Posts from October 2005

Oct 05


Blog 710 comments • 4,050 views

Both sides of the river are full of chicken shops, YESNO? In fact so much so you can barely go two yards without falling over a battered box of bones, YESNO? South London has many chains, independent chicken shops and KFCs. A particular favourite is MORLEYS CHICKEN SHOP. A classic red-top, goes good RIBS and always have a fruit machine in the corner (if you like that sort of thing).

But can you find one in North London? NO!!! North London is full of white and blue tops, strange ‘kebab’ shops which offer OVEN BAKED CHICKEN – err like whatever dudes, but if you want a Morleys – you gotta cross that river. It’s as if the psychic divide of a City has manifested itself in the shape of squat red buildings selling VOODOO BONES, representing the feisty Southern yoof versus the civilised three-wheeled buggies of the North!! Morleys chicken shops are the KEY TO TIME!!! If a Morleys were to open North of the river, it would be like a voodoo terrorist psychogeographical act that would bring the City to it’s knees! For god’s sake, the equilibirium must be maintained!!!

For the moment, we appear to be safe. However, Northerners, if you see the red buildings start to form in your area… it will be the beginning of the war…


THE FT TOP 23 STRANGE PHENOMENA No. 8 The Knights Templar

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I have never been on a creative writing course. Though tempting, the MA’s at UEA and elsewhere have always seemed a touch overpriced: and anyway, I think I know what they will tell you. Inbetween the lectures on structure, first vs third person and reported speech, they hand everyone a package. “Break in case of emergency” the plastic pack says on it and inside is the get out of jail card that every authors need.


WH Smiths at every airport are literally held up by stocks of books where the Knights Templar invent cinema, defend the holy grail and are responsible for every major disaster in the last eight hundred years (natural or not). There is even a book which is so ridiculous that it posits the Knights Templar as the inventors of cinema in the fourteenth century, du to the Maltese Cross shape of the shutter wheel (Flicker by Theodore Roszak who I am sure curses Dan Brown every morning when he wakes).

So who were the Knights Templar? Legend has it that they were the Knights sent to find and then guard the Holy Grail, and that they have done this via fair means and foul. There is also much talk of links with the Mason’s, apron wearing and general conspiracy theories throughout the ages. This is all well and good but a legacy of such literary versatility should cannot just be based on cup protection. No there is a much more sinister explanation for the existence and continuing popularity about stories of the Knights Templar.

Consider how long the Knights Templar are supposed to be around, and compare that to the age of the history of Western written literature and scholarship. Is there any coincidence that Universities spring up in the thirteenth century, around about the same time as the Templars? Is there any surprise that one in three books use the history of the Knights Templar as some sort of plot point, or basis of academic research. No: this is no coincidence. Clearly the Knights Templar are a massive Macguffin in the history of literature and scholarly writing, on giant game of Mornington Crescent for those in the know. A get out of jail free card for writers, the Knights Templar are unknown because there is nothing to know about them. A conceit wrapped inside a mystery which ended up in The Da Vinci Code. And that’s not a nice place to end up.

thumbSUCKSer more like

Do You SeePost a comment • 299 views

Not really. I can’t imagine a more inoffensive film than Thumbsucker actually. Its targets (er, drug abuse, hippy psychology, how being a teenager is a bit rubbish) are about as gentle and barndoor shaped as can be selected. Its style, and cast, are the usual grab-bag of indie film-making. Indeed the whole film is so gosh darned nice that you never really feel the lead character is really going to end up in peril or by psychologically damaged by any of the events which occur to him.

This, perhaps, is the point. If the film has anything as a central theme it is the awkwardness of being seventeen. And perhaps at seventeen (as Janis Ian might put it) we learn the truth: that life can be a bit shit. The truth we often realise though is that it gets a lot shitter than the hellish feelings of being seventeen itself. So from being a thumbsucking insecure boy he goes via various drug treatments and hypnotism to a slightly more confidence kid off to University. Perhaps the lack of drama outlines the real lack of drama in the average seventeen real old life. The film just about remains watchable without anything major happening in it. But the lack of suspense almost kills it. After, an unhappy ending was never on the cards. You don’t get the Polyphonic Spree in to do a soundtrack if you want a downbeat ending.

Oct 05

THE FT TOP 23 STRANGE PHENOMENA No. 9 Anatomical Curiosities

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The original entry for this read simply “the wrecking ball”, a name for a freakish anatomical manifestation that once afflicted a friend of a friend and has fascinated many FT writers since they first heard about it. It describes a partial erection of the male member such that while the glans is engorged, the shaft remains flaccid. Hence, as you now realise, the name.

The wrecking ball could not apparently be summoned on demand (just as well really) and it can be filed alongside other minor quirks like tingly nipples, webbed toes and so on. Of course as inexplicable phenomena these are failures – if medical science has not yet investigated the genetic causes of webbed toes it’s most likely because it can’t be arsed to, rather than because it faces the limits of puny human understanding. But as ‘strange phenomena’ – well, the mix of horror and queasy imaginings the ‘wrecking ball’ elicits among male pubgoers puts it firmly (well, semi-firmly) in this category.

Oct 05

Annals of Dead Media

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 226 views

I just read that the first ever “op ed page” appeared in the New York Times in 1970 (21 September) — “op ed” as in space handed over to rival blowhards, to counter the editorial pages (which are as old as newspapers themselves) (indeed, editorials pre-date the rather recent idea of merely neutral fact-gathering)

so is this just a US fact? hard to recall nowadays, but until 1966, the (London) Times didn’t have any actual news — let alone headlines — on the front page, just small ads of interest to the upper upper!!

i love technical stuff like this, the evolution of the presentation of information (and implicit politics of same): the most natural conclusion being that the NYT wz meekly responding to the aggressive Nixonian claim that it represented the “Eastern Media Establishment” (rather than eg the “Silent Majority”)… but maybe there wz another (better) reason

UPDATE: speaking of the evolution of the presentation of information, and what gets put on newspaper frontpages these days (via hullaballoo):

WTF Did Wedding DJs play before 1978?

FT + New York London Paris Munich5 comments • 618 views

1978 hits include:

– Youre The One That I Want (& all other Grease)
– Take a Chance on Me
– Wuthering Heights
– 3 Times A Lady
– Rivers Of Babylon


Nelson Mandela Foreskin Watch

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 630 views

Do you know you are famous when

a) They make a comic book of your life?


b) Said comicbook is so detailed it depicts your circumcision?

The Perfect Movie

Do You SeePost a comment • 517 views

Perfection is a different quality from excellence. I need to make this clear before I start talking about Sky High. What I am talking about, with regards to perfection here, is the idea that there is no conceivable way that the final film could have better fulfilled the terms of the films pitch. This does not mean that the film could not be better, or even that a better film could be made of the same material. Rather that if the pitch was “high school comedy set in a superhero high school”, then Sky High is exactly the film you would imagine. Every high school cliche is present and correct, and every aspect has been refracted through its high concept to work.

The nearest film I can think of to this kind of perfection is Galaxy Quest: whose pitch “what if the cast of Star Trek were actually sent into space to fight an interstellar war” manages to happily fulfill the criteria. The quirks of both films are inherent in their high concept, the success lies into how the films twist around their self identified conventions. Indeed you can admire to such an extent the neat dovetailing of superhero and high school so much you wonder why it has not been done before. (And smartarse I know it has – but was the X-Men like any school you went to? But never with the emphasis on High School, and never as well.)

I struggled with the high school genre when talking about Mean Girls, and certainly the high school movie shorthand is all over Sky High. Again, like Mean Girls, the film is aimed at pre-high schoolers, but this is a very family friendly kids film. Indeed you walk away thinking that you have seen the ultimate in pre-packaged studio product (next to impossible to find these days) before you realise that actual Sky High is actually a very unusual High School comedy. Not because of the superhero dressing. But rather that the lead character is male.

What we’re gonna do right here is go back, way back

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 1,750 views

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – “Troglodyte”

I can’t remember who introduced me to this song – Mike Daddino, most likely! – but it’s been a perennial playlist favourite ever since. It’s outrageously simple – lecherous caveman monologue, driving groove – but effective and leaves you wanting a lot more. I can’t believe I hadn’t played it out before the last Poptimism, but I hadn’t, and when I did I was gratified at the ‘wtf’ reaction. Yours now to hear and enjoy – all together now, “CAVEmen…caveWOMEN….TROGlodytes!”

(Several more sounds to be found, as ever, on top LJ community Poptimists)

The FT Top 23 STRANGE PHENOMENA: No.10 “B’aint”

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It was a dark, stormy night and as we tried to get home we hit a nasty bump in the road. My girlfriend, who was driving, thought she had run over a dog so stopped the car. We got out, but there was nothing there. However when we got back in the car, it refused to start. It was late, and a wet mist was rolling in. In the end I agreed to go and see if I could find some help. Walking up the road, for about ten minutes the fog was almost impossible to see through, and I barely saw the sign to the Old Manor House. I wandered up the drive with its perfectly kept lawns and rang at the door. Almost instantly a man with a white cane came to the door. I explained my predicament and he told me that at midnight the 77a bus went down the end of his road. He also asked if I had seen his dog, which unfortunately I hadn’t. I went and fetch my girlfriend and we caught the midnight bus, which was, apart from us, empty and very cold: we thought the heating must be broken.

The next morning we went to a local garage where a mechanic took us out to the car and fixed it as we told him of our good fortune the night before. He looked incredulously at us, as he told us that old Blind Tom had lost his dog, run over at this very spot, and then accidentally burnt down the manor. With no stop to serve, the bus no longer ran on this route. In his precise words: “There b’aint be no 77a bus round here for 40 year.”

What is spooky about the story as summarised above? Is it that the person (Blind Tom), place (the Old Manor House) or phenomena (77a Bus) that you encountered the night before no longer exists, though you swear it was real? Or is it that the person who is telling you that “there b’aint be no Blind Tom/Old Manor House/77a Bus here for 40 year” always speaks with a west country bumpkin accent, and in a manner suggesting that they have walked right out of a Thomas Hardy novel?

It is clearly the latter, and I would even venture to suggest that such “B’ainters” (as they will now be dubbed) are integral parts of the stories they conclude. I am not suggesting they make them up, or even mock up the meetings Scooby Doo style. But rather they are sent as temporal custodians of spooky sites, to deter serious investigation. The addition of a B’ainter at the end of the story makes it all quite quaint and twee, and distracts attention from the real, actual spooky happenings in the tale.

It is clear that such guardians jobs are to make sure that the average person never discovers the secrets of such ghost stories, to distract away from the unpalatable hell of haunting which may face us all. All with that one word: B’aint. A word with no logical derivation: uniquely chosen by this ancient order to put off the curious. A magic word some say, and how unexplainable is that?