Christmas Day in Oslo.

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Christmas brings back the nostalgia, and I do most cherish those memories from the good ol’ days – stuffing my cheeks with selection boxes whilst wailing “Woof” at Buzz’s girlfriend. Xmas is a childhood signifier, the throwback event to an uncomplicated time when the most strenuous task was grabbing forty winks on Christmas Eve.

One recent Christmas Day stays with me, though. Alone in Oslo circa 2013, it was a day of, if not self-discovery, then a serene, surreal solitude (accidental alliteration).

I was reminded of that line in Heat (1995) when De Niro’s character ventures, “I am alone, I am not lonely.” That was Oslo for me: I simply walked the barely inhabited streets apropos of nothing, uttering not a word to anyone, feeling myself an invisible, pointless wanderer passing through the geography. I did nothing, and liberating it was. I’ve not had a jaunt like that since. I recommend Oslo – anonymous, pallid, flat – as the place for it. Maybe it’s livelier in the summer.

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Fountainbridge Marina.

Edinburgh does have its wee accidental allusions.

Gioachino Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie enters my noggin every time I slo-mo stride along ‘Fountainbridge Marina’, a singular image of Alex DeLarge and his droogs syncing to another Kubrickian vignette. Kubrick infects everything, cinema’s supreme stylist.

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‘As we walked along the flatblock marina, I was calm on the outside, but thinking all the time. So now it was to be Georgie the general, saying what we should do and what not to do, and Dim as his mindless greeding bulldog. But suddenly I viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones and that the oomny ones use, like, inspiration and what Bog sends. For now it was lovely music that came to my aid. There was a window open with the stereo on and I viddied right at once what to do.’

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Berlin and Szczecin booze crawl.

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Back to Berlin again for the fourth time. I’ve seen every Lonely Planet tourist site to death in the Grey City so these days reserve my curiosities to the bars and the incredible possibilities of the late-night U-Bahn adventure. I did glimpse the Brandenburg Gate from a taxi but was too busy reading an article on The Telegraph website about Jupp Heynckes and his Bayern Munich resurgence to take any extended interest. When I first set eyes upon that Prussian landmark I thought it a wonder to behold; now I’m not even bothered it exists. Weird.

What I lionise about Berlin is its seeming randomness and that it’s embraced by the locals (one presumes) as just another quirk on the city grid. It’s one of the reasons I never make a plan or an itinerary. Going for an ad hoc five-minute nap on a concrete pallet outside the Fernsehturm TV Tower was never on the agenda, but then neither was venturing out that evening. Berlin, may the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you.

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Szczecin, Poland.

This town has little to offer. If Berlin was the party, Szczecin was the crypt. I got the sense that it’s just a memory of a place, residue from a forgotten age. It’s decent for a pint but architecturally has all the appeal of a urinal concocted from toilet paper. This is the only photograph I took, a shot of my two travel companians walking on the pavement, such was the boredom of the topography. You’d be better off drinking in your living room whilst watching daytime television than entering this wasteland.

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Bus oddities.

We took the bus to the Szczecin hovel. It was your usual journey peppered with beer, energy drinks, trance music, and a gruesome shit in an appropriately depraved toilet designed for midgets. The return mission was sadly characterised by a Vladimir Putin doppelgänger in the seat in front who demanded our ears for a two-hour monologue about the trials and travails of his life. Reeking from a single beer, he burst out laughing at our most innocuous observations on Szczecin, and upon our arrival back in Central Bus Station ZOB asked us to wait with him awhile to discuss the comparative footballing merits of Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller. Odd bloke. Escaping him was a convenient metaphor.

 

 

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Edinburgh circa 1931.

Watching this short Pathé feature I’ve seldom recalled so many conflictingly good and bad memories inhabiting the same space. In almost every image here I ludicrously time-travel to a kaleidoscope of experiences and the Sartrean depths of the moment, something about the temporality of being-for-itself.

The singular power of images, for me, is that they transcend the ‘shadows-and-dust’ narrative we direct. A memory of a place or person is just a memory – it’s the image that validates our longing for the past experience.

It is odd how little Edinburgh has changed architecturally since 1931 – it’s one of those cities seemingly impervious to redesign (a Venice of the North?) and this is imbued in its dormant volcano. People come and go, the landscape watches on.

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Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble.

“I didn’t kill my wife.”

“I don’t care.”

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The Fugitive (1993) still holds up today, a thousand action-thrillers on. It’s now widely considered the benchmark for the ‘smart’ popcorn movie (big name star, TV source material, Oscar pretensions). There are spectacular set pieces here but it’s the intelligence of the script and the care in which the characters are sculpted which first captivated audiences. The battle of wits between the two leads and the obsession with which they pursue their agendas is like Maverick vs. Iceman but without the fighter jets and a volleyball scene. Well, perhaps a more mature version.

I saw it the other day for the first time in a decade and I was struck by how mature the film is, how it doesn’t pay lip service to target audiences/demographics. It’s simply a wrongly accused bloke on the run, but these are humans and not cardboard stock characters.

Stylistically, there is one sequence which dominates. A film lecturer I had at university showed us it in class as a textbook/expert use of montage, how a sequence so brief can cover so much crucial plot information. It takes your average modern-day movie an hour to cover what’s done here in under five minutes:

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The Waverley.

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Here we enter the circus, a veritable Looney Land. I used to work here in my ‘Wilderness Years’ 2010-2012 and the shit I saw is more than enough material for the basis of a manky neo-gothic crime drama set in the early twenty-tens. Ah, those were the days – before Trump, Brexit, and fidget spinners being habitually revered as the panacea to Autism. My highlight in ‘Stalag EH1 1BB’ was a disgruntled passenger throwing punches at a rail cop because the vexed customer didn’t like the quality of alcoholic beverage he was served in the bar – it didn’t meet his esoteric ‘standards’.

I highly recommend a day trip to The Waverley. Bring a packed lunch and a Polaroid.

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Swanston Golf Course.

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A mere 30-minute bus ride away from the centre of Edinburgh with all its noise and tourists rocking bum bags sits Swanston Golf Course in the Pentland Hills. I don’t play golf and never will, but a wee stroll around here with a bottle of Buckfast and a Cadbury Chomp sure does make a productive Saturday afternoon.

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Air New Zealand Flight 901.

Statistically, so I keep hearing, the odds of dying in a commercial plane crash are one in 29.4 million, and the odds of being in a plane crash are one in 11 million. The ‘safest mode of transport’ it may be, but it’s human fuck-ups at 30,000 feet that terrify me more than the failure of cutting-edge machinery, and with pilot error at 53% I shudder at the thought of one off his game. Moreover, when the company men on the ground are fucking up, too, your odds have shortened.

Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979 is your tragic archetypal case of total miscommunication. This was the last of Air New Zealand’s Antarctic sightseeing tours which departed from and returned to Auckland on the same day, a 5,000-mile return trip.

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The night before the disaster, a correction was made to the flight path co-ordinates, the flight crew not informed of this change. Subsequently, the plane was directed not down McMurdo Sound but straight into Mount Erebus. The effects of sector whiteout phenomenon – the blending of clouds with the volcano – meant the crew were completely unaware of the outside topography. The fatal flight would claim 257 lives.

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Peter Mahon QC’s Commission of Inquiry is an absolute must for anyone captivated by the tragedy.

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Further reading/viewing:

http://www.erebus.co.nz/background/thestory.aspx

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/11322102/Mt-Erebus-disaster-where-air-crash-recovery-learnt-its-grisly-trade.html

https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/erebus-disaster

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Gorgie, is that you?

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It’s very seldom Gorgie Road goes against type – that of a crime-ridden tracksuit-clad ghetto. Here we have a rather serene moment with complementary rainbow. It was Vanilla Sky (2001) territory in the ‘hood last week.

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Blade Runner 2049.

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Seeing this Blade Runner (1982) sequel was like rendezvousing with old friends after a long hiatus and then finding your erstwhile chums to be far more successful than yourself – it’s quite possibly a better movie than the early eighties game-changer.

Throughout this extraordinary movie I was reminded of Inception (2010) in how this picture treats the concept of creating your own world within a matchbox apartment, which isn’t a risible view of the future but a contemporary reality. We create our own worlds within our private spaces, and with your rudimentary Wi-Fi and laptop any engagement with the outside circus is taken care of. In the Los Angeles of 2049 you have an absolute toilet (the go-around adjective appears to be ‘dystopian’) of a city yet within one’s four walls anything is possible.

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There are scenes of such beauty in this movie that I’ve seldom seen in recent cinema – aesthetics married to a purpose. So often these days I sit gobsmacked at the constant artillery barrage of nonsensical flicks consisting of nincompoops in capes saving the world. Ridiculous gibberish.

Anyway, you must see this film. Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in the same movie. What a time to be alive.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/blade-runner-2049-review-spectacular-profound-blockbuster-time/

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/blade-runner-2049-denis-villeneuve

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