Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A long, splendid list of collective nouns

I came across a list of collective nouns today. The multitude of collective nouns is a real oddity of the English language, here are some of my favorites...

Birds:

A bellowing of bullfinches
A commotion of coots
A plump of ducks
A murder of crows
A gaggle of geese
A charm of goldfinches
A screw of hawks
A scoop of pelicans
An conspiracy of ravens
A squabble of seagulls
A gulp of swallows
A mutation of thrushes
A posse of turkeys
A committee of vultures


Mammals:

A coffle of asses
A flange of baboons
A destruction of wild cats
A coalition of cheetahs
A horde of gerbils
A journey of giraffes
A whoop of gorillas
A drift of hogs
A clan of hyenas
A mob of kangaroos
A mischief of mice
A cartload of monkeys
A romp of otters
A prickle of porcupines
A dray of squirrels
An ambush of tigers
An ugly of walruses
A sneak of weasels
A cohort of zebras


Invertebrates:

A culture of bacteria
A smack of jellyfish


Insects:

A kaleidoscope of butterflies
A business of flies
A scourge of mosquitoes


Amphibians and Reptiles:

A quiver of cobras
A congregation of crocodiles
A froggery of frogs
A rhumba of rattlesnakes
A knob of toads

... and People:

A conflagration of arsonists
A tabernacle of bakers
A galaxy of beauties
A blush of boys
A shuffle of bureaucrats
A sneer of butlers
A syndicate of capitalists
A drunkship of cobblers
A hastiness of cooks
A herd of harlots
A neverthriving of jugglers
An eloquence of lawyers
An illusion of magicians
A curse of painters
A poverty of pipers
A prudence of vicars
An ambush of widows

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Frank Sidebottom and Heroin

In light of recent events, I'm going to break my blogging silence and share a brief, but strange story...

In about 1992, by chance I bought a Sinclair Spectrum game called "The Biz". I didn't know anything about the game, but discovered that it was endorsed by Frank Sidebottom. The game looked very cheaply produced, yet it was intensely addictive. You basically manage a rock band and try and get them to the top of the charts.

Flash forward about 13 years. It's 2005 and I screened one of my short films at a club in Manchester called Filmonik. The programmer of The Biz is there (Chris Sievy) and he screens a strangely avant-garde film that features Frank Sidebottom. The penny suddenly drops that the programmer of The Biz *was* Frank Sidebottom.

After the screening, I approached Chris and introduced myself. I told him that in my early teens I got hooked on The Biz. He replied "was it like heroin?". I replied "huh?", and he told me that when he programmed this game, his manager started playing it, and he got so addicted that his wife told Chris that it was like her husband was on heroin.

So that's how Chris Sievy touched my life. Rest in Peace, dear boy.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Case of Gerhard Richter's "Betty"


I've been visiting my friend Matt Thorpe recently, and the above image adorns his living room quite prominently. I liked it immediately. Though I've been visiting Matt intermittently over the last few months, I finally decided to find out more about the picture by looking online. It would seem that there is something about this painting that just won't quit!

First of all, formal comments: the dark background becomes blacker than black when contrasted with the colour in the foreground. Also, the sharpness of detail on her jacket contrasts well with the blurred quality of her hair. As one online commentator points out, the painting is like "a photograph in its precision, yet with the touch of the personal, that care, which a painting can convey." How true.

Another online aesthetician commented on the artist: "Richter's opinions about his profession are famous: it is useless, ridiculous, impossible, to be reviled. Still, he believes that to paint is an act of enormous hope, maybe the last such act available, and he's devoted his life to it. The resulting canvases are by turns gorgeous and empty, or ashen and empty."

Both commentators also suggested that the painting arouses curiosity, particularly in light of what it is that the woman (Richter's daughter) is looking at. Personally, this question never entered my mind. I did wonder initially what her face looked like, but soon I was struck by another thought, which is that besides being etherial and evocative, it's also quite funny...

It's amazing to me that my friend could keep such an image in his living room - I'd go bananas fairly soon. Seeing a person's face is so fundamental to human visual experience. We're continually on the lookout for other faces, including crude abstractions:


It's a landscape that we never tire of - images of the human face are redundantly plastered all over our media landscape, including for example, crossword magazine covers. Why?

It's quite simple. When you see someone's face, you can detect what their intentions are. It's our first point of identification, an essential part of our interaction with our surroundings. Such a facility was essential to the human race when we were surviving in the wild. Thanks to thousands, if not millions of years, we're incessant, chronic face-radars!

With that in mind, Richter's painting becomes ascetic on first glance, and quite painful after extended contemplation. Not only are we looking at a person (rather than an abstraction or an inanimate object) but we can't see what frame of mind she is in, what her intentions are or whether she is pleasing to look at. Worst of all, SHE WON'T TURN AROUND! The stasis of the picture turns into a gesture of stubbornness. So I'm acutely aware of my heart progressively sinking in a manner that is both painful and invigorating.

So, rather than getting wound up by the painting, I finally concede that it is as comical as it is sublime.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Movies that I'd Like to See

First blog in ages! Over a year ago, I was watching Return of the Jedi with a couple of pals. In the middle, my mate Russell Bailey said that he would like to see a version of the original Star Wars trilogy, but with the focus being on the dissolution of the friendship between Darth Vader and Palpatine.

Well, I liked this idea very much. So recently I've been thinking about a bunch of other films I would like to see re-imagined....

James Bond where there's no spy stuff or fighting going on, just an international playboy doing his thing

A movie which charts the small talk made between Dorothy, The Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion as they walk down the yellow brick road

A real-time film which shows Tim Robbins crawling through the sewer for an hour and a half in The Shawshank Redemption

Wall-E vs. Johnny 5

What would *really* happen if it was Groundhogs Day

All the other conversations that took place in the bar in Casablanca

The Shining, but Jack finishes his novel and they go home

Annie Hall, but when Diane Keaton offers Woody a lift home after the tennis game, Alien busts out of his chest

Ferris Bueller loses his virginity

Predator, told from the Predator's point of view

Ghostbusters, told from the Staypuft Marshmallow Man's point of view

.... that's everything that springs to mind just now.