Friday, 28 May 2010


She begins a (probably pre-prepared) homage to the literature on my bookshelves, and the albums and movies cluttered in every corner.

"I would like you to describe something, anything, in my bedroom without using the words, "most..." or "best...". The superlatives stream out of you like piss. I keep this second thought to myself, and pat myself on the back for its secretly brilliant articulation.

"Tim, I'm sorry, I'm just not very good with words".

She fingers through my DVDs and picks out Good Will Hunting. When the credits roll, she tells me she "thought it was really great, especially the cinematography" but that "there's too much talk about the word, intelligence", and I ask her if she knows how it feels to be a young adult in a quiet room filled by other young adults, and she just says, "Of course. What do you mean?".

I fuck her, go back to Mozilla, and refresh facebook in my sweat, yelling to her, through two barely open doors, which draw the cutlery is kept in, because she is making a salad and I can hear her humming I Am The Resurrection downstairs, to mollify her fear of calories, and all those numbers. I try to remember what her favourite colour is but I can't, and I immediately regret asking her that dumb question last night in that squalid nightclub, because now she's smile-staring into my eyes, across the kitchen, eager for conversation. I haven't shaved in weeks. There are no words in my mouth. I don't know who this woman is.

When she (I can't remember her name) leaves, I wash my hands several times, and return to my bedroom where I go straight to the wardrobe, rummage through birthday-pullovers bought by family-friends, and rescue from the darkness a VHS. It's September, and I'm watching The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs, in a living room that reeks of memory. On a cartoon morning, when it's all whiteness and silence in the Christmas countryside, there is a scarf. Something like a funeral, and a scarf; a perfumed, woolly corpse of a cloth in animation. This boy is dying. There are footprints, a scarf, piano keys, then adverts by Rover, Sega Mega Drive, Woolworths. The recording breaks, breaks into white noise.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Just do an apprenticeship

I'm so sorry.

Shoo, do one,
Benighted young daydreamers,
Weighing up fairytale options,
Practicing a voice as important
As a daytime moon.

Celluloid sixth formers discovering heart and body,
Colonies now, are they? Tell me about love, do.

Behold the tears and the midnight telephone bill
When truth and God are all Greek to you,
And this empire dissolves in the lyrics
You swore you understood.

Benighted young daydreamers trudge over poems
To attract attention on trains,
Worse than some Sanskrit tattoo.

I'm really sorry.

Shoo, do one, fuck off,
But not to Media Studies, please!
David Lean would have loathed you,
Living auteurs and taxpayers do.

Sell me some popcorn, a bookmark,
Keep the stationery coming.

Isn't everything ironic, nothing pretentious?
You are both in form, their meaning
(Lost on you).

This authority is unbecoming of fun,
Let your scatterbrain be at peace.

Sell me some popcorn, a bookmark,
Keep the stationery coming:
Your ink is laughing at your imagination.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


Pending misfortune,
We'll have our secret festival,
I will light candles for reckless women.

Curse then these fingers of poetry editors:
They stop me writing from the tongue.
Salt of coastal breeze swelling my chest,

Flattery is matter-of-course until despondency.
Running for a bus despite fumes, jumping a wingless pigeon,
Searching for my reflection if he's a friend.

But if I'm lucky - a new mouth, a reader
Who puts down a read to have me,
Permitting my skin (oily, downbeat)

To burgeon until farms go brown again.
I am a tang for the women
Whose names I recite in the rain.

The only child next door has grown.
I saw him inhale, palming a whiskey.
I wanted her, whoever she was in his brain.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Robin Hood (2010)

* *

(Dir. Ridley Scott, 2010)

After years of Crusading, the King of England (Richard the Lionheart) is killed in battle, and Robin Longstride ('Robin Hood') sails home, crown in arm, assuming the identity of the also recently deceased, Robert Loxley. In a public ceremony outside the Tower of London, Longstride (now Loxley) presents the crown to a widowed Queen and the heir to the throne, her son, John. Encouraged by the blind and frail Sir Walter Loxley, Longstride continues to pose as his son, and begins to pursue proto-feminist widow, Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett), with the two strangers forced to act as husband and wife.

Complicated? Different from Kevin Costner and Disney? Refreshingly so. The director of Alien, Thelma & Louise and Gladiator here eschews a fabula of a multiple narrative so that he might transform Robin Hood-fun into serious epic cinema. However, the execution is lazy and the irrevocable consequences, disastrous.

The score is the first and final point of damage, ebbing in gross disproportion to the sentiment on screen: composer Marc Streitenfeld's untimely guitar-folk seems closer to Nizlopi than something out of the twelfth century, while his choral offering of white-horse-riding-elf-grief trespasses amateurishly on the barley of Gladiator. We know Russell Crowe plays the wise macho hero superbly, or any other lead for that matter. You name it, Crowe will nail it, so to speak. His angry-dog eyes bite naturally onto a gaze that betrays both will of vengeance and burden of a miserable past. Add a charming Cate Blanchett and a treasurable Albion-landscape, and there was enough here to stop me from walking out.

Undoing Crowe's good work is a funny accent, deliberate or not (Scott is possibly referring to Longstride's homelessness), travelling south from Ireland to Somerset, and then we're up north with Geoff Boycott before Alan Shearer gets involved, and the whole audio experience becomes extremely disarming. Surprisingly, the two and a half hour running time travels fast, the most memorable quotation is Blanchett's brilliant: "I sleep with a dagger. If you so much as move to touch me, I will sever your manhood". More wit, and the proposed sequel could be worth a watch.

Remove Gladiator and its legacy from our consciousness, then might a wave of scholastic, Scott-Crowe admiration be sweeping across cinephilic Britain right now? Not a chance. That Robin Hood is 'derivative' is no automatic flaw. A canon - or simply, the past - is compulsory in any creation; artistic inspiration is a quiet flame even in our darkest moments. No, the film fails because Ridley Scott has accidentally kindled this sanctuary of influence into a deafening forest-fire, scorching, self-referentially, his best work, and even the facilely recognisable and relatively recent blockbuster epics by peers, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg, Lord of the Rings (an out-of-place hobbit mien is on tap) and Saving Private Ryan (the chaos of D-Day is repatched ineffectually).

Like an artist more interested in the colours on his palette than in what the painting before him means, Scott has lost his way. Powerless, and the last thing he wanted his Robin Hood to be - unoriginal, this latest offering from such a quotable source is a steep fall into shadows and dust.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The FA Cup Final 2010 (Sponsored by Eon)

When Didier Drogba stands over a free kick, posing, puffing out and buffing up, people will fearingly prophesy "goal" at their television sets. Had he idiosyncratically fought his team mates, Lampard and Alex, off the first two Chelsea set pieces of promising potential, Drogba could have left Wembley with a brace, perhaps even the match ball. There are few players in the world who have perfected their personal, dead-ball technique as Drogba has done. Dislike or hate him, you can't help but wonder at the Ivorian's twin, physical-technical address. It was hard to believe it when the first half ended 0-0: two open goals missed, several spots of post and bar hit, and a Cup Final played at a thrilling pace.

Into the second half, and Pompey briefly became more resiliant, and less dependant on the generous woodwork that framed a splendid David James. James's form and clean bill of health is of course timely: how can Capello justify selecting the ordinary Robert Green ahead of the superior James or the recently stunning Hart? Unfortunately - for the bulk of British football fans, and for every defendant of history over brand - brave (patronised) Portsmouth would rue Piquionne's sitter and Boateng's bottled penalty as the favourites ran out 1-0 winners. So Chelsea retain the FA Cup and do the double for the first time. It took 105 years and a bottomless pit of money, but footage of Terry, Cole, Drogba and company, laughing and singing, will make for a proud archive. Surely?

Thursday, 13 May 2010


The cape of a superhero-soul
I take my hat off for you,
And my hair flits as if on camera,
Smoke swallowing our dance.

Monday, 10 May 2010

On a stranger at traffic lights

Strobe and wafering smoke,
And songs of sonic cogency.
Later, a pound for her rose before they stumble into a taxi,
Where tiredness is deeper than sleep,
Dawn, teething.

Years on:

I've only been in love once,
And fucked at will since.

He would turn over in another bed,
Disclose the meaning on his face
To a glass of water, or a family photograph
Without eyes.

Oceans away, she casts a shadow in a bathroom,
Her thin nakedness robed.
She grinds the teeth he used to mock-kiss,
Her pink fingers brushing ash from cashmere.

Intimacy substitutes intimacy for intimacy:
We call every new one the best,
And repress the dead bodies,
The truer love, the dormant perfume
Waiting for your stomach on a stranger at traffic lights.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The National: Live at the Royal Albert Hall


* * * * *

“The English are waiting / And I don’t know what to do”. How befitting to bridge band and audience with the political, ‘Mr November’, at the Royal Albert Hall on election night. On a strange evening when people were being locked out of voting booths up and down the country, here was an all-seated crowd being raised to its feet by indie royalty, and the very soundtrack to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; the rallying cry of ‘Fake Empire’.

The National’s following has mushroomed dramatically since breakthrough record, Alligator, in 2005. And yet: “Being on stage is not a comfortable place to be. I don’t think any of us likes to have the lights on us”, singer Berninger told Uncut in March. It was no surprise then that the vocalist rarely talked between songs. However his gratitude towards the crowd and wishing us luck with the election came across sincerely enough, even throughout a five-track encore where he wandered the stalls and climbed the velvet rows, embracing strangers, proud of his latest, flawless number, the determined ‘Terrible Love’.

The Ohio five-piece transported their show to a historic and elegant stage, forsaking neither passion nor stamina. They were augmented by three brass-and-strings extras, flanking the immaculate mainstays (Matt Berninger, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Scott and Bryan Devendorf), and each band member ended as he began, arriving and departing one-by-one in a cataract of purple light, whistling and applause. Inevitably affected by the grandeur of the arena – the Hall grounded its booze to the plush bars – a sophisticated fan at every door would proclaim, just loud enough for the passing-by newbies to hear, that they had known The National since the obscurity of Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers (2003) and Cherry Tree (2004), an understandable boast.

After opening with punchy ‘Mistaken For Strangers’, the band swooned in and out of tracks from High Violet, the new LP available from Monday. There were welcome newcomers – ‘Little Faith’, the witty ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ (“I still owe money to the money to the money I owe”) and the effervescent ‘England’ – and there were three ostensible reasons this group have emerged from the unknown to selling out the Royal Albert Hall in under five minutes: ‘Fake Empire’, delicate ‘Slow Show’, and the bass-weighty intimacy of ‘Apartment Story’, all fine oral poems – the unmistakable accent of Boxer, 2007. Alarm threatened when Berninger abandoned the ordinary ‘Baby We’ll Be Fine’ after a single chorus: the apologetic but unfazed front man fluffed his lines. This was less an omission of ill discipline or nervousness, than an indication of the group’s shift from toiling through old album-fillers to celebrating their best work.

Completing a set list that harkened to artists as diverse as Springsteen, Joy Division and Arcade Fire, the valedictory ‘About Today’ kept faithful to its euphoric live-version on the 2008 Virginia EP; a lover’s lament bullied by the furor of guitar and percussive chaos. And for a few more moments, all around me, a riot of limbs and hearts rumored.

Set List: Mistaken For Strangers, Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Secret Meeting, Baby We’ll Be Fine, Afraid of Everyone, Slow Show, Squalor Victoria, Little Faith, Conversation 16, Apartment Story, England, Abel, Sorrow, Fake Empire / Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, All The Wine, Mr November, Terrible Love, About Today

Iron Man 2 (2010)

* *

(Dir. Jon Favreau, 2010)

Sitting through this second instalment is like sharing a bus with a cute-faced baby who will not stop crying. The talented Jon Favreau (also reappearing as Tony Stark's macho-testy bodyguard) is now one more director who has tried and failed to avert the benumbing gaze of Hollywood's sorry-sequel-Medusa. In time, Iron Man 2 could become an enjoyable juncture in this planned trilogy. But the anaerobic cool of its predecessor, a commercial movie glossed like the cover of a (commercial movie) magazine, palls in this marathon of tacky action. So much metal is screened in so many hues and moves and booms. Yet the essential mettle of idea and substance here is just derivatively disappointing.

Following his mesmerising and painful self-homage in The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke returns to a familiarly insipid role as nemesis, Ivan Vanko (superhero-christened, 'Whiplash'). All the traits are in the trailer: intimidating muscle and transparent, Eastern Block ugliness. Ivan has been inspired to avenge his family's suffering, attributed to Stark Enterprises: the film begins with Ivan's dying father, Anton Vanko, watching the televised press conference in which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) reveals to the world that he is Iron Man. So after Whiplash pisses on Stark's parade at the Monaco Grand Prix, a sleazy government agent (Sam Rockwell) recruits Ivan to put Tony Stark in his place, and to give the United States military access to the science behind these superhero creations.

His opposite number, Tony Stark aka Iron Man, works wonders to keep us interested. It is ironic testament to the charms of Robert Downey Jr. that the Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man packages will make a profit - both the means and the ends for these projects. Stark's business, and romantic, partner (Gwyneth Paltrow) is irritatingly, impossibly thick for a CEO. Meanwhile Don Cheadle has pointlessly replaced Terrence Howard as Lt. Colonel James Rhodes, an in-the-loop punch-bag for Stark's excessive attention-seeking. Samuel L Jackson cameos just before the film's quirky dialogue and CGI jamming becomes unendurable. But even in an eye-patch, towering over Stark, an icon struggles to make an impact.

The plot inconsistencies and total abandonment of realism (a process Christopher Nolan's Batman-reboot gets absolutely right) are galling. Watching a film that is obsessed with patriotism and defence, is an American audience then supposed to take pleasure from a reckless hero kissing his personal assistant above their backgrounded burning city? Downey Jr and Rourke colliding, on a whim, at the Monaco Grand Prix; terrorist atrocities anaesthetised as if fireworks; soft-slapping sitcom punch-lines; and a thumping AC/DC soundtrack collectively scream "yes" from a bruised-and-battered screen. It's a bulging budget-boast of banality: see the trailer and you've seen the movie.