Friday, July 31, 2009

Bobby Robson

I love this picture. When I'm old, I want people to look at old photographs of myself and think, god, yes, that's him.
I think I'm going to miss Bobby Robson.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

moon, by duncan jones; review

I saw Moon tonight, the debut feature by Duncan Jones. Set in a familiar, dystopian future, it is what all the best science fiction films are; a slow, thoughtful examination of isolation. What could be more lonely than being sent to space, so far from the people who begat us? (Except perhaps to be living in a city - where far more science fiction films ought to be set).

Moon gives away it's plotline early, so I have no compunction about revealing details, although I'll try to hold something back, in case you've not seen it. Following in a great tradition of stories about identity and the self, it's about doubles; Sam Rockwell - the beautifully calibrated lead - encounters no-one on his solitary posting on the moon - except himself. He's there on the last leg of a solitary posting to oversee a mining operation which supplies Earth with 70% of it's energy, alone but for a nostalgic portrait of a robot companion, voiced by Kevin Spacey (with more than a nod to HAL). And then an exact clone of himself arrives, ready to assume his post. Immediately he starts to disintegrate. And the process is painful and frightening to watch.

It must be hard being a first-time director. Everyone looks not only for evidence of genius but obsessively for immature flaws. So Moon has encountered its own doubling, its own dichotomy, in its reception. On the one hand, reviewers note, it's an emphatic triumph - a mature, thoughtful science fiction film, a loving homage to a lost era of film-making and a triumph of art over budget. On the other hand, we read, Jones gives too much away, references too many forebears, doesn't quite pull it off. Well - nonsense. I thought Moon was a perfectly weighted film, and a complex, haunting pleasure to watch.

Rockwell must take some of the credit. It's unusual to see a film where one actor alone carries 99% of the screentime, and more unusual still to see him make such a success of carrying not one, but two, distinct characters. For although Rockwell plays two clones of the same character, he imbues each with their own identifiable strengths and weaknesses.

And this is what the film is really about. The first Sam, the dying ember, slowly approaching the end of his shift, is self-aware, rounded, complete. Three years in space have allowed him the time to resolve his conflicts, make peace with his demons. By the same token, the dynamism apparent in his younger clone is altogether gone - his lifeblood drained by his isolation. As the drama unfolds, we begin to wonder - is he resolved, or is he beaten? And is his younger, more aggressive, more impetuous self, his only hope of escape?

Few dystopias, of course, have happy endings. The question, here, is what hope has man in the face of corporations? Sam is only a commodity to be exploited. And only humanity can save us. When GERTY, Sam's robot companion, first begins to exert his malign influence on his final days, we can see only the negative connotations of a computerised future. But soon GERTY, who is treated as a friend by Sam, begins to display not just emoticons - his screen displays them to denote texture to his monotone pronouncements - but real emotions, humanity is given a metaphorical shot in the arm. He helps propel Sam's clone to the film's semi-positive denouement. But we must be cautious; his sentience is sympathetic but not empathetic. Despite helping Sam, he declares himself happy to be re-booted, his memory wiped, the program to begin once again. Essentially, his 'humanity' is nothing more than a glitch in the program; albeit one that Sam is lucky to find, and exploit.

So perhaps this is the future - a future where we're forced to look for holes in the system, glitches to exploit. Corporations, governments, mean only to exploit mankind. But humanity is ingenious, humanity is persistent. Jones never quite gives resolution, and the film is ultimately upsetting and bleak. But Rockwell's Sam is so powerful, Jones's direction so focused, that Moon can only inspire. A sad, loving, hopeful, defeated - and defiant film. Best thing I've seen in ages.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I spent a couple of days in Rotterdam last week. It’s a funny, eccentric, ugly little city – a million miles from Amsterdam, even if it’s only a matters of kilometres away.

Where Amsterdam’s waterways are romantic, evocative, Rotterdam’s, as you might expect – it being Europe’s largest port – are purely functional; murky waters impeded by tugs and cranes. Similarly, it’s architecture, built from the ground up after the city was flattened in the war, is constructed for practical purposes. It’s as if the buildings of the city sprang back from desolation simultaneously, without conferring. Nothing matches, nothing is complimentary. It is a higgledy-piggledy, matter-of-fact city. Ossip Zadkine called it a city without a heart, for its historical centre is absent. There’s another centre there now, but it’s not altogether convincing. Still the ships pass through its river, of course – so it’s a city with an artery.

It’s the Netherlands’ workers city. At the conference I was attending we were told a lovely story, apocryphal or not. It’s a tradition in Rotterdam, we were informed, that when one buys a shirt in one of the city’s boutiques, it is sold with the sleeves already rolled up, so that one can begin work immediately. Perhaps because it’s a city where people work, rather than play, it has a much more multicultural feel than I had expected – with women in headscarves visible on every street. Indeed the current mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is a practising Muslim. Almost half of the population are not native to the Netherlands or have at least one parent born outside the country. On the plane back to London, I noted, the landscape is barely visible – instead one hovers above an endless sea of warehouses and petrochemical industries. There are no landmarks, just endless, featureless industry.

In the city itself, it’s rather different – especially late at night. By day it’s not quite right to say that Rotterdam works. It also shops. At night, it’s not true to say it sleeps. As well, it parties. Not in the same way that Amsterdam parties, however. There are no coffee-shops, no hip bars. Instead there’s a succession of outdoor cafes, blaring out Euro trance music. The clientele drink late. As well as a working city, a multicultural city, it’s a young city, too. When me and Sam called it a night on Tuesday – at 3am – the revellers surrounding us were showing no signs of stopping. One girl managed a monumental, drunken tumble on the street in front of our table. A hop, skip and a jump, trying to right herself. Eventually she lost her footing, her head colliding gently with a nearby chair. Her friends crowded around her, concerned. Because they were pretty, men crowded around them, faking concern.

The next evening we took a river taxi across the Nieuwe Maas to the Hotel New York, where we drank cool beer and ate dinner. The night before we had ordered a kind of Amstel we’d never seen before – three quarters of a bottle before we realised it was alcohol free. From the river Rotterdam is transformed, because although it remains ugly, there’s something wonderful about a river through a city, just as there is a shoreline. We stumbled after the last Metro of the night, and the staff showed us another Rotterdam characteristic – they were welcoming and generous of nature. Smiling at our uncertainty, a guide hastily gave us three free tickets and ushered us onto the train.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

grey and orange

I could take photos through train windows all day - I like the limitations of it; you've only got a few seconds, and the landscape is shifting. These busy, grey and orange siblings were taken at consectutive stations on the Docklands Light Railway.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

same old tories

The Tory Party is no longer homophobic! Did you hear that, too? What lovely news. I went over to the Telegraph site this morning, expecting to see a host of comments expressing delight that Cameron had thrown his weight behind sexual equality.

But this is what I found.

Imagine, one day in the future, that insipient 'gayism' could be diagnosed in a foetus and that a 'corrective' therapy were available. How many parents would refuse this on behalf of their children? We do not promote spinabifida, Down's syndrome etc. so why promote homosexuality? We can and should, sympathise with those that suffer these afflictions - however homosexuatily should only be considered as 'normal' in the same sense as catching a cold, or contracting a cancer, is (sadly) normal

After 11 years of having XXXXX, rights/cause/equality/fairness/marriage/adoption etc. (insert religion, race or sexuality as approp.) rammed down my throat, I accept that if this is what it takes to dispatch Gordon Brown and his henchmen to oblivion then so be it. BUT if I dont see a general return to christian values and morality I'm off.

Perhaps on behalf of the homosexual community David Cameron would like to apologize for the millions who have died from and are infected with HIV Aids. Even when the connection between buggery and the spread of this latter plague was known the selfish and irresponsible members of the gay community continued to engage in unprotected sex thus causing it's spread not only in their community but into the heterosexual one as well..

As a smoker and therefore in the minority when will my rights be upheld. So it's a good thing to applaud men for rummaging about in each others garbage and catching god knows what diseases but if you're a smoker minding your own business then oh dear you’re labelled as a mass murderer by the tobaccophobics and politicians.

I wonder when the gay movement will get around to apologising for it's decades long flirtation with paedophile "rights" groups? Something the gay left conveniently forgets to include in it's history of their campaign to impose their own toxic cultural norms on the rest of us. If politicians spent a bit less time looking for applause in trendy London gay bars and more listening to ordinary people, they might not be held in such contempt.

Well Bullindon have just lost my next vote.

I have a lot of time for Mark Harper, our local MP. Howevever, his party leader's comments on this issue have just lost him my vote at the next election.

I very much doubt that there was any cheering in heaven when Cameron decided to turn his back on the Commandments of God and the Holy Bible.

"Homosexuality is simply another form of loving" says one commentator. What rubbish. Any fool can see that it is a deviance, a perversion of the original design. It's obvious that the human body isn't designed to function this way.
I shall never vote tory again as long as I live.

If Cameron thinks that people like me are Tory voting fodder then he can damn well rely on his new Gay Pride pals to get elected. I, for one, will no longer vote for any party that does not share my values or that would use my vote to advance a very different agenda.

Any lingering doubts that the boy Cameron is fit to lead the Conservative Party have surely been shattered by his pathetic apology for apposing the teaching and promotion of homosexuality in our schools. This man will do anything to gain minority votes but he lacks the political brain to take into account the millions of votes he will lose from middle England. He just does not have a clue. He thinks he is ahead in the polls because of his popularity whereas the obvious truth is that people would prefer Roland the Rat to Gordon Brown.
He is not and never has been a Conservative, he is totally incapable of offering a shrewd and effective opposition and the sooner he is replaced by David Davis the better. Then watch the popularity of the Conservative Party soar to new heights.

If Cameron opposes section 28 that means that he supports the promotion of homosexuality to children in schools and that means that I cannot support him

I am not going to vote for a party that allows homosexuality to be promoted in schools, and where the leader joins Gay Pride. And I am Happy to be Homophobic

The non-Conservatives just lost my vote. There's no way I'm having my future kids indoctrinated by schools teaching that homosexuality is equal to heterosexuality. Sure, people can choose to practice homosexuality if they wish, but keep it out of the classroom.

If some of the radical educationalists had their way they would make kids watch porn films and before long, they will, you see.

Who would have thought it?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

amplified cries

This is lovely, from an article in todays Guardian about the effects the retractable roof has on the tennis at Wimbledon. It amplifies noise, amongst other things. Barnay Ronay writes:

"Even the impact of ball on strings sounds like an octopus whirled about by it's tendrils and violently whapped against a rock."