Posts from 10th September 2004

10
Sep 04

And then again maybe you win some after all

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 344 views

And then again maybe you win some after all — looks like things aren’t as bad as I said earlier regarding the Genesis mission. “We should be able to meet many, if not all, of our primary science goals,” said physicist Roger Wiens of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. That’s much better than things stood beforehand, so hurrah! Still, no more faulty batteries please.

A discovery

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 333 views

When a wineglass that has stayed overnight with a few drops of wine in it is filled with water, the smell of rose emerges.

FT Top 100 Films 33: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Do You SeePost a comment • 790 views

FT Top 100 Films
33: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Martin Skidmore says:

I guess this was among the inevitable inclusions in this list – there must be hatas somewhere among young/ish people, but I don’t know them. Jeff Bridges, one of my absolute favourite actors, plays a slacker who gets embroiled in a Chandleresque kidnap case. If you’ve read Joel’s fiction, you’ll know he does a great noir pastiche, but this doesn’t focus too much on the frankly feeble plot, it just keeps throwing great comedy characters, or caricatures mostly, at us. Joel’s flair for characterisation by the way people speak is at its peak here – Bridges’ laid-back slacker talk, John Goodman’s Viet-vet blunt machismo, the nihilists’ ludicrous cant, it’s all gloriously revealing and funny, even when it has no part in the story, such as John Turturro’s gloriously camp Hispanic bowler. Any film where I don’t feel the need to mention the roles played by Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi and Philip Seymour Hoffman clearly is stuffed with extraordinary characters. It also has the best voiceover narrative ever, from Sam Elliot’s mannered cowboy.

It can be faulted: the ending is not strong, which I guess links in to what is a common problem among PoMo narratives – we (and I mean the writers, even more than most readers) can’t believe a simple, everything-ties-together, happy ever after ending now, can’t believe in completeness and conclusions. (Has this issue, in books and films, been much analysed anywhere? I think I was first alerted to it by Mark S, also of this website, and it is very prevalent.)

The Coen Brothers’ sequence of movies that they wrote as well as directed is, for me, the best sustained run by any filmmakers since, at least, Woody Allen’s prime (and with him we have to ignore that between Annie Hall and Manhattan he made Interiors). Seven wonderful films, and while I don’t know if this is better than, say, Fargo, it’s surely their most delightful.

Comics On The Radio.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 589 views

Comics On The Radio. Unfortunately this new spree of BBC led comics on the radio (?) are not by pioneer Dirk Maggs, who did some odd comic adaptations on Radio One in the mid-nineties (in surround sound natch). Maggs’s version of The Death Of Superman and Knightfall were bold attempts at taking seriealised fiction on to radio, though were often introduced in a somewhat embarressed way by Mark Goodier who was not sure what to do with them (or if anyone cared). Instead, the BBC has a British comics web-bit where you can listen to Simon Pegg as Johnny Alpha aka Strontium Dog. And some bloke being Judge Dredd: one assumes he kept the helmet on whilst recording it.

(Turns out Maggs is the bloke who is making the radio adaptation of the final three Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy books, and if you want to read an interview with him, you can here.)

Olympic Avoidance Log: Saturday 27th August: Boxing

FT + TMFDPost a comment • 302 views

So it comes down to this. The final day of the competition, and I have nine minutes to beat. Should not be too hard eh?

BOXING. Uh-oh. The boxing causes me a slight problem. I do not particualrly want to watch it, but my Dad likes boxing, I am in the room and part of me wants to watch to see if my parents will be supporting Amir Khan properly or just giving lip service because it is on the BBC. My Dad was an amateur boxer as a youth and makes his usual mutterings on headgear. I check my watch, two rounds gone – will I make it. The headgear makes a knockout or premature ending unlikely too. Halfway through the third round I hit on a beezer idea however to make sure I break that one minute barrier.

I go to the toilet.

This means I made it. Fifty Nine Minutes and a bit. Cos we are not counting the closing ceremony are we? Are we?

THE SQUARE TABLE 16 / The Thrills – “Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?”

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 320 views

POP FACTOR: 288 CONTROVERSY RATING: 226

The problem with retro in a pop context: absorbing the lesson that things were better back when can limit you. If you believe in the golden past then maybe you subconsciously believe that all YOU can do is put your tiny footprint in the vast sandy tread of [whoever], and so no matter how big you get your records are always smaller than they could/should/need to be.

Don’t buy it? Well, I can’t think of any other reason the Thrills might imagine this horrid, mewling thing would somehow do. It’s just so… it’s like, if you visit a city farm or pet shop and one animal has a litter of babies and the litter includes a runt. And at first you think, aw. But then as you keep looking, and the other babies rush to the nipple and jostle and start to show a bit of spirit and grow different enough from one another to earn names, the runt just gets what little it can and sits away from the others, twitching, sniffling, ugly, half-hairless, waiting to die. And your affection turns to pity and then to a kind of half-ashamed contempt. And you look away.

All that is what I think of when I hear the singer of The Thrills go “ooh!”, which in this pitiful record he does, a lot. I also think of Tim Henman’s air punches, and having to eat cereal with water because the milk’s run out, and the first love poems I threw away. None of these are attractive or happy thoughts. I think what I’m trying to say is that I hate The Thrills. 0 (Tom)

And I said, “What about Prayer of the Rollerboys?” And she said, “I think I remember that film, and as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it.” And I said, “What does kissing really mean to me? To me, if you feel, when you kiss a girl, that certain feeling of all those dolphins, like, swimming through your blood stream, and you get those good tingles inside your stomach, I don’t think there’s any better feeling. It basically comes down to that word: Love. I guess that’s what it’s all about.” But she started to holler. So I had to hit it. Hit it. Hit it! HIT IT!

But then I shut off this godforsaken painfully dorky smug piece of shit song, and everything went back to normal. No more wispy mewling, no more gratuitous string crescendos, no more ironic references to the American Dream and Andy Warhol that mean so fucking much when attached to the sordid tale of a has-been party-boy actor so far gone he’s reduced to selling pieces of himself on eBay, because fame is fleeting and fickle DO YOU SEE!?!, and this rote message is so damn important to get out there that it should be set to song-not-song and foisted upon unsuspecting listeners like so much junk mail. Please please PLEASE if you have a shred of dignity within your bosom return this trite shit to sender postage due and change your address yesterday. 0 plus JOKER (David Raposa)

come back travis all is forgiven 0 (Carsmile Steve)

If The Thrills are “pop craftsmen” of any sort, they’re like over-enthusiastic kitchen fitters, doing the hard sell by giving you two extra sinks and a superfluous breakfast bar. Case in point- theycram an “oo… girl I say oo” ladies-man interlude next to the “whatever happened to…” blokes-in-a-bar nostalgia. There’s no continuity of mood, instead just a lot of fatuously combined rock personas in the one song. Strings, Rod Stewart, theremins, fender rhodes, Steve Harley- they’re all here, and none of them and nobody knows why. 0 (Derek Walmsley)

So much for the shitty. The novelty of “ooh gosh they’re doing a song about Corey Haim” doesn’t even make it to the bridge (as if I even know what a bridge is). I’ve read nothing but high praise in the critical circles these last two years about The Thrills and their winsome early-70′s California pop, but this here is fake maudlin dreck, not fit to clean David Crosby’s water bong with. And who even really cares about Corey Haim, anyway? 2 (Henry Scollard)

Another Thrills single, another unimaginative rush of criminal banality threatening moment by moment to morph into something more magnificent. The “Ooh”s in the chorus are delived with feeling, but there’s only so much sex that can be squeezed from a voice as castrated as this one. 3 (Atnevon)

Ah, The Thrills, it’s like you’ve never been gone. Or like you were never here. One of the two, I get confused.

When I try to remember what this song sounds like I end up with their earlier ‘hit’ Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far), which I’m still convinced was not written by mortal man but formed from the secreted pheromones of a thousand dull and earnest Brian-Wilson-worshipping bedroom rockists. It’s just been hanging about ever since, a fuzzy miasma, waiting for a suitably blank-faced set of indie-mopped young men to shuffle and burble amiably beneath it. Aren’t you glad it was the Thrills were caught in its cloying cloud and not you? I know I am.

Relisten, and yes this does sound like Santa Cruz, ie like any and every other Thrills song: unassuming sunkissed California pop except from Ireland and what indie people call pop as opposed to actual pop music, etcetera etcetera. They try to inject a little individuality into it by singing ‘oooh!’ every so often in constipated ways. It doesn’t render it any less forgettable. 3 (Cis)

The post-Neil Young ‘straining to reach all the notes’ technique must be the worst method of singing anywhere in pop. Wayne Coyne, Jonathan Donohue, Thingy from Grandaddy – there’s something I find hugely uncomfortable about listening to blokes audibly unable to reach the high notes singing, more often than not, nothing but high notes.

The Thrills take this step one step further by grafting the singer’s half-yelp-half-whimper on top of a cod-Motown stomp for which it is completely unsuited, with the end result aking to trying to skip through treacle. After seeing his career nosedive, the real Corey Haim apparently filed for bankruptcy and then checked into rehab – now the poor sod has this as his epitaph. And all because The Thrills couldn’t think of a rhyme for ‘Guttenberg’. 3 (Matt ‘Santa’ D’Cruz)

It always surprises me when my habitual dislike of the “whiney male voice”, found in so much indie rock, disappears. My swoons over Superpitcher’s house re-working of “The Dream of Evan & Chan” and the experimental musings of The Animal Collective suggests that my vocal block stems from the run-of-the-mill musical context the whiney voice is often placed in, not the actual voice itself. My indifference towards “Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?” looks to be more proof of that train-of-thought. It is a pleasant mid-tempo pop / rock song. Lead singer Conor Deasy hesitantly whines over a string section. It is as exciting as that description sounds. 3 (Michael F Gill)

I quite like his voice: it has a hint of that high plaintiveness you hear in Neil Young or J Mascis. It doesn’t come off at all where he tries to punch an ‘ooh!’, though. It’s a wet and dreary and limp song, about someone I had to check IMDB for. Their would-be West Coast stylings rather exasperate me too. The vocal mostly makes it tolerable, but I still couldn’t stand to play it as many times as I normally do these Square Table singles. 3 (Martin Skidmore)

I rather liked the first Thrills album, in a weedy West Coast but actually from Bognor sort of way. Therefore I kinda like this, the way i kinda liked Cowboys, the first single off of the second Portishead album. It offers nothing new, merely the sad suggestion that this is all that The Thrills can do, and here they are beefing it up with a pop culture reference which seems to miss the point. 4 (Pete)

Have these clowns never heard of Teh Modern Interweb? I found out what Haim has been up to straight away. So really this song does not need to exist because it’s a question easily answered. This is probably a metaphor for a more general ‘where does the time/youth go’ lament but it’s definitely hella dull and they make me wish Dodgy would come back and blow them out of the water – I mean with actual weapons, not that Dodgy are that much better than The Thrills (just more honest). I’m not sure where the current trend for 80s references in song (see also Franz Ferdinand, Estelle) is going – the 90s presumably. I am more interested in finding out what happened to Alex Winter anyway – so off to Google once again I go… 4 (Steve M)

I can’t stand bands who don’t bother doing any research, it’s laziness.

It’s not at all hard to find out what happened to Corey Haim, you could just check the Internet Movie Database, and you’d see he was in loads of films since Lost Boys. In fact, he has a film called “Universal Groove” in post-production, it’s about the underground party scene.

I imagine I’m not the only one to comment on the ease in which the song title’s can be answered. The whole square table will probably just be comments about IMDB and whatnot…oh, the song? It’s okay, the kind of song you don’t need to hear more han 4 or 5 times. 5 (Jel)

I haven’t really listened to the song properly yet really as I just keep getting distracted by other things. It’s just that it sounds exactly how you would expect a Thrills comeback song to sound like. Less than thrilling, just another quaint little rock song. Rising vocals, token strings and a sing-a-long chorus for your campfire kumba-ya moments. Trying to listen to this is like looking for your misplaced car keys – you keep looking in the same places over and over expecting to find something but nothing turns up. The harmonies seem nicer than usual and the inane subject matter does appeal to some small part of me. All this sounds like a nice solid 6. (MW_Jimmy)

These guys sound like a more sincere version of They Might Be Giants. Or a happier grunged out Oasis. It’s awful hard to really dislike this; the soul strings and headbobbin’ keys and drums make for a good time and the unprepossessing nature of the lead vocals make for critical teflon. It’s a nice late summer happy jam: silly sugary poppariffic instant nostalgia. I don’t think I need something this flimsy to be my generation’s “Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio” but as long as it only sticks around for a few months on the FM dial, I don’t think it’s gonna drive me TOO nuts. 6 (Forksclovetofu)

Funny, I didn’t think a band stuck in the sunny 60/70s could foresee 80s pout
hunk Corey Haim being a lost boy in the 00s. To answer these lads question: selling molars on Ebay and checking into rehab. 7 (Stevie Nixed)

In honour of Steve’s trip to Amsterdam

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In honour of Steve’s trip to Amsterdam here is a list of what I remember from my one visit there. We were there for a few hours during a school trip to the Netherlands when I was 14 so, perhaps contrary to your expectations, the lack of firm memories is not due to any misbehaviour on my part. Oddly, I remember far more about our few hours in Gouda. Mmmm, gouda. Anyway…

- a fountain in a square, around which we were forced by our teachers to congregate.
- the embarrassment of congregating around an obvious landmark and looking like one of those foreign tourist kids in Piccadilly Circus.
- a dusty old record shop with a very cheap cut-out copy of a Davy Jones solo LP in a revolving wire rack (I didn’t buy it and don’t remember seeing it since)
- the wooden inside of a room in a typical-Dutch-house museum, I remember a sense of discomfort but no details about the room
- being shepherded en masse by our teachers along a pedestrianised street which one of my friends told me was the red light district but can’t have been, though there were sex shops
- seeing our teacher speaking to a man who I swear was propositioning her
- finding a really good Undertones badge (Positive Touch design) for sale in some bazaar and being very disappointed when they’d run out
- a horrible packed lunch as made by our hotel including a tiny bag of disappointing plain crisps
- a manky little alternative record shop where (for some reason) I bought an unusual-looking and really long Robert Fripp single for pennies
- wandering off and being a bit late for our meet-up and running through pedestrianised, slightly rainy streets, following my friend and not being sure where we were going.

I feel I should know more than this from a visit to one of the Great Cities of Europe, but there you have it. I don’t recall anything looking characteristically Dutch and I don’t remember so much as one poxy canal.

NEXT STOP HAYMARKET!!!

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NEXT STOP HAYMARKET!!!

One of the complaints about getting rid of Routemasters in London (I know, bear with me) was that conductors help passengers more, telling them where to get off (in a polite way). Last night, on a brief Twenty Three ride, I came across a female bus driver who was more helpful than this. Before each stop she shrieked “Next stop Trafalgar Square”, or wherever that stop was. The tourists (see) on the bus were very happy to get this kind of service and generally slowed the whole affair down by going to thank her. But I only wished some of my foreign journeys had been equally serviced.

At least until she got to the Strand and shrieked “Next Stop Haymarket”, which stymied a few people until she realised her mistake.

Planets = Big Towns

Do You SeePost a comment • 302 views

Planets = Big Towns. One of the problems with Space Opera style science fiction is that it tends just to scale up normal adventure fiction into the larger sizes of the universe. Therefore we get spaceships that do trips of a few thousand light years in a couple of days, thrilling space chases which neglect the physics of the situation, and planets which are really just big towns.

The Chronicles Of Riddick, in attempting to open out the universe of Pitch Black, makes this mistake. Riddick jaunts from a chase on the ice world, to the exact same spot the bad guys land on the orange world, off to the prison planet… Mankind may well have spead its way across the galaxy, but are we really expecting that a whole terraformed planet will only be used for one thing? The planet Crematoria (much better when I misheard it as Queen Victoria) has surface temperatures of 600 degrees in the day, useful as a cheap blast furnace. Crematoria is also the scene of the stupidest corollary of the planets as towns syndrome, the bit where they try to outrun the sunset.

Pointing out the poor science in sci-fi films is half the fun, but here it just screams at you. The good guys have escaped from prison (they are only sort of good guys) and need to travel twenty kilometres to get to the spaceship. The sun is rising and the temperature in directly sunlight is over 600 degrees. However so some reason its a tolerable twenty degrees in the dark. So we get the rosy fingers of dawn, which do not particularly raise the temperature. We get people occasionally being in full sunlight now getting burnt. Oh, and we also have others being completely vapourised.

The Chronicles Of Riddick is part one of a trilogy which probably will not get made, and ends in a somewhat unsatisfactory way. It is fun, but as stupid as you would imagine a film where the bad guys are the Necromongers searching for the Underverse. Its a bit like the worst strip in 2000AD. There are plenty of attempts to make this a different type of franchise (anti-hero bad guy, high incidence of death, a sound effect free fight sequence) but it is all surface without the reasons explained. Not that we need any more of Judi Dench explaining stuff for us (her main role). Watch it on video and scratch your head a bit.

(Oh and sorry Magnus, the other film I went to see started so I saw this instead.)

International Business Traveler

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International Business Traveler

Steve’s post below skirts round the subject of fear of flying. I never used to be afraid of getting on a plane, then suddenly a couple of years ago I started getting the twinges of unease he talks about. I realised this summer that it was nothing to do with the terrorists and everything to do with my then job.

Before I took that job I’d been envious of my colleagues who got to travel on business – it seemed glamorous, and even if they were having to spend most of their time abroad in an office at least they were getting to see some of the places they went to, right? Wrong. As soon as I was in a role that required business trips – to Europe, maybe three times a year, nothing major – I started hating it.

If I started talking about the actual experience of being abroad on business this post would tip 500 words and you’d all skim it. I’ll just say that in my experience maybe 80-90% of business trips are totally unneccessary – you end up discussing nothing that couldn’t have been teleconferenced or done on the phone or email. And yet I’m pretty sure that since teleconferencing and email came in the amount of trips people do has actually risen. The extra frisson that comes with a firm non-virtual handshake is surely no substitute for the oceans of wasted time the business traveller spends in taxis, airports, grotty Novotels, etc etc.

Anyway that’s what made me start dislike flying. I think the tiny risk involved seemed worthwhile and non-scary as long as I was doing something I wanted, like going on holiday or flying to see friends. But the thought of dying because the Paris office wanted clarification on panel sizes – ugh. My new job involves more actual ‘global responsibility’ and curiously manages without shunting me onto planes to demonstrate that fact. The expense money thus saved can be happily spent in pricey bistros, and my fear of flying has been nipped in the bud: win-win, I reckon.