Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Christmas hiatus

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM KEY WEST!

...and they decorated well into the night

…and they decorated well into the night

Normal service resumes no later than January the 5th, 2013. Probably sooner. Hell, who even knows?

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Milestones [+SOTW]

It has been a week of milestones.

Monday was the 3rd of December, thus marking the halfway point for my stay in Key West. I miss you all, but light is at the end of the tunnel!!

Tuesday marked the 19th anniversary of the death of Frank Zappa, who died on the same day in 1993 at the tragically young age of 52. Cruelly, he died of prostate cancer despite having lead a relatively healthy life for a rock musician (his only vice was cigarettes). During his fight with cancer, he worked 14 hours a day on tying together the many loose ends his endlessly creative mind had left him with, to protect and preserve the remarkable legacy his music leaves us. I wish he was still alive.

I would have dedicated this week’s song to Zappa, my musical idol, if it weren’t for the fact that Wednesday saw the death, 1 day short of his 92nd birthday, of Dave Brubeck, popular jazz composer who pioneered the use of unusual time signatures in Jazz. His 2 ‘classic’ compositions, Take Five and Blue Rondo a la Turk have doubtless been played ad nauseam to mark his passing, so I include my favourite of the less known pieces below with some fantastic dancing to accompany.

On Thursday and Friday nothing much happened. K-Midz left hospital and there was an Earthquake in Japan? Will that do to preserve the theme?

Today’s (yes, it is still Saturday here, by a whisker) milestone comes in the form of a club-record 9 games unbeaten in the top flight for Norwich City, following the white knuckle ride of the 3-4 win over Swansea (it was 0-3 to us at half time!).

And tomorrow marks 2 weeks before my family gets here. Somebody’s a bit excited for that one…

 

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The Reichenbach Cliffhanger: how did Sherlock fake his own death?

Those of you who watched Sherlock, the BBC’s fabulous modern-day adaptation of Conan-Doyle’s deer-stalker wearing detective, may recognise the above title. Those of you who didn’t watch it, should do so. Watch all of it, watch it well, and watch it now. It should only take you 9 hours, then you can come back. Done it? Good. At the end of the final episode of series 2, ‘The Reichenback Fall’, Sherlock appears to cheat death as he jumps from the top of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital only to be seen alive and well in the final shot before the credits (at his own funeral, as it happens).

*SPOILER ALERT* OR MAYBE JUST SPOILER-ISH, SINCE NOTHING’S CONFIRMED

So how did he fake his own death so well? The extent to which my theories* are blindingly obvious is not clear to me, but on the off chance that some of my ponderings come as revelations to you lot, here goes. The timeline of events is as follows. Sherlock asks Molly (the girl in the Bart’s mortuary who Sherlock’s horrible to, remember?) to help him, and relies on her being in love with him to ensure that she a)is loyal and b) takes every effort to fulfil his plan and save his life. The first thing that she engineers is the call from the ‘paramedics’ to Watson that Mrs Hudson has been shot (which later turns out to be untrue). This is in order to remove Watson from Bart’s so that Sherlock can face Moriarty, and also so that Watson can participate (unknowingly) in another part of the plan.

Now, Sherlock meets Moriarty on the roof in order to convince him to shoot himself*. He then waits for Watson to return and calls him the second he gets out of the Taxi to deliver his ‘suicide note’. Before he tells Watson he is a fraud, he makes sure he remains standing exactly where the Taxi dropped him off. This is extremely important, because although the way the scene is shot by the director makes it seem as if John has a direct and unobstructed line of sight to Sherlock, this is not the case. There is a smallish red brick building between Watson and Bart’s, obscuring about the final quarter of Sherlock’s fall from the roof.
Red brick

The Taxi driver, who just so happens to be in Baker Street when Watson emerges from 221b is clearly in on the plan too. Not only does he stop at exactly the right place opposite Bart’s, he also appears to be arguing with somebody who wants a ride outside 221b, suggesting that he is refusing to take any fare other than Watson.
Taxi

The ‘suicide note’ in which Sherlock confesses to being a fraud is also significant. It serves 2 purposes. Firstly, it is an attempt by Sherlock to minimise John’s grief at his death. Secondly, and more importantly, it is in order to ensure he is forgotten. The episode takes pains to show how Sherlock’s increasing fame is making it hard for him to remain an effective ‘private’ detective. His fame is also behind his downfall: so many officers eager to believe he’s a fraud due to a toxic combination of jealousy and embarrassment caused by Sherlock’s success. By instructing John to tell everyone in his life that he is a fraud, to let the newspapers know and remove any chance of him being seen as a martyr, he maximises the likelihood that he can fade away and be forgotten.

When Sherlock jumps, he can be seen to be a fair way out from the building, perpendicular to it.
Perpendicular

As John begins to round the corner of the red brick building following Sherlock’s fall, we can momentarily see a red laundry truck next to Sherlock’s body, which is now parallel to Bart’s.
Truck

John is then knocked down by a cyclist. This is also planned by Sherlock, and executed by members of the homeless network that he employs in order to delay, disorientate and confuse Watson lest he catch on to what Sherlock has done. This disorientation can be shown not only by the director’s emphasis of John’s discombobulation, but also by the disjointed series of events as John is hit. In the frame as John is hit, the red laundry truck is missing, and a crowd of people have gathered around Sherlock’s body.
No truck crowd

However, after John is hit, and is struggling to get to his feet, we are shown a shot with the red truck clearly present, driving away from the spot where Sherlock fell, and the crowd of people just beginning to assemble.
Truck no crowd

So far then, my theory is that Sherlock jumped in to the laundry truck. Then it is my opinion that he burst a capsule of fake blood (supplied by Molly) on his head, took a pill to stop his heart (supplied by Molly, possibly taken whilst still on the roof), and either knocked himself out and jumped on the floor, or had the driver of the truck do it. This explains how he comes to be parallel to Bart’s, and also how he has no pulse when John checks it. There are no gaping head wounds, or any other wounds for that matter, which would not be expected after a fall on to concrete from such a great height (surely?!). The shot directly after the fall where Sherlock hits the floor parallel is, thus, slightly out of sequence.

The paramedics, possibly arranged by Molly, arrive eerily fast and whisk Sherlock away into Bart’s, where his heart is to be restarted, and then wrongly pronounced dead by a complicit Molly. Mission Accomplished**.

Most of my points can be reviewed here:

Excuse me now for a bit whilst I bask in my own smugness***.

*Other theories include Moriarty not really being dead either and gravity being a masonic conspiracy. Not that last one.

** One variant that I considered in an earlier version of my thesis is that the body is an elaborate and sophisticated cadaver supplied by Molly. Seems unlikely to me.

***Please continue the debate in the comment section if you have alternative pointers

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Videos, pictures, cat poo, boobs, costumes, powerboats, oyster races… just another few days in Key West.

An eventful and stressful week or two. The stress can be almost entirely put down to a few specific things at work which will come to an end soon enough, and so it doesn’t bother me too much since it’s just a matter of toughing it out for a little while more. You don’t want to hear me complain and I can’t talk about it in any case so that’s the end of that.

Halloween

Halloween is a big deal in the states, a big fucking deal. We had a Halloween party at work for the residents and it was extremely well received. A number of gruesome looking foods were cooked up by staff and residents alike, including my contribution, a Cat Litter Cake which was a big success and Goblin Snot, which I made with the leftovers from the Cake recipe. One of the residents who suffers from acute depression was particularly amused by it, and we ended up having a long conversation about baseball. It was another link in the chain of happily rewarding moments I have been gradually accumulating.

Fantasy Fest

I went down to Old Town on the final 2 nights of the week-long extravaganza and experienced the most eclectic mix of the good, the bad and the ugly (you’ll see what I mean in a bit!) that I have ever known. The Friday involved the smaller scale of the 2 parades, where many of the locals dress up (or down) in all manner of outfits and then march through the city. As luck would have it I wondered up on a corner in the route, meaning I had an excellent view of the approaching mass of the variously perverse, weird, creative, colourful or downright confusing that was coming my way.

I got many pictures that night, including some real gems (well done little Sony camera!). I will have to censor slightly I think; in the end the reason I stopped taking pictures was because I could no longer stand the shame of taking pictures of so many naked or semi-naked people. More on that later. One highlight that I did not manage to snap was a group of women with penises glued to their heads, dressed up in suits (dickheads, you see), who would drink a toast out of their Romney/Ryan 2012 mugs whenever the cameras were pointed their way. That and a sign saying ‘Rock out with your Conch out’.

The next night was the main parade which was utterly overwhelming, and pretty damn cool. The lighting conditions were very challenging for photos (poor little Sony camera), and so I took way too many videos instead. I’ll put a few of these up but sadly, the parade was so spectacular is sort of has to be seen first-hand in order to grasp its creative and physical magnitude.

Loved this guy.

Sadly this is the best shot I got at an otherwise brilliant costume


Hell hath no fury like this man’s accompanying gyrations. Terrifying.

Whilst there was no denying it was marvellous entertainment and a huge feat of organisation and ingenuity, I had mixed feelings about the whole event. On one hand I admired the participants for their willingness to let themselves go and enjoy the moment. The peculiarly American way they cast away doubt, fear and social-anxiety is a mystery to me. The result is an energetic and impressive enthusiasm, a sort of ostentatious get up and go without which is the life-blood of Fantasy Fest.

On the other hand I felt there was a significant element of open and virile misogyny the crowd. Worse, there were a number of creepy seeming old men with expensive cameras taking pictures of every exposed bit of flesh they could find. The spectacle of rich American men coming to Fantasy Fest to ogle beautiful women that they clearly could not have seen any other, more organic way, was a tad jarring. And me with my camera feeling very uncomfortable, seeming as I did a member of that same club.

The extent to which both these characteristics are the result of socio-economic conditions is an interesting but unresolved question to me. And maybe I’m just a terrible prude. But why can’t they just stick to pornography, which for all the potentially unethical behaviour in its production is still basically a commercial product and which has the full informed consent of its participants to be viewed as sexual objects? Why muddy the waters by infiltrating a civic event which, notwithstanding its risqué sides, is nowhere close to an explicitly sexual endeavour?

Sherlock

A few days later, I went to a reassuringly boring and uneventful Halloween party of my own, as it happens. I went as Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes in shorts.

Gideon’s Daughter

For all the occasions when I’m a) too lazy to write a blog post and, b) bored, I have purchased a Netflix subscription. It’s a great investment in my opinion, and the other day I watched Stephen Poliakoff’s Gideon’s Daughter starring Bill Nighy (Gideon) and Emily Blunt (‘s daughter, Natasha). To the film critics, the plot is a not all that unconventional account of 2 grief stricken people who connect over their shared sorrow and fall in love. Well acted, written and directed as it is, that’s still a bit of a boring plot. To me however, the story of Gideon’s relationship with Stella is a shade, or a brushstroke, not the picture itself. The main conflict is between what is a real, genuine human experience and what is cold, manufactured, and emotionally hollow ‘event’.

French Philosopher and Marxist Social Theorist Guy Debord covered this area with his theory of ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. Paraphrasing greatly here (I don’t fully understand his Frenchiness), he argued that modern society had degraded the experience of living by ‘the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing’. The cult of the image and the advance of superficiality had led to social life being replaced with its representation: ‘All that once was directly lived has become mere representation’.

The film is set between 1997 and 2000, and Gideon is London’s most sought after PR man, in the world of New Labour, Princess Diana, the Millennium Dome and Britpop. In other words, he is at the epicentre of the Spectacular Society. Despite his outwardly in control and successful persona, the events of the film, his obsessive love for his daughter, and his burgeoning relationship with a down to earth Londoner, Stella, reveal to Gideon and the viewer that the emperor has no clothes, that what really matters to him are his daughter and Stella, and that the circles he used to swim in are hopelessly shallow, empty to the core. In the words of the narrator, they need to grow up. In the process of making this complicated point, it also happens to be profoundly moving (to me at any rate!).

The film is not a dismissal of celebrity, or mass media, or politicians, or pop culture so much as an outburst of frustration at the arrogant and elitist attitude that many hold in pursuit of being the next big thing. Gideon’s struggle is to avoid becoming the sort of barren and unfulfilled shell of a person that he has made it his career to promote. Love, for Stella and Natasha, is what allows him to break out of his chains so you could say it’s about the power of love, but truthfully that’s a gross simplification, and you should just watch if for yourselves.

In some small way then, this post has a common theme: fantasy and reality, in life and in art.

Ollie goes for a walkabout

On Friday I stumbled upon an Oyster Race. Confused? So was I when I read the sign, but it turns out you bet on which Oyster a trained cook can open up with a knife the fastest. If you win then you get to choose a numbered key which opens doors in 3 cabinets possibly containing prizes up to $500. The best thing about it was the gent rigged up to a microphone who commentated on each 3-5 second race at 100mph as if it were the single most thrilling event in the history of humankind.

Suffice to say my oysters did not take part in the race.

After that I went for a stroll on the waterfront where I happened upon the mooring station for all the powerboats that were in town for the international powerboat racing they have in Key West. I have to say that, despite all my reservations, these machines were very, very cool. The contrast between how they sat so low and flat against water and the angular precision with which they cut the water at the bow and also their flamboyant cockpit styling (all dials and levers and leather trim) was cool enough, but what really did it was the noise. On the few occasions where an engine was fired up in my vicinity you could feel the air crackling with the energy of these hell-cats. The engine tones were volatile and inconsistent, leading to a sense of danger and unpredictability that is missing (with good reason) from car engines. One of them, painted a pure coat of jet black, looked like it came from a Batman film (or the original Just Cause video game, for those of you have played it).

During all of this I got all think-y about the merits of travelling alone. The downsides are more obvious and, for a social animal like myself, clearly outweigh the benefits. However, that is not to say that there aren’t any benefits. Being left entirely to one’s own thoughts allows a closer observation of the people and events around you. When you’re also thinking about what to put in your blog (which in cases like this turns into more of a kind of public diary) it sharpens your focus towards actually coming to conclusions about the things you experience, and how you experience them.

Then on the midst of my philosophical musings, my foot started to hurt. It turned out to be a fairly bad case of Cellulitis (ouch!) so I ended up in hospital yesterday. The anti-biotics seem to be doing the trick even though I still have the world’s best comedy limp. All is well. I hope this satisfies your huge appetite for anecdotes about my life. Can you tell I’m tired? Now to upload this monstrosity…

P.S. Don’t forget to vote on Thursday! If I have time I will do a post on the elections, but in case I do not, VOTE! And if you’re not sure how to vote just do me a favour and vote Labour, ok?

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Good luck to everyone going to uni!

I can’t really explain how weird it feels to see everyone leaving for university. In fact I feel quite nervous on everyone else’s part. I really hope everyone enjoys themselves, settles in and makes some good friends. Not too good though. We don’t want that. You still have to be an Elean first and foremost. So really I hope everyone’s a miserable outcast. HA. So there. Just remember…

Really though, good luck all. See you at Easter.

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Beginner’s Luck

And so to the daunting task of typing my first post in such a way that is neither too formal nor too chatty, which is not pretentious, or frightfully self-aware, or rambling, or incoherent and which does not bore people to death. If I achieve this I shall henceforth consider myself a veritable blog-writing Shakespeare. Wish me luck!

So, what do I expect from the next 6 months?

Really, I’m not too sure. I have many hopes and just as many anxieties, but very little seems concrete to me. One thing I am certain of is that it will be a horizon-expanding experience. I fully expect to look back at this post in 6 months and find that reality was not much like my predictions, but here goes. I’m hoping for the opportunity to tackle something completely different, and that by volunteering for Heron-Peacock (website link in the ‘about’ section); by getting to know the residents and their stories, by understanding their problems, and above all by working hard to help them get back on their feet, I will not only have made a difference of which I can truly be proud, I may also have gone some way to feeling more aware of and connected to the situation of those less fortunate than myself.

That feeling of connection which I hope to foster is what links the next 6 months to my academic study at university. In my mind, it is a political desire of mine to do this work for political reasons and ends. Anything you do which affects others in society should be recognised as being to a greater or lesser extent a political act. I’m not trying to say that you should live your life constantly fretting about the political connotations of your every act, as some deranged fanatics do, merely that there is a political dimension to just about anything. And I personally embark on this particular trip mindful of the political and sociological context. That’s the bit for the university admissions tutors out of the way…

Also, just to state the totally fucking obvious (a pavlovian response to years of exams training), I’m going to remind myself that I’m going to a tropical island in the Caribbean with a reputation for being laid back and chilled out. How could I not have fun, meet people and make friends, get a tan, eat exotic food and see incredible things?

Why am I blogging it?

As a way of keeping in touch with people, keeping them informed and recording what I hope will be an unforgettable experience. In addition I’ll have to adapt myself from my usual habit of consuming media, blogs, news, commentary and analysis, to producing it. I hope this process will lead me to new ways of thinking and expressing myself, as well as giving me the freedom to discuss topics which I feel are neglected. I’d love it if you’d comment, even (especially, in fact) if you disagree with me, so that this process can become a bit less static and a bit more interactive; ‘blogging adventurously’ if you will. It’s just possible it’ll improve my writing style too (I’m painfully aware that my sentences are way too long, and that I overuse parentheses. (Case in point.)).

One last thing…

… a chubby korean rapper (credit to Yonny for showing me this!)

Today is the 1st. I fly on the 3rd.
Adios amigos, Key West here I come!

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