Posts from 6th September 2004

Sep 04

I’m currently reading that Planet Simpson book

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 430 views

I’m currently reading that Planet Simpson book that purports to be an intelligent look at The Simpsons. Methinks it doth purport too much. For tis – in part at least – a book both created by and created about the ‘slacker’, ‘grunge’ phenomenon. It gets many things wrong, most often The Simpsons. But, accidentally mostly, it nineinchnails that generation.

There are some obvious markers: Douglas Coupland doing the intro; the reliance on altrock for its references and – worse – its political outlook and aesthetic approach; a whole chapter devoted to the idea as Bart as Kurt (or thereabouts).

In the book more generally and in this chapter especially, you get a wonderful opportunity to speculate about the generation one before mine. In particular, it made me think about grunge’s relationship to ‘the sixties’ and aged rockism. Apparently, the cover of Rolling Stone once called Seattle ‘the new Liverpool’. But, with that as the most obvious starting point, too what extent did grunge depend on the sixties? To what extent was its ‘apathy’/’nihilism’ a reaction to the apparent death of sixties ideals or, more specifically, the death of sixties rock stars? Or, more probably, to what extent did its media success depend on Wenner and his generation happily picking up on something *seeming* to cry with every mumbled vocal ‘things aint what they used to be’, ‘rock’s lost its soul’ etc etc etc. Most obviously, I’m thinking of that grunge-era Radiohead lyric that talks about wishing it was the sixties. In fact, that quote opens the book, just after the author talks about playing Soundgarden to his ‘hip’ college town bar. The whole enterprise positively buzzes with that whole generation and, accidentally again, poses some interesting questions. Coincidentally, in a small Liverpool listings magazine I noticed today that there is a ‘Sub Pop revival’. As Wenner’s boomer generation did before it, the slackers are evidently becoming less slackerish. Even more than it would anyway, the book becomes more and more sociological evidence and less and less postmodern analysis.

And I love it.

TV Poker is pretty compulsive to watch

TMFDPost a comment • 1,154 views

TV Poker is pretty compulsive to watch, but no more so than when E-List American celebs are playing. Challenge TV shows a World Poker Tour celeb spesh from probably 2002, with minor movie stars like Jennifer Tilly and James Woods (okay, Woods isn’t minor, but he does not get the cards in this game). But what can we glean from this game of poker? That er’s Ming Na is a pretty jammie customer. That Tilly has a rock solid poker face. And that Daniel Baldwin, possibly the worst of the Baldwin brothers, is a horrific poker bully.

Not only is he fat, wearing a terrible shirt and sweating like a pig, he is pretending to be drunk like only an actual drunk can. He monsters the hands, he intimidates the girls, he calls James Woods by some ridiculous nickname. And for a terrifying period he does rather well – by pure bully power. Which makes it all the more wonderful when he gets completely wiped off the board by a pair of deuces.

One of the interesting thing about this series of televised poker is that the players, on the whole, are really not very good. Therefore all the errors of beginner play (over confidence, transparent bluffing, pointless bravura raises) can be seen. It also really stands out when a good player turns up (Mimi Rogers in the second show I saw was cool as a cucumber and played the odds perfectly). Unfortunately though the show destroys some of the suspense by revealing the players hands too early. It is sometimes nice to play along, at least up to the river card, to see if you can read the players too.

Poker is not a game where moral superiority wins the day. But equally it is not a game that favours the bully in the long term. By all means monster the odd hand, but have some respect for your opponents, it’s a social game. The rest of the punters were having a good time. For Daniel Baldwin it was a matter of life or death. Career wise it probably was, surely no casting director having seen this would touch this bouzer loser with a bargepole.

How to make a nu-Far Eastern Horror movie

Do You SeePost a comment • 428 views

How to make a nu-Far Eastern Horror movie (based on Phone, and all the other Tartan Asia Extreme movies that keep popping up).

a) Lots of spooky black hair (cf Ring/Phone)
b) Scary evil kid (cf Phone, Ju-on, Ring)
c) Ghosts whose reason for killing people is never made clear (Ring, Ju-on, Dark Water)
d) Spooky phones (Phone, Ring)
e) Spooky lifts (Dark Water, Phone)
f) Televisual/computer equipment that keeps working after unplugged (Ring, Phone)
g) Sweet heroine – usually a journalist (Ring, Phone)
h) Plots which don’t quite make complete sense (all of em).

Phone was Ring mixed with Stir Of Echoes, and has one boffo great idea in amongst its cliche defining sequences. The boffo idea is a girl being possessed by the spirit of her fathers dead mistress. there is something supremely chilling about a young girl coming on to her father in a sexually precotious way. Unfortunately Phone drops this two thirds of the way through in favour of lengthy exposition (which only illustrates how little sense the film makes). But now the genre is well defined, Idon’t really want to see another one going through the motions. Less mobiles more scary.


Do You SeePost a comment • 995 views

FT Top 100 Films

SteveM says:

It’s the most ambitious pop cartoon since ‘Yellow Submarine’. But I5555’s appeal may have been dented by a two-and-a-half-year release gap between the ‘soundtrack’ (itself of course a stand-alone success full of acclaimed elect-i-ronic popcraft) and the actual film. ‘Discovery’ received mixed reviews at the time though, and the delayed promos received relatively minor rotation on the music video channels. When details of Daft Punk’s plans for an accompanying anime feature film directed by genre legend Leiji Matsumoto emerged, the reaction was split between a sense of joyful expectancy and a feeling that the plot had been well and truly lost.

In fact the plot was already there in ‘Discovery’ – the story conceived and mapped out in sound, simply awaiting the addition of the visual. This presented an interesting challenge to the makers, matching images with audio not the other way round. Potential banana skins were many: would Discovery be compromised musically by a fixed association with something as intangible as a then non-existent movie? Would a story ‘based on’ a mostly instrumental record make any sense? Fortunately Daft Punk’s profile, status, Gallic arrogance and supportive record company meant that I5555 wouldn’t be a career killer. If they’d survived the robot helmets they could handle some anime aliens.

When you see the film it’s difficult to not get that sense of a long-cherished dream having been realised, an epic project having been completed, an objective reached. You can feel the love basically. The attention to detail in replicating the quirkiness and eccentricity of 1970s Japanese animation (Gatchaman and so on) rather than opting for newer CGI-based techniques. The pleasant synchronicity of sound and vision. The emotional resonance of a timeless story of love, conflict, and escape. The quintessential calm/storm/calm dynamic being retold and played out before your eyes in this style, so comforting and familiar. Because you probably dreamed the same dream when you were young. YOU flew that guitar-shaped spacecraft. YOU danced with that cosmic girl in zero-g awe. YOU rocked full capacity stadia from here to another dimension. Then YOU woke up, grew up and got a job. To their eternal credit Thomas and Guy-Man didn’t.

Maybe there is no point in the film where you feel that you’re seeing something new (I’ve ALWAYS suspected that most top pop stars are in fact aliens). But then there is no point in the film where the sense of celebratory, euphoric, childhood nostalgia becomes a problem. Even if you don’t like the music THAT much or find the whole thing self-indlugent and trite, you’d need a heart of stone to not find certain scenes a treat (especially the end scene). And you will surely end up admiring the charm and audacity of a duo bold enough to carry out their plans with such good-natured conviction, while still keeping an admirable mystique.

Pete Baran is back from holiday but, y’know, it’s his birthday today, he deserves a day off…

Organised Fun

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 455 views

Organised Fun: my invisibility on here today is down to having to work. Hardly news, but the work in question is organising a charity event tonight at my company, a ‘pub olympics’ involving various games and a quiz, which I’m setting. This is my first time setting and running a quiz, so I’m rather nervous. Are the questions too hard? Too easy? Too boring? Will it take too long? Having a theme helps, of course – keeps you focused. And by the time the quiz actually starts the beer will have been flowing for a good couple of hours. But even so, nerves, nerves. Wish me luck, and normal FT service will resume tomorrow, with the questions from the quiz (if anyone’s interested).

(And watch NYLPM for further exciting quiz-based announcements…)


Proven By SciencePost a comment • 373 views

Seen on TV this weekend – an advert for the National Lottery which claims your chances of winning increase 100% if you buy a ticket.


News feed: Musicians get instruments stolen

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 549 views

News feed: Musicians get instruments stolen

Stolen, but note, not destroyed. They all have the “Distinctive” Scottish Chamber Orchestra sticker on the side, if you do stumble across a cello and apicolo in a ditch. Distinctive like a turd, I would much prefer the sticker “Scottish Gas Chamber Orchestra”. It has a better ring to it.

Spiderman Reviews Crayons

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 275 views

Spiderman Reviews Crayons: like the elephant art, this could have been made for the Wedge.

B-Movies were great weren’t they?

Do You SeePost a comment • 326 views

B-Movies were great weren’t they? Received wisdom suggests that because B-Movies were cheap, throwaway and not studio priorities, this allowed the directors paradoxically more power over their content. B-movies, the darlings of the Cahiers De Cinema set were where the true spirit of Hollywood lived, where the underbelly of US politics was criticised and artistry reigned supreme. All because a few people quite liked (what they saw in) The Invasion of The Body Snatchers.

It’s a bit of an indie arguement. If something is a bit rubbish, it’s a bit more real. And it is an argument which has relocated itself in film to the so called independent film. But the B-movie was not independent, and neither are a lot of the indies knocking around these days. What we should really be looking at is the studio schlock. The straight to video, straight to TV movie channels (who really need premieres) is the home of the latter day B-movie. But since this stuff is never heralded, never fanfared, never seen in the cinema – it is ignored.

I recently saw a British revenge thriller called The Fourth Angel. Typical B-movie stuff. Jeremy Irons plays and Economist journo whose family is killed in a terrorist atrocity, and he is out for justice. On his side is his spy mate Charlotte Rampling, his boss Timothy West and (after wrangling) CIA guy Forest Whittaker. Against him is preppy US State department guy Jason Preistly. Its an OK cast, a solid generic plot (posh mans Death Wish) and entertains for its ninety minutes. And as an unloved B-movie I can find hidden genius in it? Hidden ideas about the political situation (well, like all current films it blames the US for everything). Not really. But it was the best joined up London film I had seen in ages. All the corners they went round were correct, it had some nice unseen late night market shots and St Pancras always looks great.

It is a B-movie and I guess the cast knew it. But what a cast, what a waste? Nah, someone will reclaim this for posterity, just not me. I don’t do films that quote Revelations, and whilst it might be interesting for what it obliquely says about global politics, that will only be actually interesting in twenty years time. At the moment, we can use the news.


Blog 7Post a comment • 212 views

COMPLIMENTARO!!! Travel is about the people, the places, the sites ? but I my favourite bit is ver nosh. Therefore when I think about the best meal I have ever eaten, I think about a place on my travels. The Hotel Ranuka in Columbo did the finest Sri Lankan Curries. The swordfish in the Nightingale restaurant in early eighties Malta. But my favourite meal on my travels is in a restaurant I don’t even know the name of in Mexico City.

Like all really good “good meals” it has a story attached. Possibly the food was not the finest I have eaten. But after a long day in the Anthropological Museum we drifted towards our cheap hotel, in search of beer. One of my travelling companions (let?s call her Richeal) was leaving that night, eight o’clock flight. It was four, so we wanted a final beer or two to say goodbye. We found a nice, if empty bar, upstairs around the corner from our hotel. It looked a bit posh and we probably would not have stayed except they looked keen on our custom and we had just gone up the stairs.

So we ordered three beers. And three beers, in nicely ice frosted glasses came. Along with three plates of chorizo in red wine. We were not sure on the Mexican tapas situation, and were not minted. The phrase “Complimentario” was said which might have meant “for your gringo impudence we will charge you double” but embaressment won the day again and the chorizo was damn tasty. The beer and sausage went down a treat.

So we ordered three more beers. We had about an hour and a half to kill before Richeal HAD TO GO. The three beers came. With three bowls of fish soup. Yes, I know Mexico City is landlocked and in the clouds, but the soup did look nice. Yet again though it had not been ordered and this was quite a posh place. When we came in we wondered about the price of beer. “Complimentaro” was heard again and the waiter looked amazingly pleased with himself. In the manner of someone fleecing punters out of all their pesos. What the hell thought we, our Spanish may be lousy, but we can argue, and it was Richeal last night. Soup and beer slurped accordingly.

So we ordered three more beers. Forty minutes before HAD TO GO time. Beers come. With three plates of fried fish. Now the wallet lathering effects of two beers apiece made us rich like kings. Who cares if “Complimentaro” meant they were going to own our immortal souls for eternity. The fish had to be eaten. It was eaten, beer was drunk and Richeal wondered if
a) her 100 pesos would be enough for the drinks, food and the cab
b) She could perhaps postpone her flight for more food’n’drink

What to do? Beer, food, we did not care what it cost. We ordered three more beers as Richeal fussed about getting a cab from the restaurant, via a two minute, three man packing spree in the hotel. Restaurant obliged. When she asked to pay for the call they said “Complimentaro”. We wondered if it was the name of their tribe. Three more beers. No food, we almost sigh with joy that we will not have to do the odd haggling thing. We get the bill, fearing the worst.

Cost. Twelve beers. We pay quickly, leaving a large tip. We scarper to the cab hoping they did not notice the mistake. Cab drive speaks English. We ask him what “Complimentaro” means. He says it is not a real word, but may it means complimentary. Richeal catches her flight, we spend three more days in Mexico City. And to my pauper’s shame, we did not return; for fear that they had made a mistake. So if you are in the Allende district, one block east of the Metro station, and you see some nice wooden stairs, you two might get four lovely courses for nothing.