Posts from 25th October 2004

25
Oct 04

The experiment is one of the best forms of narrative we have

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The experiment is one of the best forms of narrative we have, and one of the most underused. You state your aim, you say how you are going to test it, and then you test it. Results, conclusion and potential closure. As a process it is massively underused in the very area where it seems to fit best, documentary (science documentary in particular). The reason Supersize Me is so compelling is that at its heart it is an experiment.

Aim: To see how healthy McDonalds foods are.

Apparatus: A personable ginger bearded chap Morgan Spurlock and lots and lots of McDonald Outlets.

Method: He eats all his meals, three times a day, in a McDonalds for thirty days. He must supersize his order if asked. He will eat everything on the menu during this period. Before starting he will have a full medical, and will be checked by three specialist doctors are intervals during his experiment.

Result: Poor health.

Conclusion: Yep, McDonalds ain’t all that healthy for you.

The beauty of course is both Spurlock?s force of genial personality when doing it, and the nice way he allows his story to lead him into other stories (there are entire films in the marketing of McDonald?s, in school dinners, in the rise of obesity). But it reminded me that the experiment, as a way of testing a hypothesis, is almost never used in television documentary anymore. Hopefully Supersize Me will rectify that.

The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers

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The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers is plagued with an inappropriate soundtrack. Not when the film apes and recreates periods of Sellers film career (though the Henry Mancini Pink Panther theme is surprisingly played down). Rather the intrusion of a Clash song to signify the late seventies, the Stones for the late sixties which all seem to belong to a different England to Sellers. Any commentary read into “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” exists merely to cover the storytelling back of Stephen Hopkins the director.

Not a bad film, but too much of a film. The obsession of film on surface means it is hard to do biography with depth. Considering the thesis of this film (Sellers was just all surface) it is difficult to see how it will prove it. It purports to tell the life and death of someone, but we join the story when said person is thirty and never see his death. What we do get is a Stars In Their Eyes version of Sellers life, recreating a few famous scenes from a few films and link them with Sellers being a bit of a cunt to all and sundry.

The supporting characters get pretty short shrift (with the exception of Theron’s Britt Ekland). Poor old Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan are reduced to gurning sound effect mongers, occasionally popping up in the background to make silly noises. The Freudian reductionism of the story barely rings true either. So a film which echoes its own subtext. Sellers was a man without a soul, the film suggests, unfortunately so is this film.

One of my top 3 fears?

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One of my top 3 fears?

…has to be asphyxiation (a very tricky one to spell as well). However, this isn’t really a run of the mill kind of suffocation-style death. Ever since I was capable of cognitive thought I used to have this really strange fear that one day I would forget how to breathe.

As a toddler I eventually got to the annoying stage of child development where you continually ask “But why?” in an extended whine. Mostly I think I did this as an attention seeking exercise but potentially some part of me was trying to fathom out the world around me.

Unfortunately some of the larger questions in my world remained unasked. I.e. how do we breathe? – I didn’t remember consciously telling myself to do it and yet it was happening. I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that things were happening in my body that I wasn’t thinking to make happen. Hence I developed this horrible fear that if I fell asleep I would stop breathing and die. This developed into a concurrent fear that my heart would also stop beating when I fell asleep.

This led to me lying in bed trying to stay awake until I would catch myself dozing off, initiating a massive FEAR which would cause my heart to pound and my breath to come in gasps. This confirmed my belief that I?d sleepily forgotten to breathe/beat my heart, and hence my heart and lungs had to work hard to catch up.

This situation was made much worse by my father’s explaining how you died from asphyxiation; you breathe in Oxygen (good gas) and out Carbon Dioxide (bad gas), so if trapped in a lift or enclosed space you would, sooner or later, run out of Oxygen. Don’t know why he told me this but it really didn?t help. Now my primary fear was coupled with the knowledge that should my head ever get stuck under the bedclothes I would suffocate due to lack of Oxygen. My bed was a death trap.

I must of somehow got over the fear but suffice to say that on a few occasions where perhaps my mental capacity has been somewhat compromised, coupled with the knowledge that I may have ingested compounds with a known sedative effect e.g. alcohol, this fear can rise again. Jolly silly and irrational it is too, but I have to admit to still paying homage to it from time to time. And I guess that’s a salient point about fears ? particularly childhood irrational ones, they just don?t ever go away.

(by Lou Dann)

I’d Rather Jack

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I’d Rather Jack
Newly-commissioned eps of Scooby Doo mean that the Simpsons loses its hard won “most episodes of a cartoon” claim. (That all important BBC News link). But last month, more importantly, Samurai Jack won the animation Emmy that traditionally goes Simpsons-ward.

I want everything on telly to be as watchable and as beautiful as Samurai Jack, so i’m pretty miffed that it seems to have been cancelled. Or at least I’ve read that the original commission (52 episodes, guide here) has expired and not been renewed. With the same studio/talent moving on to the succesful (and actually pretty good) Star Wars Clone Wars property, I don’t expect we’ll be seing anything more of Jack. Luckily I see these episodes so randomly that it likes collecting a full set of trading cards. I’ve got lots to still see, and i still enjoy “already seens”. I saw episode 52 (Jack and the Baby) last night, and it has a characteristically downbeat ending – in Jack’s company the baby has seen enough to achieve “sakai” (so the ep guide tells me), or the spirit of the samurai. Something to do with menacing eyebrows.

Are Tomatoes Too Wet?

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 414 views

Are Tomatoes Too Wet? Obviously this question is nonsense as it stands (a philosopher writes) since a tomato is as wet as a tomato is wet. I suppose what I really mean is, are tomatoes too wet to put in sandwiches? Admittedly, this had never struck me as an issue, until a certain person pointed it out to me, and went on to prove it by making sandwiches with sundried tomato paste instead. Miraculously, three hours into our train journey, our sandwiches were not soggy!

Naughty Norty!

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 365 views

Naughty Norty!

Relive the Rogue Trooper saga, the 2000AD story that pretty much defined the ‘future war’ genre. The thing which struck me was quite how many Rogue Trooper stories there were (and even so this guide sensibly gives up after the end of the original main plot – later stories with Rogue as a hitman or tooling about on an alien planet or rebooted entirely are ignored). The story was a simple one – Rogue Trooper is a super-soldier on an incredibly inhospitable planet called Nu-Earth (as I recall the idea was that Old Earth had colonised a planet specifically to decide their wars on – very civilised of them). The planet hosted an endless war between Southers (well-meaning, incompetent, good guys) and the Norts (invariably treacherous and murderous, very bad, probably Communist). Rogue was a Souther but had been framed for our old friend, the crime he did not commit.

Rogue Trooper has achieved a sort of classic status, but of all the ‘great’ 2000AD characters he’s probably the least broadly liked. Gerry Finley-Day’s writing didn’t make too many concessions to humour, and the war didn’t often make for a captivating backstory. You were left with a killer character design and the Greek chorus of Rogue’s “biochip buddies”, dead troopers whose personalities were stored on talking microchips slotted into his gun, helmet and bag.* It was never my favourite 2000AD story, but once you’d got into it it delivered to a very consistent standard – looking over this list of tales there are very few I remember as being rubbish.

The strip is now being turned into a computer game – as Alan points out this is probably the medium in which it can work most effectively. At the very least, a shooter featuring a gun that talks back is a nice USP.

*(In a staggering but helpful coincidence, the three troopers who ended up in these bits of kit had been known in life as Gunnar, Helm and Bagman.)

El Diego

TMFD1 comment • 386 views

El Diego

Maradona has rushed out his story after a succession of problems with his heart. “This book isn’t about my private life,” he says, curiously for an autobiography, and context is relegated to the footnotes. The subtext is Maradona against the world.

Here is an example of obstacles put in the way of Maradona: In 1990 he was arrested and banned for 15 months. It was a conspiracy by FIFA, aggrieved at Argentina making the Italia ’90 World Cup Final instead of the home nation. Big business was also involved in some ill-defined way. He doesn’t even mention the reason for the arrest; the Mutu marching powder found in his apartment.

He then describes journalists turning up at his country house and being annoyed by this. The footnotes say: [Maradona shot the journalists with an air rifle].

He has a curious turn of phrase, “he let the tortoise get away from him,” an example of a line repeated throughout the book meaning the person isn’t in control of a situation. The translator notes that this isn’t a local idiom, just a phrase Maradona has invented.

His ego wears the book down and he writes almost exclusively from the third person. The whole thing feels as if it is a stream of consciousness shouted into a microphone and transposed straight into type. It is impossible to sympathise because there is not a shred of humility.

According to Maradona, he is always up against the wall, flying in the face of officialdom, combating vague injustices. “I’m just a simple kid from a Buenos Aires shanty town”, he says from his country mansion. Contradictions pepper the text and the final third most resembles Maradona himself; bloated, slightly manic and paranoid.

He was the greatest footballer of his generation and in later life, with sober and humble reflection, could have written one of football’s great stories. This isn’t that book and unfortunately, I don’t think he will live long enough to publish it.

FT TOP 100 FILMS 15: QUEEN OF THE DAMNED

Do You See1 comment • 1,613 views

Centred as it is on Stuart Townshend’s performance – a badness of judgment and execution that enters Bowie-esque ahem “cracked actor” territory!* – I forget that my rabid partisan support for and devotion to this film is NOT standard-issue mark s perversity, playful contrarianism 101, or even a poky joke… and only remember this when I see it again. “See” being the operative word: yes yes at script level there’s the studious (but somewhat v.inelegant) redux of Anne Rice’s Classwar Among Bloodsuckahs mythos… but of course films are NOT in fact just abt their synopses or their (non)snappy dialogue**. The classwar story is way better told – far more seductive, complex and alert – at the level of QotD’s ART DIRECTION: which embodies the three-way struggle between types of class predator, the feudal tyrant (akasha), the quasi-aristocratic early bourgeois “nobleman” (marius) and the quasi-prole late bourgeois sleb (lestat). Since i cd write 300000 words abt this movie easy i will limit myself here to a highlighter-pen slash across just three U&K scenes.

SCENE ONE: a mediterranean island, where an ANCIENT VAMPIRE paints portraits of himself in the idiom of the day, Rolf on Art-stylee. First we see Lestat spragged out on a bed like pore dead Chatterton. Then we encounter a duelling-gypsy-violins-on-a-beach scene, followed by a FUNERAL PYRE backed by EXCITING ROCK FORMATIONS: viz the invocation of Coleridge and demon-violinist Paganini and Byron seeing off Shelley, and pioneer Goth John Ruskin!!

SCENE TWO: Lestat’s Hollywood apartment is MADE OF post-60s ART bcz he is addicted to the demolition, via insatiable mass commodification, of TASTE, TASTEFUL RESTRAINT, SELF-INTERESTED REFINEMENT, and the conserving conservative power of history-based orderly provenance or (what w.benjamin called) AURA. When Marius arrives to confront him, they discuss Elvis while waving around a copy of Rolling Stone (ad for his nu-metal band Lestat the Vampire on the back cover: “LIVE AND UNDEAD”), then cut to L&M sat at crutch-level of a GIGANTIC PHOTO-REALIST BILLBOARD of nu-metal band Lestat the Vampire overlooking (I think) Hollywood Boulevard.

SCENE THREE: Lovely dead Aaliyah as EMPRESS AKASHA slinky-winding through a Goth Klub in London’s um “meat-packing district”, elder-being lust for the immolation of the entire human race held sexily in check FOR NOW in the weird egyptian-lizardly grace of her dance motion. She DOESN’T MIND WHO SHE MURDERS, it’s all just fun to her: the implied closure of the movie will be a limitless apocalyptic end-time orgy of pure energy-release pleasure NOW

*I will happily “prove” this badness is i. intentional (on the part of the director not the actor), and ii. within the “concept” and part of the cleverness of the film (cf the way SMG’s woodenness improves buffy… )
**”Vampires don’t SETTLE old scores, they HARBOUR them” = gobsmacker of a clumsily incomprehensible statement of (useful non-existent word alert) portentiousness…

[ok pete over to you]

FEAR ADDENDA

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FEAR ADDENDA: the disappearance of the number nine!!

(sorry foax i couldn’t get to the blog to check if 9 wz already up and now the blogger dashboard is all changed round didn’t check here either – fear of googlism innit)

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS 8. SEEING THE PARENTS “AT IT”.

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FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARIEST THINGS

8. SEEING THE PARENTS “AT IT”.

The scariest stuff is ALWAYS unexpected. You didn’t EXPECT that vampire would ambush you from behind the curtains, did you?? You didn’t EXPECT to look in the mirror innocently, whilst inspecting your pristine VISAGE to see SATAN looking out at you, did you?? Another thing which you never expect to see (unless you are very much of a wrongcoq and if so YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE WRONG WEBSITE kthx bye) is your parents doing “the wild thing”!!

Somehow this fear has only reached #8 in the Freaky Trigger Fear List despite containing elements of PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER FEAR mentioned so far. One of my personal fears has always been teeth, dripping saliva and the sound of… snarling…(I blame reading reviews of the ALIEN! videogame when I was but a very impressionable tiny). Fear of gooey teeth + bonking = instant v4gina dentata fear, and even more frightening is that this fear resides deep inside your mum, and is in fact her inherent essence, you could say it even defines her in the role of “mother”, this petrifying and all consuming fear IS HER, the lady who cuddles you and puts plasters on your knee, ARGH!!!

And that’s only the mother! What about your DAD! I’m of the firm belief that past a certain age ie 16, meng should cover themselves up, because what happens to meng?? THEY GET HAIRY. They get really, really hairy. What is another universal fear of humanity?? DEVOLVING BACK TO APE FORM!! As, at a tender age (and seeing yer foax doing the wild thing is inevitably as a tiny, elder yoofs learn to STEER WELL CLEAR of any such area where IT might be done unecessarily), the little ‘uns aren’t even quite sure what they are, can’t it be argued that seeing your DADS HAIRY BACK rising up and down in strange and painful looking ritual would IN FACT encourage SEVERE regression and probably acute aphasia as a reaction to being confronted with such ugly primitivisms deep down INSIDE THE HUMAN BRANE! In fact, I put it to you that all the bratty behaviour of children is an instinctive protectionary reaction to pre-empt EVER having to be faced with such a dangerous horror and if we want to rectify the behaviour of our kiddies, we need to get separate beds for THE FOAX.

Anyway, what I’m saying basically is, it mings, it shouldn’t be seen and quite frankly once they’d had YOU, you’d think they would have learnt their lesson anyway, wouldn’t you. PARENTS: you should be ashamed.