Wednesday, 30 June 2010
And yet Bollywood has now become its own industry, world-famous, with a distinctive and easily recognisable style. It probably doesn’t need that association any longer. And so I find myself thinking of a future, years from now, when Hollywood has asphyxiated itself on CGI and origin stories and lies dead in the California dust (the letters are just beginning to drop from the billboard for ‘Avatar 24: The Na’avi Accept The Mass Immigration Of A New Species As Part of Nature’s One-ness And Well, Natural Progression, Seeing As They’re Animals And Not, You Know, Technologically Advanced, And They’re All Promptly Eaten By The Aliens Out Of ‘Alien’ And Those Other Alien Movies’.) Bollywood is still going strong, making movies or virtual experiences, or Two Minutes Hate broadcasts, and an enterprising group of film-makers decides to set up their own industry in the ruins of LA. Would they call their new site ‘Hollywood’, in honour of the ancient movies, or would they call it ‘Hollywood’ because they thought people might associate it with Bollywood?
The markers are forever changing. I do remember, about a decade ago, a contestant on Big Brother, or possibly the celebrity version, trying to score intellectual cool points by bitching that another contestant’s book ‘wasn’t Dostoyevsky’. Dostoyevsky, ironically, only got his first novel (a kind of parasitic copy) published because someone decided he was Gogol – or the next Gogol, anyway. Then he spent most of his career being told he wasn’t Tolstoy, and he wasn’t Turgenev. So he might have been confused to have been used in such a way, but of course, the specificity of the name doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it be recognisable enough to get a reaction.
It’s all a little like the notorious ‘_ Movie’ line of comedies that’s been around over the past few years, which never do any more than reference popular culture. Audiences get the references, and that satisfaction feels almost like there’s actually be a punchline – and this is an opinion that’s been pretty much confirmed for me by the recent appearance of another group of film-makers doing exactly the same thing, with a ‘parody’ of Judd Apatow’s comedies, The 41 Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It.
It doesn’t sound like it’s exactly Duck Soup, does it? (Hyuk, hyuk.)
In other, utterly unrelated news, I can’t believe I haven’t encountered this before. I’m kinda of the opinion that decency surrounded by other decency leads too often to smugness, and that may be why I’ve never quite ‘got’ American political comedian Jon Stewart’s show. There’s too many decent people applauding and whooping in favour of basic human decency and common sense. It’s the brutal in-crowd attitude of goodness.
But this five-part ‘interview’ from February, in which decency (in the form of Stewart) finds itself alone and up against the pig-headedness of a bully (in the form of the slightly monstrous Fox News political pundit, and Stewart’s rival, Bill O’Reilly), made me fall in love just a little. Forty-odd minutes of O’Reilly doing his usual thing when faced with a ‘hostile’ guest; shouting them down, making vaguely threatening remarks about where they’ve come from, emphasising his own good-ol’-boy simplicity while being condescending about his guest’s intelligence, making a lightning-fast unsubstantiated claim and then changing the subject...
And Stewart takes it, doesn’t get flustered, and he responds with humility, self-deprecation and honesty. And then he gives some back with interest, mostly at the expense of Fox News’ political motivations and the climate of fear they’ve propagated around the Presidentship. His final punch? O’Reilly is explaining that Jews don’t go to Hell, but that they might make an exception in Stewart’s case.
Stewart replies, smiling,
“You know what your problem is, right now? You like me. And you don’t know what to do with yourself right now, because you like me.”
And O’Reilly smiles back.
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
- Andy Warhol
Hollywood loves a remake - what better way to ensure success than to try as hard as possible to recreate something that has, in the past, been successful? It takes a lot of the pressure off the creative process when you aren't bogged down by having to think up new ideas, research into fresh concepts, do any writing.
For this reason, I have rebooted a franchise of my own. Frank O'Hara has been given the Michael Bay treatment and put back to work with sassy new ephemera. For your delectation...
To read Frank O'Hara's original Click Here
To the Film Industry in Stasis
Not you, thick-stock magazines and swanky pamphlets
with your perpetual allusions and weighty wider reading,
nor you, avant garde Performance Art, shotgun
wedding of the two, feigning insight badly, nor you,
indie-rock bovine bullshitters, alternative as puberty (though
this is certainly my camp) but you, Motion Picture Industry,
it’s you I love!
In times of stasis, we must all decide again and again what turns us on.
And be up front about it: I see the way you fetishise a plastic bag, it taught me
how to revel in the noises off and celebrate an out-take (and is steadily
hooking me into bonus material), not with the smug atheists
who the films have taught to trust only the lies they can see,
not to the BBFC, who will allow a rape as long as there is no swearing,
but to you jaded Cinema, grimy-desaturated-gritty-realistic-o-scope,
incorrigible iMax and deafening Dolby 5.0, sub-woofing your deafening
message as you substitute all sense of depth for a third dimension. To
Jason Statham as the angry geezer with a grudge and a gun,
Denise Richards whose chocolate locks beguile (lucky Charlie) and her legs,
Megan Fox with oily hands tinkering with a Transformer’s chassis
scowling, Vanessa Hudgens sending photographs of her vagina
to an Aryan-eyed Zac Effron who denies having ever seen one,
Jude Law, Cassanova of the crèche grabs a nanny on the sly
the Batmans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to prefer
Christian Bale to Michael Keaton, I cannot!), Cameron Diaz in a red coat
smiling and humming through interviews, Sam Rockwell of moon,
such cabin fever, and rocklike too, the agile Uma Thurman,
Gloria Stuart throwing her necklace off James Cameron’s boat
from her beautiful veiny hands, Gwyneth Paltrow rescuing Robert
Downey Jr. and Daniel Craig rescuing Eva Green from nothing,
David Carradine dies from an exploded heart as Samuel L. Jackson
combs bits of brain out of his afro whilst chastising John Travolta,
Noomi Rapace with her skin-tight toughness and childish smile,
George Clooney smirking and Robert pimping Freddy Rodriguez
smoking with an out-of-date bravado, Saoirse Ronan in peril,
and Brittany Murphy in memoriam, and Heath Ledger in memoriam
and laughing and method, and Corey Haim in memoriam and laughing
and abusive and broken by drugs, and Bryan O’Byrne in memoriam
sagely and understated and conciliatory in the background,
Lindsay Lohan as a snowglobe in an earthquake, yes to you
and to all you others, the ambitious, the talented, the both, the ones
clustered in Los Angeles cafes and dream of passing your screenplay
to a receptive Ridley.
May the days of your remakes continue forever, until the final droplets
of plot have been squeezed from every spin-off conceivable and movies
are remade before they have even finished production, until the sequels
seep from viability and the five remaining masters capable of original
thought have passed into the void like Harry Patch leaving us with the
finite films we deserve. Render, you glorious gigabytes of digital film,
as the world is rendered ready for your final release.
Monday, 28 June 2010
“Kodak sells film, but they don't advertise film. They advertise memories.”
We talk about film quite a lot here at Silkworms, which is a little odd as it is not mentioned on the tin, it just seems to worm its way in.
It makes sense for a couple of reasons – firstly and most superficially, it’s because we’re all film fans in Silktown, so naturally it part of the vocabulary of our thought – sometimes we think in film, see the cinematography of an idea – don’t we all. This leads on the more complex second reason regarding the universal nature of the medium. Film is visual, not of one language – so it is inherently ‘open’. It is also easy – just sit back and watch. It is no surprise then that it so popular – the undemanding on demand.
As Frank Capra notes “Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music”. But, film features music – the soundtrack. A novel doesn’t have a soundtrack, and an album doesn’t have an accompanying visual (of course there are exceptions on both those fronts). Film more than most artistic mediums engages the eyes and ears – it spreads it bets and can throw in a chip or two on any conversation of music, art or literature. I considered for a moment the mathematics of film, but the first thing that leap to mind was ‘A Beautiful Mind’ – so I left that tangent at that.
This week, welcome to Hollywood.
You can’t buy money with happiness. Michael Caine in Deadfall
Just what constitutes a cult film is not exactly clear. What is generally agreed upon is that cult classics retain a very loyal subculture of fans Many are considered cult films because they deal with controversial topics or fall outside of standard narrative and/or cinematic conventions. Harold and Maude or The Big Lebowski are examples. Another variety is the It’s-so-bad-that’s-it’s-good kind. Mommie Dearest and Plan 9 from Outer Space are examples of the latter.
My nomination for new cult classic—Deadfall (1968), directed by Bryan Forbes—falls somewhere between the previous two categories.
The movie is based on a novel by the once prolific thriller writer, Desmond Corey. The plotline contains all the seeds for controversy. Jewel thief extraordinaire, Henry Clarke, (played by Michael Caine in his early Harry Palmer days), goes to incredible lengths to get close to his victims, even going so far as becoming an alcoholic and getting admitted into a Spanish sanatorium. There he is recruited by a visitor named Fé (played by the lovely Italian actress, Giovanna Ralli) to collude upon more heists with her and her much older husband (played by Eric Portman). Predictably enough, Henry falls in love with Fé and unwittingly becomes entrapped in a diabolical triad. He learns that Richard (Portman) is an ex-Nazi and homosexual. But the real shocker is what he learns about Fé. I won’t divulge the secret, but suffice it to say that Henry’s physical deadfall mirrors his descent into a world of moral decay among the affluent and beautiful.
The film seems to have more flaws than qualities to recommend it. First, the recommendations. The music score by John Barry is hypnotic and brilliant. In fact, Barry himself makes an appearance in the film, conducting an orchestra while Henry and Richard perform the heist. And the same lady who sang Goldfinger, the Whitney Houston of her day, Shirley Bassey, sings the theme song: My Love Has Two Faces. The photography, shot in Spain, is gorgeous and compliments the romance between Henry and Fé as well as underscoring by irony-- the ensuing tragedy. Also, Caine turns in another fine performance and Ralli is stunning to watch.
The flaws. Forbes uses too many close-ups that over dramatize. The pacing is off. The romance between Henry and Fé is rushed. The heist itself, while exciting, is too incredible to be believed. And the film sags somewhat after the first heist.
So why am I nominating this film to cult status?
I love this film not despite its flaws but because of them. I remember the late sixties and being naïve enough to believe that romance is not incompatible with sultry sex. I remember the idealism of a generation that is captured in the film’s meandering conversations, those concerning love and philosophy. But most of all, I remember a time when I could be shocked, when my ideals crashed against the hard wall called reality.
By Kyle Hemmings
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Vol XVII: 'Advancer' by John Clegg
Imbibing moss with a certain decadance and leather and ivory and antler - 'Advancer' by John Clegg. Without a doubt John is a real talent - one to keep an eye on in the future. Read this, then watch this space. Do nothing else.
[ed. Apologies for the slight delay in your weekly dose of chapbook - shit happens.]
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Monday of this week having been the first sunny solstice in yonks, and having spent the weekend jawing organic falafel at Leamington Spa’s actually-quite-rowdy-this-year Peace Festival, I have been inspired (for truly, that is what happens to one at a Peace Festival) to write about something I know notalot about, about something that is less about tradition than it is about hyper-tradition, but about something that possesses its own consistently-active wee corners of both music and literature (particularly poetry – and often interacting with one another) and is therefore a more-than-valid discussion-focus, I think, for Music As Reading, whatever its more laughable qualities…
For a couple weeks some time in the future, something that I will be calling The New Meditation will become a principal focus of Music As Reading – because though all-too-frequently the site of dreadful music and idiotic sentiments, I'm pretty sure meditation constitutes one of the most common manifestations of people in this country already using music to read. Using music as the tone with which to find new meaning in words. Using the words to explain the music. It's a potentially very exciting exchange, just currently full of gimps. So: to be continued...
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
A quick definition, then; OED says of middlebrow, “Demanding or involving only a moderate degree of intellectual application.” Wikipedia, proving once and for all that it’s capable of more nuance than people give it credit for, defines the term as “a certain type of easily accessible art, often literature, as well as the population that uses art to acquire culture and class that is usually unattainable”. The point of both of these, then, is that ‘middlebrow’ literature simply isn’t hard enough; it gets its ideas across too easily, in a form which less cultured types can understand. Which is, obviously, disgraceful.
The problem all begins with a rambling, ranting letter Woolf wrote in 1932, in which she honours ‘lowbrows’ (as she terms them, people who live through their bodies alone);
“I love lowbrows; I study them; I always sit next the conductor in an omnibus and try to get him to tell me what it is like — being a conductor.” She also hints, in case that doesn’t have you frothing at the mouth enough, that ‘lowbrows’ are lacking in self-consciousness; only the ‘highbrow’ can understand the meaning of the lowbrow life.
Highbrows, meanwhile, are – tellingly – people of “thoroughbred intelligence”. And she goes on to give a list including three or four authors who might, by any vague understanding of the term, be considered ‘middlebrow’. Dickens? How much intellectual application does it take to read Jane Austen, exactly?
Then we get on to the middlebrows, a strangely undefined sort who mixes with both lowbrow and highbrow. Her main grudge against them seems to be, to misquote John to the Laodiceans, that they’re neither hot nor cold. They write ‘entertainments’ that have some thought behind him, or thoughtful books that are entertaining.
‘Typical bloody Modernist,’ I muttered. Then I began to wonder whether Woolf was being serious. I still think she was – mainly because her Bloomsbury pranks weren’t so much filled with self-deprecating irony as they were very slightly dim-witted and self-indulgent. The person who dresses up in blackface is a very different, horsier breed of supervillain from the one who skewers classism by pretending to be an upper-middle-class snob.
Much more inclined to piss about with humanity’s constant need for tribal self-definition was Russell Lynes, who wrote a piece in response to Woolf’s opinions in Harper’s Magazine; you can read a very funny interview with him here, in which he’s asked to define various clothes, board games, furniture, etc., as ‘highbrow’, ‘middlebrow’, or ‘lowbrow’.
But to move on from the personal attacks to an actually positive affirmation (boo), I’m reminded of a comparison with the alchemists, who were so concerned with layering their philosophical ideas in hokum, to stop the common man from discovering them, and who are now generally remembered in the West, if at all, as charlatans. The subtlety and inaccessibility Woolf would want to call ‘highbrow’ is all very well, as long as you’re sure you’ll be understood – pace to Joyce and anybody else who savours confusing the reader. But the power of ‘enjoyable’ reading and simple ideas delivered well should, most certainly, not be sneered at; in the hands of one author, it may be equally as powerful as a more apparently complex piece.
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Monday, 21 June 2010
Sunday, 20 June 2010
1590s, essay from M.Fr. essai "trial, attempt, essay," from L.L. exagium "a weighing, weight," from L. exigere "test," from ex- "out" + agere apparently meaning here "to weigh."
Mini Essays; crumbs of arcana – knowledge few possess – flashed as insight in 500 words or less.
Now we have a few Mini Essays in the can/barrel that you can treat like fish (Omar Khayyam) and shoot/read, we thought it was time to say - so....'It's your turn to have a go'. That's exactly what's happening now - a call for submissions. To submit simply send your 500 words or less, quote, title and name to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Music As Reading: Mixtape IV, The Poet With A Thorn In His Side (he only ever wanted to be a music-maker)
Armitage: “I really like your stuff.”
Mark E. Smith: “Got a light, cock?”
The poet who, really, would have liked to be in a band more than he enjoys being a really-quite-successful poet – an evocative, pathos-drenched, rather depressing image. And one of crucial import to the Music As Reader. For out of it buzz a swarm of questions at the heart of what the Music As Reading project is, really, all about: what is the relationship between the poet and the music he or she listens to – and what can one discover about both forms from that relationship? Does the poet who loves to music-listen read or write with, alongside music because of the benefits to be had out of this relationship? And is poetry (slash, the poet) not just ultimately, compared to goodmusic (slash, the musician) intolerably sad, po-faced, poontang-repelling, and does it (slash he slash she) therefore require an injection of rockandgoddamroll if it (slash he slash she) is to regain the reputation, readership and romanticism that once defined it (slash he slash she) as a mode? Because let’s face it, most people start writing poetry because they want to be Lord fucken Byron, not Sir Andrew Motion – ladies and gentlemen, we’re being cool-shortchanged… Why?
Armitage is so specifically important, though, because he did the unthinkable and actually started a bloody band – way late (perhaps middle would be the more appropriate word, actually) in life. Then wrote a book about it, Gig (published by Penguin) which contains the above two-line anecdote – and a full history of not-being-in-a-band-but-being-a-really-quite-successful-poet Northern miserabalia. In it, and generally, he is admirably open and generous about who he digs, who he adores, the kinds of artists he would have loved to be a part of. Unfortunately, his actual band, the Scaremongers (www.simonarmitage.co.uk for videos etc.) sound like nothing so much as Registered Trademark The Worst Band Of All Time, the Beautiful South. Only a bit less shit. Surely, Simon, there might have been another way? Surely, Simon, is not Music As Reading it?
Part one, Bands Armitage would like/have liked to be a part of.
Searching for Mr Right – Young Marble Giants
She’s Lost Control – Joy Division
Independence Day – Comsat Angels
Spoilt Victorian Child – The Fall
Wildcat Fights – Eyeless in Gaza
The Boy With A Thorn In His Side – The Smiths
Nocturnal Me – Echo and the Bunnymen
Diamonds are Forever – Arctic Monkeys
Ever Fallen in Love (with someone you shouldn’t’ve)? – The Buzzcocks
Blue Boy – Orange Juice
Part two, Bands Armitage’s writing/songwriting reveal would have, in actuality, been a slightly better fit (note, half the size of part one).
Lucky You – Lightning Seeds
Irish Blood, English Heart – Morrissey
Our Mutual Friend – The Divine Comedy
Perfect 10 – The Beautiful South
Put A Donk On It (original mix) – Blackout Crew*
* I suspect this one needs a wee explanatory note. Blackout Crew are, basically, the Beatles of the Donk scene, a relatively new species of drainpipe-techno defined by a quintessential northern-only-ness to compare with, say, Armitage’s rendering of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Simon would surely approve – somebody should put them in touch with one another, get the poet to ‘drop’ on the next record (if there is a next record…) See the VBS donk-umentary (http://www.vbs.tv/watch/music-world/donk) for more information.
Friday, 18 June 2010
Vol XVI: Disaster Mode
Howie GoodWe published one of Howie's poems a time or so ago - and after which asked him to send us a whole chapbook. He did. It's all worked out very well - this is it. It concerns disaster and pinholes of light. Right on.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.