Magnus Anderson

Oct 04


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1. Being bound to a table and experimented upon by a mad scientist

Yes, you read that right. That is, hands tied down, proven by mad science, the single scariest thing it is possible for the lobotomy enhanced human mind to contemplate. And if its a product of the methodology, then understand this: in the process of descending upon this horror, we considered all of the usual candidates, and plenty of unlikely ones, falling through circle after hellish circle of terror, as the ravages of alcohol opened a door in our minds that gave us sight of torments of doom I hope never to have to confront again, and NOTHING received the instant and vociferous unanimity that this did.

Why? Why? Dear God, why?

Perhaps because it is the Swiss Army Knife of fears: its imprisonment, its the terrible death of your beautiful self without the luxury of oblivion, its the castration of the laser advancing up between your legs, its forgetting who you are, its being fused with a spider, fed to the crocodile clips and quite possibly having a red hot poker thrust in your eye.

But its more, even more than this: its the final realisation that we are not some divinely definitive incarnation of existence, that our physical, mental and emotional selves aren’t combined into a super-corporeal being, at least, not for everyone. To this mad scientist – and he’ll look somewhere between that child in your school who wanted to see what insects did with only three of their legs, and the bullying teacher who was chained to grim misery by his own power complex – you are nothing but a biological machine that can be changed, programmed, or destroyed at whim.

Feeling hungry? That’ll be your gut he’s just emptying out. Headache? The jar your brain is being kept in might be too tight. And sorry, but your face is needed for the scientist’s daughter, who’s eyes are sans one at the moment.

But the body isn’t the most fearful part. Perhaps you’ve a shallow understanding that, although the universe is seen through your eyes you are only one of billions of organisms in it, but have you ever really been made to face this idea? Now you will: your precious memories, your sparkling personality, your glorious and intimate relationship with your fingers and toes are merely a configuration of neural connections in your head’s pulpy innards, and the person who knows this best is now standing over you with a scalpel in one hand and your scalp in the other.

A slice here, and that brilliant eloquence is forever drowned in a pool of your own saliva. An injection there, and your childhood disappears. Love, ambition, your very soul burnt away until you are the unquestioning zombie that the insane professor needs as his slave.

And you’ll do as he says, because if he does this, you will get the fear! The FEAR!

Mwah ha ha ha!

Oct 04

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

A sadly lacking game. Six or so out of ten. Come back Driv3r, all is forgiven.

Oh alright, bigger review coming.

Oct 04

The World of Pop According to Smash Hits

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The World of Pop According to Smash Hits

Top Trumps – you remember, those stato-geek touchstones of the eighties playground – has produced a Smash Hits! deck, and, as always, its the killer cards and dismal failures at the top and tail of each category that make or break your game.

There are six catagories – here’s what you need to know:

Crew: Lisa So Solid wins by an urban mile, with the vague but intimidating 30+, although Blazin’ Squad’s 10 is a good bet too. The Polyphonic Spree are not featured.

Phwoar factor: Don’t be impressed by that cute-looking 82, this game is littered with 90-somethings. Timberlake boasts 97, with Rachel Stevens and Charlie Busted (a fearsome contender – see height) close behind. Duds include Madonna’s somewhat harsh 46, and Marylin Manson’s thoroughly generous 5.

Hits: Madonna has an unbeatable 58, Kylie’s good for 32. But the cards are forever frozen in early 2004, and so Busted have only four hits – and Girls Aloud? A mere two.

Age: Top Trumps are emphatic on the rule here: youngest wins. Bad luck and no double whammy for that those veterans Kylie and Madonna, its S Club 8’s fifteen year-old whippersnapper that scrumps the prize. Scandalously, this doesn’t stop him from having a Phwoar Factor of 79.

Height: Charlie Busted and Darius take the joint lead. The general consensus was that this category is a bit unfair on the female artists.

Smash Hits Factor: Lee from Blue wins, but why? No idea – the Smash Hits Factor is a number ranging from 38 to 49 whose meaning and derivation are mysteries. The best explanation we could manage is that it’s a sort of balancing item derived by the Top Trump statistics wizards to stop Charlie Busted from becoming an uber-card. But perhaps at Smash Hits central its all perfectly obvious – after all, everyone knows that Lee Blue is two better than Daniel Bedingfield, don’t they?

The most valuable lesson, though, is this: in the Top Trumps universe, there’s no-one, absolutely no-one, more useless to have around than Chris Martin from Coldplay.

Jul 04

With the movie reincarnation of International Rescue

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With the movie reincarnation of International Rescue storming towards us with the beauty of Brains and the grace of Thunderbird 2, plenty have mentioned that a central innovation of the film – on top of better effects, a bit of character development and, for some reason, human beings – is the somewhat intrusive appearance of a plot.  No longer will a mere collapsing bridge or teetering cable car tower threaten the utopian order, perhaps with a nod to the villainous Mr Hood.  Now there’s motivation, conflict and denouement.  Its sacrilege.

But Thunderbirds was never the worst for papery thin absurdity.  That prize must go to stable mate Joe 90, which once devoted the first third of an episode to the hero’s search for a pair of swimming trunks.  In some shops. 

Now there’s a challenge for Jonathan Frakes.  Go for it.

Jun 04

James Bond, eh?

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James Bond, eh? Its all about the marketing now, but why care – it’s a terrific franchise, and one whose continuity is uniquely malleable: anyone who looks the part can play the lead; anyone at all can play Felix Leighter. Change the actors, swap them about, it doesn’t matter – let Maud Adams play a trio of Bond girls, of course the villain of The Living Daylights can be the goody in Goldeneye.

Which makes the value of the current line-up all the more apparent. Apparently we like Pierce Brosnan, Judy Dench and John Cleese just the way they are, enough so that Electronic Arts invested a moderate fortune in their services for their latest game to use the licence – Everything or Nothing. It does a decent job of copying the actors into cyberspace, but all other aspects seem to be in dispute – a slender majority of the reviews found the title to be polished but pedestrian; the remainder were glowing with unlikely praise.

I have a theory. This is a big title, and EA were adamant that it would be the ‘missing’ Bond film of the year, filling the gap between cinema outings. It was easy to guess that their plan would be to plaster the bus shelters of Britain and abroad with glossed-up faux movie posters, each emblazoned with the selected wit and insight of a game review or two. And in an industry not awash with integrity, it doesn’t seem impossible that there would be some reviewers so cheap that their head could be turned with the promise of such fleeting publicity. Wouldn’t there?

If this is true, it’s disgusting. So in the interest of balance,

It rocks and it rolls! It drives forward the genre and pushes back the envelope! It swings through level after level of thrilling gameplay with breathtaking graphics to take your platform of choice to an earth-moving orgy of paradise! Every last second of play is like having sex on crack and no amount of love, money or status could compensate for the nirvana of joy that is playing this game and I for one shall not rest until each living soul on this planet has been subsumed into its unceasing glory!

Credit to the name below, please.

May 04

“A compromise would be nice

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“A compromise would be nice but in establishing factors for canonicity we cannot bend.”

Thus spake the self-appointed arbiter of what may constitute a proper Doctor Who story. The only reason I found myself reading this was to see what the popular opinion is as to whether Paul McGann is generally accepted to be the eigth doctor, of if Christopher Eccleston’s stories will ignore him. I had some vague awareness that there are fans who take this seriously, but GOOD GALLIFREY I didn’t reckon on this. A twenty three page essay with footnotes.

And what prompted his unwillingness to compromise? It was the lovely and appalling K9 and Company, which apparently almost counts, because it was made by the BBC with the characters from Doctor Who, following a Doctor Who story and is refered to in other Doctor Who stories (well, The Five Doctors, but that’s still more than none).

BUT! It does not have the words ‘Doctor Who’ in its title, and so therefore, no matter how much evidence is weighed in its favour, it can under no circumstances be considered a part of Doctor Who continuity. Sorry, that’s it. Final. Fails the second law of canonicity. Nothing he can do. Hands are tied.

So what of the Doctor Who movie? Apparently it would only be considered canonical if it had become a series, but it didn’t and so it isn’t, although if it does then it will.

Funny, that sounds like a bit of a compromise to me.

May 04

Easy as it is to believe,

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Easy as it is to believe, sellout culture guru Malcolm McLaren had a shot at writing a musical with none other than Pete Waterman back in the early nineties.

What did this consist of? Its hard to say based on the evidence presented here, but plenty of narrative and a post new-age shopping trip seem to feature heavily. As does a souped-up riff on the allegretto from Beethoven’s seventh. It should be hateful of course, but then, just as with A Fifth of Beethoven, you can’t help finding disapproval getting caught up in the fun.

Apr 04

Amateur theatre is an effervescent affair

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Amateur theatre is an effervescent affair, where teachers, professors and investment bankers gather and express. Here are found mannish giants tottering in maid’s outfits and septa-centarian biblical boat-keepers confessing to divine misrepresentation, a dinner-table’s worth of ambitious but tragic women, or dragged-up equivalents of the same.

Am dram, eh? It may sound like a taste best acquired by the relatives of the cast, but if you can see yourself following a non-league football team week in an week out, then surely its possible to imagine the flashes of production inspiration, or the joy of stumbling upon an unexpectedly powerful performance from a name to note, should fame follow them. James Conlon was my find of the evening, but there were plenty of others.

And where else could you find three shows for the price of one? Still two days left to catch them, if you can.

Dec 03

Ten Past Eight

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Stanley Kubrick used to refer to 2010, the interloping successor to his own opus, as Ten past Eight. It was a little callous, perhaps, given that the critical world had long decided that his own was a masterpiece, and so he was taunting from an unassailable position. Yet it does reflect the main sense that I have when watching the film: that it’s not poor, but it is disenfranchised by its own heritage.

2010 plays as if the creators thought the ambiguity of the first film was an oversight, and each left-over question – the cause of the computer’s breakdown, the purpose of the alien structures – is given an answer. And this is where the film falls, in my view. Not because answering these questions is a mistake in itself, but because they demand a knowledge of 2001 which can only give its sequel a mistaken context.

2001 has developed a cult of its own myth, the discussions of which have kept it carefully beyond explanation. Depending upon whose essay you read, it charted the journey of mankind through technology to find enlightenment, pitted innovation against evolution, was very trippy, was very pretentious, or any of a dozen other things. 2010, on the other hand, is a sci-fi thriller about aliens.

2001 concludes with the birth of a Starchild, depicted with strange, incongruous imagery that yearned to enmesh the film in profundity. 2010 finishes with a spaceship racing away from an explosion and a nice voiceover about world peace.

There’s plenty more. Whatever your views on 2001, there’s no doubt that 2010 was less ambitious and less important. And don’t doubt that it was an postscript: the book of the first film was forged in the heat of Kubrick’s notoriously intense creative process, which Arthur C Clarke – the author – said couldn’t be followed. And when he did, he changed an important detail – the planet at the end of the odyssey – not to further the ideas of the film, but to allow a scientific plot device.

The strengths of the second film – and I do think it has some – are the sort that are useful to conventional, self-contained crowd pleasers. It has a low key tension that builds to the climax, a mystery with a resolution, a disparate team undermined by distant political conflict. But to appreciate all this requires having already seen a very different film.

If 2001 is considered a success at whatever it was attempting, then the follow up is a minnow that belittles it. If not, than 2010 is trivia after a folly. And for anyone who hasn’t seen the first film at all, than the second is an irrelevance, and perhaps barely intelligible at that.

Nov 03

Certain days require anything but the hard graft of a gritty drama, so it was a pleasure to find Stephen Fry swearing elegantly this evening.

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Certain days require anything but the hard graft of a gritty drama, so it was a pleasure to find Stephen Fry swearing elegantly this evening. He was on QI – a deliberately barely structured conversation of a programme, which hopes to muster eloquence and wit from an alchemy of televisions wags and cards. It often succeeds, too.

The producer, John Lloyd, all but created British television comedy in the eighties, with Not the Nine O’clock News, Blackadder and – I think this is right – some of Spitting Image to his credit, before disappearing for a decade, with only a couple of Barclaycard adverts to interrupt his hibernation. This new programme was devised as a vehicle for the obscurities and curios of knowledge he hoarded his wilderness years, serving to both guide and rescue the deliberations of the players. No one has a chance to revert to their repertoire – this esoterica simply doesn’t fit.

Fry hosts, and, for all his polyfarious abilities, this is what he was always supposed to do. His charm, even in terrible rudeness, deprives the proceedings of any sense of competition, and rightly, since the game is the victory here. Alan Davies is another regular, and this is a surprisingly good fit for him. He’s belligerent and he’s a foil. And he wins a lot.

It’s light, but not mundane. I never plan to watch it, but am always pleased to find it on. In its own way, it can educate, inform and entertain, even though it’s no more an education than Schott’s Miscellany. A brief, transient confectionary, then, but still a treat.