Thursday, 28 March 2013

BBC Radio 5Live Tabloid Audio is an insult to everyone especially the license payer

I often serve, on this blog, often as a unpaid PR for BBC 6music. To
be honest I listen to 6 music because the previous station I used to
listen to, BBC Radio5live, has nose dived into moronic idiocy, and
I've just been reminded, by R5, that I should be providing some kind
of balance to the commercial stations.

I have just switched on the Radio5, (avoiding Nemone who is filling in
for Lauren Laverne on her 6music show this week), and Radio5 have a
typically goonish comedian/reporter interviewing people escaping the
cold in Britain to go to Berlin, where it is even colder. Yuk yuk.
(I did this myself a few years ago. Berlin is actually roasty in all
weathers. They have like central heating, decent insulation and people
who close doors)

So this typical R5 "personality" is bugging people in the queue at
Heathrow, he gets past a few German girls who say essentially "grow up
its not that cold in London" and he gets to a British guy and asks him
why he's going to Berlin, ending with

"Lets be honest, it's the beer isn't it? It's not the culture!"

There are comedians who make whole acts (Al Murray?) out of this kind
of pig ignorance. Well, THIS TIME I just cannot be bothered to
complain to the BBC trustees about this pathetic excuse for a national
radio station, instead I'm going to leave it up here and throw up some
rants from the past...

I can't find Dotun Adebayo's classic intervention into a debate on
animal cruelty
"It's nothing compared to slavery.."
but here are some of my other attempts to let off steam in their direction

A major reason for 5Live's existence is to supposedly cover mass popular sport when the BBC does not have the live tv rights..
Patchy coverage of the worlds most popular sports league

date: 25 August 2012 16:01

Just thought today I'd revisit an old pleasure, a long walk listening
to the football via an old friend, R5. Back when it started I used to
listen to R5 from dawn until dusk and beyond.

So imagine my astonishment, after a month of blanket Olympics coverage
and only two weeks into the season, on a miserable bank holiday when
the nation is all indoors, that you are choosing to cover that chummy,
clubby elitist favourite - Rugby - instead. Honestly ....if you cannot
summon the resources or will to cover the NATIONAL GAME on AM bloody
radio you may as well hand over the rights to someone else. You
actually drove me off as a regular listener years ago with infantile
personality driven programming (recent example SPOONY MEETS JOSE),
shrieking idiot commentators and trailers that sound like 6 year olds
locked in a joke shop overnight.

There is also the disgracefully patchy coverage - there is a 70 mile
stretch of the M4 and A303 where it sounds like you are broadcasting
from the edge of the solar system. It really hurts me to say this, as
R5 used to be like an old friend, but for at least a year R5 has made
TalkSport sound cerebral. As a regular listener you've lost me to ,
6music and R4, and are fast becoming a waste of the license fee. I
think I've heard the last of you.

Radio 5's Wake Up to Money - a short memory for the economic consensus pre-Crash

Wake up to Money(tarism)

Half of this mornings Wake Up to Money covered the proposed firewall
between consumer and investment banking. With the expert (Sir Humphry
Bufton Tufton from Credit Suisse) opinion being that regulation is a
bad thing. Presenters, as ever, agreed with accepted city opinion.

The other half covered Gordon Browns regret that he had not
effectively regulated the financial markets prior to the crash which
has devastated western economies. Brown had said regulation was
difficult as the consensus at the time was 'less regulation rather
than more'. Wake Up To Money presenters and expert chortle as ever at
the ex Chancellors opinion, sidestep his statement (perhaps because
this program has always been part of the very consensus opinion he is
talking about) and suggested that perhaps even less regulation at the
time would have been even more effective.

Wake Up to Money dates back to an era of the 1980s when the BBC was
regularly pilloried by Mrs Thatcher's government for lack of balance.
In stark contrast there never has been any political balance on this
program and it continues to promote discredited economic and political
arguments that are the direct cause of most the misery covered in the
rest of the news output.

Can I suggest that everyone involved in this program is made to watch
the 2011 Oscar winning documentary INSIDE JOB and then perhaps they
have a televised discussion on how many of their city drinking buddies
should currently be in prison?

Radio 5Live breakfast show thinks L Ron Hubbard was a scientist

22 October 2006 07:47

Note to breakfast presenters - L Ron Hubbarb was not a 'science author' - he was a 'science fiction author'

Probably not a big distinction for a news programme that needs a
special correspondent to come in and explain what the sound barrier is
(as happened last year) but important in this time of religious debate
to to point out that Hubbard was more aspiring Flash Gordon than

I was reminded this year after the death of Raymond Baxter that the BBC
used to have a a whole team of science correspondents, space
correspondent, aeronautics correspondents. Now if there isn't some
medical or celebrity angle involved all science items are ignored or
presented as if it were a reject from Blue Peter or Newsround. Its no
wonder Hubbarb is being turned into a scientist... he's so much easier
to explain than Stephen Hawking.

Normally I can take the dumbed down travesty that is R5 news but ....
god you know... honestly I used to be such a fan and promoter of R5.
And have to listen to voice of middle class (R4) now just to stop
myself waking up p*ssed off everyday

Why don't you just read articles straight out of the Daily Star?

Ahhhh I feel so much better now.. blogging is so therapeutic

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Some good news : Moonrise Kingdom is total classic

Just saw Moonrise Kingdom, latest by Wes Anderson of The Royal
Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr Fox, Rushmore, Bottle Rocket

Despite being nowhere near as funny as the others this is the best Wes
Anderson film . (I don't say that that lightly, "and they rode on in
the friscalating dusklight" is part of the title of my blog , from
Royal Tenenbaums <and that wasn't even my favourite>)

In about five years everyone will be wandering around claiming
Moonrise Kingdom is their favourite movie. Mark my words.

Unbelievably sweet pre-teen romance/adventure story about two troubled
kids that go on the run on a secluded islet in 1964,
pursued by the local scout troop, the the sheriffs department, then
dreaded 'social services" (Tilda Swinton being the Federal Ice Queen)
all unaware they are about to be hit by the storm of the century. It's
like Swallows and Amazons done by Tim Burton or (a very restrained)
Ken Russell.

And this didn't win any Oscars?

the trailer

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Prisoner in Los Angeles, Joss Whedon's Dollhouse reassessed

<ok - i'm in a pub, The Hemingford Arms, drinking because my central heating has broken down and even though it is the first day of spring it it is still -0 outside. I'm going through notes on my phone and found this from some time ago. Allusions to The Prisoner do seem a bit of stretch from this distance but maybe if I watched it again.. >

I'm an enormous fan of Buffy and bought about four copies of the Firefly boxed set for friends and family. It was fantastic to see Joss Whedon get all the credit deserves for writing and directing the Avengers. So is a surprise ... Whedon's forgotten tv series, Dollhouse, written off as a creepy perv fest at the time of broadcast , is arguably the best thing he's ever done. I've just finished watching S1.  Plot is a very dark take on Charlie's Angels and Joe 90 but much better than that sounds.. Imagine Charlie's Angels where Charlie is actually Dr Tyrell from Blade Runner.

Dolls, human hosts reprogrammed with other personalities by a shadowy organisation, are used to prolong the lives of the dead, to house the personalities of recalcitrant employees, to act as nannies that fully believe they are the mothers of children, and to reenact the lives of serial killers. Eliza Dushku, Faith, from Buffy, is the main character, Echo, a drug addled terrorist given a chance to wipe her record clean by donating her body to the Doll House for a set term.

It is probably some great allegory of actors and acting (and contracting?)  to be taken here but much like that tv classic the Prisoner it is a prism through which a lot can be seen.  Human identity and individualism is a central theme in The Prisoner and this is the best tv exploration of that theme I've seen since.

Like JW's other classic neglected show, Firefly, this is a tough hill to climb initially. It has typically awful opening titles, for a JW show, like a lurid trailer for a paedophile adventure show and  the first two or three episodes are a quite predictable modern take on Charlie's Angels.

It has 8 main characters only two of which are actually likeable. Two in particular , DeWitt and Topher, become more sympathetic but remain essentially hate-able (and eventually doomed). It's Dark. Like most Whedon world the forces of law and order are totally compromised and rarely interfere in the goings on. There is no Scooby Gang or Firefly crew. The Actives are confessed criminals turned into abused innocents. The childlike love affair  between Sierra and Victor is treated with almost detached cruelty. 

The motives of the FBI agent investigating the Doll House are questionable. He knowingly had sex with one of the Actives as a Doll, and appears throughout to be fixated on Echo. And perhaps Doll House lost a lot in its setting. Los Angeles as "the city of Devils" was mined out as a concept in Whedon's Buffy spin-off Angel. Dollhouse deserved a different canvas. It has a cold blooded cruelty worthy of David Cronenberg , it was probably filmed in Canada, why not set it in Montreal?

Like Firefly has one big set and makes the most of it and Whedons trusted rep company are joined by some of the acting talent from Battlestar Galactica. Eliza Dushku is just about good enough to carry off a role that should have made her a real star. It's an actors dream, playing multiple personalities and roles every episode. She is Exec producer on Dollhouse at a time when Whedon was still distrusted in the industry after the network murder of Firefly, so we have to give her credit for keeping the show on at all.

I'll be honest though, I still miss Faith.

<I watched series 2 eventually, very good but typically with JW a tragically rushed ending.. >

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, 15 March 2013

At last ... The Next Day.... (David Bowie)

What you need to know - David Bowie's The Next Day really is his best since Scary Monsters and, unlike Heathen and the other albums since his classic era you'll know this immediately at first listen. It's certainly the catchiest album I've heard for ages, possibly since Yeah Yeah Yeah's It's Blitz!  Right now after third listen I've three or four tunes buzzing in my head, Stars, Valentine, Boss of Me, How Does The Grass Grow.. I've even finally appreciated the almost Vangelis Blade Runner synths in Where Are We Now

God .. The guitar on The Stars are Out sounds like the best guitar I've heard on anything in years. It helps that it comes with a brilliant Lynchian music promo.Valentine's Day could have come right off Hunky Dory, followed by If You Can See Me, which brings us right back to 2013 with a bang.

(just looking through the track list now I have another tune from The Next Day - Dancing out of Space - in my head despite listening to different stuff all of yesterday)

It's all lyrically very dark. I'd Rather Be High and How Does The Grass Grow feature anti-war  lyrics that could have come off PJ Harvey's Let England Shake

As for the help, I thought the guitar (Earl Slick?) on The Stars Are Out was Pete Townsend guesting.. and Gail Ann Dorsey.. I think I remember falling madly in love with her and her Ken Russellesque outfit at Pheonix Festival in 1996. Great to see she is still on board and I might check out some of her solo stuff (as I'm a big fan of another bassist gone solo - Melissa Auf Der Maur)

Slight suspicion Bowie has given up here trying to be groundbreaking and is rehashing rather but much as I like Heathen and Reality they did sound empty and bereft at first listen, certainly in comparison with the new one.

Full Bowie disclosure

I'm yet another Bowie nut. I was exposed at college, when Bowie was at his creative nadir in the mid-80s, by future novelist Jaine Fenn (new novel Queen of Nowhere just out) 

Jaine was desperate to stop my painful tirades about the hideously over hyped, over trendy  British pop movie Absolute Beginners, which embarrassing mid-80s mainstream pop Bowie found himself a part of. (Bowie is of course known for creating stage persona's like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. His persona in the Absolute Beginners/Let's Dance/Tonight/Never Let Me Down era was The Shameless Douchebag)

So mid 80s I was skeptical ....but first fell for the guitars in Man Who Sold The the World and then simultaneously fell for everything in that classic era. It's a great buzz, really getting into a musical artist and realising that that have an entire decade of brilliant work, in different flavoured eras, to enjoy. Like an audio version of five Christmases at once. This culminated in a deep synchronic bond with Scary Monsters and Super Creeps just as I discovered the neo noir of William Gibson and cyberpunk. I only recently discovered that that incredible guitar howl that opens that album is courtesy of Robert Fripp. King Crimson was my old music discovery of 2009.

So in light of his current output at the time - the Bowie narrative then (in the mid-late 80s) was more tragedy, the brilliant super cool musician reduced to cringing awful mainstream music videos with a similarly bereft Mick Jagger. It was depressing but I was primed to be positive to any subsequent releases from Bowie, and, further spiked by the discovery of Iggy Pop (via the opening titles to Repo Man) I found out Bowie was making a come back with Iggy's guitar heavy backing band...

..what I'm avoiding saying is that I've been a passionate defender of the critically reviled Tin Machine for decades..  (I am a habitual defender of lost causes ... coming soon to this blog - Quantum of Solace is better than Skyfall). Tin Machine might well be awful to most ears but it is the screeching sound of an artist jamming on the brakes and trying to turn a corner before a career ending collision. Tin Machine is Bowie's Kid A, (he just left the left turn a lot later than Radiohead), and The Next Day to me completely validates his decision to throw out his day-glo pop era and temporarily start a (very good BTW) metal band.

Of his albums since I'll also defend the Brian Eno produced Outside from a slightly more secure defensive position. Songs from Outside appeared in three classic movies of that era - Se7en, Lost Highway and Starship Troopers (but such was Bowie's lack of credibility at the time the 'edge' in Outside seemed to be credited to Trent Reznor). Interestingly looked at now the scifi themes of Outside is Bowie trying to overtly jump on the cyberpunk bandwagon late, when he seemed to have helped kicked it off in the first place with Scary Monsters.

To digress, it fascinates me that William Gibson is the only author I know to rip themes visuals and moods from movies and music. As the more mature medium this usually happens in reverse, with sci-fi movies reliably 20 years behind their written inspiration. It's an incredible tribute to to the visuals in Blade Runner that they were a direct inspirations to a ground breaking classic novel that appeared AFTER (Neuromancer - the reason I work in IT)

Black Tie White Noise makes a lot more sense when you find it was written as music  for his wedding (and congrats on that BTW, obviously a smart move, Iman must be a lovely gal, though I struggle to imagine her in the kitchen). Prompted by the first single from The Next Day I revisited Heathen which I had hated on first listen but seemed to be one of my few positives in the endless winter of London 2012-13. This blog post was to have said something like "I seem to be perpetually ten years behind Bowie" but it seems the accessibility of The Next Day has broken that theory.

One thing he has very sensibly done is movie back out of the media limelight. In the hideous Absolute Beginners/Let's Dance/Tonight era you could not turn on a tv or a radio without hearing his voice and the brutally funny caricatures of him that appeared from Stella Street and The Adam and Joe Show (all fans I'm sure) are a direct result of this. Mick & Keith take note.

So David, you are back! Hurrah!... but please stay out of the limelight and keep reclusive for at least another ten years. Let the current generation of music journos continue to wank out their careers over Morrissey - they've been dancing on your grave for decades.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Campaign (2012) : A sequel to Trading Places or argument for campaign finance reform?

I knew this movie was going to be funnier than the usual star vehicle
when I saw the director. Jay Roach, a Brit, is mostly known for the
first Austin Powers and Meet The Parents, but lately has strayed into
politics with two classic tv movies, Recount and Game Change (which
both made my US movie history list, as might this).

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, are incompetent US politicians
competing for corrupt business funding provided by two billionaire
brothers, Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow, who are looking to further rig
the US economy by 'insourcing' jobs in from their factorys in China.
Galifianakis's character is an innocent, whose life and family are
slowly corrupted by the political system in a familiar (if very funny)
plot arc that would probably be a bit of snooze plot wise but for the
politics and what seems to me to be a fairly obvious connection to a
cult comedy of the 80s.

Consider this - the two brothers manipulating the campaign are
obviously based on the Koch brothers, and Dan Ackroyd's character is
obviously partially based on a grown up version of his Winthorpe
character in John Landis's 1983 classic Trading Places. In Trading Places
Winthorpe is the victim, manipulated by the Duke brothers Randolph
(Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) into crossing the class
divide and swapping places with Eddie Murphy. By 2013 Winthorpe, or at
least a Dan Ackroyd character very much like him, has become one of
the meddlers himself in a scenario sadly far closer to reality than
the 1983 movie. Back then we could laugh at the games being played by
the rich at the expense of the rest of the world population, 30 years
later these games are rigging the political system in a way that is
way beyond sport.

To briefly spell out the issue being exposed in The Campaign for UK
audiences, in a landmark case in 2009 (which finally exposed that that
US supreme court had been infiltrated by right wing ideologues), the
Citizens United ruling established that legally Corporations have
human rights, meaning Corporations, like humans, can spend unlimited
amounts on candidates in political campaigns. Those outside the US
wondering about the current dysfunction in Congress can trace it right
back to the wing nut amateur loons that have been supported into
government as a direct result of Citizens United.

Taken just as a movie, this is the best Zach Galifianakis movie I've
seen movie outside The Hangover, playing a character, Marty Huggins,
which I think is meant as a surprisingly gentle dig at Tea Party
amateurism. When Marty eventually morphs into a dorky Theodore
Roosevelt figure you actually wonder if Zach Galifianakis be tempted
to have a crack at portraying the real President someday.

Ferrell reigns in the crazy mostly and if you are a fan you will love
some of this. If you are not he provides just enough of a variation on
other WF characters. I think this is supposed to be his Bill Clinton
though the actual party allegiances of both characters are kept quite
vague. Both get fantastic support from the rest of the cast with some
memorably wacky concepts, like Mrs. Yao the housekeeper forced to
speak like an elderly black woman by her racist employer, handled well
by a director who can dabble with surreal comedy well.

The Campaign tails off toward the end and gets a little too obvious
but does make you think about some of the strangeness of American
politics. I found myself thinking about Ferrell's accent, and by
extension Bush's Texan accent. George W. Bush was of course from
Connecticut and the adoption of Southern accents for political
credibility does seem to be something of a theme over there.. Other
casual watchers might be as stupified as myself to find going that gun
toting good ol boy Ted Nugent, recently interviewed by the Secret
Service for announcing
"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will
either be dead or in jail",
hails from Detroit Michigan, not Mississippi, and consequently has a
lot more in common with MC 5, Eminem and other Detroit residents (like
Sixto Rodriguez) than he probably likes to admit.

If this sort of crazy isn't exposed by The Campaign, it is only
because right now there is far too much crazy in US politics.

<This movie was suggested by probably the most beautiful girl I'll ever
sit down to dinner with - thanks Pipistrelle>