Monday, July 20, 2015

Photo opportunity

Unfortunately, I barely have time to think nowadays, let alone write blog posts. However, I have been putting photos up on Flickr on a fairly regular basic. So if you've missing your daily Barnflakes, head over to my Flickr account (Instagram is way too cool – and popular – for me) and enjoy photos from Russia, Bali, Egypt, Morocco and, er, Ilfracombe, amongst others.

Previously on Barnflakes:
A Brief History of Photography

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Top ten films about the theatre

1. Mephisto (István Szabó, 1981)
2. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014)
3. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
4. 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
5. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
6. Les Enfants du Paradis (Marcel Carné, 1945)
7. Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)
8. All that Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)
9. Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
10. The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1968)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Public transport courtesy cards

You know how it is – you're on any form of public transport and someone, somewhere, on your train or bus, is annoying you by – say – blocking the doors, eating smelly food, speaking or listening to music too loudly, not moving along the aisle, tapping on their phone, spreading their legs out too wide on a seat or having their bag on an unoccupied seat.

Of course, being British, we've learnt to ignore such annoyances; though we may want to scream at them, civilised society suggests otherwise. Even asking someone to turn their music down would at best disturb the otherwise silence of the carriage and result in possible embarrassment; at worst it could (it actually has!) result in a stabbing.

The solution is these passive-aggressive cards – simply print and cut them out, then surreptitiously hand one out to the offending passenger as you're leaving the carriage, then leg it down the platform.

Monday, July 13, 2015

London Libraries #5: John Harvard, Southwark

The coffee sign bigger – and more prominent – than the library sign

Because of the nice weather I hadn't been to my nearest library to work for some time. It was raining on a recent lunchtime so I nipped in. I was in a shock but in a way it sums up what I dislike most about the inevitability of modern life in general and London specifically. I never liked the library that much to start with; it feels pokey and claustrophobic. But there's now a cafe with canteen-style wooden benches which takes up about a quarter of the library. There's a rug on the wooden floorboards, retro over-hanging lamps, ambient-type music playing (in a library! And people talking! It's meant to be a place of study and silence – like a church) and a few books here and there; there's a general feel to it of being cool, vintage. Obviously, I hate it. But what really struck me was the people. In place of the old-timers, weirdos, out of work Poles and general layouts are stock image looking youth folk laughing over lattes and croissants. WTF? Where did they come from? What's happened to the old regulars? About a quarter of the library is now a lifestyle cafe, leaving less room for sitting down and actually... well, reading. I've bemoaned previously that books and reading are now low down in a library's list of priorities – internet, TV and DVDs are certainly higher up on the list, but this takes it to another level. I actually quite like the combination of coffee and books but this is money-making lifestyle nonsense. And like the nearby demolished Heygate estate where, one day, all of sudden, all the residents just vanished, to be replaced by sparkly new rich people, so the library has zapped the old regulars. Where do they go now? How do they fill their days? It's a mystery, and a sad one.

Previously there was a library around the corner at 56 Southwark Bridge Road, a beautiful tall Victorian building with lots of windows (it's now – shudder – a media training centre). The likewise lovely old Newington library on nearby Walwoth Road is now permanently closed (along with the Cuming museum), due to a fire in 2013. There's now a temporary library called, er, Newington temporary library.

The John Harvard library is named after the Southwark clergyman John Harvard (1607-1638), who went to Massachusetts and founded Harvard University. The library stands on the site of the infamous Marshalsea prison, featured in several Dickens' novels (his father was imprisoned there; and Charles was too, aged 12) and run privately for profit, as most prisons were up until the 19th century. Inmates consisted mainly of debtors, as was the case of the majority of prisons at the time, as well as a healthy dose of pirates, smugglers and those accused of sedition. Sounds great, though I wouldn't have lasted a day. The only part of the prison that remains is a wall adjacent to the library.

Surrounding the rest of the building is a new development (and opposite – new luxury apartments being built) – looks nice, spacious and comfy inside; at first I thought it was a library extension. Wishful thinking, no – it's going to be The Office Group, who 'provide design-led flexible offices in fantastic locations'. Currently cased in scaffolding with childlike illustrations of happy, simple looking-people happily going about their work – including one guy mooning on a photocopier. Do people still do that?

Previously on Barnflakes:
London Bridge Lunches
Cross Bones Graveyard, Southwark

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Doing it yourself all hours

In the old days, rich and even not so rich people used to have everything done for them by servants, butlers and cooks. Some still do today. But generally, today more than any other time, despite – or because of – technology and so-called leisure time, we have to do virtually everything ourselves. It's fair enough we have to dress ourselves and make dinners, but now just about everything else is self-service: petrol stations, supermarkets, and recently the post office. I mean, shouldn't we get a discount if we have to pack our own food or assemble our own furniture? It all feels like more hard work, especially if the bloody machine doesn't work.

It's just been announced that shops will be extending their opening hours on Sundays, and the post office has recently extended its opening times too (no idea why; no one sends letters anymore – let's blame technology again; funny how such an old-fashioned institution has been revitalised due to the internet). All this means more time to spend in queues, more time to get frustrated by self-service machines.

I vaguely remember a time when shops were open 9-5, Monday to Saturday, and closed all day Sunday. If I'd been an adult in those days I would probably have died: if one was doing a 9-5 job, when did they have time to buy food, let alone post letters?

I've always been bemused by shops closing when work finishes; surely they'd do a better trade opening when most people finish work – so, say, 5pm to midnight? The only people around during the day are, well, the retired, the young, the poor and out of work – not, presumably, the demographic of the biggest spenders.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Top ten affliction films

That is, films that feature characters with afflictions. Not films that are afflicted, nor Afflicted, a 2013 horror film, nor any film starring Ben Afflick(ted).

1. Freaks [Various]
2. Psycho [Psycho]
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [Mental illness]
4. Repulsion [Psycho]
5. The Elephant Man [Deformity]
6. Taxi Driver [Post-traumatic stress disorder]
7. 12 Monkeys [Mental illness]
8. It's a Wonderful Life [Deafness]
9. Shock Corridor [Mental illness; journalism]
10. Jacob's Ladder [Post-traumatic stress disorder]

Also worth a visit: 
Donnie Darko [Hallucinations]
My Own Private Idaho [Narcolepsy]
Silver Linings Playbook [Mental illness/nymphomania]
Still Alice [Alzheimer's]
What's Eating Gilbert Grape? [Developmental disability] 
Keane [Mental illness/delusion] 
Rain Man [Autism] 
As Good As It Gets [OCD] 
An Angel At My Table [Shyness]
The Butterfly Effect [Abuse, trauma] 
Melancholia [Depression] 
Pi [Social anxiety disorder, paranoia] 
Punch-Drunk Love [Social ineptitude] 
Forrest Gump [Intellectual disability] 
Electricity [Autism] 
My Left Foot [Cerebral palsy]
A Beautiful Mind [Paranoid schizophrenia]

Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on afflictions
Stuttering in the movies