Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Great Gatsby: It better be worth the Great Wait

A trailer to The Great Gatsby was first circulated in August 2012 and at the time it was set for a release date around Christmas. Even that date had been a postponement from an earlier release. I took the opportunity to re-read the book. I finished the book. The release date came and went without so much as a tinkle of a champagne glass and we forgot all about it.

What has happened in the meantime is anyone's guess. It is hard to imagine a more capable film-maker than Baz Luhrmann to transform the Great American Novel to glorious 21st century high-definition technicolour, so the delay can only be speculated upon. There has been talk of clashing release dates in the past. May 10 seems like a fairly reliable one to put in your diary.

There's a nice Vanity Fair piece on the mansion here

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

"You're breaking up!" The mobile phones of 1993

There can be no better illustration of the march of technology than the changing shape of mobile phones. 

It would be fair to say however that, since today marks 40 years since the first mobile phone call, the first 20 years offered not an awful lot in the way of technological progress, or at least not a patch on the past 20. 

During the era White City was set, in 1993, mobile phones were still a relative novelty to the majority of the general public. As Ryan's sister Emma quite accurately points out, "only drug dealers and yuppies have mobile phones," and she wasn't far wrong, although the term "yuppie" did serve to accommodate a whole raft of professions.

Mobile phones prior to the 1990s were, by today's standards, unreliable, clunky, and unwieldy  with the early Nokias and Motorolas around the size of your average housebrick. They were also expensive and even on standby, the batteries wouldn't last more than a few hours.

But by 1993 things were beginning to change. Along with the MicroTac, top, which was continuing to drive Motorola's dominance in terms of sturdiness and reliability, new manufacturers were beginning to make their presence felt. Ericsson, in the present day an also-ran in the smartphone market (along with Motorola, incidentally), had produced something which actually wasn't a lot bigger than an iPhone. Texting was unheard of then but these things were still such a novelty that just making a call was a thing of wonder.

Then along came the Sony CM H333, or the Mars Bar, which was about the size of a giant Mars Bar, incredibly light and could store three telephone numbers in its memory.

Due to their pocketable size and the credibility associated with owning them, the smaller mobiles were an instant hit among those operating outside the letter of the law, and they were readily adopted.

For Ryan, Mark, and Jimmy, life wouldn't have been the same without them.

There is a great study of the history of mobile phones by the University of Salford here and here

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Rockports and Caterpillars: boots of the day

When Ryan goes shopping in Castle Meadow shopping centre he ends up with a pair of brand spanking new Rockport boots, and you know what? They are still making them, 20 years down the line, and on the face of it they haven't changed at all. These were actually the footwear of choice for lads of the day who had graduated up from the synonymous Caterpillar (below), which had been widely adopted by both male and female ravers alike.

The Rockports in question (they could have been known as XCS, not sure) were actually lined in Goretex membraine and I remember an advert with some bloke standing in a storm drain as the water gushed around him and his stance remaining (rock) steady on account of the ingenious suction-like tread on the soles.

I wore my first pair of Rockports to the point of destruction and promptly went out and bought another pair and I remember at the time thinking I wouldn't actually need another pair of shoes ever.

Wouldn't be seen dead in them now of course, and the same could be said for Caterpillars, but louder. How these stalwarts of the building site came to become a mainstay of street fashion is beyond me, but the fact that some people still wear the slightly similar but slightly less aesthetically offensive Timberlands does lead me to believe that maybe it isn't the popularity of these sorts of shoes that has changed as much as my taste.

Of course I unreservadly apologise to anyone who still wears either of these brands of footwear, although after 20 years I might suggest you try out something else.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Stone Island: the brand for the discerning lad, and Ryan

Heat-reacting fabric from Stone Island

In 1993 as in today, Stone Island was the default brand for any lad with more than a passing interest in what he was wearing. It was suitably toppy in price and technical in construction to ensure that it looked the part and would not be picked up by any old mug.

It's all about the arm patch
To wear Stone Island was to state on your sleeve that you knew the score. That little black arm patch with the circular, four-point cross design was as much a badge of honour on the streets and the terraces as any medal could be, and 20 years down the line it remains so.

Which is why Ryan, Mark and Jimmy would be seen in nothing else. Or at least, they would make sure at least one of their garments was SI.

SS13 Nightglow jacket
Mark's glow-in the dark jacket (right) didn't actually exist 20 years ago, but it was added into the story to illustrate the technical flamboyance of the brand. It could be a coincidence that Stone Island has introduced a luminescent model (Marina SS13 Nightglow jacket) for the coming season. I'd love to think they introduced it after reading the book.

Back in the days when White City was set, the more extreme jackets performance-wise were more to do with colour-changing fabrics which reacted to heat, along with a particularly medieval offering which was actually made of metal and supposed to protect the wearer from magnetic rays.

But the grail of coats to own wasn't actually made by Stone Island. It was the product of the brand's older, more refined sibling, CP Company. The Goggle, or Mille Miglia, jacket featured a sinister set of goggles in the hood which could be deployed when engaged in scurrilous activities, although it was first intended for use when driving open-topped sports cars on the famous Mille Miglia road race.

Ryan and Mark never got quite that far.
CP Company Mille Miglia jacket

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Fall of the Essex Boys: a tale revisited

Not sure what this is going to be like, but it isn't the first time the real-life story of the Rettendon murders has made it to the silver screen.

A fairly gruesome tale it was too, and one considerably removed from the experiences of Ryan and co in White City, although Thetford Mike might have had something to do with this little lot.

Of course this actually happened. White City did not.

But it should be remembered that the kind of violence surrounding this tale is far from the norm, despite what a lot of people would have you believe.