30 for 30: Star Trek

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

10. STAR TREK

The cast of the original series of Star Trek

I watched and loved a lot of Star Trek. It’s not my favourite show ever, but has been with me for over half my life.

I’m a nerd! And not even the cool type of nerd that’s become hip. Fuck those pussies. I’m an actual nerd. And with that, comes Star Trek.

But the world conspired against me. It used to be on 4 nights a week when I was a teenager, and I usually slept in front of the TV anyway. It was, for several years, Star Trek followed by Letterman. This was how I grew up.

From age 12 or so, up until now. There’s simply no other show that has lasted this long. There are 725 episodes (across 29 seasons) and 11 films. So one and half times the Simpsons, and Star Trek were hour long episodes. Once I got in, how could I not be affected? It’s almost 800 hours of television!

I bring up Star Trek to stop people who I am bored with talking to me.

It’s pretty awful for anyone involved in the making of Star Trek, but I have often, very often, used Star Trek as a conversation killer. And sometimes a date killer.

OK, not so much a date killer. But sometimes you are talking to someone to see where they are at. And sometimes I come across cooler than I am – blame the job and the love of jokes. And when I realise I’ve wasted a drink or two talking to some girl I have no interest in, I bring up Star Trek.

It is pretty amazing how quickly the conversation stops. To most women, you’ve just turned into a slug or something.

It is even quite easy to do.

ALL you have to do is, when you’ve already started talking about stuff, say “Hey, you don’t watch Star Trek do you?”

It’s a beautiful line.

Because it looks like I am interested in furthering this connection. And the way I want to get to know you better is through Star Trek.

There are, as far as I’ve been able to determine, 3 reactions.

1) A quick dismissal. Maybe 3 or 4 more minutes of chatting, then next toilet, smoke or weak excuse break, our seats will be gone and we wont talk again.

2) A feigned (or genuine) interest. Basically the girl tries to engage in this conversation. This is a BOLD move on her part. She is going where no women drinking at this bar has gone before.

Oh, what do I like about it, you ask?

Well, I like the PREMISE. How it’s just a blank page for good writers to hang strong Sci-Fi IDEAS. (That goes down a treat with the ladies).

Oh you know Spock is Vulcan?

Actually, he’s a HALF Vulcan. (His mum was a human). (Girls love that line).

I’m not trying to be obnoxious really. This is just how I speak about nerdy stuff, that includes Trek.

Anyway, that soon ends.

3) The woman I am talking to is actually a Star Trek fan and we talk about Star Trek.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED.

I have used this tactic over 100 times. Yes, part of it was when I discovered it, I tried it out a lot. But god, there are a lot of annoying women out there, and sometimes I just want to talk to my friends.

And never, ever once, have I met a female Star Trek fan in the wild.

I haven’t seen every second of Star Trek. But I’ve seen a lot of it.

The original 60s stuff with William Shatner? Check. Seen them all.

The Jean Luc Picard/Patrick Stewart stuff with the robot? Yup.

Deep Space Nine, the lesser known one with the black guy that everyone compared Obama to, in the comics and sci-fi world anyway? Yup.

Voyager, the one with the woman captain? Say maybe half of that.

Enterprise, the one with the guy from Quantum Leap (and the god awful Diane Warren song). Again about half.

I read some of the original novels. One of my favourite comic book writer – Peter David – wrote some great stories.

I’ve seen all the movies, although I only just saw the 10th one, after the 11th one came out.

But my interests waned. In school, when I watched anything and everything, I caught every episode. When Deep Space Nine was cancelled in 1999, my active interest died there too. Like comics, I took a break, and music took over my life completely.

I don’t know a terrible amount of people who like Star Trek at all.

James likes it because we both grew up with it. Casey likes it, I think for the same reason as me – it was on and we watched a lot of TV as teens. Nigel. Really, I am running out here. You either like it, or you don’t. And then there’s that 3rd level where you loved it.

A girl I liked had a housemate who was really into Trek – she was a girl too. She had Trek stuff in the house – a big stand up cut out of a character from memory. I didn’t know her very well, but I told her I liked Star Trek.

Funny though because she got defensive. A bit dismissive. Oh, that old thing. I wasn’t being patronising – I’m a fan – but I guess for her, she’s had to put up with a lot being a Trek fan. People make fun, patronise and flat out misunderstand.

Not that it really matters, but she was a very attractive girl as well. She would be by no means a social outcast. But she was in the fanclub or something, and hung out with a group where she can express her interest. I just wish that she would have talked to me – not so we could have talked, but that the world has made her hide.

In the UK, I’m not sure I’ve met one Star Trek fan. I know quite a few Americans though – it’s where the show was created, and it’s natural, cultural home. It is a bit of an American view of the future.

Which is all very odd, because so much of Star Trek is in popular culture. Phrases like “where no man has gone before” appear everywhere (like in the end of Almost Famous). “Live long and prosper.” 50% of Futurama is pretty much Trek. Like chess – I don’t understand how you can see this world without knowing the basics of Star Trek. What do you think when someone mentions Warp Speed or something? Do you walk through life like it’s one big joke you don’t get?

I was very excited when the new Star Trek movie came out. I saw Star Trek: First Contact in the cinema, and was pretty excited to revisit this world in a darkened cinema and a big screen.

Above I stated that there are over 750 hours of Star Trek. Well, that new movie would be in the top 20 hours of that 750.

Not a terrible amount happens, but it’s a fun action film with some cool ideas. But what really got me is the tone of the film. I really hated Dark Knight, and that dramatic, emo bullshit. I’m an optimist and the future is bright. And Star Trek, that new movie, was bright.

It is the main reason I love Star Trek. It is so optimistic. There is no drama within the crew. They work on each week’s threat together. People of all races and genders (even the odd robot or hologram) working together. As an immigrant in the country I grew up in, I was drawn to this.

I love the idea that maybe one day we will all get along and live these exciting lives. How can you not be?

So if for some reason you want to wade into this whole mess of Star Trek, the 2009 movie is the perfect place to start.

The single greatest question facing mankind is clearly this:

Which is better – Star Trek or Star Wars?

In the late 90s, Star Trek got very bloated. Movies, two TV series, books, comics, blah and blah. It was too much.

Star Wars however was still 3 perfect movies (and a number of really good books actually).

So Star Trek was easy to bash in the 90s, where Star Wars was a lot like James Dean – it left a pretty corpse, and it didn’t age.

Then Star Trek went away, and Star Wars got bloated. Those prequels are awful. Some of the worse films I’ve ever seen. Now there’s a cartoon and an upcoming live action comedy(?) series. Almost all of it is shit. And it really shows how limited the Star Wars idea was. It really had no more to give.

Star Trek however, came back with a very good movie. The memory of past fiascos are fading. What made Star Trek great in the first place still stands.

But Star Trek has never been great in movies. It’s a great premise (Stage Coach in space) and the perfect set up for a monster-of-the-week. Whereas Star Wars was one epic story, start to finish. We are comparing apples and oranges.

In the end though, I like Star Trek. All those amazing stories. 40 years of great ideas, swash-buckling adventure and cool gadgets. It just can’t be beat.

And Luke Skywalker is a whiny sook and the dude kissed his sister. What the fuck?

(Alex Zane did a poll once on XFM asking this very question. Almost every caller said Star Wars. Zane responded to several callers with “How about that bit in Wrath Of Khan where Kirk screams KHAAAAAAAAN?” and none of the callers had actually seen it. So if you’ve not seen it, your opinion is pretty worthless)

So, I have mainly avoided talking about the actual content of Star Trek. The intricacies of which characters I like, what season was best, etc. I think there is enough of that on the internet.

If for some reason, you are a Star Trek fan, and you came across this, here are my top 20 stories (movies and 2-parters count as one) of Star Trek.

1. Best of Both Worlds (TNG, 1990)
2. The Visitor (DS9, 1995)
3. Past Tense (DS9, 1995)
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
5. All Good Things (TNG, 1994)
6. Far Beyond the Star (DS9, 1998)
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
8. The City On the Edge Of Forever (TOS, 1967)
9. Star Trek (2009)
10. Shattered Mirror (DS9, 1996)
11. The Doomsday Machine (TOS, 1967)
12. Crossover (DS9, 1994)
13. Mirror, Mirror (TOS, 1967)
14. Space Seed (TOS, 1967)
15. Descent (TNG, 1993)
16. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
17. I, Borg (TNG, 1992)
18. Q Who (TNG, 1989)
19. Explorers (DS9, 1995)
20. Endgame (VOY, 2001)

Looking at this list really makes it hit home – I do love this show. So many great stories! So many ideas! Every week was something different. A time bending character study, or an all out action packed dog fight in space. All tied together with this wish of living better lives, working together, and leaving our predjudice and hate behind.

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30 for 30: Notting Hill

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

9. NOTTING HILL

Portobello Markets, Notting Hill

Portobello Markets, Notting Hill

I lived around Notting Hill for 3 years. I was going to write a piece about London herself, but it’s West London and the Notting Hill surrounds that I will always remember.

I am currently not living there. After 3 years, I decided to move on. Most of friends have gone, and I wanted to try something different. I don’t regret it, but it’s not the best decision I’ve ever made. I miss it a lot.

Notting Hill is held together by Portobello Road – a long and winding road that goes from south to north. On the weekends it’s one of the best, busiest markets in the world. At nights it’s full of great pubs, restaurants and cinemas. At other times, it’s just a collection of flats, supermarkets and cafes. It’s a different thing at different times.

By luck, my job is in West London, so I tried to find a place to live near work. I found it in Ladbroke Grove, the next suburb up from Notting Hill, at the end of Portobello Road. From here, most mornings I would walk past the markets, and if it was a weekend I would soak in the shops and the atmosphere.

The place, even when packed with thousands of people, feels like home to me.

Portobello markets is the highlight. A million Saturday mornings spent going through it’s shops, and eating it’s paella. There were great record shops – the indie/famous Rough Trade, the 60s old school vinyl fanatics Minus Zero, and the soul/reggae shop Honest Jon (part owned by Damon Albarn).

For food, there are plenty of market stalls. Fantastic paella (with a slightly scary loud lady), excellent falafel rolls, nasty but sometimes necessary spicy German sausage to a little alleyway where some woman roasts a pig on a spit every Saturday. There’s always new ones too – I saw a Ghanan place the other day.

There’s plenty of sit down places too – the Electric, expensive and posh Italian at Osteria Basilico or Essenza, the best Thai in London at Market Thai. The Sausage And Mash Café is great for a hangover a50s chic décor, or the hidden away courtyard at Lazy Daisy. I have eaten myself mad on this street.

The shame is, there is no good coffee. London coffee is dodgy at best, so for a while I tried to support Progresso, a fair trade barista. But the coffee was so bad I had to spit it out, and I started going to Starbucks.

There are, however, a lot of pubs. From north to south – The Fat Badger, right in the Caribbean end of Portobello with a big open front room and comfy sofas. The Market Bar – always too crowded but a couple of great front-facing seats for people watching. The Castle – small but lovely, bar staff are wankers but we met a great group of people dressed up once. First Floor – my favourite bar that’s in the markets, right next to Rough Trade, people spilling out everywhere, clunky revolving doors, a million great memories. The Duke Of Wellington – the old man bar where I ran once after a heartbreaking night, to head into a conversation about continents. The Portobello Star – chic, charming, small bar that’s recently been prettied up. The Earl Of Lonsdale – cheap and with a big beer garden, many nights were spent in here, meeting lots of people. But if I had to choose one, it’s the Sun In Splendour –first shop south on Portobello. Quirky, great beer garden, best food – and it’s where Monty Python would drink and write the Flying Circus.

And that to the stalls that sells comics, CDs, vintage suits, old paperbacks, antiques, Hugh Grant’s Travel Bookshop, Jesse’s Western for old cowboy shirts –  and more. Before I bore you with more details, just make a plan and visit it yourself.

Londoners are always fighting about what part of London is best. North vs South. East vs West. It gets kind of old. So I’m not going to go into why the West (where Notting Hill resides) is better than any other part of London. Except for one very important point.

Notting Hill is beautiful. Rows and rows of lovely terrace houses. Side street mews, and the wonderful All Saints Church just hidden away but over looking it all. It LOOKS like London from Paddington Bear cartoons. And, as with everything in my life, I usually go for the pretty.

As exciting as I find the place, people tell me I missed the golden days. The 50s brought with it an influx of Caribbean people – an influence that pervades the laid back, somewhat hippie culture of the area (and is best manifested in the yearly Notting Hill Carnival).

In the 60s, it was the home of Psychedelic rock. Pink Floyd, Cream and Hendrix all hung around there. Hendrix himself died in Notting Hill, in a hotel that is now a terrace building. The Electric, right in the middle of Portobello Road, was a famous avant garde cinema at the time.

Part of the reason for this was Notting Hill fell into disrepair. Large houses turned into artist slums. Leading well into the 70s, it was considered one of the worse areas of London. Clashes with police and the feeling of injustice led to Saint Joe Strummer, a local boy who created the Clash. In Strummer, I see all the great things about Portobello Rd and Notting Hill. An artistic life lived with passion. A mix of intellect and gut. World rhythms and white hot guitars. Politics and love intertwined. God, I love the Clash.

The 80s came Thatcher, and the slums and the bums were cleared out. Most of them were posers anyway, but the heart of the area stayed. Slowly it became neater, and the shops popped up. It became a buzzing part of new Britannia by the 90s – and was the home of Blur and Pulp. Jarvis Cocker wrote Common People about the influx of tourists and upper class types into the area.

Then came the Richard Curtis movie Notting Hill, which changed everything again. Now a worldwide postcard, Portobello was taken over by chain sneaker shops and expensive clothes. The danger has gone. It’s now one of the biggest tourist attractions in London.

But that Joe Strummer spirit is still there. The Portobello Film Festival isn anarchic and awesome. The street works together as a community. All peoples come together here, to dance, to kiss, to argue and to live.

A million memories flood my mind when I think of Portobello. Above and beyond the pubs – are the clubs. All of them mainly cool, and drinking spirits and dancing like a mad man to 70s funk. Be it Trailer Happiness or Notting Hill Arts Club. And walks home, buying more smokes, a bottle of water and sometimes instant noodles as well from the all night shops.

There were Sunday nights at the Coronet Cinema, mostly on my own, watching whatever indie film was on. The Hillgate, where Jay, Dan Ryan, Hampton and I ruled for months. The weird school where I took French lessons. I still get my haircuts from the South Americans on Golbourne Rd.

Many life changing scenes, both good and bad, occurred in Notting Hill. But that could be the amount of time I spent there. Many times I found myself walking down Portobello in the dead of night, and I have it all to myself. Friends made, girls kissed, girls lost, fights had, cans thrown, piss pissed, records bought, jokes told.

It’s where I think of when I think London. If any part of me is a Londoner, then I’m a West Londoner. Even if the whole place changes again, it will still be my London.

30 for 30: Woody Allen

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

8. WOODY ALLEN

Woody Allen as Isaac in Manhattan (1979)

I have loved the works of Woody Allen for many years. His personal life also makes me question how we treat our celebrities. But in the end, I see the world though Woody Allen’s movies.

Here’s something you should never do. Ask me to recite jokes from Woody Allen’s album Stand Up Comic. It’s a “best of” his vinyl only records of live stand up from his early nightclub years. It’s fantastic.

Most people know “the Moose”, but jokes like the Vodka Ad, Eggs Benedict and Bullet In My Breast Pocket are just as great. Woody Allen at his purest form – and early his career. Almost ten years before Annie Hall. But the persona was already there.

I have lots of good memories of listening to this album in my teenage bedroom in the dark. I had no idea about many of the references – Noel Coward, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lily Pons – but loved the jokes.

(I actually owned it twice, accidentally. It was called Stand Up Comic and on Rhino in the US, but called Nightclub Years in the UK, on EMI. Thinking they were different, I bought both. Oh Internet, where were you then?)

1964 – the start of Woody Allen’s career, under his own name. It’s brilliant stuff.

I also found and loved Complete Prose, a collection of Allen’s short books in the 60s. Surreal, pun filled anecdotes – something he still does occasionally in publications like the New Yorker.

This long ramble is basically a setup so I can say one thing: Woody Allen is more than a filmmaker.

He’s made some amazing films, of course. But he’s a funny man. A writer. And actor. A musician! He’s Heywood Allen.

What’s your favourite Woody Allen movie?

It’s a common pub question amongst friends.

For me it’s Annie Hall (1977). It’s a common answer, followed by Manhattan (1979). Both are amazing films.

Annie Hall’ wins out for me. And it helped that when I saw it, I already had my heart broken once. It’s the greatest break up movie ever made. It’s still laugh out loud funny. Touching, sophisticated and made with absolute confidence… the story of Annie and Alvy touched millions, beating Star Wars for the Academy Award for movie of the year. Even thinking about them now as I write brings on a rush of bittersweet feelings – as if I’m reliving a past love of my own.

It’s had more influence on my life than any other movie. From the insightful comments of how we love – the “I wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have me” stuff. To wishing you could pull the director of a film when you get into useless arguments. Or trying not to sneeze when cocaine is around. A million memories and feelings fill this remarkable film.

Manhattan’ is just as good. Again full of iconic moments, but a love letter to the island as well. The kiss at the Rose Center to the carriage ride in Central Park, all leading to the final scene of Isaac running down Fifth Avenue. Whenever I run, or see running on film, I think of this scene. It has all the intelligence and heartache of Allen’s best work – but it’s by far his prettiest film to look at. There’s also a tremendous score.

Those are the big two that everyone should see. They have dated remarkably well. They created a new genre of film – the sophisticated talkie. And it defined a generation too.

But those are 2 films in career of over 40 films. I have seen almost all of them.

The public perception of Allen’s films are that they are variations of Annie Hall and Manhattan. He does have a house style (he’s used the same fonts and credit style since the beginning. He never pays anyone more that $10K for a film. Every major character has equal billing. Etc) but he’s made a wide array of films, many of which are great.

Before Annie Hall, Allen made these formless, almost Monty Python-esque screwball comedies. Like his stand up, they are clever and witty. And funny of course. Of these, ‘Love And Death’ (1975, a parody on Russian tragedies) and ‘Sleeper’ (1973, a sci fi comedy) are my favourites. Allen is always the star, playing a Charlie Chaplin like character, trying to not fall over in the worlds he’s created.

These straight comedies made Allen’s name. And every film comedian wanting to go serious cites Allen’s move from this stuff to the late 70s Annie Hall era.

The late 70s leading into the 80s is considered his golden period. Beyond the Big Two, there’s similar dramas like ‘Hannah And Her Sisters’ (1986, the tale of a large family over two years) and ‘Crimes And Misdemeanours’ (1989, exploring morality and justice). There were more comedies in this time too – ‘Broadway Danny Rose’, ‘Zelig’ and others. But it’s ‘Hannah…’ and ‘Crimes…’ that really standout in his career.

(There’s also an amazing movie, called ‘New York Stories’ (1989), that is three stories directed by Scorsese, Coppola and Allen – which you should see.)

Allen’s popularity waned in the 90s – but it was when I was coming of age. Many of these films were new and exciting. The early 90s were particularly strong – ‘Husband And Wives’ (1992, a telling rumination on marriage) and ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ (1993, where Allen pays tribute to Hitchcock) are considered some of his best work. Mira Sorvino won Best Supporting Actress in the overall fantastic ‘Mighty Aphrodite’ (1995), and the all star musical of ‘Everyone Says I Love You’ (1996) has bad singing but the film is sweet.

It was the late 90s when the controversy about Allen’s private life began to show. On film, he reacted with two of his nastiest films ever – ‘Deconstructing Harry’ (1997, a long damnation on trial by friends and media), and ‘Celebrity’ (1998, one of the biggest, bitterest fuck yous ever in cinema).

(Allen also appeared in the lead role of ‘Antz’ (1998), which gained him quite a bit of popularity).

The 00s were up and down, but Allen maintained his one-if-not-two movies a year schedule. It started off well, with a new deal with Dreamworks and a return to screwball comedy in ‘Small Time Crooks’ (2000, of a couple stumbling into a life of crime). Dreamworks pumped a lot of publicity power behind it, and it’s follow up ‘Curse Of the Jade Scorpion’ (2001, a fun detective caper).

Some truly daft comedies followed, but then came the magnificent ‘Match Point’ (2005, the start of his London films). It recalled his best 80s work, and the nihilism and unhappy endings, betrayal and lust. London was followed by Spain, the best is the recent ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ (2008). I’ve yet to catch up on the three films he’s made since.

That is quite a track record. Who else has made twenty films I’ve loved, even if 20 of the others are average? Over 5 decades of filmmaking. It’s an amazing career.

So here, for my money, are the ten best Woody Allen films

1. Annie Hall
2. Manhattan
3. Crimes And Misdemeanors
4. Love And Death
5. Celebrity
6. Manhattan Murder Mystery
7. Hannah And Her Sisters
8. Husbands And Wives
9. Match Point
10. Small Time Crooks

Woody Allen’s life is surrounded by controversy. And it makes me question our relationship with art and reality.

Is Woody Allen just Alvy Singer, Isaac Davis and any number of his main characters? That nervous, neurotic, New York Jew – obsessed with women, death and god? So much of what appears on screen reflects Allen’s private life. Broken marriages, large age differences, fame and morality – all hallmarks of Allen’s private life.

If you ask Allen, as Terry Gross did on NPR last year – Allen denies his life in onscreen. He is a renown sports fan and has never been a loner – unlike the neurotics he portrays. He’s a musician, and a talented one. He has no problems getting up in front of a world audience at the 2002 Academy Awards and salute New York. Not things he’s characters can do – let alone shepherd almost 50 films.

So who is Woody Allen?

And can we ever know?

A person has to be more than their public persona. We’ve had hundreds of songs by Bob Dylan – but can you really say you know him because of that? Can we know any creator through art?

My opinion has changed over the years but right now I think it’s a no. I think every persona is a lie. And as many movies, songs, books, TV shows etc that I like – I know nothing of the people behind them.

From that – the question of authenticity is out the window. I don’t care that Sylvia Plath and Ian Curtis were ‘tragic’ figures, or that John Fogerty was not from the South. It’s all about the work – for me anyway.

But is there NOTHING we can learn of Woody Allen, the man, from Woody Allen’s films? I think there are glimpses. I think people give themselves away. But people change every second, and you can never hold anyone to it. Annie Hall, I would assume, was written and made in a period of heartbreak and vulnerability. But is it Allen’s, or his co-writer Marshall Brickman’s feelings on show? And we can freeze our minds and think of Allen as Alvy – but that’s like how James Dean will never overcome his persona.

There is more to people, which is my point.

How do I feel about Allen’s private life? I don’t understand it. I would not lead such a life. But it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of his work. I feel that way about almost all artists.

Woody Allen has always been around, but I know the exact thing that made me investigate his movies – in particular Annie Hall. It was Blur’s ‘Look Inside America’ and the wonderful lyric

Annie Hall leaves New York in the end
But press rewind and Woody gets her back again.

I loved this line, and so I got Annie Hall out on video and loved it. And I made my way through any film of his I could find at the local video shop.

Allen, in most video stores, falls under ‘art house’. And at Civic Video Belfield, art house was at the back, behind the curtain, with the ‘adult’ stuff. I actually had to get a guardian to go with me to pick out a film. My older brother’s girlfriend would be kind enough to take me, and she would marvel at porn titles at the other side of the room as I dug around non English movies to see if they had ‘Radio Days’.

I bought the books, the albums, and saw what I could at the movies. I read all I could online, in magazines and biographies – although most biographies are mean spirited hack jobs, highlighting the more tabloid side of his life. It took me ages to find the story of Annie Hall – how that was a 3rd of the intended film and how it was originally named Anhedonia.

Nowadays, most of his films don’t get a cinema release outside the US, or at least not for years. It’s getting a little harder to be a fan.

I think about art and creativity a lot. I have hundreds of theories about things, and one of them involves Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick.

Woody Allen has made over 40 films, and 20 are great.

Stanley Kubrick made around 10 films, of which 10 are great.

Who is the better artist?

I think of artists like Neil Young who still pumps out an album a year. Not all are great, but there is a lot of great stuff throughout his career. Whereas Tom Waits takes his sweet time about it.

Bob Dylan wrote Like A Rolling Stone in 20 minutes. Leonard Cohen wrote Hallelujah over 12 years.

So there’s the Allen school, and the Kubrick school. And you can see it everywhere.

Allen is, of course, closely tied to New York. And when I am there, I always see the city from Allen’s eyes. It’s beautiful. I have sat at the 59th Street Bridge, on the bench on the poster for Manhattan – a poster I own a great print of.

I see Allen’s influence everywhere. Ricky Gervais apes his early career well, and Wes Anderson I guess knows his 80s stuff back to front. He captured the New York elite living – of Sondheim musicals, jazz, dinner parties and brownstone buildings.

But the biggest thing I carry around with me, that Woody Allen gave me, is to think about life. Is there a point to this? Do we enjoy what we can? Life is so fleeting, and people come and go. But the ground we are standing on is beautiful and don’t miss it. Women and love needs to be cherished and enjoyed while it lasts. And maybe it’s all a farce, and whatever works to get you through life is the best way to live it.

30 for 30: Glasses

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

7. GLASSES

Glasses, those hideous glasses...

I wear glasses.

Actually that’s a lie.

I mostly don’t wear glasses. My eye sight is not THAT bad, but I can’t pass your average eye test to get a license. Over the years I have learnt to live without glasses.

I find them uncomfortable. And maybe it’s because I don’t wear them enough, but I’ve never gotten used to it. They steam up, they feel weird when I smoke and are useless in the rain.

I also like looking people in the (fuzzy) eye. Something about wearing glasses makes me feel like I’m in fancy dress. I’m pretending to be the me that wears glasses. I take my glasses off when I meet people. I just feel like I’m lying to people otherwise.

But the real reason I don’t wear glasses is because usually I’ve lost them. Or broke them. I’ve gone through over a dozen pairs, some barely survive a month.

My latest pair, I got them two weeks ago. And over the weekend I left them in Cardiff, but managed to drive back and get them – 4 days later. And they are expensive, so once broken or lost, it could be years before I replace them. The ones I recently replaced, well those were lost in Berlin 8 months ago.

It’s a tempestuous relationship. They seem to always be trying to run away, or commit suicide. And I don’t like them that much anyway.

So many people I know have glasses. Many might not wear them all the time, but I don’t think it’s a minority thing.

Has years of monitor use destroyed a generation of eyeballs? I think maybe. Monitors have gotten better, but in the 90s, I spent almost all my spare time in front of a shitty little monitor. My whole age group did.

Even now, when I spend too much time in front of a computer, my eyes hurt. And the ones who carried that daily computer-staring over into office jobs? Well, we are a Glasses Army.

My Mum, Dad and my brother all wear glasses. Not all the time but we all have them. Our kitchen table are sometimes covered with them, along with wallets, keys and other pocket paraphernalia. So maybe it’s genetic? Does my family have weak eyes? Or maybe it’s racial – many Asian kids have glasses. Who knows.

But it’s funny to think, in school, being someone with glasses was not the majority. And of course, it left you open to hopeless jives of “four eyes” and whatever. But it’s been many years since I’ve heard someone being made fun of because they wear glasses. Even on TV or movies. It’s just over.

Why are glasses designs so shit? It’s another reason that my heart is against glasses. What people make, and what seems to be popular, doesn’t click with me.

There are these mad looking designs out there. Huge patterns and logos scarring what would be nice glasses. On my last hunt, I barely found anything I liked.

For many years, in school, I had very thin, almost invisible frames. I lost them immediately. $100 or so of my folks money – bam! Gone.

Later in my teens I got a spare pair – black rimmed ones. They stayed with me for almost a decade, when the more expensive, thinner ones came and went.

When I went back packing, I decided to take these spare, black rimmed things with me. I lost them. But I like the style now. Black frames – that’s me.

Of course, proper black frames are classic, aren’t they? It’s like a thin black suit. All across popular culture. Clark Kent. Buddy Holly. Elvis Costello. And personal heroes like Rivers Cuomo and the members of the band Sloan.

In culture, glasses have been historically a sign of weakness, I guess. But it’s also been a sign of smartness. I do sometimes wear my specs to feel smart (it doesn’t work).

There was a time, aged 17, in the heart of my obsession with the band Blur, wear I wore my glasses when playing in a band (I also wore a lot of adidas). They broke. And I hate wearing glasses when I play. Sweat always steams them up, and I sometimes hit my the microphone, scratching them. So I stopped that madness.

Which is a little bit of a shame. Look at people like Buddy Holly. And Costello. Those glasses are their icons. A Buddy Holly best of just needs to have the glasses on the cover. It could have been some defining thing. Now they live in a box on the shelf, taken out mainly when I go to the cinema.

No wonder they kind of hate me.

Someone asked Bruno once if they could try on his glasses once.

He replied, “Can I try on your bra?”

It’s a line I’ve stolen.

Glasses are not a toy. I don’t like passing them around. Don’t ask. Only if you’re a friend. And you have a similar or smaller head size to me. Thank you.

I like girls with glasses. I always have. Nerdy/smart girls. Although two people kissing with glasses on is weird. Even just the hello peck. I’m afraid I’ll hit something, and an airbag will explode over my eyes.

I did, because I was asked to, had sex once with my glasses on. So, here I am, a guy who finds glasses uncomfortable, makes him self concious and weird. Have a guess how that went.

So what about contacts? Or laser eye surgery? I don’t think my vision is that bad. And I’m used to it now. I don’t really work with my eyes anyway.

They are a pain. Whenever I move, I pick up my glasses and think – you! I have to pack you too! Bastards. They just sort hang about no matter what.

But it’s like a bad marriage I intend to stick with it. Whenever I go on trips, I have things that I know I need. Like toothbrush, keys, wallets and ipods etc. These dozen or so things I will always bring. And the glasses case is a part of that. It has been something I’ve been doing all my life. I can’t quit her now.

My new specs