Flight from East Berlin.


Berlin went apostate after the Wall’s crumble – it is now a free-for-all, one of those clichéd multicultural hubs, the EU’s sociological vanguard. Not so back in the Honecker days, a Stasi-sprinkled 1984.

The audacity of this escape is bonkers, so too the entirely legit video recording of the getaway. Old Skool VHS-C home video footage isn’t half gnarly when the camera roams free in the exterior à la Paul Greengrass. No one wants to see a wee sprog from the States wail like Chewbacca on an ecstacy overdose upon opening a Nintendo 64; mind-blowing vistas is what it’s all about.

Escape artists:

Ingo Bethke, a border guard, fled East Berlin on an air mattress in 1975, crossing the River Elbe into West Germany. In 1983, his brother Holger did one better, using a zip line from an attic to Ingo’s car on the other side of the wall. It was six years later that the two brothers, having learned to fly, dressed in military garb, painted Soviet red stars on two planes, flew over the wall, landed in a park (with one place circling overhead), picked up the third brother, Egbert, and then flew back into West Berlin, arriving at the steps of the Reichstag. They then went off and got pished on a smorgasbord of alcoholic delicacies. Incredible.


Icarus (x3) they were not. Totalitarianism breeds creativity, just ask Jean-Paul Sartre. And nothing spotlights the stupidity of that lunatic Soviet ideology than getting a free pass to fly around with abandon merely because there are red stars on your plane.

Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) so comically captured those last dying days of the GDR. Imagine that mixed with The Great Escape of the Bethke brothers. Why isn’t this a movie yet?

Further reading:





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Bilbao Baggins.

Bilbao was a laugh. Ah, to go back to a time without bills and responsibilities, when the only struggle was choosing which rancid alcopop to shove down your trousers in a supermarket (in my experience security guards can’t run more than 50 yards without crumbling into a wheezing heap).13882428_10157389370085691_1176700627100006367_n

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Michael Shannon skipped the Oscars and went for a beer.


I’ve always thought this actor was awesome. The bloke is intense, scary, has a bit of De Niro about him. From Revolutionary Road (2008) to 99 Homes (2014) and Frank & Lola (2016), the man is just incapable of lazy acting.

The Shape of Water (2017) was up for (and won) a handful of gongs. And its powerhouse actor? He was in the pub. Brilliant.


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The Beast from the East – Edinburgh.


Snow is hell. As Scots, you’d think we would be able to cope with the scenario but evidently not. The whole country is static, with bewildered cattle stocking up trolleys with bread and milk.

Anyway, sometimes there are serene scenes. It looks lovely out there.

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On the sauce in Salzburg and Munich.

Back to Salzburg and Munich again for a double-headed session. To think the birthplace of Mozart and Doppler was now the temporary milieu of beer-compromised attempts to retrieve a Snickers bar from a dilapidated vending machine at 4:16 a.m.


Salzburg is a place with many bars, sadly few ATMs (seeking a Geldautomat is depressing), and with a most varied supply of charming newsagents, which appears to my primary interest these days. Somewhere down the line vistas ceased to be of fascination. I couldn’t find a Lidl, though. Gutted.


The salient memory of Munich was feigning a limp in order to use a disabled toilet, and attempting to escape the city for the airport. There was “something wrong with the tracks,” they kept barking at me in the station. I don’t think I’ve ever been on so many trains to get to one destination, and so drained of vitamins throughout. I thought I was going to die on that plane home from an overdose of fatigue and amaretto. But I didn’t.  Good times.


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Tron: Legacy (2010) and Daft Punk.


Tron (1982) was some kind of game-changer, a belter that pronounced there were existential possibilities within the personal computer to explore, shambolic micro worlds which parallel our own with power structures at their core (fascism in a motherboard).


For a mass-entertainment movie it is one deep experience, and even the Reagan-era state-of-the-art special effects weirdly haven’t dated. It was, with War Games (1983) and The Terminator (1984), one of the first movies to confront what is now a pre-eminent disaster scenario – a virus in the works.

Tron: Legacy (2010) has nothing on the original, though it does at a Disney-level ponder the impossibility of perfection and the dangers of so-called ‘Artificial Intelligence’. Visually, however, it is the peak of sleek, images that would make the 1984 Macintosh weep like George Orwell at the Night of the Long Knives.

The score is CR7 with a football –  a technological cutting-edge marvel of electronics and orchestra. The images mirror a Sergio Leone shoot-out in their synchronicity with the music. And if the mise en scène were set to a James Horner sesh I’d turn the spectacle off.

FYI: I could listen to this score whilst taking a Harry Dunne dump and it would be cinematic. Incredible sounds.



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Henry Worsley – the modern-day Shackleton.


I didn’t know a thing about this bloke and his quite bonkers accomplishments until I stumbled upon a ‘long-read’ New Yorker article, ‘The White Darkness‘. By the end of the piece I was flabbergasted, drained (from the warm confines of my living room), and in awe of the feats accomplished.

Worsley’s travails on Antarctica mirrored those of Ernest Shackleton a century ago. In 2008 he led an expedition through the Transantarctic Mountains, 100 years after Shackleton’s Nimrod misadventure. And in 2011 he redid Roald Amundsen’s 1912 journey to the South Pole.

Worsley’s final mission was to complete his journey unaided (and without a kite to help drag his supply sled) across Antarctica in 80 days. He somehow managed 913 miles in 69 days, but had to radio for assistance with only 30 miles to completing Shackleton’s unfinished Endurance trek. Airlifted to Chile, he died on 24 January, 2016.


Be it scaling Everest or circumnavigating the globe on a yacht, feats of human endurance – failures or not – have something of the Homeric in them. It’s an Icarus kind of deal.

Further reading:





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Downsizing (2017) and utopia.


In this decidedly odd (by common reckoning) picture, the disenfranchised, the dissatisfied, and the financially … fucked get themselves miniaturised – or ‘downsized’ – in order that they’ll be free to discover the sweet life they were previously denied by their limitations. It’s presented as a sine qua non; the only way for them to discover all the worldly pleasures (the American Dream?) is in an artificial community for modern-day Lilliputians.

There’s a lot to be said for a movie with both the materialist and the ecological at its forefront. We surely can’t expand forever, and with overpopulation and the ‘drain on resources’ we just might have to regress, the irony here being that the characters shrink yet conversely (in an almost alternate world) discover more than they would have before.

The utopia here is one inhabited by mostly entirely self-aware characters, but as this is a familiar tale, every new world becomes a microcosm of the former; people will be people. As the thug-philosopher Tony Soprano would maintain, there’s no geographical solution to an emotional problem.

The movie loses its way towards the end, with such a promising premise wasted on narrative detours and too many subplots. It is, however, quite the change from explosions and talking robots who morph into cars.

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The Boeing 314 Clipper.


Look at this madness. A bygone age, passengers on Boeing’s 314 Clipper were graced with sleeping compartments, lounges, changing rooms, and a bridal suite (De Lux Compartment) for trans-Atlantic travel. Some of the images of the time (1930s and ’40s) appear ‘pre-history’, as if this is how all air travel should be; we were denied it by economics and the rather vexing religious cuckoo.

The Emirates A380 business class experience is the closest parallel to that luxury flying boat; think Patrick Bateman from Dubai to Sydney with all the mod cons. What’s missing, however, is … well, look at that photo of the Clipper interior – it’s pure shameless decadence at 13,000 feet, but without the sandals and hoodies. Every Master of the Universe is suited and booted.


When I make my millions from pulling off the most daring robbery (don’t tell anyone) since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, I’ll be flying from airport to airport on one of these Emirates bad boys, a bottle of £20,000 champagne and the Mighty Ducks movies to accompany my victory laps. I won’t be visiting places; the airports will suffice.

Further reading/viewing:





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Edinburgh roundabouts ….


This park is usually frequented by mutilated junkies off their tits or those wee post-Noughties hipster kids taking selfies on the swings (the Decline of Western Civilisation). You are, however, blessed once in a blue moon (Definition: informal, very rarely) by these kind of vignettes. Silence. No one in sight. Lovely.

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