BAD EYES

JON KENNA HAS BAD EYES


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Frisked at the Flicks

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“What great food they offer at this cinema! And so reasonably priced!”

Has anyone ever uttered those words ever? Of course not. These days, if you buy a packet of M&Ms from the cinema shop you could find yourself in debtors’ prison by the end of the film. Not to mention the Pick & Mix; you can’t get a sugar dummy for less than £5. No-one ever goes in that section more than once. You occasionally see some poor fool wander in and fill a paper cone with a few liquorice allsorts, a handful of chocolate raisins and a sherbert dipdap. They saunter over to the counter and you see the sales assistant mouth the words ‘eleven pounds ninety four please’. You then see the customer stiffen into a semi-comatose state; mouth hanging open, eyes staring madly. They pay up of course because they can hardly put the sweets back into their individual plastic boxes. Their hands are often trembling as they hand over the cash.

I’ve started calling at the supermarket before I go to the cinema now. You can get family packs of most of that stuff for a quarter of the price. The cinema authorities forbid this of course. They would dearly love to strip search you as you go in; you can see it in their eyes. They’d love to discover a packet of Minstrels tucked down your skirt or a can of Coke in your handbag. But they’re not allowed to frisk you. Instead they glare at you as you shuffle past. It’s more of a shuffle than a walk because you’ve got a 6-pack of lager and a cooked chicken down the back of your jeans. Carrying that kind of weight it’s hard to portray nonchalance.


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I’m Going Backwards

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I’m surprising myself by what music I’ve started to like. First, I couldn’t stop playing Walking with Elephants by Ten Walls and now I seem to be liking Disclosure’s album Settle. I didn’t like this stuff when I was seventeen and supposed to be going to Ibiza, clubbing all night. My musical taste is developing backwards; when I was in my teens, I liked Elvis Costello and The Pretenders and even some classical (old people’ s music!) whereas now I’ve started liking the mellow Ibiza club tracks (kids’ music!). It’s all going wrong.

Settle is the debut studio album by English electronic music duo Disclosure, released in 2013. The album includes the singles Latch, White Noise (I’m playing this one over and over and over), You & Me, F for You, Help Me Lose My Mind and VoicesSettle got critical praise and was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Prize, apparently. I read that on Wikipedia but I didn’t know it when I first heard it; I just played it accidentally, the way you do on Spotify. And I’ve been playing it ever since.

Spotify influences people in a way that TV used to in the days when we had a small number of channels. Each channel would show a wide range of contrasting programmes so that you could see a documentary on politics followed by a show about knitting jumpers followed by a sci-fi drama followed by Top of the Pops. You never knew what you were going to get (who said that, was it Forest Gump?). Spotify is like that. Even though it suggests music to you which is broadly of the same type as that to which you’ve just been listening, the variance is enough to lead you down totally unpredictable alleyways. TV isn’t like that any more; we have channels for sport, channels for films, channels for quizzes… You always know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s ghetto-ised (that can’t be a real word!)… over-organised in order to make as much money as possible. There are never any surprises. It leads to entrenchment and stagnation.

I watch less and less TV these days but my musical taste is going bonkers. So what’s happening to me? Not much actually. I still like all the old stuff I used to like but I’ve now seen the light with some of the more clubby music. I think it’s happened since I went on holiday to Ibiza last year and they were playing all that kind of stuff. I wasn’t clubbing; God forbid! I heard it in beach bars and on people’s radios and just circulating in the air as I was sitting in my bath chair, with a scotch blanket over my legs, doing a word search. I was so enthused by it (the music, not the bloody word search) I even considered taking off my duffel coat.

Truth is, there is no old people’s music or kids’ music; there’s just music. The music you like depends on where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, what you’ve felt, who you’ve felt, and an infinite number of other variables that go together to make up the person you are. And it’s always better when you haven’t got a clue what you’re going to get.

 

 

 

 


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The Other Side of Robin Williams

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Robin Williams died by asphyxiation. It’s thought he killed himself. It’s been no secret that he has suffered with mental illness for much of his adult life and, tragically, it seems that the horrible despair that is one feature of manic depression or Bipolar Disorder has finally become too much for him to bear.

A 911 telephone call was received reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence. He was pronounced deceased at 12.02pm. An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway. He was last seen alive at his residence, where he lives with his wife, at about 10pm on the previous night.

His heartbroken family has stated that he has been battling severe depression of late. In recent years, celebrities have often become the public face of what is usually a private struggle. Everyone from actor Jim Carrey to singer Alicia Keys feed the public their own views on how to deal with depression.

Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found in 2012. They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.

In Britain, big names such as Stephen Fry, Spike Milligan, Paul Merton and David Walliams are among those who have talked openly about their experiences with mental health problems. As someone who works in mental health, I know that people it affects people from every walk of society.
I’ve also suffered with mood problems and had one long period of sick leave a few years ago when I had a prolonged bout of depression. I now take anti-depressants every day. These are mainly to prevent migraine but I’m sure they have a stabilising effect on my mood too. And I suppose you could say I was a creative person; I write books, take photographs, draw… so maybe all that is linked with my mental health somehow.
Robin Williams had been due to reprise arguably his most famous role, Mrs. Doubtfire, in a forthcoming sequel. Williams was last seen alongside Annette Bening in indie film The Face of Love. In 2013, Williams had returned to CBS for the series The Crazy Ones but he was also reknown for his high octane stand-up routines. All of this must have demanded a high level of creativity. Maybe his mental health problems fuelled his creativity. If so, it seems like a very high price to pay. Now, tragically, he’s paid the ultimate price.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dawn of a Decent Sequel?

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I loved the original Planet of the Apes films from the sixties and seventies. I loathed Tim Burton’s attempt at a re-boot. I liked Rise of the Planet of the Apes a lot. So now you know where I stand on all the Apes films up to the latest. I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes tonight.

It’s really good. It feels like a more confidently made film than Rise. The opening sequence involves no human characters and no spoken dialogue; it takes confidence to do that. The result is a really well-paced movie. It takes it’s time developing characters so that, when the battle scenes come, they’re not just meaningless battles scenes; you’re actually interested in the fates of each battler. It’s quite a long film but it doesn’t feel long and that’s always a good sign. Another big plus point is the CGI. Normally I hate CGI heavy films and this is more CGI heavy than them all. But, for the first time, you actually believe that you’re watching live action for most of the scenes.

On the minus side, I was a bit bored about a third of the way in when the story focuses on diplomatic moves between the humans and the apes. Also there is one rubbish character; the stock arsehole character who keeps ruining every attempt made by the humans to create peace with the apes is a bit cheesy.

Overall, though, it demonstrates how you can have a blockbuster, CGI-heavy, successful film which incorporates good characterisation, proper pacing and intelligent ideas. One question; will there be a sequel to the sequel? I hope so.


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Unreality TV

DSCN4792 On first glance this may look like an ordinary street stretching out before you but is actually a large photograph of an ordinary street stretching out before you. I was visiting the set of legendary UK TV soap Coronation Street which is why nothing seems real. The thing is, I don’t even think it looks real on TV. Even in the show it looks exactly what it is; fake. And, these days the whole programme is pretty fake.

DSCN4808Coronation Street has been on TV since 1960 and, in its day, was brilliant, ground-breaking drama but has, in recent years, followed the rest of the soaps into the realm of increasingly ridiculous storylines, melodramatic plotting and sensationalism in the desperate effort to stop its dwindling ratings disappearing completely. And the exterior set symbolises the whole sad process.

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The sign in the window of The Kabin newsagents

It is obviously a set when you visit it and obviously a set on screen. For a start… cobbles. No real streets have cobbles any more apart the Shambles. Also, there is never a single car parked on this street in spite of the fact that there are no double yellow lines. Every real street in Britain is crammed with cars parked bumper to bumper. Furthermore, there’s a pub, a cafe, a shop, a medical centre, a butchers shop, a cash converter shop thing, a chip shop, a hairdressers, a kebab shop, a garage, a Bistro (I mean I ask you! Seriously! A Bistro!!) and (get this!) a knicker factory… all crammed into one tiny street. This is so that every inhabitant of the street can work in the street and thereby have no use for a car (this is the only street in Britain where no-one owns a car). All of these places have been introduced in desperation in order to try to breathe fresh life into the long dead format. It was a long time ago that the lives of these characters last had any resemblance to the lives of real people.

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The sign in the bus stop at the end of the street

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They’ve got it so badly wrong. Viewers are turning, more and more, to so-called reality TV because the dramas have all turned into laughable pantomimes that bear no relation to reality. Some of the most popular programmes on British TV recently have been shows which are far more rooted in reality. The Royle Family is a show where nothing ever happens except a family sits around watching TV; hugely popular with viewers because it is honest and real. Gogglebox has been a hit for Channel Four; again no murders, no jilting at the alter, no affairs, no punch-ups, just honest conversations between recognisable archetypes. That is what soap operas used to do; hold a mirror up to the audience. They used to reflect real life. Now they are just pathetic melodramas.

 

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Adverts in the window of The Kabin. This is what I call attention to detail.

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Anyway, it was still interesting to take a look at the set as it’s pretty iconic after all these years. Production moved to a new Salford Quays site in December so the whole place is deserted in terms of cast and crew. Of course it’s far from deserted in terms of tourists in fact it’s crawling with them… but only until October this year when the tours end. After that, the future of the site is uncertain.

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This is taken through the keyhold of the back door of the Rovers Return pub showing the horrible state of the interior (which we weren’t allowed to see).

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Trolley from Battabuys?

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