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July 31, 2007

Route 66, Highway 61 and the E70

You can get your kicks on Route 66, Bob Dylan revisited Highway 61 in 1965 and Anthony and I drove a lot of the E70 in the past few weeks.


The E70 is just as romantic as any American road, except perhaps for its dearth of blues singers. It goes from the Atlantic coast at A Coruna, in Spain to the Black Sea, in Georgia. We drove it, in various stages and not all in the same direction, from Lyon to Belgrade.

It was about 4000miles to Kosovo and back, an amazing trip. Though, I have to say, the down side of the International E-road network is that you might be driving through Slovenia, but for all of that you may as well be on the M1. The roads are mostly good and fast but, as the tarmac ribbon extends in front of you, all you get are bland service stations and big lorries.

So our trip out was fast and efficient, the Volkswagen eating the black-top steadily hour by hour as the kilometre marker posts flashed by. We drove through torrential rain in Austria, heat-waves in Serbia and, in a surreal moment of advanced technology, Jane got a call on her mobile, from a friend in the Peak District, while we were in the middle of a four kilometre tunnel half a mile under the Alps, clear as a bell.

The borders in the European Union were non-existent, you just passed a small sign by the side of the road quietly announcing the country you were entering. Things got slightly more exciting as we left Slovenia – the police had bigger guns and the customs were inclined to be more interested in what was in all the cardboard boxes stacked up in the back of our van.

“This box is children’s books for a Summer School” proclaimed Jane, confidently, to a tall blonde customs official with mirror sunglasses, who was staring, somewhat puzzled, at a box full of couscous. “Ah! This one’s children’s books” said Jane, opening a box full of first aid equipment. The border guards decided to let us through as we were clearly barking mad.


the somewhat makeshift United Nations Mission in Kosovo border post

The only border crossing to give us any trouble was getting into Kosovo, which took two and a half hours, in temperatures not fit for a mad dog.


ahead: Kosovo

Posted by john at 09:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007

Free parking and toilet

The Motel MV Ruma was just over the Serbian border from Croatia, on the road to Belgrade. The cover of their brochure is proud to boast of their facilities:


“The new MV Ruma motel is a gem in what is considered to be the crown of tourist facilities for the 21st century. It is built on the site of the old, now renovated the Ruma motel which has changed owners and which is making a unified complex with the newly built part.”

The brochure also tells of their “car-wash products shop” though unfortunately this appeared to be closed while we were there and, by the total lack of any products, car-wash or otherwise, on the shelves, it had been closed for some time.

The hotel itself was a strange mix of Communist Concrete Chic and Art Deco.



Posted by john at 08:13 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2007

Well Baked in the Balkans

Did I say the high thirties? [I did.] Well I was out by a few degrees – the temperatures were in the forties with the hot heat topping out at around 45º C on Wednesday. Which is 113ºF for those of you still counting in old money. And that's a lot of hot, a whole heap of hot, in fact.


Lucky the temperatures came down at night and, in my tent, a good night’s sleep could be had. Or at least a good night’s sleep could have been had had it not been for burning rubbish tips, barking dogs, Albanian weddings, people projectile vomiting and impromptu discothèques from over-excited Gjakova students.

It was another amazing time out in Kosovo, very different from last summer, primarily because this year I was running the Summer School rather than filming it. There are some good stories to tell, which I shall spill onto these pages in the next few days.

Posted by john at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2007

Baking in the Balkans

It’s the Gjakova Summer School again, and this time I’m driving out, across eight countries: France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and finally Kosovo. On board with us will be 15 computers, three bundles of sticks, an unfeasible amount of polythene, a ball room [or at least the floor thereof, I’m led to believe] and various boxes of various art materials.

the three bundles of sticks

The border crossings are going to be fun I expect. Especially as the temperatures over the other side of the alps are expected to reach into the high thirties [which is around 98 degrees for those of you more familiar with the scale developed by German physicist Herr Doktor Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit] next week. Oh Joy.

I won’t be posting here for a while, so in the mean time here’s some music to listen to:

The Random Acts of Kindness

Ninon Foiret

Clara Sanabras

The Jackshites

Posted by john at 09:01 AM | Comments (1)

July 04, 2007

No moving parts

Mr Hitchcock thought sound was a Bad Thing for the film industry.

Mr hitchcock.jpg

Instead of using the pictures to tell the story, suddenly you had actors who could tell you about it instead. This led us down a rocky path ending up with today's soap operas, where you don't even see the pictures you just have the actors telling us what happened.

What would he have made of the information saturation provided by this old jalopy, t'interclacker? By which I'm referring to the unfathomable amount of virtual images lying like so much grit in the gutter of the Information Superhighway.

UPDATE: rippleonline is another source of access for my, and indeed other people's, contribution to the virtual world of the moving image. All provided, with no moving parts, on a desk top near you.

Posted by john at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2007

The fourth dimension

In 1858 August Ferdinand Möbius took a strip of paper, gave it a twist and stuck the two ends together, thus providing graphic artists everywhere endless [ha ha] material for experimental-music album covers.


While we’re on the subject of surfaces, those of you with a keen eye for detail will have noticed that my strap line is sometimes a stranger to the truth.

Whereas a lot of my work does indeed concern itself with the problems inherent in the notion of getting three dimensions into two, I am now also often trying to get four dimensions into three, for I have of late begun once more to fiddle with film, or at least its digital manifestation.

So the new dimension is time, that tricky stuff the good Doctor dabbles with and Einstein dealt with somewhat perfunctorily : “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.” For film, as they say today, is a time-based medium.

They also say lens-based medium for photography, so would painting, therefore, be oil-based media, or even water-based, depending on your bent, but then that could be confused with snorkeling, couldn’t it?

Anyway, time is getting on and I must get some food-based medium for my lunch.

Posted by john at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)