Monday, April 30, 2007

Cosmic Dancers

Lovely early T. Rex footage. Marc and Mickey Finn at a festival in Amsterdam in 1970, singing By the Light of a Magical Moon.
You can't click on the picture as embedding is disabled for some strange reason.
Download it by clicking on the word. The song actually starts at around 1' 50". Use the first 110 seconds to do something useful, e.g. crochet a bong doily. You might need one afterwards as it's the dopesmokingest piece of footage I've ever seen. The Dutch. 1970. Nuff said.

While I'm on the subject: There are a couple of Tyrannosaurus Rex vids extant. There's Sara Crazy Child (the one on the Born to Boogie DVD) and this one - Debora, played in Kempton Park in 1968. The sound isn't real, unfortunately, but that's the real Steve Took on bongos. I think. I mean, how can you tell for sure from forty year old footage?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

We Have Completed Our Scan, My Lord

A correspondent reminds me that Chas' nephew in Performance, Tony, is played by the legendary Ken Colley, otherwise known as Admiral Piett in Star Wars. Here's one of her screencaps of the young officer. Dig the green wallpaper. His surroundings certainly got better when he got the gig on Darth Vader's super Star Destroyer Executor.

Performance (1970) I

Warning: All of the below are spoilers, except the bits where I'm speculating. If you want to be shocked by the ending of the film, don't read any of it at all.

What's all this 'ear, then?

Performance was released on DVD this February; it's taken me until now to manage to sit down and write about it. And that doesn't include the fact that I've had it on VHS for several years. Or that I first saw it in 1976, six years after it was released in England. How, you might ask, does it take 31 years to try to sum up a film? Partly it's me, but Performance is a difficult film to summarize.

The movie Performance starts in the outside world with a linear story. Chas is a junior enforcer with a firm, a man with a sadistic gift for putting the frighteners on people – when he finds an antagonistic lawyer who purports not to be afraid of him, his destruction of the lawyer's Rolls Royce and humiliation of his chauffeur is a balletic masterpiece. We see him going about his usual business – smashing up a shopkeeper's premises until he agrees that he needs his firm's protection – when he hears his boss mention a bookie Chas knows – and hates. Chas destroys the turf accountant's shop, not realizing that his boss had other plans. He finds himself out of favor. It gets worse; the bookie, realizing the tables have turned, breaks into Chas' flat with a couple of goons and beats him up. (Everyone seems to be convinced Chas is queer; they make jokes about it as they tie him up and whip him. There are BDSM references throughout the film, but Chas, despite a sequence suggesting he's a sexual sadist, has a chirpy and unbruised girlfriend.) Chas manages to reach his hidden gun, shoots the bookie but lets the other two go. Only then does it dawn on him that he's put his firm in danger and he has nowhere to hide.

He pulls out his emergency money and buys a train ticket, but in the station waiting room sees Noel, a black guitarist with a Hendrix 'fro talking to his 'mum', an elderly white lady. He's got a gig, and is leaving his room in Powis Square with the back rent unpaid until he can get the money to his landlord, Turner. Chas changes his mind. He'll hole up in Turner's basement until the heat's off. He takes a taxi to Powis Square, blags his way in by claiming to be a performer himself, a juggler. He pays off the back rent and an exorbitant extra fee Pherber (Anita Pallenberg) thinks up on the spot, and goes to ground. Laraine, the cleaning lady's daughter, a youngster with a deep voice and masculine walk, acts as our Exposition Elf, providing Chas and ourselves with background information on the house and its inhabitants. The cinematography of the 'real' aspects of the house is so clearly defined I swear you can smell it. Upstairs it's patchouli, frangipani and joss sticks; the kitchen is Fairy Liquid dish detergent. The basement smells of damp plaster, dry wood, winter cold and old varnish.

Turner is a retired rock musician, who has, as Pherber says later, lost his demon. He's trapped in the house, a recluse. The upper part of the house is all carpets, silks, divans and cushions in rooms around a cavernous in-home recording studio. Downstairs is the kitchen. Pherber is cooking dinner, a live eel crawling from its fishbowl across the kitchen table as she and Lucy, a boyish French girl, attempt to plug in a transistor radio using two leads ending in sockets rather than a socket and a plug. "You can't fit those together," Pherber says, demonstrating. "It's all holes." In the greenhouse she grows mushrooms, but today she picks a wild one from the garden – an Amanita muscaria, a fly cap, a semi-poisonous and notably powerful hallucinogen. Chas likes mushrooms, he says, so she gives him three-quarters of it, mixed in his food. "That's insane," Turner later says. "I can't make that scene."

On to part II

Performance (1970) II

Warning: All of the below are spoilers, except the bits where I'm speculating. If you want to be shocked by the ending of the film, don't read any of it at all.

Call him Lucifer. He's in need of some restraint.

The linear story starts to dissolve. The hallucinogen is the excuse, but this is not a freak-out movie. The story is faceted, and since each part of the story has to be shown simultaneously, the style has to change. The dialogue becomes fragmented and some parts are repeated in different situations. In a way, the narrative resembles a dance-hall mirror-ball; multiple moving reflections patterning a complex surface.

The turning point (Turner, get it?!) doesn't come when Chas literally goes underground in the bohemian basement, but now, when Turner, who once tried to chase Chas away, accepts him. The scene is in Turner's bathroom closet. He's playing guitar and singing a hopeless, lost, despairing song by the hopeless, lost and despairing Robert Johnson, a bluesman long rumored to have met the Devil at a crossroads and sold his soul for the songs we know him by. The song is "Come on in My Kitchen".

You better come on in my kitchen
It's goin' to be rainin' outdoors.

It's enough to make you reach through the screen to warn Chas away. Turner abruptly drops the standard lyric for that song and moves on to another Robert Johnson line, one that drips with real horror, adapted from Me and the Devil Blues.

Woke up this morning,
Heard a knock upon my door.
I said Hello, Satan; I believe it's time to go.

It's rare to find any means of expression that can match the power and magical realism of blues; even Performance 'can't make it', can't 'achieve madness' – its own criterion for success - without using the real thing as a sort of sourdough starter for what's coming next. Having mistakenly accepted the invite into the kitchen Chas finds himself walking side by side with Satan. Chas is introduced, if not to hell, to Chapel Perilous.

Turner switches to John Lee Hooker – Bad Like Jesse James.
I may shoot ya
I may drown ya
Cause I'm mad wit'cha
Bad like Jesse James.

Turner has begun to get inside his guest's head, as they say, singing a gangster's blues.

Run, Chas! (He can't hear me.)

Turner quizzes him on his identity as Pherber plays sexual mind-games. Chas struggles to remember who he is and why he's there as the mushroom takes hold. He tells them he needs a photo, for his agent, and the two of them make a game of dressing him up to take his picture. They give him a wig that completely transforms him – he looks like a hippy, like a woman, like a parody of a washed up showman, each at different times. Turner dresses up as a South London hoodlum, Chas as an urbane American untouchable. As they role-play, Pherber and Turner uncover the lash marks on Chas' back and realize he's on the run, that he actually needs the picture for a fake passport. Pherber sits astride him as she puts ointment on his wounded back. "He's a striped beast," Turner says, suggesting she's his Babylon, from Revelations. "Nothing is true, everything is permissible," says Turner, then. He's been reading from Borges all evening, so we know that by now, but each facet from the mirrorball has to go past once it's set in motion. He tells us the story of the Hashishin, to get Chas into their enchanted garden.

To part III
Back to part I

Performance (1970) III

Warning: All of the below are spoilers, except the bits where I'm speculating. If you want to be shocked by the ending of the film, don't read any of it at all.

There are mirrors everywhere – they are the traps that have caught Turner and are keeping him in the house. Pherber takes Chas to bed and holds a mirror to her body so that he and we can see half a male body and half a reflected female body, likewise mingling their two faces, but he says he's 'normal'. He's 'all man'. She's perverted, he says. Turner is watching them, hidden from them. Eventually, she gives up, spending the night with Lucy.

Turner is having his own personality crisis. In a sequence that's often referred to as a "rock video" and is sometimes seen as a standalone, we see Turner acting out the part of a Chas-like gangster, which at this stage of his metamorphosis is still mixed bizarrely with his own identity, a rock star. He rules Chas' firm as the new boss, but he's singing a Stones' song, "Memo from Turner", one which has nothing to do with East End gangs. The gangsters, in a horrible parody of Turner's girls, get naked and groove to the beat. We've seen plenty of evidence that they are homosexual, but Turner's imagination doesn't take us even as far as the linear narrative in that direction. The mimesis is incomplete. But at the end, he's strong enough to smash a mirror with his gun.

Chas has missed his connection with the fake document man, and he calls his nephew for help. Turner stands beside him feeding coins into the phone and giving him the delivery address for the passport. Of course, as the camera angle widens, we see his boss is in his nephew's house, having muscled in with his hard men. They're having a cuppa, nodding politely, taking down the address.

Chas sleeps with Lucy, the one he calls 'underdeveloped'. As they wake up, Lucy's form beside him is replaced for a moment with Turner's. Later, as they talk, Lucy asks for something. He goes to get it, still wearing the skewed and uncombed wig, and runs into several armed men on the ground floor landing. He knows the score – the firm have decided to 'put him down like a poor dog what doesn't mean to harm you but has become a danger'. He buys some time and goes upstairs to tell Satan he believes it's time to go. But Turner isn't finished with him. He's trapped here in the house, bereft of his demon, ready to take the next step. His only way out is with someone who still has the capacity to move between worlds. "Take me with you," he says.

After a slight hesitation, Chas does so, shooting Turner directly through the crown of his head. We see the bullet penetrate to his very core; what's at the core is shown on screen. It's not what you might think. Chas goes down to meet his boss and is driven away in the white Rolls-Royce. We see them leave, the camera peering through the car window. It's Turner's face we see in the car, looking mildly astonished at the bright light of the outside world.

Back to part II

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Performance: A non-review part 2

There's two stories to Performance; what goes on on-screen, and the story of what went on offscreen. Offscreen, the star, James Fox, was so shaken by the role that this famous leading man of the sixties did not act in a film again for a decade. Mick Jagger seduced Keith Richard's stunningly beautiful girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, live on the set, jeopardizing his lifelong friendship and the future of the Rolling Stones. Ry Cooder, playing guitar on the soundtrack, got into some sort of bad headspace regarding Keith Richards and attempted riff-stealing. The film itself was shelved for two years after a massive studio argument over the editing. But I'm not going to talk about all that. You can find yards of text on the subject on the web if you like. I'll talk about what's on screen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Performance (1970) - a non-review

Performance, the 1970 Nic Roeg movie starring Mick Jagger and James Fox, was recently released on DVD. I'm going to write about it here eventually, but it's taking some time to put my thoughts together. Since it was initally released thirty-seven years ago, I don't think an extra day or two is going to matter. To whet your appetite, I thought I'd write a bit about its milieu, which is the Sixties Psychedelic Movie.

You may be familiar with sixties freak-out movies. (If not, you're in for a treat. Do rent some.) They usually go like this: A disaffected twenty-something finds out about Sartre and Kerouac and becomes a groovy photographer, hanging 10 X 8s up to dry in his darkroom. There's usually some Eero Saarinen chairs around in offices, looking spartan, in contrast to the let-it-all-hangoutiness of the youth. Then there's a scene in a basement where a band called the Funky Purple Frogs (played by the Yardbirds) screech a bunch of feedback to a lot of skinny boys wearing Nehru jackets and peace signs. There's usually also a number of interchangeable blonde girls in Granny Takes a Trip gear, all waving their arms like a pot of boiling spaghetti and smoking thin, hand rolled cigarettes. Then several people take acid and the editing goes all wonky. Then at the end, there's a few credits and the whispered Sensurround sound of the audience saying, "Huh?"

Performance? Well, it's not one of those.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Play's The Thing.

Apparently I was being rather jingoistic in my belief that only the British can come up with Monty Python-style solutions to real-life problems.

In reaction to the horrible murders at Virginia Tech, Yale has apparently banned fake weapons in fiction.

It has a nice symmetry, but I don’t think it will solve any problems. "Calling for an end to violence onstage does not solve the world’s suffering. It merely sweeps it under the rug," said the play's director Holdren. Right.

It did, however, bring to mind Hwel the playwright's efforts in Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters.

KING: Is this a duck knife dagger I see behind beside before me, its beak handle pointing at me my hand?
1ST MURDERER I'faith it is not so. Oh, no it isn't!
2ND MURDERER Thou speakest truth, sire. Oh, yes it is!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Radio On (Chris Petit, 1980) DVD

Sound and Vision

Chris Petit's 1980 movie Radio On got its DVD release earlier this month. (Spoilers below.)

Radio On documents a road trip of Robert, an affectless man in the 'Winter of Discontent' world of pre-Thatcher Britain in 1979. His brother has committed suicide in Bristol. Robert recently received a parcel from him for his birthday, which he reviews before he starts on his trip. In it, there are three Kraftwerk tapes. He puts one in his car tape/radio, but never seems to get to like it. One track is 'Radio Activity'; it's semi-appropriate. Robert is a DJ in a factory, though not really a 'radio' DJ, employed to play requests, which he reads out but ignores, playing his favorites instead. The workers don't mind; in fact they don't seem to notice. Perhaps they can't hear over the machinery. He plays "Sweet Gene Vincent."

He leaves his unpleasant lover and bare flat in Camden, driving via the Westway and the M4 motorway out to Bristol to check his brother's house. The car's radio is on, playing anthemic pop from the late seventies. He hears a news snippet about a porn bust, which may be a clue. We never find out. He meets a squaddie in a pub, gives him a lift, but abandons him at Silbury Hill when he finds out he's crazed with PTSD from a tour in Northern Ireland. He plays primitive video games at a motorway service station. He is roughed up by a woman for occupying a location that interferes with her pool shot. At a petrol station he encounters the outside world, the American Dream, personified here by Sting. They sing Three Steps to Heaven together, but America is inaccessible; we see a clipping about the automobile accident near Bristol that killed Eddie Cochran and crippled Gene Vincent. Robert meets two German girls. One of them hates men. "There's no word for that in English," he tells the other one. "There's only a word for a woman-hater." He finds out his brother had a live in girlfriend. She doesn't want to talk. He and the German girl visit her mother by the sea. They talk in German about the granddaughter. He can't understand them.

He reviews his clues, projecting pictures against the angle between two walls. Bondage photos and tourist photos intermingled. He stands in the image, his face incorporated into the scenery as a twist of geometry, looking keenly into the projected face of his brother. Nothing passes between them. He drives his Austin Rover to a quarry, and parks on the very edge of the vertical face, Kraftwerk's Ohm Sweet Ohm thrumming out over the void gouged in the bleak winter landscape. Too late he remembers that the ancient car requires a hand crank to start. He's too close to the edge to use the starting handle. The motor car can go neither forward nor back.

He takes the train back to Camden.

Radio On doesn't have to mean anything. As you watch it, you infer relationships based on your familiarity with the language of film. Your inferences may or may not be correct; it doesn't really matter. The film itself is beautiful, shot in black and white (the DVD is un-restored and not as luminous-silver as it should be) each shot carefully composed. Each scene is held for much longer than is natural in a movie. Where a current movie may have four to fourteen camera angles set up for each minute and literally dozens of cuts between those angles in a minute, Radio On has two or three angles for a scene and cuts every one or two minutes. The effect is like being led through an art gallery by a docent who moves you from one piece of artwork to the next at his own pace. I didn't like it when I first saw it in the cinema, and I think that's why; the feeling of being held hostage, restricted by someone else's sense of time, annoyed me. I'm more tolerant now.

The camera angles chosen are unusual. Here's a few: A long shot from a tower block window, following the car over a motorway junction. A shot from a flyover looking at a hotel where separate windows frame two characters whom we know to be in the same room, but are now explicitly shown to be in different frames of reference. A plane coming in to land, slightly leading the car we're following. A visual poem as we watch Robert downshift the car as he comes to a road junction. The famous scene of the thick, soapy rollermops flailing at the windows as he goes through the car wash.

The sound is perfectly ambient. The film leads us in by fading the music played over the credits from the normal sound of in-home DVD music to the tinny, enclosed sound of music played over a car radio as we transition to a scene inside his car. It's a common opening, and yet it signals very strongly how the sound is going to be treated throughout. You can hear every space that the film depicts; make out its shape and the materials that it comprises. Jukeboxes, seabirds, the compressed-air whoomph! of cars passing in the opposite direction, all sound natural and live.

The music soundtrack is justly famous. It starts over the credits with David Bowie's "Heroes"/Helden, a song that is equal parts wildly inspiring and suicidally despairing. Its effect seems to come from the song's completely non-English sensibility. Instead of hanging on in quiet desperation, the song directs the listener to struggle, because we can beat them, though victory will be just for one day. Half in German, it's a perfect match for Radio On, which is the same. The rest is a roster of seventies music: Wreckless Eric, Lene Lovitch, Ian Dury, Devo.

The film has one oral pun: "Why do the English like to be at the seaside?" the German girl asks. "It's the last resort," Robert replies.

(All images are from the DVD)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day - coming soon!

April 23rd will be International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day - so declared by writer Jo Walton in honor of SFWA vice-president Howard Hendrix's recent online outburst in which he called a large number of his constit-uents "scabs" for posting their work online - gasp!- for free! Decrying those "who would bless the contraction of our industry toward monopoly, or who would give imprimatur to the downward spiral that is converting the noble calling of Writer into the life of Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch," he told his members he would prefer to chop wood than use any online social networking tools. So he won't be reading this.
Anyway, Jo Walton has declared April 23rd to be a day when SFWA members, or indeed any professional standard writer, can post some of their work online (on their own website) for free, linking in to a thread on her blog so that the rest of us can read it. I personally doubt if it will result in the collapse of SF writing as we know it, so it seems to be a safe bet.

Image ganked from John Scalzi's blog post on the subject.
Jo Walton's current thread on the subject.
Dr. Hendrix's outburst.

TV Eye

There are days when I'm glad I live in the future, and days when it sucks. A recent news item gave a glimpse of quite how much it sucks, but I'm quite happy with it, because I no longer live in Britain, previously the country of No Future, but where they now appear to having more future than most.

Britain seems to be run by people who think Nineteen Eighty-Four not only depicts a utopia, but is also a handy do-it-yourself manual. The same people appear to have had their chromosomes warped by in-utero exposure to The Goons, with the result that zany and horrifying Spike Milligan sketch-style initiatives embed themselves into British external reality with dreadful regularity.

A recent example of this was Middlesborough's recent proposal to install video cameras in public places personned by professional busybodies who will detect when someone is doing something anti-social (such as littering). But that's not all! The cameras will then harangue the hapless British subject in a child's voice. I'll say that again. The cameras will call the person out in public, using the voice of a child.

This might have been jaw-dropping in THX 1138, or remarkable in the underground dystopia of A Boy and His Dog, but this is reality. Luckily for me, I escaped the whole sorry country and I have the distance to think it's funny.

What's even funnier was the first news story about a case of mistaken identity, a woman shouted at by for an offence she did not commit. In this case, as far as I can tell, she was yelled at by faceless bureaucrats at City Hall, rather than a recorded child. That would be even more chilling, if I lived there.

Her comments are priceless, and very British.

"Ms Brewster said yesterday: "We were in the town centre and I'd got some chips at McDonald's for my daughter Ellie, but they were hot so I tipped them into a box and crumpled the packet up."
"I put it on the bottom of Ellie's pram to take home but then heard this voice say: 'Please place the rubbish in the bin provided'."
"I still think the cameras are a good idea, but I have to say when you haven't done anything wrong it's annoying to appear like this."

The Sky News article includes comments from readers. Here's one of them.
"For the small minded people…….YOU are already being monitored everyday be it through store cards, credit cards, loyalty card transactions, telephone conversations e-mails text messages etc. You are being watched anyway so what does it matter if speakers are attached to a Camara. Does it affect you if you are not understaking a criminal activity. I think NOT."

Well, that's enough evidence for me. If the Illiterati are in favor of them, u shud b 2!!eleven1

In the meantime, here's a Spike Milligan sketch that I predict is next on the list for the British Government to implement.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Death Cab for Cutie: Presaging the Seventies.

The sixties were the natural home of teenage car crash songs. One, a deliberately (as opposed to inadvertently) funny one, seems to have one foot in the sobbing teen era from which it came and the other boldly poised to tread on something in the hard-nosed seventies. It's the Bonzos singing Death Cab for Cutie, with a twist.

Actually, it's with a strip, not a twist. The Beatles' movie Magical Mystery Tour aired over Christmas 1967 on both British and American TV. It was first shown in black and white on BBC1 and repeated a few days later on BBC2 in color, which must have been a treat for all six people with a color set and the ability to recieve that station at the time. Magical Mystery Tour is a one-hour unscripted movie by the Fab Four featuring themselves and a couple of dozen characters taking a day-trip "mystery tour" by charabanc. Watching it, I had a vague memory of having been on a mystery tour in a coach myself as a kid, but it may just have been a horrible cheese-before-bedtime dream. Certainly the anxious, over-eating auntie, bad tempered cousin, all-round-strange old geezer Buster Bloodvessel (played by Ivor Cutler), the classy dolly-bird tour guide and some of the other characters seemed familiar. The Beatles' bus tour takes in several spots where the lovable moptops sing their own beat tunes. The piece-de-yellowmattercustard is the famous performance of I Am The Walrus, of course. Most of the bus's stops, however, are for the set pieces, which are mainly post-Goon sub-Monty Python japes (or possibly hijinx, I can never tell those two apart).

One stop is very different. For a start, it's set in Paul Raymond's RevueBar, a famous and long-lived strip club in Soho just a few hundred yards from the major London music clubs of the time. Secondly, the band performing at this stop are not the Beatles. Ivor Cutler, the ex-leather-clad rockers responsible for the movie and various others file in to sit at the variety-club style tables. Through the curtain jumps The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. They play one of their more mainstream hits, Death Cab For Cutie.

Death Cab For Cutie is a honkin'-saxed pseudo-Elvis tune featuring many yards of gold lame, sequins, brothel creepers and teddy-boy moves. It is, as you might guess, about a car-crash death. Cutie and her beau are warned that if she carries on this way, one day she "will have to pay [her] fare", a common warning to teen girls of the era. And indeed, she's doomed; the driver fails to notice that that lights have changed. (A rather Beatley motif, that.) Rather than make the song a horrorific sob-fest, as were the songs of its parent genre, the teen-death-crash pop single, Viv Stanshall sings Death Cab For Cutie with an amused twinkle in his eye and a hip-gyration for Elvis to envy. So far, so ordinary Bonzos - it's a familiar pastiche. This set-up for Death Cab For Cutie was even shown on children's television at the time it came out, and was widely regarded as an amusing trifle by mums and hepcats alike.

But The Magical Mystery Tour version diverges from the standard performance. After a verse or so, one of the Paul Raymond Revue Bar strippers comes onto the stage with the band. She's wearing a very nice classical mid-sixties buttoned twinset in pale orange, lovely back-combed hair and fetching devil-girl make-up that would put Meyer's Faster Pussycat Kill Kill girls to shame. And a pink feather boa. She strips as Stanshall wiggles his hips at her and sings, "Don't you know, baby, curves can kill?"

The images that accompany the line about death are rather . . . telling. By contrast, the images edited around the last few lines, where a normal (if that's the right word) teen-death-crash song explains how the teenager had it coming because they're, you know, nubile, those images are tame in comparison. The death is the money-shot in the piece. Stanshall clearly knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is doing is a pre-Ballard ode to smash-ups. Very, very much a product of 1967-70 art with a capital A.

It got broadcast on Auntie Beeb before it was totally outdated, too. What a strange year 1967 must have been.

Watch out forStanshall missing a cue, laughing and getting slapped with Jan's feather boa for his mistake. He's a one.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Exploding Obesity

"Around one in five adults are obese and more than half either obese or overweight - almost 24 million people." "By 2010 a third of all men and 28% of women in England will be obese, according to figures from the Department of Health."

Horrors! How can this be?

"Obesity could all be in the genes, scientists have discovered. "

How so, Sky News?

"A gene variant found in 16% of the population is thought to be responsible for exploding rates of obesity." "People who carry two of the gene variants are 70% more likely to be obese - and are likely to be 3kgs heavier on average."

OK. 16% of the population carry the gene variant. (Sky means that 16% of the population carries 2 copies of the variant, not 16% are carriers. Or so I assume.) So 16% are 70% more likely to be obese. And 20% of the population, 28% within three years, is obese. How is that "all in the genes"? And how does it explain the exploding? Are these genes detaching themselves and spreading through the air or something?


I recently found SteveAudio's blog. Politics and music from one who was, and indeed still is, there. Have a read, you'll like it.
I'll put it in the permalinks section also.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Whatever Happened to the Technicolor Dream?

Nothing, apparently. It's back on, 40 years later.

The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream was an event staged in London on the 29th of April 1967 that was widely regarded as the first flowering of freakdom in the United Kingdom. Pink Floyd headlined; The Pretty Things and Arthur Brown also starred. I'm not sure I've ever read a good write up about it on teh intarwebs (even Wikipedia is terse on this one), but there's a fine write up in Mick Farren's Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, and a there's a few Pink Floyd pages which describe it.

For good or for ill, the ICA has decided to re-stage it on its 4oth anniversary. I have mixed feelings about a recreated be-in. I still have my Summer of Love 1988 T-shirt, and I'm not sure I'm ready for another 20th anniversary so soon. On the other hand, I'd love to see the movies that are promised. What a drawback to no longer living in London - I never thought all of them would be in the same place!

According to Hugh Dellar, one of the 40th anniversary organizers, quoted in the Independent, above: "The more I learned about it, the more interested I became because it contained all the elements of what had come before it and all the seeds for what would come after. In many ways it was the pinnacle of British youth culture. The people who were involved in it went on to be key figures in other areas."

I love the sixties and seventies, you know me. But if I were today's British youth culture (who he?) I'd be sorely tempted right about now to prove Hugh Dellar wrong about those seeds.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Screaming Hotdogs, and how to avoid them.

Here's a vintage CIA "case study" of an LSD trip, lovingly re-enacted with troll dolls, hot dogs and back-combed blonde women who look like yeomen from the original Star Trek series.

It conclusively proves that if you're tripping, you should not eat hot dogs. Sound advice from a government agency that has your wellbeing at heart.

Note: you might not want to play this at work because when the drug-frenzied chick murders her hapless hot dog, it screams like a banshee with piles.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ashes to ashes, fun to funky

According to this week's NME, Keith Richards once snorted his dad's ashes cut with some blow.

This calls for a picture of Keith Richards and his dad.

Oh, wait, that's actually Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Jack Sparrow's dad. Close enough.

Update 4/4/07: It was an April Fool joke, apparently. Good excuse for a picture, though.

Pleasant Crescent Moons

Nice, n'est ce pas? This is Io and Europa taken by New Horizons, as it heads out of the solar system, its cameras pointing back towards us. The beautiful radiant blue dome isn't where the aliens live, it's actually a volcano venting. Which is almost as cool.
Also, apparently there are Caves on Mars!

Title © Marc Bolan 1972 (From 'Mystic Lady')

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bear on Battlestar Galactica

Bear McCreary, Battlestar Galactica's wonderful soundtrack man, has a blog. This entry discloses secrets, such as what key his version of All Along the Watchtower is in. And how to tune the guitars to get there.

Oh, and stuff about the origin of Cylons and the mystery of Earth. There's a sample of his blog hidden below. Mouse over to view.

I happened to catch Ron Moore in the hallway at Universal and, in a brief conversation, got everything I needed to know. I learned that the idea was not that Bob Dylan necessarily exists in the characters' universe, but that an artist on one of the colonies may have recorded a song with the exact same melody and lyrics. Perhaps this unknown performer and Dylan pulled inspiration from a common, ethereal source. Therefore, I was told to make no musical references to any "Earthly" versions, Hendrix, Dylan or any others. The arrangement needed to sound like a pop song that belonged in the Galactica universe, not our own.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Rattlesnakes and Albatrosses

My first love was the blues. Oh, okay, that's a complete lie. My first love was Marc Bolan. But my second or third love was the blues. Or so. Anyway, it was in there somewhere. So I'm a slut, sue me.

Due to my age, I missed out on the first flowering of British Blues, and had to catch up by working my way back using as a starting point the Immediate Anthology of British Blues (that's the URL for the only volume I can find on Amazon, vaguely similar to the old vinyl volume II I have at home) and Pete Frame's Rock Family Trees as clues to chase down the remnants of the not-long vanished culture. I doubt if I discovered anything amazing you couldn't discover yourself. In fact, today I actually wanted to point out something I didn't discover at the time.

I only found out about early Fleetwood Mac a few years ago.

I was inoculated against Fleetwood Mac by my unadulterated hatred of the work they were producing by the time I started searching out older records. I thought that any band which was multi-platinum and featured floaty, soft-focus women in even more floaty gauzy dresses couldn't possibly have developed from a prior stage that was more to my liking. I was wrong about that. Like many bands of the period, FM started out as a pure blues band. In its line up it featured one of the three or four best British blues guitar players, Peter Green. Together with Danny Kirwan he produced twin-lead guitar that is, as they didn't say in those days, to die for.

I've still never bought a Fleetwood Mac album, for fear that it might have a Vaseline-lensed female lurking somewhere inside the cover, but I have caught up with a few tracks here and there, and some of those are now on available for your vidding pleasure on YouTube.

I'll lead off with a gem, a short (and unhappily truncated version) of Fleetwood Mac playing live at the Playboy Mansion for Hugh Hefner and his bunnies. Peter Green, who must have had all of his marbles at the time, chose to play Rattlesnake Shake, a song about an activity strongly associated with Playboy magazine and I don't mean Golf or even single malt drinking. The track also features an outstandingly pretentious intro by Heff himself that marks him out as a complete practitioner of the art discussed supra.

Rattlesnake Shake

That's cool and ironic and stuff, but if you want to feel the emotional charge of Peter Green's playing, try this one, World Keeps Turning. Danny Kirwan's broken a string and to fill the gap, PG rips out a solo number that just blows me away. BB King once said Peter Green made him sweat – with this one, you can see why. Watch his right hand (no, he isn't doing the rattlesnake shake).

World Keeps Turning

Here's my personal favorite. Oh Well. Watch Peter Green crack up after a flub. It's great to see him smile. Then, Shake Your Moneymaker (this one is slow to load; give it a chance.) A clip from the Peter Green Story. And to round it off, the famous Albatross. I normally hate songs about seabirds, but I give this one a pass. Barely.

PS – YouTube videos come and go like spring flowers. If the links die, in this message or any other, give me a holler and I'll try to refind one. If you want to do it yourself, or explore YouTube, double-click on the embedded video and it will take you straight to their website and you can search.

Another Way to Know You're In The Future Now

Seen via Wired, from the UK Mail on Sunday.

"If lorry drivers can tear their eyes away from the satellite navigation system while approaching the village of Exton, they could well save themselves hours of trouble. There at the side of the road are the first signs in the country specifically warning them to ignore the satnav. Owing to a fault in the electronic information system, many drivers are sent through the Hampshire hamlet only to find the lane narrows to 6ft and they get stuck."


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