March, 2001

Dear Diary

March 30th, 2001 March 30th, 2001
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My film making progress report by me (age: 30-something)

Today I went to the big city (London) and took seven cans of uncut negative to The Man for cutting, along with Beta SP tapes of how the edit should look. I didn’t quite realise how much this all weighed so my shoulders now ache but luckily the $5NZ canvas bag I carried it all in held out.

On the way, I made a few more comparisons between New York and London from this side. Such as: the Underground trains here are different on every line so carriages would never be interchangable for flexibility in the way the NYC Metro system is. I noticed this because my head was touching the light fittings on the Victoria Line but I had a couple of inches clearance on the Northern Line. I’m 6’1″ and my head never touched the ceilings on the Metro — enough headroom for an average basketball player there.

At the neg cutters, I met Andy, a friendly chap and dropped off the negative and tapes. Then I walked down to Covent Garden to see the graphics people. Halfway there I stopped to buy chocolate (!) and realised I didn’t have the VHS tapes with me, so I had to walk back up through Soho to Tru-Cut. Doh. Does everyone carry on like this?

Eventually, via another stop to buy a salmon sandwich (delicious!), I found the offices of the graphics people, Cineimage, themselves in a sandwich — a sandwich of office blocks, with Pineapple dance studios on one side and the London Film School on the other.

Meeting the designers was excellent. It saves so much time if you can talk to someone face to face and say what you want, what you’re trying to achieve, what you don’t really need and what you’ll consider. Martin set up the font and layout for the Last Train plates to match what we’d done on Avid (the computer-based film cutting system) and he introduced me to their font wizard, Matt, who helped me find a nice script typeface for Fate & Fortune.

Fate & Fortune is a bit tricky to sum up in one title but I think we actually did an excellent job. It’s a dark comedy with supernatural overtones, so I didn’t want something too serious but I didn’t want Carry On Camping or The Pink Panther either. When we got something close to what I wanted, I showed him how we’d done three overlapping disolves on Avid with an extra large ampersand (&).

As Matt tried different things on the Mac with the layout, I had the bright idea that the ampersand could reach across the word Fortune, extending a finger of doom, and maybe we could add little devil horns to it too. Now he’s going to add those details by hand and I think it’s going to be really cool because he has a really good idea where I’m coming from. Those fifteen minutes of creative thinking and putting ideas into action are the real fun and what makes the whole process worthwhile.

On the way out Martin asked one of those questions that always throws you. “And it’s all done at 25 isn’t it?” Without thinking I said, “Yes.” But it isn’t. We shot everything at 24 frames per second for international screenings but it’s speeded up to 25 for telecine transfer for editing. Doh. I remembered on the train and remembered to phone him up when I got in.

Also, while watching the Fate & Fortune tape at Cineimage, I noticed it was an older version with more title cards. Uh oh. I’d also left that copy with Andy at Tru-Cut, which was wrong. I’d have to remember to call him too. My mind went into overload and blanked this important detail until I was leaving and I kept thinking, “I’m sure there’s something I must make a note of…” like you do. Then, wonder of wonders, as I opened the door to leave, who should be there but Andy, coming to visit Martin on another project. Luckily I had the presence of mind to remember to tell him not to cut F&F based on what I’d given him. Phew.

Afterwards I went to pay off some bills and change my remaining 100 dollars back into sterling. However, I balked when the bank offered me an exchange rate of $1.51 to the pound which meant they’d only be worth about �66 instead of the �72 I paid for them ($1.38/�1). Seemed a bit of a jump — I’m sure the rate was something like $1.45/�1 to buy sterling in NYC — but maybe I’ll just have to bite the bullet and take �66 next week.

Bankers are bastards. Now I’ll have to figure out how much to borrow from them…

Smoke My Volvo

March 30th, 2001 March 30th, 2001
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Odd phrase. One of my mates, one Richard Pierce no less, said it when we were teenagers and asserted it could be used as a chat up line.

Rich suggested using it like this: “Hello, darlin’. Would you like to come outside and smoke my Volvo?” Pleasing, yet I couldn’t figure out what he meant then and I still can’t now. Is it a euphemism? Or did he intend burning the engine out on a family car marketed for its safety features? Why not ‘smoke’ a Porsche? Far more exciting, no?

This all came back to mind this afternoon as I was following a big black Toyota Celica back from town and noticed these cars have a huge gaping exhaust pipe, twice the girth of the average exhaust. Naturally I connected the feeble old pick-up line about Volvos with the gaping orifice/shiny appendage combo on view ahead of me. I imagined someone taking the ‘smoke my Volvo’ line to mean that they put their lips around the exhaust and smoke the whole car like a pipe.

Welcome to my world.

Gimme My Cheese

March 29th, 2001 March 29th, 2001
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Sod it, I can’t be bothered to whine about anything except the sound dubbing expert who I’m not paying anything and who is still putting the brakes on my film after six months. I’m sure I could have found someone equally as talented willing to do this favour in the meantime. What a pain.

Should I take the gamble that I can get it all finished in a month with no visible means of financing and fill in the Cannes Festival application today? That would mean bullshitting about a couple of things and not actually having a completed video to send them. Or should I go watch some television for a bit and procrastinate? Maybe I’ll just go back to bed.

It hurts my head…

Oh bugger.

“A print or video cassette from the applicants must reach the Selection Committee before April 1, 2001.”

So no Cannes do this year then.

Next.

Okay, things to do:

Neg Cut
Deliver negative (ten large heavy cans), Edit Decision List (EDL) and 2x videocassettes to Neg Cutters (Andy at TrueCut)
– timescale: tomorrow (there’s a tube strike today)
Get new EDL for Fate & Fortune to include shorter title sequence, phone editor to arrange
– next week (he’s out of the country until April 3)

Titles and credits
Visit graphic designer and finalise opening titles, font, layout and closing credits. Find cash.
– tomorrow 12.30 (appointment made)

Grading
Requires cut negative and cash, so phone bank and arrange outrageous loan for this and various other things. Re-cost out everything on this list in Excel, then take deep breath and contact bank
– today

Sound mix
1. Last Train – done, so go to optical
2. Fate & Fortune – kick sound editor on a daily basis, whine a lot and get numbers of alternative sound editors (in hand)

Optical sound negative
1. Requires Tascam cassette (done), cut neg (in hand) and cash (bank)
2. Requires Tascam (see sound mix), cut neg (in hand) and cash (bank)

Effects and opticals
Forget it, you’re broke!

Final print
1. Director of Photography wants Grade A 35mm print in addition to graded print. Tough, unless he’s paying. Will probably go with Super16 print only.
2. DoP wants Grade A 35mm print (surprise surprise) but will go with it because I do too. Takes priority over Last Train as it’s shot on 35mm for a quality look.

Exhibition – festivals
Find names and dates and enter. Note Cannes will only accept first run films so that’s missed. British Short Film Festival, Birmingham Festival, Europe, Australia and USA. Plan for print falling apart in approximately three months and ponder cost of replacement.

Exhibition – television
Ensure print is immediately telecined to digital format ASAP. Then, helloooo distributor! Channel Four/BBC specialist units. No? Okay, BBC first stop via new BBC Choice scheme which probably involves handing over all the international rights to everything in exchange for bugger all and a chance to win a few hundred quip. yip.
– early May (application form on desk)

Get more work!
By sending VHS copies to those responsible for hiring freelances at major channels, film companies and agents.
– early May

Hmm. Sounds like a plan…

Re-cost post production
Find that it comes to �11,000-plus. Feel nauseous. Phone lab next – “Do I absolutely NEED to have an interpositive and an internegative?”

Take out one disolve
To be replaced with a cut, no matter how difficult that is. It saves A&B roll surcharges. Re-cost comes out to �9,800. Still feel queasy. Might be able to get it down to around �8,000. �6k would be do-able or I’ll barf up a lung. Sales manager at lab is out of office until later…

Procrastinating
Watch some TV including last night’s episode of Star Trek Voyager which was lame. I also mess around on the internet for a bit and check my stars – which are ridiculously positive at two different sites – and my bank balance online – which is not quite as bad as I thought. Phew. My finances should actually survive the month.

My heart pricks me into a misguided attempt to make life better (and live up to the astrological promises) so I send an email to a friend who isn’t speaking to me. No reply comes back which could mean I’m the world’s biggest pain in the ass except I know I’m not, I’m just fed up. The lack of response means I’ve probably just pissed that person off more which was obviously not the intention so it makes me feel worse so I come here and beat myself up about it.

Phone the lab again. The sales manager is back in the office but on another call so I leave my number. His secretary gets the number wrong – twice – then she says he’ll call back later. He’ll probably call back next week. I think Mercury – the planet of communication – must be taking a vacation from my sign this week as it seems like no one wants to speak to me. Yes, I’m whining about that too. Bite me.

Lab costs and loans
Lab finally calls back too late to get in touch with the bank but the new figures are fed into my Excel spreadsheet and several unneccessary lines are deleted. The labs are really helpful and it looks like it’s going to cost around �4,500-�5,000 which is still shitloads of money but after the �11k panic, it sounds pretty reasonable.

Hey, I could get this sucker finished in just a few weeks!

NYC: Last Post

March 22nd, 2001 March 22nd, 2001
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It’s a grey miserable day in Manhattan. Raining all night. Drizzling down a bit more today. The clean sidewalks of my first morning are no more. Instead they are feature soggy bits of litter, some bin bags, cigarette butts and quite a few black umbrellas blown inside out.

Seems like the weather is reflecting my mood. I’ve had a really great time out here, marvelled at the sites, revelled in the sushi and seen some of the weirdest artwork I think I’ll ever see. It will take a whole separate post to describe let alone explain one piece in particular.

I’ve also experienced a few incredibly dark and dismal times, just like today’s weather. Sometimes travelling on your own is good and sometimes it’s no fun at all not having someone around to share things with. Sometimes you can set up a whole load of expectations for something and when it doesn’t happen, everything just seems to crumble like a house of cards. I’m definitely guilty of that.

Those dismal moments have taught me a couple of things, though. One is that no matter what happens, we keep breathing; the world doesn’t come to an end. Life goes on and we have to go with it. It’s not like anything dark here has been a matter of life and death. The other thing I’ve learned is that sometimes no one is to blame for the grey days; fate and chance can throw the dice for you.

My trouble (I know) is I can get carried away and forget that. I sometimes want things to happen in a certain way and feel I have to try and keep trying to make them happen no matter what. Kind of like the irresistable force coming up against the immovable object. My enthusiasm gets the better of me and I push things and people, although that pushing is never meant to be unkind.

I forgot that not everyone has the time, energy or desire to be excited just because I am. But I do know it’s thanks to my friends that I’m out here, on a limb, travelling and seeing new things. So the past couple of days haven’t felt like fire and light, more like damp and murky, and I’m searching for a positive way to end this post but the cliches all seem too worn out.

Whatever. Despite all this rambling, New York is definitely now a favorite place and my friends are just as valuable now as they were before I came. Maybe even more so. That must mean I found something positive after all.

NYC: Give Me Liberty

March 20th, 2001 March 20th, 2001
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Or give me something else. Preferably with a little side salad and some Russian dressing. Or American undressing with contours to contrast against these oh-so straight roads.

Today is the first day of spring and it’s early morning with the bright steep sunlight slanting in to light up the freshly swept sidewalks. There’s a mouthwatering smell of cinammon coming from one of the bakeries I just past and the florist shop opposite is a riot of color.

And art is everywhere here. Down on the subway on 14th Street I just saw a great piece of sculpture of a crocodile coming out of manhole on the platform and eating some little gremlins who are sawing at a pillar under the stairs.

Still, I’ve noticed now that the sidewalks do get grubbier as the day goes on. I’ve seen beggars on the street and the subway, just like home. I’ve even noticed some dog poop up around West 27th, but it is still rare.

There’s that grass is always greener syndrome when you’re in a new place, I guess and it does wear off. Nonetheless, the good here is a cut above other places and yesterday’s trip out to the Statue of Liberty was very good. You can’t help but be impressed again and again with the Manhattan skyline and you get a fantastic view of it from the tour ferry. I snapped off quite a few frames of film just for the hell of it.

Afterwards, down on Bleeker Street, I noticed a lot of shops selling the wide wide panorama view of that same skyline in wide wide frames, long and thin and covering all the major buildings seen from the Hudson River. I can see why so many films start with that helicopter view rushing over the water and then up over the skyscrapers.

Talking of films, I went to see the new Steven Seagal movie Exit Wounds yesterday. Apparently it took a lot of money in its opening weekend according to the TV reports. Steven Seagal really is very poor at acting, isn’t he? He can’t seem to help it and in this he makes Mickey Mouse look 3D. But then, Seagal IS superb at martial arts and there were quite a few places where he does that bone-crunching stuff he does best.

I’ve got to say Exit Wounds sucks badly. I seriously wonder if it will be released in the UK. Also I wonder if they do, whether the same bodies bouncing off cars and odd bits of violence will still be in or will be cut to protect sensitive British audiences. Somehow someone in Hollywood keeps greenlighting this nonsense which always gives me hope.

As well as mentioning the great box office this dross has done on Fox yesterday morning, the breakfast news also reported some local shootings, court reports and spent a lot of time on traffic problems. All of this was handled in the same fast-paced slick way that slid easily into a jocular weather report, a report on the latest swimwear and a lot of inter-presenter repartee.

It’s still funny what’s different here and what’s the same. I feel like I’m not noticing as much of those differences but other times they glare out at you. No wonder we think we’re communicating just because we speak the same language. Sometimes we are. Sometimes, though, we are an ocean apart.

NYC: Seeing Green

March 19th, 2001 March 19th, 2001
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As I look up at the painted and pannelled ceiling, marvel at the splendid chandeliers and see a beautiful blue sky through large arched windows I can only think that this is very pleasant. New York Public Library also equals free internet access. Marvellous.

St Patrick’s Day. Went to the parade, saw some paraders, gazed at the gamut of green hats, ear-rings, face paint, necklaces, you name it. Then went to a bar. In fact several bars.

For any of you Brits travelling out here there are a handful of things you need to know about drinking in bars. Firstly, it is painfully expensive. If you thought a London pint was expensive at two pounds fifty, try three, four or even five pounds on four size.

Second, most places serve 16 ounce pints. This means you can drink lots of them without falling over. US citizens please note — a pint in the United Kingdom is 20 ounces. Four is about my limit but then I’m a lightweight and admit. When I’ve had four I’m usually talking complete cobblers (unlike normal? shh…) or being very loud or being very sincere or dancing.

Third thing to note is you need to tip the barman. This seems odd coming from England (where you don’t need to tip anyone) but the reality is that the guy is not being paid or is getting something like $2 an hour so your tip is his wages. Those ‘free beers’ he occasionally gives you are cheap even with the tip.

Finally, you can talk to people in bars here and it’s not weird. So enjoy! I did.

Okay, I gotta go, 30 minutes free access time is up.

NYC: Teddy Bare

March 16th, 2001 March 16th, 2001
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We went out to look at stuff today. Old stuff. Like Teddy Roosevelt’s home. He wasn’t short of a few bob now was he? In fact loaded is the word. Riches beyond the dreams of avarice, although I draw the line at more money than sense because from what I’ve learned, the man teddy bears were named after definitely had sense.

Did you know, for example, that he was instrumental in resdributing the wealth from the so-called robber barons to the common folk? And did you know that he was responsible for America having National Parks today and thanks to him there is now twice as much forest as when he became president?

Our guide for the 30 minute tour delighted in telling us these historical gems. He also delighted in telling us about his military victories, his love of family, his freakin’ amazing art collection (better than the Guggenheim — my comment) and his love of conservation.

Do you know what conservation means, son? Spit that there chewing gum out! Yes, it means preserving stuff. And thanks to Mr Roosevelt’s propensity for hunting down every species under the sun, New York has the well-stocked museum of natural history that exists today.

Good on you, Ted! Where would we be without stuffed dead animals to tell us what the natural world looks like, eh?

Okay, cynicism aside, the Rooosevelt home up on Sagamore Hill was impressive. And so was this former President’s history and his contribution to so many aspects of the truly great nation that is the United States. However, our guide, one Jerry McClueless (name changed to protect the guilty) was sometimes not up to the same standard.

“I was a New York cop for 20 years and then a school teacher for 12 years,” he informed us. I pity the fool kids who were in his class. ‘An American through and through’ Jerry nevertheless couldn’t resist telling us about his Irish heritage (third generation — one further back than me) and how hard it all was.

Jerry, yep I’m gonna talk about ya because you really are an anachronism, full of half-truths about the past of both Teddy Roosevelt (who was great) and your good self (who was a bit of a bully and not so great).

Seriously, this is a cheap shot because Jerry was a very good guide; talkative and informative and entertaining. However, when you ask the question what was the greatest invention the English ever had, you might at least remember Alan Turing’s fore-runner to the computer, or Stevenson’s Rocket, or Newton’s theory of gravity.

England was the only (yes, that’s right folks — the ONLY) nation to ever industrialise from scratch but for Jerry, whose antecedents left Eire to be forgotten all those years ago, the joy of telling us about the inventor of the toilet being one Thomas Crapper superseded all of this. “England’s greatest export was the toilet!” Over and over again. Frankly, who cares?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, yawn.

No invention or discovery really exists without international cooperation and collaboration. My examples of imperial greatness above also have roots in other cultures, piracy and exploitation. Whittle’s jet engine would be pointless without the Wright brothers’ discovery of flight or Boeing’s commitment to aviation now. And Jerry was right about one thing — Oliver Cromwell was an internationally disgusting disaster, to say the least!

Okay, Jerry was right about a few things. Whatever. Today just made me remember that we are one group of human beings with many cultures all striving to move forwards on this tiny planet in the vastness of space. It really is specious to hold grudges from a past none of us had anything to do with. And that applies whether it was a generation or six generations (or more) back in time.

The past is another country, they do things differently there. Nevertheless, I’m off to celebrate St Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Why? Because tradition will always have a place in the modern world.

That and beer.

NYC: This Is My Island

March 15th, 2001 March 15th, 2001
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Now I’m staying at a friend’s house for a few days over on Long Island. Long Island is a bit of a misleading title because it gives you this impression of a little biddy island and actually it’s more like the size of a couple of UK counties joined together, or at least one large one. It takes over an hour to cross it by train from Manhattan.

Nevertheless, it is long and it is an island so it’s not a false description, just another thing to think about in the scale of things United States-wise. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day, if a little chilly, so we’re heading to the beach in a minute and my camera is at the ready.

Yesterday we went to a prize-giving ceremony at the local school and I tagged along because, well basically I’m a nosey sod and wanted to see what an American high school looks like. This one is really good and you can tell the standard of teaching is excellent.

I found out that school days here start at 7.20 and finish at 2.30pm by the way, unlike the UK where the schools start at the same time as the offices. This means they don’t get that insane traffic congestion caused by both parents and commuters. Here the insanity is all commuter-driven! Anyway, back to the school…

Prizes were being given out for art and writing and the standard was impressive. Inspiring even. One girl had created a mural based on sounds and music in the city. A really incredible piece of work where you could see all kinds of things going on and incorporating some really interesting techniques.

Then there were prizes for poetry and two of those really stood out to my mind. One was about how you can’t have a proper relationship if you don’t enter into it fully (captured in three short stanzas) and the other was about the writer’s life from the time of his birth up to age 16 using the metaphor of a train. They obviously have very good teachers to be able to draw out these innate talents like this.

These kids are good — all of them, not just the ones I’m mentioning here. Oh and not all American kids are the pretentious so and so’s the British like to portray them as. They can be humble and shy whilst also being incredibly talented. People are people.

A good learning experience.

NYC: Space – The Final Frontier

March 14th, 2001 March 14th, 2001
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Yesterday I went to the American Museum of Natural History which is also home to the Rose Center. This is another huge building in a classical style and one of those lobbies where the ceiling is so high it has its own weather systems.

The Rose Center looked appealing from the website because it’s the big space exhibit. That’s space as in the solar system and the universe as opposed to the wide open spaces of America. The Center looks really impressive from the pictures consisting of the giant Hayden Sphere and it’s all shiny and new.

New. Hmmm. Yes. Guess what? Just like anywhere else in the world, most of the stuff didn’t work and was broken, it was full of schoolkids on trips from the time the doors opened and the main Big Bang exhibit is closed for renovation. It’s ALL designed for kids though — nothing tilts up to adult eye level and the descriptions are pretty simplistic. I liked the walk around the edge which gives you the scale of the universe and our place in it and goes right down to atoms. That was ‘neat’.

There’s a planetarium type space show in the top half of the sphere but I was feeling in a pikey mood so I didn’t want to pay the admission and therefore didn’t go in.

The rest of the natural history museum reminded me of the one in London, some bits better and some not as good. The evolution timeline is very well done and I spent ages looking at the pretty shiny things in the crystal display, mainly because there were places to sit. Everything is sponsored or donated and I did get a sense of various politically messages being pushed especially in the environmental exhibits. They were messages I’d agree with so I didn’t have a problem except the sheer blatantness of it.

Eventually my legs got tired from all the walking and I tried to find my way out. Haha. I was lost. By accident I saw the Native American displays and the giant whale exhibit. And lots of dead ends. Ironic really when there are so many dead things in there to look at. Was I going to become another exhibit? The Missing Link perhaps? Fortunately not and somehow or other I did get back to the main lobby.

After I went to see the latest Robert DeNiro movie 15 Minutes which is all about the American obsession with getting fame through television. Supposedly. Actually it’s just a solid cop buddy movie with a few interesting ideas, carried by the direction and the editing trying to make up for a totally average script.

They also showed the trailer for the new Tim Burton Planet of the Apes remake which is due out here in July and looks awesome. Plus lots of other stuff which will reach the UK sometime around Christmas in all probability or maybe not at all.

Talking of movies I noticed a crew had taken over a street yesterday and were filming. I guess this is pretty commonplace around here. And watching a New York based film like 15 Minutes when you’re actually here is odd in a sense because all those shots of big big skylines they use to establish how impressive and important it all is lose a lot of their impact when you see them every day. My first impression here was that NY dwarfs everyone but actually that soon gets accepted and then ignored to be replaced by your normal human awareness of people-sized things.

Also on the subject of filming, I noticed the light here when I first arrived. Because of its latitude, the NY sunlight hits at a really steep angle which is why the huge towers don’t actually put the roads into the shade (the roads are pretty wide too which helps). On a clear day, it’s a very hard harsh light with shadows filled by bounce from the surrounding buildings. Filming here in the daytime must take a lot of grip trucks with big daylight balanced halogen lamps just to balance that out.

The sharp downward sunlight also explains the popularity of wide brimmed baseball caps and dark glasses. So now you know!

NYC: The Guggenheim

March 13th, 2001 March 13th, 2001
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So I’ve ridden the subway (Metro) and marvelled at its shininess (with maybe a little hint of rust treatment around the edges or is that paint?) I’ve also marvelled at the fact that the platforms are about two blocks long — that’s looooooooooooong! Especially compared to the London Underground. $17 for a one week pass. I’m not sure London’s transport system competes, although London makes up for it in other ways, I guess.

Anyway, I took a ride up to Central Park yesterday, which is exactly like you’ve seen in all the movies with a reservoir in the middle surrounded by a fence, signs saying ‘This is the City’s drinking water’ and a jogging track. Why do people do this walking thing in a tracksuit, btw? It’s WALKING for crying out loud. I do it every day. Not a real sport.

Over on the East side of the park is the famous Guggenheim Museum of modern art. You know the one (even if you think you don’t). It is a white lopsided cake of a building has the distinctive spiralling gallery going up on the inside.

So I did what every visitor to a museum of modern art does. No. Not just buying a ticket. I looked carefully at the first few things. Admired the Picasso, walked around the big wooden totem pole thing, wondered why there was a huge white rubber plant upturned and hanging down from the top floor.

Then I got tired.

So I did the next thing every visitor to a modern art museum does. I invented my own names for the works I didn’t appreciate or understand.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know much about art but I know what I like. Kind of. I think. I liked a lot of the metal sculpture and various paintings. I definitely appreciated Albert Giacomelli’s honestly titled pieces — the Nose, Spoon Woman, that sort of thing (although not Woman With Her Throat Cut which just looked like a large farm implement badly welded).

However, if you’re going to have fun in galleries, you’ve got to admit that nearly everything by Vasali Kandinski could be titled This Way Up and not lose anything by such labelling. Many other works by other artists seem to scream out for plaques dubbing them Childish Scrawl, Random Blobs and Aesthetically Pleasing Doodle. There’s a lot of pleasing doodling has gone inside the Guggenheim.

Andy Warhol’s 150 Marilyns made me snigger and on the top floor is a glass igloo cleverly titled to make you think it might possibly be something else. It isn’t, it’s definitely a glass igloo. Oh, and there’s a piece of sculpture called Elipse which if it isn’t a kiddies climbing frame then I don’t know what is. How they keep toddlers from scaling it is a mystery.

The distinctive gallery building itself is the best thing and there’s a huge exhibit detailing the proposed new architectural insanity that the Guggenheim is planning to build on the Manhatten Waterfront. It is to be a huge confection of flowing titanium, wonky glass walls and limestone which will stand on its own island and is on a scale to compete with the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the world’s highest building. That’s big. Huge. A monster!

It simply says New York is mad. Everywhere are massive buildings whose very scale dwarves and diminishes the human spirit to antlike proportions. Yet still people try to make a mark here, perhaps because of this very challenge. I can see where Ridley Scott got the inspiration for the cityscape in Blade Runner. More, I can see why — to show human life as somehow small and transitory on the face of such a world.

Notwithstanding that, I enjoyed the Guggenheim. I loved the little touches around, like a keyhole shaped door and offshoot galleries and the shiny brass drinking fountains that people just can’t resist using. I didn’t much like the vertigo-inducing low balcony that runs around the spiral. Although it gives you glimpses of what’s above and what’s below, I just had to look the other way when people sat on it for a rest!

Sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful and if you look at it all in the right way, definitely something funny about the whole thing. I resisted buying anything from the souvenir shops however, despite the temptation of a Picasso domino set, a Mondrian mouse mat or a marvellous mobile. The search for something tackier continues.

And now I must go to walk off a Guinness inspired hangover, but that’s another story.