Thursday 30 September 2010

Tony Curtis

I was saddened to hear today of the passing of Tony Curtis, Hollywood legend, at the age of 85.
Here's Tony ( above ) doing his wicked Cary Grant impersonation in Some Like It Hot.....

And here he is in the epic Spartacus with the great Kirk Douglas.....

And finally, with Jack Lemmon ( don't they look great in drag? ) and Marilyn Monroe in another scene from the immortal Some Like It Hot.....

They really don't make movie stars like that any more!

RIP Tony Curtis
June 3, 1925 - September 30, 2010

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Na Na Na

The new My Chemical Romance single from the forthcoming album, Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys.
( Obviously not the pre-Dexy's Kevin Rowland Killjoys. )

I love this song!

Monday 27 September 2010

Busy, busy.....

Not much blog activity here, lately, so..... apologies etc. We've been very busy with James' birthday ( very good day, thanks ), clearing out my Mum's place..... and that whole work/real life thing that always gets in the way of blogging.

I'd just like to say Hi! to a couple of new Followers :
Man/woman of mystery exe1960 ( one of those Profile Not Available types )
and Duckers, curator of 3 very interesting blogs and a man of impeccable taste.

Oh yeah, and my new blog, 15 Albums, is open for business. Feel free to check it out, leave comments, abuse etc. ( well, not too much abuse ) and maybe read this old post to see where the idea came from. Ta.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Happy Birthday, James!

Happy Birthday, matey! 11 today!

Love from Mum, Dad, Sophie, Hero and Jasper xxxxxx

Friday 24 September 2010

Echoes of the distant past.....

Chains Of Love ( Death Planet Commandos 1989 )

I'm coming back to see you darling
I'm coming back from the other side
And when the moon casts blood-red shadows
I'll show you what the dark can't hide

You wanted to see me darling
You wanted to see me safe and sound
But I'm not the man that you remember
After three cold years underground

It's time to break the chains of love
Obsession growing in the dark
Bodies no longer as one
Just echoes of the distant past

I have seen the earthworm turning
I have seen the tree-roots spread
Families of insects live inside me
And dance through my empty head

Repeat chorus

I've been subjecting James to some of my old Death Planet Commandos tapes ( lucky kid! ) and I thought this song was worth, er, digging up for the ol' blog.
Lyrics by yours truly, music ( what do you mean, you can't hear it? ) by Mark and Jon.

Ahh, zombies in love :-)

Tuesday 21 September 2010

More scary sculptures

A few more sculptures from the Crucible exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral.

The skinless chap is apparently St. Bartholomew. Artist: Damien Hirst.

For anyone who's read Iain Banks' Use Of Weapons, I'll just say "Chairmaker". Brrrrr!!

Soundtrack: Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who

Monday 20 September 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the movie review

So there's this guy called Scott somebody and he plays, like, bass or whatever. He's totally dating a high-schooler, right? And then he meets this girl called Ramona and she's got pink hair and stuff. So he wants to go out with her, right? But, like, first he has to defeat her seven evil-exes who all wanna kick his ass. Which sucks. And then this English guy called Edgar or something wants to turn Scott's life into a movie or whatever. Which is cool.....

James and I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World last night in glamorous Stroud. Edgar Wright's adaptation of the Bryan Lee O'Malley graphic novel is a psychedelic, kinetic, hyper-stylised ball of energy. The lives and loves of Scott Pilgrim, his friends and enemies and their bands take place in a video-game world where anything seems possible. Even love.

Scott is a ( seemingly ) hopeless slacker who, after a string of failed relationships, drifts into a love triangle with his virtually-platonic high-school girlfriend Knives Chau and new-girl-on-the-block, the tough, angsty Ramona Flowers. Unfortunately Romana comes with baggage: the League Of Evil Exes, seven former lovers, all determined that if they can't have her, neither can Scott. Our hero has to "man-up" and fight for the girl he loves and also his own self-respect.....

Director Edgar Wright's high concept is to film this story like a musical where the characters break into fantasy-battles to punctuate the plot, rather than break into song. Wright brings all his usual stylistic tricks and more into play: lightning-fast edits and scene transitions, comic-book style on-screen sound effects, characters as avatars in arcade games, a battle of the bands where monster riffs literally become monsters, petals fly across the screen as lovers kiss, an almost constant bombardment of images and sounds and references familiar to the anime/Playstation/iPod generation.

But amongst all this wild sensory-overload there's still room for some winning performances from the good-looking cast. Michael Cera stays just on the right side of annoying as aimless Scott and convincingly portrays the character's ( eventual ) decision to grow up; Mary Elizabeth Winstead is gorgeous and tough, with an underlying sadness, as Ramona; Keiran Culkin gets all the best lines as Scott's room-mate; and Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza (!) and Alison Pill are all great fun as the other women in Scott's life. Some of the Evil Exes are short-changed when it comes to screen-time, but Chris Evans, as an egotistical movie-star, and Brandon Routh, as an even more egotistical rock-star, have a whale of a time sending themselves up and beating the hell out of Michael Cera - or at least his stunt doubles.

It's a wildly ambitious, visually imaginative and very funny film with eye-popping action and a great soundtrack. And a band called Sex Bob-Omb! What more could you want?

Soundtrack: Garbage Truck by Sex Bob-Omb.

Saturday 18 September 2010


Some flocking great sculptures at the Nature In Art gallery in Gloucester.

Soundtrack: Rubber Soul by the Beatles.

Monday 13 September 2010

Is there anybody out there?

Getting just a little worried about the lack of comments on this 'ere blog lately. Has the Zombie Apocalypse / Alien Invasion / Rise Of The Machines started already? How could I have missed it? Can't think of any other reason.....

Or maybe I'm just boring you?

Sunday 12 September 2010


Happy Anniversary, Sarah!

18 years of putting up with me - how do you do it?

( The wine probably helps..... )

Saturday 11 September 2010

Steranko Saturdays: Swordsmen

More of Jim Steranko's biggest, baddest barbarians from some groovy late 60's / early 70's paperbacks.

Babes, blades, bad-asses and bad guys. What more could you want?

( Scans courtesy of the wonderful Mr. Door Tree )

15 Albums

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day: in 15 minutes think of 15 albums that are important to you and list them. Well, we love lists don't we?

Actually, 15 minutes is a long time so I decided to do it in 5 minutes. I sat down during a break at work today, with no access to my record collection or t'internet and wrote down the first albums that popped into my head. Did it in 4 minutes.....

1. Never Mind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols
2. London Calling by the Clash
3. Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band
4. The Band by The Band
5. Psychocandy by the Jesus & Mary Chain
6. Surfer Rosa by Pixies
7. Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys
8. New Day Rising by Husker Du
9. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels by Dexy's Midnight Runners
10. Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
11. Exodus by Bob Marley & the Wailers
12. Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin
13. Deserter's Songs by Mercury Rev
14. Abbey Road by the Beatles
15. The Soft Bulletin by the Flaming Lips

That just seemed to scratch the surface of my collection, so I jumped straight into list 2, my only rule being not to include any artist from the first list, or there could be another 3 or 4 albums by Springsteen, Zep etc. Again, done in 4 minutes.

16. Introduce Yourself by Faith No More
17. Master Of Puppets by Metallica
18. Harvest by Neil Young
19. Purple Rain by Prince & the Revolution
20. Element Of Light by Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians
21. Surrender by the Chemical Brothers
22. The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z
23. Is This It? by the Strokes
24. Crossing The Red Sea With... The Adverts
25. This Is The Sea by the Waterboys
26. If I Should Fall From Grace With God by the Pogues
27. Rave On by Andy White
28. The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd
29. Otis Blue by Otis Redding
30. Supernature by Goldfrapp

It's funny seeing this list and seeing the random connections my brain was making between artists. Crossing The Red Sea made me think of This Is The Sea, and the Waterboys in turn made me think of other "Celtic" 80's bands like the Pogues and the underrated Andy White. How I went from Neil Young to Prince I don't know.

It amazes me that I got as far as no. 28 before I shouted out "Dark Side!" Phew - almost left it out! But I also unforgivably left out these: Everything Must Go, The Stone Roses, Blonde On Blonde, Songs In The Key Of Life, Ziggy Stardust, Rocket To Russia, Automatic For The People, Raw Power, ( What's The Story ) Morning Glory?

Maybe I ought to do a 15 Albums series of posts, setting down my thoughts on each album and what they mean to me. Or maybe another blog? Hmmm.....

Thursday 9 September 2010

Mark Millar's CLiNT

What's in a name?

Mark Millar's new magazine has arrived, censor-baiting title and bullet-riddled cover leering out from the shelves in your local WH Smith. In his foreword, Millar describes his new venture as a "boy's comic", going on to tell his presumably acne-ridden readers that "Grandpa had the Eagle, Dad had 2000AD and now you've got CLiNT, you lucky people". Personally, I'd expect the mag's readership to slant more towards the average Forbidden Planet-frequenting 30-something, but Millar tells us that "kids have been crying out for a monthly like CLiNT", so I'll have to bow to his superior market research.

Years ago ( Warning! History lesson approaching! ) you knew where you were with ( British ) boys' magazines..... or comics as we weren't afraid to call them. They had names like Lion or Thunder back in the 60's, or like Battle or Warlord in the 70's. These were tough, proud titles that gave some indication of the contents inside: action-packed adventures of soldiers, cops, cowboys and spies - macho, shallow and often jingoistic. But fun, obviously.

And now we get CLiNT, which is a whole new ball-game. Or is it? The title is a sniggering, adolescent joke. You can imagine the advertising meetings: "Ha ha ha if you cover up the bottom of the title ha ha ha on the shelf ha ha ha it almost looks like ha ha ha "see-you-enn-tee" ha ha ha!!" Oh, my aching sides! Of course, this stems from the old days of comics printed on cheap paper when the letters "l" and "i" would run into each other to give whole new meanings to the words "flicker" and, indeed, "Clint". No superhero could be called Clint for that very reason..... er, except for Hawkeye, but it kinda suited him.

The actual contents of the mag are..... strange, really. It's almost schizophrenic in its approach somehow. There's an article on an actor who dubs Tom Cruise's voice for Chinese movies; an interview with Jimmy ( not Alan, thank God! ) Carr; the Manson family killings are dredged up yet again in a tasteful ( sorry, I meant tasteless ) little article; some "glamour" shots of the likes of Mylene Klass and Holly Willoughby, contrasting with a strange Nuts / Zoo / FHM parody called "Deeply Moral Babes: Overdressed Porn For The Religious Right." And assorted "humour" filler. That's the "magazine" side -
But then you get the comics:

The main selling-point for the mag is Kick-Ass 2, Millar's and John Romita Jr.'s sequel to the wildly successful comic and movie. I have to admit that I've never properly read Kick Ass ( only leafed through it in Waterstone's ) or seen the film, so I'm probably not the best person to judge this strip. The first instalment is only 8 pages long and features some strong, expressive artwork, a reasonable amount of violence, some serious swearing and an off-colour joke about Rihanna. Pretty much what I'd expected.

Millar and artist Steve McNiven bring us ( a reprint of ) Nemesis, the story of a Batman-like supervillain waging war on Washington's police. More ultraviolence, more swearing, and widescreen, dynamic artwork. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would - I know, I know, it's called "damning with faint praise".

Ignoring the insubstantial violence/swearing/graphic sex-fest strip by cover star, the beaver-bearded and unfeasibly popular Frankie Boyle, we come to the best comic strip in the mag, Turf by Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee. A dense and unfashionably wordy tale of vampires and aliens in Prohibition-era New York, Turf demonstrates that Ross has ( unsurprisingly ) soaked up enough pop culture over the years to come up with a new twist on the gangster story. The richness and detail of the strip's world makes a change from the usual "decompressed" story-telling so prevalent today, and Lee's artwork effortlessly captures the atmosphere of smoky jazz clubs, seedy motels, Italian barber shops, the whole mobster milieu.

So, am I going to seek out that cheeky title again next month? Probably. I'm still not sure about that "boys' comic" tag: the sex, violence and bad language remind me more of Heavy Metal or ( gulp! ) Warren's 1984, and I certainly wouldn't want my 10-year-old reading it. I definitely think the magazine has an identity problem, but it's early days yet. As for its future, all I can say is:

"Okay, you CLiNTs, let's see what you can do!"

Soundtrack: My Generation ( album ) by The Who.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

This made me chuckle.....

According to Digital Spy, grumpy old actor Trevor Eve has been moaning about the BBC and singling out Doctor Who in particular. Apparently the Beeb are neglecting other dramas in favour of all things Gallifreyan:

"All they are interested in are spinoffs from Doctor Who and
( shows similar to ) Doctor Who, like Sherlock."

"It's fine as far as it goes, but Doctor Who is a forty-year old children's programme." ( 47 actually. )

Mr. Eve is currently starring in ITV's A Bouquet Of Barbed Wire, a remake of a 34-year old TV potboiler. ( Please imagine this last sentence spoken with just a hint of sarcasm..... )

Sunday 5 September 2010

Reading update: Revelation Space

I've just finished reading Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space, the author's first novel, published back in the dim and distant days of 2000. ( Surely that can't be 10 years ago, can it? )

Revelation Space is a vast space opera ( in all senses - it's over 500 pages long ) which is an introduction to Reynolds' universe and a treasure trove of Big SF Ideas. Alastair Reynolds is a former research astronomer with the European Space Agency, so you know you're in fairly safe hands when it comes to the actual science in his science fiction. Conversely, like other authors of his ilk, such as Asimov, Niven or Benford, he can neglect his characters to a degree, in favour of the physics of his universe. But, what a universe:

In the year 2551 on the planet Resurgam ( Latin for "I shall rise again", apparently ) hard-bitten, egotistical archaeologist Dan Sylveste is unearthing the long-dead civilisation of the planet's former occupants, the bird-like Amarantin. Their civilisation was wiped out over night by a catastrophic stellar event, which Sylveste suspects may happen again.....

In the year 2543 the post-human crew of a "lighthugger" ( a craft that travels close to the speed of light - no FTL travel in Reynolds' universe ) are on a quest to cure their captain, the victim of a hideous "melding" plague that is causing him to literally grow into the ship. Hot space-pilot Ilia Volyova and her mutually-suspicious crewmates are tracking down the one man who can help them, willingly or not, Dan Sylveste.....

And in the year 2524 on the planet Yellowstone, soldier-turned-assassin Ana Khouri is blackmailed by a mysterious "Mademoiselle" into killing one man in order to save the universe. And that man is ( you've guessed it ) Dan Sylveste.....

All these plotlines eventually converge ( and it does take a while ) in time and space as the characters head towards an encounter with a classic SF concept: the Big Dumb Object. The payoff is worth the often meandering plot and variable pace as Reynolds reveals the alien artefact at the heart of the story and produces a genuine sense of wonder. Mind-bending concepts abound as the true story of the Amarantin and their destruction is revealed. In fact, my head's still spinning from sentences such as "These ripples of causal shock met the incoming particles and established a grid of causal interference, a standing wave extending symmetrically into the past and the future". Phew!

Aside from the dizzying space operatics, the book is also layered with dense descriptions of this far-off future. There are evolved humans such as the cyborg Ultras and the mysterious Conjoiners. There are even more mysterious alien races such as the enigmatic Shrouders, hiding within impenetrable space/time bubbles called Shrouds, and the supremely alien Pattern Jugglers, gestalt intelligences living in planet-wide neural networks. Reynolds whisks us from the arid deserts of Resurgam, to the vertiginous Blade Runner-esque environment of Chasm City, to the half-deserted, Gothic vastness of the lighthugger spaceship Nostalgia For Infinity. The weakest link in the story is the fact that hardly any of the characters are likeable; they are mostly driven, obsessed loners, caught up in plots and counter-plots, given to lecturing each other when the author needs to info-dump on the reader. But that is a familiar problem in hard SF and Reynolds compensates for this with all the other wonders of his complex and surprising universe.

Incidentally, Reynolds writes a very interesting blog which is well worth a look and share its name with a Flaming Lips song. Which is nice.

Friday 3 September 2010

Bring the Toys back home

Or, Pixar's Pixels Produce Poignancy. And a lot of laughs.

I took James to see Toy Story 3 tonight at our local fleapit. He'd been a bit negative about the movie, saying it was for little kids and not for mature 10-year-olds like him, but I finally convinced him to go. And, if anything, Toy Story 3 seems more like an adult film, with its themes of ageing, loss and regret, and its lack of fart gags.

OK, there is one fart gag.

After a wonderful flashback sequence, mostly set in Andy's imagination, we see that Andy is now a teenager and is packing up his old room, ready for the move to college. Through a series of events Woody, Buzz and the gang find themselves dumped at a daycare centre, at the mercy of pre-school sociopaths, and under the cruel regime of not-as-nice-as-he-sounds Lots O' Huggin' Bear. The toys are convinced that Andy no longer wants or loves them, with only Woody still believing in their former owner.

The film becomes, on the surface anyway, a prison-break movie with some lovely riffs on all the classic escape-story tropes: complicated escape plans, useless guards, cliffhangers and double-crosses. As to be expected in a Pixar movie there are many, many laugh-out-loud moments: look out for Buzz's dance moves, Ken's indignation at being called a "girl's" toy, Mr. Potato Head's extreme makeover and one particularly manic monkey. Also to be expected from the Pixar wizards is the emotional core of the story: the desire to be loved, to be wanted, to return home, versus the urge to grow up, to move on, to change. There are a few moments where the old tear-ducts are exercised, especially the beautifully bittersweet ending which seems to bring the Toy Story, er, story to a suitable climax.

Andy: "Now Woody, he's been my pal for as long as I can remember. He's brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special, is he'll never give up on you... ever. He'll be there for you, no matter what."

It's been 15 years since we first journeyed "To Infinity And Beyond" and some new names joined the roster of all-time classic animated characters. Now the journey's over. Buzz, Woody..... it's been emotional.

Soundtrack: Music From Big Pink by The Band.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

That's gotta hurt!

Calvary Crucifixion by David Mach at the Crucible Exhibition, Gloucester Cathedral.


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