Bill Murray on dying

“You’ve gotta go out there and improvise and you’ve gotta be completely unafraid to die. You’ve got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You’re goin’ out there with just a whisper of an idea.”

Half decent Bill Murray interview in Esquire; I’d say he’s earned the right to give the kind of advice you’d imagine Hemingway would.

Nowhere Boy

Hopefully I’ll get to the cinema over the Christmas break – Avatar in 3D looks set to be monumental and I’d like to see Where the Wild Things Are on a big screen, too – but perhaps top of my list is Nowhere Boy, the movie about John Lennon’s teenage years. It’s out on Boxing Day in the UK, and the early word from Kermode – my film oracle – is that it’s pretty good. The Guardian is less keen, but the details sound great:

“Perhaps [Director Sam] Taylor Wood’s wittiest touch is to begin her film with the first, jangling chord from A Hard Day’s Night, which is simply allowed to hang there unresolved in the silence – a weirdly atonal effect, replacing the song’s happy connotations with something more disturbing: a harbinger of something momentous.”

The script, reviewed by the excellent Script Shadow, focusses on Lennon’s relationship with his mother, Julia, and his Aunt, Mimi. It frames Julia as a free spirit who portends the coming of the 60s – with its focus on creativity, self determination and individualism, even at the expense of community, responsibility and sanity, while Mimi as representative of traditional values and structure. As well as being dramatically strong, it’s not a completely inaccurate way to go about the story, and Lennon did come to see his relationship with Julia as embodying something psychically crucial – the song he finally named after her, included on 1968’s The White Album, makes explicit the transference of affection between Julia and Yoko, with its purring reference to the calls of the ‘ocean child’, a play on the literal interpretation of the kanji for Yoko (洋子).
Anyway, the trailer for the film is embedded below. Sadly, the music choices (yes, choices, in a trailer) seem to miss the mark – surely it should be some rock and roll music (any old way you choose it)?

The best DVD commentaries

When it comes to books, games and music I’m often happiest away from the bright lights of the charts, exploring dark, dusty corners of the catalogue. Film, though… I never seem to enjoy going beyond big budget megahits. I’ve fallen asleep in every single one of Pedro Almodovar’s films.

These three threads (one, two, three) on the always excellent Ask Metafilter feature people recommending their favourite DVD commentaries, and sound like they might inspire me to be a more considerate and appreciative student of film. The posts are worth reading in their entirety, but the following were consistently recommended:

  • Spinal Tap ( “This Is Spinal Tap is pretty excellent- the cast does their commentary in character, complaining about how the movie was a hatchet job. It’s sort of like having a whole new Spinal Tap movie” – COBRA!)
  • Ghostbusters
  • Roger Ebert’s commentaries on Citizen Kane and Dark City
  • Various seasons of The Simpsons and Futurama
  • John Carpenter and Kurt Russell on both Escape From New York and Big Trouble in Little China

I can’t stand Wes Anderson’s films – tedium that mistakes faux-depressed self-regard for genuine self-revelation – but I liked thirteen’s description of how to listen/watch a film with commentary:

“I find the commentary tracks on the Criterion Rushmore and Royal Tenenbaum DVD’s to be very relaxing. I know the movies backwards and forwards, and Wes Anderson’s voice is good company when I am drawing late at night. Plus his observations are often things perpendicular to the movie so it feels more like what you would talk about at a party than what he is trying to do in a scene.”

Who would win in a fight? The Mummy or the Wolf-Man?

“In the future, if your children ask you, “Who would win in a fight?  The Mummy or the Wolf-Man?” please refer them to this list, as it will save a lot of time…. Monsters are rated according to how dangerous they are against each other, and then according to how dangerous they are to all the other monsters on the list. Only if all other metrics are equal is the relative danger to the average human considered–because, let’s face it, they’re all dangerous to the average human.  They are monsters.

“Now, here’s the thing about regular vampires:  they’re fucking lame.  They sneak around in the dark and drain blood from people.  They talk a big game, sure, and everyone thinks they’re sexy.  But is sexy going to protect you from the Wolf-Man?  No.  The Wolf-Man is going to tear your god-damn head off.”

Don’t miss the author’s follow up in the comments, addressing why Godzilla isn’t in there.

The only thing I would add to this is:

14. Chuck Norris.

A music post: What if Beyonce was your Gran? What if she could predict economic turmoil?

beyonce-is-your-gran1

Yes, what if? Well, wonder no more – this very odd picture (which may or may not be photoshopped) was used by the Guardian to illustrate a story about how there’s apparently an inverse correlation between the stability of the stock markets and the regularity of beats in pop songs:

“Beyoncé’s worldwide hit, Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), is not just catchy – it may spell doom for international finance.

According to findings by Phil Maymin, professor of finance and risk engineering at New York University, the more regular the beat on Billboard’s top singles, the more volatile the American markets. After studying decades of Billboard’s Hot 100 hits, Maymin found that songs with low “beat variance” had an inverse correlation with market turbulence. Which is to say, the more regular the song, the crazier the stock market.

And Single Ladies is very regular.”

Cue dramatic music. The meme of a link between turmoil and culture is old of course – why else would a researcher even be looking at this field – and is expressed in a well known speech by Harry Lime in The Third Man:

Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

The Wikipedia entry reveals the line wasn’t in Graham Greene’s speech, but was added by Orson Welles:

Greene wrote in a letter (Oct. 13, 1977) “What happened was that during the shooting of The Third Man it was found necessary for the timing to insert another sentence.” Welles apparently said the lines came from “an old Hungarian play”; the painter Whistler, in a lecture on art from 1885… said, “The Swiss in their mountains … What more worthy people! … yet, the perverse and scornful [goddess, Art] will none of it, and the sons of patriots are left with the clock that turns the mill, and the sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box!”

Part 2: New Bon Iver

Fine, his album, For Emma, Forever Ago wasn’t the album of the year (wrong OMM! PFork got it right – Fleet Foxes), but his new track, Blood Bank is great. You can stream it from Pitchfork; looks like he’s taken the Iron & Wine route and added cheerier instruments while heaping on the dread and spookiness.

Part 3: A pop star from Blackpool

Being as it’s where much of my immediate family come from, Blackpool is close to my heart,  it’s good to hear one of this year’s most tipped pop acts, Little Boots, is a native of that strange, cold and fascinating place. There’s an interview with her in the Guardian, and you can listen to a few tracks on her MySpace. For those interested in the economic ramifications of her music, it’s electronic and quite regular.

Most definitely not a 40 degree day

Stringer Bell

Do you know who this man is? If not, you are in for a treat… This is Stringer Bell, one of the many brilliant characters from a fantastic TV show called The Wire. It is to cop shows what Charles Dickens is to books about orphans. Smart, brutal, compelling and just true, true in that way only fiction can be.

You absolutely have to see it.

And now you can, because The Guardian is going to be streaming episode 1 of the first series for free from tomorrow, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/thewire. At first I just popped this into my delicious stream, but now that I think about it, there’s something quite interesting here. After all, why is the Guardian doing this? Why not Channel 4, or even HBO, the program’s producers?

For starters, the Guardian is going great guns for the web, with lots of blogging and video and audio. Secondly, perhaps it’s a sign they are embracing their role as a filter. In the past, newspapers and other forms of mainstream media effectively created the news and the news agenda; with the proliferation of information on the web, the most successful sites are filters such as blogs and digg, places that have a certain outlook and area of interest, and that then flag up interesting, relevant items. Promoting the Wire perhaps shows the Guardian embracing its power as a filter as much as an originator of news. It is also, of course, a way of ‘hosting the conversation’ – because while it’s great to read positive reviews of TV shows (and music and movies etc), it’s better to then be able to connect directly to that media.

Regardless of the reason behind it, it’s a good move. The Wire richly deserves a wider audience. Oh, and if you want to see what the post title refers to, here is Stringer in action – it’s from series 3, but doesn’t give away any pieces of the plot in series 1. Plenty of swearing, though, so be warned.

Joost invites all gone – I wonder why?

The post title says it all – took a little over 24 hours, but my latest Joost invites are now all gone. The lucky recipients were:

* McGuyver
* Tony Jones of Compelling Content
* Alan Hussey
* Perry Taylor

When Joost next dole out some more invites, I’ll put a post up, same as before, so stay tuned.

I learned two things from this experiment:

1. Joost has phenomenal brand power; people are hugely interested in it, which is hardly surprising given the track record of the company’s founders. It’s interesting that it’s these previous projects and the rigmarole of the invites process which are being used to generate momentum/PR for Joost; it’s a start contrast to the way TV networks normally sell themselves, which is of course, on the basis of their content.

The main reason for this is that, as everyone who has received an invite from me finds out about 15 minutes after loading Joost up, there really isn’t a lot of content on there – certainly not that’s any good. Only the White Stripes and QOTSA interviews from Canadian TV have really held my interest.

I don’t think this is the only reason Joost is opting for a drip-drip-drip of info and invites; PR wise, the most successful company in the world right now is Apple, a company which generates huge media interest by opting for secrecy. It does make you wonder if Wired’s current cover story, ‘Get Naked And Rule the World‘ is a little off target. Given Apple and Joost’s approach, and of course the secrecy notoriously favoured by Google, do you really believe the following, from the article’s intro, is true?

“Smart companies are sharing secrets with rivals, blogging about
products in their pipeline, even admitting to their failures. The name
of this new game is RADICAL TRANSPARENCY, and it’s sweeping boardrooms
across the nation.”

2. The second fact I learned is that Google blog search is fantastic; I had comments responding to my post within 30 minutes – and I think, from the stats, that pretty much everyone found the post via Google (or via an existing bookmark) – not Technorati. Something for Technorati to be very worried about, I think.

Joost Invites

Joost™

As I am a well connected mover-n-shaker in the world of technology put my e-mail address into the Joost site early on, I have some Joost Beta invites going spare. E-mail me / leave a comment if you fancy one and giving the service a go.

UPDATE / 16th April. Invites all gone.