Tag Archives: TV

My American Fellows

Danny O’Brien describes his reaction to the current showbiz extravaganza that is the Democratic National Convention. I don’t really like writing about politics here, because I’m too inarticulate (basically I’m a Euston Manifesto type of guy, with all the “yes, but how?” vagueness that entails). But as an Englishman now living in San Diego, I’m interested to read other “expats'” views. I agree with what he says about the pageantry. I do like a good show though, but only if the audience shut up long enough to let it happen.

I’ve become a fan of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (both of which pass for satire* in the US) but they are short programmes made a lot longer by the whooping and hollering that follow every punchline (that’s not to say that Radio 4’s much-more-restrained The News Quiz is any better – in fact the insufferable smugness of some of the panellists is worse). But I do find myself fast-forwarding through the atrocious rock-and-horn-section soundtrack (a Bob Mould tune played by They Might Be Giants, if you can imagine such a thing without weeping) and the five minutes of cheering before I find any satirical content. I say “pass for satire” – actually there’s often some really good and funny stuff on here, but too often they drift off into skits about the presenters themselves.

Back in the “real” world of political news, I still can’t understand the (apparently many) people who were supporters of Hillary Clinton, who since Clinton is out of the running are now “undecided” between Obama and the Republican McCain. I want to shake them by the shoulders and ask, are you a Democrat or not? Are you so opposed to Obama that you would rather have a Republican in office? It sounds very much like sulking to me – “Well, if I can’t have my candidate, then I’m taking my ball home, and crossing to the GOP”. Absolute fecking madness.

Most of the speeches at the DNC have ended with the orator say, “God bless you” or “God bless America” or some such. It got me thinking about whether the US would ever be able to accept a stated atheist as a President. Never mind the trouble they have with a black man, or a woman – imagine a leader would said they couldn’t say “God bless America” with a straight face because they don’t believe in an invisible superhero who lives in the sky?

Ah, politics and religion. Yet another excellent piece on Flesh is Grass about the debate between the militant secularists and the pro-faith left. I think I lean towards the Coates end of the argument. Lean, and mutter.

claimer: Flesh is Grass is one of my favourite blogs, and is written by one of my favourite people. I miss them.

It Was Full Of Comics And Toys

Comic Con - Thursday evening Now that I seem to live in San Diego (don’t quite know what happened there) it only seemed fair to go to the famous Comic Con at San Diego Convention Centre. Brian’s friend got us free weekend passes, which was very kind, and he is staying in my guest room for the weekend. Sadly I had to work yesterday, but I scurried down the road (the Con is about 6 blocks away) after work, and met him after his full day of seeing the sights.

The place looked just as crazy as the news reports show, with swarms of people laden down with poster tubes, bags, badges and all the paraphenalia you would expect. By the time I arrived, it was winding down for the day, but there were still many people dressed up to the nines in appropriate (and some inappropriate) costumes.

We had a quick look round, and I took some photos of a couple of things that caught my eye. B knows so much more about this stuff than I do, so I’m happy to let him guide me around. I was taken with the film props for sale at $20,000 and up. Yes please!

Food was required at this point, so after braving the swarms from the Con overwhelming the Gaslamp Quarter, we drive up to Lefty’s Chicago Pizza in North Park, which is so word-of-mouth it doesn’t even appear in my Garmin! We enjoyed a couple of slices of delicious sloppy cheezy goodness, with fresh tomatoes and basil, then swung by one of B’s old haunts, the Zombie Lounge, which he was sad to see had been changed into The Radio Room by new owners. The old electric sign remains though, as does his old friend who is a barmaid, so if she’s there next time I go, it may be worth dropping a name.

Later in the evening, we got the call to drive out to Winston’s over in Ocean Beach, where klown-fi micro-circus crazy band Gooferman were playing, supported by Dr Madd Vibe, AKA Angelo Moore from Fishbone. The Doctor was playing when we got there around 12am, and he has an amazing voice, some keen moves, all over a laptop playing grooves and chunky instrumental backing. Then the klowns stepped up and did more of the laptop rock thing, with added guitar and deep bass, and a melody line played on a rubber chicken. All this with whiteface and leaping about.

Then home with the seabreeze blowing in the Volvo, and a possum crossed the road. B says they’re vicious.

‘Heroes’ Is Based On Me

In the new series (sorry, “season”, cos that’s what we call them now, right?) of Heroes, one of the titular super-mutants is experimenting with her limb-regenerating ability. She scissors her little toe off, it amusingly pops off and flies across the room. For a moment you think her Pomeranian is going to eat it.

The media is currently going a bit doolally about this guy who apparently “grew back a finger” after his mate sprinkled powdered pig intesines on it. Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science blog covered the story yesterday, and what the sensational stories don’t make clear is that he lost some skin and flesh, but no bone or nail. This happened to me once, and I didn’t need any quackery to get my left little fingertip back. I have a small circle of pink skin without any fingerprints there, where the cheese grater decided to turn the White Cheddar into Red Leicester. Does this mean I am a regenerative superhero? Of course not. The Heroes girl has the ability to grow back bone, and flesh, and skin, while you watch. Us normal humans can grow back flesh and skin over a matter of days or weeks. Both are amazing, one is real.

Update: Ben Goldacre was on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning talking about this very story.

What is also amazing is how certain parts of the media get so excited about stuff that is very wrong. In 2004, The New Scientist famously printed a report about some homemade fully artificially intelligent ‘ChatNannies’ which would protect “the children” from online paedophiles. It wasn’t clear how, but the AI was very impressive, considering it was apparently thrown together in someone’s shed. More impressive than the current state of the art in AI. Too impressive. Less impressive was the background of the creator Jim Wightman (aka Death’s Head), who turned out to be a Holocaust denier and nasty man in general, with a history of lying about his programming exploits. But as he said, the skeptical scientific community only hurt their own children by questioning him.

Science and tech are complicated subjects, but trying to simplify them too much just ends up confusing more than enlightening. The problem is that a lot of it is interpreting statistics and test results, which is a tedious and delicate process. All the more reason to have knowledgeable people reporting on it, or at least people who understand the process, and the limits. You wouldn’t have the cookery columnist reporting on the credit crunch – although that does sound tasty.

Update: more from Mr. Goldacre

An Excellent And Recuperative Weekend

Friday, wrote Mr Kipling, and having had a successful Friday at work, getting that report out, and having met acting cohort Kristen for Vietnamese lunch by Mornington Crescent, I decided to piss off home early. When I got home I took advantage of Mairi being away visiting family with the dog by having a big orgy with all my weird friends.

Actually I put some washing on and vacuumed. But by God it felt like an orgy – an orgy of domesticity. Then Robin called for a chat, so we went to the Ramble Inn for a couple of pints. Actually, I had a couple, Robin had a miniature bottle of Merlot like what you’d get in a Travel Tavern. But that’s fine, it doesn’t reflect badly on him at all. He’s in the process of buying a flat in sunny Brixton, so he needs all the help he can get, and it would be a shit indeed who begrudged him that.

Robin asked me to check over his new website – you can too! Lots of updated stuff about his more recent performances. I told him about Arturo Ui, and we did our usual best-mates chat thing. I invited him in for a finger of 12-year-old, which we enjoyed while playing old vinyl and reminiscing. Tom Tom Club! Laibach! Elvis Costello! Hawkwind! Baby Ford! Diamanda Galas! Ahh, heady days…

Then on Saturday I slept in, did the first page for Mairi’s Mum’s company’s webpage, and ate lunch at the cafe while highlighting my lines in my script, trying not to draw attention to myself with my big highlighted script in the window.

Saturday evening was time for birthday drinks for David, who is always kind enough to come and see my plays, so it was only fair to force myself out to a pub to buy him a drink. It was good to see a lot of people I haven’t for a while. Lots of great stories from people, but the ultimate was Rachels tale of RIDING HER BICYCLE INTO THE CANAL AND COLLECTING IT THE FOLLOWING DAY. Not much more can be said about that, really.

I spoke to a friend who knows someone who is making a TV comedy pilot, and needs male actors. Hmmm. I’ll watch out for that email.

I did my usual trick of drinking too much and missing the tube, and then paying too much for a taxi. Sunday I felt a bit rough, so we took Shug to the common and I had another cafe lunch, which went cold very quickly in the chilly breeze. It’s hard to eat egg & bacon with gloves on. Talk about mad dogs and Englishmen.

4 Things – Because Ideas Are Thin On The Ground

Here’s another meme. At this point, I’m supposed to say that, “I don’t normally do these things”, but the fact is that I do. Call it a deep desire to expose myself to you, call it being bone bastard idle, call it what you will. I guess it’s not good blogging form, but feck it, I need templates. Let’s roll.

Four jobs I’ve had

  • Department Store Music Department Cashier and Smartarse
  • Aquascutum Logistics Technician
  • College Computer Lab Printout Cashier
  • PLC and SCADA programmer

Four Movies I can watch over and over

  • Star Wars“You came in that thing?”
  • Dead Ringers“Elly?… Elly?… Elly?… Elly?… Elly?… Elly?…”
  • Jaws“First light, Chief, sharks come cruisin'”
  • Brazil“No, nothing! Not even dreams!”

Four Places I’ve Lived

  • Bedford, UK, born and raised, in the playground is where I spent most of my days.
  • Uzwil, Switzerland, for a lengthy stint working at my employers parent company.
  • Flensburg, Germany, for a semester of study.
  • Manchester, UK, for the 1st act of the farce that was my Higher Education.

Four TV shows I love (but not necessarily those I love best):

  • Black Books
  • The Young Ones
  • Porridge
  • The Day Today

Four places I’ve vacationed been on holiday:

Four of my favourite dishes

Four sites I visit daily

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • Drinking tea at home with my dog and my partner
  • Rehearsing for the next play
  • Walking the dog on a beach or perhaps in the park on a fine February day
  • In a pub with friends old and new

Four bloggers I’m tagging/pointing accusingly at/plagiarising:

  • The Wannabe Scriptwriter who needs to write more and get it filmed
  • Tom Coates, how this kind of thing should be done
  • Sarah, who doesn’t have a clue who I am, but who has a very entertaining site, and my! What a great colourscheme! (whistles nonchalantly and creeps away)
  • Yeah, me ‘n’ Dave, we tight.


Collage – The Serial Killer’s Artform of Choice

Watched Red Dragon on DVD from Lovefilm.com the other day. Not as good as the book by a long stretch, but OK in it’s way. I was shocked at how Anthony Hopkins’ Southern US accent was even worse than Brian Cox’s in Manhunter (“You’re a killer, Wolvereeeeen, always have beeeeen” – OK that was from X-Men 2 but you get the idea).

Sorely missed was the killer playing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida really loudly while stalking a blind woman round his flat – as seen in Manhunter. Also the wall of his flat was covered by a huge blow-up of the surface of Mars – really cool. Must visit Prontaprint with some downloaded NASA snaps.

Then more recently I watched the end of Messiah IV – The Harrowing* with the super Ken Stott looking perturbed, and Helen McCrory doing what she does best – collapsing in great snotty tears, like she did in Anna Karenina. She slid down the wall in that one, so snotty were her tears.

Anyway, Ken gets hold of the killer’s journal, and surprise surprise, it’s a bloomin’ great book with pasted-in photos, newspaper clippings, and loony scribblings. Just like Frances Dolarhyde’s book in Red Dragon/Manhunter.

And Kevin Spacey’s journals in Se7en. And many many more. It’s clear – the movie serial killer’s artform of choice is Collage.

Every time the detective (usually with marital and/or drink problems) gets into the killer’s lair, they find a big book filled with newspaper snippets, reviews, photos of people with the eyes cut out with nail scissors, scrawled judgments on the world, a picture of the detective’s wife, bus tickets, a receipt for a hedgetrimmer from Homebase, and of course some really bad pastel art featuring lots of the colour red, and heavy-handed symbology.

What are we to read from this? They’re frustrated artists? Obsessive collectors? Egotists? What worries me at the moment, is that along with the Lakeland Kitchen catalogue through the post, which is cool, I also receive (unrequested) the Lakeland Hobbies catalogue, with lots of handy gadgets and materials for making collages and scrapbooks. They are feeding the filmatic crimewave with their unholy glitter and paste. And with those prices, murder could be said to be justified.

What alternatives are there? Scrapbooking and Collage are rather solitary pursuits. I can’t help thinking fewer bodies would be found with just the kidneys missing, and fewer walls scrawled with, “Oops I did it again” in victim-blood, if these people found another hobby. Walking perhaps. Get out in the fresh air. And I don’t mean stalk the dark urban alleyways, hammer in hand. No. Tooting Bec Common on a Sunday afternoon.

Or how about modern dance? Performance Art? Actually, no – a lot of the performance art I witness seems to come from the fevered imaginings of your screw-loose set anyway, come to think of it.

But when all’s said and done, I hesitate to recommend theatre. Too risky.

* Not to be confused with Highlander II – The Quickening, or Watership Down II – The Burrowing.

Linda Smith, Panel Game Debutante

I was doing my usual Sunday evening pottering last night, which involves stalking the corridors and chambers of Petty-Stewart Towers my flat, picking things up, putting them down somewhere else, ostensibly to get ready for the working week ahead, but still somehow leaving myself with a mad rush in the morning, desperately cramming bits of paper and electronics in my pockets as I dash for the train.

While doing so, I heard the, ahem, dulcet tones of Linda Smith yipping and mewling from the withdrawing room. Now this is not so unusual, because Radio 4 tends to be on all the time in the kitchen, and let’s face it, if there’s a panel game of any kind on Radio 4, Linda Smith will be on it.

F*cking Quote F*cking Unquote devised and inflicted by F*cking Nigel F*cking Rees, for example, or Just A Bleeding Minute, you name it, she’s on it. She clearly sleeps under the desk in the Radio 4 Panel Game Studio, emerging only to appear in the News Quiz or whatever, alongside those other denizens of Panel Game Purgatory, Andy “I wrote a series once” Hamilton, Jeremy “If the kids are united” Hardy and Paul “Not as funny as Tony Hancock” Merton.

But no. This came from the TV. A quick glance (and Mairi) told me it was the new show Mock The Week, which it appears is a game where members of the panel compete with each other to be as smug as possible, while referring to front-page news stories in a cursory fashion.

And there she was. Sandwiched between Hugh Dennis and Rory Bremner (what an image), both positive beacons of self-satisfied glee at being able to present pub-level satire on national TV as if it was in any way shape or form dangerous, biting, or cutting-edge. And while I knew this already, I was once again shocked at how much Linda Smith looks exactly like she sounds.

The Radio 4 Panel Game Studio now has cameras in it, and Hattie Hayridge’s lawyers are battering the door down.

You Will Feel The Need To Vomit

OK, so the possibility of nuclear destruction our friend the atom, slow or fast, is bad enough, but how about the possibility of sonic destruction?

Hawkwind discussed it in their chilling classic, Sonic Attack. Well, I say ‘discussed’, I actually mean recited a tract of Moorcock apocalyptic barminess over a backing of overdriven synth noodlings and feedback. Effective in headphones, while lying on the floor in the dark, brain stewing in acid, or so I’m told…

The US military have long had an interest in so-called ‘non-lethal’ acoustic weapons. But some people believe other research looked into, shall we say, non-non-lethal applications. But they’re just nutters and crackpots surely?

Perhaps not. During that wellspring of negative creativity, The Cold War, accidental discoveries were made which brought the possibility of a functional, and truly terrifying, sonic weapon into range. French scientist Vladimir Gavreau’s experiments nearly killed him and his fellow researchers, the ‘infrasound’ of about 7Hz produced by their apparatus coming close to destroying their bodies from within.

As well as the physiological effects of unusual sound, the psychological effects should not be ignored. I used to share a house with a couple of girls when I was at college. Sound good? It wasn’t. One of them had the CD single of ‘Dreams’ by eye-hiding cod-soul warbler Gabrielle. It was the only CD she owned, and she set it to repeat. And repeat. In those weeks, I knew how Manuel Noriega felt.

And finally, what about the subconcious? What about the sentient? What about a sound, or a piece of music, that wants to live? That wants to propagate itself, through whatever channels it can, before becoming the only sound in existence? Impossible, you say. Nonsense, you sneer. Well, laugh now, because The Human League’s The Black Hit Of Space is waiting in your record collection…

“I knew I had to escape. But every time I tried to flee, the record was in front of me.”