I thought that delivering my webstock talk, and finishing reading Welcome To Mars, Cold War Modern and The Bomb while on holiday would let me escape my obsession with the post-war and the high-modern. I had reckoned without James Coburn.
Tom Armitage picked up on my love of the Derek Flint movies, and suggested that I had not really experienced Coburn at the height of his powers until I had experienced him in “The President’s Analyst“. The plot is a thing of gossamer, and the dialogue is probably best described as “very much of it’s time”, but the production designs and way that product and environment is photographed is wonderful.
I watched it on my flight to Etech, and went a little crazy taking screengrabs of every beautiful detail I saw…
The complete set is here, but I want to just point out a couple of wonderful moments.
The classic Cold-War combo of the long fluoro-lit corridor with tiny psuedo golf-cart.
Amphibious vehicles and long-zooms…
Headquarters of Corporate Evil, designed by Bruce Goff?
With corporate communications by DePatie-Freleng. (What was the first in this line of ‘hi-modern corporate communications animation vernacular’ as parodied eventually in Jurrasic Park amongst others?)
Look at this… the way they are curled, and nested, and converging to a central control point… This might just be the ne-plus-ultra of command-and-control cybernetics of the cold war meets the high-modern consumer culture!
It’s the 25 anniversary of the Miner’s Strike.
I was around 11 or 12 at the time, along with the Falklands War and the ongoing existential background-radiation (!) of the Cold War it was one of the defining events of the 1980s that I ‘woke up’ in.
My elder siblings were watching Boys from The Blackstuff to make sense of the recession, the end of Britain-as-industrial-power and the human toll it was taking.
I read Skizz.
If you’re not familiar with it, then the all-too-brief wikipedia entry sums it up quite well as “E.T. meets Boys from the Blackstuff“. It can still bring me to the verge of tears, and to think this was in a comic still at the time aimed at and read by kids is remarkable and wonderful.
The sad demise of the DFC aside, I really hope that as we tumble into seemingly-similar times, someone else will write something as powerful and moving and life-affirming for a younger audience.
On the (27 hour) plane ride back from New Zealand, I watched a lot of movies, some unremarkable – some wonderful. Watching Happy-Go-Lucky was painful for some reasons, and beautiful for others – but it definately hit me with the pink laserbeam between the eyes.
Watching classics like The Apartment and Manhattan made me wonder at the romances we’d write about some cities, and Slumdog Millionaire bizarrely seemed like a continuation of that: a romance of the maximum-city.
But, beside that – everytime a movie finished, the entertainment system reset to it’s main menu, with one of those airline entertainment system pseudo-radio stations playing on a loop.
And I hit the same point in the loop everytime.
And at that point in the loop played the same song everytime.
The song was a romance of the city.
A romance of electricity and colour and life and density of opportunity.
Electricity so fine Look and dry your eyes
The song was “Stepping Out” by Joe Jackson.
Go and listen.
I’ll stay put.
In recent months I’ve definitely fallen into a Collapsitarian rut of sorts.
We - Are young but getting old before our time
This won’t do.
“Pessimism is a luxury of good times. In difficult times, pessimism is a
self-fulfilling, self-inflicted death sentence.”
That’s where the action is, where the flow is felt, and where design wrangling of the sweetest kind can be done.
So, more wrangling, less hand-wringing.
Big bets should be made.
It took at 27 hour flight to realise that 27 years ago in 1982, Joe Jackson knew this and planted a time capsule into culture to help me with 2009.
It’s The Anti-Collapsitarian Anthem.
We - So tired of all the darkness in our lives With no more angry words to say Can come alive Get into a car and drive To the other side
That’s some foresight, right there. So if you are feeling a little collapsitarian, try stepping out.
You - Can dress in pink and blue just like a child And in a yellow taxi turn to me and smile We’ll be there in just a while If you follow me
Now we pause for some station-identification: Hi. This Is Magical Nihilism.
“Sometimes we inclined to conceive it as sheer Power, and symbolized it to ourselves by means of all the myriad power-deities of our many worlds. Sometimes we felt assured that it was pure Reason, and that the cosmos was but an exercise of the divine mathematician. Sometimes Love seemed to us its essential character, and we imagined it with the forms of all the Christs of all the worlds, the human Christs, the Echinoderm and Nautiloid Christs, the dual Christ of the Symbiotics, the swarming Christ of the Insectoids. But equally it appeared to us as unreasoning Creativity, at once blind and subtle, tender and cruel, caring only to spawn and spawn the infinite variety of beings, conceiving here and there among a thousand inanities a fragile loveliness. This it might for a while foster with maternal solicitude, till in a sudden jealousy of the excellence of its own creature, it would destroy what it had made.
But we knew well that all these fictions were very false. The felt presence of the Star Maker remained unintelligible, even though it increasingly illuminated the cosmos, like the splendor of the unseen sun at dawn.”
Great ‘pirate’ map, International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch, NZ, originally uploaded by moleitau.
A fantastic pirate map of instructions for the ‘bag drag’ at Scott Base, Antarctica.