Monthly Archives: February 2006

Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

Although it was originally released back in 2000, I only just came across PJ Harvey’s “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” a few months ago. Since then I’ve played it almost every day on my commute to and from work without once getting bored of it — it’s been my soundtrack for 2006 to date.

The stand-out 5-star tracks for me are “One Line” and “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore,” but almost every track on the album is worth a solid 3 or 4 stars. The only weak point for me is “This Mess We’re In,” which to my ears is ruined by Tom Yorke’s irritating whining.

Anyway, here’s the filthy lucre commission link, in case I’ve persuaded you to part with some hard-earned (or not) cash:

Media Bits

One book and two movie recommendations:

1. The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster

Just finished my signed copy of this book, and I enjoyed it very much. I really like the way Auster’s writing can capture a wide gamut of human emotion in such a sparse, clean and readable style.

2. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

I saw this at Angelika the other night, and it was very funny, in a clever but (perhaps surprisingly) non-irritating way. Apparently the original book (which I’ve never read) was “post-modern before there was any modern to be post about,” in that the narrative was self-referential. The film does the same thing — it’s both a film about the process of making a film, and a mockumentary (although how much is fake and how much is accurate is left intentionally ambiguous) of the main character, Steve Coogan. Even the website has two parts — a “meta” site that talks about the process of building a movie website, and the “real” site within it.

3. Touching the Void

I just watched this “docudrama” about two young, foolhardy British climbers that climbed Siula Grande, a previously unclimbed peak in the Peruvian Andes, back in 1985. They made it to the summit, but had an accident on the way down, which resulted in one of them dangling precariously over a precipice and the other struggling to hold the weight in crumbling snow. Eventually Simon, the guy at the top of the rope, makes the decision to cut it, sending his friend Joe plummeting to certain death down a deep crevasse. But miraculously, Joe somehow survives the fall, and despite having a badly broken leg, frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion, somehow manages to drag himself down the mountain to be reunited with his friend at the base camp.

The movie was shot with a mixture of interviews with the real climbers and reconstructions using a mixture of the real climbers and actors, and it resulted in a surprisingly powerful and compelling narrative. The extra features on the DVD were also interesting, which gave some insight into how the trip affected their lives afterwards, and also how a return to Siula Grande 17 years later affected them. Joe (the guy who fell in the crevasse) clearly endured the worse ordeal on the mountain and immediately afterwards, but somehow came through to resume climbing, become a successful writer and tell the story in a best-selling book. Simon (rope-cutter), on the other hand, seemed plagued by guilt and remorse, and also by the disdain of the climbing community.

Joe always maintained that cutting the rope was the right thing to do, and even dedicated the book to Simon, but it was interesting to note that these two guys, who had shared such an intense experience together, were not particularly close friends 17 years on.

Back to Cali

Alpine Meadows, CA. 22 February 2006 Posted by Picasa

I went back to California last weekend, and had a great time snowboarding up at Lake Tahoe. I got 3 full days of riding in — 2 days at Northstar and one day at Alpine Meadows. Both were good, but kudos and top marks go to the good folks at the rental shop at Alpine for giving me a free replacement Switch back (the blue plastic piece in the picture above) when my binding broke unexpectedly.

The conditions were pretty much perfect: It snowed at least 12″ every day, and it was also unusually cold for California, which meant that the snow stayed dry, powdery and lots of fun. It was easily the best powder I’ve ever ridden on in California.

The trip was arranged by my buddy Gordon, who is currently based in Washington DC, but who I first met on a snowboarding trip to the “Ponderosa” (the ski cabin owned by the family Pon) back in 2000, when we both lived in San Francisco.

We stayed in the Ponderosa again this time around (first time I’d been back since 2000), along with 9 of Gordon’s other friends, and 6 other folks in a different group — the cabin had been double-booked! Fortunately everyone was cool about the situation, although it was definitely a little cramped.

On the way back I also had drinks with my ex Jessica and dinner with a bunch of friends (Angus, CK, Mark, Stephanie and Suzy) in the Mission (my old ‘hood between ’99 and ’02) before heading back to New York.

All in all, it was a great trip. Next month: Whistler, near Vancouver!

Spyware Government

I’m glad to see that the controversy over George Bush’s illegal domestic spying program is getting more heated. Could this be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and brings down this awful administration? I hope so — it’s basically the same issue that forced Nixon to resign in 1974 under the threat of impeachment, and resulted in a law specifically to prevent such breaches of privacy and infringements of civil liberties: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, a law that George W. Bush has apparently broken.

A few interesting recent developments:

1. According to today’s New York Times, a number of Republican politicians, in both houses, are now starting to publicly express doubts over the leaglity of Bush’s covert domestic spying program, including Representative Heather Wilson, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Arlen Specter, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (and who I can’t help thinking of as “Uncle Arlen,” even though I’ve never met him, since he’s related to my ex-girlfriend Jessica).

2. The Feds have been stepping up their inquiry to discover who leaked the information about the illegal wiretapping program to the New York Times in the first place– a witch hunt that is no doubt intended to warn other potential whistle-blowers that they will be hunted down, and which clearly shows just how nervous the administration are about this whole issue.

3. George W. Bush recently announced that the security services had foiled a plot by Al Qaeda shoe bombers to fly another commercial jet liner into another building, this time the Library Tower (although apparently he mistakenly called it the Liberty Tower) in Los Angeles. Please — the timing is just a little bit too convenient, and are we really supposed to believe that Al Qaeda are so lacking in imagination that they would try exactly the same act of terrorism AFTER security measures have been tightened up in airports and on planes throughout the globe?

4. have produced a clever new TV ad that includes footage of “Tricky Dicky” Nixon morphing subtly and seamlessly into footage of George W. Bush, and clearly makes the following point:

“Nixon was also illegally spying on Americans for reasons he claimed were related to national security. America disagreed and we passed a law after Nixon resigned that balanced national security and the civil rights of Americans.”

5. The Campaign to Impeach Bush published a full-page ad in the New York Times recently.

Why We Fight

Earlier this evening I went to see Why We Fight, a documentary by Eugene Jarecki which apparently won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

It was excellent, and clearly demonstrated the build-up of the “military-industrial complex” since the end of the Second World War (as forewarned by Dwight D. Eisenhower in his outgoing Presidential address), and culminating in the enormous U.S. arms industry and lobby that is the driving force behind the aggressive American military imperialism of the early 21st Century.

As one commentator notes, when you have a defence industry that’s worth $3/4 trillion dollars annually and that makes profits of 25%, you’re going to see a lot more wars.

Highly recommended — if you live in New York, it’s showing at the Angelika Film Centre until this Thursday.