Are We There Yet

Scorsese ain't no fool. 

On top of a score of some of the best gangsta films since forever, he also made a couple of music documentaries, one about the Stones, and the other one about Dylan called No Direction Home.

It was on bbc4 last friday, all three and a half hours of it.

I've now watched it twice in the last week. 

It's still on iplayer but for not very long, you can find it here.

Best things about it were:

1. Dylan.

2. The advent of folk music and the cultural a-bomb exploding out of Greenwich village in the 60s.

3. Allen Ginsberg the beat poet saying that when he first heard Hard Rain, he cried.

4. Footage of crowds everywhere booing Dylan and shouting Judas! at their idol, when he decided to go electric and perform with a 3-piece band, instead of doing his classic solo with acoustic guitar and harmonica act.

5. Dylan being told someone was about to shoot him, because of this.

6. The general feeling that this man was one of the most important things that happened in the 20th century. That he wasn't human. That he was only a portal, for something far bigger beyond our understanding. Someone upstairs chose him to be the messenger. As one of his friends said, 'Look... i like to give credit where credit's due, but Dylan don't deserve none. You know when they say 'the hand of the Almighty reaches down and taps you on the shoulder and all that, well the Almighty kicked him in the goddamn arse. You only need to look at him to see there's something of the holy spirit in him'.

My favourite bit was when Dylan looks into the camera and says...

And then he added...

If you can understand this, you're gonna be alright, i think.

I suppose what he was saying was that every single thing that happens to us, every little detail, be it good or bad, all elation or tragedy or fear or love or lack of it, even sitting in your Y-fronts alone as the rain thrashes against the window thinking you can't go on while you calculate how many days and hours and minutes until the first robin of spring appears and bounces gingerly from one shivering branch to the next and says yo whaddup i'm back again, even when you're not doing anything you're still somehow doing something. Each one of these moments is integral to your state of becoming

They are all ingredients that make up the dish. The dish never gets cooked, it is one long drawn-out session in the kitchen that lasts a lifetime. Important thing is to keep adding ingredients. At times it tastes awful, at times it'll be some michelin-starred shit. But we're never there. We're always becoming. 


Came to the conclusion recently that when people palm films off saying 'literally nothing happens', then those are my favourite types of films. Someone said that to me recently about The Revenant, while i thought it was one of the heaviest films i'd seen in ages. Same goes for American Honey, which you might say plot-wise was a bit thin, just a bunch of kids road-tripping through america, but the study of characters within it is incredible. You might not get some angry 16ft green guy breaking his fists through a brick wall, just a close-up of a face staring out of a car window. On paper nothing is happening, but you could also say everything is happening. 

I saw a film called Paterson last week. It was great.

Nothing happens.

It's about a guy called Paterson, who lives in a town called Paterson, through which he drives a local bus, and observes all the life around him and writes poems in a notebook which he always keeps by his side. He has a slightly annoying artsy girlfriend who to her credit is always telling him how good his poems are, and persuading him to make copies of them and send them off to publishers. Which he says he will but never gets round to. Most of the film is made up of him, staring into space, writing these poems in his notebook. 

She has a bulldog which he hates, that he takes for walks every evening.

One day they go out to dinner, and come back to the house and his notebook has been ripped into a thousand tiny pieces by the bulldog. All his poems, gone. Months and months of poems, years probably, chewed to pieces by the mandibles of some idiot dog.

Paterson being Paterson takes it pretty chill on the surface, doesn't say much at all, rides it out. But you can tell it has screwed him. He goes to work the next day, does his shift, impassively, trying to digest the loss, but not being able to. He just looks confused. The next day after work, he goes and sits down on a bench looking out onto his favourite scene, a waterfall by a railway bridge. The place where he'd normally get his book out and write. But this time he just sits. And looks.

After a bit, this random japanese guy comes up and sits down next to him. He's on a pilgrimage from japan to the birthplace of William Carlos Williams, the famous poet born in Paterson who wrote that well-known i have eaten the plums that were in the icebox poem. They get into a stilted conversation. 

The japanese guy asks him if he knows William Carlos Williams personally. 

Paterson smiles and says no. The japanese guy explains that he himself is a poet.

Then the japanese guy asks him if perhaps he, Paterson, is a poet. 

Paterson looks into the middle distance, and after a long pause, says no.

Just a bus driver, he says.

The japanese man nods. Then he gets up. As he walks off, he turns and reaches into his bag and gets something out. 'In japan we have a proverb, with every blank page, an opportunity' he says. And hands him this beautifully bound japanese notebook. You see Paterson opening it, and carefully leafing through the crisp empty pages. He looks up again and the japanese man is gone.

He sits there, thinking. Then after a bit, you see him feel around in his pocket for a pen, which is there where he last left it. He gets it out, looks at the notebook, and after an age, he looks up, into the air, furrows his brow, and begins to write the words of a new poem. It's pretty much the last scene in the film.


Somehow that last scene in the blinking of 12 seconds succeeded in giving sense to the whole two hours. And in a way i can't explain, it hit me for six to the point where i only eventually came to, well after the credits had rolled and the lights had come up and the guy in the cap with the bin-liner had been prodding me for over a minute, slumped horizontal in row C with a blood-curdling gurn branded across my face. The film affected me.

Nothing i write will give you the full impact of watching it, but for me it was like a parable, a very subtle way of saying... life goes on. Which is handsdown one of the most awful lines in the english language, considering the context in which it is ever brought up. Bleugh. It's awful. And in films and music and such it is a well-trodden theme. But the way in which Jim Jarmusch the director, dealt with it, through this story of a guy losing all his poems, all the meaning he gave to life, and then chance coming straight out of left-field, bringing with it a new dawn, and him having a little think, and starting over, and writing the first line of a new poem. It was phat.

All those hundreds of poems trashed, and mourned and put to bed.

And then starting again from scratch.

What other choice do you have.

The idea that what matters only is going forward

What you make, from now.


From now.


The most disappointed i've ever been at a gig was when i saw Tracey Chapman one night in Edinburgh, 2002, back when i was keeping shit debatably real at university. Her voice was incredible, completely pitch-perfect, but the reason it wasn't good at all, was because it was too good. It literally sounded like she'd hit play on some cd-deck and rolled metronomically through the whole album. There was no diversion from any of the recorded tracks whatsoever.

And that's what's phat about seeing live acts, when they do off-the-cuff unique shit that only the people at that particular gig ever get to see. So you can get all music-snob about it and be like... fam talk to the hand, not like you were at Brixton in '13 when Young Fathers got meta and came back for that 28-minute encore and shit got weird.

My favourite 3 live performances are:

Kimbra - Withdraw

Just watch it, she is a weirdo and ridiculous.


Al Green - Simply Beautiful

Funny thing about this is, after multiple viewings, one still can't be sure if The Reverend is singing about chicks or proclaiming his enthusiasm for the Good Lord. Notwithstanding i defy you to watch this video and not feel slightly aroused. One thing for certain, following acute forensic analysis, that sound on 3:28 has been affirmed to be the sound of 63 virgins being simultaneously deflowered.

ps notice when he gets especially excited, how far away he has to get from his guitar (3:35)

And just generally his eyebrows.

nb Don Julio el Putacelli who first introduced me to this tune also informed me of the caveat that there is no melody on the face of this earth more capable of coaxing fair damsels into the confines of the bedchamber. Check him out. Motherfucker knows what the diablo he's talking about.



K'Naan & Mos Def - My God

K'Naan is a Somalian rapper who used to be proper ghetto. He still is, he just does much cheesier shit now. Watch it cos it's phat, Mos Def's freestyle on 2:11 is so heavy. But the best bit is from 3:20. K'Naan stops the beat and goes a cappella and talks about growing up as a child soldier in Mogadishu and it's spine-tingling.



Camille, on french tv, she's nuts and incredible and uses that machine that copies shit and sounds great.

In Profile

There is this coffee shop. And a girl. She is sat directly in my line of sight, a few steps ahead of me. From my table to hers would be six steps. I have positioned myself here so I can look at her. She is in profile. And now she is obscured behind a pillar, sitting back against the wall. She is writing. I can tell. I’m perceptive like that. She glances intermittently up towards the window.

Her glances pull no weight. They don't even make it halfway across the room, before running out of juice and dropping back down to the screen. She is seeing without looking. Up in there she is conjuring worlds. Her notebook is open on the desk, red pen scrawled on top of black pen. A coffee mug is vying with the keyboard for her finger’s affections, but isn't doing very well. 

She can’t see me. She could if she turned i suppose but she isn't. She has on no makeup. The kind of face you'd have no trouble imagining old. Her nose is curved a little at the bridge, her eyes burn lazily. No laughter lines. Sweet little shadows under her eyes. Her hair is blonde with streaks of brown and is lapping on her left shoulder like the folds of a renaissance robe.

Her left leg is crossed over her right but still touches the floor easily. Undistracted she types, and deletes, and types, and pauses, and glances, and types, and deletes. Going backwards to go forwards like a rugby ball. Her laptop is now resting on her knee, stuttering arrhythmically under the pressure from her fingers on the keys. Making the light skit off the screen towards me in some blinking Morse code. Tap, tap.

I wonder if I sat here long enough, years perhaps, if i could work out what she was writing just from studying her. 

I can make anybody like me. Except clever people. I wonder what we'd say to each other. Thoughts would do more work than words. They always do dickhead. Yeah but even more so with her. We'd give our tuppence worth on long walks on Wimbledon Common. We'd gas about the manner in which things show themselves to us. I'd take no pleasure in agreeing with her. Our sameness wouldn't interest me.

She smiles at her own internal monologue. She'd be close to her mother. She'd take ages to give of herself. She lets silence speak. She lost big once. Tap, space, tap, tap, tap, tap, space, tap, tap, tap.

I’m not sure this girl cares enough about me. She’s been gone behind the pillar for ten minutes. She doesn’t care. Meet me halfway. I'm leaving now. I won't ever see her again. People appear in your life just like that, and just as quickly as they come they're gone again. If i see her again i'll...

I swear i will.

Does anyone ever sit and write about me. What story do they make up, how far does it diverge from what i am, which me would i prefer.

Journey By Moonlight

Eyeing up a stubborn run through the rain? Want to make a video that looks cool enough to share with your family and friends so you can feel like a big man? The kind of cat one looks at and thinks.. if that brey doesn't have the spirit of adventure pulsating through his capillaries then i'll eat my beanie?


I'm your man.

Spent five hours on saturday following a bunch of hardened souls 28 miles through the streets and parks of rain drenched London, armed with a GoPro and a whole bunch of Tribe bars i was supposed to be handing out to the runners but kept on eating on the sly cos they're motherfucking delicious.

Eleventh Hour

Flat-lining on the sofa one sunday afternoon in the grip of a cheese coma, tap-tapping through the buttons on the Sky remote i arrived at the History Channel and a documentary about the rise of Nazi Germany. I looked over at my old man with a raised eye-brow to see if he was in. Staring back at the screen with a glazed look that said he was faring little better himself from a reblochon overdose, he grunted a noise my way which i took as clear encouragement to change the channel.

I think it's important to watch this though i asserted pretty self-importantly.

What happened next has stayed with me. He snapped out of his cheese coma with a seamlessness only a man with half a century of sunday lunches under his belt could possible have had the opportunity to master, and sat up. He then looked me in the eye very seriously and said...

I think it's the most important thing people of your generation need to know about, and make sure they remember. The most. Without any doubt. I just don't feel like watching it right now.

Perhaps this has more resonance given that my father is Argentine, and in 1945 when the second world war ended he was three years old and living in Buenos Aires, 8,000 miles away from the dust-cloud settling across Europe. None of his family were involved in the war. He came over here in the 70s and finds the patriotism of his adopted country often blind and difficult to stomach. So for him to tell me the war is something our generation has an absolute duty to be aware of and to remember hit home.


The Japanese have a word  被爆者 Hibakusha which is the name given to the survivors of the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It literally means radiation-affected people. Recently in Hiroshima there has been a collective sadness that with time fewer and fewer Hibakusha remain alive, and with that the last direct living tie with what happened will disappear. As the new generation comes up, there is a fear that people will begin to forget.


The ceremony of Armistice Day is handsdown one of the coolest things about the British. When the whole of Whitehall falls silent and the guy gets out the bugle and plays the Last Post, it's pretty fucking hardcore. In light of this making sure to remember, and the difficulty our generation has in getting our heads around the horror of war, something we have been blessed to avoid and yet also cursed by our ignorance of, something happened to me last year that gave me a new understanding of the whole thing.

On a cycle ride up through the middle of Germany on my way to Berlin, one summer's afternoon i came into a town in the north of Bavaria called Brunn. It was tiny. I free-wheeled through it, and on my way out i passed a war memorial, recognising it at half-glance as one does with the familiar. A minute or so later as the town was disappearing over my right shoulder, i semi-froze. And cycled back.

It was exactly like so many of the war memorials that stand on village greens throughout England, even in rural Scottish villages they are there, tributes to the Glorious Dead. My cycle ride had taken me through the whole of France, which again is absolutely littered, every single town or hamlet has a memorial to soldiers killed in the wars. So i didn't really think twice when i saw this one.

But what smashed me clean across the temple was my realisation that this was the other side's.

As self-evident as that sounds, what i found nuts was that it was the first time i'd understood the other side's perspective. Here was a tiny town with name upon name of soldiers, from that town, that had died in the first world war, mourned by surviving relatives of that town, suffering the confusion and tragedy brought on them by the Powers That Be embarking on a war of such aggression, that our generation is literally incapable of imagining it. 

The inhabitants of Brunn, up on that hill in northern Bavaria, what possible say could they have had in a war that announced itself one morning, and went on to steal their sons and change their lives forever. How helpless must they have felt.

It was the first time that what we learnt in school to call the enemy now existed in my head as real people. Soldiers just as young and innocent as the names inscribed on the walls of memorials all over Britain. And the thought that the mothers and daughters of Brunn must have thought about the Allies exactly as we thought about the Bosch, just as much the enemy, figures of hatred responsible for all the death and destruction and pain they were feeling. For that afternoon i was on the German side, and it all simultaneously made more sense and became even more confusing.

Whole thing hit me for six.

For us it is 'history'. For our great-grandparents it was a worst nightmare that begun one day, and from that moment on this nightmare morphed day by day into a horrifying reality. It was waking up one morning to a radio broadcast, that turned into a month, that turned into six years, that turned into a dark shadow over their minds that lived with them for the rest of their lives.


That's my Simon Schama act done for the day.