Georgebinning's Blog

Notes from the Underground

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on March 30, 2012

©George Binning‘Zines and self-publishing are a bone of contention in my house. “I don’t have much time for self-publishing,” says my flatmate who works for Bloomsbury, “if it was any good it would have been published properly.” I, however, am in love with the idea that if anybody wanted to make a book or zine themselves, they could, quite easily, and control every step of the publishing process.

So on Saturday I left her reading ‘proper’ books and took myself to the Publish and be Damned ‘zine and self-publishing fair at the ICA. Self-publishing is an inherently self-indulgent pursuit, and I will concede to my flatmate that it is not unusual to find inane haikus spread over five pages, essays with titles like “On the essence of whimsy”, and straight-faced ‘zine readers grumbling “This is SO funny”; but it is also a platform for innovations too brilliant and daring for the world of mainstream publishing.

Artist Sara Mackillop had produced a variety of books playing with our abstract notions of time. The One Day Diary divides the day up into compartments of between a minute and half an hour; her calendars of individually glued, different sized raffle tickets gives prominence to Sundays, “I like the way the semi-transparent paper means that you are always looking through to the next month,” she said.

Ex-St Martins lecturer Dan Mitchell was selling his anarchic ‘zine Hard Mag. In exploiting and exploring the rising accessibility of photoshop and glossy printing, car crashes, hardcore porn and appropriated brand logos are luridly pasted together and printed onto heavy shiny paper. He showed me his Plymouth Special, the sale of which had been prohibited by an injunction from the Daily Mail and General Trust after pirating the logo of the Plymouth Herald. The latest issue of Hard Mag gives a similar treatment to the Top Gear and Rolls Royce Logos, though Mitchell seemed to be rather looking forward to the inevitable lawsuit.

As well as a bustling black market of underground publishing, were a series of talks under the heading “I don’t want to make a book”, exploring the roll of publishing in (or as) art. Nick Thurston, of York publishing house Information as Material, discussed the possibilities of originality beyond the narrow requirements of the “myopic publishing industry”, but lamented the emphasis of design over content that new editing technology has created. However Lynn Harris of AND Publishing was all in favour of the digital options now available to conceptual artist/publishers. Max Herbst, editor of the LA Journal of Aesthetics and Protest began by posing himself the humble question, “What if my words could have meaning?” before discussing the significance of magazine distribution around the Occupy Wall Street movement.

While the digital age has opened up new vistas in the world of self-publishing, the more traditional productions are still more fun to read. The collage, cartooning and risograph printing lend that irresistible DIY quality to Landfill Editions’ and Ditto Press’s output. However, the strength of ‘zines is that they can take any form; from Grantchester Pottery’s lavish exhibition catalogues, to the Paper for Emerging Architectural Research (PEAR), the Publish and be Damned Fair proved that self-publishing is only limited by the wild imaginations of absolutely anyone who cares to have a go.

Published on the Spectator Arts Blog.

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Guildford diary: Trade secrets

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on October 19, 2011
Guildford diary: Trade secrets

If you’ve always loved audio books but never stopped to wonder how they are made, then give yourself a slap and continue reading.

Maggie Ollerenshaw described her world to a modest audience at the Guildford book festival, revealing the production process with some of the anecdotal colouring-in that makes listening to veterans talking about their particular fields so enlightening. With over 50 audiobooks to her name, she cheerily played down quite what hard work this voice-acting really is. Recording at a rate of a 150 pages a day, each page-turn is meticulously planned to fall into an editable pause. Clunky jewellery is to be avoided and the highly sensitive microphones require the actor to sit incredibly still. Although this could seem limiting for an actor, it is actually an increasingly popular job. For one thing, you can control every character, and influence the finished product to a tyrannical extent. Catching a cold halfway through the production used to be disastrous but remarkably the nasal bung can now be edited out.

Maggie seemed to be describing a cosy industry that basically amounted to sitting in comfy chairs, having tea, and reading books. But where was the raging debate that embroiled Audiobookland? Abridgement! To abridge, or not to abridge, that is the question Maggie put to the audience. We all agreed with her ‘not’. She recalled a friend who, when landed with the unenviable job of abridging the Count of Montecristo, resorted simply to replacing the middle 600 pages with the phrase: ‘for the next seven years, he toured the Mediterranean in various guises’. Horrendous abridgements, legendary spoonerisms, misinterpreted details of characterisation: these are the sorts of stories traded around the audiobook world.

One nugget that made me feel quite proud to be British was the discovery of the BBC Pronunciation Unit, a valuable source for voice actors dealing with difficult words.

Finally, we retreated to a passage from Chapter 13 of David Copperfield, Maggie’s original audition piece. I closed my eyes and it was blissfully similar to the “real” thing’. And her own favourite voice actor? Martin Jarvis of course.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.

Japan Looks to the Arts to Help Heal its Wounds

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on July 26, 2011

As crisis teams struggled to control the devastating radiation leaks at Fukushima, it was very uncertain whether to go ahead with the Praemium Imperiale Awards this year. The Japan Art Association’s decision to do so was an extraordinary show of strength and gratitude in a time of unimaginable strife.

Hisashi Hieda, chairman of the JAA, gave thanks for the support Japan had received from the rest of the world and explained that the situation at Fukushima was still very grave indeed. But he stoically told the assembled press that the arts transcended all hardship and that, in the Association’s view, the awards were a necessary part of rebuilding and going forwards. The ceremony at Claridges was attended by Prince and Princess Hitachi; it was in fact their first trip outside of Japan since the disaster in early March, adding a unique importance to the event.

The prize of 15 million yen (£120, 000) awarded to each Laureate is the largest prize for the arts in the world, and was established in 1988 in order to recognise the categories of the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize.

The prize for painting went to American artist Bill Viola. Giving the award to a video artist was an interesting, progressive, but ultimately natural choice: Viola’s serene slow motion installations echo the grace apparent in the paintings of artists such as Giotto. Ricardo Legorreta from Mexico was named architecture Laureate; his fantastical architecture has received tragically little attention in the British press, but has been lauded world-wide. Charismatic Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa was named Music Laureate. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years and, after recent illness, plans to take up the conductor’s baton again this year.

It was a very strong year for British art: Anish Kapoor won the sculpture category. He told me over a plate of sushi that Japanese imagery was a great influence on his use of colour and pigment. Dame Judi Dench was named as Theatre / Film Laureate: ‘I suspect it’s because they think I’m going to drop off the bows quite soon, but it is very, very nice indeed,’ she told The Spectator Arts Blog, before talking of the incredible kindness she’d received in her 1970s tour of Japan with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Finally, to encourage young people entering the arts, the Association nominated two British organisations: The Royal Court Young Writers Programme and Southbank Sinfonia, as the co-recipients of its annual Grant for Young Artists.

The generosity of the Japan Art Association underlines Japan’s position as a world leader in ‘soft power’, while the internationalism of the event feeds the energy of the global art world. It was, though, strange and embarrassing that there was only one question from the press.

After an awkward silence, Jack Malvern from The Times stood up and rather tactlessly asked Kapoor and Dame Judi what they were going to spend their prize money on. The question was icily rejected and the ceremony moved on. The winners will receive their prize at an official ceremony in October in Tokyo.

Published on the Spectator Arts Blog.

An interview with Dame Judi Dench

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on July 26, 2011
Photo: Felix Kunze/Getty Images

Dame Judi Dench, Film and Theatre Laureate, spared some time at the Praemium Imperiale awards.

It must be nice to still be winning awards?
Indeed it is, I suspect it’s because they think I’m going to drop off the bows quite soon. But it is very very nice indeed.

I think it was a very strong descision to go ahead with the awards.
I quite agree. It was very questionable at one time, they didn’t know whether it should go ahead, but then Lord Patton said ‘Yes, you can get through everything’. I think it also shows that the arts and music, sculpture, architecture, painting transcend and speak to everybody, as Bill Viola said. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the language because we can all appreciate music. It’s a completely common language, and that’s a unifying thing, and that must be what Japan wants very much. They behaved so incredibly graciously after the disaster. And people apparently still go up the whole time and clear it. Ordinary people who lived there go back to the disaster and clear it but we never see any pictures of that happening, we never see any pictures of how far they’ve come, or how much it’s got better.

Have you had much to do with Japan?
I’ve had two quite long tours of Japan with the Royal Shakespeare company at the beginning of the 70s when met remarkable Japanese actors and people in the theatre there who we subsequently bought them over and stayed with us. One of the plays we did was twelfth night and we were told the reaction would be very very different, and indeed it was. The reaction was unbelievably quiet, and then at the end when you are thinking, ‘Oh they’ve had a rotten evening.’ they erupt. It was thrilling.
And we saw the Noh Theatre and the Kabuki, we saw people getting made up, and it’s a totally different culture. And I remember standing watching this man getting made up, and a young person came up and knelt down beside him and said a whole lot to him and he hardly took any notice. So I said afterwards ‘what was he saying?’ and we were told the young actor was saying ‘I’m not worthy to be on the stage with you, and I hope you will bear with me.’ And then of course there were a lot of wry remarks from our lot about somebody coming along and saying anything like that to us. But it was eye opening.

You also said you have a particular love of Shakespeare.
Yes, it’s universal Shakespeare, it’s translated into every language. I was in West Africa twice with children whose set books were MacBeth and Twelfth Night, and they’d never seen them performed. So we went out with John Neville and the Nottingham Playhouse Company and we performed them, and they all ran down to the stage when I asViola, and the boy playing Sebastian appeared, and completely stopped the show! And every time we spoke in any kind of rhyming couplets, for instance ‘the thane of Fife/had a wife’ used to bring the house down.
[With Shakespeare] one bad production sets it back, but we must go one telling these stories because they are thrilling, and if you see a wonderful production of something, and you’re mesmerised: my grandson is fourteen and he cannot see enough of Shakespeare.

Have you ever acted in Kabuki or Noh theatre?
Oh no, I would never be able to do that, I would die coming down the hanamichi [花道; literally flower path: a walkway which extends into the audience (Wikipedia)]. It’s a totally different thing, I could learn but I can’t imagine how long it would take. Nevertheless it feeds something in your psyche, and I’ve seen hundreds of times.

Has winning this prize strengthened your bond with Japan?
Well I shall go back to Japan and see some friends, I have a lot of Japanese actor friends out there, and directors. And Keita Asari (浅利慶太), head of the Shiki Company, who was incredibly kind to us the second time I found out I was pregnant and I wasn’t in Othello, so he sent us up to the Japan Alps for a few days, while there was a mini-earthquake in Tokyo, which my brother recorded on tape. Lamps started to bang together all the time, it was extraordinary.

Husk

Posted in Fortean Times, music and art by georgebinning on July 12, 2011
Husk

Writer/Director: Brett Simmons
Starring: Wes Chatham, CJ Thomason, Devon Graye, Tammin Sursock
Distributor: After Dark Originals

 

 

Written and directed by Brett Simmons, Husk starts with a fantastic isolation-type set up and offers some chilling and highly enjoyable horror to offset a band of fairly uninspiring youths who meet their hellish ends.
A field of nine foot corn becomes an impenetrable labyrinth of horror in which the stems of space and time are tangled and knotted. A dark force lurks within, lures a group of unsuspecting teenagers into this netherworld and sets to work. For a start there’s something wrong with the scarecrows… something about the way they stalk you through the corn and cut you to ribbons.
From Groundhog Day through to Army of Darkness and the Hellraiser series great things have been by screwing with time and space. Simmons must have known he was onto a winner with a setting reminiscent of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, but with zombie scarecrows, and the success of Lost and Donnie Darko must have turned a few lights on in his head. The film is well conceived and directed but the miserable college archetypes who get sucked into the plot deserve everything they get. Can all students in America really be categorized as an earnest geek, cool dude, meat-headed jock, steady-Eddy or rebellious pair of tits? Chuck in a Czech exchange student or a young tree-surgeon every so often why not?
I found myself rooting for evil, eager to see these tedious characters put out of their (and my) misery. No prizes for guessing the most expendable character who’ll get it first, or which bookish student eventually works out the mystery. The meat-head survives for an infuriatingly long time and an unlikely, sorry, likely Jock-Geek combo makes it the furthest. That leaves the dude and the tits to battle it out for third place.
A fate that doesn’t quite amount to death is usually worse than death, and for victims and audience alike, Husk has a good one. The strange space-time anomaly is neatly reconciled with the outside world and the film concludes with a one of those endings that makes you slap your thigh and say “Aha!”

A combine harvester of horror, truly arable. 7/10

Published in the Fortean Times.

The Hay Festival

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on June 10, 2011


Simon GarfieldFonting up
Thursday, 2nd June 2011
I don’t arrive at my camp site until 11pm, partly the result of my own sense of comic timing, partly the result of a long lunch with Dear Mary and chums. Good fortune would have it that Spectator HQ has been pitched next to Radio Cymru’s weather reader, who tells us in the morning that it will be fine today and even hotter tomorrow. So far so good.

First on my extensive program of literary delights comes Simon Garfield, talking about his wildly entertaining book Just my Type. The lecture proved so popular it was bumped up two spots to the much larger Oxfam stage. Wearing a ‘Sex Drugs and Helvetica Bold’ T-Shirt, he opened with a warning that he will not be discussing the similarly titled romantic novel published in the same year, and before everyone has the chance to leave, launches into his unlikely defence of Comic Sans. “The thing about Comic Saaaans is that it is very reeeeaaaadable.” said Garfield in an unusual stammer which appears to have a stammer of its own.

Using the iconic designs of Margaret Calvert’s road signs and the Gotham font that established the strength of the Obama brand, Garfield showed how deeply fonts permeate our consciousness.

Did you know, for example, that in reaction to Roman font, the Nazis treated traditional blackletter fonts as a symbol of German strength and superiority, until their illegibility and lack of availability in the type foundries of occupied territory led to their banning as a Jewish invention?

Spectator readers will doubtless take satisfaction from the fact that the New Statesman uses a slightly larger and rounder typeface than the Spec.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.

The meaning of life
Friday, 3rd June 2011
If one scientist were to sit at a table full of philosophers it might seem at first that the scientist had the upper hand purely by virtue of their self confidence. The philosophers’ humility might be no match for the all encompassing certainty of science.

Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry and author of A Scientist’s Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence, stood up before an audience of several hundred and proudly declared that science would eventually answer every question relating to the physical world, even perhaps, to morality. Science is the only way to answer a question, he said, as all science is based upon evidence and observation. He then gaily dismissed the existence of anything for which there was no empirical evidence. On the nature of love and the soul, these ideas had to be phrased in more scientific terms.

It transpired that poor Peter had been addressing a viper’s nest of mystics, romantics and other literary nuts. Following his talk, Atkins was bombarded with a hail of metaphysical questions for which he had to repeatedly concede, science had no answer for, yet.

By contrast, philosopher and historian Anthony Kenny described the task he had been set by the Oxford University Press to write a successor to Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy with sincere modesty. “Russell’s history was biased and idiosyncratic, I suppose that’s what qualifies me too,” he said.

Kenny’s consideration of the entire history of Western philosophy, unlike the paradigm bashing methods of science, has taken utmost care not to throw the philosophical baby out with the holy bath water. He showed great willing to reappraise the quirky logic of Platonius, and enthusiastically preserved the founding principles of the otherwise antiquated Aquinas.

He touched also on the classic paradoxes that have troubled great minds from age to age: featuring the examples of Fraeger ‘s Arithmetic vs. Logic conundrum. And he was positively rude about the flowery rhetoric of Derida. Without rewriting history, Kenny’s book brings this essential subject up to speed.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.
Hugh Thomas
Turning on Thomas
Saturday, 4th June 2011
Hugh Thomas gave an update on his progress through his three volume history of the Spanish Empire. He has recently published volume two: the Golden Age, in which he examines the reign of Charles V and the conquest of South America.

Aptly named the Golden Age because he refers to an age of amazing discovery during which the Spanish were afflicted with an insatiable hunger for gold and two thirds of Spain’s income was mined from South America. Thomas had chosen to focus mostly on what the Spanish brought to South America, namely writing, domestic animals, the wheel and Christianity. He asserted that Christianity had been gladly welcomed by the natives, who had until then put up with a religion of human sacrifice. He even went so far as to suggest that the increasing scale of human sacrifice in Mexico was a measure taken to curb the exploding population.

A cultural consequence of this sort of missionary activity was the emergence of the chivalric novel, something I would have liked to hear more about, but not the rest of the audience. Questions revealed they were only interested in the measles and small pox the Spanish bought with them, then one lady stood up, trembling with rage, demanding to know why Thomas hadn’t mentioned the systematic rape of Aztec women by the Spanish, receiving a little round of applause. Even his recital of a few lines of Mexican poetry would not placate them.

As with many lectures I have seen here so far, the audience seem to know what they want to hear, and get cross when the speaker wants to talk about something else. While the ravages of empire building are a whole subject to themselves, that is not what the book is about, and I thought Thomas’ description of Spanish cathedrals built with the stone from Aztec forts encapsulated the spirit of the age appropriately enough.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.
HTLGI
The dark side
Saturday, 4th June 2011
As night fell I was joined by my friend Sarah, a researcher for documentary maker Nick Broomfield. We attended a talk by William Cohen, an investigative journalist who told us that Goldman Sachs really is the evil corporation that everyone says it is, but before long we succumbed to the dark side. That is to say, we venture into How The Light Gets In, a rival festival organised by the Independent. The musical entertainment was Disraeli and the Small Gods, a very competent Ska outfit headed by an intensely annoying Bristolian wide boy, who I suspect may be posher than he would like to let on, followed by a cheesy DJ.

How The Light Gets In has an impressive bill of speakers, including Simon Armitage and AC Graying, and is aimed at a younger crowd, but the real benefit is that they have some good food on offer, which the official Hay Festival does not. Aside from some soggy packaged sandwiches there is literally nothing to eat here. I saw some children with ice creams but have not been able to locate the source. Yesterday, we climbed the hill behind Hay, made a crop circle in the long grass and foraged with little success.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.
LHC@CERN
More meanings for life
Tuesday, 7th June 2011
If you ever have the opportunity to see Rolf Heuer, the director general of CERN, talk, I strongly believe it is your duty as a member of the human race to go. I cannot begin to describe how phenomenally important the work of the Large Hadron Collider will be, suffice to say it is the oracle of modern times, which will hopefully allow us to identify the Higgs Boson Particle, the particle which will account for the existence of mass within the standard model of particle physics.

After comprehensively guiding Heuer through the mechanisms and theory of the LHC, John Snow asked, “If we don’t find the Higgs Boson, does that necessarily mean it does not exist?” “We know every property of the Higgs Boson, except that it exists. If we don’t find it there must be something else,” he replied, “The difficulty comes in knowing when we can say we definitely haven’t found it.”

Heuer was unsure as to the possibility of being able to harvest free energy from splitting the Higgs Boson, but assured the audience that the quest for free energy had no bearing on the scientists at CERN.

Instead it was clear that their work on this 20 year experiment was almost as much a philosophical quest as a scientific one.

The highly entertaining and informative talk has given me another opportunity for a dig at Peter Atkins, because Heuer revealed he had had a very positive meeting with the Pope, and expressed a desire to get all the major religions and philosophers involved in discussing what CERN’s findings might mean from a philosophical point of view. He happily admitted that anything that happened before time and space exploded into existence was not the realm of time science, but was very much a question of belief. If Atkins had been director of CERN I very much doubt that would have been the official view.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.
HTLGI
Long live the king…
Tuesday, 7th June 2011
In 1977, having started a craze for second hand book shops and festivals in Hay on Wye, Richard Booth crowned himself King of Hay. He also appointed a chamber of hereditary peers in 2000 (a nice little earner), but in spite of his lifelong contribution to Hay’s cultural landscape, a large number of the locals think he is a wally. In fact one man tells me that there was a sort of revolution a few years ago where an angry mob ritually beheaded an effigy of Booth. He recently sold Hay Castle for around the two million mark and there are fears that the castle will be closed off and redecorated.

It very quickly struck me that King Booth would be a highly suitable character for one of Alexander McCall Smith’s novels. The celebrated author appeared in conversation with Anne Robinson, and judging by his relentlessly jovial wit, it is a story he may have very much enjoyed himself. In discussing the techniques and novelties of writing the latest instalment of Corduroy Mansions as a serial for the Telegraph, McCall Smith flowed seamlessly between fiction and reality, and talked about his favourite characters, such as Bertie from ‘Scotland Street’ as though they were friends of his. He even showed great attention to his canine characters.

Unsurprisingly there was a touch of the lovable reactionary in his words, as he bemoaned his publisher’s instruction to use ‘banal’ twitter. He also claimed that he refused to acknowledge the existence of mobiles in his writing, as well as anything else he disapproved of. “Denial and hypocrisy get bad press. They can be very useful,” he quipped. A few other items on his list of complaints were the death of the Scots language, the disappearance of surnames, swearing, letters, pushy Edinburgh mothers (amen) and ‘Scottish Miserabilism’ – that dour outlook that shapes much Scottish literature.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.
Peter Godwin
Out of Africa
Wednesday, 8th June 2011
Richard E Grant’s conversation with Peter Godwin about Robert Mugabe’s regime and Godwin’s latest book, The Fear, gave us a nuanced insight into African politics that could not have been written by the Western press.

Godwin, who fought against Mugabe in the civil war, started by describing the dichotomy of being a white African, especially when lecturing to audiences of predominantly black American students who had never been to Africa themselves, but still identified with the continent.

He argued that Mugabe had followed a consistently retributive agenda, hidden behind the fervour of national liberation and accusations of apartheid apologies. He also argued that Zimbabwe was in a state of “post-racial politics”, that the land grabs of recent years were aimed at persecuting the large population of unionised black farm workers and owners, who had refused to vote for him in the election. He mentioned that the white land owning population had accepted that land reform was long overdue, and had wanted a fair and orderly overhaul of the system.

Richard E Grant was born in Swaziland (“which people still have no idea of where it is!”), and had much to contribute to the conversation himself. They discussed the Chinese takeover of Africa, taking pains to point out that much of the investment was from private businessmen, not the Chinese government, and that it was not cause for alarm.

Then Godwin told a hilarious story of a friend who had bumped into Mugabe in front of the lipstick counter in a supermarket, during the UN Plenary Sessions, and had taken the opportunity to harangue the dictator, keeping a cautious 3 foot distance so as not to be clobbered by security.

During question time, a black Zimbabwean lady who had fled the country, stood up to call for racial unity against Mugabe, receiving a round of applause from the predominantly white audience.

I came away from Godwin’s talk with my understanding of British aid, the truth of power-sharing agreements, and the camaraderie of post-liberation governments in Africa utterly transformed. I am confident that the The Fear will make a very enlightening read.

Published on the Spectator Book Blog.

Norwegian Ninja

Posted in Fortean Times, music and art by georgebinning on June 10, 2011
Norwegian Ninja

Writer/Director: Thomas Cappelen Malling
Starring: Mads Ousdal, Jon Øigarden, Linn Stokke, Amund Maarud
Distributor: Euforia Film

 

 

The great thing about a film with a name like Norwegian Ninja is that you can approach it with no great expectations… and then be surprised by something that turns out to be a complete joy.
The real-life inspiration for this bewildering, brilliant com-fu romp is the 1985 arrest of Norwegian politician Arne Treholt who was accused of high treason and espionage. His collaboration with the Iraqis and the Russians proved to be one of the most serious cases of Cold War-mongering in Norwegian history. In 2006 Thomas Cappelen Malling wrote a spoof military manual about ninja invisibility powers which purported to be work of Treholt; then the Norwegian Film Institute gave him 10.5 million krone (roughly £1.2 million), to film an alternative history in which Treholt leads a group of peace loving ninjas loyal to the late King Olaf and fighting for peace and justice. Treholt colludes with the Soviets only to combat a secret western organisation which inflicts terror on their own people in order to justify all out war against Russia; an idea which resonates with a number of popular conspiracy theories today.
The film is regularly both thoughtful and funny. The illuminated way of ninja life is widely misunderstood and its place in Norwegian society is under threat. But the enlightened Treholt serves a higher cause, and shares pleasant flashes of zen philosophy- “Every place and every moment is always the best.” he says, “Every pine cone falls to its rightful place.” His motley band of ninjas raise an affectionate smile. The old sniper, the driver, the chosen one and the animal lover are vaguely reminiscent of Baron Munchhausen’s team.
Norwegian Ninja is humorously faithful to every aspect of 1980s action cinema. Visually the film delivers all the luscious treats that make Jason and the Argonaughts or the Fly so good. Every beautiful old fashioned effect is used: stop motion animation, flick book sequences, classic fonts, exploding miniature models, and tacky first person views provide a blissful viewing experience.
Another advantage of this retro style is being able to use analogue gadgets that the audience has a hope in hell of understanding- the logic being that an iPod app. that that can hack pentagon data, though useful, is not half as entertaining on screen as an exploding clockwork glider. The remote control quadrocopter is very cool, as are the sub marine motorbikes and the feng-shui powered base defenses.
It seems daft to be giving this film such a rave review, except that it is such a complete pleasure to watch –a funny, stylish comedy with an infectiously good-natured tone.

An unexpected gem from a first time film maker: 9/10

Published in the Fortean Times.

The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart

Posted in music and art, Spoonfed by georgebinning on May 9, 2011

With Kate MacGarry’s departure to Shoreditch leaving Wilkinson as Vyner Street’s only ‘original’ art space, there were worries over the future of the Bethnal Green art scene. Thankfully it looks like newcomer Matt Roberts may be spearheading the new generation, at least if the current exhibition, The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, is anything to go by.

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn – The Little One

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn – The Adulter

Here, Julie Cockburn’s found and altered photographs and paintings are like fireworks on the wall. The stiff portraits have been delicately sliced and rearranged into geometric explosions, sometimes with eye-watering symmetry, sometimes angry chaos. In doing so she reorganises the unknown subjects’ poised projections of self into images they could not control. The Little One and The Adulterer are noteworthy examples of this trait.

Cockburn lets the pictures sit in her studio for a while after finding them, “in order to get to know them,” she says. Once they are familiar she attempts to bring out what she sees in them. The results are brilliant, grab you immediately and hold you for a long time.

As well as these ingeniously divided portraits, Cockburn exhibits found portrait photos with the sitters encased in geometric, three-dimensional frames sown in vibrant thread onto the picture. The young ladies of another time are suddenly confined, but by something that isn’t quite real on their plane of existence, something that comes later. I particularly remember the lady of In Yellow gazing wistfully out of her extraordinary scaffold.

Julie Cockburn

Julie Cockburn – In Yellow

Having originally trained as a sculptor Cockburn says that she originally felt a compulsion to add a new dimension to these static images, and it almost makes more sense to view her work as sculpture.

One potential criticism about geometric works is that they’re almost, by definition, bound to be aesthetically pleasing. Proportion is the conventional measure of beauty, so in its barest form it’s quite a safe bet. Nonetheless there is more to Cockburn’s work than just pattern – and it would be unfair and unwise to sincerely slander geometric perfection.

The Foul Rag and Bone Shop is a commendable exhibition, enjoyable and accessible. It also fills me with confidence to see that all the work on show is very new, and has not been dragged exhaustively around numerous galleries. It looks like there’s hope for Vyner Street yet.

The Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart is at Matt Roberts Arts until 28th May 2011.

Published on Spoonfed.co.uk

Bizarre book reviews

Posted in Bizarre, music and art by georgebinning on April 13, 2011

The Killer of Little Shepherds

The Killer of Little Shepherds: Douglas Starr (Simon & Schuster)

In 1893 Joseph ‘the French Ripper’ Vacher, was court marshaled then spurned by a woman he had only just met. This proved too much to bear, so he tracked her down and shot her, before shooting himself twice in the face… and we are only on page five. Here starts the grisly tale of a proper 19th century nutter, accompanied by the parallel history of the emerging forensic science that eventually bought him to justice.

Published in Bizarre, Issue 175

 

Beasties

Beasties: Diana Schoenbrun (Pedigree Books)
Diana Schoenbrun has invented a novel way for you to rationalise your most monstrous nightmares and master the basics of needlework at the same time with her latest DIY crafts book.
Beasties includes a beginners’ stitching tutorial and templates for a mob of mythic tormentors. You can knit Nessie, darn a Dragon, or opt for more obscure creatures, perhaps tailor the Tomte, or embroider Eloko. Start with these and quilt while you’re ahead.

Published in Bizarre, Issue 175

Dark City

Dark City: Crime in Wartime London: Simon Read

During Second World War the great people of Britain rallied together against the Jerries, dug potatoes and sowed curtains for all they were worth, right? Not entirely. Simon Read’s book describes how the dark days of blackouts, rationing and a severely depleted police force created the perfect conditions for racketeers and psychopaths to run free-range through the streets of London. Dark City provides well-researched accounts of the crime of the time.

Published in Bizarre, Issue 174

Wake Wood

Posted in Fortean Times, music and art by georgebinning on March 23, 2011
Wake Wood

UK Release Date: March 25, 2011 (UK – Theatrical)
March 28, 2011 (UK – DVD)
Price: £15.99
UK Certificate: 18
Director: David Keating
Country: Ireland/UK/Sweden
Distributor: Momentum Pictures

 

 

In the last two years, the revitalised Hammer Films has released two new horror movies, including the acclaimed Let me in, a very creditable remake of the Swedish Let the right one in. This year sees another three titles scheduled for release, starting with Wake Wood, produced in conjunction with the Irish Film Board and the Swedish Film Institute.

After losing their daughter Alice in a tragic dog attack, Patrick and Louise Daly (Aidan Gillen and Eva Brithistle) move to the quiet, if somewhat Wicker Man-esque village of Wake Wood, in rural Ireland. As they try to deal with their grief and settle into the tight-knit community, he working as a vet and she a pharmacist, they discover that the villagers, led by Wicker Man-esque country-squire-turned-shaman Arthur (Timothy Spall), are engaging in decidedly odd nocturnal rituals. It turns out they have the power to bring the recently deceased back to life — on the understanding that they can’t have been dead more than a year and they will only return for three precious days, during which time the grieving nearest and dearest must come to terms with their loss once and for all before saying goodbye.

Initially sceptical (well you would be, wouldn’t you?), Patrick and Louise decide to take up Arthur’s offer; one problem is that the ritual requires a recently vacated body as a medium for Alice’s rebirth. Luckily the people of Wake Wood suffer accidental deaths with alarming regularity, so a corpse is always close at hand. In this case, an unfortunate accident involving a farmer and a very large bull saves the day.

Of course, problems ensue; the mourning parents have clearly never read “The Monkey’s Paw” nor been straight with Arthur about precisely how long their little girl has been dead. The ritual, very pleasing with all its fire and slime and chanting, seems successful enough, but the newly reborn Alice is… not quite right.

Wake Wood uses its low budget to good effect, while the Swedish tie in provides the instinctively bleak feel that characterised Let the Right One In, adapted successfully to the rural Irish setting. David Keating directs well enough, using roaming unsteady cams, and does not attempt any visual acrobatics that would stretch or betray the budget. Some may find Gillen’s performance a bit weak, but Spall steals the show with his engrossing and faintly comic rural mysticism.

Low budget horror with a pleasingly bleak feel: 7/10

Published in the Fortean Times.