Friday, July 12, 2019

Boycotting buffoons

Hot on the heels of Kim Kardashian – Who Thankfully Looked Stunning On A Night Out with Kanye 17 Hours Ago – insulting an entire culture with her Kimono range, rapper-husband Kanye – who makes most of his money from sneakers, his first love – is hoping to cause similar offence with his low-cost homeless accommodation “inspired by the Star Wars slave architecture on Tatooine”.

If there was a media boycott on Kim Kardashian, Kayne West, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, they would annoy me a lot less. If you took the four buffoons, stupid at best, dangerous and offensive at worst, and banished them to an island with no form of communication to the outside world for the rest of their lives, you know what, it might even make me happy. They can all live happily ever after in Kanye's Star Wars huts.

Notes on aptronyms

It was whilst sorting through some books at Oxfam that I noticed the title Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm, was written by one Isabelle Tree, and then a book called Full Moon was by someone called Michael Light. An aptronym (or aptonym or euonym) is used to describe someone whose surname is linked to their profession, in a usually humorous way. Although the concept was initially suggested by Carl Jung, the word was apparently coined by American columnist Franklin P. Adams (featured in Alan Ruldolph's movie Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle) who simply made an anagram of the word patronym (which pertains to the part of a personal name based on the given name of one’s father or other male ancestor – such as Johnson, as in son of John), to emphasise the 'apt' part.

The term Nominative Determinism was first used in New Scientist magazine in 1994, and takes aptronyms a step further by looking at cause and effect; mostly, it figures, people are vain and obsessed with themselves. This is known as implicit egotism.

There are numerous examples of aptronyms, many of which we come into contact with everyday (on TV – usually the news – and in real life), from doctors and lawyers to meteorologists and sports personalities (which all seem to be the most popular aptronym occupations).

William Wordsworth, poet
Rem Koolhaus, architect
Russell Brain, neurologist
Usain Bolt, runner
Mark Avery, RSPB Conservation Director
Margaret Court, tennis player
Mark De Man, footballer
Igor Judge, judge
Bob Flowerdew, gardener
David Limb, doctor
Les McBurney, fireman
Sara Blizzard, TV weather presenter 

(An inaptronym is an ironic or inappropriate form of an aptronym, such as Don Black, white supremacist, and Jaime Sin, who became a cardinal in 1976, and hence known as Cardinal Sin.)

Traditionally, though, and certainly by the end of the fourteenth century, as populations increased, surnames had come into general use and people were named after either where they lived (John Woods), their patronym (Johnson, son of John) or by occupation: Carpenter, Smith, Baker, Butcher, Potter, Parker, Weaver, Mercer and Miller are all job examples. This trend eventually died out when children (usually sons) stopped following their father's trade.

There's something worryingly fatalistic about people – consciously or not – taking jobs because of their surnames, rather than named after their occupations, so it's probably time some new surnames were created to reflect current jobs. This would also mean having more than one surname in a lifetime as we rarely stick to the same job throughout our working life.

So Sarah Admin Assistant becomes Sarah Marketing Assistant and eventually moves onto Sarah Marketing Manager. When she marries she becomes Sarah UX Designer-Marketing Manager. You have to feel sorry for their unborn children.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Name that name

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Recent barngains

Western Stars, Bruce Springsteen's best album – and album cover – for years (his last four studio albums have been terrible).

As mentioned previously, barngains have been thin on the ground in these parts – with the recent exception of the new Bruce Springsteen album, Western Stars, an impulse buy in Tesco's. I was at the till with the CD, along with some other items, and when the guy serving me came to scan it, it came up as 1p. He tried it again, and again. Still 1p. He buzzed to call someone over. No one came. He let me have it for 1p.

But it was a recent trip to London where the barngains really started flowing. In my first charity shop visit, on the way out of the shop, after clumsily looking at some records in the window, my eye caught a drawing on the cover of a large book. I picked it up and it was the rather plush catalogue to the latest Bob Dylan exhibition, Mondo Scripto, which ran late in 2018 at the Halcyon Gallery in London.

I had not seen the exhibition, but agreed with most critics about it at the time, that while his songs are full of surrealism, mystery and beauty, this new series of drawings illustrating his songs were rather too prosaic and literal: a farm for Maggie's Farm, a bed for Lay Lady Lay, a hand knocking on a door for Knockin' on Heaven's Door – you get the idea.

However, the book – £45 from the gallery shop, £3 in the charity shop – is gorgeous. The drawings are amateurish but charming. Each one has a page of hand-written lyrics next to it (often re-imagined and different from the original songs, something Dylan has done all his career). The book is large and luxurious (with apparently many different drawings to the ones in the show). I was pretty happy.

I might also have got some CDs over the next few days. In fact, there was one charity shop where I bought a lot. They must have all come from the same donator as they jumped out at me amongst the usual Robbie Williams and Adelle albums:

Flower Dance: Japanese Folk Melodies (Nonesuch Recording)
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band
Elton John – Honky Chateau (I loved the film Rocketman)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
The Bonzo Dog Band – Cornology Vol.2 – The Outro
Bill Frisell - Have a Little Faith
Eminem – Kamikaze (for the cover)
The Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur Live at the Barbican
Tom Waits – Alice
Classic Bluegrass (from Smithsonian Folkways) 
Jack DeJohnette – Made in Chicago (ECM Recording)
The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Deluxe Edition)
The Zombies – The Singles As & Bs
Mike Oldfield – Hergest Ridge (Deluxe Edition)
Roscoe Holcomb – The High Lonesome Sound 
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash

All 50p-£1 each. There were lots of other good ones: Dylan, early Ry Cooder, Neil Young, Frank Zappa and King Crimson among them, but I either had them or didn’t want them. I got a bunch of other things too, in other charity shops, including a set of three Portmeirion storage jars for H in the relatively new Shooting Star Children's Hospices Charity Shop in Northcote Road, where the woman serving me, from Malibu, L.A., wrapped them up nicer and with more care than I wrap up birthday and Christmas presents.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Two leaks (in a week)
London through its charity shops #8: 'round Clapham Junction

Elsewhere on Barnflakes:
BARNGAINS is a select list of rated barngains from 2007 to the present day.  

Sunday, June 16, 2019

My daughter's top ten films, aged 13

1. Ocean's 8* (Gary Ross**, 2018)
2. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki & Kirk Wise, 2003)
3. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross**, 2012)
4. A Dog's Purpose (Lasse Hallström***, 2017)
5. Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2005)
6. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow, 2015)
7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, 2013)
8. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
9. Instant Family (Sean Anders, 2018)
10. Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki, 2010)

*Hmm, Ocean's 8 was going to be in a list I never posted for Worst 10 films of 2018. It would have looked like this:
1. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
2. Ocean's 8
3. Black Panther
4. Bohemian Rhapsody
5. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Two forms of punctuation in a three word title can only be bad)
6. Avengers: Infinity War (I agree with director László Nemes (Son of Saul and Sunset) about superhero movies)
7. Pacific Rim: Uprising
8. You Were Never Really Here (As much as I admire Lyne Ramsey, this didn't work for me)
9. Fifty Shades Freed
10. The Darkest Minds

**Mr Ross, now in his sixties, is hopefully best well known for directing the brilliant Pleasantville. And writing Big.

***Surprising he wasn't asked to direct Mamma Mia – Hallström directed most of ABBA's videos in the 1970s and 1980s as well as ABBA: the Movie in 1977. He's made a few decent films – My Life As A Dog (1985), What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) and Chocolat (2000) among them but sentimentality was always his weakness.

Anyway, I'm glad she still loves Studio Ghibli films (numbers 2, 5, 8 and 10), I think they're brilliant too.

Previously on Barnflakes:
My daughter's top ten films (aged 12) 
My daughter's top ten films (aged 11)
My daughter's top ten films (aged 10)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Tunnel of green

If I told my daughter about the train journey, she’d sound excited and want to do it. And maybe we would in a few weeks time, then after a minute on the train she’d say, dad, this is so boring. It was the same with the record cleaner; I’d built it up to be the most exciting thing ever, which I still think it is, but after cleaning one side of one record she’d said, dad, this is so boring.

The train journey was from Truro to Falmouth Town. Admittedly it doesn’t exactly have the same exotic ring about it as the train journey through the jungle we did from Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru, but it wasn’t far off.

The rattly old train hurtles south towards the coast. For most of the 20-minute journey we are surrounded by lush, verdant foliage. The bushes and trees are alive and moving as the train whooshes past them. The foliage is alive, obviously, but more than that, it seems to jump out of the way of the train. The plants, trees and bushes seem to enjoy the train speeding past, blowing them out of the way. It's like they're waving with their leaves. Most of the journey is like this, with the foliage really near to the train and the banks really high, so really the journey feels like a tunnel of green.

Except for the flowers. There's part of the journey where it's all about the flowers. Foxgloves, mainly, but also, maybe, rosebay willowherb or clematis, I wouldn't really know, or care. But their pinks and purples are overwhelming. Some of the foxgloves are giant, as big as the ones at Trebah Gardens that have a plaque by them for being so big, but these are just on the side of the railway line, blowing their trumpets in the wind the whizzing train creates. They don't seem natural, the blurs of pink and purple, but like candyfloss and sweets from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, perhaps.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Where we are now

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Two leaks (in a week)

Leaks are all the rage – in politics, technology, business, sport, film, music – if anyone is anyone, they're leaking (or being leaked) something, somewhere. The internet, like a church roof, is full of leaks. Being cloaked in secrecy, is it quite exciting when the something in question actually leaks. I've bought – legally – two musical leaks this week. It's hard to know anymore if leaks are genuine or simply PR ('Google leaks its own phone').

The first 'album' I bought was Radiohead's MiniDiscs (Hacked), over 16 hours worth of unheard Radiohead music recorded during the OK Computer sessions between 1995 and 1998. What happened was a hacker nicked Thom Yorke's MiniDisc archive and threatened to leak it online unless he was paid $150,000. Yorke thought fuck it, the material 'isn't v interesting' (his words), so released it all himself on Bandcamp for fans to buy for £18 (you know, to be exact, if it sounds like £18 for 18 hours, it's actually a bit less than 18 hours – 16 according to some articles online; and if it sounds like £18, it's actually £21.60 after VAT).

If you know me, you'll know I've probably never played a Radiohead album all the way through, so the only concept more depressing than having to download 1.8Gb of Radiohead material that didn't even make it onto a record was having to listen to it. So I didn't bother. But I did buy it. All proceeds are to go to Extinction Rebellion, so a pretty good cause (Thom Yorke feeling guilty for taking so many flights – he apparently had a build-up of liquid in his ears from doing so – quip a thousand cynical Guardian readers in the comments section of the article about the decision to release the material). We're still not quite getting this whole climate change thing when some depressing leaked music gets more press than the future of the planet. (Today, there are actually online reviews of the 16+ hours – yes, that would mean the poor sods had to listen to it all night.)

The second album I bought was Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) by British producer Jai Paul. It got 8.9 on Pitchfork recently so I thought I'd give it a try. The story is, the collection of demos was leaked in 2013 and sold illegally through Bandcamp. Jai Paul was so upset about this that for the next six years he underwent therapy and couldn't produce or even finish his unfinished demos. Only now is he able to officially release his unfinished demos. The Fader say: 'one of the great records of the decade'. Pitchfork say: 'the sound of borders breaking'. Anyway, I bought it through Paul's website, where you can pay what you want for the album. So I paid 1p. Well, I felt burnt after Radiohead.

What can I say? I've been watching the barnstorming and incendiary performances of Bob Dylan in the new Netflix documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, as well as listening to the 14-CD set The 1975 Recordings. They make Jai Paul and Radiohead sound like dull, miserable kids playing on their laptops in their bedrooms.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Community Reflections Private View

The catchily-titled Community Reflections on Health and Wellbeing Through Smartphone Photography (no, not a contradiction) has actually been a great and fun photography course I've been attending for the past few months, visiting a church, Art Deco swimming pool, woods, mine and, best of all, Feadon Farm animal sanctuary, where I got weed on by a squirrel, whacked on the arm by an angry owl's wing and kissed three times on the nose by a fox. These things don't happen to me every day. Our group is having a private view on Wednesday 12th June at Heartlands in Pool, after which the exhibition is on until Saturday 7th July, so plenty of time to visit.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Beauty and the Brutalist exhibition
Beauty and the Brutalist private view

Cornwall loves and hates

St Ives is all high fives
St Just is justified
Padstow has a warm glow
And Porthleven is heaven.
St Agnes is ace
Penzance gives penance
The lizard is lush,
The Roseland Peninsula is singular
Sing a hymn to Newlyn
And all hail Hayle!  

But Camborne is stillborn
And Pool is uncool
Redruth is rough
Newquay should be nuked
St Austell is like borstal
Truro is tedious
Helston is hell
Lostwithiel has lost the wherewithal
Falmouth has a foul mouth
Penryn is a place to sin
But Bodmin takes it on the chin.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Wiltshire loves and hates

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Top ten Keanu Reeves films

1. Point Break (Bigelow, 1991)
2. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
3. The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999)
4. Speed (de Bont, 1994)
5. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (Herek, 1989)
6. A Scanner Darkly (Linklater, 2006)
7. River's Edge (Hunter, 1986)
8. Thumbsucker (Mills, 2005)
9. Dangerous Liasons (Frears, 1988)
10. Parenthood (Howard, 1989)

We recently had trouble watching the whole of Siberia, a 2018 Netflix film starring a wooden Reeves as a dodgy diamond trader ("Fatally, the script requires Reeves to do some serious acting", quipped the Guardian). You'd think after thirty years of doing the same job, he'd get the hang of it by now.

On paper, Reeves seems more interesting than he is on screen: born in Beirut with a mother from Essex and a Hawaiian father, Reeves is actually Canadian. I read once he didn't own anything and lived out of hotels. His wife gave birth to a stillborn baby in 1999 then died just over a year later in a car accident. It's thought he's Buddhist (though he's not). Then there was that sad meme which went viral a few years ago. No one's entirely sure if he's deep or dumb or both, but everyone likes him. Adam Driver looks like a long lost cousin of Keanu's – but at least he can act.

I’m torn about writing top tens for actors – do you rate the film or the performance or a combination of both? I'm going for both. Hence I'm leaving out the "critical approved" John Wick films, The Devil's Advocate, Constantine and the two other Matrix films – all of which are terrible. Recently he seems to be doing a Liam Neeson and typecasting himself as an action hero in his later years (Neeson was 56 when he did the first Taken movie; Reeves is in his mid-50s now.)

To misquote a line about Orson Welles and Citizen Kane: Point Break is the best action film ever, and it's not even Bigelow's best (that would be Near Dark, surely?).

Top ten Canadian musicians

1. Leonard Cohen
2. Glenn Gould
3. Joni Mitchell
4. Neil Young
5. The Band
6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7. Jane Siberry
8. Arcade Fire 
9. Peaches
10. k.d. lang

Do say: Where's The Weeknd, Feist, Owen Pallett, Daniel Lanois, Ron Sexsmith and Barenaked Ladies?
Don't say: Where's Rush, Justin Bieber, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Drake, Michael Buble and Alanis Morissette?

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top 10 Australian bands

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Pencil patterns

Soon to be... enamel pin badges!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trevithick Day in Camborne, Cornwall

A terrific time was had by all – despite some early rain and wind – in Camborne yesterday (Saturday 27th April) to celebrate the life of its most famous resident, Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), pioneer of high pressure steam-power and constructor of the first steam railway locomotive in 1803. All roads in the centre of town were closed to cars to make way for a day of free entertainment, including steam engines, food stalls, a brass band and the miners and bal maidens dance (not to be confused with English Morris dancing!). The event attracts crowds of up to 30,000 and transforms Camborne with its fine sense of community spirit.

H took me off the busy main drag, down a quiet road and into Holman Park, where Rosewarne House, a Grade II* listed large granite town house stands. It was hard to believe we were still in Camborne. In the six acres of grounds were lawns, an ancient woodland with bluebells and trees in blossom.

Rosewarne House, built in the Greek Revival style during the Regency era, was meant to be having an open day. But we couldn’t see a soul or hear a sound or see any signs. We wandered round the grounds a bit, and were about to leave when I tried the front door to the house and it opened into another world.

A huge fireplace was roaring near the entrance. People were dressed in Regency attire, as if extras from Poldark. There was the sound of a live band coming from another room, and light laughter and the clinking of tea cups and saucers could be heard from afar. Almost immediately a Regency lady with a large feather in her hair asked us if we were part of the tour. We said yes and were guided around the amazing house, which had been left in a state of disrepair for some years and was now being restored back to its former glory.

We were taken up a fine staircase with an elegant wrought-iron balustrade and shown around the huge, sumptuous rooms, all with high ceilings, ample natural light and ornate plaster cornices, ceiling roses, archways and columns. I told the guide I was sold, I'll take one – the feeling of space and light and attention to detail was wonderful. The rooms were being divided into apartments but weren't for sale, the guide informed us; they would be rented as holiday homes, and the house used for events such as weddings. The house was built in the early 1800s for the Harris family, who made their money through mining. Later it was acquired by the Holman family, then became a care home before falling into disrepair. When the tour came to an end we retired to the orangery for free cream teas and the live band.

It had been a fine day: the only way to add icing to the cake (though I'd already had two Victoria sponges and a cream tea) would be some barngainsas mentioned previously, seemingly rare in these parts – but amazingly I picked up ten pretty good records for £1 each in a local charity shop, including the original limited edition yellow vinyl version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. Who needs Record Store Day after all?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Notes on Extinction Rebellion

If nothing else, lovely to see areas of London car-free for a few days over Easter.

Support for Extinction Rebellion soars after Easter protests’ proclaimed yesterday's Guardian, with a total of £365,000 being pledged towards the environmental group since January this year. Compare this with the £1 billion raised for rebuilding Notre Dame within a matter of days of the blaze (and talking of blazes, is anyone bothered about the 4,000 acres of Yorkshire moorland recently destroyed by fire? Shall we have vigils and donations and tree-plantings?). It’s bizarre where people’s priorities lie.

Fictitious British news reporter Johnathan Pye sums up things pretty well in this video.

Extinction Rebellion website.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The world's top ten biggest environmental problems (and how to solve them)

The Rebel Soldier

Based on an American Civil War ballad, The Rebel Soldier is on folk singer Naomi Bedford’s forthcoming LP, Singing It All Back Home. I created the video for it, above.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Seven days of nothing
Without Joy

Verve magazine, 1937-1960

I hadn’t even heard of Verve magazine until the other day, when I was asked by Oxfam to value some early issues of the magazine which had come into the shop. I had a quick look at them and was gobsmacked by the content. I was looking at half a dozen of the early editions, from 1937-39, which had colourful covers by artists including Matisse and Bonnard. Inside were unique, beautifully-produced lithographs by the likes of Matisse, Braque, Klee and Kandinsky. These were contrasted with – say – brilliant black and white photos of nudes, medieval manuscript illuminations and texts (in French) by writers such as Hemingway, Joyce and Satre. We were talking a high-quality art journal whose content was a cornucopia of seemingly surreally random yet beautiful and striking imagery and text.

Published in an imposing size of 11x14 inches, the journal sought to showcase the works of modernist, surrealist and avant-garde artists to a wider audience. Only 38 issues were published between 1937 and 1960 and each one was obviously produced with loving care. Verve was the brainchild of Efstratios Eleftheriades, a Greek art critic and editor who moved to Paris in 1915 (actually to study law) and went under the more manageable nom de plume Tériade.

Overheard in Oxfam
"I got the Apple Mac off my sister – she didn't want it anymore! She got a new one. The one I got has 27 functions! 27! I only know how to use two! My sister got a new one because she needed more than 27 functions!"

"Five years now, it's been five years since my daughter hung herself in the garage. She was 55. She had debts, which she could never be able to pay back. £1000. It's good to talk about these things, isn't it? My daughter never talked about what was wrong with her."