Tag Archives: københavn

It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

I don’t do this often, but this is important:

Please, please, please go to the cinema and watch this film this weekend.

The Age of Stupid

If you’re in Edinburgh, it’s showing at the Filmhouse for a week from this Friday, with a bunch of events around the screenings in association with the lovely people of Take One: Action, and on this page you can find local screenings throughout the UK. I watched the premiere on Sunday night, and apart from anything else, it’s bloody brilliant – it really is the most thought-provoking, outlook-changing, unmissable, oddly life-affirming £6 you’ll spend in a good while.

There are terrifying, horrifying moments – as stomach-lurching and spine-shivering as anything from War of the Worlds or 28 Days Later – but this isn’t science fiction. Instead, you find yourself shuddering at things like the realisation that about 40% of natural gas is still being burned off at source across Nigeria‘s 1000 onshore oil wells. Yes, that’s the same natural gas that we use to cook and heat our homes: according to the World Bank, over 100 billion cubic metres of it – that’s the combined annual gas consumption of Germany and France – are ‘flared’, uselessly spewing filthy, toxic smoke into the air, every year, apparently because it’s not easy enough for oil companies to make a profit storing and exporting the fuel. In Nigeria, the practice continues despite the new law prohibiting it from 1 January 2009. Much like the High Court ruling that prohibited it from 2005, then.

It’s difficult not to feel appalled at moments like this – but that’s not the whole story. The Age of Stupid, like our world itself, is beautifully put together, inspiring and frightening by turns; part-disaster movie, part-cautionary tale. There’s no knight in shining armour, no fairy godmother, and no straightforward way to a happy ending, but for me, some of the most thought-provoking moments are genuinely uplifting. Watch the excellently named Alvin DuVernay III – the Shell employee who lost his home and everything he owned, but saved the lives of more than 100 of his neighbours in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina – sitting in a jazz bar and reflecting on what he’s learned from the experience about materialism and the way Americans use energy, the way we all live, and tell me you’ve seen a more – good GOD I hate this word and can’t believe I’m about to use it – heartwarming scene in a film this year.

Incidentally, from filmmaker Franny Armstrong’s fascinating backstage diary: [Alvin] is haunted by all the people he didn’t save. He said he “lost his humanity” that day – because he was so focused on getting as many people as possible that sometimes he snapped when people asked if they could bring lots of luggage or go back for something they forgot. Now he says he wants to find all those people and apologise for being short with them.

If that dude has lost his humanity, there’s a lot of us could really do with finding some of it.

Anyway, got distracted there, my point is: it’s pretty easy to feel tiny in the face of climate change. It’s easy to feel terrified, to feel there’s nothing you can do to help avert the forthcoming catastrophe – in short, to freak out. Easy, but certainly not logical – this is our world, our generation, and this is real change that’s happening now, to us. This is why Age of Stupid media producer, brilliant animator and all-round mensch Leo Murray wants you to

Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip

Very seriously, if you don’t see The Age of Stupid (which would be, well, stupid), if you don’t even read this whole post, then please, please DO take 10 minutes to watch Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip. It’s short, it’s easy, it’s free, it’s got some ace artwork, and it might just change your life. On peut le voir en français ici, and it’s also available in Deutsch, Español, Nederlands, Türkçe and English with subtitles.

Another of the most resonant moments in The Age of Stupid, for me, was a quiet reflection from an Englishman. Piers Guy, a windfarm developer who’s struggling to achieve positive change against the disturbingly blinkered ‘not in my back yard’-ism of a snobbish, Home Counties tweed-wearing set, stands in Airfield Farm, near Bedfordshire, and is reminded of the war and how the land got its name: “You only have to look at the terrible things in our history, which everyone regrets now”, he muses, “massacres, the Holocaust, and a lot of that was just going along with what was the predominant thinking at the time.”

And this is it, this is what I needed: the reminder that yes, massive social, economic and political changes for the better can happen. More than that, they do happen, must happen, and will happen, and relatively fast.24.358

A hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to vote, and it’d be massively unlikely for me to go to university – but as early as the 70s the UK had a female Prime Minister (granted, she was a shit one, but that’s beside the point here). Sixty years ago, black children in the USA were segregated into ‘Negro’ schools, and couldn’t ride buses or trains, use drinking fountains, or play sports with their white peers; today the President is black. These changes have happened within living memory, and there’s more – the film goes into the (rather exciting) possibilities for going forward into a cleaner, greener future and working to achieve a position of global energy equality, which will unsurprisingly involve the US and Europe seriously (though gradually) downsizing our fossil fuel consumption. (Al Gore: ‘They’re seeing the writing on every wall’).

My grandparents, probably some of your parents, remember life during wartime – living in fear through Blitzkrieg over London, and worse in Poland and the former USSR; losing brothers to the fighting, watching children die from treatable diseases. And they remember dealing with serious shortages – they remember the rationing of clothes, petrol, soap, sugar, meat, fat, then bread, then potatoes. Nobody’s asking our generation to give up our lives for our freedom and principles, and we’re not even talking about rationing bread, more like rationing the time we spend with big-screen TVs, XBoxes, cheap flights. Unquestionably we can face this fight. It’s started in the Maldives, it’s coming to Copenhagen this year.

We can do this, we can survive – and more than that, we can and we will live low impact.


Newsflash: Bikes are still amazing!

Who’s with me (pictured)?

Pete Postlethwaite is with me.

And finally, bonus fun, whimsical and actually rather beautiful link by way of a reward for having read this far: check out Leo and Bill’s creation of the universe with milk and a fishbowl.

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This one’s from the heart.

lime, hornbeamLIME (is the British name) or linden leaves are heart-shaped and especially beautiful, most especially especially at this time of year. Just go and look at some, they’re everywhere.

In Norse and early Germanic religion, the linden was highly revered and associated with Freyja, the goddess of fertility, attraction and love. In Greek myth too (or just Ovid), it’s lovey-dovey because of the story of Baucis and Philemon. They were an old married couple who, although they were poor, showed kindness and hospitality to Zeus and Hermes (in disguise) and were rewarded by being granted their only wish: to be together forever, even in death. He was turned into an oak tree and she a lime, and there they stood, intertwined, in the deserted bog that was the ruin of their town (the gods had to destroy it because everyone else was too wicked, see).

The association with romance has continued through European art and literature, via people like Walther von der Vogelweide (scroll down – Unter der linden is the third one on that page) all the way down to Nick Cave. Aw.

Tilia platyphyllos (the large-leaved lime) is one of only about 30something trees native to Britain – only the south though, which is where I’m native to, too. It and its friend Tilia cordata and their hybrid Tilia x europaea are very frequently planted as ornamental trees, or shade trees in parks and gardens. The European thing is to have long lime-lined avenues, like Unter den Linden in Berlin and the gorgeous Frederiksberg Allé in København. It used to be a closed street, with gates, which only the King and his family (that’s Frederik) could use, but luckily for me it was opened to the public in 1863. I walked down there on September 14, 2006, which became one of the most unutterably beautiful days of my life.

Lime blossoms make a sweet and pleasant tea which has been used as a remedy for, among other things, headaches, indigestion, fever, liver disorders, anxiety and hysteria. The wood is soft and easily worked so it is favoured by carvers, including the most excellently-named Grinling Gibbons, and my uncle Roli who is totally ace and taught me about the Gibmeister, having just completed a degree in Ornamental Woodworking. The blossoms are also good for a light, delicate but beautifully flavoured honey. This tree is all about the prettiness.

Waiting for a train.

It’s a grey and hazy morning in the sharp-edged, angular new town of Ørestad (unlike Edinburgh’s New Town, this one is actually new). vanishing point

The train, as announced, is delayed by three minutes, something that seems impossible in this city of inhuman efficiency. I am hungry. I awoke early to the sound of some child I don’t know, making sounds I don’t know, presumably words I don’t know, in a language I don’t know. My dreams had been upside-down and jumbled and occasionally irksome – strange wilful dreams of swimming, sunshine and Sam and a door, high in the air, that led nowhere. Of things painted and painful. Sometimes when I sleep I pick at scabs.

An impossibly huge, rusted cargo train speeds by, with a noise of hissing cats and a cold metallic scream. Everywhere there are words I half-recognise without knowing, like vague shapes in the dark that would be familiar. Today I will go back home and tonight I will sleep in my own bed and tomorrow, if I’m woken by a sound, it will be the sound of one I love making noises I recognise, words I know the meaning of – insofar as I know the meaning of anything. And this is a good thing to remember. I switch on my MP3 player and cocoon myself; I listen to Nick Cave to cheer me up. I should reiterate that gloriously unlikely statement: I listen to Nick Cave to cheer me up. Because, again, I know his noises: a comforting anchorage in this alien nation.

The sun comes out, and here’s my train.