Posts from 5th April 2005

Apr 05

Poptimism In Space (Slight Return)

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Poptimism In Space (Slight Return)

(Spoilers for Dr Who Episode 2)

In episode 2 of Dr Who the character Lady Cassandra proudly displays an “iPod” which turns out to be a vinyl jukebox. It plays “Toxic” by Britney and this has raised some fannish eyebrows. Obviously at NYLPM we are happy to accept that “Toxic” will be remembered for 5 billion years as a “classic ballad”. But has it ever been released on jukebox-friendly 7″ vinyl? The answer is no. A-ha, Russell T Davies, you have been found out! But wait – there are all sorts of reasonable explanations for this ‘continuity glitch’.

i) 5 billion years is plenty of time for a re-issue.
ii) or a very faithful cover version.
iii) by an alien!
iv) the jukebox plays CDs as well as vinyl (we only see the vinyl for “Tainted Love”, after all)
v) Lady Cassandra has been gypped and the jukebox isn’t even really playing anything but instead is drawing its sounds by telepathy from the memories of the assembled (and the ‘tainted love’ 7″ is, erm, a hologram)

“Toxic” was released on 12″ vinyl for DJs (proper DJs not us shonky lot) but that’s neither here nor there. I do wonder if there are any firms that will press MP3s (no questions asked guv) to jukebox-friendly vinyl in case you have a design hard-on for old models but want the contents to be a little bit more modern.


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There’s a song by Peaches called ‘Casanova’ on a bonus disc that came with some copies of her first album. The song is about Peaches and her (female) friend Mignon planning a threesome, in which the (male) third party is clearly going to take a passive/submissive role. Calling him the “Casanova” is therefore partly a joke at his expense – he’s not seducing them, in fact the lyrics even imply that he may be on the receiving end of penetration. But it would be foolish to think that Peaches is not aware of the fact that she’s offering certain male listeners a fantasy.

Anyway, I don’t know if Russell T Davies had ever heard the song*, but he clearly had similar ideas in mind when he was writing at least some of his Casanova. His great lover is hardly a great conqueror, instead most of the time Jacko Casanova** just stands there looking very pretty until someone conquers him. In fact he needs to be seduced not only to become a great lover but to be a functional human being at all: as a young boy, he’s mute and fragile until he’s initiated by a strapping (albeit also barely pubescent) girl. The next significant sexual encounter we are told about after that is when Jacko has been trying to court a blandly pretty lady and is instead set upon by her two ‘ugly’ sisters (a far more preferable fate). Now I’m not going to suggest that this is necessarily in and of itself subversive because a) we’re all bored of the word ‘subversive’ and b) the same thing tended to happen to Robin Asquith in the Confessions films, but it is interesting, as is the fact that these examples portray underage sexuality and heavily implied incest respectively in positive terms.

The one time Jacko does any active and successful pursuing is with Bellino***, who is supposedly a castrato. Jacko starts off all cocky and “I can tell she’s a girl unlike the rest of you fools”, but he’s then convinced that Bellino is a boy and forced to admit/realise that it doesn’t really matter, he still totally would. Once he’s accepted this, there’s a great shot of Tennant running towards us (RTD is totally obsessed with shots of people running), light glancing off the waters of Venice behind him as he dizzily rushes towards an unknown sexual future. Only when he’s accepted B as male is he allowed to see B as female (her cock is detachable, giving rise to the best line: “mine doesn’t do that…”). Blah blah gender theory, drag, blah blah fairytale transformations, yada yada Shakespeare – there is room here to complain that it would have been far braver to go the other way in the end and have Bellino really be a castrato (it is a bit “phew, thank God for that!”). But overall I think RTD probably struck the right note, in terms of bringing in what one might call a queer sensibility whilst keeping Jacko basically heterosexual (I almost suspect that RTD might have set himself that constraint, almost as a formalistic challenge).

Of course all of the above would be a bit irrelevant if the lines weren’t great and the look of the whole thing wasn’t lush and shiny and wonderful. My only worry is that the storyline in which Jacko pursues the not-feisty-enough Henriette**** (who is married to evil ReplacementPoshGitFromSpooks) could be much more conventional and boring.

*The other obvious pop comparison for this show is Pulp’s ‘I Spy’, since Davies positions Casanova’s serial shagging as a form of class war – the bit of rough cuckolding nasty posh men – except he’s not that rough at all, he’s yr archetypal mildly effeminate working class dandy, faking it until he makes it, which makes this comparison even more accurate, yay!

**David Tennant, who given the chance will be the best Doctor Who ever.

***Nina Sosanya, finally in something good after somehow managing to leave a positive impression in several people’s minds whilst being in things like Teachers, Nathan Barley, and Love Actually.

****Door from Neverwhere who somewhat disturbingly has not aged, maybe she struck some kind of deal with Teh Endless.

Day 30: Philadelphia Freedom AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

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Day 30: Philadelphia Freedom

Oh the vagaries of the law. Apparently landing a giant alien spacehopper in the middle of Philadelphia is against a number of local ordinances and state statues. Really: these colonials have got to get a grip. I understand that chewing gum in Main Street in Kansas is illegal and a man cannot marry his own Ox in New Mexico. All well and good, but what a waste of legislative power, when they could be flinging gangsta rappers into prison and outlawing the playing of any stringed instrument.

So I and my idiot manservant De Savvary found ourselves bang up. Again, for me. Really this has to stop. And luckily what with Crispian being able to vouch for me I was able to get in touch with the bulk of my money. The bulk that was not spent buying gin to make an old Saturn V rocket fly to the moon. Yes, the charges were unfortunate:

Being a witch
Stealing clothes from a washing line
Invading a private vehicle
Being smuggled across numerous state line
Stealing a Saturn V rocket and leaving it on the moon
And being drunk in possession of an alien spacehopper type craft.

Frankly I was surprised we got off at all. Luckily all I had to do was explain the situation to a nice man from the government called Agent Turner who came to visit us and he let us go. Well he said he would give us a lift to a special secret base where they would help clean us up, but it all went swimmingly. He did seem awfully interested in our adventures on the moon, but I suppose it is interesting. I do wish he would take his sunglasses off when he was indoors. It reminded me too much of Ray Charles, which I foound a bit disconcerting. But he was such a nice man I should cut him some slack. Crispian seemed concerned about some sort of government conspiracy, but since when did I listen to that half-wit?

ELTON JOHN – Philadelphia Freedom

Philadelphia is where the American leg of Live Aid was staged. It is also the name of a tasteless soft cheese. It is also in the title of an Elton John song.


That all these bad things coincide in Philly just goes to show what a horrific place it is. Need I mention the dread phrase Philly Soul? A kind of soul music which put the horns high in the mix to try and convince people that something decent was going on underneath. Of course it was worthless Stax Tat, and exactly the kind of thing that Elton and Bernie were hitching their wagon to in Philadelphia Freedom. Let me just say that PF contains one of the most telling lyrics of Bernie Taupin’s career, namely:
“The less I say the more my work gets done”.

Well, as we know Elton and Bernie’s work has been intensely scrutinized on this site to prove that it really, really is trash. In particular that an average Bernie Taupin lyric is mainly meaningless words strung together for very little point and purpose. It seems that Taupin has come to the realisation halfway through Philadelphia Freedom, which incidentally casts Elton as a Philly native rather than a kid from the unfashionable and unpleasant London suburb of Watford. If I had my way, he would have been banged up as soon as he enter Philadelphia: and in the hateful words of George Michael – I don’t want his Freedom.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 288 views


A usual NIMBY story from the Ham & High, which is made remarkable by the headline which suggests some James Bond villain with an enlarging / shrinking ray.
“Look London, I have made the largest pub in the world using my ray, but if you do not pay me one million dollars I shall shrink the whole of Ibiza (including Manumission) into the size of a matchbox!”

Interestingly the brewery in question is Sam Smith’s, so someone should tell them that they will have no fear of football fans or loud music…

(I found this whilst looking for the story “Holloway Pub Bans Fun” which I have seen on a few flyposters.)

Memories of 1997

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I lived above the sandy chines of Bournemouth and election eve was sunny. John Major had visited the south coast about a week before. He stood on a soapbox that was no longer an endearing quirk and tried to speak. I couldn’t hear him, everyone was chanting “six more days, six more days” and he gave up. In the dying days of the Conservative administration, British politics was practically theatre.

All over the country the Tories were being upstaged by these Labour guys in suits and ties and modern rhetoric. The Labour stereotype was no more, despite the Daily Mail’s insistence that an iron curtain would fall across the Cotswolds. They looked like people you knew at work. What did they stand for? Can’t really remember. Tough on education and the causes of education? Something like that. The point is, they weren’t the Tories and that was enough in 1997.

The Government were a shambles, lurching from scandal to crisis. The Sun withdrew its traditional support, seeing more readership potential in their love children. And there were plenty of those. The old guard on the right hated Europe because (and I paraphrase, but only slightly), garlic-eating foreigners lived there. This wasn’t John Major’s idea of politics; no satisfying thud of leather on willow and the ripple of applause. The day after the election he was photographed at Lords, a place he had longed to be for some months.

I started the evening with a bottle of white wine and drank it from a pint glass (I wasn’t sure if I was new or old Labour). Exit polls put the result in the bag and the word landslide bounced around the TV studio. You could feel the fizz of excitement when the results began to trickle through. I remember my girlfriend coming home after a handful of seats had declared and it was something like 3-2 to the Tories. “Oh no” she said, but it was OK, these were the very safest Tory seats with names like ‘Upper-Tweed-on-the-Wold’ and even they were close.

After midnight, came a period of about forty minutes when the Conservatives didn’t win a single seat. Election analysts were whirling their arms around liked mashed-up nutters fronting an army of red stick figures. No MP’s in Wales & Scotland, half the cabinet wiped out, incredible swings in the safest of seats. I think Neil Hamilton was my favourite because he was such a cock. I must admit I find his wife a little attractive, but that’s my problem and I’ll deal with it. Portillo too, of course. I was jumping up and down at this point and drinking Archers straight from the bottle. He was the smarmiest, the oiliest, the embodiment of the Class of ’97 Tories and he was beaten by the meekest man. I felt like I was on the terraces. England 4 Holland 1 was only a year ago and the sensation was similar.

Bournemouth was no barometer of public opinion and re-elected a Conservative. Neat Archers gives you a spanking hangover.

What if the Queen says NO?

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This question posed by an American in our office. Tony Blair will today go to the Queen and ask her to dissolve, etc etc. Of course this is a ‘formality’. “There would be a constitutional crisis,” I replied rather lamely. I suggested that emergency legislation would remove the formality PDQ, but I have no idea if this is the correct answer or not. For all I know Tony would nut the Queen and walk off laughing.

When I sat down to write this entry I was a bit embarrassed – this is one more weird constitutional accretion that comes from having a residual monarchy. But actually you do need some way of formalising important things like calling an election and forming a government, and having it based on a particular conversation between two people seems a less loophole-baiting method than some.

Oh how my memory diminishes it. The Rage In Placid Lake

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Oh how my memory diminishes it. The Rage In Placid Lake was an admirably quirky little Australian comedy, while I watched it. Now, a few days later, I cannot help but attach phrases like: “low ambition”, “sketchily drawn” and “cliche heavy” on to its bones. This is massively unfair. For all its low budget, unknown cast and simple A – B plotting, I laughed an awful lot. The idea (Placid Lake is the son of hippy, self-obsessed parents so to rebel he becomes an insurance salesman) is probably more suitable for a sketch than a film, but Ben Lee brings a real likeability to the lead. In particular it touches on the self destructive urge in many bullied people: sure we get bullied because we are small, funny looking whatever. But we can also make it worse for ourselves by taking the piss back and attempting some kind of intellectual retribution.

That said, all the so called teenage cast do not convince, Aussie pop star Lee is twenty seven and looks it. So forget the reviews that say it is not as sharp as it should be, it is as sharp as it is. And it is nice to see Miranda Richardson doing comedy again.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 515 views


And what did I drink? Kronenburg Blanc.

Not an easy beer to find, the White Beer from the otherwise relatively bland Kronenburg brewery. The only place I have ever seen it is at the Lord John Russell on Marchmont Street. Last Friday was a sunny day and we supped by the window (and unfortunately the toilets, see later). The drink itself is a zingy white beer, with very citrusy overtones, as suggested by a really rather poncey glass which either says “citrus” or “fruity”. I would put this citrus in the realms of grapefruit, but this may have been the overwhelming tang of the urinal cakes altering the sense data.

What did it do to me: I did not feel all that drunk at the end of the night, it being a rich, strong beer I drunk it quite slowly sitting out a few rounds. It did make me feisty though and I got several people in trouble and potentially insulted a few others (apologies to all, it was the white beer). I’d drink it again but perhaps not all night. From a mood altering point of view Kronenburg Blanc did nothing to change a generally sunny mood.

Murmurs 1: Wiley = Kylie

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Murmurs 1: Wiley = Kylie

As usual I’m probably the last person on earth to hear the MP3 that’s floating around of Lethal B dissing Wiley over ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ (“merk him with his own rhythm”). Needless to say it sounds fantastic, high NRG pop turning out to be just as appropriate a backing for the attention-deficit hyper-velocity schoolyard slang-slinging as anything more, ahem, grimey. Probably best heard in the context of this revealing interview in which Lethal stresses “the beef is real but professional still”. The whole point of the slur associating Wiley with Kylie is an attack made on ‘rockist’ grounds — “I’m an artist, you’re just a rave MC”. But the ultra-kinetic aesthetic of the track, the possibility of hearing the backing track as something other than dissonance, interposes to suggest that a ‘real’ grudge is always going to depend on its ‘professional’ context… “it’s all hype, we’re both business men”. I understand ‘pop’ to be the something like the principle of publicity which makes possible the release of a signal in the first place. The attempt to keep it real is always the necessary step to restrict or define the ‘proper’ communication of the signal, to separate it from the background noise: just as essential if I want to put my point across effectively to a reader as if I want to sell certain types of record to a particular audience. There’s no question of doing without the real, just as there’s no such thing as pure ‘pop’, no unmediated listening. But just as the signal can always be just noise if we’re not willing or able to hear it, so the reality effect will always be an epiphenomenon of the energies which make it possible but against which it has to fight for its survival. To hear Lethal’s tracks as pop, as more Kylie than Wiley, is not to reject their ‘contexts’ but to expose a more fundamental communicative ‘ground’ (exposure, errancy), but one which disperses the possibility of ranking one signal as more fundamental (‘realer’) than another.


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(This post continues from Do You See?)

Regardless of the follies of both Mysteries From Beyond Earth and Overlords of the UFO, both were perfect examples of the height — in the USA, at least — of the second wave of UFO/alien fascination, which since World War II has occurred/recurred in a general twenty year pattern in terms of widespread public attention. The first can be said to be the late forties and fifties, the third was the nineties, and both had their cultural touchstones (for instance, The Day The Earth Stood Still in the earlier decades, The X-Files in the latter). But the seventies era was the one that I grew up in and hit me the most, whether it was watching Close Encounters on cable or Project: UFO on NBC or whatever else might have come along.

Books, too, cheap paperbacks attempting to explain in thoughtful detail about how to track UFOs, classifying sightings, explaining the whole ‘close encounters’ rationale, talking about past and recent cases. Loved ’em all, from Scholastic picture books to ones aimed for an older audience that I struggled through as I could (I mean, I was a great reader from a young age but I won’t pretend to have been able to digest it all!). There were earnest discussions with school friends, questions to my parents. I was surely convinced that I had even seen a UFO once from my front window when in third grade, though that could only have been a plane arcing overhead in the night — still, like the man says, I want to believe, or at least wanted to.

So I was much more J. Allen Hynek (given a brief though prominent cameo at the end of Close Encounters, appropriately enough) than James Oberg in my belief, though at the time I read their contrasting essays in subsequent issues of Odyssey, the wonderful late seventies/early eighties kids’ spinoff of the venerable Astronomy magazine, with what I hoped was due care. This was a lie — I was convinced Hynek was right and therefore Oberg was a goof — but at least I tried.

Quite when I let go an active belief in UFO visits and turned into more of a general skeptic I don’t know — it must have been after Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series, though, combined with the fact that I was always more interested in the general scope of the solar system, galaxy and universe than I was in UFOs straight up. At this point personally I’d love to think that there are galactic civilizations out there, and that there’s half a chance we might yet get along with them should we ever meet, but it’s more wish-fulfillment on my part rather than active belief — the concerns of this world, while by default more mundane than celestial, are overarching, and frankly we make a sorry species in many instances. Also, the last guy who I knew that was convinced he had met aliens later ended up ripping me off to the tune of $600 due to him not being able to pay rent. And people wonder why I live alone now.