Monday, March 08, 2004

An odd weekend

Yesterday I ended up watching a film on BBC4 (bad idea I know) called Devine Intervention. Only I missed the beginning of it. And so spent the rest of the film trying to figure out who was who, and what they were doing, and why. I have hunch I would have been thinking that quite a lot, even if had I not missed the beginning.

The film is a series of captured segments of Palestinian life that gradually lock into each other to either form part of a narrative, or the punchline to some joke. The world of the film swings between petty, spiteful, foolish and resigned. It is full of odd little quirks and habits, that creates a dynamic yet static environment: there is movement, and yet everything is where it started.

As for the plot, there is one, and yet it doesn't seem to have happened. The entire film consists of omni-present questions, just enough of which get answered to stop the viewer giving up entirely, but not enough to stop the bemused feeling.

An odd, eerily, yet comfortingly repetitive film, filled with luxuriously attentive shots, and yet showing nothing. Suggestion and implication battle with assumption. A few shots of hands toying with each other, a balloon symbolising something, but something obscured, and playing surreally with fulfilling fears and perception. The sudden conversion of the Palestinian martyr into Christ with a halo of inward pointing bullets.

It feels like I don't get it, but maybe that's the point. Other than that, a curious film, that felt strangely French.

Or perhaps the near silent film didn't react well to competing with my neighbour's unhappy dog. They were out, the dog wasn't. They claim she's a quiet dog - yeah, but she's only quiet because they're there. And oddly enough trying to get someone to be around to hear the noise that only happens when they've got out, doesn't really work too well.

But i was in weird mood yesterday: In the evening I was watching the streetlights come on. Each one is like a paused frame of the sun's descent a few minutes before, each starting with the latest shot and moving earlier, yet still showing an a variety of final colours (which for a stereotypically monochromatic light source is odd).

On Sunday I went to the boat show at Ali Pali (how should one spell that?), which was the same as it always is there. It's quite small compared to its predecessor at Crystal Palace, or the Southampton boat show. There's less to look at or do, and it felt like there's a lower density of people. I was intrigued by Laser's new mini-catarman, which apparently is nearly impossible to right once capsized, and, when on its side, blows away faster than most people can swim, but other than that...well it looks cool, and that's what counts. It was either that or some boat that had built-in outriggers, each with its own dagger board (which was cunningly interchangeable with the rudder blade), and a central driving seat. I've yet to figure out how to do the stuff at either end of a sail in that boat, such as jumping over the bow to how her steady, and then haul her up the beach. Presumably one is meant to come alongside jetties or pontoons, but I don't see how one could have enough access (for grabbing posts and large lumps of iron) from the cockpit to control it. You can't even fend things off without having to struggle out of the cockpit and abandon control.

So I gave up and wandered round looking for a boat show. So we have pink, and blue, and pink stripes, and blue stripes, and oooh, giddily exotic purple. Except for the traditional stand that sells stuff covered in pictures of dogs. A perennial exhibit at every boat show, and I have never figured out why. Though fortunately just round is the Surfers Against Sewage stand (when one wears their stuff, it's amazing how many people ask you A. If that really says sewage, B. If I surf [Not much, but I do sail, and that mean spending nearly as much time in the water]). And as per usual, they have nice clothes in nice colours. Except it's the wrong end of the season, and so "reduced" isn't reduced enough to register as cheap (I know it's a good cause, but it's still money I don't have). And the t-shirt that caught my eye transpires to have enough shit already written on it. Which kinda limits its wearability, though I suppose in this instance it at least is a legitimate use of the word.

But being me, I inevitably find myself getting distracted by the architecture, and the view over London. So we go outside, to find that we must be get far round to the north, as the city is splayed out. Off by a shower is Canary Wharf and associated huddle (it was so much better as a solitary phallus, before the HSBC and Citibank testes appeared), then about 20o over to the right is the next huddle of the City buildings, dominated by the Gherkin and the Nat West Tower. The Gherkin is a spiral of darkened bands arcing round the panes at the top catching the sun, the rest of the building appearing almost translucent. Me like. And next to it is the Nat West tower, and study in angular black. Except it's like they stopped designing it when they got to the top, it just stops, in slightly cluttered horizontals. Angular awkwardness that exists in only two, not three, dimensions. It's like the abandoned early prototype for the Bank of China building in Hong Kong[1], the design pre-overhaul.

[1] And they would show it at its lightest, just to break the analogy.

Continuing round, and there's St Paul's, nestled in its protected view, but scarcely making anything of it. A slight curve above a crumbled flat sea. And further round still are the BT Tower[2] and the London Eye, each poking above a nearer the hill, playing games of hide and seek as one walks round the outside of Alexandra Palace.

[2] Can't find and official link, as wants to provide me with the address (they use Ask as their search, which sums BT up).
The Palace itself, is a bizarre mix. Victorian takes on neo-classical, with odd little quirks bunged in. And inside are the modern adjustments, the stretched plastic curves, in modern sail-like tents, protecting the scarcely glorified portacabins. The building is fringed with boarded up tower, hollow colonnades, blocked off for evermore. Bits falling into disrepair, bits simply falling off. The railway station fringing round one of the colonnades is battered, the missing pieces showing the huge iron bolts are faked out off wood. I wonder why it is quite so maligned. It may be on a weather-beaten hilltop, but it is in London.

And then we left, noting that intelligent Volvo we had passed earlier was gone - it had parked in the top of a loop of car park, cutting off one half. And then out, past the row upon row of interwar houses off to the right. And then to the left, a miniaturised version, row upon row of gravestones, the final step on the property ladder. Glancing in the A-Z, I find that even these rows have names, and so one can move from 29 Acacia Avenue or 14 The Crescent, to 18 Strawberry Bank or 51 Church Street South. So what if one is a house, and the other merely a collection of bits of stone, surrounded by shrubbery?

Continuing outwards and the sense of the strange does not fade. After sitting in traffic for ages, discussing amongst other things, whether or not the VW camper van in front is left hand drive (his shoulder moved when the handbrake was used), and who designed the patterns laid out in brick along an underpass, and why the grey coating that obscured the colour only started half a foot above the ground, and faded out about 5 feet up, also pondering the series of houses that fringe the road that are empty and abandoned, obviously bought to provide land for a scheme that never happened, we start going out along the A40.

Cue the usual slight bewildered smiles at seeing the Hoover building, a great flamboyant art deco factory, looming over a sign that says Tesco. Further along and another exuberant industrial building, built in the twenties style that is most often seen on crematoria, has had a functionalist hernia, and both now declare their allegiance to B&Q. It seems so surreal that somehow two gorgeous old buildings, which are so utterly different from the unified image that both stores present, should happen to have such internal juxtaposition.

But then at least they are still there, despite the incongruousness. Further along is the shattered remains of some modern warehouse or retail shed, torn down to presumably be replaced with a slightly more modern version. It all seems ever so slightly pointless. Then there's the sixties monolith, with the typical attempted levitation, that leaves a clear ground floor apart from the pillars, and the end section where the stairs and lift emerge, giving the impression one of the springs has gone, and the stuffing is falling out of the building. So in an attempt to brighten up the city-darkened concrete lump, someone has placed level series of hanging baskets along the pillars, each about 8ft up, looking ill-watered and wind-battered. The example of modernism, cluttered with an ineffectual and half-hearted attempt to change the character of the building. Somehow it seems apt.

Then as go along the M4, there's a model aeroplane rolling around the tops of trees, rocking in the gusts. A miniature plane, scarcely controlled, against the backdrop of Heathrow, the airport with two threads stretching out and upwards in either direction, each slung with more apparent miniature planes.

And so through the joyous contraflows of road widening, that consists of making the lanes narrower, watching stumpy BA planes overhead, and then home. Only to find that the cultural highlight of the evening is the immense pleasure that is Crufts. As presented by a Tomorrow's World presenter (to think I used to fancy her) coupled with a Top Gear presenter. And I can't help but have to suppress a snigger about the seriously and enthusiastically intoned comments along the lines of "and here comes [the most ridiculous name you've ever heard, and that's including racehorse names], a feisty, bouncy bitch. See the way she almost skips, so lithely, lovely swinging movement, so nicely turned out. Takes a lot of money to get a girl like that".

What is about the appearance of live audience polls that makes me stop watching programmes I probably should watch? Last night's Panorama being the most recent. Instantly I gave up on pondering the fate of the BBC [3], and started watching Cruel Intentions instead (even though I own a copy - I was young[er], Ok?). But then I found out 2DTV has returned, and watched that. They are cruel [intentionally] (but funny).

[3] I like it as it is: wish they'd drop all the junk around the national lottery, and possibly a few of the lifestyle shows, for something a bit more interesting and fulfilling [but I'm usually watching BBC2 or Channel 4 by then, so I'm obviously the wrong demographic], but that's about it.

Anyhoo, better be gone.

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