Posts from 22nd November 2004

22
Nov 04

EWING SAID

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EWING SAID“:

‘Ewing said the game was designed to undermine the theory there was some shadowy plot behind the assassination: “We believe passionately there was no conspiracy.”‘

END-TIMES WATCH #2

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END-TIMES WATCH #2:

“[Ewing] insisted he and his team had nothing but respect for Kennedy and for history”

One of my favourite things about being a meat eater

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One of my favourite things about being a meat eater (aside the meat I guess) is having a casserole or stew with the meat on the bone and discovering offal popping out of the fluid near the end. This is particularly good with smaller animals which you can slop in the pot by themselves. So the peerless squirrel was made more fun by have some lights and lungs hanging off. And a rabbit stew my Dad made in Spain was made all the more delightful by having a couple of kidneys pop to the surface during the eating. Dark in hue the draw attention to themselves, but also give you meaty variety in taste. And a taste of the kidneys will always tell you what kind of nick the creature was in when killed. I am sure battery rabbits exist in Spain but by the taste of these innards I don?t think I had one of the Duracell Bunnies.

“Igniting kids’ interest in history”

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“Igniting kids’ interest in history”: actually history is one of the genres better served by computer games. Well, military history, anyway, but games like Civilisation stand or fall by how plausible a timeline their game mechanics can create. A recreation of an event using gaming techniques sounds very promising*, but of course the very word ‘game’ raises the hackles of historians and those with a vested interest in said events.

*and how refreshing to see a games publisher admit it created its game using “no imagination”.

The Grudge. Not

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The Grudge. Not Ju:on. A film which would like us to believe that not only are ghosts nasty buggers (like the Japanese version) but in the even more unbelievable suggestion that there are so many Americans in Tokyo they have their own social services. Okay, I believe the ghost bit, but considering they barely have any social services in their homeland, why there would export some is a mystery.

Like The Ring, the American version tries to clean up a lot of the loose ends of the original, and like the Ring does so to some success. Admittedly the sweeping horror movie score does the film few favours, but comparing the pair I found the US version more narratively satisfying. The Japanese version works on the bonkers scare front, but the US version (same director mind) happily throws in as many gratuitous jumps as possible. It is resolutely old school in both its haunted house plot and laying on of the frights.

There is one nice, almost political angle, which hit me with regards the US version. The house, worst on screen since the Amityville Horror, was the scene of a multiple murder and was unsaleable until the American family came along. Having seen Gaigen houses, the only places Westerners can rent in Tokyo, it makes sense that the only places they can buy are haunted houses of HORROR.

FRANK IFIELD – “I’m Confessin'”

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#153, 20th July 1963

Frank’s last bow seems a good time to think about yodelling. It’s not as prominent here as on some of his hits, but he gets to bend the lungs a bit at the end of some verses.

I haven’t run a survey on it or anything, but I’d guess that people now would see yodelling in pop music as either weird or a bit naff. So what happened to it? Listening to a CD called the Ultimate Yodelling Collection at the weekend, I was reminded what a good way it is of expressing loneliness as well as liberation. Historically it’s been as associated with the Appalachians as the Alps. The only problem with yodelling is its flagrant artifice – there are few vocal techniques that are so utterly and obviously a technique, an aesthetic choice, undisguisable as a natural or spontaneous response to a lyric.

The fate of yodelling as a pop technique is a microcosm of an overall effect I think the 60s had on pop. Blues and gospel-derived singing forms – heard as more directly connected to a singer’s self-expression – flourished. More theatrical tricks and styles – the yodel, the spoken interlude, the intricate harmonies of doo-wop – fell away as the decade progressed. All have had their moments in the spotlight since, but often as novelties or self-consciously ‘retro’ turns to earlier pop styles. The 60s were a time of thrilling, explosive diversity for pop music, but Frank Ifield’s commercial demise reminds me that there were standardising forces at work too.

So here’s to Frank Ifield, whose “I’m Confessin'” is a strong, straight-backed performance of a sweet song, yodels and all.

The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising

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The cover of Murphy’s Favourite Channels is not very promising, it is indeed almost offputtingly poor. John Murray’s book which, in a cosy fashion, juxtaposes the life of a Northern lad made good with the television he watched is actually a better book than that cover would suggest. It is the kind of book though where the conceit too often comes to the fore, and perhaps coupling the backstory with a modern story of life with multichannel television was a mistake.

The real issue is one of balance. Well over half of the book is taken up with Murphy’s youth, evoked with a number of well drawn vignettes. When Murphy reaches London, we speed through the rest of his life (including four wives) in much less space. Perhaps it would be less interesting, perhaps nostalgia for 80’s/90’s television is not Murray’s strong point – but it does leave the book wanting. Equally the modern day television review section is hampered by involving fictional programmes and fiction channels (thinly veiled mind), whereas the historical bits are quite clear on its Z Cars and Brains Trust lineage.

Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and part of that may well have been due to the books crossover with my own life. The foreword (Murphy can watch the Arabic News Channel as he took Arabic at the School Of Oriental and African Studies in 1971) was enough to make me flick through it. The SOAS sections are plenty inconclusive. But then coning across a character near the end called Shona MacLean (mis-spelled name of ex-flatmate) was enough to give me pause. This has happened since (Ronald Gannon, another ex-flatmate in David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four) and is both arresting but disconcerting.

I have your straw man right here, Sir

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I have your straw man right here, Sir

Reason to Rock – offered as a handy resource for certain ongoing ILM debates.

The biography channel on satellite is no way to learn of Carole Lombard’s death

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The biography channel on satellite is no way to learn of Carole Lombard’s death. I appreciate that I am probably running behind the rest of the world a touch in acknowledging the death of Lombard, but it had never occurred to me before that her career had ended due to death rather than falling from the publics favour. Shocking lack of foresight really, considering the little I know of Lombard’s films (Nothing Sacred and To Be Or Not To Be primarily) suggested that she could do very little wrong. If her career had gone tits up, maybe I would have seen a minor Lombard picture. Her with Humphrey Bogart in an ill fitting noir, or her and Cary Grant needlessly being serious. Instead these never happen because twenty years before Buddy Holly tried the same stunt, she died in a plane crash.

Do I suddenly think of her differently? Oddly yes. All of a sudden, rather than the best film comedienne of her age I start to think of her as the “tragic Carole Lombard”. Nothing Sacred?’ black humour of a woman dying of a terminal disease courted by the press suddenly seems magnificently poignant (it isn’t – it is just very funny). I recently saw Nothing Sacred as a kind of sap towards my dissertation: Hazel Flagg the stage version was probably the first movie-to-stage musicalization in 1954 (directed on stage by Preston Sturges no less). And Nothing Sacred, as its title suggests, is a scabrous romp with Lombard first courting celebrity and then in a bind when she discovers she is not going to die after all. As media satires go it has been equalled but never surpassed, and most of this is down to Lombard who can change her on screen emotion on a dime: from victim to calculating in seconds. Lombard’s performances, along with Kate Hepburn’s, defined an independent woman in the thirties and it is to her credit that I have never even considered her to be Clark Gable’s wife (something I did know).

So now I have to forget her dying in a plane crash, get rid of the tragic Carole Lombard because I want the funny one back. If she had lived, she would probably be dead now anyway (think about it) so why should the manner of her death affect who I think she is? And yet it does. So I didn’t tell you she died right? For all I know, she is still out there. Acting. Making people laugh.

GERRY AND THE PACEMAKERS – “I Like It”

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#152, 22nd June 1963

More jollity from the Mitch Murray Merseybeat hit factory. Vigorous to the point of being smackable, “I Like It” is a cute song nevertheless. All the chin-tickling and tie-straightening is neatly, evocatively specific, and deserves a lighter treatment than it gets: “I Like It” should be as flirtatious as its coquettish object. As it is Gerry Marsden yells, nudges and winks his way through a record which gets old well before its two-and-a-bit minutes end.