Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

For about a decade I thought this image was a shot of construction workers enjoying a lunch-time nibble on the Empire State Building. Only last year was I told the building wasn’t the site of King Kong’s last hurrah but 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short (now recently renamed the Comcast Building).

Weirdly, Sir Alex Ferguson brought me here. In a TV interview with Fabien Barthez, Fergie explained to his old goalkeeper the importance of the photograph (it adorned his office wall), that it encapsulated with its 11 men dangling on the 840-foot girder classic themes of sacrifice and teamwork, and of realising the impossible. A cultured chap for a football manager, one would of course expect this kind of art on his wall, and not Vinnie Jones crunching Gazza’s testicles.

Widely credited to Charles C. Ebbets, the snap has a staged, advertising feel to it, but is nonetheless quietly subversive in its details. This is the Prohibition era, yet the bloke on the far right is hogging a bottle of whiskey (fuck the system!). Researchers have identified him as Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič, a lumberjack and carpenter from Slovakia, who would at the end of WWII be killed by a grenade. He even sent his wife this photograph, on which he wrote, ‘Don’t you worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.’

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Immigrants building the future, eh. Many photographs are considered great merely on the basis of their functional quality (a photo is a photo is a photo), others also have an accompanying historical value which enriches them, surface components opening up human dramas outwith the artefact.

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United  ̶A̶i̶r̶l̶i̶n̶e̶s̶ Shambles

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This whole United Airlines calamity is I feel best summed up by the above hoot of a meme.

Just to recap, planes are hell. Many passengers stink – it’s like being plonked next to a skunk. Another hefty minority clearly struggle to match a ticket and seat number, and another fifth are extremely loud creatures. It’s a microcosm of society. Anyway, you are all packed together as tinned sardines, doing anything to drown out the image of your flying machine plummeting into a mountain. Some watch movies to escape these thoughts, others try and have a sly wank in the bog. My own wee personal technique is to guzzle alcohol like it’s my last day on the planet. It works.

And now, as if air travel wasn’t bad enough, we now have to put up with the crew (or airline ‘authorities’) turning on the passengers. Brilliant. Ever get the feeling you’re living in some kind of comedy sketch show?

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Auld Reekie in pictures(!).

Behold the spring delights of Edinburgh in this wee montage of recent snaps I’ve taken. No poverty or bar brawls here; it’s my propaganda piece.

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Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000) – appalling movie, transcendental tunes.

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Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000) – it’s barely a film, more a hotchpotch of childish, pointless, often cringeworthy scenes. It has nothing to say and no reason to exist. The movie is the cinematic equivalent of jizz on a tissue. The music, though. It’s fucking magical. God, those were the days – Ibiza at the turn of the last century, when falling asleep in a pool of your own vomit was considered a trailblazing activity.

The soundtrack to Kevin & Perry Go Large is trance music at its zenith.

Right, time for a bit of Eyeball Paul. Pass the eccies.

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Kolberg (1945) – last looney propaganda piece of the Third Reich.

Kolberg (1945) is frankly bonkers.

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The most expensive German film of World War II at eight million marks, and shot between October 1943 to August 1944, this monstrosity depicts the defence of the eponymous fortress town against French troops at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1807). It’s a kind of metaphor for German fortunes after the failures of Stalingrad and Kursk; with strategic initiative lost, the remainder of the fight on the Eastern Front became a series of attritional, reactive operations with no chance of success.

The extras comprised 187,000 people and 50,000 soldiers, apparently the second-highest cast of all time behind Gandhi (1982).

The city of Kolberg itself was declared a fortress town a mere month after the film’s opening, this consisting of regular showings in Berlin whilst air raids pummelled the capital.

Imagine the ideological fanaticism of a regime that, as ultimate annihilation beckoned, it still felt the need to plough such ludicrous resources into a movie of epic undertaking, resources that could have been of immeasurable human and material value in the war effort. This Nazi-opus Gone with the Wind (1939) just serves to highlight the tenuous grip on reality exhibited in the last years of the Third Reich, and an overbearing emphasis on *will* as the essential component in turning the tide of war.

Further reading:

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/04/29/kolberg-the-third-reichs-cinematic-swan-song/

 

 

 

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I am a travelling slob.

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On every one of my wee city adventures I have pre-trip visions, grandiose plans for culture, a desire to immerse myself in the local community, a wolf in the sheep pen (something like that).

All I ever end up doing is getting fucked up and sitting on my arse. A ten-minute museum cameo and I’m back to the pub for another intake of liquid delights. Sometimes I think I’d be better off just staying at home, necking Lidl’s own-brand Scotch from the bottle whilst furiously wanking away to Apocalypse Now (1979).

This snap defines my ‘adventures’. Copenhagen in spring. Winning (maybe).

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The Lost City of Z (2016).

 

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Z was such a pleasant surprise. It’s so rare these days to see an old-fashioned adventure movie that’s classically crafted, with a concentration on very few themes but these taken all the way and succinctly explored. It borders on David Lean at times, but peppered with vignettes of early Herzog.

Based on the exploits of Percy Fawcett, the film brought out the seeming wonder (and danger) of travel at a time when something called The British Empire actually existed, as risible the proposition now looks. Not that the film was nostalgic; merely, it captured the mores and eccentricities of the age, and the obsession with new discoveries that went with it.

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These adventuring … pioneers, I suppose, are held in high esteem because they paved the way, accomplished things most men couldn’t. It’s films like this that do them service. And there isn’t a single sighting of a CGI monster or a nincompoop in a cape. Refreshingly old school.

Further reading:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/lost-city-z-review-transporting-profound-piece-cinema/

http://www.history.com/news/explorer-percy-fawcett-disappears-in-the-amazon-90-years-ago

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Verisimilitude on the Eastern Front.

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I’ve always wondered about this one, and have no way to verify whether it’s a legitimate piece of footage or not. It appears to be shot on the Eastern Front, capturing brutal house-to-house fighting between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht. Stalingrad, perhaps? I know re-enactments were commonplace, and especially right after battles. It’s an eerie proposition, though, that a soldier’s passing would one day be played back in an Edinburgh slum on a Friday evening, the viewer drinking Southern Comfort from a ThunderCats mug.

Any further info welcomed.

1:32 on the clip.

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The FOTW.

The Foot of the Walk pub in Leith. Quite the dingy establishment at the best of times, pop in to witness regular brawls, glassings, and the sight of a woman in a poncho snorting lines of heavily cut drugs off the table at two o’clock in the afternoon.IMG_20170318_160713032

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Orient Express.

A wee trip back into the luxury high-end voyages of the past here, with Hercule Poirot actor David Suchet doing the Orient Express thing sans the Agatha Christie plot mechanisms. Nothing matters outside the train, the roving slice of the Victorian beast a world unto itself. It’s a charming doc. And I’m never travelling with ScotRail again after viewing this.

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