Saturday, August 31, 2013

Legoland Wildlife

Legoland, Windsor, is possibly my favourite place in the world. I like it when wildlife interacts with the Legoland Miniland. I think they find it fun; it makes them feel big, and there are no people getting in the way.

From top to bottom: ducks by canals in Amsterdam; pigeons on Canary Wharf tower; rabbit playing hide and seek; (same) rabbit by the railway tracks.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Lego Architecture
Star Wars Lego
Headless Movies

Friday, August 30, 2013

Random Film Review: Cloud Atlas

Dirs: Lana Wachowki, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski  |  2012  |  172mins  |  Germany

Cloud Atlas = Blade Runner + Last of the Summer Wine + Soylent Green + Ridley Walker + The Talented Mr Ripley + Erin Brockovich + Intolerance + The Fountain + Magnolia + My Girlfriend is a Cyborg (or I'm a Cyborg but that's OK)

Not an altogether bad mix. I'm not sure it was more than the sum of its parts but certainly an engaging 172mins.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Everything is four stars

The modern trend is for magazines, newspapers and websites to review films, music, theatre, restaurants, etc, on a five star basis, with five being the best and one the worst.* The majority of reviews, even when they are gushing about an album, book or film, seem to get an average of only four stars. I'm not sure where I stand on four stars: they're either the new three stars (i.e. average) or the new five stars (i.e. great). It's interesting to note that five stars is usually just reserved for re-issues and re-releases of older films or albums. It's usually quite rare for a contemporary film or album to get five stars. Maybe it just takes time and perspective for a 'classic' to be acknowledged (for example, Citizen Kane was panned in its day). On film posters, films hailed by magazines as 'Brilliant!' or 'Genius!' or 'Masterpiece!' still only get four stars. Yet four stars have become so ubiquitous in reviews that I don't expect anything above average from the rating any more, and three stars has become below average, unexceptional. Two is terrible and one unwatchable.

Certain publications, in my opinion, most notably Radio Times (for film reviews) and Q magazine (for music), seem to get the star rating so consistently wrong that I use them as reverse barometers.

*A notable exception is the influential music website Pitchfork music, which I look at on a daily basis. Pitchfork rates albums and songs out of ten (including 'points', e.g. 7.4), a rating that Uncut magazine has recently employed (though without the 'point'). I often don't have time to read whole reviews, but like to play a guessing game. If an album is rated highly, it gets a 'Best New Music' heading, meaning it's over 8.0 (I think). But you can't see the score unless you click on the review. So, I like to guess the rating. I'm usually pretty spot on. And it's usually 8.5ish, which translates as, yup, four stars.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Always the same age

"We are always the same age inside." 
– Gertrude Stein

Someone once told me they believed people are a certain age throughout their lives. That is, they act a certain age all their lives, no matter what age they actually are. We say someone acts like a child, or someone acts like an old man, say, in a general kind of way, and we all know people like this. But saying someone is an exact age all their lives is kinda specific, whether it's 8, 24, or 76. Or all three, depending on the situation, perhaps. The PAC ego model divides people in three categories: Parent, Adult and Child. Originally developed by Eric Berne as part of his Transactional Analysis theory, the concept postulates that whenever we communicate with someone it is from one of the three categories (with adult being the one to attain; parent tends to be patronising or aggressive, perhaps; child needy, despairing or apathetic). I occasionally ponder who the real me is, or if there even is one. Does it always stay inside me? Or is it when I'm with family, or friends, or my lover, or at work, or only when on my own? I think we are all slightly different with different people in different situations.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Barngains on Israeli Road, SX15

There are currently barngains to be had on a daily basis on Israeli Road, SX15. A very well-to-do road, it regularly sees people throwing 'quality' stuff outside their house for people to take. In the past fortnight alone there's been a skateboard, electric guitar (without strings), various bits of furniture, an owl print, a small wooden carved horse and four soft toys (pictured). I usually pass by, stop, ponder, then move on. Do I really need these things? Just because they're free should I take them? No, I don't bother usually. But with the soft toys, I took a photo and rushed back to show my daughter in case she wanted any. She wanted one. We rushed back and there was a woman with a baby who had knocked on the door near where the toys had been dumped to ask the owner if it was okay to take them. It was, and she did. I mentioned to her that my daughter wanted one of the four, but that was the one her baby really wanted. Okay, any of them, I suggested, but her baby wanted them all. So she loaded them all on her buggy, and off she went. Anyway, even though the residents lack the ability to walk five minutes to a charity shop (though admittedly some of the items, like an electric guitar with no strings, probably wouldn't be accepted; charity shops are so fussy nowadays), I like the freecycle ethos of leaving stuff on the pavement for anyone to take – at least it's not being chucked in the bin, and items do get taken within a couple of hours. In fact, Israeli Road is now my favourite free charity shop. It's impossible to guess what's going to turn up next.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Booking too far in advance

Nowadays if people want to get tickets for an event, be it concert, theatre, sports or holiday, they have to book months in advance, sometimes up to a year, in order to secure tickets. I'm always wary about such optimistic future bookings. Firstly, it's such a burden. How do I know where I'm going to be in six months time on that date? What if I make other plans? What if I don't feel like going? What if I get run over by a bus? What if I'm in Tahiti? What if I forget all about it? I can barely think a week ahead, let alone months. Secondly, and this applies perhaps most to a music concert, will I like the band I've just booked tickets for six months from now? It's probably doubtful. I'll either have played them to death and got bored of them or forgotten all about them. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, if I've booked a few tickets, to go with a girlfriend or friend, say, will I even be in touch with them that far ahead? No, the idea of booking in advance seems fraught with too many uncertainties.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This post is intentionally blank


Monday, August 12, 2013


Technology makes us tired
Paradise is a person

People with immaculate homes have filthy minds

Dream Job is an oxymoron

Remote Control For Life

Ants are more important than humans

Jack Kerouac never learnt to drive

Life should have an exit questionnaire

Don't just be yourself

I don't mind but I do care

It's a business doing pleasure with you

Memories are purchased

72.6% of UK offices have an employee called Steve

Only one of the Beach Boys could surf

Smokers are more interesting than non-smokers

Vegans shouldn't eat honey

Tradespeople always have two sugars in their tea

Average prices are more expensive than average

Holidays feel like work

Women aren't as funny as men

Class should be dictated by taste

 It's easier to start a fire accidentally than on purpose
The proof's in the pdf

You make your own luck – if you're lucky
Kate Moss is plain and dull
Raspberries aren't berries
Roads destroy communities

Arranged marriages work better

Computers cheat

Update or die

 Don't just do something, sit there
The need for speed is juvenile

There are 2,000 apple varieties in Britain

Aspire to be average
A speeding bullet travels only 4m under water

Posh people wear red trousers

If I want your opinion, I'll tell you it

Visual imagery is tautological


Accent is everything

Jerusalem artichokes are neither of the two

107,832,745,599 people have lived on earth

Life is a series of ruts

Consumers are abusers

Haste is waste

 H is the middle of nowhere
Carry on carrion

Knob is bonk backwards

Islam means surrender

Jesus had a wicked wine cellar

Died in event loop on un-typed exception

Be good to your fiends

Drugs are God for you

Music is better than movies

Stay clear of best sellers

Sunbeds are as bad for you as smoking

Horses need passports too

Kill time until it kills you

Fear is desire unlocked

Avoid notice by hiding in plain sight

Get tax back from smack

Wii is for wimps

Sunbathing was invented in the 1920s

If the bees die, we die

The best things in life have a fee

Snails have hearts but no brains

Your ears never stop growing

A duck's quack doesn't echo

Global warming isn't always warm

Only eat oysters during months with 'r' in them

The Dark Side needs women™
Lick the mirror or the house will die

Social networking is anti-social

Bees have five eyes

Nothing was invented; everything was developed

Too many cocks spoil the brothel
Beauty reminds us of death
Relatives are Relative
You win some, you lose most
I like to try it before I taste it
Like a rolling moan
I love the women whaling
Corrupt me if I'm wrong
Can't write for coffee
The 'burbs eat me up

These are so good I've given them a page of their own, here, with new ones added once in a while.

NB: Excitingly, some of the above phrases have links to previous posts.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Image of the day: Altman & Cohen

This is my favourite photo ever, ever, ever. Have you ever seen two more handsome men? Answers on a postcard please. No need to send it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Incredible Tretchikoff

Back in 2009 I was contacted by Boris Gorelik regarding one of my favourite artists, Vladimir Tretchikoff. Boris had read a few posts I'd written about notions of good/bad taste and Tretchikoff and wanted to interview me for a book he was writing on the artist (unfortunately I wasn't able to make the appointment). Four years later, his biography of the man, Incredible Tretchikoff: Life of an Artist and Adventurer, is finally out, published by Art/Books, a small publishing company.

Boris' book is amazingly the first biography of the artist. Tretchikoff's partly ghost-written autobiography, Pigeon's Luck, has been out of print for years, and how much of it is actually true is open to debate, so it's great to have a biography of Tretchikoff. As it says on the cover of Pigeon's Luck, his life 'reads like a thriller', and I'd still love to see a Technicolour film made of his colourful and extraordinary life.

Buy Incredible Tretchikoff from Amazon.

Previously on Barnflakes:
How to Have Taste
Vladimir Tretchikoff: More than Pigeon's Luck

Friday, August 09, 2013

Checking you out

There's a common fallacy that opposite human genders are constantly checking each other out. This isn't always true. Mostly, men are looking at men and women are looking at women. This isn't a sexual thing (entirely) but a competitive thing. We like to check out the competition, see what they're wearing, their haircuts, their mannerisms. It happens in all walks of life – dogs do it, cats do it, and children do it. Children in the street, when they see a child of a similar age and the same sex, literally stop and stare at one another, they're locked in a stare battle. But generally, men are looking better nowadays than women (an observation I've mentioned previously) and I probably look at men more: they're just more stylish. In the 1970s, men looked terrible and women looked good (in the 80s at least everyone looked terrible). Now it's largely the opposite. Men, inspired by homosexuals, are looking great whereas women, inspired by, er, lesbians (and celebrities and hipsters and Primark and sports/leisurewear becoming acceptable mainstream attire), are looking dreadful and misshapen. As was mentioned to me recently, women nowadays look either overtly sexual or dowdy; looking feminine doesn't come into it.

• A recent study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that women do look at other women's breasts and hips more than their faces, probably to 'check out the competition'.

NB: This post has been labelled 'Controversial (Perhaps)' and is not necessarily the views of the author. But he does like a beautiful woman in a polka dot dress.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Souvenir from Iran

I got this in the post from my brother recently (thanks Dan!). It's not often I mention other people's blogs, but he is family, so I should point you in the direction of Daniel's blog, Vegan Duck on a Bike. A few years ago he cycled from London to Istanbul, a mere meander in the park compared to his latest venture, cycling from Istanbul to, er, New Zealand, via the Silk Road which includes Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and China. He's cycling about 200km a day.

Dan's documenting his journey with the blog and photos. The blog is very readable and his photos on Flickr are great. I've just had the fun task of uploading 2,000 of them. Be prepared for lots of pics of tiles and mosques. They are absolutely awesome.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Top 10 favourite words

1. Obstreperous
2. Bucolic
3. Mellifluous
4. Onomatopoeia
5. Serendipity
6. Lagoon
7. Factotum
8. Pluck
9. Nestle
10. Turquoise

(FACTS in FILMS: I've written about music in films recently but I also like obscure FACTS in films. In Barney's Version, a woman who Barney falls in love with on his wedding day tells him of the origin of Montecristo cigars – the women who traditionally rolled the cigars liked to have books read to them when rolling. Their favourite book was The Count of Monte Cristo. The phrase 'cellar door' is often cited as being one of the most beautiful in the English language; this is mentioned in a scene in the film Donnie Darko.)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Top 10 Greatest Hits

1. The Beatles: 1
2. Rolling Stones: Forty Licks
3. The Who: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
4. Bob Dylan: Biograph
5. David Bowie: Best of Bowie
6. ABBA: Gold: Greatest Hits
7. Queen: Greatest Hits
8. Roxy Music: Street Life – 20 Great Hits
9. Beach Boys: The Very Best of the Beach Boys
10. Fleetwood Mac: The Greatest Hits

The soundtrack to the eagerly-awaited Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, has just been released. Notorious for having limited musical knowledge and taste, Partridge's collection is actually surprisingly good, with Philip Glass, Bryan Ferry, Steeleye Span and the Sparks in the mix.

I'll always remember an episode of I'm Alan Partridge when the Norfolk DJ is asked what his favourite Beatles album is and he can't name one so eventually comes up with... Best of the Beatles:

Alan: Oh, yeah. I like all the bands. I’ve got a broad taste, you know. From the britpop bands like UB40, Def Leppard, right back to classic rock, like Wings.

Ben: Who’s Wings?

Alan: They’re only the band the Beatles could have been.

Ben: I love the Beatles.

Alan: Yeah, so do I.

Ben: What’s your favourite Beatles album, then?

Alan: Tough one. I think I’d have to say… ‘The Best of the Beatles’.

I never quite got this. I know it's meant to be a put down of Partridge's lack of musical knowledge but I'm kind of in agreement with him. Firstly, I probably listen to Wings more than the Beatles. Secondly, a Beatles' Greatest Hits is way better than any individual album of theirs. And it's the same with a lot of bands. The Stones produced very few great albums; in fact, all you really need is Exile on Main Street and a Greatest Hits.

In The Guardian: Alexis Petridis on Alan Partridge's musical taste and his playlist.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Greatest Hits

Monday, August 05, 2013

Overheard #8

On a train from Camborne to London. Four precocious young people; a doctor, two filmmakers and a DJ from Dalston via New York have been to a wedding the previous day. One of their friends is called Crusoe. His dad is called Robin. The only reason he was named Crusoe was so it could be said: 'Robin's son, Crusoe' [ie Robinson Crusoe] – a phrase which might not come up that often but when it did would be worth it. The dad has a wicked sense of humour. Absolute genius.

Other subjects of conversation were: Apple Apps (mainly, Tinder), modern dating (via the book The Game; oh God, is all modern life just a 'high-powered marketing technique'?), social networking, shooting films in LA / New York and how to save a drunk person who had swam in the sea at midnight, turned blue then collapsed under the kitchen table (put him in a warm shower). Somehow it filled a five hour train journey. I had no book and no headphones for my iPod. I looked out the window at the beautiful countryside passing by.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

She Leaves Vs Ship to Shore

I first mentioned this way over a year ago and Bruce recently got in touch with me informing his version was ready. I won't repeat my earlier post about it but just mention that Bruce has remade a student film of mine, She Leaves (above, made in 1993). He's called it Ship to Shore and can be watched here using the password whatever but with the es replaced with 3s. It contains more nudity than mine but is essentially quite similar, minus the leaves.