Posts from 6th April 2005

6
Apr 05

“Eric, YOU’RE FIRED!”

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“Eric, YOU’RE FIRED!”, or The Dungeon Master’s Apprentice

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Think about it: a bunch of hapless chancers, likeable to varying and questionable degrees, find themselves trapped in an arcane world, strange and unfamiliar to wholesome ordinary folk, with its own arbitrary rules. They are made to jump through a series of hoops by an odd, often grumpy little man who has the power to send them home on a whim… Theoretically they are working for him and there is some kind of higher purpose, but really he’s just toying with them like a capricious child.

GLORIA GOES TO THE MOVIES:

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The Case Of The Dark Knight’s Returns

It was actually quite hard to connect the Poptimizer up to a DVD player, so instead we had to float one above it by a few feet (These images will convince no-one).

However to the case at hand. Which Batman is the Bestman. Is it day-glo a go go camp 1960’s Batman, is it Tim Burtons Box Officer swatting dark nonsense or Batman: The Animated Series with its art-deco cartoonery? I must admit from the comment level you either thought it was a foregone conclusion, or did not care. To which I saw fie and pish.

But let us let the Liberal Democrats of this three way battle concede first. For all the box office power of the Tim Burton Batman films, they really are pretty poor. Michael Keaton does a game job, but both films are not sure what to do with him. Fair enough, Batman is not a very realistic character. But he was not meant to be a humourless haunted rubber suit upstaged by his baddies.

Which leaves us with two: and the animated series, for all its overly serious art design, is actually quite good fun. It ran long enough for it to gain a loose limbed momentum and supporting cast of its own. It invented probably the best new villain in years in Harley Quinn, who was easily more interesting than her Joker beau. It even managed to do the whole Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing transition without turning Batman into a dick – something even the comics could not do. But it was only twenty minute cartoons on during Scratchy & Co.

And then Adam West and Burt Ward. Climbing up the side of buildings, meeting stars of the day and battling camp villains with a straight face. Apparently works on two levels, though it does work better for the kids. It invented the bombastic self aware narrator, justified the existence of colour television in one fell swoop and was fun. The comments money was on this due to it being the most POP. But never second guess the Poptimizer…

AND THE POPTIMIZER SAID:
Nothing more pop than the three minute pop song. Short, self-contained and sweet is the order of the day, and lovely production design is always icing on the cake. The 1960’s series gets silly and repetitive too quickly. The most fun is in coming across a nicely self contained, episode of Batman: The Animated Series. And the Poptimizer fancies Kevin Conroy’s voice too.

PUKKA’S SPELLCHECK HELL

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PUKKA’S SPELLCHECK HELL

Unfortunate spellcheck alternatives:
Pukka Pies = Pukes Pies.

THIS IS NOT TRUE, THEY ARE GOD’S OWN FOOD.

He prefers the Steak and Ambrosia pies, mind.

Sort it out Microsoft. Or some Unidentified Flying Pukka Pies might come and get you. It would be like Independence Day. But with Pies.

PUKKA PIE HALF HOUR

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 716 views

PUKKA PIE HALF HOUR

Just a note that the Pukka Pie, occasional alien invader and favourite football foodstuff, has made an appearance in pubs. Well one pub. The Lord John Russell (yes that pub) where it was on display in a nice little pie cabinet. My bar has done pies and pasties for years (the freebies at the end of the night often kept people hanging around) but we do Ginsters. Now I am aware the Pukka are looking at this market, I might chase it up.

Also, as I have done this twice in the last week, what is the etiquette of dipping crisps into other peoples gravy?

Pukka science here

PROPER SCIENTISTS

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PROPER SCIENTISTS

These days all sorts of Mickey Mouse pundits, psychologists and the like call themselves scientists. I even see people on Newsnight claiming to be scientists, brazenly sitting their in a suit and tie. It takes the Pukka Pies website to remind us what a proper scientist looks like. White coat, excess of reflex flasks, and lots of coloured liquids. Do you not feel safer knowing that this woman is in charge of quality control? Of course you do, because she is a PROPER SCIENTIST.

Day 31: Charleston AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

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Day 31: Charleston
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

Agent Turner turned out not exactly to be Mister Conversation. As soon as me and Crispian got in the black limousine with its darkened out windows he did not say a word. Just played with his gun whilst I bickered with Crispian about how exactly he was going to pay me back for his blowing all of my money on a spacerocket and gin: not even for drinking. Occasionally Agent Turner would get a funny little flashing device out and point it at us and look generally unhappy with the results.

“Hey, perhaps we were hit with cosmic radiation when we traveled from the moon,” Crispian said, excited. “We might get superpowers.”
“Well it has not improved your intelligence,” I said. Though truth be told I was a little bit worried by his suggestion, what if I developed acute super hearing, and was able to hear any random Anastacia song being played on a pub jukebox six miles away. Gaining some sort of indestructible death ray out of my eyes might just compensate, oustaring Nick Cave with such eyes would be a pleasure, but in general the cons outweighed the pros.

As we moved on into West Virginia I finally got the courage up to ask Agent Turner where we were actually going.
“Ahryuhfiddyone,” he said, with an accent which was uncomforfortably close to Johnny Cash’s (may his back-catalogue remain in peace).
It sounded like some sort of old native American town name, so I let it pass. However Crispian went as white as a Boy George’s foundation. After another hour of driving we stopped in Charleston for a toilet break, and while Turner wa sout of the car, Crispian told me the source of his agitation.
“Area 51.”
“What’s Area 51.”
“Top secret base where they do all the alien testing.”
“Do you know the meaning of the words top secret.”
“That’s not the point, they are almost certainly going to dissect us and brainscrub us and and-”
“Could they destroy any memory I ever had of music?”
“Possibly,” Crispian said. “But it would also destroy you personality.”
Hmm, this was tempting, Nevertheless I saw his point, and more importantly saw a small neighbourhood bar out the corner of my eye. So we made a run for it in downtown Charleston, stopping off only for a brief G&T.

JAMES P.JOHNSTON – The Charleston

I was a miner, I was a docker, I was a flapper girl between the wars – so the rubbish Billy Bragg song would go if it was accurate. Of course this was before the standardisation of spelling, when the long f was still used instead of S, so it is clear what Flapper really meant. Not so much a dance as a collection of syncopated spasms, The Charleston spread the world making public displays of epilepsy fashionable. In reality the Charleston was a spin-off of some clever working class skivvie who managed to convince some young socialites that nothing is more fun that taking some pep powder and cleaning the windows. This proto-Mr Miyagi managed to get posh people to clean all sorts of vertical objects, before the girls realised it was almost as much fun doing it in nightclubs wearing lampshades.

The flapper girls, such as Clara Bow, were also referd to as It Girls. Now I don’t know about your school, but we used to run away with anyone with “It”. In primary school because that was the game, in secondary school because they probably had VD. Indeed it is more than possible that the spasmodic jerking of the Charleston was merely some awful physical side effect of such free living.

Luckily the Charleston died as a fashionable dance as all the forearms of the girls involved fell off. Apparently it is difficult, but not impossible, to unscrew your arms at the elbow. Also Jazz came along and people realised that you did not need stupid big band dance numbers to take cocaine to: introspective saxophone numbers would do just as well. Like all bad things it was resurrected briefly in the 1990’s as Doop. Doopid more like.

Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards – 1992

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1992 was when I lost my political virginity. I can remember little of the 87 campaign, save for the post-poll Spitting Image. The lack of any discernible tension was exemplified by the finale to that show, a rendition of ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’ with Thatcher as the jack-booted singer. I didn’t get the Cabaret reference, being, as now, rather uncultured. I did think it poignant though, but missed the obvious point that it had been pre-recorded. There was no danger that it would fall flat on its face in the event of Labour actually winning. I also remember hearing the idea that Labour had won the campaign but lost the election, which sounded as daft and pointless as saying someone ran faster but finished second.

1992 was different. I felt like everything was coming together in my life. A-Levels were approaching, and the prospect of University. As Major was holding on to the last moment, there was no ‘will he, won’t he’ phony campaign; you knew it would by June. When Major went on April 9th, I was delighted. Even though there was a nagging fear that the removal of Thatcher had given them a chance, I was fully confident that we’d take them, and now, I knew when that day would be.

More than anything though, I’d be able to play my own part because the election was one day after my 18th birthday. I’d be able to vote, which given that I had no intention of smoking or riding a motorbike, and with sex something other teenagers did, voting was the rite of passage I’d been looking forward to all these years.

I lived in a rock-solid constituency, but college was in a key Tory marginal next door. I’d organised a debate between the two candidates at college earlier in the year, and gave the Labour candidate a call. As luck would have it, the campaign HQ was 10 minutes from my college, and served as the base for activity in 5 marginal seats in the immediate area. We’d finished the curriculum that Easter, so we had no classes during the campaign in favour of revision time. I spent most of my time at the HQ, calling people across constituencies and canvassing every night. The vibe was good. I wasn’t meeting Tories on the doorstep.

With some other friends, we were given tickets to the Sheffield Rally. It’s since gone down as the defining moment of Labour hubris. Kinnock’s ‘we’re alright!’ He’s since said that he knew then that Labour would lose and was trying to keep his chin up; that was overplayed and came out as embarrassing exuberance. He spoke magnificently, without notes or autocue, for over an hour. Barbara Castle was a warm-up speaker, and she too spoke without help aged 81. It was the first time I’d seen proper political oration, and sadly, it will probably be my last too. As we drove over the peak district back to Manchester, a poll on the radio said we were 10 points clear. Nothing was going to stop us now.

The day itself was, to my shame spent not getting the vote out, but processing it. I’d applied to be a poll clerk, and earned about ’80 for monitoring box LD in Heywood South ward from 7am until 10pm. As soon as it finished, I was met by a friend and we whizzed over to the Met Bar in Bury for the Bury North party, full of expectation. The exit poll was non-committal. Hung-Parliament. Hmm. Well, we thought, a coalition between Labour and the Libs. Basilson has since gone down in the popular mind as the moment it was clear the pendulum hadn’t swung, but I don’t remember it being like that at all.

The exit poll had caused doubt and the first results hadn’t shown the swing needed. Basildon prompted further doubt. I kept hoping beyond hope that things might change, but knew secretly that they wouldn’t. We’d been lied to, it seemed. Our result came in later: a tory majority of 7000 had been cut to 5000. Didn’t we do well!

The rest of the night blurred into a series of incidents, memories of which get poorer the more rum and coke I drank. Some Tories burst into the party at around 1am to sing ‘God Save the Queen’. We all cheered Don Foster’s victory over Chris Patton; the architect of our downfall was no more, and would suffer the indignity of a life in the diplomatic service. There was a row amongst the comrades when John Taylor failed to hold Cheltenham for the Tories after half his local party refused to work for a black candidate. One Labour member said it was a sad day for racial politics, but in the partisan atmosphere, there was more support for the argument that the only good tory was a defeated one.

Going home slumped in the back of my friend’s Volvo 240 listening to the 4am news, where it was announced that Kinnock had conceded. We went past a Labour billboard on the ring road around Bury and I started to cry.

My A-levels, though screwed up through not revising as much as I should, we just passable enough to get into university. And after some research with a combination of an election leaflet, the electoral roll and the phonebook, I managed to find the number of someone I’d seen a lot of in the campaign HQ and two weeks later, she was my first proper girlfriend. Doesn’t make up for rail privatisation though.

THE WALKER BROTHERS – “Make It Easy On Yourself”

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#203, 25th September 1965

Phil Spector’s great insight was that the massive orchestrations of early 50s pop would compliment the teenage agonies of late 50s pop. Like most really good ideas it proved infectious, and so it was that a new hearthrob group like the Walker Brothers found their singles given the full shock and awe treatment by ersatz Spectors.

Did it suit Scott Walker? Yes, luckily. As a singer Scott’s plumminess plays well off grand arrangements. Set him in a more folksy setting and it can be deliciously strange, but my favourite songs by him are still his shabby 60s solo epics: fantasias of crumpled velvet, always beautifully and heavily arranged.

So the singer was right for the arrangement, but the song I’m less sure about. Scott tries to sing it noble, and I almost believe a man could be this generous about being jilted, but at heart “Make It Easy” is a bitter song and when bitter tries to sound big it usually ends up just seeming more pathetic. Plus for me this arrangement holds back a little – the strings on the verses are a bit too smooth, the drums don’t punch like they might. Scott ends up not sounding that bothered that she’s leaving – which may be the point, perhaps “Make It Easy On Yourself” works best as an extended “I just want what’s best for you” kiss-off.

I DRUNK ALL NIGHT…

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I DRUNK ALL NIGHT…

And what did I drink? Hook Norton Double Stout.

This was meant to be a couple of swift ones after work in the Pillars Of Hercules. And it is much to the credit of the Hook Norton Double Stout that I did not leave until closing time. Also much to do with the excellent company too, but since they were all drinking the Hook Norton too, I think it is clear to say that the dark brew was responsible for subsequent ruin.

This is a nicely roasted stout with the obligatory chocolaty edges with just the right amount of bitterness (ie it tasted like burnt dark chocolate). That said it lacked the gloopiness of more famous stouts and it went down a treat. Not sure of its strength but it tasted 4.5%-5%-ish and I certainly did not feel that drunk.

What kind of drunk did it make me? Hungry, but unwilling to do anything about it. Garrulous, gossipy but rather positive. I think it aided me to be in a rather nice, sweet generous mood and much of my borderline bitchiness was put on the backburner. I did do a last minute switch on to rum and coke for liquid reasons, but I would certainly do a session on the Norton again.

(Additional information on stout for seasoned drinkers: no, my shits were fine the next day.)

I have seen nearly every Ring film in the cinema

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I have seen nearly every Ring film in the cinema (the one I am missing is the Korean one, which I believe may be the best as it does not have spooky kid). Anyway, I was interested by The Ring 2 mainly because it was the original Ringu and Ringu 2 director’s stab at a Hollywood version, and because he certainly would not remake the astonishingly disappointing Ringu 2.

The Ring 2 takes Gore Verbinski’s very good Ring adaptation and respectfully junks much of it for a pretty straight ghost story. That it is a pretty good ghost story is its plus point. The fact that it almost completely drops the “technology’s gonna getcha” side of the Ring films is a pity. It does seem to play with Hideo Nakata’s obsession with water, recently vented in Dark Water. This he manages to do with the full Hollywood special effects budget which means the film has a wonderful water repulsion scene. Shying away from obvious jump shocks, the film is still a satisfying, if small, ghost story. Pity the kid is so fucking annoying.