Monthly Archives: February 2010

Art Saves Lives

What you could win - note the Picasso in the top left corner.

Fancy picking up a Picasso for a tenner? That’s just £10.00. Or an early photograph of Kate Moss? Or a limited edition from the late Beryl Cook? Or my favourite, Anita Klein? Continue reading

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Filed under art, friends, poetry, theatre

A new story

It’s the best way to put off finishing your book – come up with an idea for a new one. You feel much better putting down ideas and scenes and fragments of conversation for the new one. It doesn’t feel like avoidance at all. Which it is. But in a good way.

So I’m at that excited stage. The slog is some way off. There’ll be some research, but it’s manageable.

It has a name Continue reading

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Filed under My Writing

Is this scary?

Are you sitting comfortably? Too late. It’s already begun.

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Filed under life

Election fever reaches boiling point

Vote early. Vote often. (Once per election naturally.) Vote for whoever you want… as long as it’s not the BNP.

This came from Mark McGregor guest posting on Anthony McIntyre’s The Pensive Quill. Good blog in Belfast. Worth regularly dropping in on it.

I may not really be this cynical or realistic. But it’s cold, damp, dark and dreary – with no imminent prospect of change.

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When have you last walked out of a film?

Ah Holy God. No! Please no!

When has a film been so tedious, so unimaginative, so stultifyingly boring that you decided life was too short to continue watching? I tend to want to finish what I start, not rely solely on first impressions and give things a chance to breathe and settle. I’m tolerant. But this week I encountered a film that was beyond even my broad Pale.

I’m not complaining. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve seen Up In The Air this week (beautifully shot, very calming, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer), Sherlock Holmes (a radical new approach to the franchise which works – full of action, humour, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law), Astroboy (cartoon hero with machine guns in his butt – the 10-year-old boys I was with liked it) and Caramel (a Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki with no subtitles in English, but full of sympathetic characters and a good trick with a telephone conversation).

But my good run has just come to an end. Drowned in Holy Water. Continue reading

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Filed under Film

Bo Selecta

Boa Sr. Andaman Islander and the world's last speaker of Bo. RIP

So that’s that then. You’ll not be hearing any more Bo. In fact, you won’t have heard it spoken for a while, because Boa Sr (pictured left) was the only one left who could speak the language.

However, you can hear her sing in Bo. Continue reading

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Pucker Up

Lipstick in School – A friend sent me this story. Apropos nothing. But I think it’s clever.

According to a (possibly apocryphal and not even new) news report, a certain private school in Newcastle upon Tyne was faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom.

That was fine. But after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Every night the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.

Finally the headteacher decided that something had to be done. Continue reading

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Exit Music

Rebus. (As played by Ken Stott.) Looks pissed off. Perhaps he's contemplating his imminent departure from the job?

Synchronicity? Serendipity? Or an unfortunate coincidence?

I’ve been working for a large organisation for many years, doing all sorts of stuff in different areas. But now, I’m a few weeks away from finally leaving. It feels like a big deal. A big change for me.

It so happens I’m reading Exit Music by Ian Rankin at the moment. The main character is an Edinburgh-based Detective Inspector called Rebus. (Sure, many/most of you will already know that, but there might be someone who doesn’t.) It’s one of a series of novels with Rebus as the central character. They’re very good.

But the point is this: In Exit Music, the story takes place over Rebus ‘s final week in the police force. His impending retirement hangs over everything like a dirty cloud threatening to burst – over his attitude to colleagues and his job, his thoughts of legacy and other players’ attitudes to him.

So I’m worried that it’s exactly the wrong thing for me to be reading right now. It has passages like this:

That was that, then. End of the line, end of the job. These past weeks, he’d been trying so hard not to think about it – throwing himself into other work, any other work… For three decades now this job of his had sustained him, and all it had cost him was his marriage and a slew of friendships and shattered relationships.

Bit depressing. And then there’s this:

‘Just one last thing.’ His next three words were spaced evenly. ‘You … are … history.’

‘What I want you to do, Rebus, is crawl away from here and tick off the days on the calendar.’

Obviously none of those invitations to be maudlin have the slightest effect on me at all. I’m marginally less crumpled than the picture above. And the outlook here is resolutely sunny. Oh yes.

Anyway, while we’re on the subject of rebuses. Here’s one that was prepared earlier.

Not only does it predate Ken Stott, but also that unfortunate interlude involving the otherwise fine John Hannah.  Scroll down below it for a surprising (if true) fact about Ken Stott.

This hieroglyphic puzzle, or rebus, is dated 1811. Go to the Puzzle Museum website to solve it. Click on the picture.

Apparently Ken Stott used to be in a band called Keyhole, members of which later went on to form the Bay City Rollers. Narrow escape there, Ken. On the one hand massive stardom and record sales. On the other, they were awful and legal dodginess followed. They were awful, weren’t they?

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Filed under life, What I'm Reading

A beautiful Hazara boy, some lateral thinking and Anita Tijoux

15-year-old Hazara boy Ali Aqa, Bamiyan, Afghanistan. (From Steve McCurry's blog.)

Hazara candy factory, Kabul, Afghanistan. (From Steve McCurry's blog.)

The Taliban’s favourite victims – the Hazara. You may remember them. They had some huge statues at Bamiyan. Steve McCurry has taken some striking photographs in Afghanistan. The two pics here are from his post Blood and Smoke of the Hazarajat.

He has other alarming photographs of war and death  – including an arresting image of a dead Afghan solider floating in water – which is at the bottom of this post.

It’s gruesome, so don’t scroll below the item about Anita Tijoux if you’re feeling squeamish. In fact, let me know if you think it’s too much, and I’ll remove it. Meanwhile more thought-provoking stuff on Afghanistan here.

And… This is clever.

Absurdist pranksters subvert anti-Gay demonstrators with a bit of lateral thinking. (From the Laughing Squid.)

Rather than try to out-shout, out-bluster or out-threaten the opposition, these guys just let themselves get a bit carried away with their placards.

(They’d have been welcome at our own demonstration recently.)

Other placards they introduced to the San Francisco protest by Westboro Baptist Church had messages such as:

  • God Hates Flags
  • Build Prisons on the Moon
  • Silly Hats Only
  • I Was Promised Donuts
  • God Hates Signs

It’s all good. More details at the Laughing Squid site. If only more demonstrations were more like this. (Apart from the homophobia, naturally.) It makes our save-the-village-bus efforts seem boringly predictable.

Anita Tijoux

Anita Tijoux

She’s a Chilean-French hip hop MC. I noticed her on the always interesting Exodus blog, where you can listen to “Partir de cero” (“From Scratch”) from her album 1977. Go on, give it a go. Mexican singer  Julieta Venegas is there too.

And now… The gruesome photo is below.

Same as the top two, it’s from photographer Steve McCurry. His details are here. Again, let me know if you thinks it’s too strong to have on without having to click on a link.

Dead Afghan Soldier, Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992. (From Steve McCurry's blog.)

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Filed under life, Music, politics