Archive for December, 2010

2010: The Soundtrack

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

This piece of music has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas, and everything to do with how I’m feeling right now, looking ahead to a winter break and a chance to catch up with friends and family. Twenty-six of us last I heard, with lot of little people. Should be fun.

I got the tune into my head last night and went looking on Spotify. Turns out it’s composed by Hans Zimmer, who seems to have been everywhere for me this year. I guess that started with Inception, around the same time I started walking in to work and back.

Some soundtracks only seem to work when you’re on the move – play them in the office and people get all jittery. Inception‘s definitely one of those, this track more than any other:

Some time shortly after I saw Inception I watched Heat, just to remind myself what a proper heist movie looks like. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Inception, I make it the best blockbuster to come out of Hollywood in the last ten years, but it had nothing of the moral complexity that makes Heat the signature movie in the one-last-job genre.

Moby’s God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters plays out the final scene, drawing the whole thing together perfectly. I remember it from some of the first mornings walking into Shoreditch, as Saf and I guided our new business through its baby steps.

I got myself into the habit of walking Lola in to school in the morning, after which I’d set off along Kingsland Road, one long straight line leading into the heart of the city. An election was looming, like the monolithic glass tower standing over London’s Square Mile, and I was gripped by the idea that if I applied myself, and worked hard, maybe I too could never have to work in a building like that.

I think part of the reason I’ve been so hung up on soundtracks is because a lot of the time I’ve been writing in my head, trying to find a certain place or catch the mood of a particular moment. At some point in 2010 I watched Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line.

It feels like trivialising it to call it a war movie but it’s definitely a film about war, with Zimmer’s score playing a huge part. For a while that became a staple feature of my morning commute, as the skies over London Fields darkened and the temperature began to drop.

Some time towards the end of the year we got the chance to pitch on Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Black Swan, with a score by Clint Mansell. Remembering that Mansell scored Duncan Jones’ Moon, one of my favourite films of last year, I added that to my peripatetic playlist.

Of all the soundtracks I’ve listened to few surpass Moon in terms of connecting me with key moments from the film. Moments of discovery and realisation, and the resulting melancholy, echoing through artificial containment, frozen in space.

Moon coincided with the anniversary of the passing of my cousin, Max. I can remember listening to it on the morning of the nineteenth, trying to find something worthwhile in the day. Sometimes you just have to accept that sadness is that something.

Mansell also worked with Aronofsky on his first film of any real note, π (Pi), the soundtrack for which plays as a frenetic mix of cerebral sound-bites and surging electronica, reading like a who’s who of people who mattered back when knob-twiddling was a young man’s game. Orbital, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Roni Size, Massive Attack, David Holmes and the man behind this track, Banco de Gaia.

The last track I’m including is Staralfur, by Sigur Ros, from the end of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. It was the inspiration for a scene I envisaged back at the very beginning of 2010, off the back of which I now seem to be reverse-engineering an entire film. I’m sure that’s not the way you’re supposed to do it, but at least I get to spend a few hours of each week holed up in a motor-home, on the banks of a loch, lost in the search for Scotland’s second most famous monster.

I’ve set up YouTube and Spotify playlists featuring all of these, meaning anyone who cares to can listen through without interruption.

That’s me for 2010 I think, I’m going AWOL for a week or two, meaning that you will have to do awhile without my charming commentary and humorous observations on this silly little thing we call life. Unless, of course, you are one of twenty-six appointed friends and relatives, in which case I’m sure you can barely contain yourself.

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[UPDATE 24/12/2010]: Dane from Silverlake points out that the first track on this playlist is not really composed by Hans Zimmer, nor was True Romance the first film it was used in. It is in fact Gassenhauer, by Carl Orff, which appeared in the 1973 film Badlands directed by… Terrence Malick. And here it is…

The Tree of Life

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Not sure what to say about this. Don’t want to call it too early, but it looks like it could be an absolute masterpiece. Watch this space.

Who leaks the leakymen?

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

From the ever-excellent XKCD:

And my favourite Assangism of the last day or two:
“We now know that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and others are instruments of US foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.”

He’s right you know – that piece of plastic in our back pockets marks us out as card-carrying members of the Ignorati™. If you don’t know what I’m talking about why not head on over to ITV.com (never thought I’d be saying that) and watch John Pilger’s ‘The War We Don’t See’.

And, for those of you who are unhappy with the fact I’ve let my militant streak do the blogging for the last few posts, I give you… DOUBLE DREAM HANDS!!!

For everybody else, there’s always Bill…

Heads will roll

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Am I alone in thinking that this was just a brilliantly executed photo op?

The most ‘human’ of the royals, and surely the most expendable, the muttony paragon of Upper-Middle England bundled into a limo and rolled into the midst of a marauding mob who think the world owes them a living. (Or that, when they earn one, they shouldn’t have to hand it straight back as repayment on the generation we mortgaged to pay for that Bentley.) Suddenly the real news is chased off the front pages and the troops are rallied afresh in defence of an establishment still reeling from It’s a Royal Knockout.

Such a wonderful portrait of rude interruption. Poor old Camilla can barely believe it. You pop out for an evening of good old-fashioned thrown-in-your-honour royal variety, take one wrong turn, and before you know it you’re mingling with really-the-most-awful people. There’s going to be hell to pay for poor old Charlie when he gets home, he’s bricking it already.

And what better excuse for a few days of self-righteous indignation rippling through the Home Counties, an immaculate pretext for Tory-but-still-read-a-tabloid to cuddle up in front of Strictly, shuddering at the thought that, well, if it can happen to Them, it could happen to anybody. I’m sure they’re comforted by the thought that further disincentivising a generation from pursuing higher education will make it that much easier to arm them with shields and truncheons next time we need to defend our so-very-civil liberty.

I wonder what Churchill would have made of it. Never knew the man, but he seemed to like a good scrap. I’m thinking he would have thought it only right that the royals get out there on the front line and fight for what’s theirs. As for the kids, well who can deny their warrior spirit. Sure, some of them might have been drunk, but they would have sobered up the next morning, and Camilla, well…

Am I picking sides? Not really. I’m on the side that says the lunatic fringe of both movements is just as crazy and dangerous as the other, but I’d rather take my chances with the mob than take a ride in that Bentley. Their rank and file have more style, and they march under the banner of a good idea. Whereas the other lot, don’t get me wrong, but they look kind of stupid. And awfully high-maintenance.

Pictures used without permission of The Big Picture at Boston.com, where you will find them all fully accredited and at the resolution they deserve.

ANON OPS: A Manifesto

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

George Orwell might have been dead for sixty years, but right now he’s lying in a coffin somewhere in a churchyard in Sutton Courtenay with a massive hard-on.

Weapon of choice

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Image from arstechnica

From today’s Guardian

Crucially, the attacks aimed at bringing WikiLeaks and its cache of diplomatic cables offline are being countered by a mass effort of technological support for the whistleblowers’ site.

Counterattacks have been mounted against companies that have dropped WikiLeaks. Each of the six companies, including Amazon and eBay, that have severed ties with Assange and WikiLeaks following political pressure have quickly become the subject of sustained online assaults. It took just hours for the Swiss bank, PostFinance, to be brought offline after announcing it was closing Assange’s account.

The ephemeral Anonymous group has claimed responsibility for the attacks as part of what it calls “Operation Payback”.

Are these the battle lines of the future being drawn up before our very eyes? Washington cites ‘homeland security’ as it rallies corporate America to disavow legitimate customers, before a single prosecution has been completed, a single conviction gained? Double-pronged attacks on the economic and technical infrastructure of the militant wings of a diminishingly free press, retaliation for which falls to an anonymous ageographical network of tech-savvy ideologues, weaponising data in defence of the truth.

Joe Lieberman might think he has the heavy artillery, bringing the big guns of Visa and Mastercard to bear upon the enemies of the free world, but who exactly is he aiming at? Only the neo-narcissists, men like Assange, sticking their heads above the parapet for the satisfaction of having them shot off. The beheading of Wikileaks will only see one head replaced by two, and two by four, precipitating the binary proliferation of an insuppressable underlying principle. They tried it with Napster, and look where that got them.

If I was Lieberman I’d be thinking about my supply lines. Advertising; marketing; distribution: the conduits of the rampant consumerism on which capitalism traditionally relies, all are in the process of being digitised and decentralised – which is to say democratised, in the true sense of the term. What happens if Amazon’s warehouses start to fill up, and Paypal’s coffers run dry, as their customers realise that they’re only one outspoken opinion away from being outside the law. That’s the problem with alienating the outspoken and the opinionated – they never shut up about it.

Ever since reading Michael Herr’s Dispatches I’ve liked the idea of being a war correspondent. Problem with this battle is that the correspondents are the cavalry – even in the early skirmishes the signs were there. Seems like certain members of the Frontline Club might be about to find out exactly what that means.

As for me, I’ll be keeping my helmet on and my powder dry, dodging stray bullets and keeping an eye out for less stray ones. And I’ll be bearing in mind the words of JFK, who knew a thing or two about bullets, but whose weapon of choice was the truth:

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[Update 11.11am – 08/12/10] Techcrunch is reporting that 4chan have taken www.mastercard.com down with an orchestrated DDoS. More info on Operation Payback apparently available here, although at the time of writing this is also offline.

[Update 15.30pm – 08/12/10] Turns out that if you pick a fight with Wikileaks you might find your cable being fast-tracked to the front of the queue. How many businesses must be keeping their heads down and their phone of the hook in case they get a call from Joe Lieberman?