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Archive for February, 2013

Is this all there is? Strange feelings on my daily commute…

February 28, 2013 8 comments

I don’t mind commuting. I’ve lived in London all my working life and a journey on the tube is just another part of my day.

This morning though, I had a very strange moment. I got off at a different station to my usual one and I as queued for the lift to get to the surface, an image from Fritz Lang’s masterful film Metropolis from 1927 came rushing unbidden into my conscience…

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There must have been twenty or thirty of us all waiting for the lift. One of the two lifts was broken and the wait seemed to take ages. We all had dark coats and clothes on, most had hats and headphones and some if not all, were looking down either at phones, books or newspapers.

Apart from the clanking of the lift cables and the echo of trains along the dirty, tiled corridors, there was silence. No one talks in this situation… And when the lift finally arrived, we all silently shuffled along into the space vacated by those leaving via the other doors…

I suddenly had these overpowering feelings of futility and helplessness, that we’re moving inexorably towards the end, all in grey, all the same, relentless and unchanging, with little or no say in what drives us on…

It quite took me by surprise. I really am not given to existential worries like this. I love life and genuinely try to make the most of every day. I don’t believe in fate, our futures are not laid out before us in some predetermined plan and we can make of it what we want…

Deep, dark thoughts for a Thursday morning. Hopefully after a good night out with my little A and our friends tonight, I’ll be back to normal tomorrow.

Tell you what though, I don’t think I’ll be getting off at the Elephant & Castle again. Far too intense a start to the day for my liking…

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Victor Ambrus

February 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Known chiefly for his work on the TV programme Time Team, Victor Ambrus is an artist with an enviable ability to create beautiful and highly believable historical scenes based on a combination of his knowledge, imagination, what he can see at the actual dig site (often no more than grass, mud and stones) and what the archeologists of the show are suggesting used to be there…

He is also however, a highly respected illustrator of children’s books. Using a loose pencil, pastel and water colour style, he produces wonderfully vibrant and expressive images that have an appeal to both adults and children alike.

Ambrus has been producing these wonderful illustrations for many, many years, and has said about himself: “I have spent my lifetime drawing, having illustrated over 250 books. My main interest is drawing the human figure and animals from life”.

Wikipedia has an impressively long list of these works including books that he has both written and illustrated himself. The earliest titles date back to the mid/ late 1950’s, and looking at the titles, it’s quite likely that I may well have had some of them (the Puffin books from the 1970’s especially) when I was young…

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Amon Tobin – ISAM

February 22, 2013 4 comments

As a follow up to my Post on Amon Tobin @ Bloc , I’ve just found the whole ISAM show on YouTube….

Wonderment and joy… I don’t know how long Ninja Tune will allow it to stay up, but it’s really excellent to see it all again and in such amazing quality.

As I suggested before, you really don’t get anything of the sense of the scale and the all encompassing grandeur of the show, which is based on 3D digital mapping projected onto a set made of cubes which you occasionally get a glimpses of as the lights and colours change and mutate. The larger, darker cube in the center is where Mr. Tobin stands, creating his music and doing what he does….

A timely reminder of something I’ll never forget….

When the Day Didn’t Arrive…

February 19, 2013 4 comments

I enjoyed my walk into work this morning.

The Island was surrounded in a thick fog, giving everything an eery and ghostly appearance. Shapes looming in the grey almost beyond recognition. It reminded me of an episode of Roobarb and Custard called When the Day Didn’t Arrive… a day when the birds couldn’t fly because the sky hadn’t been coloured in…

This is a photo I took of Pepper Street bridge over Millwall Dock, looking towards a very watery sun (which oddly is not visible in the sky, but is clearly reflected in the water) and it does indeed look like nothing has been coloured in…

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And this is the episode of Roobarb and Custard, an animated cartoon that used to be on every day after I got home from school. It was drawn in a scratchy, almost unfinished way so that all the outlines and colours of the characters were constantly moving around… Generally Roobarb (a green dog) was full of enthusiasm for the days adventures, whereas Custard (a pink cat) was more cynical and usually tried to spoil the fun…

This is also one of those lattice of coincidence things that I’ve touched on before, as Richard Briers the actor who sadly died yesterday, and who was such an intrinsic aspect of my childhood (i.e. 1970’s) TV, narrated all these Roobarb stories, using a variety of silly voices to describe the events of these even sillier stories…

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Divine Retribution or Science in action…

February 13, 2013 2 comments

170433-lightning-hits-vaticanWhen I saw this rather excellent photo in yesterday’s papers, I wondered if I should rethink my position on organised religion…

The bolt of lightning that hit the Dome of St Peters Basilica in Rome not long after the Pope announced he was stepping down, was interpreted by many of the faithful as a sign from their God, quoting Psalm 29 which reminds them that “The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning”…

Indeed…

Meanwhile in the real world, science reminds me that lighting is caused when positively and negatively charged particles within a cloud separate to the top and bottom respectively, thereby creating a build up of charge that is best neutralised via contact with, amongst other things, the nearest bit of the earth it can find.

In this instance, St Peters was the tallest building in the area when the storm passed over Rome. Unusual and coincidental perhaps, but nothing more than that…

So actually no, I don’t need to rethink my position. I know exactly where I stand…

Arnaldur Indriðason & Icelandic Crime Fiction..

February 6, 2013 Leave a comment

These last few months I’ve been mostly reading The Reykjavik Murder Mysteries by the Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indriðason

The key figure in these stories is Detective Erlendur who on the face of it is fairly stereotypical cop; he’s a loner, he’s divorced and his grown up children don’t really like him, although unlike most of the other literary sleuth’s I’ve read, he does usually do things by the book and is not prone to over the top outbursts of rage or anger.

What I really enjoy about these Reykjavik Murder mysteries and the stories that Arnaldur writes his chief protagonist into, is that they are absolutely credible, possibly even to the point where they border on the mundane. There is rarely more than one body in each novel, and they are almost always discovered within the first few pages. The rest of the story revolves around the Icelandic landscape, the Icelandic weather, relationships with other police officers and lots of basic detection work, visiting people, asking questions and trying to piece together what happened…

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Detective Erlendur lost a brother on the mountains when he was young. The body was never found and this sense of loss and lack of closure permeates the missing persons cases to which Erlendur is always drawn. Iceland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and the temptation is for the police to assume that many of the missing people have headed off into the wilderness to take their own lives. Erlendur however sees things as more complicated than this and picks away at the evidence in the hope of finding answers.

It’s all very low key, but it’s undoubtedly the strangeness and lure of Iceland and the Icelanders themselves that attracts me; the cold, the dark, the constant smoking, the eating of sheep heads… and the seemingly unrelenting drabness of it all, conjour up, along with Arnaldur’s wonderful prose, a world very different from my own…

Check out this trailer for the excellent film verison of Jar City from a few years back… If this appeals, then Detective Erlendur is the man for you…

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