Posts from 14th November 2005

Nov 05

Afternoon radio research – Pt 1

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 508 views

Today I was listening to Radio 1 on the web — research purposes only, of course — and a caller managed to break through the hurried sheen of the Colin and Edith program with a heartfelt message to her boyfriend, who not only made her feel like a queen, taking her out constantly, etc., but — and here the caller’s voice cracked a little, stumbled, collected itself and went on stronger — had stood with her during family troubles, and his support meant the world. That the caller sounded like the kind of superficial babbler you might avoid at a party made the sincerity in her voice the more striking. It’s a common phenomenon — that, talking blindly down the phone to an audience of thousands of absolute strangers, people find something noble inside they never realized they had — and DJs and program directors are only too eager to tap into it, especially since it’s free minus the cost of the phone banks. Colin appreciated it too — “That was a good ‘Lunchtime Lovers’, Sarah,” he said, collegially referring to the name of the segment. And we moved on.

Invasion: Earth : Rubbish

Do You SeePost a comment • 205 views

The nineties was a pretty quiet era for British TV Sci-fi. Still convinced that genetically they could only do crap special effects, and wary of cost, the output that did limp out was remarkably parochial. And often remarkably poor. Invasion: Earth (get that colon) was BBC1 only attempt in the decade at adult sci-fi. Probably convinced into it by the writer Jed Mercurio’s massive success with Cardiac Arrest they allowed him the keys to a forbidden genre. And a more tedious military cum invasion drama could not be thought of.

Having recently seen the opening episode again, it is no wonder the series did not stay the course. Whilst the insubordinate army guy is a staple in such fiction, a more unpleasant insubordinate army guy you could not hope to meet as our nominal hero. In deciding for no good reason to shoot down a UFO he also kills his best mate (who he had previously been bullying about being too fat), who had just had a kid. His insubordination was not for any heroic reasons, it was pure ignorance and cowardice, and we know exactly what should happen to the guy who shoots at the alium out of fear. The alien, cobbling together a few bits of second hand plot device powers, gets shot again, and finally captured in a quarry (so much for big budget). And the big reveal is that there aren’t just humanoid aliens out there, there are also evil “monsters”. By then you don’t care because everyone is rude to everyone else, and unpleasant.

The sad thing is this was commissioned because of the writing, and it is clear that Mercurio was pushing for the kind of moral ambiguities which fuelled Cardiac Arrest (and now Bodies). He left out the black humour though, and replaced them with sci-fi clichés. And if this was commissioned on the writing alone, wither this line from the first five minutes of the second show?
“Don’t you understand? There are two sets of aliens. Two. A duality. More than one. Less than three. Half a ballerina’s dress.” Clunk.

Tiger Power

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 536 views

Continuing our brand xtension theme, I offer you TONY’S TIGER POWER, a brand extension of Frosties, at least by name and cartoon mascot. Tiger Power promises 1) low sugar 2) no added salt 3) wholegrain energy and if you were presented with a bowl of them pack unseen I guarantee it that you would not think “Frosties”. You would think “Shreddies” because that’s what Tiger Power is. Very mildly sugared Shreddies.

For my purposes Tiger Power works well enough – but I have a cynical view of today’s kids and fear that the enormously dynamic Tony T on the packet will set expectations which this slightly drab cereal cannot match. Tiger Power is a pretty obvious stab at moving kids’ cereals back onto healthier (& hence friendlier to concerned mums) ground, but it’s making its character bear far too much of the weight of a product that has nothing to do with him.

When Moomins were Trolls

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 1,028 views

Tove Jansson wrote the first Moomin adventure in 1945. Titled The Little Trolls and the Great Flood, it was a prototype for the Moominvalley books and has remained untranslated offline ever since. To celebrate the 60th anniversary, a Finish publisher has finally released an English language edition.

These are not fully-rounded Moomin characters, both figuratively and literally. The drawings are more angular and lack cuteness. It’s like watching early episodes of the Simpsons where Homer and Bart are tinged with green and jaggedly drawn. They don’t feel quite ‘right’, in retrospect.

The story concerns an adventurous search for Moominpapa, carelessly ferried away by a group of wanderlusting Hattifatteners. Mother and son set out to find him through a great forest full of watching eyes and unseen hostility and are hampered by a roaring flood that sends the forest population into the trees. There’s a taste of the fantastic among the supporting cast and the Moomins are joined for the journey by a creature looking suspiciously like Sniff. He tempers the harshness of the forest atmosphere by acting the role of selfish and frightened child. As Moomintroll builds confidence, so Sniff (if it is he) hides and cowers.

The most lovingly represented of the characters is Tulippa, drawn naked with obvious care. It’s tempting to question her in context outside the story but then Tulippa suddenly finds love with a red-haired boy and that’s the last we see of her (and the collapse of my theory). The scene pre-empts the happy reuniting of the Moomin family by a few pages.

The book is for sale here, at the Marylebone store. The shop also stocks Moomin houses, boats and the Arabia collection of crockery. Outside of Finland, it’s the best collection of Moominabilia I’ve come across (and have nine mugs in the kitchen to prove it).

Online Text of the story (without illustrations)

Day 54: Papua New Guinea

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 290 views

I managed to distance myself from the horrific Reef by getting a room on the very top floor of the hotel. I still did not like to rely on something with the same name as a useless South Western band for my continued existence but I desperately needed the sleep. And the sheets were nice, and the mini-bar was full of little bottles of Dr Gordons Finest Invention.

The next morning I tried to book a way off this infernal reef. Luckily a boat was coming in from a nearby northern island and I booked myself directly on to it. It was quite nice to be back on the sea. It also helped that the eight hour trip was a nice leisurely way of getting slowly sizzled. On the way a local started talking to me about tales of cannibals and the like. I responded that all I knew about cannibals was I Eat Cannibal and that is not incredible at all, rather a festering record of shite.

I must admit in my haste to to escape the Reef I had not noted the name of the Island I was travelling to. And neither had I picked it up in the haste to get more drink down me on the boat. So the shock was left to me when I was escorted off of the boat to see a big sign saying WELCOME TO PAPUA NEW GUINEA. How ambient, I thought in irritation.


Question: What kind of bizarre catastrophes would have to befall Britains mighty metropolis for it to end up sounding like the Future Sound Of London? Well lets see

Firstly all speech would have to be replaced by atone yelping noises, employed much less frequently then modern speech is.

Secondly the sound of traffic would go from a persistent but comforting rumble to a horrendous skittering noise which some people might call intelligent drum and bass, but I prefer to call the sound of a very fast bottled fart coming out.

Thirdly, unlike the current compelling sounds of the metropolis it would have to turn out to be completely engaging and really rather dull. Especially the twelve inch. To achieve this one imagines the catastrophe would have to remove much free will and replace it with just a low level of intelligence.

Finally one would imagine that all life giving substances like alcohol would be banned just so that people could dance to this crap. Anyone with any ounce of common sense would move out of a London that sounded like this at the first opportunity.

So therefore, for the Future Sound of London to really be The Future Sound Of London, a catastrophe that turns us into gurning, uncommunicative, undiscerning zombies stuck in one big room would have to occur. A mass dosing of Ecstacy perhaps? Unlikely. Go back to your books futurologists, and put down those laptops NOW!

Bacardi Brand Extensions!!!

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 4,370 views

More brand extensions (airport duty free is a great place to spot them after all). Bacardi Coco seems to me to be a bit of a no brainer. At least it is when you finally realise that the Coco in question in as in Coconut as opposed to Coco Pops. After all a white rum blended with coconut is already relatively popular, but the brand leader is probably suffering from looking and sounding too much like a naff 80’s brand. Malibu’s white bottle seems out of step with the noughties, so if Bacardi Coco was marketed in a classy way it easily snaffle much of the market.

The same unfortunately cannot be said for Bacardi Razz. I must admit it took a thorough reading of the bottle until I got the Razz reference, and then took more time to try and decide if a white rum blended with raspberries would work. Conclusion: it won’t. I’m not sure what you would mix it with, how it would be used and even if it would taste very nice. Coupled with a truly silly name, I think the Razz is destined to crash and burn (mind you it does have three fans here). Still one out of two ain’t bad from the Bacardi boys. They are certainly leaving Baileys in their wake.

Note that in the Razz picture there are a few blurry other bottles as if viewed through a bathroom window. Far right is the Coco, far left is probably Bacardi Citroen (a french car flavour). Your guess is as good as mine for the two neighbours of the Razz.