Much comment has been aroused by this entry at the Internet Movie Database:
On the now overflowing Anne Sellors messageboards, a poignant comment has been left by toothpastelaser under the heading "anne sellors is my aunt STOP THE LIES!!":
Usually I dont post on IMDB with the many trolls perverts and indy film makers but this is getting out of hand. Anne Sellors AKA woman who urinates herself (just a CHARACTOR!!!) is my aunt and I cant bear to see some of the posts from here and 4 chans that school freinds have forwarded me on AIM. please STOP the following ridiculous rumors about auntie anne:
1, anne sellors is STILL ALIVE
2 - the role was to be titled differently or she would have chosen another I AM SURE
2a she does not urinate herself and never has, those pointing to the fact the title is 'urinates' and not 'urinated' need to GROW UP!! stop laying semantics
3/ NO she was not in anything else and esepcially NONE of the others I have seen mentioned eg emaneulle 2000, death race remake, LOTR deleted scene or vo for monkey island, those pictures are PHOTO SHOPS
Needles to say I havent mentioned any of this to her yet. I HOPE I wont have to. Find someone else to talk about please. BTW Thanks guys this has really lowered my opinnion of humanity nice job. The internet needs to be regulated asap
Does the equation of trolls and perverts with indy film-makers suggest this is a deadpan gag, or is that just what people think about indy film-makers?
Albert Camus: "Every achievement is a servitude. It drives us to a higher achievement." (Notebooks, iv: 1942)
From an email sent by felixbadanimal to the Phonography group at Yahoo!:
sorry for the extremely random nature of this post... my Dad is a GP and just sent me this email:
I have a charming patient with chronic pain in his neck arms and shoulders with no releif from neurosurgery who has found that he gets extra-ordinary releif from the sound of screaming children.
In the absence of progress with the pain clinics and the neurosurgeon he is keen to explore the "sound therapy" avenue further.
Pass me that child and that book of matches, there's a good fellow.
CausticCoverCritic's interview with the illustrator Andy Smith reminded me that I bought one of his handmade books years and years ago. I did mention to CCC the idea of sending him some scans, but it makes more sense just to post them here. Rather than overload your thrill-circuits with the whole thing, I thought I'd let the tension mount day by day. So there's the cover, and here's the opening spread:
Over at McSweeney's, Comic Sans finds its voice:
People love me. Why? Because I'm fun. I'm the life of the party. I bring levity to any situation. Need to soften the blow of a harsh message about restroom etiquette? SLAM. There I am. Need to spice up the directions to your graduation party? WHAM. There again. Need to convey your fun-loving, approachable nature on your business' website? SMACK. Like daffodils in motherfucking spring.
Won't find me arguing.
(Written by Mike Lacher!!! You are funny dude!! Pointed out by @eyemagazine on Twitter!!!! ;) )
If I had any sense of the topical I'd have done this two weeks ago, when the BBC dramatisation of Money was on the TV (also, I might still have a job on a newspaper. But then, I'm not convinced that would be a good thing except in terms of, you know, money). Anyway, Martin Amis's Money, first Penguin edition, 1985, reprinted 1987:
Not my original copy, by the way, which I remember buying in 1986. No designer credited: and who would want to put their name to this? Admittedly, the scan hasn't done the embossed silver lettering any favours, but the whole concept is feeble - too tame and unimaginative to work as either come-on or satire, pathetically unequal to the job of conveying the energy and grim delight of the novel. You wouldn't know the subtitle of this novel was "A Suicide Note".
All that applies a fortiori to the BBC version: John Self, as conceived by Amis, is a grizzly bear, all threat and appetite; Nick Frost, who got to play him on TV, is a teddy bear, keen to be loved, to justify himself. "I must have been very unhappy," he says in voiceover at one point: "It’s the only way I can explain my behaviour.” What's to explain? He wants, he grabs; you argue, he hits. This isn't a story in which the protagonist arrives at some deeper understanding of himself and thereby becomes a better person; it's a story in which the protagonist gets so thoroughly fucked over that good behaviour is the only option he's got left ("You can't be doing with fighting at my age"). But the TV version seemed to be caught in a constant cringe of apology, desperate to let viewers see that it wasn't endorsing any of the attitudes (sexism!) or practices (public smoking!) portrayed on screen. (Meanwhile, Fielding Goodney, Self's nemesis, was played by Vincent Kartheiser, known almost entirely for playing Pete Campbell in Mad Men: if there's one message to be derived from the popularity of that show, it's that modern audiences can swallow the bigotry and excess of the recent past without choking on it.)
Amis himself, in an interview with Alison Flood on the Guardian website, was uncharacteristically enthusiastic about the BBC version: "Nick Frost [...] is remarkable. I found him a joy to watch. He brought a lot of pain to the role, undemonstratively, holding it in, with not a hint of self pity. In my imagination Self was not long-haired and he didn't have a moustache, but Frost has taken over from that." Really? I would have thought watching your best novel traduced as this was would be like having teeth pulled, though Amis is the authority in that field. Perhaps he's just fed up with his grouchy public image; or perhaps once you've seen Dexter Fletcher play one of your leading men everyone else looks good.
One positive note about the TV version: I had never got the joke of Lorne Guyland's name before (say it out loud). I'm such an idiot.
Back to the covers. That first one comes from a period when Penguin had abandoned quaint notions of identity and taste in favour of the quick commercial grab. Within a few years, things settled down a little:
Cover photography by the Douglas Brothers; no date given in my copy, but from memory I would place it in the early Nineties (that, and the fact that the Douglas Brothers were all the rage back then). The orange flash around the title is more vivid than the scan shows.
This does convey the point that the book is about absence as much as excess - absence of meaning, absence of love. If anything, the empty suit and the dollar bill are too blatant: if I'd wanted a message I'd have asked for Western Union. Other problems: the GIRL sign isn't ideally placed, competing with title and author; and alongside the Douglas Brothers' other Amis covers from the same period, it isn't terribly distinctive. On the whole, though, I like its ghostly quality; we're definitely heading in the right direction.
And now we've arrived:
First appearance in Penguin Classics, 2000: perfect. For one thing, this is a point when Penguin had rediscovered some pride in the brand, putting the Modern Classics in particular into a handsome, somewhat austere uniform - that strip of silver-grey at the bottom, the discreet lettering, and almost always a photograph (here credited to "Images colour library"). For another thing - what a photograph. It would have been so easy to find an image that reeked of excess and the various brands of pornography, sexual, fiscal and otherwise, favoured by John Self. You can read the picture in several ways: it's about money, the high life, effortlessly hopping the Atlantic; or it's about rootlessness and emptiness; or it's about tranquillity. Tranquillity being about the only emotion the book never mentions or experiences, I'm tempted to conclude that it is the book's true subject.
By the way, interesting to read the quotes on the back of that first edition: "laughter in the dark, if I ever heard it," says one; another compares it to Lolita. I didn't know anything about Nabokov back then; but I'm pretty sure now that Amis had both those doomed protagonists in mind - Albinus, the patsy in Laughter in the Dark, and Humbert Humbert in Lolita, the Englishman touring his Old World cravings about the New.
PS: And let's not forget the Oedipal angle - Self is also One Fat Englishman.
Photo courtesy of WilliamCalvin.com
From John Berger, "Why Look at Animals?" (1977):
The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowhere in a zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal. At the most, the animal's gaze flickers and passes on. They look sideways. They look blindly beyond. They scan mechanically. They have been immunized to encounter, because nothing can any more occupy a central place in their attention.
From the Daily Telegraph:
A study of orang-utan behaviour suggests that just like many of us they regard "people watching" as a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon.
The discovery was made after experiments with five orang-utans at Australia's Melbourne Zoo. In the tests, the viewing window onto their enclosure was either left completely open or half covered.
This gave the apes the option of hiding behind the concealed part of the window if they wanted to protect their privacy.
But far from avoiding the prying eyes of the public, they preferred to sit in full view looking back at the humans.
Figures compiled by the University of Melbourne showed that they spent four times longer watching people than they did out of sight and looking the other way.
Five orang-utans is hardly conclusive proof of anything. But my own observation contradicts Berger: most animals aren't interested in us (and why should they be?), but some are fascinated. I've had my gaze held by an animal in a zoo a number of times. What that means is another question: maybe, like those orang-utans, they are interested in you as a fellow creature; some sympathetic spark jumps the gap between species. More likely they see you as a potential predator, a potential meal, a potential competitor for a spot in the hierarchy.
In any case, Berger puts too much weight on the gaze, because he's an art critic and because humans are very visual animals. Our gaze doesn't necessarily mean a lot to a bat or a dog or most other animals. Daniel Dennett once speculated that a dog, with its highly developed sense of smell and poorly developed visual system, doesn't "see" things as we understand the word: a bird flying overhead merely leaves it with an impression of "birdishness", in much the same way that the dog's rich smell-picture of the world is reduced by us to the sense that things are a bit whiffy. So an animal doesn't return your gaze; maybe it's wondering why you don't return its ultrasonic chirrups or respond to the friendly overtures it's making by means of secretions from its scent glands.