Tag Archives: books

Tied up with string: February

SOME TELLY

I’ve been enjoying the third series of Being Human a lot: less of the boring vampire politics and back to funny, creepy stories about ordinary people in odd worlds. Annie’s runaway train segue from Stop All The Clocks into the lyrics for Fight For This Love was a career highlight. But nothing compares to the best thing I’ve ever seen on CBeebies, the wonderful Rastamouse. We just have to establish why there are so many orphans in Mouseland and which trouserless mouse we fancy the most (Zoomer for me, cheers) and then we can all get on with our music and our cheese.

A FILM

Never Let Me Go. Well that was as bleak and unsettling a film to be released for Valentine’s weekend as I can remember. (Spoilers ahead)

We’re used to seeing these sorts of worlds in films, the dreary paradise that’s maintained at a terrible cost. And if you start thinking about, say, Logan’s Run or The Truman Show, then you start rooting for our heroes to expose the terrible truth at the heart of the system, to make things better. But there’s no terrible truth to expose, because everyone knows and accepts what’s going on already. And the only rebellion is a polite enquiry as to the spirit of the world’s rules. The sense of resignation is devastating and the film makes us think hard about how, within a generation or so, unthinkable attitudes can become endemic.

Mind you I may as well be talking about Kazuo Ishiguro’s source novel with all that. As for the film itself, as well as the lovely subtle performances, I liked the way all the design choices — windswept, half empty seaside towns, NHS corridors, claustrophobic boarding shools — combined to suggest a world in stagnation.

SOME songs

Jamie Woon’s Lady Luck and Yasmin’s On My Own are both amazing. They’re picking the bits they like from the best of pop, dance and urban music to make something new. I’m looking forward to the albums – Jamie Woon in particular, on the basis of this and the beautiful, swampy ‘Night Air‘ from last year, could have me all a-cream.

ANIMAL OF THE MONTH

I’ve been obsessed with urban foxes for a long time, and it’s making me excited that they seem to be getting bolder. I’m seeing them now in daylight, on quite crowded streets, and closer than ever before. Salute these mangy, scavenging creaturess, who make the best they can out of a rubbish world – they are us.

Here’s a picture of Romeo, the new folk hero, the fox who climbed the Shard.

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Doctor Who and the Black Swan

I was going to write something sensible about my obsession with Black Swan and why I love it so much. But that’s not really in keeping with the film. This ridiculous, over-the-top assault on sanity demands a response along similar lines.

One of many thousands of things I love about the film is its strict use of a colour scheme. Everything is either black, or white, or a transitional light pink or grey, with various symbolic meanings attached.

It got me thinking (just in case this post appears even more batshit than intended) about Doctor Who in the early 80s, and the alarming/brilliant costuming decision that led to the Black and White Guardians — the ultimate cosmic forces of chaos and order — being represented by two distinguished character actors with different coloured birds on their heads. And so:

Favourite albums of 2010

20. Massive Attack – Heligoland

19. Lil Wayne – I Am Not A Human Being

18. Shakira – Sale El Sol

17. Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives

16. Gabriella Cilmi – Ten

15. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

14. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday

13. The Roots – How I Got Over

12. Diddy – Dirty Money – Last Train To Paris

11. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

10. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – WEIRDO WITH BASSLINES

9. The-Dream – Love King – PERV WITH SYNTHS

8. Jazmine Sullivan – Love Me Back – SHE GOT A BIIIIIG VOICE

7. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs – YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN YOU KNOW

6. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Sea – WEARY AND BROKEN AND TERRIFIED BUT LOVE IS BIGGER THAN THE PAIN YOU GET FOR IT AND OH GOD I AM WEEPING AGAIN

5. The National – High Violet – The National have got TWO pairs of brothers in their line up, but despite this they keep refusing to do a “Double Jedward” by covering Ghostbusters. They insist on filling their music with fear, regret, spiders and despair (it’s very beautiful).

4. Plan B – The Defamation Of Strickland Banks – Angry rapper in “amazing soft-hearted songwriter” shock. Also: tight suits, prison fantasies.

3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

We're going to need a bigger pad

Do we really have to call it that? Anyway here is an extract from Kanye’s shopping list:

THE PLINKY PLINK PIANO OF SELF LOATHING.

THE HUMUNGOUS HANDCLAPS OF HUBRIS

THE BLARING HORNS OF PROBABLE IMPORTANCE

THE APHEX TWIN SAMPLE OF WISTFUL REGRET

THE PROG ROCK SAMPLE OF IMPLIED PERSONAL COMPLEXITY

THE MASSED CHOIRS OF ASSUMED SIGNIFICANCE

EGGS

BROCCOLI

PAINTINGS

2. Robyn – Body Talk

Instructions for assembly available separately

CARLSSON. Album. Package measurement: 5-15 tracks ( spares provided ). Start with a ready-made combination or create your own combination from scratch. Drag and drop songs using our online planner, or see our CARLSSON experts in store for helpful advice in assembling your album. Key features: Resilience, Defiance, Inclusivity, Heartbreak, Love, Compassion, Dancing (on your own), Dancing (running tings), Dancing (to the beat), 1 x robot, 1 x time machine. Will complement existing CARLSSON items. Care instructions: Wipe off tears with a soft clean cloth. Keep going.

1. Drake – Thank Me Later

Choose your own Drake

Choose your own adventure in time, memory and identity! Will you find your way to happiness in the here and now or be LOST IN TIME?

TRACK 1

You are Drake! Money just changed everything and your fifteen minutes started an hour ago!  But you’re haunted by the sense that “you never see it coming, you just get to watch it go”.

If you look for the answer in your lover’s eyes, go to Track 11.

If you look for the answer in your own past, go to Track 10.

TRACK 2

“I was only trying to get ahead – but the spotlight made you nervous”.

You don’t get to take everyone with you when your life changes; sometimes it’s your choice, sometimes theirs. It’s rare that it doesn’t hurt, but there’s a fine line between being strong and divorcing yourself from all feeling.

If you put your hand on a hot kettle in an attempt to feel connected to the world again, go to Track 14

If you’d rather have a good time, go to Track 5

TRACK 3

“They say: you promised me you would never change” But identity is fluid. They’ve brought you down just when you’d started to live in the moment, accept the pain of memory and kiss the past goodbye, too. You can’t do much about how others see you, in the end, but you can try and be true to yourself.

If you try to be all things to all people, go to Track 4

If you think you have to leave people behind sometimes, go to Track 2

TRACK 4

“That’s right, I’m doing me” in the crescendo of a victory anthem ought to come across as triumphant. But it’s full of uncertainty, a resigned suspicion that your identity’s a commodity, that being completely “yourself” gets harder and harder the more people you know and more you try to please. “It’s far from over” should sound like a rallying cry, but you make it seem so weary.

If you imagine that things could have been different, go to Track 12

If you think that one day you’ll realise what a great time you were having, go to Track 9

If you want to try disassociating yourself from others’ opinions, go to Track 2

TRACK 5

It’s hard, living in the moment. Once in a while, you get the opportunity for a bit of right-now happiness with someone. But the weight of memory presses hard, you torture yourself, wondering how your past even led you there in the first place, while trying too hard to forget and going on about saving worries for tomorrow just reminds you of the problems. So you live for “the nights you can’t remember with the people you won’t forget”.

If you think you can still make the best of it, go to Track 7

If you think simpler would be better, go to Track 12

TRACK 6

You have been up all night.

If you look like yes, go to Track 8

If you look like no, go to Track 9

TRACK 7

If you got your nails done and hair done and everything did, go to Track 6

If you’re worried people will think you’re too fancy, go to Track 3

TRACK 8

This is the dream, isn’t it. (This is The-Dream, isn’t it.) That moment where time slows down and stops and you can finally focus on something, finally be fully present in the moment with someone. And a song that makes you feel it, like the air in a heat haze warping around you. I THINK YOU REALLY MADE IT.

TRACK 9

“Looking forward to the memories of right now”? But it’s a beautiful night to live your beautiful life. Why can’t you be there, living it? Losing yourself in thoughts of potential futures is bad enough, but losing yourself in thoughts of a potential future in which you’re stuck looking back at the present past? You are so lost.

TRACK 10

“I keep thinking, how young can you die from old age?” Memories weigh heavy, when you’ve already had a too-full life. But how has your past changed you?

If you think it’ll all make more sense when you look back at it in years to come, go to Track 9

If you’re thinking about who you’ve had to leave behind, go to Track 2

If you’re trying to work out who the hell you are, go to Track 4

TRACK 11

“Miss me a little when I’m gone” But how can you know who you are, if all your identity comes from how others see you?

If you think people have got you all wrong, go to Track 3

If you think it’s down to you, go to Track 4

If you think it’s better to try and move on, go to Track 2

TRACK 12

If there’s one thing more dangerous than living in the past or the future, it’s imagining how different things could be right now. You can’t undo the changes you’ve gone through. For better or worse, they’ve made you who you are. But still, you imagine yourself in an alternate present, with the old familiar things around you, as if you’d never moved on. YOU ARE LOST.

TRACK 13

“Every single summer, I’ll be the one that you remember.”  I listened to this album on lazy summer afternoons in the park, on too-hot mornings as I walked to work, and late at night in the middle of our June heatwave when the world seemed to press in through the window… It’s hard to avoid getting mentally bogged down in the past, in all your mistakes and wasted opportunities, when you get to a certain age. It’s hard to imagine the future being much better. It’s a great thing if you can appreciate everything that’s good in the here and now. It’s amazing when music comes along that speaks to you personally and moves you, when the music is as sweet as a cool breeze on a hot summer’s night. Hey how did you get to this paragraph anyway?

TRACK 14

“Thank me later, yeah, I know what I said, but later doesn’t always come, so instead, it’s okay – you could thank me now” And the moment rushes in. When an album sets up a theme of deferment and displacement, right from its title, it’s a good thing to get it all resolved in the final track. I THINK YOU MADE IT. But other endings may be available

Quantum Archaeology

“Life insurance?” “I don’t need any!” says Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, which the BBC thoughtfully put on just after blowing the London Eye to smithereens in a mushroom cloud of fireworks for a New Year’s treat. I like the two Tomb Raider films; there’s no point making a film based on video games unless you’re going to — accurately and/or excitingly — recreate the sorts of scenarios you go through in the games, and they certainly manage that. But in Lara’s smug assurance that she can survive anything, she puts her finger on the one thing that’s missing.

Another night on the tiles

When you play Tomb Raider, your overwhelming experience is of dying, over and over again. That impossible series of jumps that has you plummeting to a spiky death at every new point, those flooded tunnels that gently and continually drown you until you find the exit, that stony monster whose weak point is so hard to find and target.

The closest thing in fiction to the feeling that I’m describing is in 90s SF novel Quarantine by Greg Egan, in which the lead character finds a way to choose from multiple quantum states (OR SOMETHING, IT’S QUITE TECHNICAL) so that he can — for instance — make sure he ends up being the version of himself, out of all possible realities, who finds a million-to-one lock combination or has the good luck for all the guards to be looking the other way.

And that’s the version of Lara we see in the movies, the one who, implausibly, survives every trap and dodges every bullet the first time around. Like a perfect YouTube walkthrough, but without the exhausting months of exploration and practice that go into them. There’s a bit in Quarantine where you get brilliantly wrongfooted, and find yourself following a luckless version of the main character in a universe that doesn’t get chosen as the final reality. It’s dizzying. And that’s the sort of video game film adaptation I’d really like to see. With the main character dying over and over again in cruelly inventive ways, then coming back to life a few seconds earlier for another go. I haven’t seen the film of Prince of Persia, though its game mechanics of rewinding time in the sticky spots would lend itself to this idea perfectly, because frankly it looks shit. So if someone could sort out something decent along these lines this year that would be great, cheers.