Thursday, 31 October 2013

THE STONE TAPE : "The best haunted house story"

Recently caught up with what in-the-know types used to say was the best haunted house story ever filmed, Nigel Kneale's THE STONE TAPE,  a long tv play, virtually a BBC tv movie, first shown by the BBC in 1972. It was shown again a year later at Halloween and developed a legendary status in the following decades.

After decades of build up you might think The Stone Tape was disappointing but it was still comfortably the scariest thing I've seen since Prometheus.

This is from the era of the original BBC Survivors (so you know this isn't kids stiff) written by the creator of Quatermass, Nigel Kneale. It is directed by one of the best and last of Hammer director's, Peter Sasdy and comes furnished with audio tinsels from the BBC Radiophonic workshop.

It stars Jane Asher returning to the genre for the first time since Roger Corman's classic Masque of The Red Death, (apparently she appeared as child actress in Hammer's first Nigel Kneal adaptation, Quatermass Xperiment in 1955). She is Jill Green, a a smart but sensitive computer programmer, who becomes the center of the action in the house. Aside from the supernatural this is a part that provides magnificent period detail on the  miseries of the 70s working environment, especially for women. Her boss, played by the excellent Micheal Bryant, is a sexual predator in charge of a leading edge technology company, and the general atmosphere of beery incompetence gives a fascinating look on its own at the technological desperation of Britain in the 1970s

This becomes mere background story detail when a masterful haunted house tale kicks off - but as you'll see on your viewing, it is the twisted little details about The Stone Tape that really stick with you.

RYAN, a high tech company researching a new recording medium takes possession of a newly renovated old mansion, and when it finds a mysterious disembodied scream in a walled off area of the cellar  it seeks to record and explain the phenomena. If they can just establish that the audio is a recording held within the stone they'll have an industry breakthrough that will make them a fortune.
Unfortunately for them there is more than one recording.

The scientific rationale for what takes place is established early on and it is believable and consistent throughout. This makes the chills considerably more effective when they arrive. The rationale is so convincing, 'The Stone Tape' has since become an accepted theory within parapsychology.

Ultimately this ends up in the territory of Kneale's Quatermass and The Pit, which if you are familiar with it should be recommendation enough. New viewers just discovering the charms of classic Dr Who, and stumbling across The Tomorrow People and Sapphire and Steele in turn should definitely not miss this, it makes the Pertwee and Baker eras look like the B movie child entertainment they probably were (much as we loved them at the time).

What is really effective about The Stone Tape, apart from the great acting, dialog, characters, and drama are the strange almost surreal plot threads and details which are not resolved entirely but suggest enough to be quite troubling.
I'm going to be very careful with spoilers here.

Some of the wierd details, like The Spam, seem to go nowhere, like the stairs which lead up from the basement to ..?

But others are left to hang with just enough suggestion lead onto conclusions that are genuinely chilling in a typical Nigel Kneale fashion, simultaneously scary, thought provoking and arguably brilliant science fiction with it.
I would for instance try and explain this strange comparative bit of background detail with the plot


But I'm not 100% sure what it is myself and don't want to give away a spoiler, suffice to say you'll probably know what I mean and it sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


A Halloween list for a friend in 2009



Straw Dogs
Plague of the Zombies
Wicker Man
The Hills Have Eyes
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Eden Lake
Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension)
Blood on Satans Claw
Wolf Creek
Salems Lot

The Birds
The Ruins
The Mist
The Fog
Picnic at Hanging Rock
The Village
Sleepy Hollow
The Happening
Hound of the Baskervilles (the Hammer version *obviously*)
The Long Weekend
Don't Look Know
Cabin Fever
Dog Soldiers

The Shining
Legend of Hell House
Amityville Horror
Burnt Offerings
The Changeling
The Evil Dead


and maybe a historical film,
Witchfinder General
to give them a bit of a break

The Day After
The Bed Sitting Room
28 Days Later
28 Weeks Later
The Stand
No Blade of Grass
Day of The Triffids
On The Beach
Lord of the Flies
Omega Man
Soylent Green

maybe some classic Shakespeare to cheer them up
Titus Andronicus
Macbeth (Polanski version *obviously*)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Manchester United's history of managerial change - reality from those with long memories

I vividly remember the last managerial change over at Manchester United and would like to make a probably futile attempt to convey a dose of reality to those already attacking the new manager David Moyes.

The famous banner attacking Ferguson, three years after the most successful football manager in history started his job at Manchester United

  • If David Moyes stays manager at Manchester United it will be all downhill at the club for the next three years
  • If David Moyes leaves Manchester United it will be all downhill at the club for the next THIRTY years 

Obviously the club has been spoilt with success for decades but the team that Alex Ferguson eventually began to win trophies with at United bore very little resemblance to the team ( three time FA Cup winners) he inherited from the previous manager Ron Atkinson.
Ferguson in that horrible first few years cleared out all the fan favourites from Old Trafford, including Gordon Strachan, Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran and Norman Whiteside. It was heartbreaking, especially as some of these players would return to haunt the club later for their new teams. Ferguson knew what he was doing though, as club captain Bryan Robson was kept as a figure of transition, and Ferguson's final job saving trick was to bring back the fan favourite player Atkinson had foolishly sold to Barcelona - Mark Hughes.

The big new players to the club were massively expensive defenders like Gary (WHO?) Pallister and chippy busy midfielders like Paul Ince. None were flair players like Jesper Olsen. Ferguson swapped and changed with goalkeepers disastrously seemingly playing safe with a known Scottish keeper before somehow winning a European trophy by beating Barcelona with a solid shot stopper on loan from Luton (Les Sealey).

The style of play was rank and the player purchases were boring because Ferguson spent years building from the back. The stars we'd loved and cheered to epic FA Cup victories were replaced with some dour loyal Ferguson secret policemen. This gamble took three years to pay off, but it did eventually at the clubs darkest hour - losing the last 1st Division Championship to Leeds United (containing Gordon Strachan) when it was there for the taking.

The Championship had been lost in exactly the same way it had been lost throughout the 80s under Atkinson, with United surging through the table until a vital midlfielder (usually Bryan Robson, in this case Ince) was injured, and team collapsed. This could have been the end of the team and Ferguson's career. But by now, staffed with Ferguson's loyal soldiers, it only made them stronger. They won the Championship the year after and from there on the only way was up and eventually, only eventually, Fergie's teams became known for exciting football as well as being impossible to beat.

If you are looking at the United team now and saying to yourself "Moyes can't win with this team" - you are correct, because when he does start to win big it will probably with a totally different team. But if Moyes is removed and fans all jump on the managerial merry-go round we've seen at every other club for that last 30 years United may not win again at all.
The David Moyes of the late 1980s
And one final thing. DON'T LISTEN TO THE MEDIA. Liverpool fans and Newcastle fans have a point when they say the media has it in for them because turmoil at their clubs attracts attention and sells papers. Ferguson has spent decades making enemies in the press and the vultures have been circling for a while. There are a lot of journalistic careers waiting to be made by feasting on the corpse of Manchester United, and the tragic collapse of a giant followed by a annual managerial and player clear out is a narrative that makes a lot of people a lot of money.
You won't be one of them.

To go along with the "well today people don't have the patience to wait.." is a tacit admission you are a sheep whose head gets filled with whatever crap a tabloid news source is willing to peddle. Go along with it if you don't have ability to think for yourself but don't dare moan to me because I've seen it all before..

Friday, 25 October 2013

B*llsh*t Debt Statistics

In a pub a couple of weeks ago I tried to explain a crazy fact about the UK's level of national debt to a friend. According to infamous leftie historian Niall Ferguson Britain's most worrying time of national debt wasn't now, or in the 70s, or even after either of the two world wars. The worst level of UK debt as a % of GDP was 200 years ago.

First Graph - what we normally see when the subject of debt is discussed in the media - note the scary graph starts at 2008 

Second Graph - those same figures - debt as a % of GDP shown historically before 2008

Third Graph, for US readers showing what your level of terrifying debt (default! default!)  looks like compared to the record of the UK. Note that AFTER that high peak of debt the UK became the sole world superpower. So much for national decline based on debt eh?

CLITROCK 3 - THE PEARL HARTS + DANA JADE + DEUX FURIEUSES (two reviews, updated with pics)

An event to raise awareness of FGM. All funds raised went to Daughters Of Eve.
Updated with pics (b/w) by Mark Hanson
Two reviews of the night, check out Suzan Randal's below. Suzan was careful enough (she works for the government) to write when sober.

Contact for mo' info on this and future events

Myself and a guy from the U.S., Mark got there crazy early and so started drinking some time before even tune-up. It has to be said I was a little new to the subject of the evening. I was just there to see some great female bands and wasn't disappointed. Ironically it was really refreshing, after recent twerking controversy, to have overt female sexuality take a back seat to the music. I honestly think I wouldn't have enjoyed these bands any less if they all looked like Dumpy's Rusty Nuts.


At Reading '92 as part of Nirvana's prescribed playlist for the Sunday you could be amused by Shonen Knife dressing up as schoolgirls and playing Black Sabbath songs about cats. It was very funny and great music, huge entertainment, if a bit silly.

The Pearl Harts is where 20 years of gender progress gets you, as there is not much silly about the Pearl Harts, a young looking but deadly serious two piece playing deadly serious rock.

From starting off lyrically with Joan Jett, The Donnas etc as a base, they have obviously branched out musically with Tony Iommi guitar and even a bit of Bill Ward drums (?) even at the end. The planet splitting riffage was all their own material I think, and not a trace of girly irony. Even looks wise - with the long hair and Charles Manson era threads and jewelry - they were channeling early Sabbs.

What would you call it? Girl's Bedroom Baroque? Is that condescension? I was fighting off waves of good natured condescension throughout The Pearl Hart's set. I met them afterwards and just didn't know what to say - it felt like a scene from American Gothic : Coven (which I'm enjoying right now). Tiny tiny girls that looked like giants on stage - kind of like meeting your bad sister's scary daughters - all you can think to do is ask them out for ice cream - and all they want to do is wreck your house and firebomb your car.
They would make a blistering support band for Black Moth
Even more impressed to find Pearl Hart's promo contains heavy clippage from TIMES SQUARE, quite an obscure but brilliant 80s cult movie I discovered at spiritual home the Scala decades ago. It should be noted they manfully struggled with sound cutting out several times in first few songs, which meant we got to hear them twice, which was no bad thing,


Dana is organiser for the night, everyone seemed to know her but luckily I don't need to be nice. This band could have headlined the event pretty easily. A wildly unpredictable fusion band that could be mistaken for a London Yeah Yeah Yeah's, there was absolutely nothing dull about Dana Jade and her band - and from the linking moments between songs and her general contribution as compare you'd think they have a chance at stand up as well. Parts of this felt like a Variety act, and it was good to have a bit of light relief between the first and last bands.

Musically this was surprisingly heavy but with a great pop angle (this is the sort of act that is crucified in the recording studio into being a novelty pop band). Despite looking a little unpredictable DJ were very tight and played as if they have been on tour for a while, despite being put together at short notice apparently - the drummer was on loan from Goldfrapp (Dana Jade is "more fun" apparently).

Great tunes, very dancy and featuring highlights like punk covers of M.I.A. songs. Again like the PH, there was no winking ironic Dread Zeppelin hilarity about them, they were just straight covers done with a new twist. Dana's great voice constantly reminded me of Karen O and the band have a similar warmth and inclusiveness to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who are similarly bonkers unpredictable in terms of look, feel and genre.

Late on in the tiny but great venue (Roadtrip &The Workshop in Old Street) Grolsch now flowed like it was the Cafe Muchen, 1986. By the time one of several gorgeous Afro-London princesses stood up to give a moving speach about FGM I was too far gone to take anything with the requisite amounts of respect so I'll have to cover that in more detail another time. Suffice to say FGM is a terrible issue that needs a lot more attention, and just getting angry and shouting at the tv is not very constructive.


Deux Furieuses I've already seen a lot, the band must be sick of seeing me in the audience. Tonight they seemed glistening with terrible purpose but apparently it was because singer guitar Ros Cairney had a fever and was ill. They should maybe play with a fever more often, as this was the best I've seen them.

For those not in the know Deux Furieuses are a blood curdlingly efficient two piece that play like they have returned from the grave to avenge some ancient grievance a' la the Abominable Dr Phibes.
And FGM actually would be a pretty suitable ancient grievance if you had to pick one.

Comparison with Angry V era PJ Harvey is often made but if anything they are even more cut back and angry even than that era PJ. With slightly more cynical detachment they could be The Stooges, or more mania they could be The White Stripes.
For me they need an extra dimension somehow, maybe they should spread their wings with some surprising covers maybe (like Dana Jade). I was trying to think of a Paloma Faith song and Public Enemy popped into my head - Sophisticated Bitch and She Watch Channel Zero are both pretty misogynistic but great songs - If I was DF's manager I've try and get them DF to conquer those in some way. Is there some Chris Brown track DF could tear asunder with bitter irony?

Personal note
Been renting in London for a long summer now while my house is reconstructed on Exmoor. Was getting a bit jaded about London, and have been getting reclusive again. I think though that was mainly a problem with the various class systems developing within Islington - this night out completely recharged my batteries, thanks everyone

I knew I'd asked Suzan for something.. it turns out it was another review

It’s the first time I’ve arrived at a gig and been invited to enter a vagina, but then this was Clit Rock 3. There were three all-female bands on the bill at Roadtrip &The Workshop in Old Street. The event, though,  was so-named as it was held to raise awareness and funds to end female genital mutilation (FGM).
It’s a heavy, heartbreaking subject. So how was this night of rock going to play?
First up on the small stage were the Pearl Harts, a young duo with 60s-style hair swinging over guitar and drums, moody and melodic, the freshness of their vocals wafting around the basement bar. It was a great start.
They were followed by Clit Rock founder Dana Jade with her band. Funny, flirty and fabulous, she brought soca punk to Shoreditch, daring the audience to dance. This was an intimate gig and it was getting hot down there. Thoughts of Trinidad were washed down with cold beer.
Then to the headline act, Deux Furieuses. I’ve seen this band a few times already – I was wearing the slightly tight vest – and am still in awe at thepower produced by this  pumping two piece. Slick and sassy, they had the crowd at the opening guitar riff and kept us with songs like Now You’re Gonna Listen. We were listening. Ros Cairney’s clear, commanding vocals hit their peak with the raw emotion of anti-rape song, Are We Sexy Enough? On drums, La Batteuse Furieuse made amazing drumming look like the most natural thing in the world.
I heard someone say that in addition to being brilliant musicians, Deux Furieuses seem like really nice people. The same could have been said of everyone there that night.
At times throughout the gig, we were reminded of our reason for being there.  Two FGM survivors, from campaign group Daughters of Eve, briefly took to the stage to share their message. Their bravery and dignity were breathtaking, and the whole crowd, men and women, were with them.
Clit Rock 3 got it right.
-Suzan Lindsay Randle
An event to raise awareness of FGM. All funds raised went to Daughters Of Eve.

My Twenty years at the 1992 Reading Festival - Nirvana, PJ Harvey, L7, Shonen Knife, Bjorn Again

My Reading festival diary from 1992, the year Nirvana played their legendary set. A victim of multiple software crashes, latest thanks to the new GMAIL chat/txt editor, and brain fades.  More recent observations notes are in square brackets, italics are from second or third draft in approx. 1995.
I have grown to appreciate Nick Cave more in the intervening years

My Twenty years at the 1992 Reading Festival

These few remaining parts of Capt. Hodgson’s journal were found by the Norwegian rescue team a few weeks after his ill fated attempt to single-handedly conquer one of the most inhospitable music festivals in the world. The slow disintegration of body and mind in the midst of arctic weather and chronic snakebite (surely frostbite - Ed) are fully in evidence here in the first part of the journal which is repeated here as it appears in scrawly black pen on the back of a "Reading Campaign Against Racism and Fascism" leaflet.

' "But its coming from that way now!" A tall blonde Antipodean is trying to manoeuvre his tents entrance away from the direction of the rain.  I feel like grabbing the sad Australian git and shouting "YES ! Welcome to English weather you tanned bastard - AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING"

Its just begun to rain at Reading (17.55 - Friday) and as I'm here on my own I thought I'd keep a journal. No Matter what the conditions. I think the John Pilger book I've been reading is getting to me. Vietnam, Cambodia ... Pah ! This is READING and even a gut full of snakebite and a lack of tent pegs isn't going to stop me describing the horror. God. The Horror."

Ironically a major reason for the eventual abandonment of the journal some 36 hours later is the requisitioning of all pens in the tent to hold it down during the gale and torrential rain of Sunday morning. It continues.....

"A man opposite my tent has started hitting a large piece of scrap metal with a hammer. My first impression is that he's building himself a toilet. I haven't been to the toilet yet. I think this is a bad sign."

"I am pretty pissed actually."

"(Maybe he's trying to make Reading campfire music. Is he going to be doing this all night ? At Cambridge (Puffy, fiddly, diddly etc) Festival they play Roger Whitaker songs on acoustic guitars quietly so it doesn't wake the kids up. Here they just hit pieces of scrap metal with hammers. At least it provides a use for the deck chairs."

"And I actually am quite pissed.  Exhausted by the toil of bending all my tent pegs. I realised I needed some more but found the Camp Shop (no - they weren't all dressed as Danny La Rue and I'm glad I didn't mention it) had sold out of everything but Mars bars. (WHY? Would we really be able to get obese enough on confectionary over a weekend to improve the stability of our tents ?). Beer and Programme them" ? 
Increasingly hard to make out
 "Programme cost 4 quid. I don't know where its worth it or not coz I'm still talking to you (I hate writing when I'm drunk). Beer - one thing I respected Reading for last time I went was they way they had a " "Strict" or "Shit" Oz lager tent. Fiddly diddly nearly put Chris off festival puff shithole Cambridge Folk Festival's only alive bit is its Guinness tent - very fucking.." 
"+ woobily swelter"
Probably meant to say "Sensible and woolly sweater"

"The guy across from me has just emptied a sweater full of scrap metal into a bin bag"

"Reading Festival had a lager tent. But this year - Nothing ! I THINK - especially from the camp/site car park, that they,re trying to take over from Glastonbury. The beer is all workers beer company. £2 a pint !"

At this point his delirious mind seems to hear the voice of a colleague now sitting at home watching the weather on Ceefax saying "III tooolld yooouu soooo ...."

Gradual improvement in the scrawl would indicate the amount of blood circulating around the snakebite in the brain is on the increase.

"I made a note of the best t-shirts I've seen so far. My favourite at Glastonbury was HIPS, LIPS, TITS, POWER (Silverfish). Most of the t-shirts here are Nirvana ones worn by 15 and 16 years olds. The best of those that aren't are:-
KEEP MUSIC EVIL (Fatima Mansions)

"Interesting comparison No.2- Glastnobury is surrounded by the slopes of a gorgeous West Country valley. The only scenery visible from the main stage here is a tall and quite ugly block of flats." 
A clumsy X has been scrawled after this. This block of flats became the target of much of the shouting during Public Enemy.

"Its lovely to see neckless skinheads on the Hog Roast stall- which someone how seemed to attract customers at Cambridge and Glastonbury- being treated like the KKK here." 
During Saturday night when the Ice Age descended the piles of rubbish and discarded Workers Beer Company paper pint pots were collected together by Reading Man to form primeval bonfires.
 "What da fuck is dat ? Da KKK ? Put dat shit out !" said Chuck D  (thankfully shielded from the sight of the Hog Roast boys by a speaker stack) in a very Public Enemy idiom.

"I'm writing this in my tent on bits of paper. Nowhere sells notebooks. I asked a guy at a Workers Beer Comp bar where to get paper from and he thought I meant Rizlas. No amount of talking to this man could convince him that I actually wanted a notepad. I wanted RIZLA's and I was too embarrassed or paranoid to admit it."

"I must unpack now and digest the sight of the main area about 3 hours into Day 1. When I was last at Reading it was a sunny day and the clientelle and setting reminded me of Bartertown from Mad Max 3. You just knew Tina Turner would have gone down a storm. Today under broiling black clouds (normally only seen in Spielberg films) and the occasional bright blue sky the mindless, doomed, stumbling hordes look like characters from the end of Moorcocks "Stormbringer", as the forces of law and chaos square up for the battle that will bring about Ragnarok. In essence much like Donnington (Monsters of Rock) but with more O levels and less denim and acne. PiL are on soon. Must now unpack"

The journal continues on the back of a "Youth Against Racism in Europe" leaflet. He has just entered the main site and the snakebite has been topped up with real ale. Evidence of feeling sorry for himself. The attempts at Hunter S. Thompson now seem more like Thompson Local.

"This is a moment in time. Years from now grunge metal and Nirvana will be history and I'll be at Donnington or .... "

A totally unreadable word.
He wanders over to the main stage and begins to gaze at the startlingly intelligent and clean looking brunette on stage with the guitar. Is she at the wrong festival ?

"Spooky ! I asked three times at a club this week"   (Dizneyland) Actually night before last, what a rock and roller ! "I asked about 3 times who does a song they kept playing called Sheena-na-Gig. Its the first thing I hear when I turn up ! PJ Harvey ! And its the last song of the set..."

"The PiL clientelle are arriving" Lots of mean looking bastards kicking Utah Saints fans out of the way on the way to the stage. "PiL start by doing a Led Zeppelin tune I Know they are taking the piss. Some of the crowd don't and they are swaying admiringly to the music as Johnny leers at them. "England gone soft" he shouts - the first of many jibes at the crowd. I'd like to see him at the front row of a Godfathers concert. He lives in fucking Hollywood. He pulls a moonie, showing a big middle aged bum. He's suffering from chronic Townsend Syndrome"

"The crowd if front of him are now shouting "Johnny is a Wanker".
"So I'm a wanker" he says loving the abuse "I'm proud of it. The trouble with you youngsters is you're afraid of you're own sex tools"
A couple of actually pretty good songs later he's got the crowd and me on his side. "There's aren't many good things left from this country - And I'm one of 'em" A moment later he adds "Not bad for an Irishman" as if he's having trouble taking himself seriously these days. Q says Johnny Rotten/Lydon is not so much a singer as a music hall comedian. You can see why. Just to be nice they overrun by half an hour to play EMI- an old Sex Pistols song. This is good. And funny. Because it means the Wonderstuff, who are on last, are going to have their set cut short. He he he. 1 - Nil to the oldies."

Suddenly the young trendies equalise with The Charlatans. Millions of school girls in baggy t-shirts appear out of nowhere. I feel like an alien so I leave.

Unfortunately none of the food stalls are specialising in non-terrestrial …

<no idea what I’m talking about here. I was, and am knocked out by the food at Glastonbury and it always one of the highlights>

…so he makes do with some scrumpy and oggles for a suspiciously long time at the poster stall. This fact coupled with bizarre hippy bullshit about "The setting sun making the edges of the storm clouds glow gold" could possibly indicate Capt. Hodgson had been hitting the morphine quite hard. A final admission that "Frank Sidebottom - V. Funny" would seem to confirm this.

Here our on the spot commentary ends - the remaining pages lost in the apocalypse that also ended the journal and should have been a decent English Sunday morning. Later - under hypnosis to avoid further trauma, Capt. Hodgson would recall the rest from memory

Mmmm... Saturday. I did make a mental note that whatever instruments the Smashing Pumkins were using were of excellent quality. Try as hard as they might they just could not smash them up at the end of the set. As well as John Peels Full Results Service the real highlight of the day was Shonen Knife. Cute oriental schoolgirls playing aparenlty innocent nursery rhymes in the manner of The Clash.
"This song..." said the lead singer from a mouth in which butter would not melt as if talking to a class of 4 year olds " about a cat" Before launching into a song more Black Sabbath than childrens tv she sneaks a cheaky "Meeoow" into the mike prompting a WAAAARRRRGHH !!! from the seething horde of salivating greebos.

Sunday morning is really beyond description. Maybe I should read some WWI poetry. Imagine waking up in a gale in a badly secured tent and realising you're sharing the Somme with 30,000 irresponsible grebos and crusties with toilet training even worse than you're own. Also the men on the Somme hadn't been drinking snakebite for days.

Hours later, about 30 minutes before the first band of Sunday was to go on the rain had stopped and we all trudged up through the ankle deep mud toward the entrance to the main sight. I didn't know weather we were going to enter it or surrender to it. It was then I met a friends who I found disgustingly chirpy and clean - who had just arrived for one day with some of his friends. "You mean.." said a girl "You've been HERE for 2 DAYS ?"

Three pints of snakebite later it was raining again but I felt much better. The day really got swinging when Bjorn Again came on. We made our way to the front and in the sweat hot crush and ankle deep mud we wished we were wearing platform shoes as we pogoed ourselves deeper into the mire. It was a wonderful atmosphere, like Tom Jones at Glastonbury. No macho crap. Mass frenzied silliness. Made all the more funny by the way everybody new the words to all the songs and sometimes our singing seemed to drown out the band. It seemed hardly out a place that a man stood next to me wearing a mud caked wedding dress. During "Take a Chance on Me" he got me to give him a leg up - something I immediately regretted as soon he began to suck his foot out of the mud. My hands after this were enough to make the girl next to me shriek.

We got very muddy. Though not as muddy as some of the other bands that day (mostly Seattle type stuff - what others would call Sub Pop grunge crap) notably L7, who turned from Girlies with an Atitood to girlies with genuine bad moods under a constant (but basically good natured) barrage of mud from the crowd.

<I distinctly remember a guy directly in front of me thowing mud at the L7 bassist who seemed to think it was me. I was quite embarrassed about it. She stormed off and then back on to throw something back before continuing. Next week found out from Select magazine that someone from L7 had thrown her tampon at people in the crowd. It’s possible general embarrassment at this incident stopped me mentioning it the first time>

Other than PJ Harvey and Shonen Knife (all girlies) the only other band who came on who weren't pretending to have an Atitood were Nirvana. Huddling in the cold around a burning pile of rubbish waiting for fucking Nick miserable twat Cave to get off the collection of bikers I was with was taking bets on whether Nirvana would turn up at all, such was the level of rumour about the lead singers state of health.

<At some point I detached myself from the others. I thought they were so fed up they were about to leave. Sentiment was generally very anti-Nirvana and response to Cobain's health rumours was “I hope he’s dead”. We were all in agreement on Nick Cave though now I would probably have enjoyed it..
…Just forward to 1997, a Stag Night at the Hogs Head in St. Albans, the news that Kurt Cobain has shot himself is the start to the evening and the general response is
Only seeing a semi conscious soon to be groom in a shopping trolley travelling down the old railway line later would save that evening for me>

Then Nirvana came on. In response to rumours that the Mr Cobain was at deaths door a nurse pushed him on in a wheel chair, while Mr Novoselic made a Dr. Kildare speech thanking doctors and family for their support. They were taking the piss. They didn't play "Teen Spirit" (Bjorn Again had done their own version earlier). Asked us to say hello to the lead singers new baby, we sang happy birthday to the bassists Grandma (who thankful was safe at home in - wait for it - Bosnia), and told crap jokes while they were re-tuning guitars. I mean - obviously they smashed all their instruments up at the end - OBVIOUSLY but you got the feeling its coz they were having a laugh rather than making a statement.

Towards the end of the last song each member of the band began to do their own thing. Lead singer sat at the front showing the crowd experimental guitar, the bassist wondered off in search a fire extinguisher and the drummer began standing his drums on top of the amps. He then used a symbol as a frisbee to knock them off. Eventually the fire extinguisher arrived and the band escaped through their surreal musicscape covered by clouds of carbon dioxide that glowed bright white in the lights.

Music was pretty good too.


2013 notes
  • I was a huge Nirvana fan before after and since. I played it down then as virtually everyone I knew hated the band, but at the time I placed that Sunday night in my top three live performances I'd ever seen.
  • The crowd singing is often mentioned during 'Lithium' - it reached a climax during that song but everyone around me (and I was about 20ft in front of stage) was singing loudly to everything we knew the words to right from the off! Perhaps a collective and climactic bonding experience after three days of weather misery, I've experienced similar at Glastonbury.
  • Wow those jokes were bad :-)
  • They did play Teen Spirit apparently. When I finally caught up with the Nirvana Live At Reading DVD I remembered previously unheard The Money Will Roll Right In and D7 were highlights that ended the set very strongly
  • The fact that Nirvana insisted on the insane lineup for the Sunday - Shonen Knife, L7, Bjorn Again etc - because they didn't want 'lame' British bands (this would have been Britpop) makes it one of the first ATP like events, were performers are asked to curate the festival.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Beyond The Wall of Sleep 3

The link between bad sleep and Alzheimers makes insomnia a clear and present danger to the human race. Below are the contents of emails I send out to friends who have trouble sleeping - it has worked for me for years and it works for most of them too.

See previous posts on this

Spoken Audio for Sleep

I’m often recommending the effectiveness of using podcasts to get back to sleep, and how they need to be a strange combination of interesting enough to stop you thinking at 3am and boring enough to send back to sleep. I find that something with a single speaker on a non-e motive subject is good. Podcast discussions are ok up they are upbeat, lousy if they are full of unexpected jingles, ads and music.

Vital aspect to you is that it has to be interesting enough to gauge your attention. If your mind wanders onto areas that you shouldn't be thinking about..

- and in my experience no conclusion reached 2.30am-6.30am is worth a damn -

..the audio you are listening to is useless and you should find something else

Audio books

Here is a brilliant resource - free classic audio novels read by volunteers
I suggest an uncomplicated unabridged reassuring old classic, maybe start on Kipling's Man Who Would Be King (not too long) then some H Rider Haggard. Like Sherlock Holmes? How about AC Doyles Lost World?
 Worth mentioning a friend just listens to the BBC Lord of The Rings every night to go to sleep on an iPod, and has been doing that every night for at least two years. I've been suggesting to his wife that she dress up as a Balrog and surprise him to see if this is having any long term effect but so far she isn't convinced (though as an inquisitive Persian with a scientific background I think her curiosity will get the better of her before long)


My current favourites

When Diplomacy Fails Podcast

which has a single upbeat speaker on a vaguely interesting subject

Pritzker Military Podcast

My perennial favourites

Dan Carlin (both)*

Guardian Football weekly*

MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show*

Best Of the Left*

(*All of the above have gotten so good I save them for when I'm awake)

Serious snooze favourites

Anything from BBC Radio 4 is good to fall asleep to
ESPN FC Soccer show
Note - NPR is even more soporific and sleepy than Radio4 ....somehow I find it easier to fall asleep listening to Americans - maybe because subconsciously I think they are all fictional creations :-)

and  moving into
the class A drugs of sleep inducing podcasts

- Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time
- of which actually I'm a huge fan!
At the tail end of my horror weekend in wintery storm ripped Tangiers I was only saved by Melvyn Bragg and co.
<I'll be brief>
Storms meant the only return to Gibraltar was from a Morrocan container port 50 miles down the North African coast, aboard a half a century old ex-scandinavian ferry (ABBA era decour was past its best) in the heaviest seas I ever want to see. It was like living The Poseidon Adventure with the original interiors from The Golden Shot. Nightmarish, and only a stack of In Our Time on my Ipod got me through it.
I'll type up the words written after the Tangiers trip when I recover - though its two years and counting so don't hold your breath.
IOT is a National Treasure.

and finally from 2011, again part of my Gibraltar coping strategy

I believe I have found the ultimate example of Podcasts for sleep, in the latest and greatest episode of ‘The History Network.’ I’ve mentioned this podcast before as a great combination of an incredibly dull, boring man trying to explain the potentially interesting. If Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time podcast is (usually) a sleeping pill, the History Network is a full course of Rhino tranquilisers.

The latest episode could be the ultimate example of the form. “A History of The Rocket Troop” is a description of how the British army started using large primitive rockets to fire at people in the middle of hectic environments (Battle of Waterloo) long before they were safe or practical to do so. How could that not be interesting? How could anything with ‘Rocket’ in the title be not interesting enough to keep you awake?

It seems impossible, but the sonorous military podcast historian manages to start with just enough detail to stop you thinking about life at 3am, before strangling the subject dead with dull military lists of postings long after you have sailed into the black velvety comfort of sleep. I swear I woke an hour later in a foetal position sucking my thumb.

Final note on classic audio books to sleep to - HP Lovecraft (even the Dreamlands) is not good and Poe is a complete no-no!

Pics are from the much loved Chaosium table top game

Beyond The Wall of Sleep 2

(apparently I covered this before)

The link between bad sleep and Alzheimers makes insomnia a clear and present danger to the human race. Below are the contents of emails I send out to friends who have trouble sleeping - it has worked for me for years and it works for most of them too.

Though it might seem an assumption that regular readers of this blog are strangers to nodding off, my life in one area, sleep, has improved hugely over the last ten years and bearing in mind the horrific news mentioned above I think it's my duty to cover the subject properly for the benefit of others. I have actually blogged about this before - How I Learnt To Sleep

You'll need an iPod, iPhone, or some music audio player with a sleep timer function. Smart music players like the iPod are the tool our parents never had in dealing with insomnia. Steve Jobs must have saved about a year of sleep for me already. Thanks Steve.

Your War On Insomnia
I think I've fallen asleep listening to so many military history podcasts everything now is a military campaign.

  • First off you'll need an iPod, iPhone, or some music audio player with a sleep timer function. Smart music players like the iPod are the main weapons our parents never had in dealing with insomnia. Steve Jobs must have saved about a year of sleep for me already. Thanks Steve

  • Download some interesting Podcasts (see next post for suggestions). You would think music would be the best thing to fall asleep to and many times it is - but if you have woken and are being bothered with thoughts at 3am the mind needs to be occupied with a subject, not given a soundtrack.

  • Get some comfortable good inner ear headphones that you can sleep with and won't leak noise and wake your partner (why does noone invent and market earphones for bad sleepers?) I love Sennheiser ear buds. This is me on the discovery of Sennheiser earbuds while I struggled to sleep in Gib

just slept ten hours two nights running feel AWESOME
I am still waking up at 2 and 5am but I reset Ipod for timer to cut
out after half an hour - I rarely last more than ten mins each time
has to be vaguely interesting audio for me to fall asleep to it.. if
its boring I think about other stuff and stay awake mad is that

  • Buy an eye shade. They look a bit 'fabulous daahling' - (the look is described as 'Zorro' in lifestyle advice classic Get Him To The Greek but they work for me). When it's cold a beanie hat rolled down over the eyes is even better. Even when it is dark enough in your bedroom to not need an eyeshade the gentle pressure on your eyelids will eventually be a sign to your mind that it's time to show the test card and shutdown.

  • Exercise every day without fail no matter how trivial. Suggestion: start with walking up your high street for ten minutes every day at least. Maybe at night about an hour before bed? Take a radio the iPod so it doesn't get boring. Has to be daily routine. Long term.  Find a running shop, get some decent running shoes and slowly jog up and down your neighbourhood before dinner each evening. Again has to be routine but low intensity. 

  • Finally, have sleep munchies (bagels, bananas) ready for 3 am snacks if required. A slightly full stomach gives just that extra boost to the contentment level to push you over the edge and down into that long silky drop into dreamlands.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Murray Walker's 21st Birthday Party

In the midst of all this Hunt/Lauda fuss (see Rush review) something about Murray -

Murray Walker and James Hunt
Remember when ITV first got F1 and started trundling the F1 coverage downhill ?
BBC had lost the coverage and not long after the death of James Hunt his veteran co-commentator Murray Walker had to make the transition across to the commercial channel.
In an attempt to play up the comedy potential of the fuddy duddy long time F1 commentator they put him in a two seater F1 car and blitzed him around Silverstone - and were then waiting on hand with a film crew to get the reaction of this 60 year old man exposed to serious G.

"What did you think of that Murray?!" asked some ITV muppet jamming a phone into his face as soon as his lid was off "Was that the scariest thing you've ever done!?"

"No - but was the most exciting experience since my 21st birthday" replies Walker

"What was that?" asks the ITV muppet with obvious disappointment

"A tank battle just outside Normandy"

RUSH to judgement on modern Formula One Racing

RUSH, which needs to be seen on a big screen, is Star Wars where all previous car racing movies were Logan's Run, and is the best sports movie of any kind since Clint Eastwood's Invictus. That admission about racing movies is actually a big one for me as I've defending Tony Scott's Days of Thunder ("better than Top Gun") as a fun movie years, to varying degrees of ridicule!

Like Pacific Rim I mention Star Wars again, this time not because of reaction from kids in the cinema  audience but for the action sequences. The breathtaking racing action really is a quantum leap over previous attempts at the same. I wonder if the hyper fast cutting and internal combustion porn is influenced by the hyper-real montages of Top Gear?  Rush also includes more honest  petrol head detail than I've heard even in recent F1 coverage. The only real minus to this movie is the title, which is as forgettable as it is generic - I'd hate to think this movie is ever confused with Driven or Rush or Rush.

For the visuals I guess we have to thank again that Oscar winning Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantel (Slumdog Millionaire, Festen .... Dredd). This time with Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Damned United) supplying the words.

Ron Howard brings his Apollo 13 form as director, telling a compelling true story largely based on fact with no villains, in which virtually every character comes out well. A wild soundtrack and believable period soundtrack includes Slade, Thin Lizzy, Mud and Bowie.

Familiar faces from now portray familiar faces from then. Stephen Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt pop up briefly and for a while it looks like there might be a Green Wing reunion  (it would be nice to see Hunt handle the females from Green Wing and Smack The Pony but this never happens sadly). An almost unrecognisable Olivia Wilde ('13' from House) appears as Suzy Miller, an eternally optimistic 1970s super model who somehow escapes James Hunt to go to Richard Burton. Apparently Director Ron Howard originally intended for Russell Crowe to make a cameo appearance as Richard Burton for a brief scene where he confronts James Hunt.

The principal actors make the two prickly characters like able though bending the truth slightly to make them more antagonistic in an otherwise incredible story obviously helps in this regard. Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda are absolutely convincing and the various back scenes stories are almost good enough to make the actual racing an intrusion. The story of Lauda meeting his wife on the way out of a party in Italy (played by Alexandra Maria Lara) is worth the price of admission alone.

You have to look twice to notice this is not Hemsworth and Bruhl
Nice to see Murray Walker in pic at the end, he was the only glaring omission and a reminder of how much we miss a sports commentary team that was under-appreciated at the time. (Next blog post will have a Murray Walker story)

Anyone tired of seeing dusty tired props in period movies will adore the old F1 hardware, taken from museums and private collections and raced to the limit. It looks absolutely sensational and the recreations of old circuits and stories look suitably mythic. There are almost as many shots of the six wheeled Tyrell as there are of Hunt boozing, and even Mario Andretti's beautiful black and gold Lotus gets some attention at the end.

It really makes F1 today look like the identitikit non spectacle it really is. I have no problem with modern F1 drivers who look like personalities to me and I'm sure would get up to the same hi-jinks as their predecessors if allowed. I've definitely no problem with F1 safety, I remember we were quite glad not to see some of the F1 races live at the time because of the constant expectation of death.

Main problem I have with modern F1 is with the cars. F1 is the interface of science engineering nerd enthusiasm and sport - and the yet the modern hardware spec makes the cars virtually identical apart from a paint job.
"Oh! The Renault V8.. Has a deeper degree of V than all the others!"

Really? That's a bit lame compared to Brabham Fan Car and the  the six wheeled Tyrell isn't it?

Request for Peter Morgan and Anthony Dod Mantel - any chance of Barry Sheene vs Kenny Roberts next? Hell why doesn't someone remake this ?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Unspoken Tea Party Deficit Solution : Repeal the Bush Tax Cuts

I think I now understand the Tea Party mindset. Or at least the mindset they claim to have.

I must have read hundreds of comments from Tea Party supporters this week all blaming Obama for the deficit and claiming he will only add to it (despite the fact he is paying it off)

"I don't care about the poltics or the government in power. Republicans and Democrats, they are all the same. Government needs to be shut down because it is out of control. Sensible spending is all that matters at this point"
You know, I can see some of that. The deficit is a national security issue and there are parts of the US government that seem to think buying even more tanks the US Army does not need
is somehow sensible when the money to do that is being borrowed from the Chinese.

So I get spending is out of control and needs to be reigned in. Apparently dealing with the budget right now is so vital it is worth risking another credit downgrade*, and senior US politicians on both sides, Democrat and Republican are to blame and must be ignored to push through (more) tough cuts to the Federal government.

So, Tea Party people, if you are so in favour of fiscal responsibility, and so above petty distractions like conventional politics, where we you on the Bush tax cuts?

If you are so in favour of cutting the US budget, were you for the gigantic tax cuts for the super rich that took the Clinton era budget surplus and flushed it down the toilet? They alone are at least 20% of the US deficit!

It is an important question, because if you were in favour of the Republican's disastrous attempts at trickle down economics you are not as above conventional politics as you would have us all believe
- and your grasp of budgeting isn't entirely reliable.

*For those not in the know - the last credit limit crisis only ended when the elected US President (who had run on repealing the tax cuts) gave in and let the Tea Party have them.

Monday, 14 October 2013

New word of the day : "Neo-Confederate"

In what might turn out to be the pivotal moment of the political stand-off of the decade, an anti-Obama crowd, containing Tea Party leaders Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, stands  outside the White House. One of the demonstrators carries the flag of the Confederate states of America.

To European eyes this is just an old flag from the Civil War, to American eyes this is still an open wound and the debate on various websites covering this is already more virulent and nasty than I have ever seen.

Foreshadowing events later (I'm sure) half of the Republican response is "it must be a Liberal plant" and the other half is "what's wrong with the Confederate flag anyway?" (Answer : it is the symbol of military revolt against the US government and institutional racism and slavery).

It will be very interesting to see how the hyper patriots on the American right explain how it is that their core support seeks to undermine the United States itself. I think the old Republican party as we know it received a mortal wound at this event.

Neo-Confederate is a term used by some academics and political activists to describe the views of various groups and individuals who have a positive belief system concerning the historical experience of the Confederate States of America, the Southern secession, and the Southern United States.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Daily Mail : what the rest of the world thinks of it

Guardian today publishes letters of support from leading foreign newspapers after The Daily Mail accuses it of being 'The paper that helps Britain's enemies'. Amid lots of platitudes aimed at the Grauniad, some choice words about The Daily Mail from the world's leading newspaper editors
"The Mail has a right to be the government's toady. We'll look elsewhere for actual journalism.."
"worst kind of intellectual philistinism"
"... an absurdity: a professional forgetting the very purpose of his profession."


London Underground map of Daily Mail obsessions, courtesy of The Poke

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tea Party is now in effect Leader of the Free World

With the Tea Party Republicans now seeking to overturn the result of two democratic elections in the United States - by bringing the entire government to a halt - I for one welcome our new Tea Party overlords

Pic from

Beneath The Lunchtime Of the Apes (breaktime in Gibraltar)

Lunchtime during the Gibraltar contract in 2010

Thursday 11ish. I need to know if I can get a ticket on the ferry (Tangiers) tomorrow. Spanish website doesn’t work.

I start marching down Main street in Gibraltar to get to Tourist information in Casements Square at the other end. Just before Casemates Square a large group of Eastern European tourists is gathered at the end of Main Street. I stop and look up and the huge tobacconists, which is covered in scaffolding, has got two Barbary apes up there messing about and squeaking at the humans. This is probably the busiest place in Gibraltar.

I’ve been here a couple of months now and ape cheekiness around here is no longer a surprise. I move on.

Tourist Information Centre directs me back towards Ferry Agents in Irish Town. Walking back past the ape incident into Irish Town I pass a motorbike cop (looks exactly like a British bike cop but the bikes are nice 80s vintage CBX750 Honda's in traffic colours) headed towards ape terrorism with genuinely worried look on his face.

Ferry Agents tells me we won’t know if there will be a ferry on Friday until.. Friday. There is some dispute with the Spanish.

I get lunch in Moroccan themed lunch bar. Walking back down Main Street I approach The Convent, the old Governors residence, which has two armed soldiers on guard outside at all times.

Further down the street two fire engines with lights and sirens blazing are headed obviously back in the direction of the ape terrorism. They are being held up by some total fool in a 4x4 (loads of 4x4s in tiny Gibraltar) who is trying to maneuver his vehicle out of the way of the fire engines in medieval streets to allow the fire engines to pass. Driver of 4x4 isn’t taking enough notice of the one traffic cop at the scene. Then the two soldiers (both look under 20) march over to 4x4 with their assault rifles, with polished bayonets fitted, and forceably instruct 4x4 driver to get out of the way of the fire engines. 4x4 driver drives off the road onto pavement immediately and nearly hits a newsagents. Loan traffic cop thanks soldiers who return to their post outside convent.

Fire engines take off headed for other end of Main Street to either rescue and/or restrain apes. Bemused Eastern European tourists take a lot of photos.

I go back to work

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Creative buzz vs Gaming buzz

I've suspected for a long time that gaming is a great way to deal with depression and personal disappointment. Exercise is vital but something needs to keep the conscious mind from grinding metal. When exercise is not an option I expect gaming is absolutely vital - one of the reasons I've avoided huge amounts of game time before now is I suspect it is something we will be encouraged do do long into our senior years. 'Gamers' may soon relate more to senior citizens than teenagers.

Over the last month or so entire I've spent a lot of time playing Eve  and can compare gaming with the creative buzz I had through most of the Spring. 

Gaming is more immersive, you don't have attention issues and it never ends. You get pulses of achievement and some human interaction. BUT it does make you more physically indolent and other issues drop down the priority level. You don't see much outside.

Creative stuff is a lot more of a rollercoaster, and chances are it ends in a crash when you realise your masterpiece is garbage. Before that happens however you do feel enormous empowerment and justification of yourself. Much as I like Eve and am going to continue with it I already miss the me that creates because he thinks he's a mad bastard that doesn't have to answer to anyone. The gamer just wants to elsewhere all the time.

It's worth being creative even for no discernible audience or purpose just to keep that buzz going.. and perhaps use the gaming as a soft landing when reality starts rushing towards you.

Image stolen from Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, the only book on creativity that didn't feel like a total waste of time

BBC's Peaky Blinders - It isn't Breaking Bad.. its just Peaky Blinders

<UPDATE 2 : Writer of  Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, turns out to have written Eastern Promises, one of my favourite Cronenberg films. I'm still not keen on the rest of this output but just based on his Russian London gangsters I'm going to swallow my  bitter negativity and give this show another go. He also wrote Taboo.>

<UPDATE : I feel compelled to point out this is my opinion of first four episodes, not even the first series. People tell me season 2 is actually pretty good, note sure if these people have seen Deadwood and Boardwalk Empire though..>

I have been ranting about British tv recently in comparison to US TV. I know it's a cliche by now. Various people have suggested I watch the new BBC period drama, Peaky Blinders, essentially 'Gangs of Birmingham', set just after the First World War with a cast of ex-soldiers dealing with trauma.. blah blah blah

The process of submitting scripts to the BBC is hugely dispiriting, demotivating and likely to make you quite bitter.  (So I am saying right out front - I AM ONE OF THOSE FAILURES). Your script has to fulfill an enormous range of criteria, including backstory detail on characters, and if it is a tv pilot, scripts and plots that cover a whole first season of 12 episodes. BBC writers room has its own Word template for scripts, which is seriously time consuming to apply and will make the latest draft of your script pretty much unreadable to anyone else afterwards. Six months after printing all this out and posting it to the BBC the rejection is a postcard with "Sorry" written on it.

So you have to be pretty special to get considered for an original script at the BBC. Potential writers are encouraged endlessly not to actually write but to invest in and read training on how to write scripts. Half the income from Guardian Media Group these days seems to come from writing courses for people that don't actually have a hope in hell of making it into the closed shop of professional writing.

But if we can't write, and certainly can't get paid to write, because of all the lectures and training we've got a pretty good idea of where we are going wrong.

Which leads me to Peaky Blinders

If I submitted a script with as much expository dialogue as can be heard in the pilot of Peaky Blinders you are the son of ?? and and I am the daughter of ?? that means blah blah blah..

... I'd be brutally mocked for being an amateur and wasting everyones time including my own. While I'm listening to that dialogue I'm sitting on the sofa surrounded by books I've payed for on screen writing, which were suggested by the very same industry that has produced Peaky Blinders, in a effort to stop me pestering them with my own crap.

Well we can confidently say now that my crap - is crap - but at least I specifically avoid making it look like anyone elses crap.

In terms of era and characters, Peaky Blinders retains only the settings and accent of a great setting, the Birmingham Small Arms factory post Great War, while choosing to rip-off whole plot points and characters from HBO's Atlantic City gangster epic Boardwalk Empire, set at exactly the same time. In terms of look and feel, Peaky Blinders is so desperate to be HBO's acclaimed down and dirty Deadwood it reminds you of the young lady who performs services on Al Swearengen when he can't get Tricksy.

I am sure this is not the fault of the writer, who must be talented as well as tough and determined to get where he is. But as often with current BBC drama it stinks of re-writes and committees and compromises to an overall purpose - in this case "write me a British Boardwalk Empire". An added problem being that writing for Daily Mail readers watching BBC1 with their phone on their lap is not the same as writing for HBO subscribers.

An example. In Peaky Blinders smoking is rampant. Very authentic in that respect.If anything it is played down, the clouds of cancerous gas in the pub for instance don't look too real to me.
But there is no swearing.
In the HBO shows this completely reversed, and what smoking there is is often a plot point. With regards to the swearing.. we're back to the dialog again. The swearing in Deadwood, which is NOT period authentic, is maybe the most audacious use of dialogue I've ever heard. They say the dialogue is Deadwood is written in iambic pentameter, and I wish I could have heard Shakespeare go and rock and roll with profanity the way the Deadwood characters are able to.
But for the BBC swearing is the big no-no while smoking is ok. I guess, unlike creative swearing, Daily Mail never gets on the BBC for smoking because most of British society is in still in the last century and the tobacco industry has its supporters.

The positives:
Peaky Blinders looks SENSATIONAL. Plotwise it might be a British Midlands photocopy of Boardwalk Empire but arguably looks even better than that multi million dollar HBO epic.
 It is well directed and has an all star cast, I've not seen Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill better and even their regional accents are passable. (Few things nicer on their ear than a good brummie accent).
Every ten minutes I think I should watch this with the sound off but some of the soundtrack choices, mostly good Jack White sourced material (Icky Thump would be an inspired choice) are quite arresting. 
That brings me to the biggest needle however.

I like to end on a positive but main crime is the main theme of Peaky Blinders, which is indicative of the whole show.

Boardwalk Empire's choice of main theme is so left field and ballsy it just took the breath away at first hearing. Scorsese and co picked a song by narky 60s revivalists The Brian Jonestown Massacre - for a story about Prohibition in the 1920s. An obscure West Coast band mostly known for antics in DIG!, I love BJM with a passion but even I wouldn't have picked them for that gig. But, in it's channeling of 1960s hedonism above images of the failure of Prohibition (the Canadian Whiskey on the shoreline) it works.

There is a galaxy of great unused tunes that might have fitted Peaky Blinders  area, era and material. We could probably name a few well known bands formed within a few miles of the actual BSA factory depicted in the show. (Black Sabbath?) Anything off PJ Harvey's Mercury award winning Let England Shake would have been contemporary for the viewing audience, thematically appropriate and it would have sounded pretty spot on for the period as well.

The theme actually selected for Peak Blinders is 'Red Right Hand' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a classic song - which is unfortunately already over-used in an a number of movies and tv series going back two decades, including Dumb and Dumber, Hellboy, and The X-Files television series. Red Right Hand is also the signature theme for Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's Scream series (four movies, $600 million in worldwide box office, not obscure) and presumably for the Scream tv series now in development in the US.

There is probably an entire library of moody Nick Cave songs to choose from and also a very good cover of this actual track by the Arctic Monkeys which would have sounded pretty good - why pick a version that is already overused and a signature tune for a movie series and another TV project?  It is a safe, predictable and frankly desperate choice for an opening theme, which is the overall impression left by Peaky Blinders.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Afghanistan to Sesame Street

If you've not see this awesome justification for the BBC license fee..

Newsnight's Emily Maitlis goes straight from interviewing the President of Afghanistan Mohammed Karzai 
 to this

Friday, 4 October 2013

Republican Government Shut Down is a Tea Party Coup

American Republicanism thinks it's going out in a blaze of glory, actually it's American Democracy that's dying of cancer in a frozen car

If the American people vote against a set of policies clearly - twice - and they are implemented anyway because one part of government, backed by big business, threatens to bring the country and the world to its knees over not agreeing a budget, that is a effectively coup isn't it?

This is what is happening now in the United States government, where completely without precedent a minority are shutting down the government unless policies which have been voted down twice are put into effect.

Like Karl Marx was in the 20th Century, Ayn Rand is turning into the political suicide creed of the 21st.
As I voiced in an earlier post these shutdowns are not lack of agreement. They are actual policy, based on Randian fantasies of 'elites' shutting down the government. US Government shutdown is Atlas Shrugged made real, the world of the Producers shutting down the world of the Moochers coming to pass. The Producers in this case is not the musical, and Rand, in case you didn't know, died after living off government welfare under an assumed name.

If this seems a little sinister and unlikely consider a right wing talking point you increasingly see across the net
"America is Not a Democracy — It's Something Even Better"
We are not a Democracy; We are a "Republic"

Apparently, for those who haven't had the benefit of an education system that often features highlights like Creationism, a 'Jeffersonian' system of government, includes "putting checks on the power of the majority", and the power of the individual at the expense of actual "Democracy"

"And the values of republicanism, such as individual rights, civic virtue, and putting checks on the power of the majority, are ones that we desperately need to rediscover."
just one of many examples out there

Here we have the semantic problem with the heart of modern right wing politics.Supporting a system which increasingly benefits only the top 1%, 'Democracy' is obviously not going to work. Instead we have a new improved concept which trumps Democracy - "Republicanism"

Republicanism now is really about "putting checks on the power of the majority"? Anyone who has studied European history from the 20th Century will recognise that kind of language immediately.
Need some elites to point the ignorant peasants in the right direction?
We used to call it Fascism, Communism and Nazism.

The shut down is a minor issue, at least for the rest of the world. It's happened before. What is new the possibility of a default on the extension of US budget ceiling on the 17th October. That is the World Reserve Currency suddenly deciding that it can't pay its bills. An really that is is deciding, not it actually happening. The current US government has haved the deficit already.

Just to indicate where the American media sits on this issue - this deficit, the centre of the debate, was left by the last Republican president. The last Republican President to balance the US budget was Eisenhower in the 1950s.

And yet the US media lets the Republicans of today call into the question the faith and credit of the US economy under Democractic leadership (there were no similar budget deficit issues when Bush Jnr was entering two wars and cutting taxes at the same time). Republicans have already engineered a loss of credit rating in the US Economy, during Obama's government, based on a deficit they supported and voted for themselves when in power.

If the US media seems quite complicit in this, how are are the other side? We have reached this insane negotiating point because the Democrats have already caved in on negotiations against similar tactics, most recently on the Sequester.
Yeah. The Sequester was a Democratic negotiating tactic intended to keep government going last time, which ironically had the effect of gutting US government funding in exactly the way the Republicans ultimately intended. Strange how Democratic negotiation tactics nearly always result in huge cuts to US government whatever the result.

We could ask where would we be if the Republicans had blocked funding for FDR's New Deal during the great Depression but going partisan undermines the seriousness of this issue. We have gone beyond into an actual challenge to a running government which has been democratically elected twice.
On the surface this an attempt to stop Obama taking credit for Republican heal care program. (Needless to say the Democrats couldn't implement the Single Payer health care reform their supporters wanted so they went with a Republican program first introduced by Mitt Romney in New Hampshire)

But in reality, quite aside from political considerations of right and left, the functioning of the world largest democracy is in real danger of buckling under pressure from a corporate interest group. We might actually be looking at the corporate take-over in action.

The world won't end by the time this budget crisis is over - but it will be a different one. There are three outcomes:
  • The Republicans cave in - all out war breaks out on the US right, Tea Party is formed as an actual political party (some networks have been treating it as such for some time). Frustrated by the inability to keep "the majority in check" in their "Republican" not "Democratic" system, a lot of very powerful entities (the Koch brothers among others) start looking for other remedies. "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.".. is another Jeffersonian favourite. 
  • If Obama caves in - again - the power of the US President is fatally undermined going forward, and this tactic of using deadline budget negotiations is used from now on to make the United States  ungovernable. Successful Military coup within the decade? (see below*) 
  • Neither gives in, the US defaults on its debt we have (at least) a different world reserve currency and (at the very least) some high interest rates. 
​​​Consider Walter White sitting in the frozen car contemplating his end in the finale of Breaking Bad. The end may be coming - perhaps it is here - and the US electorate and media need to stop dreaming and be aware of what is really happening.

*Rick Joyner, Televangelist And Pastor, Wants A Military Takeover Of The U.S. Government