rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

1-3-2004 (archived)

Since this year St Tib's Day fell on a Sunday, we decided to celebrate with a UKMG Manchester Pissup. Our numbers were sadly depleted by ill-health and wedding anniversaries, but several of the faithful (James, Ian, Liz, and several people who shockingly still don't have websites) showed up for the traditional Tribeca lunch, Salisbury rubbish-talking and ethnic dining (a vote among the three of us staying led us once again to the Tabak, purveyors of consistently outstanding subcontinental food to me for the last nine years or so). It was pretty much what I needed - calmer and quieter than the usual PU, and a real chance to talk with my closest friends. Today, despite a particularly rough afternoon, I feel more centred than I have for a long time.

3-3-2004 (archived)

This week's film review is “Along Came Polly”, a thoroughly one-dimensional romantic comedy. Stiller and Aniston play their usual parts adequately enough, a really good supporting cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra “Grace” Messing, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Brown, and a movie-stealing Hank Azaria) do well with the mediocre script, and most of the audience laughs came from a short-sighted ferret.

It's sweet enough, but there's no depth and no real flavour. I want my boy-girl hookup chick-flicks at least to get me to well up a little, and this left my eyes completely dry. A pleasant enough evening, but just a bit flat.

5-3-2004 (archived)

In the last couple of weeks I have eaten too much, lifted lots of weights, gone out for dinner with many friends, some of whom I'd not seen in months or even years, taught a lot of lessons, and cursed at the passenger door handle of my car, which some kind soul apparently felt would serve better once levered half-way off the vehicle. I also realised that I have been playing the chorus of “Sweet Child O'Mine” wrong for more than half of my life (not, of course, continuously).

I'm so used to having lessons observed (and so cocky) that I'm not at all bothered by it, which is just as well since this week I was observed both by my course tutor (with a tricky group) and, working with my mentor on one of the toughest classes in the school, by an outside consultant. The first went almost worryingly well - I kept waiting for it to blow up - and marked what seems to be a dramatic improvement in my progress with this class. Schoolkids, perhaps especially these kinds of inner-city kids, don't think at all the same way that I do, and I'm beginning to understand how it is that they do respond. It's very satisfying, much more so than I'd have expected. I think I've found the right career.

8-3-2004 (archived)

21 grams” is three-quarters of an ounce, not much of a weight. It is also a very heavy film.

The storylines, interlocking around a fatal car accident, are bleak. Sean Penn is a mathematician with a failed heart and a failed marriage, Del Toro a alcoholic , confused and self-loathing ex-con turned to religion, Naomi Watts the wife and mother who loses her family. The film is out of sequence, a collage of time-dislocated pieces, scenes repeated from new perspectives, or told out of all temporal order. It's hard work, but it's worth it. The three performances at its centre are all remarkable; Watts, especially, continues to establish herself as a truly astounding actress. Not easy, not even pleasant, but brilliant.

10-3-2004 (archived)

Last night James, Ian and I went to see Vaughn at The Corporation. There were other bands on the bill, too. I saw local boys Deadline, who were fine, but suffered a little from the common problem that their songs sounded cobbled together from slightly familiar pieces, some of which didn't quite fit. They were fun, still, though while I'm all in favour of overweight yet energetic frontmen (surprise...) this one gave off the air of needing a tennis racket and a mirror to complete the affect. A for effort, but not quite rock.

Vaughn were everything I hoped they'd be, and played every song I hoped they would. Utterly brilliant, only slightly tainted by some of the idiots in the crowd who apparently go to gigs to shout to each other rather than hear the band. Fuck off to the bar rather than stand at the front, then.

I'd driven across the Snake to Sheffield for the first time, and now I really know where the name comes from - the sort of road I used to enjoy when I was young and stupid. Not wanting to be too late on a school night (literally, these days) I left after Vaughn finished rather than waiting to see Firehouse. Apparently this was a good choice.

When I first saw Danny Vaughn at The Gods last year, I wrote that he was amazing; what I didn't say then was that that performance was probably the thing that tipped me over into a new world view. I see myself as a singer who plays, rather than a guitarist who sings, and his performance (and that of Jeff Scott Soto) that day was the nudge that crystallised that solution. This guy is good enough to make me rethink my entire musical life on the basis of a forty-five minute set. Not to be missed.

12-3-2004 (archived)

I think it is clear that Imaginary Girlfriends is a sign that the beast from the end of time is about to arise and eat us all, don't you?

15-3-2004 (archived)

On Saturday we played a new-to-us venue, The Cat in Greasby. It's always interesting when you gig a place for the first time - first you have to actually find it, work out where to load in, etc, and then you have the crucial question of what the crowd will be like.

They weren't really our typical batch of punters - very young, relative to an average rock-pub audience, and a lot of them were clearly there meat-marketing; the first few songs didn't get a great deal of response. It was pretty packed, but they certainly didn't look like a rock crowd - I probably had more hair than every other man in the pub combined. Gradually we and the drink won them over, though, and by the end they were very loudly demanding more - the bar staff told us that we'd gone down much better than most people who'd played there, which is always nice.

This isn't why I'm telling you about them, though. That comes down, as regular readers may be unsurprised to hear, to breasts. I find I can cope with an audience not cheering that much when half of them are young, stacked, and barely dressed. And comparing the size and feel of each other's bosoms with their hands. And dropping ice down each other's cleavages. And, of course, looking up at James and me to gauge our reactions, and grinning.

I almost fell off the stage when three of them started spanking each other's nipples with spoons.

We'll be back. Oh yes. On June 26th. Very possibly accompanied by most of my male and quite a few of my female readers, if I know you lot ;).

17-3-2004 (archived)

This week's film review is Mona Lisa Smile, for a close analysis of which I would direct you to Philip French's excellent review.

The performances are exactly what you'd expect: Julia Roberts gives a slightly nuanced version of her usual serious-chickflick role, Kirsten Dunst is a little flashy as a bitchy and fashionably soon-to-be-married student, Julia Stiles serious and restrained, Maggie Gyllenhaal remarkable, sensuous and troubled; Gyllenhaal is the only actress mounting a serious challenge to Johannson in her generation at the moment.

Yes, it's a chickflick, and a pretty good one. There's some emotional depth, some intellectual depth, and they even manage to resist the lure of the too-happy ending. This isn't going to change anyone's life, but it's certainly worth seeing.

19-3-2004 (archived)

Yet another very-brief Friday posting, I'm afraid - the world is catching up with me rather at the moment, and I've written five thousand coherent words for work already this week. This has left me in a fine mood for insults, and apparently Hindi has a rich vein of inventive, gynaecological ones to be mined. Some of the later ones made me laugh quite hard.

That's your lot for today, I'm afraid. I have things I want to write about at length, but it's not likely to happen for a couple of weeks. Normal three-times-weekly service will of course continue in the mean time.

22-3-2004 (archived)

Mark Pilgrim is writing and writing well once again, after (what I perceive as) a fairly long period of being pretty quiet. This piece, on blogging (or whatever else you want to call it, if you're one of the many the word bothers. Frequently Updated Website Keeping? There's an acronym that might catch on) is well worth reading, especially because if you don't the rest of this will make no sense at all.

I'm sure the dropout rate from FUWKing is pretty high, especially for the people who force themselves into regular updates. I'm one of those people, and while it means that the site won't fade away quietly into the unknown, it also means that if my patience, energy and discipline runs out it may well snap completely - one missed update could be the straw that breaks me. Most of my site-keeping friends don't post on a schedule; the best thing about LiveJournal is that it's easy to read sporadic posters.

Mark's other point is important and interesting: like him, I was raised to believe that if you read every day and write every day, you'll become a better writer. I think I have, steadily, year on year, and that my progress has accelerated since I started fuwking (yeah, I like that acronym). Many people definitely aren't getting any better, though, and some are decidedly getting worse, so what's going on?

I think I know what Mark's “X” is. It's reflection. You don't get better at anything by just doing it. You get better by doing it with care, attention, and thought, giving some time to what you could do differently and better. That's why reading is important in that classic recipe for better writing: you steal things from great writers, just as reading Paul Ford and indeed Mark himself has changed my own style here. You don't steal lines, paragraphs, themes; you look at what they do that makes you think, feel, engage, and you think, and you try to figure out how.

The X factor is thinking.

A great many fuwkers, the ones who aren't getting better, aren't doing this. They aren't thinking about how they can improve their work. They're just spilling their lives, or parts of their lives, or their fictions disguised as lives, to their friends and those others who can't turn away from a car crash. And that's fine. Some of my fuwkroll is people I certainly wouldn't read if I didn't know them. We don't all want to be good writers, better writers, read by strangers for pleasure. But I do.

Still, I probably shouldn't invent any more fuwking words.