Tuesday, August 31, 2004

“Someone May Have Got A Guitar In The Face. We Apologise For That.”

So, on Thursday night I went to see The 5678s in Manchester. What’s that? You don’t like The 5678s? Then I suggest that you go and rediscover your sense of fun.

They were playing at The Roadhouse, one of the smallest venues in Manchester, and it was packed for this, thanks to Mr. Tarantino. First up, though, were “special guests” The Noise Explosion ("I'll 'noise explosion' you, young man"). Who were crap. Their innate badness was compounded by the fact that they were trying SO HARD to be bona fide rock stars. Too hard. I mean, Pete Townsend’s windmill-arm in the first song? Diving into the audience on the first song? It doesn’t look cool, it looks like you’re trying to distract attention from the music. Mind you, they did produce the evening’s killer line (see above).

Fortunately, The Noise Explosion made for a good opportunity to go to the bar before the main event, when the building was packed out. The 5678s aren’t a great band, but they are a lot of fun. The curious thing is that the act wouldn’t work if they weren’t Japanese. No one wants to see three American women playing rockabilly and surf-pop, but plenty of people want to see three Japanese women doing just that. It might be down to the singing of all their lyrics in that slightly warped English you last heard in Lost In Translation. It’s also that they’ve got that Japanese cut-and-paste approach down pat: at one point, much to my delight, they appeared to be about to do a version of “Prince Charming”. It turned out that they’d just appropriated the bassline, but I was still pleased.

So like I say, not the best band ever, but good fun. If you like Phil Spector (who seems to be turning out for Manchester United these days), The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Adam Ant, or, indeed, the soundtracks to Tarantino films, then go and see them.

Best T-Shirt of the Night: One that said "Save Ferris".
Worst T-Shirt of the Night: One that said "Punk Rock". My, how subversive you are, sir.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Reality/Fiction Interface

I wonder, if you tried hard enough, could you locate the exact point at which reality segues effortlessly into fiction? Leafing through Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon II”, a book documenting Hollywood scandal and tragedy through the ages, I came across the following entry:

“GEORGE ZUCCO. This wonderful character actor, the High Priest of Satanic Atlantis, he of the disturbing glassy eyes, and quick, disconcerting gestures and cat-purr voice, ended his days in the lunatic asylum, after he began believing he was the crazed villains Monogram and PRC kept paying him to play. The High Priest of Mu/Egypt/Atlantis was led away by the fellas in the white coats, dressed to the nines in borrowed Monogram bogeyman finery.

George’s faithful wife and daughter moved into the asylum with him, hoping their presence would restore his grasp on reality. Quite the contrary. George Zucco slipped away in the Atlantic fogbanks, finally, one midnight dreary, working himself into a paroxysm of fear and loathing, screaming he was being stalked by the Great God Cthulhu!

George Zucco died in the madhouse, from fright. The following midnight, Mrs. Zucco and daughter, unable to live without their meal ticket, unable to face life in Tinseltown without George, joined him in death.”

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Obituaries Are Entertaining

I’ve said this to some of you before, and you’ve looked at me like I’m mad, but here I have proof. From yesterdays Telegraph:

“Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Edge, who has died aged 73, was awarded an MC in 1961 while serving with a United Nations force in the Belgian Congo.

Edge’s company became involved in a fierce gun battle with a force of 600 tribesmen. Early in the fight, which lasted for six hours, Edge was shot in the stomach but despite being severely wounded, he continued to direct operations from the airfield’s control tower.

Bleeding heavily, he was exasperated when a native soldier who was close by his side made no effort to help him. ‘Don’t just stand there,’ Edge yelled. ‘Do something!’ The soldier made his apologies but explained that, for him, it was taboo to touch a dying man.

Nothing daunted, Edge continued to direct his men with the use of a loud-hailer until a cease-fire could be arranged. He was finally evacuated, bleeding badly, to the field hospital at Kamina for emergency surgery. His pilot during the flight was a Swedish count, Carl Gustav von Rosen, who was so impressed by the bravery of his passenger that he named his aircraft Major Edge of Manomo.”

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Myth Of Fingerprints

Korean film Memories of Murder manages somehow to give a new and interesting take on the hoary police-track-serial-killer genre. The action takes place in a small, rural Korean town where the police are corrupt, incompetent, or both. When a killer begins claiming victims, an upright, methodical big city detective arrives from Seoul. Tensions arise between him and the lead local cop.

So far, so like every other police thriller you’ve ever seen. What sets Memories of Murder apart is its take on investigations: there is doubt here as to whether any methodological framework actually works. Is a fortune- teller better than DNA evidence? Or are both useless fictions which are used to mask a more intuitive form of detection? Equally interesting is the film’s decision to move into black comedy every so often, particularly when dealing with police brutality.

In short, this is a wonderfully atmospheric film, taking you to the apocalyptic Korea of 1987, where schoolchildren are drilled in escaping chemical attacks, and police aren’t available to prevent murders because they’re needed to “suppress demonstrations”. This film comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

“He’s A Very Nasty Piece Of Work – You’re Lucky To Have Him”

I’ve just finished reading Piece of Cake, Derek Robinson’s controversial novel about the RAF in 1939 and 1940. Controversial because this is a bleak, cynical, and blackly comic look at flying in wartime. As such, it’s rather like Hornet’s Sting, the same author’s take on First World War flyers. Something about the setting makes this a much punchier effort, though.

The concept of “The Few” in the Battle of Britain is a core part of the British national myth, with the young fighter pilots of the RAF held to be examples of everything good about Britain and the British. Robinson’s view of “The Few” is that it consisted mainly of morally blank undergraduates, with a smattering of swaggering crypto-fascists and cold-eyed psychopaths for good measure. At the heart of the novel is Pilot Officer “Moggy” Cattermole, a sort of Flashman for the Twentieth Century – except that Flashman was always intended to be a loveable rogue, and there’s nothing loveable about Cattermole.

The author’s skill is that even though these pilots are painted in pretty dark colours, they still do things which you’d have to admit are heroic – like getting into an aircraft five times a day in order to take on odds of five-to-one. Does this make up for their deficiencies? Perhaps. As Robinson points out, the fact that the men who won the Second World War were so flawed doesn’t diminish their achievements, it makes them far more impressive.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I Made It All Up, And It All Came True Anyway...

I've just lent my dad From Hell, which many believe to be the greatest graphic novel of all time (Yes I know, Emily, but face it, you're wrong). Really I'm just returning the favour: he started buying me Tintin books when I was about six, after all.

Generally giving my dad something as postmodern as From Hell is a bad idea. I still remember when we watched The Usual Suspects. Things seem to be going quite well, though. We've had several debates about the architecture and alignments of Nicholas Hawksmoor's churches and their possible significance, for example. No, that isn't an unusual conversation for me and my dad.

In the meantime, over at N.A.O.W.F.I.T., another part of my life has been embellished and exploited for the tawdry purposes of fiction.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Let's Put The Future Behind Us

I decided a long time ago that that would be the title if I didn't get AHRB funding - and I didn't. Fortunately for you: if I got it the title was to be "Tomorrow Belongs To Me". Fortunately for me, my parents are better to me than I could ever deserve, so "private funding" will allow me to start the PhD in September.

Thinking about it, I should have used my AHRB application to make veiled threats. Which brings me to the List of Things To Do. Various people have been prodding me to reveal how I'm doing. I've done 5. My visit to Brighton saw me achieve #1 (Visit Brighton), #2 (Hike The South Downs Way), and #32 (Think of Something To Do With A Tainted Feng Shui Statuette). I notice that a local shop has the film "Dagon" on DVD for £3, so maybe that'll be the next thing I do.

Last night, courtesy of BBC1, I watched Hawk The Slayer. Which is rubbish. Watch Krull instead. Or Legend.