Miracle on Princes Street.

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Every once in a while something miraculous occurs on Princes Street. The traffic momentarily vanishes and the bus speeds beyond 5 mph. I thought I’d wandered into an alternate reality this morning. Incredible.

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D-Day – then and now.

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I love these concoctions. What do you call them? I think this is Omaha Beach, 6 June, 1944 (though I could be wrong). It’s stuff like this that gives these historical photos real reverence. The record almost comes alive here.

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/06/d-day-landing-sites-pictures_n_5458026.html

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Alain de Botton knows best.

It’s been fashionable of late to slag off Alain de Botton. He does indeed look a bit funny, and has been accused by his accessibility of being a bit of a lightweight. His The Art of Travel, though, hits so many notes. Everything I’ve ever pondered about travelling is summed up in the book’s pages in the most pinpoint eloquent way. The following passage is a belter, and it reminds me of this enduring image from Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995). And this movie will hit you right in the feels:

‘Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.

At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves – that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestice setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.

If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.’

I like the sound of that.

Further reading/viewing:

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Air travel #throwbackSundays.

A Braniff airliner in the 1960s.

It’s something out of Mad Men.00-00-braniff-airliner-in-the-1960s

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It was all kicking off in Albufeira.

Albufeira in the southern Algarve is more or less a cliche, one of those tourist resorts you see on postcards. There are lots of things for the kids to do, yet mummy and daddy can still get pished and look respectable.

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Albufeira was funny. It wasn’t funny in a Jerry Lewis sense or a so-weird-it’s-funny sense. I found it amusing because it’s exactly how I pictured the standard ‘Brits abroad’ retreat. And boy was there a retreat (more on that shortly).

The early flight in and subsequent shuttle from Faro to our cheeky hotel (the Muthu Oura Praia) was the only experience one could deem as ‘fresh’. Booze-free, I envisaged the adventures ahead, and the accompanying snappage.

Mateus.

It kind of descended into carnage shortly afterwards, the sweet taste of Mateus hitting my lips like the forbidden fruit in the garden. It’s not a complete blur from here on in, but days and events I find hard to place linearly. They blend into one another, a jigsaw narrative the result. I was truly reeking on this holiday.

The Balcony.

So much time was spent on here and so much gibberish chat the result. The Balcony is the trip’s ‘Constant’ and centrepiece. It’s suprising how much fun doing nothing can be. I even took a snap of a mop because I thought I was being arty.

Riots. 

Hordes of British tourists making a racket and just generally annoying everyone, cops breaking up a brawl by firing rubber bullets and unleashing the batons. From a distance I thought it was Isis. I panicked, bolted into someone’s garden and fell on their rabbit hutch. I arrived back to the hotel four hours later, still steaming, for a nightmarish sleep involving all manner of weaponry. This is the news item here:

http://www.theportugalnews.com/news/riot-police-fire-rubber-bullets-in-albufeira/42374

Vin Diesel.

Is this Vin Diesel? He was in the hotel pool area trying to troubleshoot a malfunctioning umbrella. The Fast and the Furious: Brolly Bantz (2017).

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A truly silly little trip this was. Next time I’m wearing a bodycam to piece together a more coherent picture.

 

 

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Locke (2013) – one man *in* his car.

Locke (2013) is a high concept movie without the Bayhem explosions, like Phone Booth (2002) in its situational drama but set in our everyday more altogether maudlin and depressing British existence ….

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One man, one car, one mobile phone with hands-free kit, one 90-minute journey. Seldom do we see a ‘travel’ movie in which the visual exterior landscape is totally irrelevant to the protagonist’s crumbling world. It’s a film as much about sound as the image. And it makes a concrete pour seem quite the arresting topic. A must see.

 

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Iconoclasm and ‘truth’ – challenging the official narrative.

Iconic moments of recent history are inseparable from the defining image which catapults them into popular consciousness – the Moon Landing, ‘Tank Man’ at Tiananmen Square, that famous kiss on VJ Day.

It’s only through viewing other photographic sources that we can escape the prism of these force-fed yarns and experience events three-dimensionally.

 

I see some accompanying images of articles and do wonder why, time and time again, the same stock image is used. It’s as if the rest have been erased and this one is the last Malteser in the box.

Every single piece I’ve ever read about the JFK Assassination is accompanied by stills of the Zapruder film, which has served as the basis for conspiracy theorising and debunking. No one denies its value, but it has to a large extent conveniently encapsulated and simplified the entire discourse (the ‘death’ of the American Dream, the dawn of cynicism) into a singular artefact.

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It’s in our nature to seek easy explanations. What happened immediately before and after the event has been sidelined (with the causal factors and consequences), the icon seemingly enough to digest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s the problem. There’s only one picture doing the rounds.

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Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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Under the Skin (2013) – unexpected chuckles.

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A truly mesmerising and disturbing picture, Under the Skin (2013) is film as art, an elusive, visually stunning meditation on identity and immigration. It’s also one of the few films set in Scotland that doesn’t wallow in hooligans or smack. There is one scene in it, though, that made me piss myself. Scarlett Johansson’s alien character meets a bloke in the Highlands. He cooks her a microwaved ready meal, a.k.a. a TV dinner. Scarlett Johansson – a READY MEAL.

That’s how the charming Scots treat their women. Romeos.

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Begbie’s crib.

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The infamous ‘Banana flats’ on Gorgie Road. This is where Begbie stays in T2 Trainspotting. I went to a house party in there a few years ago. Everyone present was a chav and they were all off their tits on Daz washing detergent. I quietly left and went home for a wank.

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