Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Old Big ead

Just finished The Damned Utd by David Peace. It's excellent, he takes as the basis of his story Brian Clough's 44 days in charge of Leeds United in autumn 1974. It's a brilliant story, told exclusively from inside Cloughies' head. So convincing is his writing that it's in danger of becoming the official history(thanks P). It might seem that with the paranoia and linguistic mantras and ticks that Peace uses, Cloughie would come out of it badly, but it gives him a great deal of depth. Yes he's driven and you wouldn't want to be him but you can start to see what drove him. As a fan of another Yorkshire club (the mighty Reds) you might think I'd be pleased to see the Leeds donkeys getting a literary kicking and you'd be right tee hee. The Leeds players (most of them) come across as spoilt and petulant children, the board and directors typically random and capricious in their actions. The sense and feel of 1974 really comes through really you smell the fag smoke and sour aftershave and see the dingy offices and tatty hotels.

Peace's style reminds me of James Ellroy in the way certain phrases are repeated and repeated and the whole driven men on mission motif. It's interesting to see that Peace includes Leeds' poet Tony Harrison in his bibliography as even though it doesn't rhyme like Harrison's work his book does have a prose poem style.

So an excellent book. Leeds by the way haven't really won much since Cloughie left, Cloughie on the other hand won the European Cup twice.

ps. Thanks to P and L for recommending the book.

Golden hour

I took these pictures this evening just as the sun was going down. Interesting as most sunset are I like the dramatic cloudbase, the blurring, is rain on window. I Used a strange preset on my camera "sunset" for the pic on the right , it seems point less as it wipes out all the reds which is normally what people like about sunsets, I will have to read the manual doh!

Picture below is "auto corrected using my basic HP software . The software guys are obviously slightly camp just look at the Wagnerian over top of the reds!

Anyway in a bout of synchronicity, I watched Terence Malicks "Days of Heaven" tonight on film four. I will join a very long queue when I say it's fantastic and in a not very impressive way say I have now see all his work (4 films 30 years)! The cooincidence for those who haven't seen the film is that Malick shot most of the film at the "golden hour" just after and just before sunset and sun rise wen the light is fantastic and warm and the wind is often calm.
He is a really visual dircetor , obsessed with nature and man's position to it. You fear he would rather film trees blowing in wind rather than mess around with Sam Sheppard and Richard Gere if he could.
The sound is excellent too, even on my tiny tv and freeview box. The ony critism I would have and it is something that gets more exagerated in his later 2 films is the use of voiceover. He uses it alot as a way to express inner thought of the characters, in fact large parts of dialogue were cut during editing. This voice over can be aliemating and annoying, distancing you from the action and giving a partial view of the film. In "New world" (his latest film) he uses mulitple voices to give differing views. Having said this his films are always interesting and involving, a golden way to spend a couple of hours.

Friday, 23 February 2007

museum of street semiotics: pensile object annexe

I never intended this to be a continuing series but flâneur do as flâneur see. I saw around my flat the following objects hanging from trees and shrubs. The walking stick has an obvious source i.e. a disabled person dropped it getting into a car and some kindly Samaritan put it on the tree for safe keeping. The more whimsical side of me sees it as evidence of a miracle, some unfortunate rested against the tree and was healed and left the stick as testament to their healing. Our car park will soon be like Lourdes but with less tat shops hopefully!
The second scene is some audio tape wrapped and fluttering around a tree. It shows the untidiness of car drivers (second only to smokers) they dump their grot everywhere. A few years ago me and some friends had the idea for exhibition that was to feature ideas for the redesign of a roundabout . We had the idea of collecting up the audio tapes that get dumped at traffic lights re-threading them into a cassette and using them as the sound track for the display. I think we thought we would get the true sound of the city unfortunately it was all bad techno and Simply Red ,so we where half right. The only good bit was that some it played backwards so we were in danger of summoning a demon, a ginger one in our case.

What’s the fuzz?

Been to see HOT FUZZ and it is really good I won’t go into details about it there‘s plenty elsewhere. Except to say that a lot has been made of it being satire of American buddy cop thrillers and it is although it’s more of celebration rather than satire. But without disappearing into a post-modern hole American buddy cop thrillers are already satires, admittedly not always out and out comedies but satires none the less.
Die hard is a satire of capitalism brought low, a blue collar cop getting revenge on corporate America, it also satires not very subtly male “phallocentricity” by blowing up a sky scraper
Bad boys et al satire the gangster homo-eroticism of rap videos, Miami vice etc. of course even though they are overblown they may be again too subtle for some of their audience.
Look at True Lies although it is meant as jokey spy film it is also a straight thriller that also satires American foreign policy, in that it has eye rolling mad mullah terrorists fighting technology obsessed overkill yank spooks. It wallows and exposes American political excess few other films have a nuclear explosion as plot point not the finale!
Crime stories and thrillers have always be satirical because they deal with the balance of power, when Chandler sends Marlow to visit the rich villain in his house, Mr Big is always old , bitter and impotent, Elmore Leonard books are full of satire, even shows like CSI even when they are being moralistic hold the powerful to criticism and ridicule. Anyway I suppose I should end with a smart one liner.
It looks like Hot Fuzz has had the last laugh!

The world's best roast beef sandwich.

I mentioned that one of the things on this blog would be recipes, so here’s the first.
The world's best roast beef sandwich.
Before I get into the details I just want a minor gripe on the etymology of sandwich. The usual story is that the earl of sandwich invented the eponymous snack so he could keep playing cards. This is one of those stories which bares half a second analysis. I’m prepared to believe that the names derives from the earl but the idea that no one put a bit of cheese between slices of bread before some chinless wonder is nonsense. Every culture that makes bread has a version of the sarnie, the more benighted seem not to have made the massive leap to putting a lid on it. Speaking of your open sandwich, I think they should be called the “Persils” as they are a gift to detergent manufacturers as they promotes pointless spillage. So let’s reintegrate the sandwich was invented by the bread eating people of the world.
Anyway I’ve just visited the BSA site (British sandwich association) and beef as a sandwich filling for shop bought sarnies is only 3% of the market. This probably has more to do with industrial food manufactures needs rather than our taste, beef is not as easy to keep safe in the “chill” cabinet of garages and convenience stores compared with everlasting day-glo cheese and processed ham. Anyway lets move away from the horrid butty industry those corporate mayo pushers with their tikka wraps and hoi sin gluten free nonsense.
The beef sandwich is the very simplest of sandwiches , but like all simple things needs care and precision in preparation.
Firstly the bread, this is the one area where flexibility is allowed, as long as the bread is fresh and thickly cut it doesn’t matter if it is brown or white. Rye bread, bread with grains in would be nice. I would exclude processed pap, baguettes, chapatti et al and anything too worthy and gluten free (anyone who doesn’t eat gluten is unlikely to eat roast beef anyway!)
All right thinking people agree that roast beef should be still pink in the middle so a couple of thick slices of cold home roast beef is ideal. If you can get good shop bought beef, go it.
One medium sized onion of medium heat, red ones are good ,too fiery though and they will dominate the whole.
One jar Colman’s English mustard. I don’t need to justify this surely, the countless other mustards are fine but beef sandwiches need Colman’s English full stop.
1. Slice the bread.
2. Spread to taste one slice of bread with mustard.
3. Lay on the beef, I usual tear the meat into strips too make eating that bit easier.
4. Season the beef (ground black pepper is best)
5. Next slice the onions this needs to be as thinly as possible. Take a steel to your chopping knife and make the thinnest slices possible. Discard any chunky ones. Depending on the size of sandwich and whether you will be dining alone add one to two rings of onion. Season the onion layer.
6. Now the lid if you have fresh bread I suggest you don’t need to butter this slice, but a smear of unsalted butter is permissible. Or some cold gravy left from the roast just enough to moisten the bread .
7. Press the lid down and cut dialogically . Now don’t start, sandwiches taste better in triangles it’s something to do with the geometry of you taste buds.
8. Eat.
Accompaniments and variations.
In terms of additions clearly this being the perfect beef sandwich it can‘t be changed but if you must.
how about some horseradish sauces instead of mustard.
If you really must have salad a few sprigs of the freshest water cress are acceptable.
To eat along with the sarnie how about a bag of plain crisp or hoola hoops. (now’s not the time to discuss the pros and cons of flavoured crisps).
Or some pickles, a decent Wally (gherkin) or similar. Those yellow pickle chillies in jars are nice.
To drink: A nice cup up teas good, as is tap fresh glass of water, but if we are going for the best of the best a pint of Fuller’s London Pride is a near perfect meal!
Where should I eat this best of best sandwich.
Well sat on your back step in the autumn noon day sunshine is good as is under a tree giggling stupidly with a friend but the best place may just be in the quiet of well run pub just before it gets busy, you’ve finished the crossword and all wells with the world. Enjoy.
A brief note on mayo. It can’t have escape your notice that mayonnaise has taken over, what was once a rare and jolly accompaniment to a bowl of fresh vegetables or juicy prawns comes with everything from hotdogs to chips, pizza s ,salads and of course sandwiches. Try ordering a mayo free sandwich and most of the time the staff will nod as if they’ve heard you and then wanderer off to dollop gallons of stuff on your meal. It’s horrid bland gunk put their because prepared sandwiches would taste dry without it. It covers up bland poor ingredients and isn’t very good for you. The clue to it’s origin is in the name of the leading brand, Hellmann’s, whose the man from hell old nick himself Satan ,so don’t ever put Satan’s sauce in your sandwich or else you will be dammed for eternity.
I just done some surfing and looked at what people think makes a good sandwich, in America it’s the usual culinary skip i.e. most food items in a toasted bum with cheese on top urggh! Remember this is American cheese we are talking about double urggh!. They all seem to come with fries coleslaw et al. Look it’s simple if a sandwich need a spike thorough it, it is too full. Subs are things you sink to win wars and Mayo (one recipe used ¾ of cup of the junk) is a place in Ireland.
Note on the picture this is William Hogarths. The Roast Beef of Old England or Calais Gate. 1748. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London, UK. Showing the lengths one should go to get a good sandwich.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Museum of street semiotics

Here's an occasional post, basically it's pictures of shop signs . I'm not that interested in cute puns although they can be funny nor is it an exercise in taking the P##s out of people with English as a second language. It's more about how flexible and annoying English is , how so often English has so many meanings. Also the reality of peoples shops are sometimes in stark contrast to the surroundings. Also Some signs are quite touching in their optimism. The first entry was on a cafe that was being cleared out up in Stamford hill.. When I first saw the sign I thought it was for a kosher milk restaurant which raised all sorts ideas of jolly Jewish people eating bowls of milk. Why was kosher milk so important why not meat or bread. Anyway it's a nice sign, I do think developers should be made to take them down and take them to Museum of London for us all to enjoy.

The next picture is fag packet hanging off the smallest leave of ivy which was so surprisingly i took a picture. Aren't smokers untidy


Master chef goes large has been back for a few weeks and it is good fun,. It whips along and particularly early in the week provides enough cringe making disasters to keep you involved. The mix of challenges is also interesting although they all seem to involve shouting “yes chef” all the time. The two judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace are suitably nasty in their marking. I do wonder whether some times the production company favour some contestants for “colour” or balance and this effects the votes. Also wouldn’t 3 judges make decisions easier.
My only gripe about the show is a bit self defeating in that it is called masterchef and I think it’s too cheffy. There’s lots of talk of “plates of food” (not meals) of “clean favours” and the “wow factor“! We all are expected to belief that everyone on the show wants to be a top chef which always begs the question why they just don’t got to catering college (or daren’t they give up their jobs as “top city analyst“). Also have you noticed that the one who says “I’m a really adventurous cook who likes to experiment “usually makes something horrid with mango in it.
The programme is also skewed to high French cooking. In the last series an Indian cook was encouraged to broaden her skills to French and Italian . Which generally is a good thing but the guy who started cooking French food ended cooking French food and won the show. The narrow time format also discriminates against some of the worlds great dishes. It’s hard to cook oxtail in an hour and a half, or soften a chick pea, steam puddings take several hours and most classic stews are better the next day. So we get those tiny sprigs of lamb, shallow fried chicken breasts etc.
I think there needs to be a Mastercook show ( or to be more to true to life Mistresscook) designed for the champion home cook, not like old mastechef, a celebration of middle class foodie dinner party nonsense but good day to day food. There could the “beat the moped “ where you have to cook a meal in the time it takes the take way delivery boy to arrive. The “3 starving kids better than MacDonald’s challenge“, the sexy packed lunch . Of course dinner party food can come into it but the winner would be the cook who spent longest at the table chatting to their friends not crying in the kitchen because they can’t make sugar bowls like the James Martin. Oh and contestant would loose points for putting “off” after every cooking verb!

Friday, 9 February 2007

Old Joy

Just got back from seeing Old Joy a brilliant new film. Starring Bonnie princewilloldhampalace brothers or whatever he's called today! It is a simple film telling the tale (in almost minute for hour real time) of a weekend road trip.
Two old friends meet up after a few years apart and go on a trip to some hot springs in the old woods of up state Oregon. Not much happens except their friendship deepens and evolves. The Director Kelly Reichardt does a good job at capturing the nuances of male relationships. Using a subtle naturalistic script and good acting, she also does that simple but rare thing of letting the camera tell the story . Daniel London an unknown to me (he's had the usual trawl of tv and film parts but no major roles) plays the more settled role to WillOldham's Hippy traveler, both are believable and understated and have an awkwardness about them that fits with the theme of old friends reacquainting themselves. The two other stars of the film are a Daniel London's character's dog and the nature and landscape of Oregon, beautifully filmed by Pete Stillen.The sense of peace and lush greenness of the woods was in stark contrast to noise and bustle of central London as we left the cinema. All this is set off by an excellent score by Yo La Tengo.
Do yourself a favour and see this film.
PS. synchronicity corner: I got an email this morning which looked more abusive than the usual spam it was titled" I'm not scared of you and I'm going to beat your ass" it turned out to be amazon telling me to buy Yo la Tango newest LP.
Useful links:

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Some girls are bigger than others

One of our family stories (every family has them) is that my mum's dad, a shipwright during WW11 helped build Short Sunderland flying Boats. These impressive craft helped save the world for democracy by helping win the battle of the atlantic. Well, so what, well the picture next to this piece isn't 60 years old nor is it a full sized Sunderland giving it to Das Boot. No it's a model.

Model builders are routinely portrayed as weirdos, geeks and spods, someone to be laughed at by the cooler than thou media. Along with trainspotters these mild mannered blokes get disproportionate amount of abuse. But like all hobbist they are mostly harmless and bring a lot of charm, humour, wit, skill, art, experience and fun to their pastimes. These pictures and film are from a web site called the large model association , which isn't a dodgy porn site but a review of huge remote control planes, some a quarter scale. To put that in context the airfix kits you may have made in your youth where 1: 72 scale and had wings 10 cm long the models the lads from LMA make have 5 m wing spans and bigger.

What drew me to the sunderland guy was that he was having too much fun not only is flying this huge plane on a local liake but he gets his mate witth RC sub and they fight each other! Top stuff.

The video of the take off is brilliant, shot from inside the plane it looks like a real take off fantastic! And all this was done because we are all a long time dead.

through glasses darkly

The idea for this page is to highlight people who know how to enjoy themeselves. Not in a too many alcopops and dancing to "angels" kind of way but in Ray Mears sitting warming ya boots in fire sort of way. Or people who do stuff for the sheer joy or sillness of it. We will also include recipes, reviews and jolly stuff we've found on this here tinterweb.

One thing we like is big dumb well made telly, there is none better than CSI. The jury is still out on the magic order for the 3 csi's I do change my mind from day . Every civilised person puts CSI NY last and as of today I put Las Vegas second and Miami first, not sure why. One of the reasons is David Caruso, who as he should takes it all very seriously. One aspect of the show all his fans love is the "sunglasses of justice" , the moment when he removes his gebs and says something pity/gnomic. Well someone has segued a number of them together. If you still want to be David here's where you can buy his Gebs.