Posts from 20th May 2004

May 04

Into The Groove

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 333 views

Into The Groove: more blogging! more MP3s! more pop! I hope this makes up to you, O readers, for the absence of today’s Britney Week entry.


Popular11 comments • 2,338 views

#100, 30th April 1960

Sorry about that!

Newley’s second No.1 is a big step up from “Why?”, thanks mostly to a sympathetic Shadows-indebted backing which lets Newley sound flirtatious instead of just unctious. The lyrics don’t give him much wiggle-room, though. “If I say I love you, do you mind? Make an idol of you, do you mind?” – there are not many ways for a cheeky London chappie to play those.

And so the strange false start of modern British pop fades out with a record that’s uninspiring but hardly a disgrace. Newley, like Adam Faith, had no further No.1s, just a respectable second-tier hit-making career before a turn back to acting (where Englishness has always found ways to pay well). The cockney-pop blueprint hadn’t taken – I think the London focus was part of the problem. Newley and Faith look forward to Mary Poppins more than to Please Please Me, entertaining enough but perhaps already a stereotype, lacking the freshness needed for a bigger impact on pop.

The theory is that every Jules Verne book can be summarised by its title.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 403 views

The theory is that every Jules Verne book can be summarised by its title. Thus in Around The World In 80 Days, the world is traversed in the time limit suggested. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth described the trip perfectly. And guess how long is spent in a balloon in Five Weeks In A Balloon?

Which makes the title of A Fantasy Of Doctor Ox a touch disappointing. It is tricky to work out what this fantasy actually is from the title alone. Luckily it is not too much bother to read the whole thing as it rocks in at under eighty pages, and even as a short story the basic idea seems stretched. We have the Flemish town of Quiquendone which in some form of poor satire is a dull and slow town. No-one ever argues, no-one ever rushes, musical performances regularly take four times longer than they should. But things change when the good Dr Ox fits some new pipes for a gas powered lighting. Suddenly the towns passions are inflamed, arguments start, punch-ups ensue and they almost go to war. What is the secret?

The secret is no secret due to Verne’s literalist turn of phrase. Yes it may be unclear what the mysterious Dr Ox has been pumping through the pipes, until you consider his assistant. Name: Ygene. Hmm, this isn’t a twist that was well hidden is it. Verne has discovered that if people breath pure oxygen they get a bit giddy. He still had not discovered at this point that if you want to tell a good story, you don’t give characters stupid names which give the bloody twist away.

In Bon Voyage we see a return of that most ropey of plot conventions.

Do You SeePost a comment • 182 views

In Bon Voyage we see a return of that most ropey of plot conventions. The plain girl who does not believe the hero could ever fancy her actually more attractive than the girl everyone says is pretty. I thought the Truth About Cats And Dogs had killed this meme stone dead. I was wrong. Bon Voyage even used glasses and tightly pulled back hair as a signifier of how plain she is. Compare yourself with these stills: the “plain but actually prettier” one is Virginie Ledoyen and the “attractive but less nice” one is Isabelle Adjani, presented against raffish male lead Gregori Derangere for comparison purposes.

Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s film is an homage to the days of wartime derring-do pictures. We have nazi spies chasing scientists, special chemical compounds ( Heavy Water!!! ) our wrongfully arrested hero has to avoid both the bad guys and the police to save the day. And it is plenty of fun. It just seems a bit wrong for the French to be having this kind of fun just before their country capitulates to the Nazi’s. The film is also a reminder of what great villians the Nazi’s are. You almost get the feeling that if they had not existed, the movies would have had to invent them (a la the “too mad for the IRA” terrorists). Morality be damned when the Nazi’s are your baddies. They are evil through and through, speak funny and require absolutely no empathy from the viewer. Perhaps because the film is such an homage that it uses the cliche of the women, but it does not stop said cliche being annoying. The closest the French have got to a dumb summer movie in years.

Heavy Water.

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 1,175 views

Heavy Water. A great lost pub band name I daresay. But also the name of one of the most fun chemical compounds. It is water, with extri neutrons. Deuterium is just fat hydrogen and as such Heavy Water is just water but just a bit lardier.

I was reminded of its existence by the film Bon Voyage which I saw last night. Its a fun little farce with six big water cooler bottles full of heavy water as the MacGuffin. And it is the very purpose as a MacGuffin which probably made the people sitting behind me scoff when the identity of the compound was revealed. It does not sound very scientific. I guess those who had not made it to Chemistry A-Level or have an interest in the development of the nuclear reactor would ask ‘How can water be any heavier?’ Anyway it got me wondering what would happen if you drank heavy water. It is inert in itself, no-one ever made a bomb out of heavy water alone. Luckily, this is what the interweb is for, so here is what happens. Including a judgement on how efficatious it would be as a murder weapon.

I shall be sad if Gerard Houllier leaves Liverpool.

TMFDPost a comment • 382 views

I shall be sad if Gerard Houllier leaves Liverpool. This is not in any sense a footballing opinion, it is a purely aesthetic one. Houllier has one of the most telegenic and interesting faces of any Premiership manager. Not since Droopy was a feature on Rolf’s Cartoon Time has a screen face been so eloquently woeful. The slightly square head, the cast of the mouth, the large eyes, the huddle of the shoulder in his huge overcoat and red scarf – when results are disappointing everything about him suggests a man whose life has become one long sigh of “Bof!”. Most managers have expressive faces but the expressions in question tend to be “stern” or “furious” or very occasionally “joyful” – it will be a pity to lose “existentially rueful” entirely from the lexicon. A glittering career as a Stella ad character actor surely awaits.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 391 views

SUMMER OF SMUT: The hot weather has got advertisers’ sap predictably rising with 2 naughty new campaigns featured in this week’s Marketing. First up is Perrier, who are “overhauling their packaging” with a “risque design”. The design in question will be familiar to anyone who bought a ‘naughty’ pen on a childhood seaside trip. When you shake the special Perrier bottles, the 40s-style label bombshells on the labels will lose their clothes. Desperate leches should check their rush to the supermarket though – even undressed the Perrier logo looks to cover their bits.

(Also, Pumpkin Publog would like to remind you that shaking fizzy drinks is a twat’s game.)

The food and drink connection to campaign #2 is more tenuous. Ann Summers’ summer initiative is a campaign to highlight the dangers of testicular cancer, which will appear from next week on all their shops. The way of doing this is to show a ‘hunk’ with a pair of a certain fruit where his family jewels should be and caption it with the remarkable slogan “HAVE FUN WITH HIS PLUMS”. Best of luck to them, I say.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,251 views


Okay, Tilapia is one of the top five farmed fish in the world. It is hardy, resilient and in the wild will eat pretty much anything. And, this is important in the look friendly world of fish, Tilapia looks like a proper fish. A nice firm white flesh which survives most cooking methods. Frankly as a wonder food Tilapia has it all, except an interesting taste.

So why make this aquatic bionic a favoured fish. Because it is absoluitely great in fish curries. The firm flesh stays white, the outside takes on the sauce nicely. I had a Tilapia curry last night in Chowki’s and it took me back to all the great Sri Lankan fish curries I had, where the flesh was firm and the chunks flaked as you chewed. A quick web search comes up with this Pakistani Tilapia Curry Stew which I might give a go next week. In the mean time, remember if you have to order it, the pronunciation key is Till Appia.


I Hate Music1 comment • 650 views


Another interruption, readers – I’ve just heard a terrible warning!

“Mother Earth she’s on overload
One more war and she might explode”

Explode?! That’s bad news! We’d better disarm right now and – what? What’s that you say? That’s not a prediction at all? It’s just the lyrics of “House Of Love” by East 17? And since they were written we’ve had several wars and no planetary-sized explosions? Oh. Well, I knew that. Obviously.

East 17 though seemed very convinced that the world was actually on the verge of blowing up in 1992. “We’ve gotta save the planet before she explodes…gotta let her know – boom boom – before she blows.”. They had evidence, too – “Too many bombs in the world it’s like a living mine”. Better hope nobody steps on it, then. These warnings were a little florid but much stranger was their solution – building “The House Of Love”.

For a while I was puzzled by this command. The House Of Love had taken a long time to split up but thankfully the message had finally got through to Guy Chadwick and the lads. One concertgoer too many had turned fearfully away crying, “Mummy! The monster scares me!” and the band had called it a day. During their long career though they had shown much evidence of being able to slow down Byrds songs and mope over the top of them but little proof of any world-saving ability. The original script of The Day After Tomorrow, where a particularly long Terry Bickers solo bludgeons the US Government into accepting the Kyoto agreement, had been roundly rejected.

Then it struck me – in his garbled fashion Tony Mortimer was making a plea for recycling! If you got the huge numbers of unsold copies of Never and The Beatles And The Stones and shipped them to the developing world, you could indeed build affordable housing for all and they would live in peace! What a visionary!

Of course it’s just possible that Tony Mortimer thought that world peace would be achieved by everybody going to a big shed and getting monged on pills. You could make a case for that being the message of his hit song.

Didn’t work though, did it?

10 Years Younger (in 10 Days)

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10 Years Younger (in 10 Days)
A disturbing and unpleasant show – thanks new look Channel 4! But such concerns are fit for discussion on sibling blog Do You See. No, what I want to bring to your attention is the poor methodology of the show.

At the start of the show 100 people are asked the age of a stranger (the show’s victim) who is self avowedly looking years ahead of their time. The average age is then assessed – and it’s usually about 5 years above their actual age. (I am a terrible guesser – I always think they’re actually younger). The offensive (to stomach, televisual aesthetics, and “well being”) task is to knock 10 years off this average age after 10 days of unpleasant activity. Then, once again, 100 people are asked the victim’s age to measure success.

Crucially the agebefore is assessed from a distance, and the ageafter is assessed within earshot of the victim! Now surely, SURELY, this is a transparent flaw that fair SCREAMS out of the screen at you*. Obviously you are more likely to shift your estimate of age down within earshot. But what exactly is the visual effect of the difference? Perhaps the bad skin doesn’t show up at that distance, or perhaps the beauty therapy is more notable at close range.

Crucially the effect is unknown and uncontrolled. Perhaps E4 will do a cable-only investigation into the bias that distance introduces. Perhaps not, as the show has so far failed to take off 10 years in both of the shows I saw, and maybe they discovered it made the show’s working title even more of a lie. “Take 5 Years off in a Week” not so snappy. “Tidy Yourself Up a Bit and Look Your Age in a Few Days” also didn’t fly with the commissioning editor.

I would also like to know what each process contributes to the age drop, then perhaps the participants could weight that by a pain factor. If the “new coat, shirt and a comb through the hair” process contributes 50% of the reduction, and the “botox, lip injections and bone resetting” contributes only 10%, then I think future shows really should concentrate on the former – perhaps a new tie would be more preferable to a car battery attached to the face with bulldog clips.

*In a reversal of the usual meme flow, as we humbly like to imagine on FT, a Guardian reviewer did point out the distance thing