Posts from October 2003

Oct 03

Danny talks about the reshowing of the drama section of Look And Read

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Danny talks about the reshowing of the drama section of Look And Read on the CBBC channel on appropriately titled Do You See? I am lucky enough to still have the tie-in booklet (ie the bit we were supposed to READ) of The Boy From Space. A shoddy 48 page pamphlet printed with a two colour cover (those exciting, schoolyard bully favourites black and blue). Richard Carpenter, the author, was therefore responsible for the worst nightmares I had as a child, though in this format it is hard to believe my existential night terrors.

My fear was directed towards the villain of the piece, The Thin Grey Man, who drifted around the first five episodes standing in the distance in a flasher mac and looking sinister. However in Chapter Six (Where Is Tom) the Thin Grey Man confronts the Boy From Space (Peep-Peep, called so because he speaks funny) and kindly adult Mr Bunting.

“The thin man pointed the gun at them and they had to walk away from the cars. Then the thin man turned and pointed his gun at Tom’s car. There was a strange humming sound and it slowly melted away. Then he pointed at Mr Bunting’s car and made that melt, too.”

The televisiual presentation of this is not as big budget as the text suggests. Melting was beyong the Schools TV budget, instead we got a red light and the car vanishing. It was around about this point that I came to terms with the idea of not existing. Combined with a thoroughly creapy man in a stranger danger mac, it contributed to the odd sleepless night. That and the creapy old lady I had to take cans to in the Harvest Festival and who moaned at me because she didn’t like sweetcorn.

Anyway, the Boy From Space is pretty rubbish, both as literature and television. Proof of this comes from the climatic twist. Peep-Peep seems to be able to read, albeit by use of a mirror, which finally gives the kids a realisation that they can talk in mirror writing. The justification for this, I shall now repeat verbatim…(Feel free to scoff).

“‘How did they learn to write?’ I aksed
Peep-peep’s father had been showing Mr Bunting something. When Mr Bunting came back to us he was laughing. He held up a big plastic bag.
‘They’ve been on Earth before,’ he said. ‘They must have found this bag with writing on if.’
‘That’s mirror-writing,’ said Dan. ‘We don’t write like that.’
‘No, Dan,’ said Mr Binting. ‘The bag is inside out.’ He turned it the right way round. ‘ You see?’
Now we could read the writing on the bag.
‘Danger, keep away from children.’ There was a lot more writing on the bag.
‘That’s how they leanred to write,’ said Mr Bunting.
He turned the bag inside out again. ‘But they learnt like this, back to front.’
We all laughed. “

Too fucking right we laughed….

Steve is OTM about player’s ignorance of the laws of the game;

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Steve is OTM about player’s ignorance of the laws of the game; Lou Macari was interviewed outside Old Trafford last night in connection with Rio Ferdinand being charged and said that some blame must be attached to the FA’s drug testers for not making sure he stayed around for the test. He appears to have no understanding of the rules governing the FAs testing regime. And why should he? Unlike any other punter who spouted total ill-informed garbage, he will sadly be asked back, because as far as sports coverage is concerned, the aim is have controversialists and / or well known figures. The veracity of their statements and their understanding of what they speak about is an irrelevance. This means we vary between the Macari still rubbish, or the bland cliche ridden banalities of ex-players, who subscribe to the omerta which pervades the game.

This basically operates along the lines of – you’re no longer on active service within football, but you still earn you living by way of it and earn a corn occassionally from commenting. The rules of both silence about what went on in your day, about what you know about what’s going on today and the rule that says that you must at all costs steer well clear of topics that might open up debates that challenge the fundamental orthodoxies of the game.

You see it still with commentators saying that someone shouldn’t have been booked / penalised as there was no intent in the tackle; it just went wrong, as opposed to being a cynical attempt to bring down a player. Never mind that intent was removed from the laws of the game in 1993 eh?

PS – Here’s a list of revisions to the laws of the game which includes the one about penalties right near the bottom.

Oct 03

The first hour and a half of Martin Scorsese’s Il Mio Viaggio In Italia

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Last night I saw the first hour and a half of Martin Scorsese’s Il Mio Viaggio In Italia, which has convinced me that if Marty ever gives up directing he is a shoe-in for film school lecturing. It is basically a personal history of Italian cinema, told by someone who is up-front straight away that this is not an academic look. As such, he spends much of the pre-amble pointing out the intersection between his family and the process of seeing these films. He brings up the power of seeing “the old country” on film, that his viewing fills in certain gaps in his own past. His own history is one of film.

Scorsese – despite his oddly distracting bulbous nose – is a terrific narrator. Not only does he get across his enthusiasm for the Italian films he loves but this also makes it clear that this is his history of Italian cinema. A history where he sees films out of order, where his love for Rossellini overpowers all of his acceptance of some of Rossellini’s possibly rubbish films, and one where he is control of the meaning. Luckily he also makes this clear, he does not expect us to see Berlin, Year Zero in the way he did (slightly disappointed that there are no Sicillians in it). Once the film gets past its preamble, and that is half an hour, I then spent an hour watching him slowly dissect only four Rossellini films. Whilst I am sure I do not agree with him, or will not agree with him, about the absolute majesty of each film – fuck me he made me want to see them properly. Opinionated in a self deprecating way, I only wish I had a chance to see the other mooted eight hours of this documentary. Put this on instead of Gangs Of New York and I would be there like a shot.

GUY MITCHELL – “Singing The Blues” TOMMY STEELE – “Singing The Blues”

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#53, 4th January 1957 / #54, 11th January 1957

“Singing The Blues” is an obvious smash – immediately memorable, modern enough to grab the rock’n’rollers, catchy and polite enough to hook everyone else too. The arrangements of these versions are very close (Mitchell’s is a bit brisker and busier), but the treatments are still worlds apart.

Guy Mitchell brings the tune the assurance of an old pop hand – even heartbreak is a bit of a chuckle for good old Guy, so in his hands it’s a stagey swoon to win over a coy could-be. And of course we fall for it – he’s so charismatic, his voice so sparkly, how could we not?

Tommy Steele gives us the fresher, more rockin’ treatment, but his record is hardly more authentic – in fact it’s bare-facedly, outrageously, preposterously mannered, and the manners in question belong entirely to one Presley, E.

Here’s how Mitchell sings the first verse of “Singing The Blues”:

Well I never felt more like sing’n’ the blues
Cos I never thought that I’d ever lose
Your love, dear
Why’d you do me this way?

And here’s how Steele sings it:

Weh-hell uhne’eh’el’orlike sinnuh blues
Cos I ne’eh’ought a’Ide’uhlose
Your love, dear
Why’cha do me this way?

Steele’s singing is not his natural voice, no, it is a very specific style he is attempting, and that style is ‘rock and roll’, as incarnated in the larynx and lips of Elvis. No consonant is safe with Steele around, words pool into one another in a shrugged gush of pre-meditated moodiness. Next to him, Guy Mitchell’s enunciations have the sharp edges and neat corners of, well, a square.

So if you wanted you could read Mitchell’s one week at the top and Steele’s two as a changing of the guard. But it’s not quite like that. Listen again to Steele’s first verse and you hear the rocker make up cracking – “your love, dear” sounds cockney; “do me this way” trails off in an arch near-falsetto. Tribute act he may have been but you can hear the Britishness creep through. Their records are very different but Mitchell and Steele have a lot in common – they’re both showbusiness lads, trying their best to make a fist of it in changing times and guess which way the wind is blowing. Tommy Steele’s guess sounds better at first, but he never had another No.1.


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TOM’S TOP TWELVE (Part 2) (As Promised) (Before the big pre-honeymoon decks-clearing pop roundup) (Now where were we…)

A-TEENS – “Upside Down”: I now suspect it was just a kind of wilful perversity that stopped me liking Belle And Sebastian for so long. There are some bands who seem just too ideal, who are too obviously going to press your buttons, so you (or perhaps just I) avoid them for as long as possible. A different set of buttons, a different group, but I’m sure something of the same was preventing me from listening to the A-Teens for so long. The idea of the A-Teens was that they were a bunch of Swedish children who had been grown in tubes from ABBA’s own DNA: obviously I am going to like them, and I do like them. A lot. Particularly “Upside Down” which is as close to a realisation of that old saw ‘perfect pop’ as I expect to discover. In other words it has a hook every fifteen seconds, goofy lyrics, a swoony slow bit, a thumping beat, proper harmonies, a honking great KEY CHANGE, etc. I have to admit that almost nothing S Club 8 have done so far can touch this (Little Trees’ peerless “Help! I’m A Fish!” is a different matter of course).

EGYPTIAN LOVER – “My House (On The Nile)”: There is no reason for this bloke’s house to be on the Nile other than that he is the Egyptian Lover and by God if his gimmick was good for one hit it’ll be good for more. Primitive but convincing electro oozing the usual involuntary spookiness (perhaps his house is on the Nile because he is a Mummy! Though my knowledge of Egyptology does not encompass fifty-foot long waterbeds.)

LORD ROCKINGHAM’S XI – “Hoots Mon”: (see below)

DAVID BANNER – “Cadillacs On 22s”: Southern hip-hop blues with just enough corn to hook me in. There’s nothing new in the regret-scarred rhymes, but in this territory familiarity is a kind of virtue – the fact that others have walked Banner’s paths before lends weight to his metaphysics. He soul-searches with desperate conviction, and of course the beat is gorgeous: a bony skitter propping up melancholy acoustic guitars.

PET SHOP BOYS – “Always On My Mind/In My House”: The PSB’s album remasters are a real joy – Introspective in particular sounds so much fuller, a kind of wry cousin to New Order’s Substance. And “Always…” is this record’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”, an exercise in rhythmic robot-building which suddenly becomes an experiment in the creation of life itself. All building up to The Moment, which floored me in 1988 when I first heard it and always makes me pause and beam now, when the single version’s triumphant riff surges through the track. The little synth stabs that herald it make me think of an egg hatching, or a present unwrapping itself.

THE SMITHS – “William, It Was Really Nothing”: Every time I pick up a Smiths album after a couple of years away I find new things. This time, after listening to so much old pop for Popular, I could hear so clearly the way the band put down roots in the 60s. Not the worn-coin 60s that inspired Britpop, but the shuffly, skiffley forgotten 60s – the 60s of Cliff and The Shadows, optimistic light pop that Morrissey shadows with sadness and doubt. And listening to this single, it was suddenly not William that I felt sorry for, but the singer.

Vainly searching for some coverage of the FA Cup replays last night

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Vainly searching for some coverage of the FA Cup replays last night I stumbled onto Sky Sports News who were mainly covering the Carling Cup. Down at Highbury it was all getting a bit tense, after what was effectively Arsenal’s youth team had let Rotherham score a 90th minute equaliser. As extra time drew to a close, the cameras showed the scenes of the two gaffers picking those who were to take the penalties. However it all became a little farcical as the cameras then had to cut back to the studio as soon as the penalties began, leaving us watching Viv Anderson, Tony Cottee (I think), Alan Macnally (sp?) and another random ex-pro as they watched the pens. Now, I understand why they do this on a Saturday afternoon, but this seemed a little churlish. However the following ten minutes of telly were entirely gripping, and descended into the sort of thing you’d get if you were sat in your lounge with your mates round, with them all shouting over each other, Viv, in particular, getting carried away after he predicted the first half dozen hits and misses correctly. The icing on the cake was when they got to the 11th penalty, Rotherham had had a man sent off so the 11th pen was taken by the same player as their first (he missed). Then Sylvan Wiltord stepped up to take Arsenal’s 11th and win the match. Uproar in the studio, “but he took their first one”, “who’s not taken one?” “this is disgraceful”. Despite the fact that these men were professional footballers and are now professional pundits they didn’t know about a change in the rules which means once a shoot-out starts the teams are reduced to the same number of players to make it fairer (otherwise the team with 11 players will be using their goalie to take the penalty against the other team’s best player). I wish I could find a link to prove that this is a well known fact but this isn’t a lot of help…

CHEAP FOOD WE LOVE: Supplementary (Crisps, Post-Colonial Theory and)

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CHEAP FOOD WE LOVE: Supplementary (Crisps, Post-Colonial Theory and): I’ve been trying to pin down the recent branding shift in Phileas Fogg snacks, and I can’t do it, I don’t think, without invoking the late great Edward Said: I think when you look at Phileas Fogg then and now, you can trace the successes AND failures of his pioneering 1978 work Orientalism over a quarter of a century. In 1985, PFC took Jules Verne’s gentle mockery of Empire English fascination with anything not-English and added extra jokey layers. Verne scouted the margins of the collective Euro-bourgeois dreamspace, inventing a comedy Englishman with a (to the French) exotic and amusing name. PFC took the idea, of Empire trade as a friendly round-the-world jaunt fuelled by the curiosity of a footloose oddball, and ran ads which barked “Pay attention!” at the start, and ended “Made in Medomsley Road, Consett.” (a drily suburban touch to deflate lurking pretensions…) (With its own secret pffft-to-globalism barb, maybe: Consett is actually in County Durham, a world away from the clipped Home Counties accent invoking it, PFC being the brainchild of people rendered suddenly post-industrially jobless with the steelyards began closing.) Anyway, the Marketing High Concept was NICE IMPERIALISM: with the BAD kind so long over, surely we can revel in shared positives = good food and good humour (and besides, the actual 80s range was really NOT all that Imperial, unless France counts as a colony…)

Well, snack technology is 20 years advanced, it’s no longer enough for novelty crisps simply to ring changes on the snob-vs-yob dialectic, and besides (and here’s where the impact of Orientalism perhaps does maybe tells) isn’t it a bit embarrassing these multicultural days to play Colonialism as if it were nothing but a bit of jolly fun. Enter United Biscuits, a global conglomerate named with seemingly world-historical ambition (think United States/Nations), eager to drag a still-bouyant line into a much-changed market: byebye Mr Fogg with his Dundreary Weepers, hullo the MODERN FREE-MARKET WORLD. I must admit, when I first saw the new packets, with their ravishing high-res photography (and lovely contents), I laughed, in ribald and shameful fashion. Honi soit qui mal y pense, obv, but I looked at the pink baldy feller looming in over the sari’d trader in Udaipur (see back of Poppadums packet) and thought SEX TOURIST. Of course what UB and PFC are thinking is thus: “We are all equal in a post-modern world, a seller and a buyer, two democratic units in a trans-global exchange hurrah!” And yes, the trader has an engaging grin and the front of the packet shows her busy blur of hands, her hard work and expertise IS basic to our enjoyment.

BUT. You see, the PFC feller is named (he’s called “Pat”, we’re told), but the Spice Trader isn’t. He looks like “us”; she looks like “India” (gorgeous colours, but purely generic, nothing to confuse or surprise the Tourist of Becalmed Stereotype). The problem, as Said used to argue, is that the West’s depiction of the East entirely muffled the East’s depiction of itself: this is the lesson it’s been hard to learn. The complicated joke at the back of the earlier PFC campaign, in its Flashman-esque way, was clumsier, designwise, but also not quite so pleased with itself (the concept of NICE IMPERIALISM at least acknowledges there is another kind…)

On the other hand, the new Lemongrass and Coconut Flavour Crackers are a marvel.

SPACE: FLYING VISITS is a little ten-minute filler programme on BBC2 (Tue, 9.50pm)

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SPACE: FLYING VISITS is a little ten-minute filler programme on BBC2 (Tue, 9.50pm) which allows them to play around with presentation and formats, CGI, cartoons, talking heads at thumbnail size next to a multicoloured diagram, in ways they never do with grown-up full-length documentaries… actually it looks a bit like one of the fact-files Jody or whoever pull out of the Enterprise’s databanks, all 3-D cutaways turning through 360′, with Sam Neill doing the voiceover. Last night’s (no link that I can find) was about what will happen to the Earth when the sun becomes a Red Giant = move to Mars, then off into the cosmos in a fleet of vast, gleaming space lifeboats. The most curious thing was the music: not present-day electronica or spacebeatz or this month’s Wire coverstar, but a seamless medley of mainstream pop and rock, almost all from the 60s and 70s, chosen mostly for the comment-value of a single line of a song. And it’s true, presentation aside, the very idea of the discussion of Earth’s longterm future, practical address thereof, seems old-fashioned, nostalgic even. “Memories of the Space Age,” as Ballard called it.

God forgive me for discovering this

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God forgive me for discovering this, but the CBBC channel is currently repeating one series per week of early Eighties schools’ programme Look and Read. Sadly you’ve missed Dark Towers and The Boy From Space but ‘ even more sadly ‘ there’s still time to start faking symptoms ready for a week off sick for Badger Girl.

This tale of conservation and pony rustling on Dartmoor ends with a scene of quite graphic savagery in which Stripey the Badger knocks the two villains to the ground and tears at their throats (download the clip if you don’t believe me). The series holds a special place in my heart because on a 1984 family holiday to Devon I actually got to meet Mary, the badger who plays Stripey in the show, and have her lick my face. Like most celebrities she was friendly and approachable, though very much part of her own sett.

Another Mysterious Brand

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 546 views

Another Mysterious Brand: except this one I do like. Tastes like nothing else, has heroically resisted the tides of ‘brand expansion’, has never IIRC changed its packaging, and you never see adverts for it. Every time I see it I’m disappointed that it’s made by evil Nestle rather than some stout-hearted family business in the Midlands run by a Mr.Caramac.