Monthly Archives: April 2004

The Neurotic Doctor

Doctor Seuss is the opposite of the tradition of lovable hedgerow creatures, talking pets and mildly rebellious schoolboys in British literature for young kids. He’s a neurotic A. A. Milne, an uptight Kenneth Grahame. There’s nothing sunny or light-hearted about Seuss. All those dark, placeless landscapes and stringy, demented characters of indeterminate sex (and species) are straight from a Freudian case study. This is prickly mid-twentieth century angst, about as cuddly as an ironing board.

The latest Seuss movie is excellent – Myers is a superb Cat, art direction and photography translate Seuss-land into a properly nightmarish pastel suburbia and the gags are good – but there’s a nasty normative thing going on here – something I don’t remember from the book. The movie’s pay-off is essentially a ‘Cuckoo’s Nest‘-style reprogramming for Sally and Conrad (the bored kids horrified and entertained by the Cat and his sidekicks-from-the-subconscious Thing 1 and Thing 2) – only without the electric shocks.

The Cat’s loopy, irresponsible behaviour doesn’t set the kids free, loosen the bonds of convention, show them how to have fun or any of that child-centred stuff. Quite the opposite – it translates Sally and Conrad – ‘control freak’ and ‘rule breaker’ respectively, according to the Cat’s ‘phun-o-meter’ – into a matched pair of smiling Stepford kids with a phun-o-meter reading of ‘just right’. This Cat is a nasty surrogate dad for the Bush era. Pity.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian doesn’t like The Cat and says so in verse. What Doctor Seuss Really Taught Us – a lovely piece by Louis Menand from The New Yorker about The Cat as Cold Warrior – “The mother has left, and she’s never coming back. It’s just us and that goddam cat.”.

Finding fonts

Ivan Pope (yes, Ivan Pope) sent me a link to this very useful (and apparently infallible) typeface identifier. I could seriously have done with something like this about fifteen years ago when I was trying to make my living from ‘Desktop Publishing’ (remember ‘Desktop Publishing’?). It also reminds me of ageless Nico Macdonald, who worked in the same God-awful Desktop Publishing bureau and made an impression on me even then because he was the only person I’d ever met who organised the fonts on his Macintosh by historical period (he probably still does).


If I were a proper Catholic and not the miserable unbeliever I am proud to be, I might be upset with the way Garry Wills links Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ with the history of out-of-control sexual abuse in the Church and especially within the ultra-secretive, right-wing Legion of Christ in this review from the NYRB. Since I am not a proper Catholic, I find it very interesting, Among other things, I learn that The Legion are big fans of Gibson’s film and that they get a mention in the movie’s credits (so Wills’ connection is hardly spurious). Also, that Gibson believes almost all of us are going to hell, including his own wife and the current Pope. Oh dear.

Evan Parker on Radio 3

My friend Steve Shepherd used to produce Radio 3‘s Jazz flagship Jazz on 3, then he moved to Wales with his family – nobody knows why but we assume he’s on the run from the triads or trad jazz buffs (triad jazz buffs?) or something. Anyway, he’s just made a kind of come-back with a really interesting three-part series about improviser Evan Parker for the station’s Jazz File slot. Steve’s interviews with the saxophonist are gripping. If you get a move on you can catch the second programme online but the third in the series will replace it Saturday (and whoever pressed the record button did so a bit late this week so you’ll miss the first couple of minutes!).

Update: you should tune into episode three even if only to hear Vic Reeves shouting ‘pack it in Parker’ as the saxophonist improvises on a track they recorded together for a forgotten Reeves album (also, it looks like someone at the BBC doesn’t like you linking direct to Real Media files (why?) so you might need to listen to the programme via the Jazz File page).

Murphy triumphs, Hackney lives up to its reputation

Paul Murphy’s opening at Transition in Hackney (London’s Brooklyn) was brilliant. APU150 is a really mature show – coherent, clever, beautifully worked (even quite nicely hung). I expect great things – provided Paul’s advanced age and scary appetite for very old Cognac don’t get in the way, naturally

Paul’s priced the work to sell (he’s too modest). I don’t want to make it sound cheap but the piece we bought cost us quite a lot less than replacing the rear window of the car which someone helpfully smashed while we guzzled the diabolical white wine (was it wine? Cider? Turps?) laid on by Paul’s shadowy ‘gallerista’/Svengali Cathy Lomax.

If you want to get your BritArt collection off to a flying start I’d get down to Transition sharpish and hoover up a few Apus.

This week’s top cow meme

Journalists don’t know anything. That’s their job. If they knew anything they’d be doing something that paid better. Besides, knowledgable journos wouldn’t be better journos, they’d just be more opinionated and that would reduce their value as reporters. An exception to this rule seems to be Mars guru Oliver Morton. I don’t want to gush (for the second time in a week) but any reporter who can whip out his Texas Instruments Scientific Calculator and work out that the output of methane predicted by the latest spectrographic analysis of Mars is equivalent to 2,000 terrestrial cows is knowledgeable enough for me.

Update: Oliver points out (in a comment below) that his book about Mars is not out of print – have just spelt his name wrong. How annoying can that be?

The future summarised

I’ve been meaning to blog this for ages. I’ve been subscribing for a few years to a ‘monthly abstract of books, articles and reports concerning forecasts, trends and ideas about the future’ from a serious-minded (but appropriately kookie) outfit called The World Future Society. Future Survey is a dreary-looking two-column newsletter with a slightly cheesy ‘futuristic’ 1970s masthead design, no colour, no editorial, no ads and no illustrations – just capsule synopses of books, magazine articles and TV programmes about the future. It ought to be pretty dry (the kind of thing you used to find right at the back of your University Library until they wised up and stopped buying the stuff nobody read) but editor Michael Marien somehow makes it pithy and entertaining. Really, this is one of those marginal publications that really makes me glad – a labour of love and a fantastically useful resource that hardly anyone knows about.