Friday, July 31, 2009

My Mother at the Zimbabwe Ruins

My Mother at the Zimbabwe Ruins
Originally uploaded by hedgiecc

One of my favourite old family photos.

Windmill Drive

I love sitting at the front of the top deck of a bus driving down Long Road through the Common, with the sunshine filtering through that wonderful parade of London Planes and glimpses of green expanses rolling out on either side. On the other hand, I hate the way our Common is cut up by all the roads bisecting it. You never escape from the sound of traffic wherever you are, with the result the whole common feels like a giant traffic circus.

So it was with delight I read about the proposal to close Windmill Drive and return part of it to natural Common grassland, with just a pedestrian and cycle path remaining. Yeah! Four wheels bad!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I’m a bit of a long-term Harry Potter fan, so I had to catch the latest film at the IMAX when it came out a few weeks ago.

The IMAX experience is wonderful for the super large screen, but the 3D felt a bit gimmicky - only the first 15 minutes or so are 3D (I liked the swooping around London bit). Not essential by any means - being a spectacles wearer anyway I found the whole thing a bit uncomfortable.

Half-Blood Prince is definitely one the of the more successful adaptations - brilliantly dark and foreboding, but shot through with touches of humour. Director David Yates has delivered a superior experience, and I’m looking forward to the final two films in the series.

The cinematography just seems to get better and better with each film, but what really pleased me was the acting. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as the leads are now pretty mature and their acting skills have increased quite dramatically since the last film - so much so I wonder if there is a new drama coach involved. There’s not a trace of the awkwardness of their previous performances. All three come across as natural and engaging presences. This is true too of the minor junior roles - I loved Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy and Tom Riddle (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin age 11; Frank Dillane age 16). Draco in particular is a very small part in terms of screen time but major in terms of plot and character development - Felton did very well to convey Draco’s growing turmoil.

Scriptwriter Steve Kloves has changed the ending, and it’s not particularly clear why, as filming it as written would have been just as easy. The filmed version has inspired some criticism but I feel it works well and doesn’t disappoint. The change is relatively minor but would definitely have required J K Rowling’s approval, I think.

As always my personal favorite is Alan Rickman as Professor Snape. Hugely entertaining.

Summer Sandwich


It's the twitter tweet cook off time of the month! This time the challenge is to create a "summer sandwich" and my creation appears above. It's an onion bagel topped with pastrami, sliced gherkin, pickled green chilli, pickled red cabbage, capers, and lashings of French's American mustard. A tasty explosion!

We shall see what the judge makes of it. I shall update this post with developments!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fourth Plinth Revisited

Thoughts developing fast on this one! Definitely moved on since my last post on Antony Gormley's iconic work One & Other on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

I suppose all that was needed was a plinther with vision, confidence and style and in the last few days I've seen two (not that I've been watching the live stream obsessively, but I dip in and out and follow the Guardian's twitter feed).

This woman was uttterly remarkable:

She stood like that, mouth open, arms extended, blindfolded in the chill night air with drool covering her chin in a flimsy dress for 60 full minutes. She got an enormous cheer from the crowd when her stint was completed.

The next plinthian, "LilacBonzai" was a worker for the Terence Higgins Trust and he used his 60 minutes to publicise HIV charities. He had a series of fantastic costume changes, culminating in standing completely nude in a cheeky homage to Mr Gormley's own work. His musical backing was a superb mix including classical opera and The Carpenters.

google v twitter

Twitter is doing something big, and we are still in the process of working out what. Even someone as technologically challenged as me felt that twitter the site was pretty basic - seriously undercoded - when I signed up. It feels like it's held together metaphorically with sticky tape. Bits like blocking and direct messaging still feel like they don’t work properly.

It took a few weeks for me to get the hang of what twitter can deliver. Yes, it does have narcissists wittering on about what they had for breakfast in 140 characters or fewer.

But as an information junkie I get high on the random apparent chaos and speed of information transfer on twitter.

It's a left-brain/right-brain thing: Google is left-brain - you ask your question and you get your hierarchy of links (all back-dated and checked and verified by the big G). With twitter, you make lots of connections with people who may share some of your interests - they post links to stuff you may have missed or not have known about: instead of a static one-off list you get something organic and evolving over time. It's like being in a fantastically stocked bookshop and browsing, you get these beautiful serendipitous connections. But you can search successfully for specifics as well.

News-wise I heard about Air France 447 on twitter first; the death of Michael Jackson; the Iranian election . . . and just days ago the Australian tsunami warning just 4 minutes after it was issued (as it did no damage it never even made the mainstream media in the UK)

Twitter trumps Google with real time searches; it’s interesting that the new twitter home page now makes this crystal clear. The previous homepage promised status updates to friends, family and colleagues - all gone now. Now when you’re on twitter you’re facing the world.

Last Post

Today is the funeral of Henry Allingham, one of the last British survivors of the World War I trenches. The other last soldier, Harry Patch, is buried next week. With them disappears living memory of the horrors that war generation lived and died through.

Of course, we have the magnificent poetry of the WWI poets. With that awesome legacy towering, our new Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy was brave indeed to accept the BBC’s commission to write a poem commemorating the passing of that generation, but has I feel succeeded quite magnificently - her poem Last Post is a very fine tribute, worthy of standing with Wilfred Owen et al.


In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.

You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

It’s rather encouraging and pleasing that poetry today can still generate so much interest - Last Post has attracted quite favourable and extensive comment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Love Clapham

If you live in Clapham it’s good to know about a new blog which has started up in the last few months - Love Clapham.

Love Clapham aims to tell you everything you need to know about living in the area - events and news, shops, pubs, bars, restaurants and recreational amenities; interviews, guides, and more. I particularly like the blog’s witty upbeat attitude and it’s engagement with everyday SW4 life.

The site is run by Jack Wallington, who has designed it beautifully - it’s clear, bold, and easy to navigate around. It also has a twitter feed to follow updates.

I’m a big fan of initiatives which aim to build a sense of community and Love Clapham succeeds very well in doing this. It’s definitely an asset to our stretch of London.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

One & Other

One & Other, originally uploaded by hedgiecc.

Passed through Trafalgar Square last Sunday with Catriona and paid my respects to Antony Gormley's fourth plinth project, One & Other.

I was so excited about this before, and even volunteered to take part, but now I am slightly less enthused. I don't know if I'll take up the chance if I am selected.

'Real' people just don't make good artworks. What we see is a human being inhabiting an 'ideal' space - the scale is wrong, the plinth fails to elevate the subject; its just a prosaic image of a human in an elevated position.

Michelangelo's David has anatomical distortions specifically designed to read well from ground level - David was originally intended to be viewed from far below. It's this kind of artistic necessity which Gormley's work completely fails to accomplish.

Charlie Brooker in the Guardian said "Gormley's public art project is essentially Big Brother: The Tate Modern Edition". I totally agree.