bookmark_borderFire walk with me

“Say yes more often than no”

Life is short, far far too short for some and so when something pops up and you have the chance to do something you’ve never done before, AND it’s for a good cause, well, it’s even harder to say no.

And so I find myself signed up to become part of some weird human barbeque experiment?? … I’m sure that’s not how it works but essentially that is what it seems to be, although obviously they aren’t calling it that. Nope, instead they are using the rather dramatic and imminently more marketable term…

cue big dramatic voiceover voice


What an act of bravado, I hear you cry! He is going to be dancing with death, I hear you swoon! Might he even end up with a very mild scald, I hear you wonder? … Time will tell, but yes I will be walking barefoot across hot coals, and no you can’t bring BBQ sauce to squirt on me when I’m ‘done’.

You know, the more I think about this the more I’m starting to question just what the hell I was thinking!?

But then I remember the far more important reason of why I agreed to do it in the first place.

Rebecca was our beautiful little girl who died of TB meningitis in 2009 at Robin House. She loved music and to DANCE!

Over the last few years through the generosity and kindness of so many, we have raised nearly £30,000 for Rebecca Rocks – money that goes direct to Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) to allow children who attend Robin House to get to gigs and concerts with carers, in memory of a wee girl who didn’t get the chance to.

There have been amazing memories made with these funds (just take a look at the Facebook page!) but we need to keep up the fundraising to keep making those dreams come true!

On 30th June a team of brave souls will be undertaking a Firewalk at Whitecraigs Rugby Club to try and raise £5000 for Rebecca Rocks – we hope you can join us, or support by making a donation!

To add that all up; given that I love music, I have been known to throw some shapes on the dancefloor, and as I’ve never done a firewalk, I could hardly say no.

Of course I may get cold feet (baddummttshhhh) which is where YOU come in dear reader, for the price of a morning coffee or two, you can sponsor me and further guilt me into actually doing this!! Or, you know, you could just throw a few quid in for a very good cause.

Go here to make a donation, big or small they all count. Please mention my name in the comment so they can track it.

bookmark_borderSix by Nico: Wonka

This past Easter found me watching a movie I’ve loved since I was a child. It is a strange story of a strange man by the name of Willy Wonka. I have to wonder if Nico was watching too…

As ever I’d been perusing the menu ahead of our visit and wondered how some of the dishes would be prepared and presented – I’m not a fan of liquorice, popcorn, or olives – but as their website says, “remember – a little nonsense now and then is relished by even the wisest of men….” so regardless of my own personal tastes, I was still excited to try this latest menu.

  1. CHEESE BOARD – Gorgonzola Royale / Fizzy Grapes / Celery & Apple Gazpacho
  2. BEETROOT DIB DAB – Heritage Beetroot / Smoked Mackerel Gribiche / Beetroot Sherbet
  3. DUCK SWEETIE JAR – Liver Parfait / Blueberry Chutney / Hazelnut Sable
  4. COD BLACKJACK – Charred Cauliflower / Squid ‘Risotto’ / Liquorice
  5. CHOCOLATE RIVER – Chicken / Chorizo Popcorn / Candied Olive / Mole Poblano Sauce
  6. WONKA BAR – Peanut butter Cheesecake / Amarena Cherry / Chocolate Soil

The apertif, “Fizzy lifting juice”, set the tone. A delicious gin cocktail with popping candy round the rim, which laid out the sweet theme that ran through the entire meal.

But first, as always, SNACKS!

Arancini are a wonder, so unassuming but so deliciously more-ish it’s probably just as well they are small and there is only one on the plate. My white chocolate & white truffle arancini was delicious but all too quickly gone. We also had the sourdough, olives and vanilla butter. Yup, vanilla butter. Subtle and worked surprisingly well.

Next up the Cheese Board, obviously. Dabs of creamy piped gorgonzola, slices of tangy grape served on a crisp taro cracker, accompanied by a delicious thick celery and apple gazpacho. Wonderfully cheesy crackers with a nice sweet tang, and the gazpacho was essentially a celery based bloody mary in texture.

I’ll admit I had to look up what gribiche was and having done so I was still not quite sure what I would be getting. Fear not though, the lollipop that arrived on my plate was exactly that, a shaped portion of chunky mackerel gribiche lying on a bed pureed lentil dahl with a sprinkling of beetroot sherbet. Not a huge mackerel fan but I may now be converted as it was very tasty indeed and worked so so well with the thick unctuous dahl (a bowl of that in the winter months, ohhh my days!). The accompanying assortment of beetroot helped keep the dish light and the freshness played well against the heavy flavours of the smoked mackerel. So far so good!

The Duck Sweetie Jar is exactly that, a sweetie jar rammed full of flavour. A rich, thick dollop of duck parfait, with a sweet blueberry chutney and a few hidden delights in the shape of tiny bright blueberry meringues. Some thin slices of moist and succulent duck with a few pickled blueberries topped off the jar. Alongside that a small toasted circle of brioche, with a duck croquet. I’m not sure which I enjoyed more, but each component was delicious and all worked so well together. Duck and blueberry, more of this please (but not so much we end up like Violet and need juiced).

And then it was time for the one dish that made me baulk when I read the menu. I am not a fan of liquorice in any way shape or form and only hoped that it would be a component I could leave aside on the plate. We actually queried ‘how liquoricey’ the dish was, and were assured it wasn’t ‘that liquoricey at all’. And it wasn’t.

What it was was a very subtle hint that definitely didn’t overwhelm the perfectly cooked cod fillet which came with charred cauliflower rice on top. The risotto was wonderfully creamy and, as they did for Vietnamese menu, the squid rings were utterly perfectly cooked (Six by Nico street food idea, a bowl of those!). As well as the squid ink coloured sauce, there was a hint of sweetness brought by adding raisin puree as well and, on the whole, it was a well balanced dish, and definitely not too liquoricey at all. Squid rings aside, it was good but not great.

The next dish did not feature a boat nor Augustus Gloop being sucked up a tube, but did feature some of my less than favourite ingredients, popcorn and olive, but there were plenty of other components to deal with and the whole point of a tasting menu is try new things, right? Served on a bed of pearl barley and sweetcorn the chicken was moist and tender and whilst each component was well presented as a dish it just didn’t work all that well. I’m not sure if it was the mole poblano, or the candied olives, or even the popcorn, but it tasted a little like there were too many bitter flavours competing with one another. A rare miss for sure, but a miss none the less.

Dessert saved the day (doesn’t it always?). A deconstructed cheesecake, with light and not cloyingly dry piped peanut butter, rich tart and sweet cherry reduction, with dollops of white chocolate cream it was a perfect balance, although more like posh PB&J than a cheesecake but I am NOT complaining about that either.

As an extra treat you also get a Wonka Bar! I won’t spoil the surprise but as well as what lies inside there is also the chance to win a Golden Ticket… alas we didn’t win on our visit.

Overall another strong showing. The chicken dish wasn’t for me, and the cod was merely ok but as always the overall experience was good. Six by Nico set itself a high bar and consistently meets it. As always the staff were knowledgeable, relaxed, friendly, and make the entire experience a pleasure and one I always look forward to.

£28 for six courses of wonderful food, plus £5 for an apertif and £5 for snacks (between two) continues to be ridiculously good value. Even adding £25 for the paired tasting menu (which I don’t do often) keeps the entire meal well below £65 a head for fine dining, I honestly don’t think there is better value available anywhere in Glasgow. Once again it’s booking out fast so if you fancy it, get it booked!

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Google’s File on Me Was Huge. Here’s Why It Wasn’t as Creepy as My Facebook Data.
    Google has far more data about us than Facebook. Yet unlike Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking empire, which has been under fire for improperly leaking user data, Google has sidestepped controversy.
    Next up, Apple who announced their own way to check all your data. I’ve checked. Apple has the least data on me of the big ‘3’. Just sayin’

  • Rise And Shine! Astronauts Get Wake-Up Music In Space
    As you might expect, many of the tracks match a theme: Fries’s list includes David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” on three separate occasions, and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” six.
    Struggle to get out of bed, wake up like an astronaut!

  • The Endowment Effect: Why You Can’t Let Go Of Your Possessions
    Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Louis Chew of Constant Renewal. Not long ago, I tried assearing some of my possessions. It didn’t go well.
    I can attest to this. Figuring out that the emotions and memories of an event/person are not held in an object was the hardest thing to unpick.

  • The Secret Codes Hidden in the Books of a Scottish Library
    Georgia Grainger had only been working at Charleston Library in Dundee, Scotland, for six weeks when she was met with a mystery. One of the library’s customers, an older woman, approached her with a question and an open book.
    Well this is lovely.

  • Tattly™ — Forever Rainbow Pin
    For the first time ever, Tattly is going permanent. Because we believe in wearing pride all year round. 10% of the proceeds from Ben Wagner’s Forever Gay pin go towards a queer non-profit like GMHC, the Transgender Law Center, or the Ali Forney Center.
    Isn’t this pretty!

  • Yes, It’s Okay to Break up with a Good Man
    Several years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the prolonged and heart-wrenching breakup that persisted in destroying my entire life over the course of many months, a friend sent me an essay she thought I should read. I was officially single and deeply ashamed.
    Posted without comment (but lots and LOTS of thoughts)

  • The Rage of the Incels
    Lately I have been thinking about one of the first things that I ever wrote for the Internet: a series of interviews with adult virgins, published by the Hairpin. I knew my first subject personally, and, after I interviewed her, I put out an open call. To my surprise, messages came rolling in.
    The word ‘incel’ makes me icky, but this is scary.

  • Big Ag turns to peas to meet soaring global protein demand
    In a joint venture at a Wisconsin plant, flour milled from Iowa yellow peas is mixed with water and spun at high speed through stainless steel drums, separating the protein from starch and fiber.
    PEAS and goodwill to all men.

  • The Surprising History (and Future) of Fingerprints
    Recently, for a background check, for a visa, I had to get fingerprinted by an agent admissible to the FBI while I was still in France. No, we can’t fingerprint you, the website of the Embassy of the United States in Paris stated clearly.
    The world it is a changing, just as well we all have unique fingerprints really. Right?

  • How the Vegas Golden Knights became the most remarkable story in sports
    While attending a wedding full of the Las Vegas elite on Sunday evening, Carolyn Goodman kept losing focus on the bride and the groom.
    For sports fans: This is another Leicester City style story.

  • Saving Africa’s wildlife
    Two decades ago, this patch of Malawian forest was almost emptied of wildlife. The last elephants had been poached. The lions had been caught in snare traps. Other species died off as their range was diced by machete-wielding farmers.
    There is some good in the world.

  • Bach at the Burger King
    AT THE CORNER of 8th and Market in San Francisco, by a shuttered subway escalator outside a Burger King, an unusual soundtrack plays. A beige speaker, mounted atop a tall window, blasts Baroque harpsichord at deafening volumes. The music never stops.
    I like Bach but, yeah, that baroque harpischord is gonna be harsh…

  • Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Netflix Production Deal
    Netflix has secured a deal with former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to produce series and movies for the streaming service.
    Right now can we just have President Obama give his take on world events every day? You know, FOR MY SANITY.

  • The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations
    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks. It is a scene that plays out each weekday morning across Tokyo. Suit-clad office workers, gaggles of schoolchildren, and other travelers gamely wend their way through the city’s sprawling rail stations.
    I’m fascinated by this kind of thing, gentle social conditioning. Little nudges here and there. Amazing.

  • Following a Tuna from Fiji to Brooklyn—on the Blockchain
    I had just learned everything there was to know about the fish in front of me. Now a small part of its fleshy, red body was in my mouth. Five minutes earlier, I saw a video showing the waters in Fiji where it was caught, where it traveled on ice, and how exactly it ended up inside a sushi hand roll.
    OK. This is odd but clever. Wanna learn about blockchain (and what it actually is), try this.

  • ‘I felt exposed online’: how to disappear from the internet
    Worried about what’s out there about you? You’re not alone. But is it even possible to become a digital ghost?
    Imagine. If you’d done this already you wouldn’t even have gotten a single email about GDPR…

  • Childish Gambino and how the internet killed the cultural critic
    Sometimes, a work of art is so urgent, so rich, you need help to understand it. So it was that, on Tuesday, I found myself searching the internet for things to read about Childish Gambino’s This is America. There was no shortage of options.
    It’s worrying that these things happen by stealth until you are so embedded in the new normal you don’t realise what’s missing.

  • Fuel With This Fruit
    Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance. Sport and exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, and technology help you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.
    *Minion voice* BAAANNAAANNNAAAA

  • Weekend lie-ins could help you avoid an early death, study says
    Many people complain they do not get enough sleep, and it seems they are right to be concerned.
    Thank god, I’m terrible at getting enough sleep during the week, if it weren’t for Sundays…

  • Sarah Silverman Is the Troll Slayer
    You’re gonna need a moment to get used to this new Sarah Silverman, but I assure you it’s worth it. Come with me for a visit and just know, before we go in, that we are a long way away from the Jesus Is Magic Silverman. You know the one.
    Well I never.

  • No one’s ready for GDPR
    The General Data Protection Regulation will go into effect on May 25th, and no one is ready — not the companies and not even the regulators. After four years of deliberation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially adopted by the European Union in 2016.
    I’m sorry.

  • TANK
    A short video, 80s TRON stylee.
    Visually simple yet gorgeous.

  • Are Suicide Bombings Really Driven by Ideology?
    Harvey Whitehouse doesn’t like how New Atheists like Richard Dawkins make religion out to be a mere “set of propositions” amounting to a “failed science.”
    For those in Glasgow, the ‘green or blue’ people exhibit a lot of these behaviours.

  • The World Wants More Camel Milk. Australia Can Help
    Marcel Steingiesser gave up a 14-year career at the world’s biggest mining company to stake his future on what he says is an even better opportunity — Australian camel milk.
    Pretty soon the choice of milk in a coffee shop will be longer than the coffee options… Almond, Oat, Soy, Camel…

  • A new scientific expedition aims to find out whether the Loch Ness monster is real
    It sounds like the start of a low-budget thriller: A New Zealand scientist is traveling with his international research team to Scotland to investigate whether the Loch Ness Monster is real, according to the Associated Press.
    People of Scotland, they must be stopped. We CANNOT let them find out the truth! ACTIVATE NESSIE4EVA.

  • The Songs of the Years, 1925-2018
    Back at the end of 2010, Ben Greenman created a playlist for the New Yorker’s holiday party that featured one song from each year of the magazine’s existence ordered chronologically. At the party, the mix worked like a charm.
    I don’t plan the order of these links, but if I did, this would be a pretty good one to finish off with. Enjoy your weekend!

bookmark_borderG to the D for the PR

Do I really have to?

I mean what’s the worst that could happen to a little ole blogger… what? a fine? HOW MUCH!!? Well, shit. ok.

So what do I store. Well, in the database that holds all the comments ever left here (and there have been at least a few) will have your name or pseudonym, and whatever email address and URL you provided, plus the text of your comment.

If you have left a comment, firstly, thanks! It’s such a rare occurence these days it’s always a pleasant surprise. You should also know that I do not, have not, WILL NOT EVER sell your personal data to any other party for any reason, not for all the money in the world*.

If you want me to delete or edit your data I will. If you want to see the exact data I hold about you, I’m sure I can dig that out of the database although as there are only two unique data points to go on I might not be able to meet that request because I think you need three unique data points to confirm a person as WHO THEY REALLY ARE and until then you are all just scammers and ne’er-do-wells.

What else do I need to do here?

I honestly have no idea.

It’s all so very confusing and if, like me, you’ve already received emails from places you didn’t even know you were a customer/member of, it’s a mass of slightly similar but slightly conflicting approaches.

“YOU MUST CONFIRM if you want us to keep in touch with you” blares my first GDPR email of the day.
“Just to let you know… YOU DON’T NEED TO DO A THING” shouts the second GDRP email of the day.
“Your new sex doll has been delivered to…” ummm hang on, that must be spam, or something. I’ve no idea how that got there….

As others have said, GDPR is a triumph of good intent versus awful implementation. I’ve been on a course about it at work and I’m still none the wiser. It’s a bit like the government announced they were building a house, and dumped some timber, a few random tools, some fixings, and a bag of mixed nails and screws and told us all to build a house by May 25th.

It came from a European Directive, so perhaps the real problem is that the Spanish are forever taking siestas whilst the French and Italians argue about who has the best wine, meanwhile the Germans are point blank refusing to have any part in building a wall, and the UK contingent are all scratching the arses and shouting lewd sexist comments at passersby.

What the rest of the world must think of us beggars belief.

Except, it doesn’t. It’s just another embarassing incident that, like Brexit, will be swept under the carpet as if nothing has happened.

I appear to have wandered a little bit off topic.

To summarise my position on GDPR and its impact on you as it relates to this blog, suffice to say that I store very very little data about you, it’s not enough data to identify you anyway, and if you want it changed or deleted, or just want to see what I have, then get in touch.

And with that, I bid Good Day to you Precious Reader!**

* Ok, maybe for a £100billion cos that way I’ll be above the law and not give a shit about you plebs
** Yeah I’m not sure this post was entirely worth the payoff. Sorry!

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • The Power of Eddie Vedder’s Voice: Hear Isolated Vocal Tracks from Three Classic Pearl Jam Songs
    A lifetime of rock star excess has taken its toll on Eddie Vedder’s voice but not on his talent. Most recent performances have tilted towards the gentle, the acoustic, the Americana, reflecting his larger embrace of the broad expanse of American music. And yes, he can still rock when needs be.
    This man literally brought me to tears the first (and only) time I saw them live. They opened with Release Me. Powerful.

  • And for His Next Act, Ev Williams Will Fix the Internet
    For years, Ev Williams was saddled with doubts. As a co-founder of Blogger and Twitter and, more recently, as the chief executive of the digital publishing platform Medium, Mr. Williams transformed the way millions of people publish and consume information online.
    I really hope he can but I don’t think it’s possible (see later link)

  • Large, Fluffy Pancakes with Pancetta & Maple
    There are few things that make a Sunday spent with loved ones even more perfect than a large stack of pancakes in the middle of the table. Last weekend, for the first time, I tried the combination of bacon & maple syrup.
    I have not tried making these. Yet. But she sure does know her food!

  • Why is Answering Email So Stressful?
    I have 19,834 unread email messages in my inbox. I’m fine. My coworkers, less so. Just seeing the phrase “Inbox (19,834)” on an open tab makes them tremble and break out in a nervous sweat. But I’m an anomaly—in office environments, email anxiety is the rule rather than the exception.
    Spoiler: it’s about most people being unable to communicate well in the written form.

  • Treadmills were originally designed to punish prisoners
    Says it all really

  • Finland’s rank as the world’s happiest country is very upsetting in Finland
    Finland, a perennial chart-topper on global rankings of well-being and prosperity, has just been named the world’s happiest country in the World Happiness Report. Finns are not happy about the news.
    Sheesh, they’re never happy…

  • How the Million Dollar Homepage kid became the $250m app man
    n a cold afternoon in January 2006, 21-year-old Alex Tew sat in his childhood bedroom in Wilshire, England, watching the final pixels fill up on a computer screen. He was about to become a millionaire. In 4 months, Tew went from broke and aimless to the toast of the internet.
    I remember the million dollar homepage (I’m THAT old). Had no idea he was behind that app.

  • Mumbling Isn’t a Sign of Laziness—It’s a Clever Data-Compression Trick
    Many of us have been taught that pronouncing vowels indistinctly and dropping consonants are symptoms of slovenly speech, if not outright disregard for the English language.
    See. Stop telling me to speak up!

  • You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to
    Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says…
    This. ALL OF THIS. Education is so so important.

  • The rise of Patreon – the website that makes Jordan Peterson $80k a month
    In five years, online membership service Patreon has attracted two million patrons supporting 100,000 ‘creators’ to the tune of $350m – including nearly $1m a year for rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson. So what’s the secret of its success?
    A great service, but have to admit, I’m waiting for the tipping point/backlash/end game.

  • Comixploitation!
    Robert Boyd I gave a talk yesterday at Alabama Song, an alternative art space in Houston’s Third Ward. I was invited to give the talk by Gabriel Martinez, who is Alabama Songs’s… Director? I don’t know if he has a “job title” or anything–they play stuff pretty loose.
    Comic book nerds. This one’s for you.

  • A Truck Spilled 12 Tons of Gooey Liquid Chocolate Onto a Highway in Poland
    The word calorie carries a lot of weight. We know we’re supposed to avoid too many of them, but things get more complicated after that. What, exactly, are calories, and how do I burn them?
    No, I don’t know how many calories are in 12 tons of liquid chocolate but pass me that damn ladle anyway…

  • Dear Book: I’m Having Trouble Getting Through
    Dear Book: I’m Having Trouble Getting Through. It’s not you, it’s me. Honestly. It’s finals and projects and the nice weather.
    Wondering if my fellow book clubbers are struggling with our current choice as much as I am (Embassytown).

  • Why the secret to happiness might be joy
    A few weeks ago I spoke at TED 2018 in Vancouver. It was an extraordinary experience (and challenge!) and I can’t wait to share it with you all when the video posts.
    Lightbulb moment for me. Happiness and joy are distinct (like when I learned the distinction between jealousy and envy).

  • How Tom Wolfe Became … Tom Wolfe
    I was 11 or maybe 12 years old when I discovered my parents’ bookshelves. They’d been invisible right up to the moment someone or something told me that the books on them were stuffed with dirty words and shocking behavior—a rumor whose truth was eventually confirmed by Portnoy’s Complaint.
    A sad loss. We need more people like this.

  • Body clock linked to mood disorders
    Disruption to the body’s internal clock may put people at increased risk of mood disorders, scientists say. A clock ticks in nearly every cell of the body. And they change how the tissues work in a daily rhythm.
    I’m glad the scientists have finally caught up. I thought this was common knowledge?

  • The Weird, Dangerous, Isolated Life of the Saturation Diver
    For 52 straight days this winter, Shannon Hovey woke up in the company of five other men in a metal tube, 20 feet long and seven feet in diameter, tucked deep inside a ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Nope. Fascinating insight into a job I simply could not do.

  • We Depend On Plastic. Now, We’re Drowning in It.
    This story is part of Planet or Plastic?—our multiyear effort to raise awareness about the global plastic waste crisis. Learn what you can do to reduce your own single-use plastics, and take your pledge.

  • This Armada of Saildrones Could Conquer the Ocean
    Each drone is a 23-foot neon-orange sailboat that catches wind with a solid wing more durable than a cloth sail. As the name implies, they’re seaworthy, autonomous robots, though a human pilot can take control remotely.
    So much we still don’t know about this planet.

  • The True History of ‘Yanny’ and ‘Laurel’
    If you somehow haven’t already over the last few days, listen to this audio recording right now. What do you hear? Is the person saying “Yanny” or “Laurel”? If you heard the second answer, you’re technically correct.
    FYI – I have not listened to this damn thing but as YOU are all talking about it…

  • 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings
    Like everyone, appearing smart in meetings is my top priority. Sometimes this can be difficult if you start daydreaming about your next vacation, your next nap, or bacon.
    For those of you who work in offices… this is genius, funny, and true!

  • Mental Health
    Mental Health, everyone by definition has it. Your brain is an organ. Just like your heart. Yet we talk about heart conditions. We actively from a young age take care of our hearts by exercise. We are bombarded with adverts for healthy lifestyles from trainers to healthy cholesterol butter.
    Inspiring post. This amazing person recently ran the London Marathon. Mental Health is always there for many people.

  • The Dunkirk Soundtrack is Way Cleverer Than You Think.
    I went into Dunkirk with high expectations for the score.
    OMG. Movie nerds, check this one out.

  • Shit My Cats Read: An Interview with Meg Wolitzer
    I never thought it was weird that my cats read so many books. They, these two sisters—Uni and Chloe—came from humble beginnings: the rafters of a garage in central New Jersey.
    Great interview. I knew cats were smart but…

  • The internet’s problems haven’t changed in 22 years
    A 1996 Wall Street Journal article that’s been quietly sitting on the web, waiting for its rediscovery and renewed relevance, has found its moment on Twitter this week.
    22 years. Jesus. I’m so frickin old. (also, see previous link on Ev Williams)

  • This physicist’s ideas of time will blow your mind
    Time feels real to people. But it doesn’t even exist, according to quantum physics. “There is no time variable in the fundamental equations that describe the world,” theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli tells Quartz.
    I’ve read this three times. Once today, once yesterday, once tomorrow.

bookmark_borderMaster of Suspense

Vertigo is acknowledged by many to be not only Alfred Hitchcock’s best work but one of the greatest movies of all time. It is, and has been since I first viewed it, in my top 5 (usually in first or second place). The sense of creepy weirdness, the growing tension as Scotty pursues a vision of a woman he once knew, coupled with the now legendary reverse zoom shot to impart the very sense of Vertigo that ties the whole slightly unsettling movie together, I have seen it far too many times yet it never feels old.

Both lead actors, as many did back then, tread the line of ham acting at times but if you look past that (and the obvious age gap between lead male and lead female, again a common weird theme that Hollywood continues to perpetuate) I think they both do well to convey two sides of the same coin, both knowing deep down that something isn’t right with what is going on, but both so flawed that they can’t NOT be a part of it, can’t stop it playing out. It’s that very human element of the characters, the twisting of normality into something odd which becomes their new normal, that I find so appealling, so real, so identifiable.

How often have you looked back at a situation you were in the middle of and wondered, how did I end up there? It’s that aspect of humanity that always fascinates me, how we can allow ourselves to, increment by increment, change our world view and accept was is in front us as ‘normal’; The Stanford Prison Experiment can be held up as an extreme example.

It’s this fascination that pulls me back to Vertigo, time and time again I find myself gripped and drawn in to the angst and continued sense of foreboding that bumbles along in the background. Whilst not a scary thriller, I find the slightly off-kilter nature of it all endlessly fascinating; a trait it shares with The Shining (check out the documentary Room 237 for more details on the weirdness that is The Outlook Hotel). That sense of ‘not normal’ is something that, given I haven’t exactly lived a ‘normal/traditional’ life in some ways, maybe makes it easier for me to accept people acting in ways that look odd from the outside yet will likely feel very natural to those living in those moments day to day.

Hitchcock had many flaws as a director, and as a human being, but when he got things right the results are wonderful and his choice of stories are always a big part of that. Add in his talent for visual flair, and a seemingly natural inclination to iconic scenes (played out to grand effect in North by Northwest). His attention to the small moments and how he leans on the details of the performances of his actors, skills learned from his early days in the (silent) movie business help elevate the movie to something more than the sum of its parts and, I believe, earn it the right to be at the top of cinematic pile.

Yet with all that ability to give us grand vistas and sweeping broad themes when Hitchcock started to deliberately limit the scope of his visions and the scale of his sets, think Lifeboat or the ‘one-shot’ Rope, is where he maybe plays best and all of the lessons learned in both styles of movie culminated in 1954 with the sumptuously performed, shot and directed Rear Window.

The setting and backstory is key to helping narrow the constraints of what, and where, things can happen and this in turn lets the actors carry the movie; James Stewart gives his usually solid performance and is the perfect lens for the viewer, the interplay between Jeff and Lisa (Grace Kelly) are light and realistic and the scene stealing asides by Stella (Thelma Ritter) bring this claustrophobic masterpiece to life, seating it in the best type of ‘everyman’ conspiracies that Hitch loved so much.

After Rear Window, Hitchcock moved up and out again culminating in the aforementioned, iconically scened, North by Northwest before returning to the confines of the Bates Motel… and we all know how that ended up.

And so it turns out that my favourite Hitchcock movie is one I often overlook yet is the most Hitchcockian of them all. A nice twist on a straightforward story, some excellent acting, humour, thrills, and of course a sight of the portly Sir Alfred himself (26 minutes in if you want to check). And you can’t really ever go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, can you.

Rear Window is probably the first clever movie I ever watched. It was a world away from his earlier movies with actors moving from scene to scene, location to location, which allowed us a pause, a breathing point during those transitions. His other movies largely have story twists to carry the entire movie (Dial M for Murder is not awash with wonderful performances) but the confines of the apartment blocks in Rear Window forces Hitchcock to adapt and switch styles, once the action starts there is no escape, like Jeff we cannot get away to a different place, we are stuck and have to watch it all unfolded, rapt and stuck on the edge of our seats.

I’m currently re-watching the rest of his movies, and whilst I struggle with the representation of women in all of them – you need only look at Tippi Hedren as an example – but throughout them all is a deftness of camera work and scene management, and a focus on the story above all. Hitch knew how to build tension, how to allow gaps, when to make us laugh, when to make us relax, and embraced all aspects of movie-making as part of a whole experience.

In his wake Spielberg was the next, most obvious, example of a true master of the cinematic experience, building visuals, sounds and knowing that it was just as important NOT to show the viewer details (how many times do you actually see the shark in Jaws?). Even in Hitchcocks earliest films, which were a little too keen to make sure the audience was following along, there is a tension, a knowing nod to the audience that whilst you might know some of the things that are going on, you don’t know everything.

I watch a lot of movies and most of the best examples, or at least most of my favourites, of the genre share some common traits; they are well shot with each frame telling its own part of the story, the directing is tight enough without suffocating the action and muting the story, and you are brought along on the journey with enough detail to enlighten but not so much as to remove the intrigue. That all adds up and helps me suspend my belief and buy-in to the world the movie inhabits. Hitchcock understood that this was key to get audiences to want to watch his movies.

One of the many phrases associated with Hitchcock is “Master of Suspense”, and given the breadth and depth of his work it’s not hard to understand why.

The big question is what to watch next, The Birds? Psycho? or Dial M for Murder?