Tag: review

Monday 17th May 2016 – an evening of urban fun and a movie

These events happen in Belfast. Belfast.

Haven’t been to the cinema for certainly over a year. On a whim decided to go to town after work where I had another argument with my boss the manifestation of which seemed to come out of nowhere. Out of my calm calm stylings it just explodes. It feels like manipulated tension. My protest felt like whining but I get the feeling I’m being toyed with. The focus seems to be turned on me as an unacceptable freak because of my response of dissatisfaction. But the information imparted, that there wasn’t much time in the summer for me to take leave came to me eventually as something which was acceptable to my calmer side which had been exploded I think by the way it was initially presented to me which led to me perceiving that two weeks did not seem to be open, a result of me not specifying on time as it was framed and I replied that wasn’t good and I thought everyone was entitled to  at least an uninterrupted week as a summer break But actually as it turned out a week in June and one at the end of August. Well, that’s not great but its actually ok in the circumstances. Do yo see what I mean. It was ok. But I am left with this person apparently shocked by my “outburst”. I was on my knees sweeping paper off the floor at the time when it was announced so I conducted the conversation whilst doing this and was then told to stop that as if it was rude.

Is it ok not to edit ? But anyway I seemed to get away with not being mortified in the last half hour of work which is usually the result of these moments and I could bring myself to get the bus to go into town on a fine May evening. I was happy enough as I thought I could just about defend myself if my behaviour was brought up again as an issue in my struggle to remain employed. Ha.

Anyway, I got a “day ticket” which entitles you to unlimited travel on Metro buses. I can’t get money from cash machines with my atm card which means I get money by getting “cash back” from my bank account in supermarket transactions so I ended up on the Lisburn Road Tesco where I got thirty pounds. Then it was time to imbibe something. The plan was that I would stay out until I was tired and then I would go home and go straight to bed and the next day I would get up about 7am in preparation for a visit to the doctor about this tingly feeling I am getting in my hands which is really bugging me and praying on my mind. Some problem with circulation but I need a tonic and some information. I’m writing this now just before I go to doctors.

I went to the Parlour, which is one of the closest public bars to the Queens main campus ie near to that big 19th century Hampton Court style frontage. Not a pleasant bar to be when there’s lots of people but very relaxing when not and there was hardly anyone there, all the students probably worrying about their exams. Its very dark so its a nice place to be inconspicuous. Its like an Irish country inn with a lighting problem which seems to be exploited to pleasant effect at the front area the light comes in the windows but your still in the dark and there are flickering lantern things and a fruit machine in the gloom under some stairs and very deep armchairs which hide you most of the way  – up to the neck ? behind the tables whilst obscure 70’s funk quietly rumbled out. This seems to be a bit of a trend currently.

Had a pint of Smithwicks. It was time to eat. Planned to go to Bishops, a fish and chip restaurant of local fame and note where you can (used to) sit in a takeaway bit with your box of  purchase but surprisingly it was dark and shut possibly forever it seemed. So I went to Kentucky and got a three piece meal. Num but I was feeling a bit lonesome and pointless partly due to the contrived and experimental nature of my evening adventure undertaken of course with no friendly companions. The food cheered me up though.

I went to Botanic Gardens where I notice there are few places where you can sit where you don’t feel rather exposed but there is a little tree and foliage filled mini foresty bit where I found a tree and sat against it. It was a great spot and quite secluded for a park where there’s always people moving through. Pleased that I had found this place which I’ll definitely return to I moved on down Botanic Avenue and went to the Empire Bar which is a big old building beside the railway line which is more like a theatre in design. In fact its two theatre like spaces on top of one another. The upper one has concerts of tribute bands, retro music nights and local bands too. I’ve never been to the famous comedy night at the Empire, I assume its still on. I had a pint of Guinness which I downed quickly as I’d decided to catch the movie at 9. The cinema is part of the university campus, just up the street.

Going to films you haven’t a clue what they’re about can leave you open to self inflicted misery but this time the random choice worked. Hoorah ! My experimental evening actually came off.

 

Mustang  – a film from Turkey directed and co-written by Deniz Gamze Erguven

 

Mustang poster.jpg

 

The further we travel from the centres of our late capitalist west the more films seem to be about, “issues.” Issues that often seemed to be about the old meeting the new. This film does it with a sledgehammer but its really good. A film that would have a much broader appeal than a lot of foreign movies because the subject matter is very accessible.

If you only knew a few things about what happens in societies where traditional ways of life are still immensely pervasive you would know that in some places in the world the lives of women are highly regulated and they are subject to being married off into arranged marriages quite often in their early teens.

This film begins with an introduction to a group of teenage girls who actually turn out to be sisters doing things you might see in an American teen movie, frolicking in the water with some boys at the seaside on the day school breaks up . The rather ignorant viewer such as myself may say to themselves, well that doesn’t surprise me really, the whole world is becoming like this now, although it seems the girls could come from anywhere really which seems a bit of a flattening out of identity. A couple of scenes later we are presented with the girls outraged aunt and uncle who have heard about their “behaviour” and we realise that what might have seemed normal in some societies is the “issue,” of the film. It is actually the central event that leads the girls to be practically imprisoned in their family home.

What seems clear as well is that the girls behaviour is westernised, a direct result of something that has come from outside Turkish culture. It is a surprisingly strict distinction which is demonstrated in quite an angry way which sticks two fingers up to any one who would want to stop these changes from being accommodated. The girls love acting in a rebellious way which connects for them more naturally both hormonally and culturally. This unstoppable drug of social and romantic freedom is portrayed as a powerful force that it would be foolish to try and hold back and makes a fool of what is wrongly perceived as the cornerstone of tradition ie. a strict stale morality which turns off any interest in the children leaving them to the mercy and uneducated dangers of wild rebellion . This is because we are seeing through the eyes of the girls how little the traditional code means to them as it cannot deal with their collective celebration of their youth and beauty which they know is alien and makes them like aliens both to themselves and to their elders. They have become little punks just like many trend obsessed children these days but their rebellion has more meaning. The poses are similar but its a real war. It isn’t the more nihilistic meaningless ungrateful rebellion of our own pathetic youth which just is and wouldn’t make much subject matter for a film to be a bit harsh but then again adults in our  society, the new generation of elders are still dominated by conservative ideas which in liberal societies is a miserable and nonsensical state for our minds to be in in 2016 so no wonder our children act like something’s wrong. Its complicated and I’m getting off the subject.

The film is possibly mocking its societies traditions to show that if tradition cannot integrate western liberalism, which may have awful elements to it then tragedies will continue to take place. But the final message is almost shockingly positive although this family has been destroyed, but destroyed by attitudes, not something that had to inevitably become reality.

I also liked the way the film shows viewers in more fully westernised countries that the freedoms that many more individuals enjoy in these societies are a cause for celebration, not to be taken for granted. It is our own western ideas that we are seeing in action in films such as this, carving up the old ways, which is a call to recognise our universal responsibility but also, power.

The film is the director’s debut movie and is based on her own experiences.

top English Irish Scottish British Welsh albums of all time

So Tough – Saint Etienne

This Years Model – Elvis Costello

I was going to make a big list but I got a bit jaded with the idea of being the font of all knowledge on this. Uncertainty took over about how objective it could really be because I crave objectivity. Anyway I’ll just do it one at a time in no particular order.

This here is So Tough by Saint Etienne which came out in 1993. I like going on about this one because its not mentioned very much and not in anything like the splendid glowing terms I, David see it in. Rare for moi, I got this pretty much when it came out. From what I’d heard by them already, retrodelic, a bit Ibiza, a bit baggy, very DIY dancey I thought it was right up my street.

1993 was a bit of a political awakening for me. I had been doing a years work experience, Job Training Programme it was called at the time in a couple of libraries which was the first thing approaching a job I ever had apart from some voluntary work at Belfast Community Radio a station that eventually morphed into Belfast Classic FM ( I have digressed to to a few years earlier, 1990) That was fascinating but at the same time awful as I was surrounded by people who seemed to be actively trying to get somewhere in radio land. Maybe I was giving off some terribly awkward vibes but nobody bothered talking to me and left me to man the competition phones for this really terrible DJ Laurence John, though weirdly I loved him. Maybe I was just partisan for my DJ master. And it was exciting to see the wonderful Andy White come in one day who in my mind anyway was Belfast’s foremost pop star of the day. He did this show in the evenings where he played whatever he liked. One memorable moment for me was when he played the full Gonna be a Beautiful Night off Prince’s Sign Of the Times album. In my fantasies I had dreamed of being on the radio in some sort of Andy White posse but no, no. Problem was I was too nervous to talk to anyone let alone Andy and there never was a next time though no doubt that would have been the same. That was about 1990 I think.

That was a digression. Sorry. I will continue with my “political awakening”. For some reason working for the first time (in the library 1993) had made me all angry and passionate about things as it hadn’t been plain sailing as work never has been for me. This was mixed with a profound pleasure when I left at being released from the shackles of bondage. I was in a fantastically good mood but one of a kind I had never experienced before. Then I read Englands Dreaming, the seminal work on the history of punk. It blew my mind. By about September I think, I had joined the Socialist Workers Party which I suppose marked the end of my “innovative,” phase.

I’d always been interested in politics. My dad was a very intelligent man though I find it hard to remember much of what he said and difficult to to know where is sharp analytical view of the world came from. He was very opinionated. All I can say is that the way he thought was an inspiration to me and I’m sure to everyone who knew him. He passed on before he could be appalled by my increasingly leftwards direction.

Because I absolutely hate to alienate people and my mind is definitely more fragile than average active politics is a terrible thing for me to be into. For a start I have to support violence, well officially even though I don’t. There are different levels of this within revolutionary socialist groups. Basically we support self defence but there also tends to be an admiration for people who attack the police or destroy lethal technology etc. So already you can see I might be in  too deep here already. I went through a dumb phase where I was quite excited by revolutionary violence but it was more like the movie If I suppose. Spectacular bombings used to appeal to me but only on an aesthetic level. I once thought that shooting Mickey Mouse would an ambiguous thing to do you know an actual person in a costume in Disneyland because it was so bizarre and unexpected.  Unfortunately I was forgetting that I could never do that myself. Whenever I was in any dangerous politically active situation I would always hold back which I felt terribly guilty about. Now I feel lucky that I’m like this.  Thankfully, apart from voicing sympathy for some violent action I never encouraged anybody to undertake it or undertake it myself.  And I also feel that socialism has to be pacifist and revolutionary at the same time. Let it succeed or fail on that basis.

Before I became a Trot reading Englands Dreaming got me into this sort of violent aesthetic which as an aesthetic was very mentally even physically cathartic. It tied in with that Huggy Bear aesthetic (I refer to the riot grrl band) which came out around this time which was sort of as violent as you could be without actual violence ie it was still just music and I loved their little writings. Reading about punk and digging Huggy Bear made me realise that you can be intellectually violent and if you want just as repellent as actual terrorism without actually compromising yourself by hurting people. But i’m basically an angry but very optimistic hippie so I get pretty assailed by a lot of music which has the sad outweighing the happy eg Odessa by the Bee Gees which to me is as unlistenable as some people might find Metal Machine Music. So Odessa would be a bit like the way I cant listen to Neil Young or Bright Eyes or PJ Harvey or practically any of the hot albums of the last 20 years. I just don’t get sad music though I like wistful things like TS Eliot’s greatest hits. Because I love the Bee Gees based on their lovely hits i’m mentioning Odessa because I’m sure it must be a future classic after the critical elite get over themselves which they do usually about 20 years too late. Alternatively the rousing stuff is just overrated as I understand it better and it would be closer to my bag eg Stone Roses Oasis Blur Suede.

In 1993 I enjoyed Huggy Bear’s slamming of what was to become Britpop on their little manifesto inside their joint album with Bikini Kill. Their subsequent eclipse for whatever reason could be seen as the end of a last attempt to link music and political change in the savage modernist tradition which summons those primitive desires that Freud and Jung were revealing in the early 20th Century and pop and rock actually played out, but seemingly to have completely petered out by the 1990’s.

Part of the reason I joined the SWP (Ireland) was a social thing but I was now dealing with the orthodoxy of political action and I jumped in and for several years I was very committed to their style of politics.

It only takes a little doubt for a creative person not to take action especially when that action is, don’t laugh, world changing in aspiration, something which is attempting to challenge the status quo (well, its a hobby).  Because the action needs to be more perfect than average cooking up something perfect on your own with no likeminded individuals is very difficult and filled with frustration and anguish at the wish to avoid which builds up in your brain and body. Hesitation leads to the time burying these schemes and projects in the past. Unlike people who publish that book or get that album out there.

so tough. er…         The group that made first album Foxbase Alpha and breakthrough single Only Love Can Break Your Heart had matured into something which could only begin to begin. Their identity had formed into something you kind of wanted and needed like Holden Caulfield’s hunting hat.

Although Saint Etienne would make other brilliant albums in subsequent years they would never repeat the sonic methods of So Tough which was a pity.  I think the reason must have been the increasing risk of using samples from here there and everywhere and the risks of being litigated. Sampling at this time was a creative utilisation of digital freedom that had started with hip hop dj’s looping records which began to be heard on records in the mid 80’s. Like the youtube and downloading revolution of the last decade or so people began to accept these magpie techniques in music as the norm. What we didn’t realise that the law would eventually catch up with the samplers and what had looked like the next stage of popular music would eventually be killed off after everyone had assumed that the music had escaped. This death never made the news really because it was gradual as the performers censored their own techniques.

This album must be the first to explore sampling in terms of a journey through personal and cultural history and it’s  never been repeated in such a fully conceptually realised way as this. The sounds here are not just evocative of the past. They are the past and the past is a blissful balm. Reminiscent of the comforts offered by Sergeant Pepper though this comfort is different, weirdly sample tinny and grunged up. The music itself traverses a thin line of sweetness and melody through vast and mysterious caverns of memory sound stuff which is a bit like an alternative to My Bloody Valentine’s  methods of around the same era. Perhaps its like a pop Loveless.