Monthly Archives: November 2013

Trashaday

John meets John, as guest writer Mr Maguire meets director Mr Waters in Liverpool…

Let Saturday 9th November be now known as TRASHADAY, for this year, I had the pleasure of spending a wintry Saturday afternoon in the company of a cinematic master, Mr John Waters.

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Waters was in the ‘Pool of Life’ for a series of events (part of the internationally renowned homotopia). The masterclass took place in the Sci-fi-esque environs of LJMU Screen Schools, Redmond Building.

Waters has often past praised fellow creative Mr Tennessee Williams, another champion of the outsider. Quite fittingly, the class began with a screening of BOOM!, (an adaptation of a Williams play, The Milk Float Doesn’t Stop Here) so, so bad it’s good, a visual camp treat, full of lines of genius,

Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!

BOOM! starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, (think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and add copious vices and addiction); pictures like Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  and The Taming of the Shrew, may highlight the majesty of the chemistry between the toxic lovers, BOOM! illustrates how terribly they are also capable of acting.

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The kind of movie that simply would not get made today, in a cinematic environment that lives and is terminated by test screenings, there is no way that a studio would ‘get’ this unique B movie-esque work.

Waters revealed how the film was produced in collaboration with the poison that is alcohol and ALL on set were in some stage of inebriation during the working day, if not downright capernoited.

Looking through the telescope now, back at this feature, the film has a postmodern trashy edge that does in fact work. Intentional or fluke, genius or rebuke? We will never know.

After the screening Waters took questions and answers from an enthusiastic audience. He answered with a cool poise and at no time got snarky with the audience interactions.

The Dickens of alternative cinema spoke candidly about his work, portraits of trailer trash outsiders, freaks, individuals with a whole arsenal of eccentricities, characters with a capital ‘C’. There is no such thing as normal only peeps you don’t really know so well and John Waters’ cinematic treats remind us of this completely.

A catalogue of oeuvre packed with witty writing and twisted plots. Taking quirky oddities and making them positive attributes. Waters brought to the world’s attention Divine, another champion of the underdog, transformed from an overweight suburban geek into a creature of glamorous brilliance.

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Allegedly the inspiration behind Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I am still haunted by the sight of Divine proudly singing You Think You’re A Man But You’re Only A Boy on Top of the Pops.

The afternoon gave an insight into the mind of an individual craftsman of creativity. A man gifted with an inventive imagination that can be expressed as surreal mayhem.

There is a Bowie song called All the Madmen and the lyrics recant how the narrator would rather stay here with all the madmen then perish with the sad men roaming free. When watching a film by this creative force, I would rather be with the circus of Waters’ disciples of trash, be a part of the insanity than not.

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Ainu (2009- 2013), photographs by Laura Liverani

As if we needed any additional incentive to travel to Spain, now that winter has definitely arrived in the northern climes, the mail brings word of a new exhibition, opening at Ciclo Cultural du Japon in Valencia.

Ainu (2009- 2013) contains photographs by Laura Liverani, as she explains,

The Ainu, the native people of Japan, were officially recognized as an ethnicity in 2008, after more than a century of discrimination and oppression which almost completely effaced their language, society and culture. Today several individuals and groups across Japan are involved in Ainu rights, cultural revitalization and diffusion. This photographic series explores contemporary Ainu identity and culture, focusing on representation and self-representation of the Ainu, both within institutions such as museums and outside, in everyday’s life practices. The work, still in progress, started in 2009 and aims at raising questions about a culture in the process of changing and redefining itself.

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In the occasion of the exhibition, the photographs will be accompanied by a text by Marcos Centeno, director of the documentary film Ainu. Caminos a la memoria (2013) which will also premiere in Valencia.

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An exhibition well worth seeing, in a fantastic city as well. I have been unlucky enough to have been in Europe while Laura was exhibiting in Japan and now back in Japan as this one opens in Spain. If you are fortunate enough to be closer, I would strongly recommend a visit, while I wait for our travel schedules to coincide!

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A Bibliophage in Eboracum (York)

We promised a return to our reviews of favourite bookshops and here is John Maguire, taking a trip across the Pennines to gorge himself on volumes…

When writer Neil Gaiman cited in his novel, American Gods,

What I say is a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul,

he was absolutely correct.

Eboracum (if you were around in Roman 71 AD), otherwise known to the common traveller as York, is fortunate to have many subtle bookstores,  jewels in the city’s Crown of Architectural splendour.

I have visited York through the years. The first occasion notably was a stay at the former home of musical composer John Barry. I am always entranced by the season of autumn, but particularly in York. The city backdrop is a canvas painted with a thousand leaves.

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I guess the way a heroin addict needs to know a dealer is close by, an alcoholic the nearest place to purchase liquid poison, a fitness fanatic the gymnasium, so the book aficionado needs to know the precise location of a book emporium. This is how I first found my way to Fossgate Books and I have been re-visiting ever since!

Of course, a genuine bibliophage never really travels alone and my trusty vintage briefcase, (where I keep my notebook, pens and papers) always has a mini-library for emergencies. This past weekend I travelled with The Flaneur by Edmund White, the chilling House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill and I always have a copy of Jude the Obscure to hand. What a Bible is to a Roman Catholic, Hardy’s tale of self-education is to me. The religion of the written word is my chosen spiritual pathway, yet they never have that option to tick on the equality and diversity screening forms.

Fossgate’s was scribbled purposefully in my itinerary for the weekend, which also included a visit to Castle Howard, the setting of the television rifacimento of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It was Fossgate’s that started my collection of vintage covered Penguin Classics; here I purchased a battered copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I now seek such Penguin Classics like a pig sniffing out truffles. Every trip to a book palace is like a search for hidden treasures.

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One of the great charms York offers is that some of the streets do NOT adhere to the flat pack style of high street planning that is rampant across the United Kingdom. The one size fits all model, the universality of non-uniqueness. The Body Shop, Carphone Warehouse, Subway etc. etc. etc,  I am sure are present but they are not rammed in your face like most UK cityscapes. It is also quite nice to not to have every other shop be a Tesco Express, as the case in my home town, the Pool of Life. You are never more than five yards away from a rat in a bustling metropolis, but in Liverpool it’s the exact same statistic for the good ship Tesco Express. Every little apparently does help!

Perhaps, the downside to York is the multitude of ghost tours on offer. Some may say there are more ghouls than people, with every homestead and dog kennel having an alleged ‘haunting’. The supernatural is to York what The Beatles are to Liverpool, a cash cow that is indeed milked completely and well and truly slaughtered.

What treasure did I find this time in Fossgate’s to feed my appetence? A hardback M.R James Ghost Story collection with crafted illustrations. My heart was elated when I asked the proprietor if he had any M.R James in stock and I was impressed that in the catacomb of books he could also give me the exact location of it upstairs.

It is the scent of the written word that slaps you in the face when you enter through the door of Fossgate’s. The cocktail of aromas, hard to define, undisturbed dust blended with aged paper. A stockhouse of the whole gamut of human experience. It’s then when the fragrance hits me, I know I may not be in my native dwelling place, but I am without a doubt home.

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So when in York, seek out this little temple of knowledge, it would be felonious not to.

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