The Chronograph Post

The Culture side of life

Present me a wall, P.G Wodehouse


It’s moments like this which stick the proverbial middle finger up at the digital Publishing world. This wildly impressive floor to ceiling display of P.G Wodehouse’s literary accomplishments (photographed at Hatchards on Piccadilly) documents the prolific writings which spanned a lengthy and varied career – in a way which is ultimately impossible to achieve on a digital handheld.

Much like a ‘Hoover’ has come to mean ‘vacuum cleaner’ – in this post a ‘kindle’, for ease, refers to all those reading tablets currently available on the market. For all those who have been living under a rock recently, the ‘kindle’ has become the revolutionary beacon in the battle of maintaining the modern household. A relationship saver that has single handedly eliminated the cause of much marital strife (his yellowing Terry Pratchett paperbacks) to make room for all those other vital household necessities (ceramic ducks for example). They have also allowed us to read with ease on the go; thin and light enough to tote along on the morning commute, the kindle has liberated our minds and shoulders and allowed us to catch up on the 50 shades saga, with increased ease.

…If I am being a tad facetious then it is merely to prove my point, I am obviously not so much of a Luddite ogre that I cannot appreciate the finer points of the kindle. However, abandoning the ideas of holidays, commutes and sneaking in your deliciously guilty reading, one can only appreciate such a vast body of truly brilliant work when it is physically in front of you, word for word. Page for page. Scrolling through a list of 30-40 files on an electronic device takes but a nano second, whereas seeing those thousands of carefully considered, masterfully written words in front of your eyes is the visual equivalent of experiencing a Jewish Friday night dinner: impressive, vast, and a tribute to the all encompassing skills and dedication of the writer (mother).

Now – off to find a bigger house with an extra wall…

Dark Blood on the Viper Room floor

Dark Blood, will always be known as the film that never was; the film that met a cataclysmic end on the sidewalk outside notable LA hotspot, The Viper Room.

The occasion of course was the untimely death of River phoenix, the actor who collapsed outside the aforementioned venue from drug induced heart failure. The film was the late actor’s then-current project, that on the day of his death was only days from completion.

20 years later, reels of the uncompleted film were recently shown at the Berlin Film Festival. The original Director of the project, George Sluizer has since ‘completed’ the film by embedding voice overs over the rushes that Phoenix himself did not finish.

Having been warmly received by critics at the Berlin Film Festival it would be great to see this work released to a wider audience (at the approval of the Phoenix family, naturally) From what reports suggest, Dark Blood is an astounding project, exhibiting the supreme talent and charm of the young actor. The film, cut short, like Phoenix’s own life proves even more poignant than a scenario in which his passing had occurred after wrapping – the rawness of a grand film ripped of its finale is a stamp of what came to pass for this truly talented actor.

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Phoenix as Chris Chambers in the Epic Stand by Me (1986) Reiner, Rob

#Readarama and a Jane Austen birthday

I have only very recently cottoned onto Penguin Publisher’s ‘Readarama’’ initiative – or #readarama for the twitter-ites among us. Ostensibly, the idea is to get our nation reading and enjoying books once more, by posing the challenge whereby we pledge to read one book a week, for the duration of 2013. I must say it feels slightly reminiscent of the “walk to school week” challenge that was annually posited on every child at my school (those many years ago); however, this grown up version is something I am aiming to get myself involved in as much as humanly possible – it does seem to be a tad idealistic for anyone holding down a full time job or any level of social or familial responsibility… Nonetheless, I hasten to add the importance I have placed upon myself this year, to up my reading ante and conquer some of the books currently collecting dust on my shelves – I am one of the few remaining people on this planet who is yet to embrace the kindle.

However, as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it seems as good a time as any to reunite with my love affair for this absolute smasher of a book, and one of my all time favourite, dog eared paperbacks. Before the cries lamenting my obviousness of choice come hurling down on top of me, I must hasten to add that my favourite element of the novel by a mile is the punctuating presence of a certain odious Mr Collins. As a woman I realise I should align myself entirely with Elizabeth Bennett – and to all extents and purposes, that is the case (well done Ms. Austen). However it is the repugnant nature of Mr Collins, combined with the tasteless renderings of Mrs Bennet that land this book among the pile of comedy golds that take up the majority of space on my bookshelves.

During my research into the various festivities that were put in place to mark this Anniversary, I managed to stumble across the most fantastic Flikr account (full evidence available here) who have in their own unique way, documented the Pride and Prejudice fairytale.

Anyone else suspect J.A. would have loved this?

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Barbie Pride and Prejudice


A Child’s History Lesson

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Anyone interested in the history of the Publishing industry or illustration should track down some old comics. I am not a comic aficionado by nature, however these old 1950’s Eagle comics have truly fascinated me; the paper and print has a quality quite unlike anything that you see on the shelves today, in your hand it has the feel of a battered Private Eye (albeit age most likely has a hand in this) but with the print quality of a photographic tome. The ink is embedded so thickly in the paper you can practically feel the zinc rubbing off in your hands and considering the relatively crude printing techniques, the graphics are razor sharp.

However, what is undoubtedly most fascinating about these comics is the insight they provide into 1950s social perspective and understanding. Art is the voice of expression and these comics reveal the reaction of a population, in a decade dominated by the Cold War, Communist Soviets and the international Space Race.

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These ‘Dan Dare’ comics present to modern audiences, what was can only be described as the raging hysteria that surrounded that first intrepid journey into space. Set in the future (the 1990s…) Dare and his band of followers routinely prevent the world from imploding into chaos and  tyranny, wrenching it from the evil clutches of the treacherous Mekon (a bulbous headed alien who routinely threatens the existence of earth.) However, despite this ‘modern’ content, the whole set up reeks with the identity of the 1950s – there may as well be a floating caption above all Dan Dare villains’ disclaiming their Russian Nationality. Some could argue (i’m not choosing to) that these comics intone ‘propaganda lite’ messages, heralding national allegiance and patriotism in the face of the Cold War and Communism…  I personally think its merely the time-honoured tradition of writing about what you know and using topical interest as ready made content.

Regardless, whether embedded with political intent or not (obviously not)  these comics provide a great insight into the general emotional state of 1950s Britain, whilst simultaneously chronicling the history of our publishing industry.

All hail the once supposed humble comic.

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Chris Bracey: The Circus of Soho and the Neon King

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If you fancy taking a trip into the hallucinogenic inducing world of bright lights and heavy techno music, then a brief dalliance in Chris Bracey’s Soho shop installation God’s Junk Yard: The Circus of Soho installation is all you need to propel you into this deliciously seedy underworld.

Bracey’s history as an artist is well combed over territory: he famously overhauled the image of the 70s red light district – producing the majority of the signage and imagery, leaving a slew of copy cats in his wake. His neon ‘lineage’ stems from his involvement and eventual takeover of his father’s family business, which to this day is still based in the innocuous Walthamstow. Originally the company produced purely functional neon pieces, before the young Bracey, stifled by his work in a Soho based graphic design studio, commandeered his father’s production process and brought it with a crash into the promiscuous 70s and later, the art world. Fast forward to the 21st Century and a string of reputed personal clients including (but not limited to) Kate Moss and Johnny Depp, and a torrent of commissions for the film and fashion elite under his belt (Tim Burton, Stanley Kubrick, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood are merely a few names to have sanctioned Bracey’s artistic renderings for commercial projects) Bracey has most definitely come out of sex shops and graduated to the catwalks, homes and movie sets of Rock and Roll’s elite.

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What’s interesting is that even after his meteoric success and vast public recognition, Bracey has chosen to present his pieces in a style that does as much to emulate its origins as possible; for a collection which could easily command a trendy gallery, but moreover a hefty fee, it feels very poignant to see Bracey return to show his collection down the road from the area in Soho from whence he first made his name.

Speaking with the curator of Bracey’s Soho shop/space/junkyard, the anecdote that thrilled me most was that in his spare time, Bracey is a potter. Yes a simple potter with clay and a wheel, not a blowtorch wielding cyanide guzzling magician. When you look back again through these images of Bracey’s sexually explosive and eye blinding work, it’s enjoyable to imagine this same man -who single handedly conquered London’s underworld and Kate Moss’ living room- incongruously crafting a teapot back in his walthamstow studios. However once you separate those two images, this installation provides a wonderful catalogue of Bracey’s best public work, as well as a time warp back to the seediest of 70s Soho club. For this alone, Bracey’s pop up gallery is an absolute must visit, if only to say that you once visited /paid homage to the birthplace of the infamous “girls, girls, girls” slogan.

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KEXP: The Icelandic Dreamboat versus the Beatle

We are on the cusp of the reveal for the 2012 Christmas number one single, with the race to the top spot currently tied between James Arthur’s homogenised cover of Shontelle’s “Impossible”, versus the re-hashed Charity single “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”

With the latter being spearheaded by Paul McCartney and profits of the single going directly to families worst affected by the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, It’s abundantly clear where James Arthur stands in this toss-up. Image

Such a grandiose level of achievement, in previous years – once bestowed upon Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Pink Floyd (to name a few), but more recently falling to those such as Bob the builder (yes, really) and Shayne Ward (who?) It’s fair to say that the Christmas top slot is no longer an accolade that necessarily denotes musical capability, nor reflects the fantastic emerging talent in the music scene. In Lieu of talent, the artist determined to hit the top spot requires only that dynamite quality of likeability; we as listeners should count ourselves lucky when miraculously the two are combined and the people’s choice actually manages to exhibit traces of musicality.

For 2012 it’s clear that the Hillsborough Christmas single should and will come out top. You have to be the biggest scrooge at Christmas to want to deny charitable giving, however it has to be said that despite the lovely sentiment, that if the charity element was removed, you’d be left with a dated rendition that does little to advance or personalise the track – something all good covers should aim to do.

However, charity aside, when you weigh up Macca’s competition you are faced with Simon Cowells latest X factor graduate and his vastly over produced cover of a Diva-Pop Shontelle track. I’m not narrow minded enough to suggest that a man can’t cover a female track, my  quandary lies in the fact that despite a surprisingly capable voice with an interesting timbre, Cowell’s team have managed to assassinate any artistic integrity he may possess in one fell swoop, through a crass and fundamentally lazy production on the song.

Therefore in view of this, CP feels the need to appoint its own Christmas Number One tribute, in the first step on the grand path towards a cultural overhaul. The position goes to an artist well deserving of merit and praise. One whom not only sings beatifically, but whom also hasn’t been sent like a lemming into sin bin of mediocrity, via an entirely dated production team.


Our artist in question is Sóley, the Icelandic dream boat who subtly manoeuvres her way through her track ‘I’ll drown,’ to create a melancholic dreamscape. Hailing from the school of the Nordic aesthetic – bearing in mind that this is the same grouping that gave us Bjork  and more recently ‘Beach House’ and ‘First Aid Kit’, Sóley was never going to be your average lycra flouting pop angel. What strikes me most in this live performance clip is that it absolutely annihilates the studio recording by comparison. It’s reassuring to hear that in an era of mass over production, you can still find artists with a talent and production skill so unique, it’s almost impossible to capture entirely in hard copy.

Do take a look at the video and congratulate this year’s well deserved *yet entirely un-official and made up, yet still completely valid* Christmas number one!