Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Warhol: "Space" & "Beauty No. 2"

so after the screen shots it was time to check out some of the real time Warhol "movies" lingering in obscurity. Both 60 minute films in tonights programme more or less centre on Edie Sedgwick, the young and vain socialite and IT girl featuring in many of his movies of the time. In the accompanying sheet Patti Smith recalls touchingly how she first came across Edie in a magazine and how she came over from New Jersey and started hanging around outside the clubs just to catch a glimpse of her. In "Space" a group of stoned and half naked young people including Edie, seated suggestively next to a big mirror and showing off her mirror image as well as her trademark huge earrings all the time, sit around and at first try to read lines from a script that quickly gets abandoned in favour of aimless strumming on the guitar and endless narcissistic discussions, playing around with food, thinking loudly what people in 30 years time will make of it. It's kinda like an hourlong Big Brother straight from the Factory and the vain, nihilistic, hedonistic and really quite innocent and even naive 60s, and it's not as boring as that may sound, though people start to leave at that point already.

In "Beauty No. 2" Edie is even more centrestage, lying on a bed with a gorgeous young potential boyfriend, Gino, both almost naked, drinking, smoking, and almost making out with each other, occasionally stroking and discussing a dog called Horse, and mainly talking with Chuck Wein, who is her former boyfriend and who talks her in and out of the situation which seems to be to check to see whether Gino is boyfriend material (again, this sort of stuff gets shown on MTV all the time, so another precursor to reality TV). It's a very sexy scene, and just as it gets raunchy, Chuck really starts to put the boot in with his campy off screen conversation, probing the real Edie behind the beautiful vain facade who gets increasingly worked up about the things he says. The last half hour is absolutely hilarious in its improvised cruelty and suddenly people in the audience who hadn't left by then started to chuckle loudly. They are funny and cruel, these movies. And the stripped down format, which plays like a deranged game show on an endless loop has a strange existentialist quality, the camera never leaves the scene, and it goes on and on. Edie really is a movie star here, however accidental, and fascinating to watch, she does ooze that star quality, even though her inherent vainness gets shown up all the time.

Oh, and EVERYONE was chainsmoking the whole time which was painful to watch for me. It's really sending out the wrong message, people. In so many ways...

Monday, August 20, 2007

the New BFI centre: Warhols screen tests

Yesterday afternoon I finally managed to touchdown with the extensive Warhol retrospective at the old National Film Theatre, now the BFI centre. I hadn't been there since it opened its new spaces after refurbishment and extension and I had some time to kill so it was cool to see and explore:

- a video installation in their new exhibition space by Lynette Walworth where you enter a dark room and hold a glass plate underneath a stream of images that you can apparently manipulate

- the "Studio" where you can watch stuff from the archives for free, in this case an old documentary about Delhi

- and the Mediateque where you can check yourself into a space with a screen and headphones and choose want you want to watch from their extensive archives, in my case some old homemovies from the punk days in the Kings Road, the start of a documentary about homosexuality just before it was legalised, and the start of the very interesting movie "Nighthawks" about a gay schoolteacher who leads a double life cruising the bars at night, which seemed very realistic in tone and which i want to watch in full sometimes. I'm pretty sure I spotted the young Derek Jarman hanging out behind the main character in one of the club scenes. It's free so a good way to kill an hour or two on the South Bank.

So I was impressed with the new centre, which also included a new book and dvd shop and another cafe/restaurant, and, just as always, want to spend more time there watching good movies presented in this dedicated environment.

The Warhol programme I saw was a series of "screen tests" where various people (mainly Factory characters, and/or NYC artists/celebs) had to sit still in front of Andys camera for three minutes, some not always succeeding, some barely blinking. My first reaction was, jeezuz, 80 minutes of this, but it soon became weirdly fascinating and almost like meditation as the trancelike concentrated energy took over. It helped that most of the people *did* look interesting, the lighting was quite dramatic in some, and you can't help thinking that these were snapped straight out of this fascinating boho scene, and a lot of them are probably dead by now, and they seemed so alive, even sitting still, there was a very curious intensity emanating from the screen. I've always been fascinated by Warhols movies, and have previously only seen a few, and probably the more famous ones (My Hustler (I love that one!), Chelsea Girls, etc), so I'll check out a few more, I'm hooked again...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

climate change pt. 2: planning a holiday?

Following on from my last post here's a good article by Mark Lynas about the Climate Camp at Heathrow in the New Statesman, calling it the "most important protest of our time". He's the author of the book "Six Degrees" which has been on my to-read-list ever since I heard about it and which details the possible catastrophic impact of just a few degrees.

so here we go:

"Probably the single most polluting thing you or I will ever do is step on to a plane. Take that tempting return flight to, say, Thailand, and you become immediately responsible for about six tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere - three times more than is likely to come from any other activity you do in the year, including driving and heating your house. This is why aviation is the most bitter and divisive issue in environmental politics today.

There is almost no consensus anywhere in this debate. Even my last paragraph will have caused annoyance for some: my six tonnes figure for the Thailand flight includes a 2.7x multiplier to account for the aggravating impact of greenhouse gases released by aircraft high into the atmosphere. However, citing scientific uncertainty, airlines choose to ignore this extra warming effect: if you use British Airways's carbon calculator to reassess my Thailand flight, it returns a figure of "only" 2.16 tonnes."

I have to admit a tempting return flight to somewhere near Thailand has been something I've been discussing with myself for a while for various reasons. I've never been to Asia, and I feel it's something I should do at least once, right? But I've also looked at other things, closer to home. When I'm planning a trip away I don't always have a clear idea of what I want, there might be people who are a lot more organised but often I just want a general destination, possibly a base too, and then take it from there a day at a time. In my job as a TV listings writer I often come across travel documentaries about interesting sounding places and areas. Last week there was a programme about Rungholt, a medieval port and town on the North German coast that was swept away and vanished in about 1362, a German Atlantis so to speak that has captured the imaginatin of many people. So I decided to find out how a trip to the area could look like. The internet, full of options. So there's a holiday island near there, part of a larger group of islands just south of the famous island of Sylt, plenty of nice accomodation (the above pic is the garden view from a holiday farmhouse), beaches, walks, seafood restaurants etc. And how do I get there? I worked out that there used to be, up until quite recently, a ferry service from Harwich (an old port town on the Essex coast which isn't far and which I've also wanted to visit for some time) to Husum on the North German coast, again not far from where I wanted to go. So that would have been potentially perfect, right? And guess what? Sometimes in 2005 they stopped the service and one of the reasons they cited was that they couldn't compete with the cheap airlines anymore. I wish I'd done this research earlier now, and there may be other ferry options still available (you can still go slightly further up the coast to Esbjerg in Denmark) but it just goes to show how the rise of the cheap airlines has changed the travel options available. It's become too easy to fly, and more difficult, not to mention often more expensive, not to fly. And at a time when people should fly less, and it should be the other way round, alternatives to flying get even cancelled. Well, I haven't given up on this trip yet, we'll see. . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Climate Camp at Heathrow

A weeklong "Climate Camp" has been set up near Heathrow Airport, as far as i know on the ground or nearby of the proposed new runway that would almost double the flights already taking off and landing there. it's all over the press but i couldn't find a link to their own website so it's here

they are encouraging people to come along, and i hope that it will be peaceful and there won't be any serious trouble. "take the train to Hayes and Harlington" - i take it every day to work but i get off before that. I'm not sure i've got the time and energy to visit this week, we'll see. I certainly support the ideas behind it:

"...Aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and all our efforts to tackle climate change in other sectors are undone by the massive growth in air travel. Holding the camp at Heathrow aims to highlight the lunacy of the government's airport expansion plans, target industry giants profiteering from the climate crisis, and raise awareness of the need to fly less. The camp will also support local residents in their long-term struggle against the building of a third runway and the destruction of their communities...."

As a German national living in the UK you've got to fly at least a few times a year, just to go home to visit friends and family. In the last few years I've become an uncle and there were quite a few family occasions where i basically had to go over for a weekend at least, and also just to stay in touch. I could have said no, i don't want to fly, but you miss out on their development with small children if you don't make an effort to see them, it's special and unique. I also used to visit old friends in Berlin on a regular basis. In the very early days i did actually take the train for a while, maybe three or four times, but that basically meant travelling for two days, from South West Germany to Brighton. I don't like travelling through the night as i can't sleep like that on a train so i stayed in this lovely hostel in Bruges a couple of times. they were quite good trips in a way as i had the chance to explore a couple of places in Belgium in the evening and in the morning. But on the whole it was a long, long trip and soon i realized that flying was a far more convenient option. At the time, and this is quite a long time ago, i wasn't that familiar with flying either, but as an expat it's something that became almost second nature fairly quickly. A Swedish friend of mine still has a fear of flying, and she takes the train from Stockholm to Gothenborg and then the ferry to somewhere in England whenever she comes to London. She says the trip is usually alright and quite entertaining, especially on the boat, and i believe her but it's still not something i'd want to do too often when you can fly in two hours. or so i used to think. with the arrival of the cheaper airlines we started going to Italy and other places a lot too, and it's something that's been quite special over the years, to be able to fly out there at a reasonable prize and explore places, areas, etc.. where i'm from in germany is not too far from italy but it became close again through Go, Easyjet and ryanair flying to all sorts of familiar and not so familiar locations. I've been quite hooked on ryanair for a while, i don't mind the rather brusque service, and all the things that people moan about, if it gets me out there. It's been good, i'm not denying it. However, slowly but surely, i started to think again. While all this cheap flying around was quite fresh and exciting for a while, so many people are now doing it you've got to think of ways to slow it down. airports have become so crowded and the whole experience has gradually soured. last christmas my flight back home was cancelled because of thick fog, it was horrible being in this crowded claustrophobic space at Stansted, and i still haven't received a refund from ryanair. i haven't flown with them again this year. and i'm thinking: do we really need to fly so much? couldn't you just take a holiday nearby or take the train? do you really need to go abroad so much, even as an expat? I don't think there are any clear or straightforward answers. last night i briefly entertained the thought about travelling to chicago to see one or both of the only Robert Pollard shows this year, as he definitely won't come here again, and i quite enjoyed that thought i have to admit, however briefly. i could do it if i fly. i might even do it if i feel it enough, it's a bit silly to fly to another continent for a rock show but i've done it before and it was a great *experience* so if i feel it and if i can do it, which is not that likely, i would probably do it, other people are doing it, hey, and there are people who fly a lot more, drive cars when they don't have to, etc.. even though i try to be a good green citizen, have never driven a car in my life, recycle, try not to waste energy and don't fly abroad, especially long distance, that much, i'm still more and more uneasy about flying and everything it entails, the general atmosphere of it, the security measures, the questions at checkin, the airtport lounges. it's become too familiar. and i'm worried about climate change, it's become a lot more tangible recently. surely one flight more or less won't make a difference but it's the tendency to fly less or more frequently that might make some change eventually.

London is a big, full-on city, it's great but having so many people in one space often makes you yearn for a different pace, the air can be bad and you often feel like you need to get out. it seems to me a lot people associate getting out with flying somewhere, presumably warmer or exotic. However, there is wonderful countryside all around it. ever since i started regular daytrips with the Time Out Book of Country Walks my feeling about living in this city has shifted: it made me realize you don't have to go far to "get out", a 45 train ride that isn't expensive with a South East railcard (20 quid per year) is often all it takes. This wonderful book has walks that always start and end at a railway station so no need to use a car either. It might not be what some people want to do in their spare time but it's worked for me. This year we decided to take a week off before Easter at short notice. I did look around at flights, but it being Easter they were very expensive, even the "cheap" ones. So we didn't really plan anything, did a couple of daytrips, then hired a car and stayed in a B&B in Battle near Hastings for a few days. It's just over an hour from London but feels quite rural, not exactly remote but there was enough nice countryside, castles, old towns, village pubs (the so called 1066 country...)etc to explore to make it very worthwhile. So it is possible to have a good holiday without going that far. The only thing i will say is that a vacation in Britain can be quite expensive, and it isn't always maybe as remote as you'd want it to be. the cost of renting a cottage in Cornwall for instance seems to have skyrocketed. you can get it half prize or less in, say, Italy. Still, i'm always into going to the West Country. Often it's just having a different space around me, clean air, seaside, fields, woods, old villages. You don't have to go that far to get out. So this is my picture, and roughly where i stand. What's yours?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A post with no pictures: Gigs I saw since the smoking ban came in

Usually I post a picture with anything I post here, it does make it look more... inviting, however it can to be a fairly fiddly, lenghty and potentially annoying procedure, finding the pics, uploading them, and then they sometimes post in a different order, etc.

So this post has no pictures but hopefully more text (than usual) to compensate.

I've been on a bit of a roll going out, especially to see gigs, recently. The smoking ban has definitely changed a lot for me, opened places up for me that i previously avoided. That, and the fact we moved back to the East End where there are gigs happening all the time, often free or very cheap, has meant there have been many evenings out lately. Too many maybe. But so far it's still new and for me totally great. I can concentrate on the music without having to zone in on who is smoking where around me and how can i avoid them. How did i put up with this shit, I don't know...

So a list of bands I saw recently with short descriptions/comments. Yes, I wore earplugs for some of them...

Boris/Isis: Not entirely convinced by Boris, but Isis put in a really majestic show, serene and noisy at the same time. They are always very good live, but the last time at ATP the air quality in the upstairs club/smokehole was so horrible, and the noise was too much (it was Sunday) I had to leave after a while. Singer wore a KTL tee shirt!

Four or Five Magicians: a family outing for the London GBV fans at the cosy Notting Hill Arts Club. This *young* Brighton band manage to invoke that early 90s US indie sound but it's not really a pastiche either. However the personality of a Bob Pollard or even a Lou Barlow is still missing even if they get that sound right(could also be the lightshow obscuring their faces, and giving it a pleasingly swirly shoegazing effect) Their set used to consist of at least some GBV covers but this afternoon it's Sebadohs "Gimme Indie Rock". I've just read the lineup is changing too...

The Thermals@Dingwalls: Wow, what a great show! I hear Trev and his mates started the (middle aged) moshpit after "Pillar of Salt", and it definitely went off in the front halfway through. Beautiful. And very concentrated.

Plus, Of Arrowe Hill, The Flying Gambinos, Country Mark @ Cross Kings: Yes, we put on our own evening, and it worked really well. We might do it again. I wore a black wig that looked vaguely 80s hair metal and introduced the acts. Usually when we play a little venue like that the smoke used to annoy me so much after a while, as you have to stick around the whole evening, from soundcheck til the show, but all that isn't a problem anymore. Our set was slightly longer too. Some videos may be forthcoming.

The Guillotines, Black Wire: OK The Guillotine's saxophonist did light up on stage but thankfully noone in the audience followed his example. I can live with that. They looked and sounded like they wanted to be outlaws anyway, hmmmm, pretty good swampy rock'n'roll, definitely with personality. Followed by Black Wire who do that young post punky thing quite well too.

Prinzhorn Dance School: my first instore show at the great new Rough Trade space, noisy, shouty and monotonous, but the post punky vibe worked well in that space, twenty minutes is enough though. Probably the first of many.

then across the road to the back room of Cafe 1001 for these interesting fellas: moody post rocky. a bit weedy but had someting...

The Left Outsides: Hardly anyone there, but their beautiful "sepia toned" psychedelic folk still managed to somehow fill the big room at 93 Ft East, communing with the ghosts maybe? A pretty good free rehearsal for them in any case...

The Nanny Maze: My friend Lolo's indie electro pop duo, I liked their sound a lot, it had it's wobbly moments, but when I came together it was very nice. The intimate downstairs space of Stage B in Stoke Newington worked for them too, again a place I would have avoided previously.

Followed by The White Russians at the White Hart (there was a festival of free live music, The N16 Fringe Festival, all over Stokey over the weekend): A Big Lebowski reference? They are an ace party band, even though they can be quite dark and brooding too. Fun...

and I went to the very sold out Field Day yesterday which was mostly very good (despite bad queues) and saw Battles, Late of the Pier (impressively full on youngsters taking on experimental but mostly very groovy elecro pop) and finally LIARS who took everyone to a very strange place, they were fantastic....

I thought there were more, and there may be some I'm forgetting. I guess my main point here would be to say that there are people out there who will go out more now that smoking is finally banned in live venues. And that gigs are slightly less annoying for me these days. But I need to take a break now maybe...

Brighton Pride - first of two posts and not in chronological order

very hot, very crowded, but we bumped into the right olde crowd early on and hang out at the back of the Wild Fruit tent, near various facilities and good olde Popstarz (long may it roam). Business as usual then, but really good fun mostly.

Brighton Pride

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