War Horse, a short review nine years in the making

Apropos of nothing in particular. Just before Roy Scheider, playing the green, but somehow simultaneously edgy Chief Brody in Jaws, says his most famous line in, well, just about any movie “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” he says “I can go slow ahead, come on down and chum some of this shit”

The only thing I knew about this movie before I watched it was that it existed. Now at least I know that it is quite the most ridiculous film ever made. I like an implausible plot twist at the best of times, but the entire film is an implausible twist plot. Awful.


Parasite – The contrarian I didn’t like it review.

I guess the easy thing would be to go along with the swathes of glowing reviews from experts and take note of the huge array of awards that this movie has won and seems to continue to win. Wait. For. It. … Just a little more…


I really didn’t like this movie. I did want to. I just didn’t. I was searching for a way to describe how I felt, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It looks lovely, but that, for me is about it. The story is stupid, the characters ugly. It’s a good thirty minutes too long and, well, boring. The best way I could think of to describe how I felt watching Parasite was thus:

Imagine you are sitting in front of a washing machine that has a lovely white cotton towel in it, the really fluffy one you just bought that totes gets you and then you half notice what looks like a flash of red. A rush of adrenaline, but then it abates because it was just a figment of your imagination. You turn to look away, but WOAH just as you glance back, there in the window is a big dark blue sock and it is clinging to the glass taunting you.

THEN BAM. The red sock appears and pushes the blue sock off its perch. You reach of the off button, but know that despite your need for this disaster to be over the off button on a washing machine is more an indication of future intent than a strict instruction and this horror show is going to continue for some time and you’ll just have to deal with it.

You sit, horror-struck in front of the washing machine unable to move, you watch as red follows blue follows white and then it all starts to blend into one indescribable shade of grey. A really crap grey that ruins everything. It ruins the blue sock, it ruins the red sock and worst of all it ruins is the white towel – everything looks awful and all you can do is sit.

THEN BAM, the washing machine inexplicably lurches forwards and falls on you trapping you until help arrives – it never does. As you sit there, trapped, you try to work out why this happened and how on earth the washing machine could have fallen on you, but this story has no need for logic or sense it’s just a collection of things thrown together. Not unlike Parasite.

I didn’t like it.

A decade is a long time in digital, bricks and mortar…

To help stretch my current blogging interest in the longevity of digital, specifically publishing, but in reality anything, to its limit… I was invited by Amazon Photos this morning to remember where I was exactly a decade ago today.

Infinite Loop

I mean, it’s not there anymore either.

A passing thought about the changing nature of human memory when paired with digital devices entered my brain for a second, but the complexity of how that might manifest itself meant that my brain deleted it almost immediately.

But, as Phil Collins might say, seriously… What if digital, with its impression of permanence begins to affect the actual permanence of physical memory. You start to rely on Amazon photos to remind you where you were a decade ago, even sub-consciously, and then your actual memory starts to discard memory it would have normally kept. The digital memory turns up and woo great. Amazon fails to remind you and poof, memory gone. I guess that’s not really all that different to a physical photography, but with so much more of our day to day being digital and the increased reliance on that digital content store are we putting more of our memory at risk? A bit like the humans in the movie WALL-E but not a physical deterioration a mental one too.

I bet there’s some proper academic research along these lines too, but I’m far too busy and important to search that out so this unsourced stream of consciousness attached to a weak sauce excuse to remind myself I once went to Apple HQ will have to do.

Digital Decomposition

In my last post I mentioned that digital just disappears and that got me thinking about how I might be able to keep some of the digital things that I’d done. It’s weird that even at the first step of my own digital footprint, the stuff that I alone control the assets for, some of it is already gone.

I started to sift through the digital-only stuff I had created over the years and one of the first I came to was a presentation I gave at a ‘future of digital magazines’ event, website gone, ironically, at UAL: London College of Communications.

Basically, I have the slides for the Petchu-Kutcha and you can see them in that incredibly very annoying animated gif (hard G) that is cycling below. What’s gone though are my notes and though I memorise all my presentations before I give them, inevitably, the detail disappears from my memory and, sans notes, I’m afraid I couldn’t be 100% sure of what I said for, let’s say, the slide with ‘Distraction’.

I do know what I said for the Guttenberg slide as that got a nice laugh and I’m an absolute sucker for the pleasure of making a large group of people chuckle. I was saying that Guttenberg made the press to make money, not to please God or the church which is basically the same notion behind the Police Academy franchise.

However, other than a few emails back and forth between myself and the other contributors about subject choice and this keynote, that’s all that’s left. I think it may have been recorded, but I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

I do wonder if there’s any use in even attempting to understand what a realistically safe public digital archive with longevity might actually look like. Can anything that isn’t a huge, globally uniform, globally funded site work? And for what and who curates and who pays for that?

I do like the word disenthrall though. Still.

Some things I learnt when launching a doomed digital magazine for the iPad in 2011 but that do not necessarily apply only to that specific scenario or this would be a really weird post for what is basically a generalist site about anything that comes to mind and that does not always pay full attention to high-quality SEO targeting headlines. Mostly.

First. Failure leaves you if you let it. Success is nice and warm, like a favourite jumper, you can always put it on and make yourself feel better. It keeps you warm no matter the weather and even when the jumper has made that trip to the charity bag of middle-class guilt you can always reminisce about the warm fuzzy feeling it once gave. Failure is a bit like that goop you find at the bottom of the bin, that stuff you inevitably stick your hand in. Or, that baby nappy you’ve lifted the leg cuff of to check for content and, well, hot fire sewage comes to mind. It gets stuck under your nails, makes you retch, leaves you looking wistfully into the middle distance cursing the things that might have been. However, once you’ve washed your body in bleach, clipped your nails until they are bleeding from the tips and had an optician fix your middle-distance antimetropia then all of that stink and stink eye is but a middle-distance mirage.

B. It is possible to get everything right and to still have a negative outcome, but much more likely is getting about 50% right and the rest is just dumb chance and circumstance. Like, for a random example I’m pulling from thin air… you could have decided that a good day to launch your paid for issue is the same day that Apple decides to increase pricing tiers and that screws everything up and even so it is YEARS before you realise that actually the price increase had absolutely zero to do with download numbers really and it turns out people won’t pay for a digital magazine so you were worrying about completely the wrong thing. A complete lack of interest in iPad based digital magazines wasn’t an option in the ‘threats’ column. Lesson learned.

iii. Communicating your intention is much, much, much harder than you might think. Saying the same thing over and over and over again, might and I mean might help about 7% of people get on the same page as you, but honestly, the other 94% are just not interested or listening or that good at maths so detail that should, you’d think, stand out like a sore thumb goes unnoticed. And here I mean on your own team, not the generally interested passers-by, I mean the people in the car with you, some of whom may be driving or at least changing gears or tuning the radio. The very people who have bought in are on payroll are super enthusiastic. It’s not that they aren’t on the journey with you, it’s more they’ve all got the same Google maps location, but to a slightly different postcode. Some of them might even be using Apple maps so are completely, utterly, irredeemably lost.

Further: Picking the ‘right tools’ is about 1/10th of 1% of the process. Any good salesperson will tell you that it’s 99% of the thing, but honestly spending time worrying about how to get something done just gets in the way of getting something done. Pick a tool you like and use that. When Geoff, the guy who’s never publishing done anything original says “see, this is why you should have gone with a container app build on HTML5” tell Geoff to go fuck off to the far side of Fuck and when he’s found the mayor of Fuck Off town to keep going to Fuck Off street until it meets Keep Going Geoff Avenue and then turn left. But what if Geoff is experienced and knowledgable I hear you whisper, well, if Geoff truly is knowledgable and experienced he’ll give you better advice before not after and it will be based on options, not opinions. Even then, Geoff doesn’t have to be a dick about it is all I’m saying.

  • Digital is so brittle that the thing I created only 9 years ago is completely gone. One Google search for the title of the doomed digital magazine I made will bring back a legacy page on the publisher’s website that one day will too be gone – publisher and legacy page both. Honestly, the only thing left that I have are some emails and, I shit you not, some print outs of the first issue. Actual physical copies on A3 paper – the digital containers are unopenable. I don’t even have the drafts of the copy I wrote. This is not to say that my copy was worthy of remembrance, but rather that digital doesn’t decay it just dies and disappears. Gone. Go to the Halifax library, well, any library really, but the Halifax one is attached to the Piece Hall which is lovely, so go there. Ask the librarian for the microfilm copies of all the digital content they have and that librarian will look at you like you have lost your mind, then tell you to take a nice walk around the Piece Hall, it IS lovely after all. Seriously, I’m trying to labour the point even more heavily than is strictly necessary, but it’ll be easier for you to find the news from 1911 than 2011 in the Halifax library archive -everything digital is gone.

In conclusion

Failure stinks, but the smell goes away. The reasons something doesn’t work are very likely not the reasons you think are the reasons why something fails and only about a decade of reflection will help. Your vision isn’t as clear as you think it is and you need to bang on and on and on and on and on and on about it, then when you think people get the message you need to reiterate it over and over and over and over and over again. Tools are tools and you should pick one and use it. Digital is permanently temporary.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

It cost me forty-five quid to watch this movie. And, at the end, as the credits rolled, it wasn’t something I was obsessing over, so I guess all-in-all that must mean it’s a good movie. It is.

However, I can’t help thinking that this would have made a much better 6-part mini-series on BBC4 than a two-hour movie. There are so many lovely scenes, but it felt to me there could have been a lot more lovely scenes and the movie format couldn’t allow for them even at £45.

All the cast are great, the way the story flows through the scenery never gets messy or weird or jarring. Though I did want Malcolm Tucker Mr. Micawber to swear at the bailiffs a bit. Well, quite a lot really.

I do wonder if it might be of its time as a movie though – in a way that you watch it 3 times now and rave over it and then in five years watch it again and don’t maintain the same sense of joy or excitement. Even though you remember that feeling it’s like there’s something missing, somehow. I felt that way a bit after The Madness of King George. Watched it three times when it came out, loved it. Saw it again a few years later, didn’t like it half as much. What what!

So, it’s a fun escape – if you like Armarretto Averivaderci movies, TV shows or comedy output, you’ll like it too, all the punchlines are in all the right places and all the actors are acting at the right time. Jolly good show!

Though you may want to avoid the Vue at Leicester Square if you want to pay less than a king’s ransom to watch a movie and have some popcorn and a drink or you’ll end up as destitute as a third-act character in a loose movie adaptation of the fourth most popular Dickens novel.

Shook – Between a rock and a light place

’For a writer, you held your nerve well.’

This is lovely. A love story more than a history. Can there be any greater vicarious feeling than the passion of others writ large? Tom Nancollas tells the story of the remaining rock lighthouses of the British Isles, like many of these types of ‘History of a thing’ books there’s facts and fiction interwoven with the unmistakable joy of an author able to realise the physical manifestation of a passion.

Like all good rom-coms about a man in love with a lighthouse, or, more accurately, several lighthouses, you’re kept waiting for the payoff. There’s an early foray, of course, all good romances need a misfire. A disused lighthouse near Liverpool is the author’s first journey inside a granite tower, but somehow, because the lighthouse isn’t active perhaps, it’s a relationship bound to disappoint, it looks right but feels wrong.

It was while he was being sort of disappointed in Liverpool that I thought to myself that were this book about a man retracing the last surviving members of a football team that won a cup or the lost stadia of football teams no longer in business it’d be quite famous, but as it’s about lighthouses you can sense a sniffiness in the air about the subject.

The payoff arrives eventually though and the final house is where our leading man finally sees the light at close quarters. I won’t ruin it for you, but if you’re the type of person who made it all the way through Notting Hill or Love Actually or Four Weddings and a Funeral then this book will have a familiar feel. That’s not specifically accurate, well, it’s not accurate at all really, but it fits in with the narrative I was so tortuously trying to shoehorn in.

Anyway, at the end, he gets to turn the theory and research into actual experience and that’s a joy because you see that jump off the page. I zipped through it and enjoyed every tidbit. You should buy a copy for the old man who has everything in your life.

Status and Visibility

The website game is long and hard, I’ve owned this domain for quite a few years now. From time to time there were weekly posts. From time to time there was nothing for months. For some time there was a large backlog of published posts available to all and then less and now, well, just a handful. Various boring reasons for this none of which I intend to explain or explore here or with anyone now or in the future.

Writers block is an odd beast, affects people differently and in numerous ways. My writing has never been much more than middle of the road clogger level, so you’d think I didn’t feel I had much to lose by just barrelling on for thousands of words, but somehow for about the past, err, decade or so I’ve not really enjoyed anything I’ve published in any format anywhere.

But, I wonder can I force myself? And, if I can’t force myself can I at least have some fun with the hard and fast rules of writing an English teacher once told me about? Maybe.

And this is where the doubt creeps in, paragraph 3 – In the olden days I’d have sprinted to this point never caring to look back at the errors and typos that ruined the any sense and flow in my carelessly written works, never stopping to take a metaphorical breath and enjoy the scenery. These days I list, first to post and then get bored before I can even finish my tired, lame broken and not quite right thingumabobs.

Candide – Sightseeing with children in Paris. Part 2

In Belgium there is a statue of a small child pissing. It is, I believe, called The Pissing Boy. It is, I’m told, not a grubby, weird thing, but a cheeky aside, a thumbing of the little willy to the earnest seriousness of our modern world.

In Paris, outside the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre metro stop was a man. He was pissing. Fully clothed, just at the top of the steps, into the gutter. It looked to me as if he lived there, or at the very least spent a lot of his day there. No one paid him much mind and I did my very best “ooh, look over there A CAR! IT’S BLUE!” Of course, all this did was turn on my children’s highly tuned What doesn’t he want us to see? Sensors. It did, at least, give rise to a teachable moment as we were able to have a discussion about homelessness and why some people might be homeless and others “like us” aren’t. I did my best, fellow bleeding heart liberals, I did my best and maybe one day we’ll deal with it better than we do now. Still, a Parisian Penis at 10 am was not how I intended starting the day.

Sightseeing is all about keeping your eyes open for the little things. Yeah, you’ll see all the big stuff, but paying attention to the everyday is always a good idea. Had I been paying attention I might have noticed that the cute looking cafe we chose for breakfast was opposite a shop called Dior. Diagonally opposite the Dior shop was another fancy looking outlet called Jimmy Choo and the shop opposite that one was called Chanel. I hadn’t checked the menu yet, but when I did the first thing I noticed was the lack of prices. I began noticing more and more and more – in fact, my highly tuned HOW MUCH? sensor was melting. It turns out that a Pain au raisin the size of a £2 coin was €6 and a café American was (Dad, look away now) €15. Great service mind you, and the staff called Toby ‘Une Petit Monsoir” which was cute.

In an irony not unnoticed as I was inside pissing money up the wall a man was outside literally pissing in the street. Funny old world.

We went to the science-y museum Cité des Sciences et de de l’Industrie – much of which was in French, but plenty in English too (FOR SHAME!). Lots of interactive stuff to play with and a nice break from the “ooh, la la, look at that expensive bit of marble/oil on canvas.” “No, I Don’t know why it’s so expensive” “no, no one decides exactly how much it’s worth” No darling, the post card isn’t worth the same” “No darling, no” “Here darling, have a mint to suck”

The Musee d’Orsay is a on object lesson in maybe we’re not that bad at stuff in good old Blighty after all. A train station that was built too short for the trains is now an art gallery. Beautiful really. You could spend all day here – you could do it in 45 minutes (once you’ve queued that is, even with the museum pass we waited a good 45 minutes to get in). Naturally, the d’Orsay is worth a visit whatever, but this was a personal journey too. Niamh and I like Monet. Not in any meaningful understanding of what art is or what part it plays in the human condition way, just a shared appreciation of some paintings wot we like. Here, in the d’Orsay we looked at the ACTUAL poppies and that one with the lady with a parasol. We also saw the van Gogh self portrait, and what I called “the unmade bed” before realising what an artistic monkey I was. “Not the unmade bed!” I exclaimed “Eminem did that one I think, second album” I said with Dad joke mode turned up past 11 to cover my shame. Still, a moment of pure shared joy in the gallery on the 5th floor of the d’Orsay and some rip roaring dad jokes on the 2nd. Fun times.