Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Monday, 17 May 2010


For the theme of Equipment, and being somewhat short of inspiration right now (stuck mojo) I opted to illustrate the tired 'what's in your bag meme'.

Here then is some of the gymcrack I cart round on the regular; my equipment if you like (now you're getting it huh?).

1. Matt Fothergill Leather Bag: A pretty nice bag – I got it for my birthday a few years ago when the last one gave up the ghost. The leather's really nice quality, but a little inflexible perhaps #firstworldproblems. The guy who makes these lives somewhere in Wales and contributes odd confections of cowhide and the vomit-and-gum-camouflaging seat covering of the London Underground to the London Transport museum.

2. Ah, yes, that hackneyed techno artifact, the iPhone (or iTablet nano, as some on-point observers referred to it), currently helping to transform Apple into the monolithic corporation they parodied in that sub-1984 Ridley Scott directed ad everyone wanked over, oh irony of ironies. When I look at my phone, I'm always reminded of Douglas Adams, when he wrote of the disease that wiped out mankind, that was transmitted by a phone, because mine looks like a veritable typhoid mary, its sheer slightly menacing frame never-not caulked in facial grease and smeary fingerprints. Yum! wanna put your face near that?

3. Pens: Yeah, I love pens. Here are two favourites, the Stabilo Sensor, which has a sprung loaded tip and draws like a dream (until it blunts), and iconic Pentel Signpen – President Johnson's favourite (and Time Magazine's product of the year, 1964, apparently). An old boss (who shall remain nameless) used to wax lyrical about its cheque writing properties, which is slightly icky, but in all fairness, it's a great pen to write with.

4. Bog-standard Sony headphones – about £20 from HMV. I always use this to retreat into a cocoon of slight musical superiority wherever I'm freelancing, and shuffle on the Studio iPod is starting to erode my will to live. This is the one with the shorter cable, as you could probably pay out enough of its lengthier variant to lay a path through the Cretan Labyrinth (should you happen to find yourself there). Indeed, it gave rise to that well know affliction 'freelancers' cable' where a knot of the plastic clad wire gets tangled in the castors of your wheel-fixed office chair, leading to all kinds of hi-jinx.

5. Embarrassingly expensive Cutler and Gross sunnies I bought from Oi Polloi in 2006. On the plus side the black frame is really well constructed, and this, coupled with the lenses' nicotine-yellow gradient, has something of Bruce Lee in 'Game of Death' about it. They also don't have any corporate runes crawling over the arms, which is a big plus – logos on a letterhead: ok, on my face? no thanks. The case was shit though, and started coming apart within a week, and even wearing the things is kind of contingent on the notoriously fickle British summertime.

6. Shitty free newspaper (the Metro) which I pick up most mornings on the way to work from the Tube. It's pretty dross really. It used to have competition in the form of TheLondonPaper, and the London Lite, affectionately referred to as The London Shite by many. The last two really were testament to the veracity of the maxim "you get what you pay for" and are not much missed. It's only rival now is the recently free Evening Standard, which is kind of worth it alone for Brian Sewell's searingly camp, waspish art reviews.

7. Annoying entry thing for work, consisting of a card housed in a shell and a plastic fob. Unfortunately the shell casing cracked in my back pocket one day, divorcing fob from card, and I'm now constantly forgetting one or the other, or both, then having to negotiate the bank of pleasant Eastern-European girls on reception.

8. Canon Powershot G10. Nice camera, which I should really learn how to use properly. It certainly looks the part, with its assortment of dials, buttons, knobs etc, but I'll be damned if I know what half of them do.

9. Weird Turkish sweets called Kremini, from a company called ülker. They're cherry flavoured and actually quite pleasant, though somewhat plasticky in texture. One of the pleasures of living in Dalston is the 'vibrant cultural interchange' between East and West here, and I consider these sweets part-and-parcel of that whole thing.

10. I'm usually packing a paperback, and up until just the other day it was K-Pax by Gene Brewer. Pretty good, and unaware that a film had been made of it, I mused that Kevin Spacey would be really good to play the role of the Mentally ill patient who believes himself from the planet K-Pax – then I saw the DVD in Oxfam starring... that very man! I should play the lottery more, or something.

11. Moleskine. Bit wanky, but I like em.

12. Chrome Thermos. Apparently these aren't as good at retaining heat as the old plastic ones with the non-conductive, glass insulating element. On the other hand, they're tougher, and don't make you look like you should also be wearing a compass on a lanyard whilst drinking from it. I originally bought it to save money on coffee at work, but mostly I can't be bothered and just catch an extra 10 minutes in bed.

13. Glasses. Again, somewhat expensive, but again, sans-logo. I bought these from a shop in Covent Garden manned by supremely disinterested staff. In terms of style they quite resemble a pair my granddad owned, and sit somewhere between 'funky' pensioner eyewear and the self-consciously chunk NHS style frames currently to be found on or near a fixie throughout most of East London. Most importantly, they allow me to SEE.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Photo at Sunset

Today I wandered down to the informal array of market stalls that congregate on the stretch of Kingsland Road between The Old Fox pub, and the Dalston Oxfam. I say stalls, but really it mostly consists of a bunch of red faced, snaggle toothed booze-hounds hawking tat off blankets, alongside a couple more legitimate enterprises (burger bar, carpet van).

I don't quite know what the deal is, except that this weekly event coincides with the prior manifestation of assorted piles of bric-a-brac in evenly spaced piles along this stretch of road, presumably dumped legally, which I assume the various chancers pick through to resell off the pavement (I'm guessing not so legally).

Off to one side this week were two old lads, selling stuff off trestle tables by a battered white van, consisting mainly of printed ephemera from the early-to-mid 20th century, such as scrap books, old postcards, magazines and cigarette cards. One of the things I turned up whilst rifling though was a copy of The London Evening Standard from the day of Queen Elizabeth's wedding to Prince Phillip, the two of them looking surprisingly young in spite of the ancient yellowing paper and coarse black ink trumpeting their union.

Something else that caught my eye, and occupied me for the better part of twenty minutes, was a box of old black and white photographs, dating from the era when it was a professional, or rich man's pastime. Amongst them were an array of portraits of individuals unknown (genteel chaps in wooden chairs, bonny lasses in tweed twinsets), presented as portfolio items from professional photographic studios, along with various pictures identified on the back as belonging to the archives of a long defunct London Newspaper's archive, including, oddly enough, more photos of our monarch, smiling demurely at assorted bland looking civic opening ceremonies.

Whilst rooting through these I turned up an image that caught my eye, and turning to one of the vendors – resignedly engaged in the slow process of reloading everything into the van – asked its price. "That one? 50 pee" he said without enthusiasm, returning to the task at hand as the skies muttered of rain. I paid him and hopped on the bendy bus, back to Dalston Junction.

I'm not sure what it's of, exactly. Obviously a horizon at near sunset, with what look to be ruins of a church, or some agricultural edifice in the mid-ground. But what of the figures tramping from left to right; who might they be? Farm labourers? they appear to be carrying bundles, or hoppers of something. Perhaps the single feature in this composition that draws my attention the most is the youngster in the foreground, who looks like he may be running toward the cluster of individuals on their obscure mission.

It's quite dramatic, almost chiaroscuro-like in its striking use of dark and light, which suggests some skill in development. Last year I shot off two rolls of black and white film on my dad's old Nikon SLR. Between buying the film and developing it, it came to almost 50 quid. I'd envisioned coming out with some dramatic, 'arty' shots of my Greek holiday and Notting Hill Carnival, but instead, (what I presume to be) Snappy Snaps lacklustre treatment rendered them weedy, grey, and lacking in tone – which leads me to deduce that half the skill of analogue photography is in the deprecated alchemy of the darkroom.

Aside from its visual impact, it also has a haunting quality. They possess a strange gravitas, these anonymous photographic fragments that you chance upon in junk shops and jumble sales, perhaps as much as anything because they are fragile, physical artifacts. We now live in an era of super-abbundant amateur digital photography, whose ready accessibility (for better or worse) on websites such as Flickr, relegates the need for the tangible printed object to the odd wedding album, desktop photo of loved one or pet, or snapshot of significant event. I personally have never had a digital photograph professionally developed.

Looking at this photo now, one of the things that strikes me is the possibility that this single, slightly battered image, is possibly the only one of its kind remaining – the negatives presumably long gone by now – which in some ways would make it an oddly special thing, given that photographs do have the capacity to be replicated indefinitely. Or does it in fact have sister prints, languishing in drawers and shoeboxes around London? I guess I'll never know, either way.*

*I suppose there's always the third possibility that this is quite a famous, commonly reproduced image, in which case I'll feel pretty silly.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Quickie cos I'm well busy.

Monday, 22 February 2010

A picture of Piccadilly Circus

Whilst a-wander through the backwaters of Stoke Newington, the grey, cold, wet Sunday just gone, I chanced upon a hitherto unseen charity shop, nestling amidst a crop of Turkish cafes, bookshops and social clubs behind old shop-fronts, through the windows of which could be glimpsed moustachioed chaps playing cards and drinking tea.

It was one of the gradually disappearing breed of charity shops that haven't got their act together yet; the kind I like. As the traffic shushed past outside, I picked through its dimly lit interior – a space stuffed to the gills with the usual mix of weary high street threads, creased paperbacks and curver boxes full of broken plastic toys, presided over by a large quiet man in a feathered porkpie hat, gazing from his throne by the cash register into the impending twilight outside.

The desiderata of the charity shop hound (vintage clothes, old LPs) were not much in evidence, and pickings were thin (there's only so many badly scratched copies of Fifa 99 for the Playstation 1 a guy can own, right?) and I had just exited the shop when I spotted a small picture in the window, an image of Piccadilly Circus, at night in the rain.

I assumed it was a popular print, dating from the era of 'The Green Lady', but I was drawn to it, and at three quid I thought nowt to lose. I re-entered the shop, and signaled my interest to the proprietor, who quietly lumbered over, and extricated it from the ballast of gimcrack surrounding it.

"It's nice" he observed, holding it up to the light. "It's not a print you know" And indeed it wasn't. I only had a £20, so when he started fishing around in earnest for change, I called it a fiver, and sallied out into the dusk bearing my prize.

Taking it home I saw that it is indeed a painting – an oil painting. It's small-ish (roughly A4) and depicts – as I said before – the statue of Eros* in Piccadilly circus at night. From the old neon signs I guess it's from the 50s or 60s – there's an ad for Players cigarettes above where the Gap is now whose equivalent you pretty obviously wouldn't see these days, and the thing that looks like a clock is a 'Guinness Time' advertisment which you can get a glimpse of more clearly here. Also, the fountain and statue is encircled by road rather that pedestrianised. It's slightly naive in style, but not completely unsophisticated in technique, and very atmospheric. The lighting feels very evocative, with the hoardings casting an attractive glow on the rainswept road.

I remember my good buddy Sam telling me about a mirror printed with the Southern Comfort label that hung in the family home (it's now just over the road in Dalston), and how, as a child, he would spend hours imagining what the figures within were doing; and I could almost see myself investing a similar curiosity in the figures present here – a woman sat at the base of the fountain, a policeman just visible in the bottom-left corner. Is he going to speak to her? is she innocently waiting for someone or is she an agent of the night from Soho, taking a breather whilst out plying her trade?

Who knows. What I do know is I really rather like it. Shame my current tenant contract forbids me from hanging pictures really, so for the time being it's going to lean against the wall, next to my desk.

P.S. Apologies for the fluff in the foreground. They're my resident dust bunnies – so much less troublesome than normal pets.

•Apparently (according to Wikipedia, anyway) the statue in Piccadilly Circus doesn't actually represent Eros, but rather his brother Anteros. I quote: "In Greek mythology, Anteros (Greek: Αντέρως, Antérōs) was the god of requited love, literally "love returned" or "counter-love" and also the punisher of those who scorn love and the advances of others, or the avenger of unrequited love." Blimey.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


A plastic carrier bag, floating high above a city.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


And another one.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Hey has anybody tried Crabbie's Ginger beer? It's pretty nice. I've got a couple of bottles cold chilling in the fridge downstairs, which have been hanging about for a few days. Normally any booze I buy gets quaffed directly on the day of purchase – usually a couple (or a few) bottles of Lech, or Tyskie or some other crispy Czech business on the weekend; but this stuff, having the cachet of not being so readily available, is something I have to stock up on when sloping round the aisles at Sainsbury's, absentmindedly staring at cheeses.

So what's it like? Ginger Ale, basically, with a kick not merely limited to its respectable 4% alcohol quotient, possessing as it does a gentle ginger afterburn. Good served over ice, with a slice of lemon. Sounds like I'm on the payroll. But no, I'm just pretty enamoured of this new tipple, and I don't think it's necessarily a symptom of my culturally embedded weekend geas to quaff booze in quantities which would leave people from other countries aghast.

And other people like the stuff too. In fact, everyone I've eagerly pushed it toward like some proselytising booze-hound has made sounds of pleased approbation, and it's been popping up in bars all over the place like the recently unemployed. Basically this stuff is liquid zeitgeist – the taste of now!

But I wonder, how long is this love affair going to last? I can still remember being vaguely wowed by the taste of Koppaberg Pear cider (tried that?) before it dawned on me that it was more sickly sweet than the bastard child of Rainbow Brite and Teddy Ruxpin.

Indeed, looking back I remember various 'now' drinks that arrived on the scene with farely minimal groundswell, yet whose relative novelty prompted all to do a double take – and never look back. Some examples:

Alcoholic Lemonade: These days alco-pops are the much maligned whipping boy of teenage liver disease. Saccharine, generally colored in the luminous hues of high-visibility workwear, they are like alcoholic sweets, and possess the taint of ineffable naffness. But while such confections are now well and truly the province of your average market-town meat-market, twas not always thus. Before Bacardi Breezers there was Hooch, and before Hooch, 2 Dogs Lemonade, which I remember my dad buying my mum for fun from the Threshers by the Plough in Heaton Moor. Sounds strange now, but at the time the synthesis of lemonade and booze seemed unprecedented – mystifying somehow. I was like: "Alcoholic...... LEMONADE???? WTF?!!!!!" and it does seem a little odd that prior to that, the closest you could get to a narcotic soft-drink was 20/20 – the original teenage bird, park bench drink (which I'm proud to say I've still never tried). Shortly after this of course, the breweries got wise, and realised there'd not been a child friendly alcoholic drink since small beer in the 1800s. The flood gates promptly opened, drowning us all in a tide of liquid intoxication not dissimilar in taste and chemical composition to the contents of a Glade Plugin vial.

Wheat Beer: Ahh, wheat beer. I actually had a wheat beer the other day, in a German Beer Hall themed boozer in next to Borough market, complete with Dirndl clad serving wenches, and long wooden benches. It was pretty nice. Refreshing. But me and my companion didn't dwell on it unduly. Faintly ironic (very faintly) since when me and the very same drinking buddy chanced upon Hoegaarden in Bar Centro in Manchester's then teething Northern Quarter, circa 2000, I was all but prepared to take up arms in the name of that cloudy, fermented intoxicant, which my dad would jest looked like the byproduct of an ill horse. Maybe it was the huge hexagonal glasses that seemed to dwarf our tiny Northern hands, maybe it was the optional bobbing chunk o' lemon – which so often seems to accessorise the arrival of a socially aspirational drink – but change was afoot that evening, I was sure of it.

Magners: When Magners arrived on these shores a few years heralded by a media fanfare consisting of long panning shots of orchards groaning with apples, and the lilting strains of The Zombies Time of the Season I was somewhat skeptical. After all, the last time I had previously consumed cider in earnest was probably in 1995, and the event quite possibly heralded the voiding of my stomach's contents. However, the addition of lots of ice did make for a refreshing drink, and for a while I was seduced by this appley tipple, until it dawned on me that the addition of said frozen water into the equation was ultimately a 'serving suggestion' akin to what you see on the front of cereal packets, and was most probably dreamed up by a pack of marketing mensch, sat around an A1 flip-pad sometime in 2005, attempting to plot new vectors onto the jaded palettes of FMCGs* everywhere. Somehow the appeal diminished after that, and I realised that after all, it was just cider, which I've never been mad on.

Fruit Cider: I touched on this before so shall return to it briefly. I suppose what most of these libations represent is an attempt by drinks multinationals to woo female and/or metrosexual consumers, with an arsenal of products less reminiscent of beard and whippets than your average pub beverage was until about 1980 – prior to which date the best you could hope for if bitter wasn't your thing was probably half a port and lemon in a warm glass. And in spite of whatever credentials of traditionality those responsible might invoke*, most of the recent crop of fruit-based ciders to emerge recently seem to fit this trend.

Tasting Koppaberg for the first time is indeed something of a novelty – mostly because you can't believe anything, in the world, could ever be that sweet. It's not so much that it's unpleasant so much as it doesn't even taste like you're drinking alcohol, which renders it somewhat insipid. In fact, Pear cider is to alcohol what trip-hop was to hip-hop – booze for people who don't like booze.

Looking at it like this, a cynic might suggest that the current drink du jour, Crabbie's, is just the latest in a long line of anodyne products to drop off the end of a fairly sugary conveyor belt, though in truth, the manufacturer does have some track record – being behind the largely forgotten about 'Green Ginger Wine'. It's hard to say. Time will tell etc. Does anyone care? At the minute I'm in the first flush of love for this exotic Eastern stranger, but like so much puppy love, it might end up with the dog getting left out in the cold when it isn't so cute anymore.

In the meantime... I'm writing about booze! can you tell that January's over! oh, wait, I drank then as well. BALLS.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Trouble with Blakeys

The shoes in question

Dem damn Blakeys

Just recently, along with other assorted crap I splurged my hard-earned on, was a pair of english officer's brown parade shoes I chanced upon on Ebay whilst looking for some surplus boots. They're pretty simple, a pair of decent capped Oxfords, with a leather sole. The quality is respectable, and they were a snip at 39 quid. Indeed, Silverman's army and navy suggests they're made in Northamptonshire and cost the MoD more than £200 a pair (yeah right). They're also quite hard to come by, apparently.

As you'd expect for army surplus they look pretty hardwearing, and herein lies the problem, because unbeknown to me, the toes and heels come augmented with steel tips (segs) or 'Blakeys'. I was peripherally aware of these from reading The Chap a few years back, under a section dedicated to combatting low-life, where it suggested wearing Blakeys because 'the sharp rapping sound will alert will alert would-be assailants of your impending arrival, and let them know you are a gentleman of substance, not to be trifled with' (or words to that effect). Basically, a ninja wouldn't wear them.

And bloody hell, they are loud. I just wore them down the shops to get some bacon and a copy of the Guardian, and was immediately conscious of the ringing crack of my footsteps, as it reverberated off the walls of the estate I live on. And as I tramped down Kingsland Road, I became slightly paranoid that people were noticing, because I sounded like a two legged horse.

Furthermore, I nearly came a cropper on a wet section of floor in the Kingsland shopping centre, when the leather and steel soles failed to find purchase on the smooth surface, making them seem only mildly less perilous than well-worn crepe soled Wallabees, which are a bleeding liability in the rain.

So I've taken them off. Partially because I've got wooden flooring. Mostly because I don't want to sound like a tapdancer on Mogadon. I don't know what to do with them really, as otherwise, they're nice shoes, but I can't really imagine wearing them down the pub as is, and given that they're nailed-in, removing them seems unlikely, without resoling them entirely.

Having said that, a quick glance on assorted forums would seem to suggest that they were quite the thing in the 70s with skinheads and mods, and from what I can see, people who care about their shoes seem positively pro-Blakey. Indeed, there's now a Blakey-blog (so new they're still using Lorem Ipsum in one of the posts) and you can follow them on Twitter, should you think a manufacturer of metal shoe protectors actually has anything interesting to say.

But I'm not sure it's something I think I can buy into, so sadly, might be the back of the closet for these badboys, (though in their favour, doing a running slide on concrete does apparently generate sparks – why didn't I have these things as a kid!?). What do people think?

In the meantime, here's Matchstick Men and dogs by Michael Colman & Brian Burke from 1977, a song which immortalises the Blakeys legacy with the line about the "kids on the corner of the street who wore sparking clogs". Enjoy.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Late on this one...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Road

Last night I went to see The Road, the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel of the sam name, at the Rio cinema on Kingsland road. It was absolutely packed for opening night, but if you were going to put money on where in the country a film like the Road was going to sell out, I guess a converted Art Deco cinema in Dalston would be a pretty safe bet.

And so to the film. I'm a big fan of McCarthy's stuff, and so are a great many people – including Oprah Winfrey, which is a good thing if you want to shift paperbacks in the states (kind of like the Richard and Judy's ertswhile bookclub, if they'd been a single person, black, and American). Much has been said of his lyrical, spare prose, and specifically of this novel, how it doesn't have a conventional plot – something which many opined would make it an 'unfilmable' movie. In one of the the only negative reviews of the novel I've actually heard, science fiction writer Spider Robinson (who critiques it from the vantage of this genre and seems utterly bemused at the acclaim it receives) describes its narrative architecture thus:

"Absolutely no structure at all, no shape, no attempt at pace, no spine or direction or measurement"

Compounded with:

"The paragraph is the height of his thought's evolution, its largest unit of meaning'"

But then Cormac McCarthy is a master of the aphoristic sentence, and in a similar vein to his (literally) bloody wonderful Blood Meridian the narrative pretty much is the picaresque bone-strewn journey of its protagonists, while you as the reader are just along for the ride, taking in the landscape through the grand sweep of the prose, though whereas Blood Meridian – set in The American midwest of the 1800s – seems perversely, sanguinarily exultant, The Road, inhabiting a post-apocalyptic near-future seems a quieter, more meditative coda to the whooping barabarism of the former. And no, there are no plot twists, trapdoors or switcheroos; the ground the characters cover paced instead by the meter of McCarthy's sonorous, measured intonation.

Nonetheless, one of its major successes is managing to portray the withered otherworldliness of the Earth McCarthy reveals to us. In my last post, I spoke of some of my concerns regarding lazy use of CGI, and here the makers have opted instead for a distinctly traditionally 'real' approach, having filmed on location in Pennsylvania and tornado-torn New Orleans, and the cinematography is simply stunning. Granted, some digital massaging has been effected post-production to rob the screen of green and shift to a colour gamut of subdued blues and greys, but nonetheless, what we're presented with is an utterly believable, cold, sterile, ash-clogged vision of hell. Indeed, they were onto a winner releasing it in January - as the world of the Road is almost like a kind of ultra-January, January x 1000, too bleak to bear.

And the acting isn't too shabby, either. For it must be said that in terms of characters the film has a pretty minimal bunch of players to field, but the father-son relationship – which obstensibly is the book, feels surprisingly authentic. I was all primed to hate the kid, but his performance is pleasingly sans fromage, and Viggo Mortensen is great. Together, they make for some touching, and at time heart-wrenching scenes. The only time I grimaced slightly was at the very end, when the needle on the cheese-ometer bobbed briefly into the red with a close up of a FRIENDLY DOGGY, but otherwise the whole thing remains refreshingly un-Hollywood, and there's no reconvening in front of The Whitehouse with president Danny Glover, to toast the new dawn.

But yes, the book is probably better. One of the film's major shortcoming is that, unmediated through McCarthy's resonant language, the whole affair seemed more straightforward: less introspective, less lonely, less elegaic. So I guess the only question is – and the thing which most critics seemed to take issue with – why bother? given that at best, the film is only ever going to as authentic a translation of the novel as possible, and the kind of people who go and see it are, quite possibly, the people who read the book years back. I'm not sure this bothers me. The alternative would have been for the director to cook up some counterintuitive interpretation, and risk almost certain crucifixtion at the hands of reviewers. True, it's not a work of stand-alone genius, and it is inherently derivative of the novel, but its strengths are appropriately cinematic ones, and in this, it is a very valid success. And come to think of it, bar the second and third books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which I thought were about the most boring things ever), I think I'd struggle to think of a film adaptation of a book, that actually outweighs its source material. Any ideas?

As a bonus, here is Cormac McCarthy taking the unexpected step of talking to Oprah Winfrey in 2007. He seems like a pretty genuine, calm, genial individual, rather than the wizened, squinting, Nietzshean hermit you might have imagined him to be, but I still think he should consider a beard. Anyway, there's the usual retarded Youtube babble in the comments section, but ignore that as Cormac actually has some interesting things to say.

Friday, 8 January 2010


Amidst the camp of the just departed festive season's televisual offerings – a sparkly landscape punctuated by James Corden, soap specials and the usual anthropomorphised animated animals – there were some feature length moments that gave me cause for reflection on the state of filmic production (of a specifically cataclysmic thrust) in recent years.

Most noticably was big-bucks, small-brains disaster movie 2012, a grandstanding armageddon flick in the tradition of The Day after Tomorrow, albeit potentially even less interesting. Now, at the time of viewing, Christmas had already begun to exact its toll on my senses in terms of consumption of both alcohol and food, and I was not, to put it bluntly, at my most alert. Nonetheless, I had to consult Wikipedia just now to reacquaint myself with the film's 'plot', as the only extant mental image I can summon to mind still is a cloudy montage of John Cusack's worried looking face surrounded by assorted overblown computer generated effects, and a sensation of near transcendental boredom. It was like a secret dross nictitating third eyelid (as posessed by certain reptiles to retard dust and the like) crept across my peepers imperceptibly, filtering out the waves of tired cliche bombarding them.

Which seems sort of odd really, as when I first saw the huge poster for it, leering across the junction of Shoreditch High Street and Kingsland road, I remember thinking: "Y'know, I bet that film won't have much in the way of brains, but it might be worth watching for sheer spectacle". Unfortunately, even in this arena, it remained woefully deficient.

Indeed what really struck home though, was how utterly unimpressive CGI effects have become, taken at their own merit. Maybe we've become too aclimatised to these wonders, but it seems that as the trompe l'oeil of technological wizardry becomes ever more commonplace, it's a case of ever diminishing returns for visual pyrotechnics that might have once dazzled.

2012's problem, first and foremost (aside from its shocking paucity of ideas or ambition) is its inability to charm or captivate on any kind of emotional level. The backstory, consisting as it does of some flimsy science, garlanded by weedy acting, merely a pretext for a bunch of exploding stuff, happening to characters you really couldn't give a rat's ass about. This really isn't so much a story about how humanity would cope in the event of such a happening, as... a bunch of exploding stuff.

For even CGI benefits from judicious use. Didn't you hear guys? less is more – even with explosions! There are films once hailed as technologically groundbreaking, now looking relatively antiquated (eg: Jurassic Park, Terminator 2) which still pack far more of a punch than this, due to the antics in post production remaining relatively contextually appropriate (indeed, the 'digitalisation' of the T1000 in this sequel seems an astute move in one-upmanship over the outmoded, analogue T800 as the then nascent franchise cruised into the nasty nineties).

Another issue that seems to plague films like 2012, aside from the phoned-in performances, is the lack of any internal physical validity to the action. During a discussion with friends the other weekend, conversation fell on this very subject, and my friend Will mentioned seeing Mad Max 2, and noted that, although hammy, the effects still retain vigour and kinesis. We discussed also how the stop-motion techniques of Ray Harryhausen, though blatently unreal, still manage to captivate due to their sheer, well, animation, and how the vertiginous painted backdrops and ravines of 1947's Black Narcissus remain sumptuous in their super-saturated technicolour majesty. For surely, in their limitations and artifice, these older methods were necessarily more symbolic, and as such, demanded careful attention to integrate them into a film's Mise-en-scène, as opposed to merely splicing them in at the editing stage.

Special effects are still, for all their sophistication, at the mercy of human imagination; and outmoded techniques – though palpably false – can still be oddly entrancing. This could be to do with them posessing an inherent physicality – The Airfix-built starships that populated science films of the seventies are actual objects, for example – travelling down wires against a perforated black curtain which is actually a starfield. Or sets! If Alien was to be filmed now, I hugely doubt Swiss odd-bod Giger's biotech fetishes would actually have manifested at Shepperton studios, rather than being quietly rendered on a bank of PCs overnight in a post-production house in Soho.

No doubt this all sounds like shameless nostalgia from a child of the 70s, and to some extent, I'm come quietly on that. Nonetheless, I do sometimes suspect that the smoke and mirrors of analogue production in film often forced the industry in general – from the effects guys up to the directors, to work harder, be more resourceful, and moreover, invites viewers to engage more. A problem common to many digital formats (be it in the arenas of musicmaking, art, design or film) is that the regulated mathematical perfection of the end product is often sheer and flat, shorn of the drama imparted by 'noise', chance and the human hand – a 'quality' that seems fraudulent when manufactured by Algorithm or conscious manipulation.

Which isn't to say that there haven't been films utilising these effects I've been impressed by. I thought Danny Boyle's Sunshine was pretty great, and they spent a full year editing that and adding effects (though tellingly, the entire thing is something of a paen to, you guessed it, films of the 70s). And Lord of The Rings... well, yeah.

But surely – SURELY – the bar is so high now that a big effects budget is about the flimsiest pretense you can have for grinding out yet another hackneyed potboiler, when nowadays you need something on the level of Avatar to get it taken seriously, soley on these merits. So In fact, why not fuck the effects, and spend even a quarter of the money you were going to splurge on wank hiring a writer with even the faintest glimmerings of an original idea. Go on. I double dare you.