Passages is a v good fuck-about-and-find-out 3-hander. Was it Agnes Varda who said that film is all about faces? If it was she said it better, but ever since I heard it I notice it, both in film and as a qualifying aspect of television. It’s not just about size of screen, or rather the size of screen is clearly a cause of the historical importance of the face in cinema so that it is an intrinsic aspect of film, film as method, film as perception, film as definably different from television.
The Mercado in Cádiz is a glorious place.
On holiday in Cádiz. Flew out yesterday, and I’ll try to keep this blog updated throughout.
The trip was a little contended; a 3am wake-up call, a glitch in the taxi system, late arrival at a busy Gatwick, and on getting to Sevilla Santa-Justa station at 10:15am, the discovery that all trains to Cádiz were fully booked for the day.
There is a sort of failure of moral hazard at play here – Renfe reimburse all of the ticket fee if you cancel well before the planned trip (I think 3hrs?) and 70% if you cancel up to five minutes beforehand.
What this means is that people will book in advance, even if they’re only thinking of going, and of course this is what I myself should have done. The other thing it means is that if you keep refreshing the site, tickets come up as people cancel. And indeed I managed to get one for four o’clock.
What this meant was that I had time to kill in Sevilla: it is by such trials that God tests his truest servants.
Or, where was I…. when the dead woman smiled at me? It was last week, on Rotten Row, cycling to work.
Sometimes you start writing something, put your pen down because it’s not really playing out, or other things intervene, and then you never pick it up again.
Where was I… when I put the pen down? istr it was about the time I went to the Wyndham Lewis ballet and was listening to a lot of improv jazz.
Where was I? Well never mind. Where am I now? Here are some good things I read in the last week.
Everyone has now read the piece on the apparently pointless footbridge across the interstate in Minneapolis, but it is good, so I’m bookmarking it here. why’s it good?
it’s good because it shows the productive value of asking questions about the detail of history, and doesn’t give up until its as satisfied as it can be that the detail and reasoning is correct; look at all the responses and memories the writer’s quixotic journey has produced! it’s also good because it shows how our built, social, emotional, intellectual environments are littered with items just like this – bridges connecting spaces for no apparent reason, oxbow lakes of irrationality that once were connected with the flow of meaning around them.
Finally it’s good because, connected with the first point really, it’s what I might call proper history. It does the spadework. It’s stubborn. It doesn’t take the easy reason when one is available. Where matters are undetermined, it keeps going, where they are overdetermined, it looks for the vital threads and sifts.
That connects it with this other good piece, by Anton Howes, on the reproducibility crisis in history:
Taken to an extreme, the implications of this piece might be considered too puritanical for any history to be conducted at all. After all it is an interpretative discipline, based on available evidence. And, as Burrow details well in his historiographic book, A History of Histories, that interpretation and presentation is like most things subject to explicit and implicit expressoins of ideology. Or as the classic GCSE marginal comment on primary evidence goes: It is bias.
It had me nodding and agreeing with vim, though; not only do factoids litter the path of historical understanding and clog up the channels of its thought, they often come, as the article details, from inside the house. This is particularly the case with the more popular and journalistic efforts in the field, whose mode gives them every latitude for intellectual sloppiness.
Generally it’s fair to say I read extremely warily and on the alert. For what? For stuff that isn’t right, for stuff I think needs examining further by customs before being deposited in my brainpan. A search for contraband epistemic goods being snuck in amidst otherwise innocuous freight.
It’s generally the tone that first sets you going. Your antennae start vibrating, you become wary. You start saying things like really? says who? Every invisibly asserted generalisation only makes things worse.
As I say, the journalistic mode seems particularly culpable: shortcuts, avoiding asking the hard questions, bypassing mental inquisition by using description, only going two layers down, whatever.
So, to balance it out, two very good recent features (and good feature writing, as William E Blundell’s excellent The Art and Craft of Feature Writing shows, is a skill, and not just with the typrewriter, pen or laptop):
Jennifer Williams is disliked by some on the left for occasionally expressed Opinions but does good journalism (inability to separate the two, always vexed tbf, and made worse by some of its practitioners, does seem for many online to have come decisively down on the side of journalism being entirely tainted by the fact there’s a person behind it): recently the Teesside Freeport corruption scandal, and this excellent piece on a year at Newman Roman Catholic College secondary school in Oldham.
And a Thing I Learned or relearned or something recently – and you may not have heard this – is that The New Yorker is really a very good magazine with consistently high quality features. I felt it strongly while and immediately after reading this feature on Country Music’s Culture Wars and the Remaking of Nashville.
The dead woman was Hilary Mason, recognised immediately as one of the two questionably malign psychics in Don’t Look Now, named later with a quick google. She was cycling towards me, and turned a very sunny smile on me and me alone as she passed. As if to say ‘you shall be with us soon’. Or perhaps, ‘With our special insight of the future from our vantage point of the dead, we can see unforeseeable fortune coming your way.’ Either way, I remained pre-occupied with the experience well into Holland Park.
Four favourites from the week, four absolutely a-grade tracks too.
Horace Ferguson – Tranquilizer
Reissued on the excellent Death is Not the End label, a track off the 1987 album Sensi Addict. Produced by Prince Jazzbo, this cut has the sweet-voiced Horace Ferguson riding that compulsive Sleng Teng riddim.
Skeng – Elvis Presley
Track of the year so far, no question – that bass! And ok, I accept Skeng isn’t exactly the most wholesome role model for young people, but he’s got a way with the lyrics and delivery, and the burberry ofc. London was everywhere and was a track of the year last year, as I expect this one will be. Good video too. V thin. Do you think he gets enough to eat 😐
Som.1 – Ultimatum
Coming straight out of Montpellier, hefty, buzzsawing breakbeats, dark and lowering bass and a driving ’don’t stop, gooooo!’ catchline. Killing it.
Bree Bree – Eva Bless!
Clean, catchy and direct. Confidence in the skill and the song. Great riddim too, that little shuffle that Bree Bree rides to deliver the momentum.
YouTube playlist link:
Reading Janet Malcolm The Impossible Profession at the moment, hence the playlist title.
I’ve written about pasta col tocco d’arrosto before. ‘With a touch of the roast’: pasta cooked and thrown in to the roasting pan with a little of its water, swirled around on the gas with some parmesan, until the ‘sauce’ is somewhat but not entirely reduced and sticking to the pasta, and the roasting pan is almost entirely clean.Continue reading “col tocco d’arrosto”
It is important to know, for instance, that actors had to be real acrobats capable of turning a somersault without spilling the water from a glass they held while performing the exercise.The Grotesque in Art and Literature — Wolfgang Kayser (p39 – Extension of the Meaning of Grotesque)
I’m pleased to say I’ve been doing more cooking again recently. Maybe it’s the bank holidays, maybe it’s the lengthening evenings.
First up, hake and salsa verde from Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain. It’s supposed to be with asparagus, but it hadn’t quite made its appearance in my grocers by this point, so I did it with peas and the water the peas in which the peas had been cooked. By moving the hake slowly around in the pan, the hake releases gelatin, which further thickens and binds the salsa verde. Will be doing this with asparagus this week I think. It’s very simple and fresh tasting.
Missed a couple of weeks. It’s like I always say, with blogging it doesn’t matter how frequent it is, you just gotta make sure it’s out consistently.
An incoherent set of four this week. That’s fine. I dreamt I dreamt that someone gave me a big presentation set of Cutty Ranks cd singles.
A post from years ago , from before When the Screaming Stops, so the derangement is better known now. Still fantastic ofc. His face was just everywhere in the hotel I was in. V odd.
I’d missed all this Matt Goss being a thing in Vegas.
Here in the Nevada Desert, Goss has reinvented himself as a new Sinatra. A Peckham boy updating the moves Ol’ Blue Eyes invented. And rather than running him out of town for the cheek of it, the Americans have fallen for Goss in a way they never did before.
This feels like the sort of place Vegas is. Producing weird Gatsbys out of the desert.
For a while he had no money at all. ‘All our assets had been frozen. I was down to the wire, I’m talking only being able to buy one cheeseburger a day.’
Now he can afford many cheeseburgers a day. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
Not everybody is impressed. As Goss walks through the casino, flanked by bodyguards, on his way to the show, a lone voice from the card tables shouts out: ‘Douche bag!’ The singer spins on his heels, outruns his guards and goes close up, face to face with the offender.
‘Just because I’m on the billboard doesn’t mean I won’t sort you out.’
Underneath that tux is a tattoo he calls The Mark: a circle pattern worn by a close group of friends, all sworn to loyalty, including his father and his stepbrother Adam.
It’s a strange picture of a man, who went through a fame-loss-fame cycle, and it’s shaped him in some weird ways. But, again, Vegas feels right for that sort of thing. He may not be ‘Britain’s Answer to Frank Sinatra’ as the billboard has it (it’s a quote from The Sun), but he maybe he is this version of America’s Frank Sinatra.
Five o’clock in the morning, and as the sun rises Goss is standing in the bay window of his suite, black tie hanging loose, with a tumbler of Johnnie Walker Black Label in his hand, looking down on Vegas.
‘Look at this. It’s not a fantasy. This is real.’