Posts from 23rd July 2008

Jul 08

Life Imitates Tharg part 374

FT + Proven By Science1 comment • 134 views

Can Electronic Cigarettes Beat The Smoking Ban?

“I think people need to be cautious,” warns Dr Roberta Ferrence, director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit. “It’s an unknown.”

“The concern is that the product will probably be promoted as something that’s safer than smoking,” she adds. “What needs to happen to make the dangers of smoking clear is for the product to be fitted with an electronic voice, perhaps one possessed of a piercing Mexican accent and a series of warning phrases such as “No no Senor Slade! Thees ees madness!””  .

Comics: A Beginner’s Guide: SF

The Brown Wedge7 comments • 854 views

I guess the place to start for SF comics, particularly on a British site, is 2000AD. Its title now makes it sound very unlike SF, but it’s been running future adventure stories for decades. It’s never been consistently great, but it’s had lots of great strips over the years: Alan Moore and Ian Gibson’s future-Locas series Halo Jones, Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s superhero strip Zenith, Pat Mills’ future-inquisition story Nemesis, with lots of artists, but most famously, Judge Dredd. I don’t know how many Dredd stories there have been by now, but nearly all of them are at least pretty good – Mills and John Wagner managed a strong standard for a very long time. It’s hard to know where to start with highlights, but the early Judge Death stories, with art by Brian Bolland, are wonderful (a sample is shown, a favourite comic moment of mine), and Mike McMahon’s art in the same era is as good as British action art has ever been – well, except he may have beaten it on Pat Mills’ Celtic fantasy series Slaine, also in 2000AD.


ABBA – “Take A Chance On Me”

FT + Popular57 comments • 5,572 views

#419, 18th February 1978

“Take A Chance On Me” couldn’t be more different from “The Name Of The Game”: here it’s the beloved who’s shy and afraid, and the singer who radiates confidence and amused self-security. “You don’t want to hurt me? Baby don’t worry, I ain’t gonna let you.”  The song is a typically ABBA-ish twist on a well-worn romantic situation: a rejected suitor pleading their case. Many writers would assume a hurt or hangdog perspective – instead “Take A Chance” is absurdly buoyant. Come on, it says, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s one of ABBA’s most straight-up joyous hits, brimful of an inspirational strength.

It’s also a step back from “The Name Of The Game”‘s complexity – the rhythm is “Dancing Queen” redux (though with a little more pep), and like that song it leads with its steamroller chorus. The simplicity here’s a little deceptive, though – that wonderful a capella rhythm line is as bold a stroke as you’ll find on any of their records, and the flashing, bubbling keyboards show that Benny and Bjorn had been paying attention to Moroder’s advances. But that’s really all secondary to the song’s effervescence, with the girls’ hammy semi-spoken bits summing the whole thing up: this is a band having casually brilliant fun.


Do You See + FT4 comments • 607 views

The tonal shifts in Mamma Mia are unsettling. The range of acting styles, from mugging through to camp are far broader than any film I have seen in years. The cinematography only occasionally lifts its head above competent and Meryl Streep should never, ever be allowed to wear dungarees again. But the soundtrack is terrific (even when being sung poorly by Pierce Brosnan) and the whole cast and crew seem to have such confidence in the quality of the overall product that it steamrollers you in its tracks. Mamma Mia is a terrifically entertaining two hours (even when it entertains for the wrong reasons: DUNGAREES STREEP), which is about 80% due to the songs.

Looking at this summers blockbuster fayre I think I have noticed a new trend. Namely the blockbuster aimed at middle aged women. Sex In The City and Mamma Mia seem squarely aimed at the 30+ female set, and unapologetically so. This is interesting because post-Jaws – this is an audience who have been generally ignored.