Category Archives: Uncategorized

Siberian airspace during the USSR.

I thought an 11-hour, 6,000-mile flight from London to Tokyo was hell on earth, a suspended furnace of ghastly smells and even worse movies. On such claustrophobic ventures I do enjoy unearthing the laptop for a disaster-themed bonanza – Flight (2012) with the inimitable Denzel, Air Force One (1997), and an Air Crash Investigation bumper pack. If you’re going to reek worse than durian in a hobo’s socks, you’re going to be subjected to terrifying plane crash fun.

A wee peek into the Cold War glory days of grim and we find an 11-hour trip today the relative Shangri-La of a plane journey. For obvious reasons, the communist paradise of the Gulag restricted its airspace, with only Soviet planes allowed to fly above the Soviet Union. The solution was for Western airlines to traverse the Arctic, stop at Anchorage, and then proceed to Tokyo. This sub-zero town in Alaska was for a semi-epoch the transport hub for travel to Asia. With the fall of the Soviet Union it is now once again a backwater, the perfect milieu for the very bleak Christopher Nolan movie Insomnia (2002).

Today, Russia wields enormous power through its control over the Siberian flight corridor, and the country chooses which airlines have access (with great cost to the airline). Post World Cup this summer, one of the greatest fears of commercial airlines is that escalating tensions (some might say warfare, this proxy or cyber) between Russia and the West will usher in another airspace ban, with passengers once more forced to city-hop en route to their desired destination. The nineties and noughties – 9/11 aside – just might turn out to be the Golden Age of flying.

We don’t want shit like this happening again:

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France, 1940 – debunking the ‘Halt Order’.

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Up until last year and the release of Dunkirk (2017), it was generally assumed by the layman and amateur historian that the successful evacuation of Dunkirk was due to the lax, complacent attitude of the German Army, this a direct order from Hitler to halt the armoured divisions as a benevolent peace offer to the British. Only now has consensus gathered amongst us part-time carnage bookworms that this is nothing but a fallacy. Myths are embedded within official military narrative and it happens because they are convenient, an easy answer to overwhelmingly complex logistical and political issues. The laziness, with exceptions, of the modern historian is so rampant that contemporary sources are taken as gospel, i.e., works by peers. It’s as if the archives don’t exist.

James Holland’s recent digging into this seemingly forever contentious event now appears to have silenced the Hitler apologists (that he didn’t want to intensify war with Britain, bla, bla). The order quite simply came from the frontline generals, and Hitler’s subsequent involvement was as an intervention between competing branches of the German military. For an in-depth anatomy of the whole mess, I highly recommend this piece on Holland’s own website: http://www.griffonmerlin.com/2016/07/17/dunkirk-1940-hitlers-halt-order/

Fittingly, the Russians just this past week let forensic experts analyse Hitler’s teeth, dispelling, one would hope, the belief that he fled to Argentina in a U-boat or emigrated to the Moon.

Further reading:

http://www.griffonmerlin.com/2016/07/17/dunkirk-1940-hitlers-halt-order/

https://skeptoid.com/blog/2013/04/15/no-hitler-did-not-let-the-british-escape-at-dunkirk/

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-24/why-the-germans-blew-it-at-dunkirk

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/sep/06/the-war-in-the-west-review-james-holland

 

 

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Operation Market Garden – A Bridge Too Far.

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I first saw A Bridge Too Far (1977) on VHS in 1998 midway through a glorious summer mostly spent playing Mortal Kombat on a dilapidated SNES. I purchased the film with Dante’s Peak (1997) from an electronics store on Dalry Road, Edinburgh. The latter movie, some gibberish about a volcano starring James Bond and Sarah Connor, was garbage on tape. The former, featuring the first incarnation of James Bond and a who’s who of star names, was a revelation. It had carnage, a British-American Pro Bowl of acting talent, a surfeit of bridges, an addictive theme tune, and some thoroughly nasty Waffen SS units.

More so than El Alamein, the Battle of Arnhem was the last gritty swansong of the British Army, and nothing like it was seen until the Falklands War in 1982. The movie was one of the first to shed light upon the deficiencies in military leadership that plagued the later ‘successful’ campaigns of WWII, the myth of Montgomery as peerless grand master demolished here. It’s fitting the film was made in the late ’70s, that rotten era of excessive inflation, industrial action, uncollected garbage, and three-day work weeks. Britain was seemingly on its last legs, and it’s almost as if a splatter of tragic nostalgia was needed to top it all off.

Anyway, it’s online now and of decent quality:

Further reading/viewing:

https://www.historyextra.com/period/a-bridge-too-far/

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/bridge-far-true-story-behind-xxx-corps-market-garden.html

 

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The hotel is a cave – Join the Club (The Sopranos).

The most famous ‘hotel movie’ The Shining (1980) is your archetypal man-goes-nuts-in-a-secluded-dwelling picture, but it’s more of a supernaturally themed flick than one in which the collective predilection for accommodation alienation is expressed.

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The Overlook Hotel.

The trailblazing TV series The Sopranos (1999-2007) may be famed for its stark violence and deadly black humour, but it had in some of its more audacious episodes an outlandish preoccupation with the metaphysical. Issues of mental health and modern existential malaise permeate its edges, these usually expressed through dream sequences, and Tony’s bouts of extreme depression and anxiety often the MacGuffin for major mid-season game-changers.

When Uncle Junior shoots Tony, the latter (on a hospital bed lingering between life and death) takes us through the most ridiculous, and eventually moving episode of the entire show. As shamelessly evil as this glib character is, one can’t help but feel empathy for what might have been. Moreover, ‘Join the Club’ is one of the few uses of location in any TV series (or film) to manifest a psychological feeling, the flashing lights in the distance a beacon of a world he can’t reach but just sorely wishes to. This is the hotel as total isolation, as if Tony were Robinson Crusoe in a sleek 21st century inn.

The episode reminded me of one night at a Stansted Airport hotel en route to Ljubljana, Slovenia. The check-in process consisted of typing a code into a Skynet vending machine. The only person I saw was a 6:00 a.m. cleaner doing her thing. Perhaps it was because I was on a twilight motorway, the highlights passing cars and a 24/7 Shell garage, that the situation had a Michael Mann feel to it. As I hit the hay in this cold, faux high-tech room, I wondered the drama were it my destiny to depart in a midnight layover servicing a budget airlines hub.

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A stone’s throw from Stansted Airport.

Ah, the deserted hostel bar in Riga, Latvia. I sat on my hoop here guzzling a bottle of amaretto. I believe I spent the best part of the day defragging the laptop. Not a sentient being in sight, but I wasn’t bothered.

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Gathering my thoughts about Black Balsam in Riga.

When you travel solo feelings are amplified – joy, elation, depression, loneliness. It’s whether one can handle the solitude or not, the autonomy of it all. The no-man’s-land moments have always retained more relevance to me than a riotous party or a bonkers pub crawl. I find the memories more lasting, as if a deep meditation had occurred.

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Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore.

N.B. Michelangelo Antonioni should have shot a trilogy of films entirely within a hotel (The Ritz Trilogy).

Further reading:

http://viralscape.com/abandoned-hotels/

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/pleasures-sadness

 

 

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Avicii: True Stories.

Tim Berg, a.k.a. Avicii, especially after his ‘sudden’ death, always reminded me of Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982) by the sheer *supercalifragilisticexpialidociousNESS* of his output coupled with his ridiculous youth, and the fact that he simply … looked like him.

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‘The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.’

The documentary Avicii: True Stories (2017) is a captivating watch, but mostly for all the wrong reasons. A shy lad reaching optimum capacity, he frequently appears on the verge of complete physical and psychological collapse.

A true artist – not one of these self-aggrandising nincompoops who chucks the moniker around with casual abandon – is more than capable of pushing the envelope to such extremes that the dangers become one of mortality. Avicii, whether one is into so-called ‘EDM’ or not, can be ascribed the term ‘artist’. The tunes are simply awesome, an autodidact’s fantasy.

Now, take me back to the Eurotrip summer of 2011, with Levels the daily opera to all activities.

‘Oh, sometimes. I get a good feeling, yeah ….’

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The Ultra Long Range A350 XWB.

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The cutting-edge Beast is here, and will soon smash records and traverse the 9,521 miles between Singapore and New York with Singapore Airlines. To think that commercial air travel isn’t even one hundred years old yet; this is only the beginning.

Further reading:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/airbus-a350-ulr-xwb-first-flight/

http://www.traveller.com.au/worlds-longest-flight-airbus-ultra-long-range-a350-xwb-takes-to-the-sky-for-the-first-time-h0z5ls

 

 

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Biblical Gorgie – Edinburgh’s lofty testimonial.

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Moses would have creamed his toga (is that what they wore or was it a Roman invention?) at such scenes. When the Red Sea was split into a peak John Woo movie did the bloke (Mr. Moses) ever witness a sky like this? Gorgie is an Old Testament in the present. I believe this scenic occasion was a riotous football game. History repeats itself and all that.

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Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Wehrmacht Stormtroopers.

Where Eagles Dare (1968) surely must have been watched on a loop by George Lucas as he was penning A New Hope (1977) and the expanded Star Wars universe.

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Fan art poster.

 

Hohenwerfen Castle is this movie’s Death Star, the German troops the most incompetent ever assembled in what is the peak Hollywood WWII turkey shoot; Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood mow the fuckers down like Stormtroopers. Reducing a complex military operation to the wits and whims of two ‘superhero’ protagonists, it’s this blasé depiction of war that has young lads all giddy (“chomping at the bit”) en route to army recruitment offices.

The Wehrmacht grunt here is a Stormtrooper sans the Arctic clobber, and by the end one could be forgiven for thinking that Messrs Burton and Eastwood casually take out an entire division.

It’s quite the escapist experience, and its influence is rampant – the Medal of Honor video game series, for example, is an unabridged adaptation of the movie’s aesthetic. In an ideal Pentagon monopoly on propaganda, the enemy is devoid of dimensions and the battle a cakewalk.

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War is no messy struggle when you’ve got personality pulling the trigger.

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Gorgie, Edinburgh – the Dickensian aspect.

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Gorgie Road in April – spring doesn’t exist here (and never will). Gorgie is the dark side of Dickens, but with an inordinate volume of shitty cars, manky kebabs, and unwashed tracksuits. The pubs are usually okay if you leave before sundown. Nothing else to see here.

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Boris is not impressed.

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Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World (2018) is quite possibly the most boring film I’ve ever seen. I’d like to apologise to the cat for putting the traumatised creature through it.

Absolute shite. No characters, no drama, nothing to say, nothing to be seen. A film about nothing.

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