear those records again, even with the unremastered version in your hands. I never heard much of Smashing pumpkins or Manic street preachers at the time; they sound terrible to my new ears now. you can't go back.

CEX have stopped selling CDs. that's how bad things have got. there is such an incredible glut of physical media that it's impossible to even sift through anymore, unless the stock is curated. So reissues are criminal, in a world of landfill-oriented music product.

The same problem in computer games, where backwards compatibiltiy is not remotely a thing; Try to track down Tony Hawk 3 (the best in the series, according to considered opinions); all you can get these days, unless you buy an actual PS2, is the HD remastered collection that grabs bits and bobs from different games (despite this being inferior to TH3). These nintendo things they're bringing out now have an air of completeness, but it's a complete illusion, like the idea that spotify is 'all music ever'. It's not, and it's dangerous to think that it is. it's revisionist necrostalgia. it's how the past gets massaged into an easily digested narrative that ignores the real richness, fertility, of cultural history.

Just don't get me started on streaming music services. They offer all the convenience and none of the support. They are murdering music.

I don't know about Bandcamp. I like what they do, I like what they offer, I like that they stop you freeloading if you try to listen to something more than a few times without paying. But what appended to taking a risk? Buying an album because you liked the singles? I'm inclined to return to an older model with my next release: put up a shareware version, which is the first three-or-so tracks. Buying the record gets you access to the whole thing. This is basically what singles, or radio play, used to function as.

the confounding thing is earache records' "high dynamic range" master series - reissues that are meant to sound as un-compressed as they did back in the day. a brave thing to do in the metal world arms race. 
"what's this? [holds up finger horizontally]"
i don't know..?
"a babymetal waveform".
I think that's actually a very good joke if you visualise it. also it's a reference to a series of jokes in Asterix (where the finger represents a how a very strong man might hammer in a a nail) that might be a bit a obscure.

New standards of revue 2

A few posts ago (about 18 months (at time of writing, many more have passed) I wrote about new ways of looking at reviewing; so i might give a numerator as well as a denominator, to reflect the scope of the art i was reviewing, so that we could give a small mobile game 2/2, which sounds good but limited, compared to giving a terrible film 2/10.

I've a couple more here.

The first is a biggy and has been playing on my mind for awhile; it came up in conversation today when I thought everyone knew I used it, and it involves moving out of just one dimension of quality.

When I'm evaluating something, I've noticed there tends to be three dimensions I judge it on. These are Quality, Fun, and Novelty; and by separating them out, wecan be more precise about exactly where things succeed and where they try to succeed.

This three-mark way of looking at art was inspired by 'school of saatchi', which for its faults, tried to grade different artworks by looking at three criteria, which I cannot find the exact wordings of, but I belive to be technique, originality, and emotional impact. I've adapted them.

Note that I'm not suggesting everything has to have all of these elements every time, but if it doesn't have any, then what you have is simply filler. Something that's only good for dodging the void with.

Quality sounds straightforward, but we need to be careful what elements fall under it; it's a purely technical achievement. So quality is a matter of technique; it's craft, not art, and should be quite objective to measure. Quality is the difference between a record sounding like a demo, and sounding polished and professional. It doesn't affect the content. So beyond just looking professional, this aspect deals with how proficient the craftsmanship, and how many technical skills are on display.

Of course, there can be many dimensions to this; early Billy Bragg recordings are very lo-fi, and 'The milkman of human kindness' wouldn't be improved by adding a 4-minute shredding solo, but they're still well-crafted songs, that are professionally performed. That might unravel this whole sytem, I'm not sure.

Next, how fun is the work?
Is 'fun' subective? It might sound like it, but I think you can quantify the fun in something.
It's not just how many laughs are in a work, but I think it's analogous to how much love the work was made with. This is why I find Bal-sagoth fun, even though they make their music with po-faced seriousness. You can usually spot fun as 'how much fun do the people creating it appear to be having?' An injection of fun should never take away from an overall serious piece; The Wire (more on that later) has elements of humour, without which it would be unbearable. A smattering of humour, of clear love for subject matter, can get you to carry

lastly, how interesting is the work?
Interesting comes in a number of names. Shannon called it 'information' and defined it as how predictable a message is - in other words, what were the chances of sending that exact message?
For me, this is the difference between Art and Craft. Craft is all about technique, about predictability, reproducability. It should do the same thing every time. Building a piano is a craft. Writing a song on a piano is an art, because there's no point in writing the same song twice.

This is exactly why some music, some film, some games, definitely are craft more than art. I've danced to music for half an hour that went nowhere; every bar was the same as the last, and there was no information in the music after the first 10 seconds. That's fine if that's what you want, but its not art, its a workout. Compare this to a well-worked track like, i dunno, 'Sidewalk Serfer girl' by Super furry animals, where every single bar sounds different; every reprise has something different in its production, and you can tell exactly where you are in the song just by hearing one fragment.

Free Jazz has a problem with this, because while like white noise, it is inherently unpredictable, it can end up sounding samey. Even though noise is random on a bit-by-bit basis, it is entirely predictable on a second-by-second basis. So this one might depend on your expertise. And of course, recontextualising something can be an interesting thing to do. that depends on how it is done.

Interestingness is what T. McKenna would have called 'novelty'. How new, how much rich information, how radical, original is the message? These are the works that stick in your head, the ones that change direction or surprise you. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Ephel Duath's 'the passage'; from the first notes, it did not sound like anything else on the sampler I was listening to, or anything else I'd heard before.

I think this interestingness is what I meant by the 'fuckin ell' test I wrote about last time. So an emotional reaction is also a mark of being interesting.  I mentioned fun, but emotions

The Wire ticks all the boxes like nothing else.


Another way of looking at culture: A test.

I had a conversation with a friend some years ago, about (i think) the film 'chronicle': the end result was we wished we'd just watched 'Primer' again.

Today I am faced with the same problem: Do I watch Gilliam's 'Zero Theorem' for the first time, or his classic 'Brazil' for the maybe 5th time? Should I watch 'The Fog', or 'Wild Zero' for the 3rd time?

In this age of having the choice to program our own entertainment, would I get more out of watching a rich, well-loved classic again, and reliving it, or injecting a new and different work?

In the bit above where I talked about the novelty, or interestingness, of a work as one of three strands to its success, it not be obvious that some works are rich enough to give more information on subsequent viewings (for instance), than others on their first view.

This is something you can only know in retrospect. Like the "fuckin' 'ell!" test, it's worth just checking after you've experienced something.

Squid joke paradox

how do you tell the difference between two squid?
You can't, they're itentacle.

But that doesn't quite work, because 'identity' implies they're different, and makes me want to change the joke to the opposite meaning 'check their identity card',  and any way squid don't have teeth so you can't check their dental records. anyway.

Lost in meaning and semantics and etymology.


The girls of NausicaƤ

Nausicaa has become one of my favourite films. It's an explicitly Eco-feminist story; at one point a cargo-hold full of refugee mothers pleads with her to stop the men from fighting their idiotic wars. That blunt moment comes at the heart of a thorough examination of war, environmental destruction, and petty nationalism.

I worry that she is a little too perfect. She's an expertly sword fighter, an expert pilot, a botanist, friend to the animals, an ecologist, a lover of everything, a steadfast worker towards peace who holds her principals through thick and thin. In other words, she has the kind of character stats it would be impossible to roll-up. That makes her a little bit less sympathetic. 

She's also built.  I'm not sure how I feel about how 'well drawn' she is. On the one hand, she's a woman, and women have bodies, and to deny her female physique would be to deny her gender.  I think there are a few unnecessary shots of her in the film, but then I hear how my lady tracks about Tom Hardy, an I think 'well, maybe it's ok for a hero to be beautiful'.

All that is a bit vague. I mainly wanted to provoke a discussion About her foil, Kushana, and how she's different in the comic - and which representation is more feminist..?

In the film, Kushana is a pretty straightforward baddie. Having a female baddie is I think an especially good move, because it makes the gender axis more complicated and less black-and-White. Having a female hero and villain shows that women are not one easy-to-define group. Whilst nausicaa is fighting overwhelmingly male forces - both physical and socially - the film puts men and women on both sides of the conflict, and is richer for it.

The comic complicates Kushana's character. In the film, the only excuse for her behaviour offered is that she lost some limbs to an insect when she was young, and this has made her a less empathetic character. On the other hand, In the comic, she has been sent to fight a lost cause and die by her father the emperor and her domineering brothers; she might be the local baddie, but she has been sold out by what can only be described as Patriarchy. This puts her back into the 'smash patriarchy' camp in the story (which i haven't finished reading yet)

 The film works because it sells you a feminist message and gives women screen time on both sides of the conflict. The book works because it provides another example of women being put down by men. So which of these depictions is... Better? 


On watching star wars for the first time

from 2 years ago:

Ez and I watched star wars - the film, that is - and I have much to report.
Watching her watching the film has given me some fresh insights that, over thirty-odd years of exposure to the star wars universe, I have overlooked.

This event was spurred on by meeting her friend Wilfred in the park, who has been eaten by the franchise to the point of running around the park dressed as a storm trooper.

For comparison, the version watched was the rip of the final VHS release, as this is the only way to watch the film as seen in cinemas (even if the quality is not great). I'm currently downloading Harmy's despecialised editions, but we'll have to wait for that.

Firstly, to get out this out of the way, it is a massive honkysausagefest and that's a real shame. Ez found it hard that, despite Leiagh being a princess and kick arse, she does only have about 10 minutes of screen time in the whole film. I plan on channeling his frustration into a song called 'white space conflict'.

Ez - being under 4, at time of watching -'s attention did wander, but always came back and when asked said she wanted to keep it on.

Firstly, it's full of psychobabble that simply wasn't make to make sense. Words are invented in completely throwaway sentences, in quite a method-acty way; we don't know what the words mean, but we totally get what they mean, if you follow. 

An early example:
"This R2 unit has a bad motivator." 

Well, a motivator is easy enough to process, but do we know what an r2 unit is? Well, yes and no. We can infer very quickly, from context, that it's a particular type of robot, and that from this specificity, there must be lots of other types of robots - like all the ones seen in the jawa's land crawler. They probably all have names and manufacturers too. But we don't need to know. It's just a little glimpse, enough to know there is a big detailed universe here, but actually it hasn't been instantiated yet. In fact, you think, when they need to, they will simply procedurally generate more names and information. 

Another example, same scene: uncle Owen is looking for android that speaks the binary language of moisture compactors (or whatever) and Baachi. I have a strong feeling that no one involved with the making of the film knew or cared what Baachi is. They just needed a word, and that was the word. 

More than the odd word, there are whole lines or short scenes of untranslated alien dialogue. Lucas gets a lot of well-deserved stick for the Star Wars holiday special, starting with the half hour of untranslated wookie-speak. But sections of untranslated dialogue are all over the tattooine section of SW - like the droids in the sandcrawler, or the aliens in the pub. In these contexts, it definitely feels method acty, because although we don't understand the specifics, we get the tone, the intention, and the point, and that's really what they're trying to communicate; as well as the confusion itself, the dizzying strangeness of the unknown.

But even then, it's full of nameless images that are great ideas and haven't yet been nailed down. They never use phrases like 'x wing', 'tie fighter', 'star destroyer'. All of that came later. Let me stress this; a tie fighter in SW is simply an 'imperial fighter', described as being 
short range. TIE of course stands for 'twin ion engine', an imaginary method of propulsion of this craft that looks like it could never fly in atmosphere. But that isn't in SW; in SW, it's just a cool looking space ship.

All of this, as well as the spit-&-polish, cardboard-&-sawdust special effects, gives the film a free-wheeling punk feeling. They've got a classic story, but thickly smeared on top of it is a tonne of spontaneous nonsense. In the time since it's release, all the gaps have been filled in, and I think that's a shame. It detracts from the feeling that there wasn't a master plan here at all - it was just crazy random ideas, and that's a good thing. The film, SW, doesn't pander to viewers by explaining what all these things are - it doesn't know either, but every little made up reference and bit of lingo hints at an as-yet non-existent wider universe. The sense you get is that of being lost in this exciting world without a guide - luke skywalker is the closest thing to one, poking at a falcon's console and asking what the buttons do, but even he talks in the invented references of this galaxy. 

I mean, who cares that a parsec is a unit of distance, not of time? I mean, I do, but I love that they didn't know or care. Like I said, punk, but also my often made point that SW is not sci-fi (or even the more general speculative fiction).

It's not all good news though. The violent 'goodies and baddies' script of the film deeply affected the games she began playing, and I didn't like it - I'd go as far as to say the over-simplified, black and white, good vs evil tone of the film is something that should have been left in the fifties and boys-own stories.

It's not that the film is especially violent by modern standards, but it is very much about the good guys shooting and killing the bad guys (even if it's in self defence). All of this fed into ezme's imagination for some time, although I think she's out of that phase now. It's also more evidence that boyish behaviour is a cultural, rather than genetic, phenomenon.

One more up-shoot of this, that really strikes me, is that in SW, Vader is not Luke's father, and he's definitely not Leiah's dad either. He's just a big baddy (and don't forget, Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin) was billed above Vader at the time). I will be writing up a quick post in future about the differences between reveals, twists, and retcons, as it's something that irks me when people confuse them, but there is nothing to say that in this film, that was the plot line. 

That's part of the joy of watching something that was sequelled into being less good than it was at the time. I plead with you, parents: When your child asks you any questions about this film, don't fill in with knowledge from after the fact, or the prequels, or the expanded universe. Just relish in the joy of being lost in space.

Confusion and partridge-like geek frustration reigned however, when Mum told Ez that Obi Wan was really Luke's dad. That's one we'll have to shake off when I think she's old enough to watch Star Wars 2 (as I am calling Empire).

edit: SW2 scared her and now she doesn't want to watch any of the films anymore. Fine, say I. Just wait until she's old enough for Mononoke.

One final thought: When I wrote this, you saw kids wearing Star Wars Tshirts all of the time; but 9/10 are Lego Star Wars. Now they're  back to wearin greal star wars; but 9/10 of them are plastered with space nazis. It makes me really uncomfortable that they make the baddies look so merchandisable.


referendum 2

The tories who have ended up in charge are interpreting the 'exit' vote as a 'hard brexit', although they have nothing to base this on. Given that the vote was not a big lead - and only half the country voted - it seems opportunistic to only listen to the most hardline europhobes.
Given our complete lack of leverage, a hard brexit seems like maybe the only option, because Europe keep saying to us things like 'you can't have access to the free market and not have freedom of movement' which ends up with us cutting off our nose to spite our face, throwing our toys out of the pram, and ultimate crashing the country. Of course, a ruined economy would only increase the government's push for continuing austerity - they're running out of fictional reasons to prolong it, so they need to manufacture some more bad times for us. And of course when I say 'austerity', i mean 'transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich'.

It would only be in the character of our democracy (such that it is) to have another referendum, this time with more options:

the 52% - surely diminished, now that the obvious lies of the exit leaders have been exposed - will be split between three options, and the reamins side will win, and we can all get on with our lives without deliberately taking our country back into some sort of alternate reality where the winter of discontent never ended.


War bastard

We went to a story telling festival in Martineau gardens today. The final story was a Levantine folk tale about people are afraid of the truth but love stories, so every story should contain some truth.

Jeremy Corbyn is the weary truth-teller the media have ignored. I don't know if I blame him for being ignorable, or the monolithic media - who have learned that all attention is good attention and so the best way to damn a labour leader is to silence them. Plus, how vile his party were towards him destabilised the whole party.

He is a leader who was supposed to have unified his party as pro-European. Europe is usually the downfall of the tories, the issue that exposes how fragmented and infighty they are. Labour officially declared as 'remain', and yet allowed individuals to argue the other way, apparently without looking turbulent. But then, labour didn't look anything throughout the campaign. Sitting back and letting the tories tear themselves apart looks like it could have been quite a good strategy. Unfortunately, the result is that the bullshitters won, virtually unopposed.

The emergence of the scatter-shot-bullshit politician, in the age of big data, is an absurdity that should not stand. Fact-checking organisations, Programmes like 'more or less', shouldn't be fringe news, they should be mandatory. Corbyn took his authority from an educated position, compared with anti-intellectual tories, who dismiss racism and innuendo as 'the rough and tumble of politics'. He spoke honestly, and when he countered the bullshit coming from Cameron, was ignored with attacks on his appearance.

The victory of 'leave' shows us people listen to strong stories. Corbyn's absence from headlines shows us the truth is not enough. We need a labour leader with not just the truth of the sold-out generation, but the anger of them too.

The working class of this country have been abuse and neglected by their governments, then set loose on a bystander, like a tortured dog attacking the first thing in sight rather than the person who has been twisting it for years. 

I think we need a labour leader with the outrage to make the headlines but the academic clout to back it up. We need John Hurt as the War Doctor; not the one we got in the 50th anniversary special, who actually was a bit of a Corbyn, but the one we were promised: a soldier who had the bravery to do what it takes against an abominable foe. We have to face the fact that Blair is the only labour leader to have won an election in - what is it now - 40 years..? We need a war bastard. Can Corbyn be that war bastard? 

But I don't think it'll make any difference. In the fight for votes, the tories and the anti-labour papers will still rubbish whatever labour says, regardless of the truth. They can make a story of any strength they like, because they are not bound by the truth. Do we just have to wait until Rupert Murdoch dies?


experiment in creating a bandcamp playlist with html

It's great how the bandcamp system works, interacting between tracks and even between pages, however it doesn't seem to flow through between these individual tracks. What's more, creating this flow-through page took too many clicks to add each track and I long for a quick and easy bandcamp playlister.

There would be complications with releases that request you purchase after a couple of listens, but actually, that's less of a problem and more of a great thing, if you're listening to a playlist too much you probably should open your wallet and buy those tracks.


on Crimson Peak for those who have watched it.

If you haven't watched it, what ever I say below, I think it's worth a watch. I liked it.

If you have, well...ell, Crimson Peak is a film built almost entirely out of references. It's Rebecca, Macbeth, Usher, Dracula, woman in black, Amnesia the Dark Descent (or just shares influences, I doubt gdt has played that), and every other gothic thing you can put into spot (makes me wonder what I missed). The main character's surname 'Cushing' tells you all you need to know; if you don't know why that's significant, maybe you're not going to understand this film beyond the surface level.

It does this to a point that begins to feel a bit Alan Moore; the point where one character finishes one sentence with 'the horror', and starts the next with the same phrase, feels like the 'showing your work gone mad'ness of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

There's another plot area that really felt Moorish to me too; the protagnist Edith is an author and near the start spells out the point of the film. 'Its not a Ghost Story', she says 'it's a story with ghosts in it. The ghosts are just metaphors for the past'.

Indeed, like any good GDT film (i.e. not Pacfic Rim), as grusome as the ghosts are, it is the people who are the monsters. Edith's comment is not just a snarky 'ooh i'm so clever' one-liner, but a massive shovel in the face telling you THIS IS FICTION, A METAPHOR, IT HAS A DEEPER MEANING IF YOU LOOK FOR IT.

There isn't much discussion of the nature of her book in the film, apart from one pivotal dialogue, where she tells Tom that she doesn't control her characters - they make their own minds up. This transforms him into a character who has free will, and from this point on he is able to make his own decisions, steering the final act of the film. It is after this final act that we see the cover of the book 'Crimson Peak by Edith Sharpe', which makes you wonder how much authorship our protaganist has had all along. Remember she was writing a story with ghosts in, and was forced to introduce a love plot to pelase the publisher - well how forced does the romance feel in the film?

There's loads of symbolism - the shock of industrialiastion (also a theme of Dracula) in the form of type writers, wax cylinders, and digging machines, meant to liberate us but rendering us lifeless. The butterflies every where - dying or pinned or being eaten alive (the most grusome moment, I thought) or merely on wall-paper. The 'nobility as parasite' idea, again introduced right at the start for obviousness, is woven through the film in a surprisingly literal way.

The first act, in New York State, i think is my favourite. It's pretty much a straight period piece with some interesting characters and bits of conversation - if there's one thing I felt this film could do more of, it's dialogue. Scenes are often too short and economical.

I didn't like the final act where it was all stabby - it didn't move me. And I didn't like the shocks that were entirely for the benefit of the audience - The Woman in Black did this too and it feels too much like a non-interactive roller coaster ride. Compared to the other great meta-horror film Cabin in the Woods, it pales. That film is funny, and cleverly reference heavy, and has a lot to say about horror, to the point of being an essay or even manifesto. Crimson Peak is certainly reference heavy, but without humour, and I'm not sure to what extent. It's given me a lot to think about, but I haven't yet figured out if GDT is trying to say anything with the film. I don't know if he's trying to push horror forward. And it failed the 'scared going to bed' test...

Case in point: Edith hears something from the bath. we see a ghost, but she does not. The ghost, a rotting near-skeleton, comes right up to her whilst her back is turned, then vanishes when she turns around. Just at that point, her dog runs back up to her - and from the empty darkness, its ball is rolled back to it. The second part is the unsettling, not going to sleep tonight bit, but it's undermined by the gorey OTT prelude.

And maybe I've seen too many GDT DVD extras, but when the first ghost turns up I thought 'ooh look it's Doug Jones'. And that's good because I love Doug Jones, but also, when your monsters always seem to have the same figure and posture, maybe you should branch out more. Or is it a reference to GDT's earlier films?

(That reminds me, I don't think I've seen Andy Serkis play a human for ages, and that's a shame because he's great as Hannet and Dury)

Still, I liked it, and I'm intrigued enough to come back to it later to see if there's anything I missed. I suppose like a Half man half Biscuit song, if I watch it in five years time maybe I'll get more out of it.

It's a frankenstein film, almost the cinematic equivalent of Paul's Boutique, that wears it's sewn-together stitch marks so blatently that it 's a confident sign that there is more depth to be found.
It's certainly a rich enough film to provoke these midnight ramblings.


Lovecraft dreams

A couple of nights ago, I dreamt the children were possessed by elder gods who had been imprisoned in pillars, but were still alive, perhaps dreaming, at least psychically accessible. Somehow this was Gillen's fault. 
The possession seemed to manifest itself by mood swings, and playing computer games on the phone.

Last night, I had a really terrifying dream. I read a book and it went like this:
There was a iron structure that went across a valley, like a train bridge that linked to tunnels. It bore a remarkable resemblance to a picture of a fictional submarine dock, and this was evidence of a psychic link. Although I can't remember the exact steps, i was being mentally stalked, and as my awareness and power grew, the thing got closer. It was like, the more aware of it I became, he more power it had over me. I checked with several beings - the first two I can't remember, but the third was the Minotaur, who gave me a dire warning - my 'psychic guard' was gone, this apparently was a figure I was semi-aware of, who was the last layer of defense. The next thing I knew, my consciousness itself was being peeled away. The end.

And then I visualised the whole thing as a graphic novel.

I was terrified. And when I woke up, esme was standing at the end of the bed in the darkness. Shiver.


Clubbing inspiration

Hello again.

Inspiration is a funny thing.
I have an idea see, to do a track called 'Burnt Ogre' as the opening track on a debut album 'burnt ogre' by a band called Burnt Ogre, that - crucially - does not feature the lyric 'burnt ogre'. And I've just moved to Birmingham too, how funny.

The music is written. The cover art is sorted. The trouble is, writing to a brief is hard, even when it's your own brief. So I had these images of a forest cottage, some sort of traditional fairytale ogre. But it didn't go any further than that.

Then I remembered a few ideas, that sort of drifted in; the line 'moor reclaims the graveyard'; an old image, of a sort of darth christ, the broken body of the annoited one encased in heavy sauron-style armour, ruling cold and tyrannically for 1000 years.

And then I remembered the programme I'd watched last night, although I hadn't watched the whole thing because the presenter appeared to be played by Robert Webb; it was about the history of archeology, and started with Constantine. Apparently he sent his mum off to find hard evidence of Jesus. Quite an interesting idea. What was really interesting was that after that anecdote, the programme skipped forward 1000 years - literally a millennium - to the next interesting thing that happened.

What I learnt was that from the secession of Xtianity, you could basically skip to the lead up to the Renaissance and the enlightenment. 

All of that came stirring into the mix, and I had an idea. The iron christ, leading an army into Rome, ruling Europe for the promised millennium, but then being supplanted by nature - that is to say, science. The realisation that the world isn't black and white, the gradual embracing of chaos. The fight between the Hammerites and the Pagans from Thief, and the fight between the cathedralic and humourless forces of order and the viney, forest-dwelling forces of chaos. 'Moor reclaims the graveyard' suddenly became a line that describes this exact conflict, and the fall of the living god himself. The only thing is - who is the burnt ogre? Is it the christ, burnt like anakin skywalker and living on life support? Or some woodland god, the cottage dweller of tradition, coming back to the city to take back civilisation? That is still to figure out (although I think that in writing this I've basically figured it out).
And this concept even chimes in with the cover picture I want to use: Blake's Orc, the spirit of rebellion against the dry conventional Urizen, which is obviously influenced by milton's conception of the lame and moribund Jahweh.

And all of this is a proof-of-concept for Kno; a metaphorical epic poem set to a post-prog track. I'm excited. 


Silent Tattoo

I want to get a tattoo. I want to embellish my skin with something I find meaningful.
The trouble is, I've been thinking, and other than the Tetractys, (which would be pretentious, as I'm not really a Pythagorean) what I really want most of all, is a tattoo of nothing.

I'm willing to take this to a John Cage level of going to a tattoo parlour and 'getting' an entirely empty tattoo 'engraved' on my arm; spending my own 4 minutes, 33 seconds, of thinking about which of the infinite possible variations of tattoo I could have.

4'33'' is one of those growers, I have found. right now, it's probably in my top ten favourite pieces of music of all time, no joke. not because of the simplistic reasons that you originally think are the point when you first here of the idea - that it's 'just as arbitary a piece of music as any other', but the freshness of your listening that your ears are heightened to when they're instructed to listen gives so much meaning to all the little things you can hear. when I close my eyes, all of a sudden my ears realy switch on, and I'm aware of so much more than I thought I was. 4'33'' does that to you, with your eyes open.

mindfullness is a bollocks fad right now, but from times like this, or when I've tried meditating and tried to be aware of every sensation in every part of my body, I know what the original point of it was. It's being concious of everything that passes through your brain - impossible, but progress towards the ideal is achiveable.

Back to the tattoo, another interpretation would be to have a square of random noise engraved on my arm. that would be just as arbitary, and just as meaningless. 

Perhaps another way to look at it is how sometimes a little noise can define silence. Sometimes I long to hear music that sounds like something barely more than silence, as another way to appreciate the lack of things. Analogously, perhaps an empty frame on my skin would work; or just an angle of a square, not even completely connected up. Perhaps a frame, but pointing outwards, so that my entire body outside the definition is the tattoo.

Or perhaps, just another way to represent a blank space, such as the symbol for the empty set, or my old "%20" tshirt. A defined lack of something. 
So is what I'm effectively saying, then, that my mindset has reverted to that of a 24 year old?


Notes on fragments of a portrait

i think this is my favourite program ever.

Hyper-portraits of time worms

Hints of skulls, arbitrary flesh

Someone who can assault life through his hatred, and still love people.

Aim for something - miss - create something unique. Fail spectacularly.

Furious nihilism, fatalism; but only furious at others' persistent beliefs. The crucifixion as a barbaric carnal act, rather than a spiritual one. Rational atheism combined with a social fury, like the disparity between Dawkins' logical rhetoric and his outspoken diatribes.