Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Top ten bands

1. Velvet Underground
2. Roxy Music
3. Sex Pistols
4. The Fall
5. Beach Boys
6. My Bloody Valentine
7. Rolling Stones
8. Beastie Boys
9. The Who
10. Belle and Sebastian

Sometimes, the best bands are like the best TV series (Faulty Towers, The Office) – they don't overstay their welcome. Fawlty Towers had only one season; The Office had two. The Velvet Underground produced only three albums; The Sex Pistols only one proper. Roxy Music made eight and they are all perfect. The Stones, on the other hand (though a great singles band), have quite possibly only ever made one great album (Exile on Main Street). Queen never made a brilliant album (except Greatest Hits).

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top ten most boring bands – EVER!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The paedo files

I make no excuses whatsoever for paedophiles but when I have mentioned to people the punishment and treatment of the affliction (unfortunate sexuality? Disease? Aberration?) seems to me barbaric and draconian, their response is always 'Well what would you do if someone was interfering with your daughter?', then my response is always, of course, I would track them down and murder them. It seems to be a condition we are very reluctant to understand or try to cure, with daily Daily Mail-style executions and the fear that there is a paedo on every street corner, similar to the urban myth that you are never more than four foot away from a rat (both apparently false). Indeed, you may even know one! He (always a he) may even be your best friend or your brother!

I really don't think (say) Ian Watkins, the convicted paedophile from The Lost Prophets, woke up on a daily basis and thought to himself, 'Oh frabuous joy, I'm so glad to be sexually attracted to babies'. In comments he and his band members have made, it seems his actions were more in tune with a drug addict: the denial, the lying and manipulation are all characteristics of an addict determined to get their fix. The public reaction to it – disgust, horror – is of course understandable, but there is zero attempt at understanding or sympathy (perhaps rightly so in his case). We want paedophiles punished rather than 'cured'. Is a cure even possible (jail certainly isn't the answer)? Once upon a time we tried to 'cure' homosexuals. Cognitive therapy is a possible solution, as with most paedophiles the reason for their condition will be shaped by their upbringing and not sexual preference.

The unrelenting witch hunt that has been Operation Yewtree has spared almost no one, whether guilty or innocent (it's generally been guilty until proven innocent – in other words, the opposite of what the law is meant to be). Childhood heroes have been mercilessly chopped down – and rightly so, of course, if they are guilty, but it's been less clear sometimes if a celebrity 'just' pinched a woman's bum in the 1970s. Out of all the arrested minor celebrities arrested, most it seems were found not guilty, including Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson, Freddie Starr, Jimmy Tarbuck and William Roache. Dave Lee Travis, though eventually convicted, was initially found not guilty of 12 charges, until he was retried and found guilty of one.

So seeing as death (ie Jimmy Savile; you can't wake the dead but you can say what you like about them – the last I heard Savile had been indulging in necrophilia in hospital morgues; who knows, next he'll be held responsible for the Holocaust) or era (ie forty years ago) doesn't seem to pose a problem, why not dig up Eric Gill's grave (1882-1940; typographer and sculptor whose fonts and sculptures adorn such institutions as the BBC and Penguin Books), who had a long sexual relationship with his daughter and liked to watch his wife have sex with farmyard animals. Or what about Michelangelo (1568-1629), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Caravaggio (1572-1610) with their suspect and probable sexual interest in young boys? Let's gather up all their paintings and put them on a bonfire, in a similar vein to HMV stripping their shelves of Lost Prophets CDs (because they are crap would have been a more valid reason).

Whilst minor TV personalities and celebs from the 1970s are being bought out of retirement and arrested and humiliated, rock stars like David Bowie, Bill Wyman and Jimmy Page have got away scot-free with similar – and a lot more – jinks. Them, and many other rock stars, indulged in sex with minors in the 1970s but Jimmy Page's behaviour takes it to a whole other level (and presumably a Whole Lotta Love). Page, guitarist in Led Zeppelin, kidnapped a 14-year-old girl, had sex with her and held her captive for years. There's something ironic about Top of the Pops presenters from the seventies all being prosecuted for molesting girls, whilst the rock stars they were presenting on the show were getting up to a lot worse. (I've never really understood in general how rock stars are allowed to get up to all kinds of illegal shenanigans – indeed, it's positively expected for them to indulge in sex, drugs and, well, rock 'n' roll and to somehow mostly live outside the law.)

There are, I presume, many people who suffer from the affliction but don't act on it, just as there are many lonely, frustrated heterosexual men who remain just that (and don't act on it). But I have a problem with every paedophile, when caught, always having thousands of indecent images on their computers. Surely this isn't the same for the lonely, frustrated heterosexual (do they all turn to porn/rape)? What is it about paedophiles that makes them so, well, perverse? Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman (2004; based on a play) made a brave attempt to present a sympathetic portrait of a paedophile trying to rebuild his life after a prison sentence. But this kind of portrayal and attempt at understanding is in the minority.

To me, and many I guess, it's on a par with murder as an act I just cannot fathom or understand, and not sure I want to. But to try to understand and treat it is a better answer than hatred and lengthy jail terms. Most forms of abuse stem from childhood experiences and it becomes a never-ending cycle until it can be broken.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fashion finally catches up with Barnflakes

Believe it or not, I do actually own an Anna Hindmarch bag (given to me in lieu of payment for some work I did). Her recent range of bags feature vintage (isn't everything nowadays?) breakfast cereal packs and cost about a grand. Just in case you needed reminding, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Barnflakes provides 'breakfast for the soul' on a regular basis.

Halloween fancy dress costume tip: go as a pack of Cornflakes covered in blood and call yourself a cereal killer. I'm here all day folks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Malta & Gozo: all things great and small

Our favourite things on Malta and Gozo were either big or small.  The smallest thing was sculpted from a cow's toenail. The largest thing the churches. We soon fell in love with the colossal churches, visiting as many as we could and using them as reference points to guide us around the islands. Nothing is bigger than the churches; they rightly overlook the towns and cities. In the museums we found the tiny, exquisite figures such as the Sleeping Lady from the Hypogeum, and the 'Venus of Malta' from Hagar Qim. Peculiar to Malta are the tiny headless, busty, fleshy women sculptures dating back some 5,000 years.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Watts in Compton*

Watts Mortuary Chapel (above) is a beautiful Grade I listed building in Compton, Surrey. Designed by artist and sculptor George Frederic Watts' wife, Mary Watts, it was built at the height of the Arts and Craft movement, between 1896 and 1898. Involving all the village residents in Watts, it's a gem of a chapel with highly decorative art nouveau and celtic influences. Aldous Hexley is buried in the chapel grounds. Near the chapel in Compton is the Watts Gallery, a charming builiding housing hundreds of Watt's paintings and sculptures. Opened in 1904, it was Britain's first gallery to be dedicated to one individual artist.

Many of Watts' symbolist paintings can be seen in the Tate gallery in London but it's his Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice in Postman's Park near St Paul's that remains his most moving testimony. Its wall of tiles tells the tales of 'ordinary' people who lost their lives saving others. Some of the tiles are designed by Willem de Morgan (including the one below) and later ones by Royal Doulton.
*My, how I struggled to come up with an amusing pun on Watts and Compton – both being rough neighbourhoods in South Central L.A., and Compton, UK, being in sleepy Surrey (and Watts being in Compton). Watts (in L.A.) is also home to the Watts tower, an amazing series of sculptures, one of the most extraordinary pieces of 'outsider art' ever created.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The agony of choice

From eating and dating to music and film, everything is about sharing nowadays. Maybe it always was, but now the sharing concept is shoved in our faces like we never realised it before. Popcorn! Great for sharing! Doritos! Great for sharing too! Picture frames! Great for sharing precious memories! The internet: all about sharing – music, photos, films, sex, unwanted opinions. There is now such a gluttony of choice. And crap. And we're meant to share it. And Like It.

I've always suffered from a crippling lack of decision making. Even a restaurant menu sends me into palpitations of procrastinations. Then I end up ordering the wrong thing – but whatever I order I'll be disappointed with. Or I'll go into a clothes shop. I want a shirt. There's too many of them. I can't decide. I only want one. But a good one, a quality one. The more choice there is seems inversely proportionate to the quality of the product. We don't need all this choice; we just need a good one of everything: partner, food, wine, film, album, shirt. Choice confuses me, stresses me out.

It's like with chocolate bars. The Kit Kat survived a thousand years with just one variety – erm, chocolate. Now there's about a dozen including orange, mint, dark, white, peanut butter and double caramel. In Japan, there have been over 200 varieties of Kit Kat – including soy sauce and ginger ale – since the year 2000.

The agony of choice seems magnified by a million on the internet. What film to watch, what person to date (with what website or app), what music to listen to, what brands to buy...

In his TED talk on the Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwrz cites his local supermarket having 175 varieties of salad dressings – is this really necessary? With so much choice on offer, we are bound to be dissatisfied with the choice we make – surely we could have made a better choice? A perfect one? We regret the choice we made and it's easy to imagine a better one. When there's more choice there are higher expectations but the end result is disappointment and low satisfaction. Schwrz argues that too much choice can induce paralysis and cause depression and even suicide (though suicide is a permanent choice to a temporary problem).

Do a decision detox if the agony of choice rings bells with you too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wasting Time

'We'd be amazing if we learnt useful things.'
– Comment at work from Admin Assistant

During World War Two, the test to become a code breaker at Bletchley Park was completing The Times crossword and playing chess (and, okay, presumably hailing from Oxbridge). Nowadays a similar job would involve a degree in maths and years of experience. The 1960s heralded a time of apparently being able to walk into any job. The TV series Faking It demonstrated that actually anyone can do anything (apart from a handful of occupations that require years of training: lawyer, doctor, etc), with a bit of training and the right connections.

I had a drunken argument with a random man about this last Friday night: I believe from school we are stifled into accepting our role in life, and this continues into work (though we really should be told to make the most of our school days – oh, days of actually learning stuff; being able to fight someone you didn't like; endless holidays. Saying school is preparation for work is a slight fib – prison would be more a more apt description). Most jobs tend to under utilise people, belittle them, keep them in their place, put them down, crush their ambitions and possibilities.

What if your calling was playing the cello or surfing or being a photographer or a paleontologist or an installation artist but you just never got around to it (what if you were born in Iran or the Congo)? What if you never found your calling? Chances are you probably didn't and won't, and you'll settle for something mediocre: you'll be working in an office, wondering for years if there's more to life than this. Then it dawning upon you that there isn't. Those who realise their vocation from an early age are very lucky; the rest of us just stumble along blind.

We waste most of our passion, energy and time on things that are completely pointless, mostly work-related (but also TV and football-related). But imagine, say, serial killers could be more constructive as paid assassins or soldiers. Jilted ex-lovers who are good at stalking their ex-partners online could become researchers or spies. Hackers, fraudsters and con artists would do well in (legal) buisiness. I recently saw the aggression and passion of football fans on the way to a Millwall vs Leeds match. All that hate against the opposite team, if only it was used to do some good. Their chanting could be singing in a church choir instead. Something negative and aggressive could become positive and joyful. The same with the legions of office workers and their futile existences. They could actually transfer their skills and do something useful with their lives.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Four-day working week
Absolutely Famous
Aspire to be Average

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Random Film Review: Gone Girl

Dir: David Fincher | USA | 2014 | 149 mins

In 2007 Ben Affleck directed Gone Baby Gone, starring his brother Casey. His latest film is Gone Girl, to be followed by Gone Woman and finally Gone Granny Gone Gone to complete the quadrilogy.

When we got in the cinema (yes, we actually went out to see the film, good to see it packed on a Saturday night), the trailer for Gone Girl mistakenly appeared just before film, with the words 'COMING SOON' raising a titter from the audience as the film started immediately afterwards. But the credits go too fast, I'm not even sure if we're watching another trailer, then suddenly we're into the film. I never get properly into it, the premise too absurd, the two attractive leads living in a mansion which appears like an empty film set (let me guess: it's intentional), the psycho wife's actions completely over the top, over-elaborate and unbelievable (why doesn't she just kick him in the balls and be done with it?). All the discussions about misogyny mask the bigger crime of the film: it's just not exciting or convincing.

Similar films such as Fatal Attraction or Basic Instinct, of variable quality though they are, at least the former film presents a believable domestic environment for Michael Douglas – loving wife and child, lingering shots of their house.

I know quite a few people who admire his films but I've never known what all the fuss about David Fincher is and aside from Seven, Fight Club and maybe Zodiac, I've actively disliked more of his films – Panic Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – than I've admired, though at the time I remember defending The Game against much abuse.

All the five star reviews, I don't know, most films are so bad nowadays, film critics get a whiff of something vaguely Hitchcockian and it gets great reviews, even if it's decidedly average.

2.5 / 5

Monday, October 13, 2014

Kim vs Kim

There's a new Kim in town (Istanbul in this case – Carrie Mathison: be afraid). At first Kim (Mills) appears to be another clueless Kim Bauer (lying by the pool; more interested in her iPhone and iPad than one of the world's most fascinating cities; wearing skimpy outfits in a Muslim country) but suddenly she ups her game and starts chucking grenades, driving like a nutter through Istanbul's cobbled streets and rocking up in the American Embassy by crashing through the barrier in a stolen taxi. Yup, turns out Kim Mills is even more dangerous than Kim Bauer.

Taken 2 features Liam Neeson reprising his role in Taken as ex-CIA operative Bryan Mills. His daughter, Kim, and ex-wife, Leonora, join him in Istanbul for a short break after Leonora realises her new husband has left her, and possibly wants to get back with Bryan. Leonora, it turns out, is the new Kim Bauer – she gets lost, kidnapped and collapses for most of the film from a minor scratch on her neck. But Kim rises to the occasion, evades capture, hands dad a gun, destroys half of Istanbul and manages to laugh it off with mum and dad when it's all over.

Kim vs Kim? No, let's have a new spin-off series Mills & Bauer, the deadly daughters of destructive dads.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Kim Bauer vs Dana Brody

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Just a quick one

No, unfortunately not the euphemism for a quick shag, but more of the office speak that spreads like a virus. I've mentioned previously (ironically) about the fast-paced office environment, reminiscent of a doctor's waiting room, morgue or (at other times) a children's playground. The latest buzz phrase is a 'quick question' or 'quick one', ie a quick word. Nothing's about leisure; there's no: 'how about a six hour chat?' It's all about the quick one. It might not even be quick: it's probably the same length as a normal size question or chat. But the advanced warning – 'a quick one' – informs the recipient it won't take up much of their valued time. Invariably, the quick one ends up becoming a medium or even long one, but the thought is there I guess.

Also trending this month: clearing throats, squeaking chairs and clanging keyboards.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Notes on Kate Moss

The iconic blonde model turned forty this year and it feels like I've seen her on a cover of a magazine or read about her at least six times a week for the last fifty years in the Evening Standard, usually for taking drugs and/or tumbling out of a nightclub at 4am. It's hard for me to think of many people less interesting than Kate Moss. She's not nineteen anymore and her behaviour, aged forty, is just plain tedious and immature. I don't even find her very attractive, let alone beautiful. Skinny women with bodies like thirteen year-old boys just aren't my thing.

Yet I feel like I've grown up with her; we both hail from South London; both similar ages. It could be said that our similarities end there. She's a presumably rich, beautiful, famous, fashion icon. I'm not. She's yet to grow up and get a proper job and be a responsible person, even though she's married and has a child (naturally from a previous relationship). She's an appalling role model for girls. Sally Jones from Chatham would be more inspirational.

We know all about Kate Moss yet she remains slightly aloof and intangible, like Naomi Campbell. Maybe it's to do with the passivity required of being a model. She embodies the mythical sort of punk rock ethos of doing it her own bland way (except she's been rich and famous all her adult life). Like that other annoying blonde model Patsy Kensit, Moss went according to cliche and dated a succession of rock stars.

There are women like Aung San Suu Kyi, Michelle Yeoh and Martha Wainwright in the world, and, you know, just decent people, single mothers doing their best, aid workers in Africa, doctors and nurses. Then there's Kate blimming Moss, snorting coke (she'd be more controversial sipping Horlicks), stumbling out of a nightclub at 4am after attending an art gallery opening in Mayfair, and she's on page three of the Evening Standard. Every week. And she's not even interesting. What is her child doing? What's her husband up to? Do they approve? Shouldn't someone say something?

All the praise that gets heaped upon her, I just can't fathom it. She wears clothes for a living. And gets paid a lot for doing it. She has a pretty easy job that requires little skill. And did I mention she's not even very attractive or interesting?

Not to be confused with: Kate Mosse, author, also similarly bafflingly impossibly popular.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Top ten film composers

1. Ennio Morricone
2. Bernard Herrmann
3. John Williams
4. Jerry Goldsmith
5. John Barry
6. Vangelis
7. Clint Marshall
8. Goblin
9. Ry Cooder
10. John Carpenter

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top 10 movie soundtracks