21 January 2007

"Ralph Richardson got stuck in the lift"

Occasionally life throws up unexpectedly storming evenings that are above and beyond your normal "see your mates and drink a bit" type night out. It was a friend's birthday last night, and all I knew was that it was a joint thing in someone else's house on the seafront. We pulled up to find that not only was the party was being held at a beautiful mathematically tiled terrace house in one of the posher crescents, but it was the one where Laurence Olivier used to live. Tumbling out of a transit van clutching off-licence carrier bags was clearly the only way to arrive.

God, what a house. The stairs just went up and up, every floor full of antique furniture and so much space. Even the plumbing was posh, apparently. There was a dumb waiter going right from the basement to the (?)third floor, and one detail we picked up was that Sir Ralph Richardson got stuck between floors in it once. I'm sure he played many important roles in his long career, but I know him best as god in Time Bandits.

We mooched around and stood in the kitchen for a while before it got a bit crowded and so we liberated a few bottles and headed upstairs. A sitting room had a gorgeous oak dining room table in the back that amazingly no-one had colonised. Morrissey was singing "Irish Blood, English Heart", which made me happy. We set up camp, using pieces of paper as makeshift coasters (it was a really nice table) and got into it. Over the next few hours random people wandered in and out or sat on the sofas over by the windows. Some introduced themselves, sat down and had a few drags on our jazz cigarettes. Tales were swapped (one of the hosts had a good line in stories about free parties and festivals) and the world set to right. There was dancing downstairs which a few people indulged in, but mainly we stayed put, occasionally foraging for more wine. It seemed like the best table in Brighton, and probably was.

For the first time in my ungrateful life I might even write a thank you note after a party. Scenes like that don't come along too often for us mortals.

18 January 2007

Talking to a Scotsman about Serifs

In the course of my working day today I had a conversation with an old man about the typeface Joanna, designed by Eric Gill. We both agreed that the use of flat serifs on an otherwise classically-based font helped draw the eye along the page.

So there you go. Of course the thing about Eric Gill is that he used to regularly have sex with his children, which long after his death came as a bit of a surprise to the world considering a large portion of his work is religious in tone and he lived for much of his live in monastically styled artist's communities.

So does it affect his art and designs? Well, yes, because he had sex with his children. And no, cos they're some of the finest creative pieces of the twentieth century and art is art is art.

The biographer who uncovered all this in the 1980s writes a good article in the Guardian about it here, and as she comments, interest in him has actually increased since her book came out. The public love a bit of scandal.

But his influence was so widespread, and his sculptures and book illustrations so prolific, that it would be hard to get rid of them. Apart from the fact that his daughters grew up apparently well-adjusted, history is full of nasty shit that you can't escape. So I think it's all ok. And as you can see from one of his fantastically out-there wood engravings for the Song of Solomon below, sanctity and shagging were for him much the same thing. Genius is genius, even if it's not very nice.

08 January 2007

A Peek at Mod Towers

Some friends were over for dinner last night, and their little boy was clicking away with their new camera. He took this random shot that came out rather well, and I thought I'd post it with a brief commentary into why these people are on my wall, especially as recent developments combined with an increasing need for wallspace mean they won't be there much longer...

The middle one is the simplest. The Stone Roses. 'Nuff said.

Top right is her from Echobelly, not Audrey Hepburn as many people have assumed. I had a serious Britpop crush on her back in the day, and old habits die hard, not least cos it's been up in every room and flat I've had since 1994.

And on the left is a shot from the film If..., from right at the end where our heroes get up on the roof and machine gun all the people coming out of chapel. If that seems a bit harsh, I'd advise sitting through the whole thing, a savage indictment of Public school culture and conformity. Having had to listen to the Kipling poem from which the title is taken at the start of every term at my own boarding school, I can't help but sympathise with Malcolm McDowell every time I watch it. That's not to say that taking to the rooftops to machine gun people on Speech Days is necessarily the best course of action, but it does remind me who to hate. (The Church, the Military and all the other people who tell you how to think, in a nutshell). And not, as ever, to believe the hype.

Mod out of bluetack.

04 January 2007

Late Album of the Year entry

Ages ago Ford burned me "Rabbit Fur Coat" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. Being an ungrateful sort I didn't listen to it until last week, when getting a new hifi in our stockroom at work meant I could listen to cd's for the first time. So I put it on, and then put it on again, and it's pretty much been on ever since. It's just under 40 minutes long, so that's a lot of plays even since last week.

The first thing I noticed were the lyrics, pithy little verses with a certain cynicism and humour. Backing singers that chime in to emphasise lyrics, not just to make everything louder. And the tunes have catchy hooks and lines you remember ("my dad starts growing Bob Dylan's beard"), which is all I ask (is it so hard? Radiohead? hmm?). The songs wouldn't be out of place sung by either Emmylou Harris or some modern bunch of scruffy indie kids. Dolly Parton should definitely cover "Big Guns".
Late in the day, under the radar, Album of the Year round the Mod's place.

Hype Machine
will probably get you some tunes, "Rise Up with Fists" or "The Charging Sky" are my faves but they're all good.
Also, the "Rise Up with Fists" video, briefly featuring Sarah Silverman. Which is always a good thing.

Mod off to google the b-sides.