Thursday, 20 December 2007
There’s this funny word we have to describe this two-month cheeriness that’s supposed to wrap around us like a warm hug at the end of the year — Christmastime. It’s not Christmas, which is only a day and usually anticlimactic, with brunch and a movie maybe. Or Christmas Eve, which is really what Christmastime is whetting your appetite for.
The odd thing is that it seems like department stores are largely responsible anyway for Christmastime wherever Christmastime is a real phenomenon. Here in London, it’s in full bloom. Lights are strung in the trees on Oxford Street, and department stores like Marks & Spencer are wrapped in glitter. Maybe the feeling of Christmastime itself is best described as feeling like you are wrapped from head to toe in blinking Christmas lights from November to December.
A few weeks ago I was walking along Regent Street contemplating all this when, here and there, I began to see little white flecks fluttering down from the sky. I thought it was confetti or bits of trash. Then, as I continued walking, more white confetti, tossed by the wind. I caught a piece. It melted imperceptibly between my fingers. Seriously? London’s first snow, on Regent Street? As I’m contemplating Christmastime here? This can’t be real.
I looked up toward the torrent of tumbling snowflakes: fake. They were shooting out from above Hamleys toy store. So London and L.A. aren’t so different, I guess.
I continued on. It was nearing 6 p.m., and the crowds on the street were getting to be nearly impenetrable. This was the day that the Apple Store a few meters ahead was about to open its doors to an iPhone-crazed public. Guards in luminous jackets stood watch.
The doors opened. The mob went ballistic. Passersby spilled into the curbside lane; buses, now immobile, honked in protest. Arms rose into the air, cameras in hand, snapping pictures of the commotion, like a late 80s rave in a cold field in surry. They could have been hands held up in adoration of a new religious leader, possibly the second coming had finally arrived.
There was an uproar coming from inside the Apple store. I couldn’t tell whether it was from the employees or from customers who had just rushed in. It came in waves. How best to describe the din … maybe if John Lennon (Yoko era) had just then resurrected , long hair flowing (Jesus-like), descending the glass staircase while tossing roses to a throng of rapturous Beatles fans, the sound would have come close.
It was madness and materialism and a £269 phone. Fake snow was falling across the street. Yep, it’s Christmastime. and I have seen the true sign of the lord and its in the shape of a white half eaten apple. Hosanah in the highest... !
I wish you a hopefull Christmas..
hallelujah Noel be it heaven or hell
the christmas we get we deserve.
Saturday, 17 November 2007
Seeing as I missed the Halloween blog I've decided to make this one about the darker side of London, or to be precise, the portrayal of London in the world of horror films.
What makes London such a great location for horror films is of course its history,dark streets and infamous characters from Jack the ripper to Sweeney Todd .Writers like Ian Sinclair and Peter Ackroyd have described London as a growing breathing organic creature, with symbolic locations that seem to be metaphorical portals into the underworld ( Hawksmoor has been accused of building churches around London which show occult architecture and symbology, though I would disagree myself). Even placid Crouch End in North London was transformed into a H.P Lovecraft hell hole by Stephen King in one of his short stories. But what makes London even more scary and strange than its fog filled streets illuminated gaslights, is its sheer normality.
Nothing makes London more scary than when it suddenly stops playing by the rules, when people stop doing the commute to work, when everyone stops what they are doing and stay at home. Think how strange London was the day of the London bombings in 2007, or on a less dramatic way when it snows or the tubes go on strike.Have you ever been up Oxford Street on Christmas day?, everyone should try this at least once while they live in London. You feel like a character from a post apocalyptic movie, alone, slightly uneasy, but happy that you don't have to push through Italian tourists just to get to Oxford Circus.
Many films have used this sense of the norm made strange to feed on peoples fears.But there is something particularly resonant about such nightmarish phantasms when placed within uncomfortably familiar British sites, a juxtaposition which has long been exploited by purveyors of the uncanny.In the 19th century, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker established Britain as the natural home of Gothic horror - with Frankenstein being first published (anonymously) in London in 1818, and Dracula later bringing its eponymous vampire across the waters from Transylvania to darkest Whitby. When HG Wells wrote his classic tale of extraterrestrial invasion The War of the Worlds, he instinctively understood the eerie appeal of having monsters from another planet land on the outskirts of somewhere as ordinary as Woking. Tom Cruise might have battled valiantly against giant tripods reaping post-9/11 chaos in New York in Steven Spielberg's recent blockbuster adaptation, but Wells's late Victorian novel places its first otherworldly appearance squarely in the soils of Horsell Common, a location renowned for its quaint English beauty. Somehow, these outlandish ideas seemed more credible - and disturbing - when played out against the down-to-earth backdrop of Britain.
As a fan of scary movies, I've long been aware of the appeal of horror on the home front.One of the creepiest experiences of my childhood was watching a TV rerun of Wolf Rilla's Midwich Cuckoos. Wyndham had first established himself as a master of strange English science fiction with The Day of the Triffids, famously filmed by Steve Sekely in and around a number of memorable London locations including Charing Cross and Marylebone stations, Piccadilly Circus, and Westminster Bridge.
According to Danny Boyle, it was the opening sequence of The Day of the Triffids, in which a man wakes up in hospital to discover that a meteor shower has blinded his fellow countrymen, which first inspired Alex Garland to write 28 Days Later.
And then there was Quatermass and the Pit, the film which convinced me that taking a trip on the underground would lead you into the very bowels of hell. Originally broadcast as a six-part BBC serial in the late Fifties, Quatermass and the Pit was remade by Hammer in 1967 with a ripping screenplay by original writer Nigel Kneale. The plot concerns a string of ominous discoveries (skulls, skeletons, spaceships) during unspecified 'Central Line extension work' at 'Hobbs End' station.
As demonic artefacts are uncovered, a riot of violent madness erupts, climaxing in an apparition of Old Nick himself over the London skyline. The ingenious twist is that this 'devil' is actually a Martian, an intrusive extraterrestrial ancestor from whom mankind has inherited his innate propensity for violence. ('We are the Martians!' concludes our hero.)
According to Kneale, the inspiration for the story came from watching news footage of the Notting Hill race riots in the late Fifties. But it is the sense of the underground as some kind of portal to the underworld which haunts my memories of this creepy classic.
Since then, umpteen movies, including 28 Weeks Later, have capitalised upon the unsettling potential of the tube, a brooding labyrinth which has come to embody the morbid subtextualgroanings of horror's repressed psyche. According to the tagline for Gary Sherman's 1972 oddity Death Line: 'Beneath Modern London Lives a Tribe of Once Humans. Neither Men Nor Women ... they are the Raw Meat of the Human Race!' Recently reissued on DVD, this oddly cronky tale of cups of tea and tube-dwelling cannibals has become an established cult classic, and remains (strangely enough) an inspirational favourite of Brit-art provocateurs Jake and Dinos Chapman.
John Landis surely had Death Line in mind when he let his American werewolf in London loose at Tottenham Court Road station. It's here that an unsuspecting passenger is stalked and ravaged by the eponymous beastie, providing one of the most memorable sequences in a film which trades heavily on the frighteningly funny disjunct between quaint English locations (Yorkshire pubs; West End porno cinemas; Tower Bridge; even London Zoo) and fantasy.
It's significant that the long-awaited sequel An American Werewolf in Paris proved to be a total flop, mainly, I think, because once you cross the English channel, who cares whether there's a monster on the prowl? Over in Europe, anything goes; it's only here in uptight Britain that the magic formula of horror and humbug really makes sense.
This geocultural quirk perhaps goes some way to explaining the runaway success of Shaun of the Dead, the bastard offspring of American Werewolf, which was described by its creators as the world's first 'zom-rom-com' (zombie romantic comedy). Humorously transposing the zombie riffs of Romero's Living Dead films from Pittsburgh to north London's leafy Crouch End, Shaun of the Dead struck a chord not only with UK audiences, but also with the American cinemagoers who had previously embraced the picture-postcard portraits of Britain peddled in international hits such as Four Weddings and Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary.
In recent years, there has been an encouraging resurgence of dark-hearted, British-set fantasies which have acted as a cadaverous counterbalance to the endless diet of comfortably middle-class Hugh Grant staples. An adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's terrifically seditious graphic novel V for Vendetta ran into unexpected controversy when its explosive, tube-bound finale chimed too closely with the real-life horrors of the 7 July bombings. The film's release was postponed (officially for 'other reasons'), but scenes of the Houses of Parliament being triumphantly detonated from below by a heroic latterday Guy Fawkes remained intact, alongside images of anarchists merrily swarming across Trafalgar Square.
One of the most impressive films of last year was Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, a gripping, dystopian nightmare adapted from a novel by PD James (via the legacy of Nigel Kneale) which posits a desolate vision of a near-future world in which human reproduction has become a dying art. Beautifully filmed in battle-scarred, colour-drained hues by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuaron's apocalyptic vision of this grey and unpleasant land charts a grim map of Britain which includes haunting footage of the once-magnificent Battersea Power Station, and climaxes in a Hadean vision of Bexhill-on-Sea which most closely resembles wartorn Bosnia.Danny Boyle agrees that Children of Men exists within the same tradition as 28 Weeks Later, and points out that both films are significantly directed and photographed by non-British film-makers who are able to observe the strangeness of this land and its culture with the intelligent empathy of an outsider's eye.
'In the end,' says Boyle, 'I think the key thing about Britain is that it's built on this deep, dark ocean of history. There are grassy, picturesque areas of London which you still can't put train tunnels through because they're actually covering plague pits. You just don't get that in America - that dark abyss of the past. And it makes Britain, as a location, very fertile ground for horror.'
So here is my top ten list of the best London based scary movies ,In no particular order as thy say.
- The Omen -
(Richard Donner 1976) An American ambassador in London learns to his horror that his son is actually the literal Antichrist. As if the American embassy ain't scary enough, plus the walk to Putney Bridge never felt safe after this film, especially when the wind rises, I swear I can hear the satanic choir in the background.
Quatermass and the Pit
(Roy Ward Baker, 1967)
Demonic Martian relics are uncovered in the London Underground, unleashing a wave of otherworldly madness. No wonder Paul Weller didn't want to go down into the tube at midnight.
28 Days Later
(Danny Boyle, 2002)
From the deserted streets of London to war-torn Manchester, Trainspotting director Danny Boyle and The Beach writer Alex Garland conjure an apocalyptic vision of Britain ravaged by an outbreak of 'rage'. Even though the main character just looks like a late night clubber coming out at 4 in the morning..rave on!
- Peeping Tom(Michael Powell 1960) This film was nearly banned when it first came out. Censored and cut to pieces it finished Powell's (director) career.He noted ruefully in his autobiography, "I make a film that nobody wants to see and then, thirty years later, everybody has either seen it or wants to see it." Today, the film is considered a masterpiece and one of the best British horror films.The story revolves around a young man who murders women while using a portable movie camera to record their dying expressions of terror. Shot around Goodge street, Fritzrovia area, many of the locations still exist, including the killers den.One of the more famous locations is Newman Passage, with the Newman arms at the end of it. Fancy a pint?
- An American werewolf in London
(John Landis 1981) What can I say... werewolf's,the moors, Nazi zombies, dead friends,London zoo, Piccadilly circus, sex (or blue) cinema with crap films and Jenny Agutter dressed as a nurse, what more could a young teenager have asked for.
- Children of men ( Alfonso Cuaron 2006) In 2027, in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea, where her child's birth may help scientists save the future of humankind. Amazing Film. Truly fantastic! Mindblowing. London never looked so alien yet so recognisable.
- Death Line (Gary Sherman 1972) Beneath Modern London Lives a Tribe of Once Humans. Neither Men Nor Women... no its not underneath the Chelsea stadium. A film that no many people have seen, but never forget, repulsive but very watchable.
- Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright 2004) A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.An every day London love story. I knew that there was something strange about Crouch end.
- The Day of the triffids (TV-Series 1981) The effects were awful, the directions not that great and the acting very wooden, but when I was a kid this film really put the willies in me...sorry up me.
- A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick 1971) Nuff said dear droogs.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Saturday, 20 October 2007
Everything is so shit, I really can't see the point in anything, it's all so fucking shit.
Kenneth williams last diary entry.
Kenneth Williams modest small and lonely flat came tumbling down a few weeks ago. Like him, there was two sides to it, slap bang in Central London,it shouted out 'here I am', but inside it was small and timed.Like the man him self it lacked confidence and questioned its own existence, and like Kenneth it is no more.
Comedian Kenneth Williams lived for almost 20 years in Marlborough House,he was found dead there in 1988 after an overdose of sleeping pills, possibly taken accidentally.An inquest recorded an open verdict as it was not possible to establish whether his death was the result of suicide or an accident. (Williams's mentally unstable father had committed suicide after drinking a bottle of disinfectant in 1962.)
The building was later fitted with an English Heritage blue plaque in his honour.
It is certainly a shame that his last home is to go under the bulldozer, but I wonder whether Kenneth would be as worried.
His diaries are riddled with entries about the various flats he occupied, and the problems that drove him mad with each – noise and neighbours.
But to be honest never has a home been such a metaphor for a mans life, and with him gone maybe there is no place for it in this new London.It will soon be replaced by a happy, expensive, load, brash high-rise residential block dubbed ‘Terry’s Tower’.
But lets hope the ghost of Kenneth Williams walks through the corridors of new glass and chrome structure,bugging the shit out of its rich owners shouting "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me"
I leave you with his last entry of his diary,angry,bitter and sad, its as if the flat itself was was penning its last words.
God Speed Kenneth!
Thursday, 14 April, 1988
Bloody hell! My back hurts so much & every thing's shit. I bet I'm going to die soon. Wouldn't that be the way? I'll bet I die on the toilet. The indignity of some doctor trying to pull my trousers up over my shitty arse is something I am glad that I shall not be there to witness. Everything is so shit, I really can't see the point in anything, it's all so fucking shit. I'm going to put loads of pills in my mouth, sit on the toilet, and see what happens.
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
I had a valedictory lunch of omelette, chips and beans (with cup of tea, 50p extra) at the New Piccadilly cafe for the last time last week. The cafe closed its large antique till for the last time on the 22nd of September 2007, to make way for some godawful rent-hoovering money-grasping monstrosity, and with it goes a little corner of London. The New Piccadiliy wasn't about the food - the cod was probably frozen in 1955, and the peas were of the tinned garden variety - but the New Piccadilly had an interior that was all Formica and convenience, plus waiters in little uniforms that suggested they were moonlighting on the Love Boat. It was a democratic place, where the air conditioning battled with popular opera, and the plastic flowers never wilted. I'll miss it, and London will be a more sterile homogenous place without it.
It seems to me that as a populous we are slowly being brainwashed in believing that places like Starfucks and Cafe Nero are classy and stylish. We mistake convenience with quality or individual style. The multinationals drink in our pay packets every month and offer us nothing but over priced watered down coffee. In the next few blogs I will be talking about some other great London Landmarks that will be paved over to put up a parking Lot. Soon London will look like a sanatised disney land, but the city boys, the government and tourist will love it, because it safe and classy.
I want my London to be dirty, mysterious, unique, rebellious and dangerous.
My vision of London is not that of New Labour, its a giant sculpture of the Artful Dodger, wearing a hoodie over his jaunty top hat, a glint in his eyes with a stolen wallet in one hand and a greasy mug of tea from the new Piccadilly cafe in the other.
Viva la revolution
Aka Lord Monty
Monday, 23 July 2007
Right first things first....Glastonbury was wet, muddy and sometimes a little disappointing. But then thats Glastonbury, yes every year you say this will be your last, but then in the wee small hours while your sipping on an over priced brothers cider and watching the sun go down behind a set of porta cabins staged to look like stonehenge you think .......wait a minute that wasn't there last year...who the fuck put that there?
Banksy thats who, or wanksy as his fellow graffiti fraternity like to call him. He himself describes this work as a pile of crap, but personally I see an artist with his finger on modern disposable culture. For a while I have felt his style of graffiti art is more remenisant of European political stencil graffiti that could be found in Italy, Spain or Germany during the 60s and 70s, usually saying 'Franco out' or "pull down the wall'. The graffiti that we are more accustomed to originates from the USA, and usually on a whole has nothing to say about socio, political problems and more about the self, and this is my problem with everyday graffiti, especially tagging or bombing. I always think that if Hitler had not become the powerful dictator that he was, and had instead followed his original path of an artist (and a crap one for that), he would have probably picked up a spray can and tagged his name all over Berlin.
Everytime someone tags a wall or bus shelter there is a little of that egotistical, megalomaniac and narcissistic bit of Hitler in them. Hitler of course went on to conquer Europe, and instead placed swastikas and monuments of himself in every major capital that he could get his greasy hands on thus giving us the first taste of bombing the system, and before you say there is a different between graffiti and tagging, yes I know, but when was the last time you walked past a london wall and said 'My god that chap has created a splendid example of urban experimental wall art, he should be commended for his flourish with the spray can and his use of typographical composition and colour, reward him and offer him the keys to the city'. No instead all we see is one tag after another....me,me,me.
Now I'm not trying to say that Banksy isn't egotistical, but a least he had something to say, sometimes something crap, but other times he raised a smile and made us think a little. Now Banksy has taken his art and placed it in art galleries, no longer does he wish to spray our streets, the council paints over what was left of his work and the graffiti fraternity can give him the finger and are glad that he is off their patch allowing them to once again spray such words of wisdom like 'toxic' or 'Mayhem'
I personally think its a sad day as we return to the dark ages of graffiti art and we watch with sadness and a little hope as the sun goes down behind ancient porta cabins in a field in Avalon.
Monday, 18 June 2007
Ladies and Gentleman as the days grow longer and the temperature gets hotter, we raise a glass of cider to the return of another British summer. And what makes summer so unique and special in this Sceptred Isle, what makes it especially British? Is it the return of the fine English specimen that is the naked torso of our fellow building folk? Is it the angelic sound of bombastic base gently caressing ours ears? Or is it our cobbled golden streets filled with the tipper tapper of young fillies wearing the finest yet skimpy of modern attire?
It is all these things and more, but one event that heralds the dawning of another British summer is the ye ol festival that is known as Glastonbury to those in the know. A festival that is traditionally blessed by the ancient gods with a shower from the heavens that symbolizes the beginning of another wet yet joyful summer. Its what makes the inhabitants of this antiquarian Isle true men and women. So lets doff out hats to the pyramid stage and bow down in respect to the communal toilets. In the next blog we shall look at what a true Lady and Gent should wear when participating in a festival.
Cheerio and happy wading
Sunday, 17 June 2007
God created the world in seven days, I have no idea how he did this, maybe he put all his other projects on hold, maybe his work load was a little low. All I know is that its going to take a little longer than 7 days to get this page up a running. In the mean time listen to some music.