Posts from 23rd August 2004

23
Aug 04

JOHN LEYTON – “Johnny Remember Me”

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#124, 2nd September 1961

I can’t take any of Joe Meek’s futurist cred away, and I wouldn’t want to try. But with forty-years of hindsight it’s also obvious how bound some of his records are to the past. “Johnny Remember Me” comes at us, bodice heaving, straight out of the Victorian gothic – “when the mists are rising and the rain is falling and the wind is blowing cold across the moors”. It’s a ghost story! But more than that, it’s a country ghost story – Leyton’s accent slips into pseudo-prairie and the urgent gallop of the music shares a bloodline with western standard “Ghost Riders In The Sky”. And more still, it’s a love song – a haunted, desperate love song. As the dead beloved’s vocals ring out high and clear Leyton’s own replies become more crazed – “Yes I’ll always remember – till the day I die I’ll hear her cry!”. Meek’s use of echo here is perfect – Leyton’s voice has a tint of it but the dead woman’s words are sharp and true; out on these moors we have slipped more than halfway into the beyond and it’s the living who sound muffled and eerie.

Gothic, western, romance – a pulp trinity, and “Johnny Remember Me” is on this list because the British love a melodrama. The best melodrama is played with an intensity which dares you, snarling, to take it lightly. The best melodrama is also often a little camp. Leyton doesn’t let his audience down – as he rips through those wonderful opening lines you can almost hear his nostrils flare. By the end of the song, as his spectral lover keeps calling he sounds genuinely doomstruck. A rich treat and a remarkable record.

Nine Unarguable Reasons why Synchronised Swimming is the Only True Olympic Sport

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Nine Unarguable Reasons why Synchronised Swimming is the Only True Olympic Sport

(as told to mark s by his top pal dr risk*) (and glossed a bit but NOT MUCH!!)

1. Dr Risk – who is three-quarters sea otter btw – wz captain of her college Synchro team
2. She calls it “Synchro” = bcz it is the Techno of sport!!!
3. It requires the judges to MAKE JUDGMENTS instead of looking at a stupid stopwatch or counting on their fingers = it dispenses with the tyranny of the ordinal over the cardinal HURRAH!! (what kind of a “sport” are the hundred metres or the marathon?) (don’t get me even STARTED on how many ways races are lame) (except possibly plant-pot races) (*struggles not to get started*)
4. At the climactic point of one of the events Dr Risk captained back in the day, an “audience member” – viz actually the captain of the male waterpolo team in disguise – was seized from the audience, dragged into the pool, stripped and “drowned” (ie kept underwater w/o breathing until no one present not already in on the surprise believed he could still be alive); then raised to the surface in a moving busby berkley-esque pieta. All this – says Dr Risk – is entirely within the framework of Syncho’s OFFICIAL possibilities. If only the sport as played at international level weren’t ruled by corporate sponsors and frightened rockist politics…
5. …viz in 1996, for the Atlanta Olympics, the first time the team Synchro event was included, the French team – very highly regarded and generally expected to win – were banned, by their own sports minister, Guy Drut, from performing the routine they had chosen and worked on, which contrasted the exciting style and ugly reality of Nazism: because it risked “being misinterpreted” (ie it risks the judges having to MAKE JUDGMENTS!!); and also apparently because there were fears that it would BRING SYNCHRO INTO DISREPUTE!! (!) (!!)
6. As Dr Risk points out, Olympic coverage does not have a good record rejecting the Leni Reifenstahl swagger. Well here’s a sport which – of necessity – includes intense formation discipline and a shedload of buffed fit bodies, plus (out of its own hundred-year history) a significant element of creative scene-making. It demands technique, stamina, a gift for pattern-making and dramatic spectacle – ie an awareness form-as-content and content-as-form – and almost inevitably (if presently somewhat invisibly) involves intensities of sexuality, strength vs grace, passion vs calculation, ritual vs invention, intelligence vs instinct…
7. Hence ie ==> it’s already wide open for:
i. routines which expand to expose the commercialisation, trivialisation, routinisation and general manipulative-spectacular degradation of sport (and indeed life) as a whole;
ii. acts of intervention which turn the tables on the judges;
iii. fourth-wall-busting** coups de theatres so potentially startling and exciting and unexpected that, by being marked low or banned or deemed inappropriate, will allow/encourage we the audience – in judging the judgments of the judges etc – to confront the roots of our own cultural habits, prejudices and terrors
8. Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams
9. If we take the Olympian ideal seriously, says Dr Risk – on its origins as much as its revival – then isn’t Synchro actually nearly the ONLY sport which makes the cut? Or anyway it would be, if (as Dr Risk insists they ought for every possible reason to be) the swimmers were BUCK NAKED…

*(For some reason my informant requested this cognomen. Admittedly she uses it quite a lot elsewhere. Having experienced her idea of “getting you to the airport on time” I have to say she has earned it.)
**(Except unlike feeble old cinema or proscenium-arch theatre Synchro can bust ALL FOUR WALLS AT ONCE!!)

Question. Why, in the official Mayor Of London publicity…

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Question. Why, in the official Mayor Of London publicity, and London Authority bumpf is the ON in London a different colour (usually red) to the rest of the name. It is very simple and almost annoyingly arresting graphic because of it, BUT WHY?

(And why does this gif what I nicked off their site suddenly go all half hearted after ten seconds?)

FT Top 100 Films

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FT Top 100 Films
42: X-MEN

How do you turn a really successful, but really complex comic book series into a film. Its easy with Batman, Spider-Man or Superman as everyone knows what they do and to some extent why. But the messy, convoluted story of the X-Men, a bunch of guys with rather minor powers appearing in what seems like hundreds of comics at once. Oh there is this wishy washy idea that it is ALL ABOUT RACISM but beyond that, what is there to tag on to these characters. Except they all have really stupid costumes.

Well step one is get rid of the stupid costumes. Step two is to look at that origin again, and think literally. The X-Men were always based in a school, lets make it more like a school then, less of this constant fighting. Cherry pick your characters to the essential fan favourites (that would be Wolverine, Storm and Rogue* then) and a few that have really easy powers to do. And then make the best decision ever made in a superhero film. Make them a bit crap.

You watch Spider-Man and the origin sequence is nicely worked out. The spider, the wrestling, the tragedy. All nice and neat. Nowhere does it explain that the proportional strengths of a spider also give you some sort of magic tactical awareness, that makes you good at fighting. In X-Men, the hard guy – that would be your Wolverine – barely survives his fight with Mystique. In the second X-Men movie he equally gets his arse kicked by another gurl. Frankly it is by luck and risk taking at best that this team survives. And therin is the solution to the problem with superhero films, over competence. In X-Men everyone has powers, it is the status quo, so it is not really all that special. Some of those powers are really rubbish (long tongue and spitting like a toad. Um, lovely.) Short, sweet, something for the ladies (Hugh Jackman) and enough care over the package to make you think you would like to see this gang again. Which you do. One of the most successful applications of summer movie syndrome, I saw it three times in Mexico.

*A fan favouirte character whose powers are derivative of another characters in the Marvel Universe whos eown powers are themselves second hand and thus actually really difficult to reproduce in the X-Men films!

Harder Better Faster Stronger

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Harder Better Faster Stronger

WANTED! Songs with a thematic/lyrical/whatever connection to an Olympic sport – a specific sport please not just ‘sports’ or ‘the Olympics’.

Nothing totally obscure thanks.

If you are reading this at my work then i) don’t look at the comments box unless you want to cheat in the quiz. ii) this post is being written by a robot Tom, the real one is busy doing his job.

Beer Barbie

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Beer Barbie

Not the latest clumsy attempt by CAMRA to get women into real ale, but the official (I think) Oktoberfest Barbie doll – story here

So David Mamet thinks audience research is rubbish

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So David Mamet thinks audience research is rubbish. Pity. Maybe his most recent film would have been improved if he had done the scantest peice of research. F’rinstance the audience no longer considers Val Kilmer to be a leading man, especially now he has gone to fat. Furthermore said audience certainly do not consider him to be any good.

Spartan is David Mamet’s version of 24. And it is a great pity that the plot at least was not stolen for an episode of that show. Because its plot: daughter of the President is kidnapped and they have a weekend before the press find out to get her back, is a doozy. As are the plot twists. The problem is, the characters and the dialogue is terrible. Really, really bad. So bad that it draws attention to itself and actually distracts you what should be an effective if small thriller.

This is David Mamet in 2004. Like Heist, his last piece of macho bullshit plot twistery, there is little in this film to warm to. Mamet is a very good plot writer, but his ear for dialogue is almost complete self parody these days. Not that when he wanders away from macho ares he is much better, State And Main was on the whole lacklustre. It is a pity because in Spartan there is easy the best series of 24 trying to get out. But he fits six twists into an hour and a half and garnishes with squinty eyed lines like “You wanted to go through the looking glass. How was it? Was it more fun than miniature golf?”.

Still, according to IMDB, he has signed on to make a Will Ferrell film: Joan Of Bark: The Dog That Saved France, so its not all bad news.

Bistrotheque

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Bistrotheque

No really, that’s its name. Used to be a clothing factory in Bethnal Green. Still looks like a clothing factory too. Cross the Regent’s Canal heading away from Hackney and swing a left down a side street with a Jasmine Allen lurking at the end. Pass the Thai boxing gym and cross over. There’s a bin outside. Up some stairs, through the kitchen and you’re there, new restaurant.

Right, poor punning, non-location, no advertising. So why was it busy yesterday lunch-time? I think a combination of tasty lunches, reasonable prices and bright service. With these things in place, you forget you’re eating lunch in a clothing factory with a daft name.

Menu is split into daily specials, mains and sides, a French influence in several dishes (I like to think the concept of the name preceeded the cooking). I had the vegetarian tart with a side of new potatoes. The sauce (mushroom and white wine draped over crumbling pastry) left a fizz on the tongue lasting into the evening. The wine list was wide ranging, if unadventurous and the bottles of mineral water, huge.

The restaurant (and separate downstairs bar) trade on their inauspicious location, offering irreverent directions and bypassing traditional marketing. Wednesday night is set aside for Transvestite Lip Synchronicity. ’500 cash prize. The Sunday afternoon crowd wore clothes that seemed to fit other people. I guess they were artists. The skinhead in the scarf and orange cotton trousers spent the whole time saying (loudly) how wonderful Bethnal Green was, as if every street had a warehouse converted into a minimalist restaurant. Taxi for Hoxton tosser.

Bethnal Green isn’t known for modern cuisine and perhaps it never will be. It’s there though, shy behind the factory doors. If you can find it.

Will Smith is on the radio

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Will Smith is on the radio which reminds me of an urgent question: where is the I, Robot song? The Rules Of Entertainment clearly state that all Will Smith blockbusters – except the ‘serious acting’ ones like Ali – must come with a low-quality yet horribly catchy pop-rap hit from ‘Big Willie’. But I, Robot lacks such a promo track. Either this is because the film is meant to be a serious one – plainly nonsense – or because the record company suppressed the record for quality/shame reasons. Our thorough investigations have revealed that this latter is pretty much the truth. Will Smith did indeed record a track, based on a Kraftwerk sample and called “I R a Robot”. This track was couriered to Dusseldorf for approval, but shortly after hearing it Ralf Hutter suffered a mysterious Greek-style ‘cycle accident’ which left his ears “useless” for long enough that the promotional cycle had moved on and the song remains unreleased. Look for it as a DVD Easter Egg.

Who says there is nothing new in this world?

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Who says there is nothing new in this world? Who says the internet has finally failed in its mission to occasionally surprise one. I give you EIGHTIES POP TAROT CARDS. The reasoning behind the various choices to represent their cards show a favouring for eighties electro artists. That said the choice and reason for The Heirophant is is surprisingly perspicacious.

“Howard Jones is the Hierophant, an embodiment of spirituality, the Word made flesh. He pursues knowledge, understanding, world views, and faith, but he does these things in a fairly mild and conventional manner (hairstyles notwithstanding). Face it, didn’t your mom love Howard at least as much as you did? Did anybody ever get grounded for listening to “Human’s Lib”?”