Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Of course, I first heard this in Dennis Potter's '80s TV series The Singing Detective - below.
Then I discover Willie Nelson also did a version (not one of his finer moments, but a curiosity). Then there's also this amusing but odd clip of a recent show by an Andrews Sisters tribute group (are they in drag??). There are better versions from Aretha Franklin (no video) and Dr John (a live performance in Aspen, Colorado, with fairly terrible sound).
But I leave you with this.....
[It had slipped my mind that the Easter weekend was coming up. Maybe I should have waited to post this until Friday...]
Whenever there is an announcement of an overseas company embarking on a new collaborative project with some Chinese enterprise, you will always encounter these words. I assume it is a set phrase in Chinese that is just being translated literally. As I've complained before, if the Chinese read more authentic English, and read it more attentively, they ought to develop a better awareness of the contexts in which phrases like this are used - and thus of why it sounds so wrong here.
Monday, March 29, 2010
[My friend The Weeble has disparagingly pointed out in the comments below that there is already a website that does something of the sort - Random.org, established a dozen years ago by a computer geek from Trinity College, Dublin, and priding itself on being a rare provider of genuinely random numbers rather than those 'pseudo-random' ones we usually have to put up with. This is doubtless a valuable resource for anyone who craves more randomness in their life, but I don't see it as much of an obstacle or competitor to my idea here for a commercial coin-flipping website. Random.org is a terribly earnest and impressively wide-ranging site, but it's also desperately dull - no wit, no pzazz to it at all.]
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I might return another day to the real travesties - the outstanding films of the year that somehow didn't even get nominated. That might end up being a particularly long and passionate post! When I look back just over the past few decades and think of the stand-out films, the 'instant classics' that didn't get a nomination, well, it fairly makes me want to weep: Bladerunner, Brazil, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Reservoir Dogs, Being John Malkovich, Ghost World, Memento, Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 21 Grams, Sin City. Oh yes, that could be a long post.
Oscar-nominated 'Best Pictures' that really should have won
Friday, March 26, 2010
Destroying homes and history;
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Now, I learn to my dismay that they are considerably more than rumours. It seems the plans are at quite an advanced stage, and over the past couple of months have been prominently touted in the leading state-run newspapers - which is in effect an 'official announcement' that the project is going ahead. I don't think there have been any eviction notices served yet, but the grapevine is now suggesting they might start coming within the next month or two - in this country, people don't get very much notice to move out of their homes. Indeed, I wonder if the work may not have begun already. There's been a HUGE hole in the ground a quarter of a mile to the east of the Towers - preparations for who-knows-what - for more than a year now. The entire block at the north-east end of Jiugulou Street was cleared last autumn; and in the last few days, a row of houses down the north-west side of that street (right at the end of the road I live on!) has also been demolished.
The plan involves building a new museum and a network of shopping arcades in the immediate vicinity of the historic Drum and Bell Towers (just a few minutes' walk from where I live, and easily the most attractive quarter of Beijing), a gaudy 12.5-hectare commercial complex to be naffly named the 'Beijing Time Cultural City' ("Cultural"?! Oh, the irony!). Apparently, most of this is going to be underground (it's said to be just one part of a grander project to create a staggering 8 sq km of subterranean malls in the capital by 2030), but its construction will presumably necessitate the bulldozing of most of what is currently above ground in the area. At the very least, it will massively compromise the amenity of the neighbourhood for a good two or three years while the building work is in progress (the widening of the adjacent Jiugulou Street a few years ago took well over a year, and that was a relatively trivial undertaking compared to this). The historic towers themselves will be preserved, but much of the traditional single-storey hutong housing surrounding them will almost certainly be swept away, and the character of the neighbourhood will be transformed beyond recognition. The most beautiful, the most charming part of Beijing, the centre of my life all the years I've been here, my main reason for staying.... may soon be destroyed. I am sick to my boots. If this goes ahead, I think I'll have to quit the country.
Opposition to the proposal is gathering. The Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP), a Chinese non-profit group, is at the forefront of these resistance efforts (check out their page on the Gulou redevelopment), and is holding a meeting this Saturday afternoon from 2.30 to 5.30 - in a restaurant called Contempio, on the Zhangwang Hutong just off Jiugulou Dajie. The meeting will be chaired by He Shuzhong, the CHP Chairman, and will include contributions from Bian Lanchun, a professor of architectural history at Tsinghua University, and Wang Jun, a reporter with the Xinhua newswire service. Dominic Johnson-Hill, the British founder of the Plastered t-shirt emporium, one of the most conspicuous successes on the nearby Nanluoguxiang shopping street, is also slated to speak, but his Mandarin is pretty good, so the meeting is likely to be conducted entirely in Chinese.
Update 9/11/10: We learned a couple of months ago (check out, for example, Peter Foster's article in The Telegraph) that the horrendous 'Beijing Time Cultural City' project had been shelved - although I fear there will a worse come in its place one day. Local government officials are making ominous noises about "looking at other proposals". Also, incorrigible cynic that I am, I have my suspicions that the whole thing might have been nothing but a ruse in the first place. For six months or more, the CHP and other conservation groups and local and foreign media were almost exclusively focused on this particular - quite possibly non-existent - threat to Beijing's heritage.... while all around the Gulou area other huge construction projects have begun forging ahead unopposed. It's an intriguing hypothesis; but I really don't think our city government officials are that smart.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Here's the introduction to the climactic scene in which the nameless protagonist, a taciturn African hitman played by Isaach De Bankolé, finally confronts his victim, a sinister businessman played by the marvellous Bill Murray. The 'joke' here is that this scene follows on from an extended reconnaissance sequence in which the hitman has established that Murray's headquarters is essentially impregnable, a walled compound miles from anywhere in the middle of the desert, swarming with armed guards. As with the jailbreak in Down By Law, Jarmusch cheekily casts aside the conventions of the genre by declining to show how these formidable defences are breached and cutting straight to the next scene - the process of breaking in (or breaking out) is simply assumed. How did that happen?
And, if that has whetted your appetite for more - here's the official trailer for the film. It looks as though you can watch the whole thing on YouTube - if you've got a decent connection speed and a lot of patience.
Friday, March 19, 2010
1) Ignore it.
2) Endure the 'insult' with quiet dignity.
3) Welcome it.
A piano down below:
Music all around.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
[Double happiness for my old mate Wu Yuren, one of the artists affected, who's got a retrospective show on at the White Box gallery in Dashanzi at the moment (it opened last Saturday). I'm hoping to go and check that out sometime this weekend.]
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Moreover, she is, like me, a passionate lover of the cinema (this is far from invariably the case with actors). In her presentation at The Bookworm last year she read this exquisite essay on the evocative power of film (inspired by her 8-year-old son's question: "What were dreams like before we had cinema?"). Apparently there's a film of her reading this, but I haven't been able to locate it online (they were supposed to have been showing this at The Worm, but the DVD had gone astray, so she had to read it live). You can also read/download Mark Cousins' response (a letter of encouragement to his eight-and-a-half-year-old self, reflecting on his own lifelong love of film) here
I think I first saw Tilda Swinton (nearly 20 years ago!) in Sally Potter's mesmerizing adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, where her beauty and intelligence were so bewitching that not even the character's androgyny could deter me from plunging into infatuation - so here's a brief clip of that.
[I'm afraid I didn't love this latest Jarmusch. Christopher Doyle's cinematography and the Spanish locations are gorgeous, and there are a series of engaging cameos like this one - John Hurt, Gabriel Garcia Bernal, Bill Murray. Ultimately, however, it's just too self-indulgent, too determinedly opaque, too repetitive and too long. I find I did sort of enjoy it - or at least appreciate it - for its very oddness; but it's not the kind of film that you could or would recommend to anyone else.]
Friday, March 12, 2010
JES was prompted by my mention of Hugh MacLeod at the start of the week to honour the man with a post of his own (apparently JES had discovered him quite some time ago, but had lapsed from being a regular follower for a while). This has provoked a lively discussion about the nature of art and being an artist (JES may perhaps not have very many more readers than me, but they're all writers, and so they comment!). I tried to offer my two penn'orth last night, but the comment went astray somehow (I'm sure it will be salvaged shortly; poor old JES has been having some gremlin troubles this week on the blog), so I thought I'd recycle it below. Mr MacLeod, you see - in this interview that I linked to earlier - disdains the use of the term 'artist', while not being above sometimes describing his output as 'art', an apparent contradiction or incongruity that troubled JES and a number of his commenters.
I don't think there's anything necessarily incompatible or disingenuous about disowning the term 'artist', but wanting to think of your output as 'art'.
There's something altogether more precious - and more obtrusive, more wheedling - about the use of the term 'artist'. I think it is possible to describe your work as 'art' without necessarily implying/demanding that the rest of the world must see it that way; but people who label themselves as 'artists' are usually trying to convince others - and maybe themselves - that everything they produce must therefore be acknowledged as art.
That seems to me to be getting the whole thing backwards. If enough people, now and in the future, accept your self-definition of your work as 'art', then it can be generally recognised as such and you earn the title of 'artist' - it is an accolade that should only really be conferred by broad consensus over time, not your own self-assertion here and now.
I don't think any of the artists I've ever met or read about who really impressed me typically referred to themselves as 'artists' - because they realised it sounded poncey, conceited, perhaps even overcompensating for some insecurity about their work. They almost always just say "I paint", "I make photographs", "I do installations", "I write".
Works of 'art', I feel, should be humbly submitted to the world, to see if anyone else will accept and appreciate them as valid art - not launched amid a narcissistic fanfare of "I'm an artist! Look what I've done now!"
Only the headache remains,
And the rattling lungs.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor