Sunday, January 31, 2016

Top ten RIPs in January 2016

1. David Bowie (musician)
2. Jacques Rivette (film director)
3. Terry Wogan (broadcaster)
4. Alan Rickman (actor)
5. Vilmos Zsigmond (cinematographer)
6. Glenn Frey (musician)
7. Frank Armitage (animator)
8. Robert Stigwood (film producer)
9. Black (musician)
10. Peter Powell (kite maker)

God, can we move onto February, please (there’s also all these)? Thanks.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Last of the legends

Monday, January 25, 2016

David Bowie's top 25 records

Imagining them to have no time for such trivial matters, it's somehow reassuring to see famous people making top lists of things. Though, obviously, it's always guys. The guys on my bank of desks at work are continually doing top tens – films, albums, songs, record companies (and recently, obviously, top ten Bowie albums and songs – I'm not afraid to say in public Let's Dance is one of my favourites). Women, though, do not do top tens. They do not do favourite albums, songs or films (or if they do it's an emotional choice, not based on the history of film or music, and probably something they saw or listened to last week). There's a theory that all men are on the Asperger's spectrum – for our lists (Barnflakes is famous for its top ten lists and probably quite high on the spectrum), our hobbies (from stamp collecting to football and cars), our filing systems.

I like David Bowie's typically idiosyncratic top 25 from 2003 – I have a bunch of them. I haven't posted anything about Bowie over the last few weeks because, well, everyone else has. In 2003, Bowie also let us know his top hundred must-read books.

The list, in no particular order… 

The Last Poets The Last Poets 

Shipbuilding Robert Wyatt 

The Fabulous Little Richard Little Richard 

Music for 18 Musicians Steve Reich 

The Velvet Underground & Nico The Velvet Underground

Tupelo Blues John Lee Hooker

Blues, Rags and Hollers Koerner, Ray and Glover

The Apollo Theatre Presents: In Person! The James Brown Show James Brown

Forces of Victory Linton Kwesi Johnson

The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere: Music Played on National Instruments Various Artists

Banana Moon Daevid Allen

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Cast Album

The Electrosoniks: Electronic Music Tom Dissevelt

The 5000 Spirits of the Layers of the Onion The Incredible String Band

Ten Songs by Tucker Zimmerman Tucker Zimmerman

Four Last Songs (Strauss) Gundula Janowitz

The Ascension Glenn Branca

The Madcap Laughs Syd Barrett

Black Angels George Crumb

Funky Kingston Toots & the Maytals

Delusion of the Fury Harry Partch

Oh Yeah Charles Mingus

Le Sacre du Printemps Igor Stravinsky

The Fugs The Fugs

The Glory (????) of the Human Voice Florence Foster Jenkins

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sight & Sound magazine mastheads

The UK film magazine Sight & Sound has been going since the 1930s and has changed its masthead more times than I change my shirts. At first I thought they changed them every decade, until I noticed there were three different ones in the 1970s. The magazine was very wordy for a long time up until the 1970s and 80s, but by the 1990s it drastically changed, turned monthly (rather than seasonal) and became a lot more visual, which makes sense for a film magazine. Even so, a magazine like Variety, say, has had the same masthead for about a hundred years. I don't mind a new masthead every few years but Sight and Sound's lack of a strong visual identity (it looked awful in the 1980s) is a problem for a visual-based magazine. Still, it's always been my magazine of choice.

From top to bottom: 1951; 1969; 1971; 1973; 1978; 1983; 1992; 2000; 2002; 2009; 2014, its current incarnation.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Sight & Sound covers

Friday, January 22, 2016

Top ten dislikes

1. Cars
2. Plastic bags
3. Litter
4. Modern R&B
5. Greed
6. Selfishness
7. Tourists
8. Television
9. Marketing & PR
10. Waste

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A tale of two chapels

In this age of mass inequality of wealth, property developers demolishing history to make way for soulless luxury flats and big business ruling our lives, it seems that profit comes before everything else. So it warms the cockles of my heart that two small, beautiful London hospital chapels have been saved from demolition and restored.

The most recent is the Fitzrovia Chapel, now part of the £700m Fitzroy development. When the Middlesex hospital was closed in 2005, then demolished in 2008, the grade II* listed hospital chapel was the only part of the hospital to survive. Aerial photos of the lone chapel surrounded by wasteland for years made for a sad and poignant image:

The Fitzroy development – the usual bland assortment of offices, restaurants and shops – was finally completed last year, and the first opportunity to see the completed and restored chapel was for Open House last September. And what a delight it is, its sumptuous interior adorned with gold mosaics and marble on the walls and ceiling.

Designed by the Gothic Revivalist architect John Loughborough Pearson, who also created the Truro cathedral in Cornwall, the chapel was completed by his son, Frank, and opened in 1929. Frank added many of the flourishes for which it is famous today, including lavish marble and mosaic, in the style of Italian Gothic and Romanesque.

Ceiling of Fitzrovia chapel
St Christopher's Chapel in Great Ormond Street Hospital is another unexpected delight – and so described by Oscar Wilde as "the most delightful private chapel in London". In the 1980s, the old hospital was demolished and the entire chapel had to be physically moved by placing a concrete rafter underneath it and sliding it to a new location. It was officially re-opened by Princess Diana on Valentine's Day, 1994.

As befits a chapel built for the young (it's devoted to the patron saint of children), imagery of children, flowers, owls, squirrels and mythical beasts adorn the interior, with stained glass windows, paintings and murals depicting child-related scenes from the Bible (and quite probably Alice in Wonderland). Most charmingly (and heartbreakingly), though, are all the soft toys on the window sills and behind the alter (referred to as the teddy bear choir).

St Christopher's chapel
The small size of the chapel, built in the Byzantine style in 1875, creates an intimate and jewel-like atmosphere, making it feel a very special place for worship and contemplation. It was designed by Edward Middleton Barry whose father designed the Houses of Parliament.

Large churches can often be overwhelming and intimating (that's partly the point of them – to be awe inspiring) but I far prefer a small chapel – they feel more intimate, personal and, perhaps, closer to God.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Notes on queuing

People, and perhaps the British in particular, like to pretend they hate queueing – what, after all, is more frustrating than having to wait in line for a bus or buy a ticket, or some shopping? But the funny thing is, I think we actually like to queue. It gives us a sense of order, solidarity and security. Recently there was a long queue for a museum I was at. It was hardly moving and looked like it would take about an hour to get in. However, to the side of the queue were automated ticket machines with assistants encouraging people to use them. But no one was – they were empty. They were pretty straightforward to use and enabled one to bypass the queue entirely. We got the tickets from the machine and strolled past the queue, saving at least an hour's wait and walking into an almost empty museum.

Perhaps they didn't trust the machines, I don't know, but I had the sense that queueing to get into the museum (this was the Hermitage BTW, not exactly the equivalent of queueing at Sainsbury's) was a matter of some importance – waiting patiently in line was rewarded with gaining entry to the museum and perhaps its treasures appreciated even more after the long wait (in the cold and rain, if I remember correctly). Worth the wait, in short.

Like most aspects of modern daily life, the British queue officially started in the industrial revolution, and hasn't stopped yet. The move from country to city, the change from hand production to machines and the bringing together of masses of people all contributed to the orderly queue. As did the Second World War, where rationing required people to queue for basic goods – even if they didn't know quite what they were queueing for.

This is the crux of the matter – a long queue looks important, so it must be for something important (even if it isn't). There is a certain sheep mentality to joining queues. A queue can also be ritual and tradition – the dole queue, Wimbledon tennis, toilets at music festivals. Queues can be fun and a good place to meet like-minded people. It's best to enjoy queues – on average we spend six months of our lives waiting in queues.