Archive for the ‘Wordplay’ Category

You had me at “popcorn”…

Ok, so popcorn only comes into it at the end. But you catch my drift.

Thank you, The Auteurs, for your charming (and helpful) email.

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37 things that I truly enjoyed in 2009

Google says we don’t need another ‘Best of 2009’ list, and I couldn’t agree more.

Most such lists are, at least in some small way, disingenuous.

Take Vice’s 2009 Albums of the Year list. Clever. But what does it give? What does it tell you about its author(s) – other than the fact that he/ she/ they can deconstruct their own posturing?

We might laugh (*guilty*). Although it’s quite sad. When people aren’t doing the post-modern-show-off thing they’re probably just doing the posturing thing that the post-modern-show-off thing takes the piss out. If you get me.

So, for the sake of sincerity, here’s a personal alternative. A bunch of stuff I enjoyed in 2009, whether it was published/ released/ produced in 2009 or not. It just happened to come into my life last year, and I loved it.

6 things I truly enjoyed reading

Early in November, I read the words “I am in here”. For the next month, I was gripped, and content, because I knew that wherever I went I had 1,000+ pages of Infinite Jest threatening the last threads of my beaten-up manbag.

That bag is now a goner. But if you want to read David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece in 2010, there’s still the wonderful Infinite Summer website/ round table as your companion.

Odd coincidence: most of the action of Infinite Jest (1996) takes place in 2009.

Less odd: information overload = boredom – maybe?

Tao Lin explores this question like no one else I read in 2009, and I admire the bravery of his work. Wonder if he’s a better self-promotionalist than he is a writer. Wonder if he cares, or if he’s just on GChat (to a paying customer). Wonder if he really is Carles from Hipster Runoff.

Short stories were in. I read Miranda July. I re-read Raymond Carver. I read Kmart realism and things got a bit sparse. A bit concrete. The best short book I read talked about concrete, and other materials. Dejan Sudjic‘s little gem, The Language of Things, educated me on Dieter Rams, modern art and the essence of luxury (+much much more) in the space of 218 perfectly considered pages. I raise my cap to him and recommend that book highly.

Lastly – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. We waited 11 years for Junot Díaz to make a comeback. Boy was it worth it.

11 things I truly enjoyed watching

No new film releases blew me away last year. Perhaps I was taking more pleasure from digging – and because Audrey Q‘s flatmate works for Artifical Eye, we always had an archive to hand.

Right at the top of the pile was Emir Kusturica. I loved When Father Was Away on Business (1985), and Underground (1995) was out of this world. Gypsy-carnivalesque-slapstick-allegory. Truly magical.

UNDERGROUND Trailer by musicattaque on YouTube

If I’m remembering correctly, The Larry Sanders Show was buried in a BBC graveyard slot back in the 90s. That’s a complete mystery to me.

It made the mold for recent post-modern comedy, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to The Office to 30 Rock. Every episode I watched last year was A1.

Hank Kingsley by nominal1234 on YouTube

I’ll rat myself out here. I came to the party way too late (via the excellent Underbelly and a newfound bloodlust). But I did watch all 5 seasons of The Wire at the start of the year. Does that need any comment?

At Xmas it got all gory again with another instant classic from David Simon – Generation Kill.

Best Scenes of Generation Kill by DarkEClips on YouTube

No disaster, no massacre without redemption. If Generation Kill showed the bloody worst of Iraq, Mark Cousins’s debut as a director told an entirely different story – many stories, in truth, narrated by the children who live there.

I saw a few brilliant documentaries in 2009. (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, of particular note). But The First Movie was the best, and the most sui generis. You must watch it.

14 things I truly enjoyed listening to

Bye bye Bmore. Hello Serato. Finally I could play records in the same way I VJ. And we played a lot of MP3s on those two control records.

Track of the year is a toss up between two glitch dubbers: Joy Orbison and 2000F & J Kamata. Since Joy Orbison also made my favourite mix of year, and he called heads, heads wins.

Joy Orbison – Hyph Mngo by HotflushUK on YouTube

Intersections on the various lines between dubstep, house, techno, UK Funky, carioca funk et al got my BPMs racing. Besides Joy Orbison, Floating Points were outstanding in 2009. Mad Decent slipped off my rader a bit, but Major Lazer kept us jumping all summer.

On the Tropical tip, Cumbia was the breakthrough sound – and Buenos Aires’s ZZK Records were always pushing the front line.

El Remolon by ZZK Records on Vimeo

Boogie made a comeback with Dâm-Funk, James Pants and a masterclass from DJ Spinna. Interesting to hear Joy Orbison et al sampling from that era. Probably not a coincidence.

Less sure why Italo is always in my beatbox (synths? irony?) but it appears to be true – Italians Do It Better. Glass Candy at KOKO was one of my gigs of the year.

Glass Candy by Evan Matthews on Vimeo

Back in March 2009, I got to meet a hero. Daedelus performed at Bardens Boudoir with his wife, Laura Darlington. We listened to The Long Lost, looked around the room, and everyone was clearly in love.

The Long Lost – Siren Song by ldtn on Vimeo

*PERSONAL ASIDE WITHIN THIS PERSONAL REVIEW*

Speaking personally, my favourite gig was the Lovebox Arthur Russell tribute night. But  I was VJing at that night. So, as I warned you – it’s personal.

Killer Whale Go Bang by seangorham on YouTube

5 exhibitions I truly enjoyed going to

I’ve already written about Walking In My Mind at the Hayward Gallery, and that exhibition has ended. I don’t think it’s fair to taunt you with the details now.

It’s definitely unfair to tell you about Roger Hiorns’s SEIZURE, if you didn’t make it. But what can I say. It was brilliant. I’m sorry. The exhibition ended on 3 January 2010. Let’s hope it will be back.

Artist on site: Roger Hiorns on Seizure by Artangel on Vimeo

I’ve heard rumbles that The Museum of Everything – a gallery devoted to outsider art – will re-open in some form, at some time, in 2010. I hope that’s true because I’d love to go back.

The Cinema Museum in Kennington does occasional open days and the next one’s coming on 27-28 February 2010. If it’s anything like the one I went to in 2009, you’ll be able to bring old 8mm and 16mm reels for restoration. Something to look forward to, eh?

But if you need a faster fix, mercifully, I can give you a recommendation. Drop everything. Get to the V&A for Decode: Digital Design Sensations before 11 April 2010 and leave plenty of time to play.

London Poetry Systems Round Up

Back in October, London Poetry Systems collaborated with the Oxford University Poetry Society for (what we thought was) a one-off event in Oxford.

It’s now become a two-off. We’re back for Oxfringe on 11 April 2010.

Here are some of the better bits from our last show…

Will Stopha – This City is Larger than Life by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Huck – My Freedom and Me by Big Face Art on Vimeo

George Chopping – Wit off by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Henry Stead – Earth Too Soon by Big Face Art on Vimeo

Yo Zushi – ‘Eva’ by Big Face Art on Vimeo

The Limits of Control

Image cred: kspace.tv

“I abstain from any kind of release for six weeks before a fight, no self-pleasure, nothing,” says [David] Haye, acknowledging that he may have a busy week ahead. “Even in my dreams, I’ll be about to have sex with a beautiful girl and I’ll say ‘Sorry darling, I’m fighting in a few weeks.’ That’s control, bro, when you’re turning down a hot chick in your subconscious.”

David Haye, Observer Sport Monthly | November 2009

Image cred: YR MOMMA’S IN OUR BIZNESS

“Everyone in boxing probably makes out well except for the fighter. He’s the only one that’s on Skid Row most of the time; he’s the only one that everybody just leaves when he loses his mind. He sometimes goes insane, he sometimes goes on the bottle, because it’s a highly intensive pressure sport that allows people to just lose it [their self-control].”

Mike Tyson, quoted in The Telegraph | ‘Tyson 20 years down the line’

Insult Jonathan from Spotify

Maybe it’s juvenile. Maybe it’s crowdsourced cyber-bullying.

But dang. It’s funny. Jonathan from Spotified Ruined your Playlist.

Spotify 4

Spotify 7

Spotify 9

Spotify 10

FYI – if you don’t have the spare time or inclination to insult Jonathan from Spotify, you might want to ‘change up’ instead.

We have Spotify on at work but for my money Blip.fm is the winner.

More crowdsourced emotions:

Twistori: how do you feel?

We Feel Fine: but it’s ‘complicated’

– Wouldn’t life be better if there was an app for that?

The Language of Fried Chicken

Chicken: High Art, Low Calorie is a fresh (or at least still warm) project by Siâron Hughes, showcasing the graphic vernacular of fried chicken vendors in the UK.

chicken_4

Image cred: Mark Batty Publisher.

Hughes, a talented designer and illustrator, did not stop at cataloguing the star-spangled array of signage.

She also interviewed the people behind brands such as Perfect Fried Chicken and Hen Cottage, most notably Morris ‘Mr Chicken’ Cassanova – who claims to be responsible for “90% of the logos that’s been used out there now”.

chicken_2

Image cred: Mark Batty Publisher.

The interview excerpts on Creative Review are juicy and occasionally mysterious:

1. On Origins

“A lot of people who were franchisees say from Kentucky Fried Chicken or something like that, maybe were feeling the squeeze. They feel as though they were working for Kentucky Fried Chicken and y’know Kentucky is so strict, whatever they says goes.”

chicken_1

Image cred: Mark Batty Publisher.

2. On America

“In the past Kentucky usually have a little logo, a little slogan, “American Recipe”… Because they try to pull the wool over people’s eyes, you get your Dallas, it’s American, you get your California, it’s American, you get your Mississippi it’s American …”

chicken_3

Image cred: Mark Batty Publisher.

3. On Logos

“People see them and try to change them around a little bit, and you will see somewhere along the line somebody will have something looking similar to that. It’s not all about the bits and pieces that goes with it, they will automatically try to copy it.”

KFC is still ahead of McDonald’s as the USA’s largest purchaser of chicken (says this site). McD’s have a diverse menu but chicken was never the main attraction.

The Chicken McNugget hit the market in 1983 and only after the McChicken sandwich bombed before it.

The Wire Season 1 – McNuggets by pushmedia1 on YouTube.

Much as I like D’Angelo’s parable in The Wire, it doesn’t seem quite true of the Golden Arched take on product innovation.

The Fillet-O-Fish and Egg McMuffin were both created by enterprising francisees. Herb Patterson broke corporate rank to start serving the McMuffin in McDonald’s Santa Barbara before it was an official item on the franchise menu.

But getting back to chicken.

Chicken is chicken.

And the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand is chicken. Plus ‘American recipe’.

c

Image cred: Creative Review.

What strikes me from the interviews and anecdotes is that KFC weren’t hot on UK franchises trying to innovate – as Mr Cassanova said, “y’know Kentucky is so strict, whatever they says goes”.

If you worked for KFC and wanted to invent, you might have to leave and start your own business – and you might feel you needed to copy key elements of the brand to do it successfully.

So what do you call your new place – that fresh-minted copy of a copy, with new items on the menu?

“Perfect Fried Chicken. Because you can’t be Better Than Perfect Fried Chicken”.

Damn.

Maybe each new chicken joint should just take their founder’s name, like one round my way – Al Ikhwan Fried Chicken.

Or maybe someone should speak to a copywriter.

Previous logo design:

Remixing logos: Luis Vuitton sues charity campaign.

– Designer money: India crowdsources logo for the Rupee.

– How can you find your eggs in the morning? Tropicana vanishes.

Where the Social Bandits Gone?

Some 70 years ago, Michael Curtiz got all the Technicolor cameras in existence to make The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The US had just been hit by a second wave of recession in its Great Depression.

Movies matter in a recession. Stories and big, bold escapes.

The Adventures of Robin Hood Trailer by hollywoodclassics on YouTube.

Whichever version of Robin Hood folklore you follow, two things seem to be broadly accepted:

1. He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (i.e. he was an outlaw).

2. He was a common man – a regular Joe.

corisco duelo-de-gigantes1

Cordel literature found in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian folklore has its own, more recent Robin Hood.

The most legendary bandit (cangaçeiro) was Lampião. He was shot dead in 1938. The same year The Adventures of Robin Hood came out on general release.

He was not a clear-cut hero. He was often violent and perverse, as accounts in film and literature have shown:

“He used to put a man’s nuts in a drawer, lock it, throw the key out and set fire to the house. Not without first leaving a knife within reach of the wretch. The way I see it, it’s better to burn to death than to lose your nuts.”

Sergeant Getulio (1971) by João Ibaldo Ribeiro.

Lampião in Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol (1964) – Dir. Glauber Rocha.

Just as the desperate north eastern climes of Brazil spawned its own Robin Hood, national interest in the tales of Lampião peak during times of economic trouble.

Artists, writers and filmmakers of the 1960s lavished him with attention.

But today?

Today in London there will be riots outside the Bank of England. There’s growing malaise in most corners of the world.

So I ask: where’s the social bandit gone?

The Wire (Season 1): Omar – “It’s all in the game” by hoodpolitics.

You could argue that Omar Little in The Wire represents a new form of fictional Robin Hood.

He robs drug dealers in a city (Baltimore) where 10% of landowners possess 58% of the land value; and the bottom 10% own less than 1%.

Can we call that social banditry?

If not, who are the Robin Hoods in today’s global meltdown?

And who would they even loot?

LPS @ Canford School

zan-lyons-canford-2-resize

Zan Lyons rehearsing at Canford School.

London Poetry Systems on the road last week. Although teaching in name, it was more a learner than anything else.

Thanks to the kids at Canford School for their energy and ideas. I hope we helped with some shape and can’t wait to see the results on the 17th/ 18th.

Since I last wrote about this project Codeshift has kicked off an exceptional podcast to showcase his trademark sonic collage.

The Vimeo group, as ever, welcomes all contributions and collaborations.

And finally, hats off to Zan Lyons for his performance on Friday. Astonishing and outright unique, as I can only imagine the album will be once it’s released.

Zan Lyons Live at London Astoria 2008 by thisisourpunkrock on YouTube.

Film Title Mash Up

iconfess1953dvdiamathief1934dvdrcondemnedtolive1935dvdriwakeupscreaming1941dvdremergency1972dvdmurdersinthezoo1933dvdrwhodoneit1942dvdgaydog1954dvd

Stills taken from Steven Hill’s fantastic archive of Movie Title Screens.

A perfect complement to The End – one of my favourite Flickr groups.

End credits:

Is this the end? A multilingual sign-off by Alexander Gutke.

Hunter Wears Chuck Taylors

There’s a star-studded brochure of laments in the new Hunter S. Thompson biopic:

‘What could he contribute if he was still alive now? What would he make of it all?’

hunter-s-shoot-typewriterLooking at the last footage in the film, I picture him at a typewriter. Still. Bristling against that machine and gnashing at deadlines with a thousand news wires jacked into his hollowed sinews.

Always at a typewriter. Until the confrontation turns ugly – and the machine makes a window exit.

Thompson battles the typewriter to earn his spoils of the phony war. With each clack in the film’s audio, you hear intent.

How could this crank-guzzling dope fiend settle down to a night on the MacBook, or even MacBook Pro? These are the motherboards of therapy, swelling the gentle waves of comfort and adulation (yes – this went viral):

As sensitive psychopaths go he could relax. He seemed at home in shorts and Converse All-Stars. But could he be that minimal mellow on the job, at his desk, writing?

When you work on a typewriter it’s no collaboration. You need to know what you want before you sit down. Then say it, and say it without compromise.

I’m not convinced Thompson would write much now if he hadn’t put a bullet in his head.

He grew obsessed with his celebrity status, from the accounts in the film. He could be happy to chew on fat endorsements while an iPod shuffles the best shards of a shattered, glorious past.

Converse co-opted Hunter S. Thompson this year. He’d already lost his war. He was not in a position to negotiate.