JUST AN OBSERVATION

Monday14th November

 

 

Another weekend done and dusted and a little closer to the commercial hell masquerading as Xmas-sightings of the first Chanel No.5 advert, traditionally December 1,signifies the point I realise I can’t ignore it any longer- and the countdown to the conclusion –and demise?- of the X Factor. Finding myself unable to sit through a whole programme any longer I channel surfed through its duration on Saturday and only managed to catch a few ‘highlights’. These included the thing that calls itself a Tulisa telling Janet that listening to her singing-frankly the most boring version ever of Queen’s drama filled Somebody To Love ever sung- required her getting into a certain mood as if listening to N-Dubz were anyone’s choice for accompanying moments of calm and introspection. Surely every musical type or genre requires the listener to either be in a certain mood or ready to accept one. Even N-Dubz have their time and place even if it is never and nowhere. Meanwhile Marcus evolved even closer into Shane Ritchie on Seaside Special territory giving the same performance as the previous week and took one of the greatest bass lines ever-Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust- and combined it with a performance so tacky and naff it was excruciating to watch. Mind you this was nothing compared to Sunday when the brief part I caught saw Lady Gaga impersonating Kitty-it may have been the other way round but it was hard to tell- proving that often life imitates art or vice versa as again it was hard to tell.

Switching over from this pantomime with adverts I caught Martin Scorcese’s documentary on George Harrison and whilst it is yet another telling of the over familiar Beatles tale it offered a new and interesting perspective. Harrison struggled in the Beatles as he generally played third fiddle to the ongoing power struggle that was Lennon-McCartney but took advantage of this and studied hard under their superior songcraft eventually stockpiling a vast collection of songs which were constantly overlooked in favour of the bands two more dominant forces offerings. His patience and talent paid off post Beatles however when he was the first member to reach number one in both the singles and album chart with his solo releases-My Sweet Lord and All Things Must Pass respectively.

Harrison came across, it must be said, as quite a dour character who finding himself in the biggest and most successful band in the world somehow managed to balance the material world his wealth and fame afforded him with the spiritual world the same things allowed him to indulge. It is generally forgotten how the Beatles were simply four young men who accidentally changed the world-so much a part of our cultural landscape are they- and in comparison to the wannabes and desperadoes the music industry-not to mention a certain talent show-throws up these days they managed to remain relatively grounded. It really can’t have been easy to have been catapulted into global recognition and immense vast wealth unexpectedly and this documentary reveals how the band turned inwardly to each other as a means of support after all there was no blueprint or precedent for what they alone were experiencing. The documentary was indeed a a fascinating one if a trifle long-unlike Scorcese’s Dylan feature No Direction Home which showed the young bard blazing a trail at his creative peak- though it did reveal the total lack of style Harrison was in possession of. Lanky hair, fuzzy beard, denim dungarees and radiation yellow ‘blouse’ it showed that the suits that manager Brian Epstein foisted on them in their early days were perhaps the only time the band had any sense of sartorial style-unlike contemporaries such as the Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and the lizard king creator Jim Morrison who were all selling sex as part of the package-and left to their own devices often looked a mess struggling with kaftans and the like. Still it was all about the music with the Beatles and this has, admittedly, stood the test of time.

The Beatles were probably the first time youth took matters into their own hands concerning their own identities and it was interesting to read this week about the return of rave culture in inner London. With many not having the income to support a £10 entrance fee to a club and then fork out a fiver the return of this DIY ethic of the late eighties is perhaps the only alternative open to them. As a regular club-goer over several decades I must admit that the thought of entering one at the moment fills me with little or no excitement. It is an outdated concept that has changed little over the last twenty years-inflated prices and aggressive attitudes apart-and seems to have run its course. Andrew Logan in The British Guide To Showing Off proclaimed himself the last face of alternative and while there may be some truth in this I sincerely hope not. Instead I prefer to think that an alternative scene exists which I am simply too old to comprehend or know the existence of. It is unlikely though as soon as anything shows the slightest glimmer of promise the internet is all over it and the bandwagon jumpers and desperately hip are in there diluting  and instantly mainstreaming it. The last movement I never understood was death metal and it gave me pleasure that at last the younger generation had concocted a musical language all their own and indecipherable to anyone over thirty. It was just a shame that the music was so God-awful sounding as if Satan and his helpers had moved in next door with a warehouse consignment of Ikea flat packs and power tools and were hastily assembling them all at the same time whilst simultaneously dismembering babies. At least they could call it their own even if only because no-one else wanted it.

This week the French film festival is on so I will be taking in several screenings as well as attending the launch of a new fashion store De La Sole in Rose Street which will be stocking the latest collection of one of my new favourite designers I saw at the Oohfashion Edinburgh show, Christine Watson.

Here is this weeks musical obsession EMA with a sound harking back to experimental arty avant garde rock but a fresh twist

 

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 11th November

 

Much meaning is being attached to the fact that today’s date reads 11/11/11 and tying it into Mayan prophecies of doom and apocalypse. Whilst I am sure this is an interesting subject which could have long term ramifications that affect us all in the future- I am already preparing for the inevitable hysteria surrounding 12/12/12 next year as it will be the last numerical date with any supposed significance for some time- unfortunately all it signifies to me is the start of yet another not particularly eventful weekend. It is however Remembrance Sunday this weekend and whatever your personal feelings  regarding wars- instigated by Governments and driven by market forces for financial gain in many cases- it is a time to put those misgivings aside and remember those who have lost their lives and express sympathy to the families who have been devastated by their losses. Nowadays the public are more likely to protest at the likelihood of the prospect of war-witness the millions who took to the street in 2003- but it seems little has changed into how much notice a determined government will pay heed to these protestations.

One person who won’t be remembered by many this weekend is the totally forgettable Frankie Cocozza the sacked X-Factor contestant dismissed for ‘bad’ behaviour. Sorry but when did being a little too rock and roll consist of looking like Pete Doherty’s younger uglier brother with a face even more like a sweaty round cheese singing badly out of tune versions of crappy Black Eyed Peas songs on a TV talent show with the pained expression of someone forcing out a shit? The whole scenario reeks of desperation in trying to boost the ratings of an ailing programme that has truly run its course. This weekend they are bringing back already dismissed contestants-the ones the judges initially thought not good enough- in a desperate attempt to raise interest and squeeze more money out of unnecessary phone votes. Surely the public is waking up to what a con this whole programme is and, despite his absence from our screens, a means of lining the pockets of arch manipulator and obvious music hater Simon Cowell. It has very little to do with finding a genuine talent or making good music and everything to do with feeding the ego of a slimy, power-crazed and condescending multi-millionaire.  Enough is enough!

For those staying in this Saturday there are two alternatives to watching this drivel as BBC2 are showing the Scorcese film about George Harrison and straight after Channel 4 have the superior Swedish vampire film ‘Let The Right One In’. Both are outstanding films and worth considering staying in on a Saturday night for. If you are like me however Saturday nights are always worth staying in for as they are the  unquestionably the worst nights of the week out on the streets as every idiot seems to have a pass that requires then to get as drunk, annoying and aggressive as possible. It is the one night of the week I will always try to avoid going out on if at all possible though this is perhaps due to getting older. Not that I am going to admit to that of course.

Starting on Sunday 4th December renowned photographer Gavin Evans- subjects include David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Michael Clark and the last sitting by Dusty Springfield- is hosting ambient afternoons into evenings in his new galley come coffee shop the Institute in Marchmont. More details nearer the time though suffice to say it sounds an intriguing project aiming to draw together different aspects of Edinburgh’s arts community and will provide a perfect setting for socialising and collaborating. Also Neu!Reekie! is also a project that draws together poetry, animation music and the avant-garde in one interesting package and their night is on at the Scottish Book Trust on the 25th of November.

This week saw the series ‘finale’ of TOWIE set at a Bonfire party. I can’t imagine it was the wisest idea to assemble a cast made up of plastic so close to a naked flame. The likelihood of them going up in one combustible flame would have been a very strong possibility-and great finale- but perhaps that was the intention. Instead however we had to make do with the same bickering, sniping, meaningless meaningful looks and sexless sexual shenanigans as usual. A highlight did emerge with Joey’s interpretation of Bonfire night-Joey is a star and comedy gold-wherein he revealed he thought it was when they placed some ‘geezer’ on a cross and burnt him to death in the middle of a fire. When it was explained that  it was a plot involving blowing up the Houses of Parliament he responded with a confused look and an almost unintelligible-I think English may be his second language after incoherent mumble- ‘What is the Houses of Parliament?’. Ah, bless and glad to see the education system is in such a fine state in Essex. Mind you their Chelsea counterparts are not much better and so much more has probably been spent on their education. This week the Spencer and Caggie yawnathon continued and limped on towards its boring and inevitable conclusion. Spencer’s erstwhile competitor, going by the predictably stupidly moniker Proudlock, for Caggie’s affections withdrew from battle and took up with her cousin-in fact simply an uglier and more irritating version- thus not doing a whole lot to debunk the myth about upper-class in breeding and incestuous behaviour. Caggie meanwhile looked confused and bewildered by these developments as if she is sensing she is losing power by aligning herself with Spencer. Mind you this week she has apparently taken up with singer Plan B so who knows? Also as a suggestion for their series finale I think it is high time Spencer gave Simon Cowell his hair back. It will probably necessitate a phone vote but I think, in this case, it is worth it.

For anyone who thinks Frankie Cocozza is the slightest bit rock and roll here is the legendary Iggy Pop beating all comers in the guise of rock and roll messiah. It is worth watching simply to see him disappear completely into the crowd for about a minute only to re-emerge smothered in peanut butter then crowd surf to produce an unforgettable classic rock pose and moment at 4.14.

1Q84- Haruki Murakami

1Q84 (Books One and Two) –Haruki Murakami

The latest three volume offering by esteemed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami – Kafka On The Shore, Norwegian Wood and Dance, Dance, Dance– is a hefty tome with the first two weighing in at six hundred and twenty three pages whilst the third, only available as a separate book, is a further three hundred pages of reading. It is certainly a novel of gargantuan proportions and ambitions but Murakami deploys every device at his disposal in maintaining tension and sustaining the reader’s interest throughout its duration. In fact I can only truthfully say this applies to the first two books as I have yet to read the third although admittedly my appetite has been thoroughly whetted in discovering what happens to the two central protagonists –Aoname and Tengo- who drive the two separate narratives which have become inextricably linked in the climactic chapters of the first two volumes. Very loosely based on the totalitarian themes espoused by George Orwell in his landmark 1984(Q has much the same sound as 9 in Murakami’s native Japanese) with the ever watching Big Brother replaced by the even more sinister and  ever present omniscient ‘little people’.

Beginning with Aoname exiting a Tokyo expressway, mid-journey, via an emergency exit she finds herself in the alternate universe 1Q84 where events are slightly askew and the presence of two moons further complicate matters. Acting as an assassin-to ‘deserving’ victims- she finds herself caught up in a sequence of events, relationships and situations which place those around her in a perpetual state of danger if the wrong decisions are made and actions carried out. Tengo-with whom Aoname shared a brief moment of affinity nearly twenty years previously- meanwhile is a teacher with a side line in writing who becomes involved in a ruse to deceive the literary world by assisting a 17 year old girl-Fuka Eri- in translating and rewriting her highly original tale involving the aforementioned little people and the mysterious Air Chrysalis. Becoming involved in this deceit however opens a whole can of worms which continues to draw both his and Aoname’s stories and separate worlds closer together. The idea of a parallel or alternate world is a device that Murakami often draws on in his fiction to add a sense of detachment and other worldliness and a further sense of separateness is attained as he narrates the intertwining stories in the third person thus perpetuating the distance between the couple and himself from the narrative flow.

1Q84 is indeed a brave undertaking by Murakami and in the main it is a successful one. The distance that the third person narrative brings to the proceedings is perhaps its only major flaw as it lends the book a chill that is in contrast to his previous works wherein the reader is drawn into the mind of the first person narrator. Removing this facet the warmth that usually pervades his work is sadly missing and the reader may find it less easy to empathise with the characters as they are not so readily included in their thoughts and internal outpourings. This aside it is still a vast and compelling achievement and as stated before my appetite is thoroughly whetted to discover what the inevitably unpredictable outcome is for the central characters in the concluding book.

FILMS 2011

The British Guide To Showing off

 

Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World is the stuff of legend offering a contrasting ideal of what and who can masquerade convincingly as beautiful in a world where the mundane is constantly in the ascendant. The fact that his ideologies are as rigorously loose as they were in 1972 when he started the whole furore with an event that had David Hockney as one of the judges and Derek Jarman as a contestant is apparent in this ‘documentary’ detailing the run up and preparations to 2009’s show at the Roundhouse in London. A moment of clarity about Logan’s intentions is revealed in a meeting with a young production assistant who is insisting on introducing technology- adding up votes accurately via mobile phones- whose suggestions are shot down in flames with Logan informing him accuracy and votes are not the important issues in choosing a winner. In this statement he reveals his inner belief that the whole show ,to him, is little more than a family ‘do’ although it is a hugely extended family and one that houses more pink sheep –of a day-glo hue obviously- than the traditional black ones. Think Warhol’s Factory contingent but with a little bit of heart soul and humility and you have some idea of Logan’s self created world. This film captures the fun behind Logan’s events but also exposes his serious side as a relevant artist whose flamboyance masks a serious message at its core.

Logan comes from a large close knit family and all seem to have a part to play in the staging of his Alternative Miss World events. This closeness extends to the friends who have been on his journey with him and who are still invited to enter the competition as contestants even though they know it is unlikely they will win. Claiming to despise celebrity culture Logan still manages to draw on his connections for his co-hosts and 2009 saw Ruby Wax join him to introduce the exuberant onstage antics and creations. Previous participants have included such luminaries as Julian Clary, Richard O’Brien and a legendary appearance in 1978 by Divine. The event also hosted a very early appearance by the fledgling Sex Pistols at a time when there were very few outlets for this band that would change the face of not just music but culture in Britain during the 1970’s. A young Leigh Bowery also made early appearances at Logan’s shows which were a perfect entry point for this extremely important aspiring performance artist.  Logan obviously spotted their potential and likewise saw them as outsiders and rebellious kindred spirits he wanted to welcome. Perpetual cultural commentators such as Grayson Perry and Brian Eno are drawn in as willing co-conspirators to Logan’s vision and lend it some gravitas although gravitas is seemingly unimportant to Logan who despite all the flamboyance and avant-garde leanings comes across as thoroughly grounded and sincere. A telling moment occurs during a corporate meeting discussing branding and such stuff and he is so disinterested it is wholly refreshing much to the consternation and bewilderment of the corporate businessmen who cannot comprehend such a maverick spirit.

The British Guide To Showing Off is a humorous, colourful and thoroughly engaging trawl through the world as seen by Andrew Logan.  A truly British eccentric he is one of a dying breed who recognises there no longer is any real alternative and although this is depressing he does not allow it to dishearten him. For such a realisation and for the progress and influence his events have exerted he deserves to be lauded and applauded.

Monday 7th November

Monday 7th November

 

There has been a definite dip in the temperature this weekend as was revealed to me on Saturday morning when I looked out and saw a panoramic view covered in frost that merely served to hasten a prompt return to the comfort of my duvet. There was a sudden realisation that there will be no more days when a t-shirt with cardigan and insouciant scarf will suffice in keeping out the winter chill and that for the foreseeable future-five months at the very least- coats, hats, scarves, gloves, vests and fine-knit cashmere (preferably all of the aforementioned items in this favoured fabric but with a recession on that is not likely) are all every day staples in beating the cold. At least the snow is being held at bay for the moment and the crispness in the air is quite refreshing once the initial tingling on the skin has been acclimatised to. The dark nights too are quite comforting and it is only by the time we get to February that they become tiresome and eventually intolerable.

A little bit of warmth was on show at the Cameo this weekend with a showing about the legendary Alternative Miss World competition and its creator the true British maverick Andrew Logan in The British Guide To Showing Off. A totally engaging, fascinating and enjoyable film it showed how a vision and personality can overcome a business mind and create something with a personality all its own. Divine, Warhol, Brian Eno and Ruby Wax were just some of the diverse personalities included in making this such a fascinating document into the insights and beliefs of what could be termed a true British Eccentric. However eccentric does not quite do Logan justice as he is also a serious artist and his Alternative Miss World events had a serious message of their own: the breaking down of gender barriers and the right for the individual not to merely retain their individuality but to seek it out and express it in the most flamboyant manner. At a time when looking around I often feel I am drowning in a sea of mundanity this film served as a reminder that there are others out there who feel similarly and are doing a little every day to make the world a less dull place. See Films 2011 for full review and appraisal

Someone who could do with seeing this film is Miranda July whose effort The Future is also in cinemas this weekend. Overly indulgent and extremely narcissistic-July directed, scripted and also stars in the film- there is very little here in the way of entertaining an audience. Ideas are introduced admirably but fall by the wayside in a sloppy pit of overindulgence, whimsy and cloying naffness resulting in a feeling of being totally and completely underwhelmed at the films conclusion.

Talking of being underwhelmed this Saturdays X-crutiating factor had dance music as its theme. Excuse me but apart from two old grannies barely able to shuffle their way around their dialysis machines whilst swinging their colostomy bags who else felt like taking to the floor to this uninspiring bland dross?  ‘Reet Petite’ how relevant is this to anyone not heading out to a version of Grease? The Flesh Toned X-ray massacred Madonna before segueing into Dead or Alive which is a question many have asked whilst considering the camp piece of outrage that is Johnny. A shocking version of I Want You Back and A Night To Remember which certainly was a misnomer as well as the final nail in the coffin for The Risk who are anything but. It was also bye-bye Johnny but I suppose there is still a last minute chance for panto which is where he is obviously going to end up. It is between the judges that the real competition really exists however and week by week the contestants become mere bystanders to the ego clashes of the boardroom –sorry- 4judges’ desk. The bickering and sniping is enough to put anyone off entering the world of show business and the odious little leprechaun Louis Walsh reveals new depths to his despicable nature every time he appears on screen.

Here is the track Video Games by Lana Del Rey which is a current obsession of mine and is probably one of the standout tracks of 2011. Beautiful in its simplicity and outstandingly, hauntingly beautiful in its delivery it promise much from this youngster. Listen and melt!

 

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The Quotidian Times is your essential daily update on what is happening both in the big wide world and the smaller more elitist ones of its contributors.

Launching during the worlds No.1 arts festival in Edinburgh in August 2011 The Quotidian Times is the ideal place to discover what shows are worth seeing and which are best avoided. With a team of reviewers who have experience in covering various festivals they are  Edinburgh based giving them insider knowledge into this festival in particular. This places them in a privileged  and prominent position which provides them access not available to others. Dealing with events as they occur ensures that their finger is very firmly pressed on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Whether a visitor or a resident  The Quotidian Times functions as your one stop information centre as to what is hot and what is most definitely not.