Coming out in 2017, my second book is a radical deconstruction of the Brit Abroad genre (see, for example, A Year In Provence, or Driving Over Lemons) . Yes, it’s “about” me (again) my family and our idyllic life in Spain (zzzz) but it’s also about the under-explored and relatively unknown province of Caceres, which lies in Extremadura, in south-west Spain. Its people, its history, its culture, traditions and peculiarities. Above all, its peculiarities. Continue reading “In Extremadura, coming in 2017”
“68½: Movies, Manson & Me” is the first book by PlanktonProduktions, available as a free download from Smashwords, on Amazon Kindle (for 99p) and as a paperback, exclusively from Plankton Produktions (click on Buy above). A mind-bending journey through the outer reaches of the late 60s and 70s, the drugs, the movies, the murders, it’s equal parts autobiography, paean to the cinema of the time, DIY guide for aspiring screen-writers, and inquiry into the nature of truth and memory. “A true genre-buster,” says Nick Gilbert (no relation).
Did a vehicle come from somewhere out there, just to land in the Andes? So sings George Duke on the Mothers of Invention album One Size Fits All, recorded in 1975 and perhaps the pinnacle of this, the very finest of Mothers line-ups. Well, in spite of Erich Von Daniken and Close Encounters, we can be fairly sure that the answer is no, a vehicle did not come from out there just to land in the Andes, or anywhere else. There are plenty of perfectly rational explanations for the Nazca lines, some of which also acknowledge and incorporate a relationship with the Gods/cosmos, albeit one emanating from Earth, and focusing on the entirely understandable need to believe in other worlds/higher powers, rather than entertaining the actual existence of extra-terrestrial or supernatural intelligence. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Inca Roads”
We’ve reached B, and the temptation to ramble on about the Beach Boys, and the brilliant octet of albums that followed the over-rated Pet Sounds, is almost too great to resist. BUT – as the smug and irritating Chris Tarrant might say – we don’t want to do that! The Beach Boys have been done to death. Not so Andy Bey, a man whose extraordinary four octave range I first encountered on saxman Gary Bartz’s jazz dance classic Celestial Blues. Continue reading “Every Album I Own: Andy Bey, Experience & Judgement”
Inspired by a link which my brother Matt recently sent to me* in which another middle-aged, middle-class white man indulges his passions for the edification of nobody in particular (you mean, I’m not the ONLY one?) I have decided to embark on a new strand of posts, riffing on each vinyl album and CD I possess, telling the stories behind the stories, the memories they evoke etc. But fear ye not, I won’t labour through every SINGLE album I’ve got, or we’d be here forever. Continue reading “From A Certain Ratio to Zappa: Every Album I Own”
Anyone with more than a passing interest in Spanish culture knows that Federico Garcia Lorca was “Spain’s greatest 20th century poet” (copyright, every single guidebook ever written about Spain) and that he was murdered by the Fascists at the start of the Spanish Civil War, either for being a Leftie (which he wasn’t) or a homosexual (which he was) or both. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Lorca, Killer Wail”
First of all, a big shout to my colleague Laurence Elliott, who, while being in no way related to Joe Elliott, the lead singer of Def Leppard, IS a bit of a fellow Germanophile and, more importantly, recently lent me his prized copy of the much-trumpeted film Northern Soul (much trumpeted on its own website anyway – join the club, I say) which he got for Christmas from his nan. Or it might have been his sister. This small act of kindness has prompted me to offer up a modest overview of Northern Soul on film, both fictional and documentary. As if there were a difference in these post-truth times! Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Northern Soul on Film”
Hooray! At last, we have some REAL archaeology to get our teeth into. We’re talking Mayan pyramids, and Mayan language, and Mel Gibson. But as ever with archaeology on film, we’re gonna get mired in controversy over how accurate things really are. The first time I saw Apocalypto, I thought “Cool!” Sure, there’s a bit too much joking around at the start with tapir testicles, and Jaguar Paw’s young, pregnant wife and son at the bottom of the well is a touch too Hollywood, but the decision to use an indigenous language (Yucatec) is a stroke of genius, and the pursuit of Jaguar Paw by the Bad Mayans is super exciting and combines elements of Deliverance with Cornel Wilde’s The Naked Prey to great effect.
Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Apocalypto”
Deliverance is the ultimate “dam” movie. Okay, so there aren’t really that many films about dams, but they do include a couple of corkers, namely Larissa Shepitko’s difficult-to-find Farewell (completed by her husband Elem Klimov after Shepitko died in a car crash, so very much a farewell to his wife as well as a farewell to the Siberian village threatened by a hydro-electric scheme) and the Argentinian/Welsh co-production Patagonia, neither of which we’re concerned with here, as I’m saving Argentinian/Welsh co-productions for another, necessarily short post at some point in the future. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Deliverance”
I’m a bit late with this one – it was supposed to go out on January 19th but I was distracted by my Deliverance and Apocalypto posts. There’s a connection of sorts, though, in that the peculiar tradition of the Jarramplas, which takes place in Piornal, Northern Extremadura, is in its way as sacrificial as what the Maya get up to in Apocalypto, while the people of Piornal are every bit as fond of their squealing pigs and attendant embutidos as the mountain men of Deliverance. They are, quite literally, the mountain men of Extremadura, Piornal being the highest village round those parts, and this is what they get up to, every January, on Saint Sebastian’s Day. Continue reading “In Extremadura: Jarramplas”
Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread) is a documentary made by Luis Bunuel in Extremadura in 1932, during Spain’s Second Republic. This was, I need hardly tell you, a time of huge social progress and equally violent unrest. King Alfonso XIII had abdicated and a progressive coalition of Republicans and Socialists had come to power. The government was attempting, amongst other things, to introduce an eight-hour working day and solve the “land problem” by giving proper tenure to agricultural workers. Continue reading “Archaeology Corner: Prisoners of Bunuel”