Posts from 7th July 2004

Jul 04

Inventions That Changed the World – The Computer

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,122 views

Inventions That Changed the World – The Computer (repeated, I think, last night on BBC2)
A show that has Jeremy Clarkson talking to Kevin ‘Cyborg’ Warwick? How awful can it get? At one point I was charitable enough to think Clarkson was going to rubbish this walking science PR disaster, but he just let him gibber on. Apparently nobody can turn off the internet, and this might be worrying. Similarly, I can not go around the entire country turning off everyone’s television, and that worries ME when there are shows like this.

To his credit, Clarkson (or the show’s writer) did big up Tommy Flowers, the guy who actually built Colossus from Turing’s plans, and he’s right – perhaps Flowers doesn’t get the due recognition that Turing gets. Unfortunately his justification for concentrating on Flowers was that “anyone can have ideas, i’ve just thought of a flying car that travels at MACH4, but it would be a genius who can make it”. Yes, Jeremy, you’ve really thought that through too, I can tell. You suspect of course the real reason Flowers is the focus of conversation is that he hasn’t been featured on a TV doc before and we must have USPs to sell. Also Turing was a big gay. <seinfeld>Not that there’s anything wrong with that</seinfeld>

I did learn one thing from the show though, from the low-key demonstration of the ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP). It’s something we’ve heard about, and (as the show mentions) started to see portrayed in films, but that I for one have never seen. They stuck a PC in a room and generated a massive EMP. The screen went crazy and eventually seemed to just switch off. When switched back on the machine wasn’t totally dead, just stuck at the BIOS boot – suggesting that the processor itself was probably OK (or it would have been total garbage?), but perhaps somewhere in a ROM program a bit had flipped. Not quite the catastrophe I was hoping for. Which puts my planned Warwick-baiting prank on hold for a little longer.

Corny Pastiche

Do You SeePost a comment • 358 views

Corny Pastiche
Shrek 2 is a giant patchwork of film pastiches, and even this list of related trivia on IMDB doesn’t catch them all. (Contains a ‘spoiler’ right at the end). I’m pretty sure there was a subtle Matrix reference, and a not-so-subtle Beverley Hills Cop one too. The film itself was less fun than I seem to recall finding the first one, but I did laugh at Captain Hook as the tavern piano player singing as Tom Waits and then Nick Cave. I wonder what Jonathon Ross’s review of this film was like, given that he has an (uncredited) performance in the UK release. (He replaces the voice of Larry King DO YOU SEE)


Do You See2 comments • 1,045 views

FT Top 100 Films

So you’ve made a low budget horror movie, received well, regarding the fears of a woman Irena (Simone Simon) who believes she turns into a cat when aroused. Despite this she enters into a relationship with Ollie Reed and her claims are put to the ultimate test (the veracity of her belief I shall not spoil for any who have not seen it). Remade in the late seventies where the sex quotient up and therefore all the lovely allegories were lost. Anyway, I am not here to talk about Cat People, as good as it is. Instead we are here to praise its sequel.

The Curse Of The Cat People takes place about five years after the original events in Cat People. It has much the same cast, playing the same characters – however the local has gone from the dark shadows of the city to a much more pastoral setting. And the film shifts its attention to Amy, the five year old daughter of Ollie Reed, who was married to Simone Simon in the original. Amy seems to have an imaginary friend who she talks to, again played by Simone Simon. The film concerns itself with the mystery of this imaginary friend and the suspense caused by it. This could be seen as a blueprint for the creepy kid movies of late, except for one crucial difference. The film is told from Amy’s point of view.

The Curse Of The Cat People is not a horror movie at all. Instead it is a young (much younger than most) coming of age story that just happens to have the same characters as the previous film. Simone Simon plays Irena again, but as an imaginary friend who has little to do with the first film. Instead we are shown the hopes and fears of a five year old in a total unexpected form. Oddly the film remains consistent with the originals tone, but enrichens both films by being so different. Simon is bewitching as a much lighter version of the character in the first film, but the film is owned by Ann Carter, as the girl with the over-active imagination. As a film about the potential menace of childhood I prefer it to Night of The Hunter, as here the threats may not be as real as presented. The film is on the whole ambivalent about imagination, which considering its own leaps of faith is surprising. Robert Wise the director may have thought the curse of Cat People was to make a sequel. He managed to craft one of the loveliest and most surprising ones in the process.

DIZZEE RASCAL – “Stand Up Tall”

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 493 views

The new Dizzee Rascal single (“Stand Up Tall”) is very pop, very fast, pretty incoherent, more “Lucky Star” than anything else he’s done, and the backing reminds me more than anyone else of… Komatrohn!

Alas Hits

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 370 views

Alas Hits: to while away a journey recently I bought a copy of Smash Hits. I am so far outside the target market for SH as to be on an entirely different archery range, so the following grumblings can, maybe should be dismissed as the drool of a sad nostalgic. Nevertheless grumble I will.

The first thing you notice about Smash Hits nowadays is the text: it’s ENORMOUS! The only magazine I have seen with larger text is the Dorling Kindersley ‘kewl facts’ one Isabel buys to help the 7 year olds she teaches. 7 is probably the low end of the Smash Hits reader range, though – judging by the letters page the typical reader is the same as ever, 11-13 year olds. When I bought it regularly I was 11, as it happens – that magazine now seems impossibly wordy. When you read the current Hits you feel like the ‘zine would happily dispense with the vestigials of text entirely, or even better beam it straight to the readers’ mobiles.

The lack of words in Smash Hits isn’t a big deal for me (except inasmuch as I want it to waste more time than it does), it’s the way it reflects a very deep change in the magazine’s focus. When the magazine began it succeeded because it flattered pop stars visually at the same time as refusing to take them seriously verbally. Reading it made you feel like pop was a big gossippy club and you were in on it: I would be amazed if the people who started things like Popbitch don’t have happy memories of Bitz and Black Type.

The tone now is knockabout and gleeful but a lot less snide: no pop stars are mocked anymore, unless it’s for yawning when there’s a paparazzi around. But here’s the thing – no pop stars are praised either. There’s no great sense of enthusiasm in Smash Hits these days, which makes the magazine read rather oddly. Here are McFly bouncing about in a field. Why McFly? Why a field? Why? Of course if you’re in the core market you don’t need to be told why. The newer bands still get photo captions saying “l-r: Tom, Dick, Harry” – a couple of hits in and these drop away, everyone knows who they are. (Maybe that’s where the clubbiness comes from now).

The editorial line on Smash Hits now seems to be that readers want pictures and trivia about pop stars, and that’s all they want. The disconnection between brand (the pop star) and product (the music) is pretty much total. But readers are still buying singles, downloading ringtones, listening to music, loving it and disagreeing about it. Beyond any fogeyish complaints about less words or less bitching, I have a real disappointment that Smash Hits refuses to reflect any of that, refuses to be about the sounds in any meaningful way. Smash Hits radio (you can get it on digital) is wall-to-wall quality at the moment, I listen to it at work most days. Read the magazine and you’d have no idea any of the people in it were even releasing records!


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 445 views


The third and final post about last Friday’s disasterous Ethiopian excursion brings us on to the drinks. I noted below that from an extensive list of beers, including Casablanca and “mystery Ethiopian” the only two that were availible were Becks and Stella Artois. Now I am no fan of wifebeater Artois, but am aware as a licensee that the Stella bottles rock in at 330ml, while Beck’s is a tiny bladder friendly 275ml. Wanting more bouze I went for the Stella.

When the second round came it was pointed out to me that despite my smart-arsery, the Beck’s that had been delivered was indeed 330ml. Just prefering Beck’s crispness to the potential psycho Stella might turn me into, I swop brands. At which point, when delivered, there is a slight ripple of laughter. This soon blossoms into fully formed laughed aimed at me.

That’s right. The second round was indeed in 275ml bottles. Ha bloody ha.

And to add insult to injury, Tom spilled half of it.

Oh, we’re back to the

TMFDPost a comment • 456 views

Oh, we’re back to the squad numbers thing again. Well yes, but with a mathematicians hat on. Last night due to some sleeplessness I wander down to catch the second half of DC United vs Dallas Burn. Dallas were one-nil up (though the American commentators still have not got the hang of nil, fair enough) and DC’s home. Then after a decent substitution DC slotted in a lovely pass which even Paul Scholes in 2003 could not have missed. Bang in the onion bag and the keeper Jeff Cassar looked a touch dejected. And on his shirt was the squad number 00.

I apporve of starting the numbering at zero from a maths point of view. It shows we have finally moved on from the Romans. Nevertheless it does encourage statements such as “he’s gone from hero to zero” and “its like there is nothing between the sticks”. On the other hand Cassar used to play for Bolton so perhaps he is used to feeling like nothing.

(Final score was 1-1 by the way if you are interested.)


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 335 views

ASPARAGUS EXERTION: bloody hell, they wanted me to suffer for my ANTI-STEAMING comments yesterday, didn’t they now? So I decided to make the ham and soft and cheese and asparagus baked-y things. Yes!

After leaving work FAR TOO LATE, I sprinted to the supermarket (thereby damaging my foot in my lovely new DONKEY shoes) to pick up ham and soft cheese. I had no idea how much I needed, and therefore bought 2 (TWO!) large tubs of FULL LARD PHILADELPHIA and 5 (yes – five!) packets of Cooked Ham. Seven quid the ham alone came to – seven (7) quid!! I’ve cooked cheaper roast dinners! I also managed to find a large bottle of PIMMS on special offer, but more of the tragic story of the Pimms later.

After having spent so much Idiot Money on Idiot Quantities of Ham and Philly – I high-tailed it to Charing X. Whereupon THE WHOLE WORLD DECIDES IT HATES ME! My supermarket bag collapses and my beautiful bottle of Pimms No 1 Cup smashes all over platform 2 at Charing X station. WhAT HAVE I EVER DONE TO YOU, I wail aloud at Charing X, I like Charing X, apart from in the evenings where it’s concourse proves inadequate to cope with all the commuters – but you know, I’ve never cursed at the station in my mind for this!! WHY DO YOU PUNISH ME SO! With tears welling up in my eyes, I point out the spillage to the station attendant. Upon turning back to the train, a commuter decides this will be the time to barge into me and knock me to the platform floor. !!! He does not apologise. I scramble to my feet, and what’s that? The train has JUST closed it’s doors!!

What’s that? This is nothing to do with food anymore? F#ck you, I’m getting to it!!

Anyway, I clamber on the next train and sob all the way home. Once home, I open YOUNGS ELYSIUM BEER. Things suddenly start to improve! Then my company arrives and after a bit of necessary washing up – IT’S TIME FOR THE MEAT. Well, the cooked ham slices, at least. It’s just a SAYING, like.

SO! Using MATHS, we slice the ham diagonally from corner to corner in order to MAXIMISE the amount of asparagus covered. We slater the ham in Philadelhia cream cheese. Before this, I have remembered that I sliced the manky ends off the asparagus too, but surely that’s self-evident. You’re not stupid, are you? Anyway, then we rolled up the asparagus and plonked in a baking tray which we have placed some FOIL dotted with OLIVE OIL. We repeat this until baking tray is full, whack on salt and pepper, cook on about 200 for 15 minutes and then SLATER OUT ONTO PLATES.

I can confirm that the results were BLUDDY GRATE: the cheese has gone all oozy and lovely, the asparagus is hot and crunchy and I WANT MORE.

So I repeat the process, but this time I add a drink of PIMMS AND LEMONADE. But Sarah, you say, surely your bottle smashed all over platform 2? Yes it did, but luckily a wonderful companion heard of this miserable event, and bought another bottle, despite not being able to drink any himself. Celebrations were had, and then we watched Big Brother.

I might make this again tonight. I mean – I’ve got to do SOMETHING with all this cream cheese…

There’s only one way to enjoy football

TMFDPost a comment • 337 views

There’s only one way to enjoy football and there’s only one sort of football that’s good. That’s if you believe David over at He Made Their Glowing Colours. Guess which sort of football he thinks is the one true path?

According to David, to have enjoyed the final of Euro 2004 (and by implication any game where there is anything other than total, uncontained attacking) one must be perverse or emotionally attached to the winners. It’s not the difference in taste that irritates, it’s the assumption that everyone in their right mind must agree.

“Just a bad game of football”? I was excited and pretty much spellbound throughout, but it’s more than that: one of football’s joys it that it can provoke all manner of reactions: why hobble your appreciation by only enjoying the rush of the attack? Learn to love your frustration!

I’ve read several accounts like David’s which, if you’d missed the game, would have you believe that Greece played with their entire team tucked snugly in their own penalty area. It’s not true, of course. Greece played a classic pressure-absorption-and-counter-attack game. When they did attack they did so quickly and seemed regularly to find points of weakness in the Portuguese side, they were enormously impressive.

Also, Christiano Ronaldo’s tears remain a high-point of the tournament for me.

Tough Love

Do You SeePost a comment • 215 views

Tough Love

‘Pialat may well have provided the source code for the elliptical realism that’s become de rigueur for an entire subsequent generation (Desplechin, Denis, Assayas, Breillat, Cantet, Dumont, etc.).’

Cedric Kahn, director of ‘L’Ennui’ and ‘Roberto Succo’ also belongs in that list. It was a great source of pain to me in France that 3/4 of the fantastic DVDs on sale there (it was pissing down, I’ve done all the museums, and I like shopping) were unsubtitled. But no omission pained me more than Pialat: a whole gorgeous boxset, untold extras, all inaccessible to me — although the sheer physicality of the performances in his films tempts me to risk a silent viewing.
It’s obviously some sort of Academie Francais-inspired revenge for the influx of English into the language facilitated by Hollywood.
Now that American film culture is giving the maitre his due, is it too much to expect his canonization over here?