Saturday, 28 February 2009

Comics What Are Great #1 - Hellblazer

In honour of the imminent release of the comicbook fan's comicbook film (Watchmen, in case you're not up on your film/comic related news), the next selection of posts will be comics-related (so you can't say I haven't given you advance warning if you feel like skipping these ones and coming back when something else floats your bloggy boat*), More specifically, they're mainly going to be about the non-superhero comics out there that are dearest to me (with possibly one atypical superhero title thrown in along the way for good measure). Let's start with the first adult comic that I started reading way back in the day when I first started getting into American comics**

Title:- Hellblazer

In a nutshell:- Chain-smoking, demon-baiting magician John Constantine always pulls a fats one on the forces of evil but will lose his friends along the way...

The Basics:- Created by comics legend Alan Moore (who wrote the original Watchmen graphic novel as well), Constantine was originally only a supporting character in Swamp Thing which Moore was writing at the time. It quickly became apparent that there was more to this sarcastic trenchcoat-wearing chain-smoker and he soon span off into his own title - a title which is still running today and is the longest running of any of DCs mature titles (252 issues as of this month and still going strong).

Why's It So Good?:- Because Constantine's not a simple character. He's willing to be the bastard and to sacrifice others, sometimes for the greater good but more often than not just to save his own skin. There's still a charm and sense of humour about him, though, combined with some genuine decency that prevents him from being just an unlikeable monster. It's this ambiguity and contradictory nature that keeps him intriguing even after 21 years.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish?:- Sadly, yes, that can be the case. Because it's the sort of title that shifts from writer to writer, you can get periods where the character just isn't handled as well. For me, the lowest point was American writer Brian Azzarello who just didn't seem to get what made the character tick and turned him into something unrecognisable for two and a half years. Fortunately, they rotate writers fairly frequently so it's always worth sticking with as someone better may (and usually does) come along.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- Yes, but be selective where you start on this one. My recommendation would be the run by Irish writer Garth Ennis (more on him tomorrow) which is where I started - start with the first storyline, Dangerous Habits*** and work your way through his run. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow's title:- Preacher

* Float Your Bloggy Boat, of course, being the Eurovision entry from Norway in 1977. Nul points.

** Having been a confirmed 2000AD reader from the age of about 7.

*** Which was completely butchered and mangled by Hollywood into something unrecognisable to make the atrocious Constantine with Keanu Reeves.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Paris, Florida

So I went to Disneyland Paris last weekend*. Mainly because I'm a bit of a sucker for a bright, shiny theme park but also to help out my friend as she wouldn't have been able to manage quite as well on her own with her two nippers (eight and two years old). In today's blog, I shall be using some words in combination with other words to give you a text-based view of my thoughts and impressions. Vastly different from other days then...

1.) Cultural Schizophrenia

It's an unusual compromise between two different nations. On the one hand, the mighty Disney Corporation is looking to attract English speaking visitors to the park so there's a healthy dose of English thrown in there. On the other hand, they've got no desire to piss off the host nation and also want to attract plenty of visitors from across Europe so there's good swig of French chucked in (with a soupcon of German and Spanish from time to time). The resulting concoction? Rides and shows that are half in English and half in French thus not making any real sense to either nationality**. I can see exactly why they've done but I wouldn't say it's overly successful. You can get the gist, obviously, as nothing's overly complex but it does leave some things feeling a little perplexing. The rides themselves , though, are of the expected great standard - a particular favourite was the Buzz Lighyear ride where you get to shoot at things with a 50s-style laser gun as the ride goes round (the kids enjoyed it, too). And getting to do the Death Star run on the Star Wars ride is always a favourite - on this, the eldest and I were of one mind.

2.) Perks Of The Hotel Guest

We stayed in the Disney hotel outside the main entrance to the park. This was a stroke of genius. Being able to walk straight into the park pretty much from the room was a glorious thing. No hanging around for shuttle buses***, no wandering lost in the vast, featureless expanses of the car park. In, out, job done. On the plus side for the kids, the Disney characters come to breakfast and dinner and pat them on the head and wave at them and stuff like that. On the downside, a six foot tall duck that accosts you while you eat gives a two year old the night terrors.

3.) Fun But Exhausting

I guess the key thing for me has been the eye-opening glimpse into the world of the parent. Sure, I knew it was tough and a full time occupation for all you parenty types out there but knowing it and experiencing it firsthand are two very different things. Don't take this the wrong way, they're both great kids and are extremely well-behaved but you throw tiredness, long, busy days and lack of sleep into the mix and they're going to have their difficult moments. My (already pretty healthy) respect for you all has increased; however, my (already pretty low) desire to join your ranks has decreased. Kudos to you; it's not for me.

So, in conclusion then - a good time was had but I could do with a holiday now.

* "Oh, so that's where he went"

** Well, unless you're bilingual, of course. But not a great deal of under-10s are.

*** Busii? Probably not.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Slack Nick Nack Attack

Nick Nack Blogs Ltd. would like to assure you that we're aware of the recent decline in service and that all of us here at That Baldy Fella Industries are taking steps to remedy this, quite frankly, shoddy situation. We pride ourselves on providing continued low quality blogging at non-existent prices and can only apologise for the lack of sub-standard gibberish which you have become accustomed to receiving.

Rest assured that the usual stream of half-baked nonsense about ancient films, half-remembered TV and pointless novelty items will continue, with the usual insistence on quantity over quality that you've come to know and... well, love would be putting it too strongly...tolerate. Yes, that's it, tolerate.

In the meantime, please enjoy this soothing musical interlude until normal service resumes. We thank you for your patience. Please continue to fly with Nick Nack Blogs Ltd. Nick Nack Blogs - for all your blogging needs.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Things What Are Great #9 - The Producers

In a nutshell:- Springtime for Hitler and Germany. Winter for Poland and France.

The Basics:- Mel Brooks' first feature and one of his finest. I have to say that Blazing Saddles has a dearer place in my affections (just about) because I've loved that film since I was a wee lad but I blogged about that a loooong time ago and I'm trying hard not to repeat myself (too much). Whereas Blazing Saddles is more of a sketch-based piece, this is very much a character piece about a failing producer and a hapless accountant who hatch a scheme to pocket the money raised for a play by putting the worst show in history...

Why’s It’s So Great Then?:- It’s that combination of great script combined with spot-on performances. Gene Wilder is touchingly hilarious as the shy, retiring Leo Bloom and it’s quite possibly his finest performance (second only to Jim in Blazing Saddles). Zero Mostel is blustering pompous whirlwind as Max Bialystock who veers just the right side of monstrous and manges to evoke pity for the state his got himself into rather than contempt. And it’s just very funny. The romancing of the old ladies, the author of the play, the auditioning of the Hitlers and the show itself, Springtime For Hitler all add up to one funny film.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish?:- Oddly enough, I wasn’t completely bowled over by it the first time I watched it. It was only on subsequent viewings that I found more and more I loved about it each time. I also went to see the musical version at the theatre and really enjoyed it – however, I don’t think it really translated back into film again (the version I saw had Nathan Lane and Lee Evans in it and Evans was a far better Leo Bloom than Matthew Broderick). So I’d avoid that version and stick with the original.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you think that Mel Brooks is just that unfunny bloke who gave us Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights then absolutely go and find this one. And then go and watch Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety. And then stop before you get to Spaceballs and go no further...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Kicking It Old School

Because it's Sunday and I'm feeling lazy*, let's go with a video blog today, shall we?** That was rhetorical, I'm not gonna wait for you to agree or not, I'm afraid, I'm just going to go ahead with the post. Alrighty then.

We've already established that my musical taste is extremely eclectic. I've been listening to a fair few different styles of late but am having a bit of a rediscovered for fondness for hip hop (mainly old school stuff). Yes, I realise that "rediscovering a fondness" isn't a very street way of putting it but I'm going to spare us all the embarrassment of even attempting that. Good, glad we all agree.

Right, let's start with the basics:-

Grandmaster Flash - The Message

And then move things on with a bit of:-

Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock - It Takes Two

Following that up with a slice of:-

Naughty By Nature - O.P.P.

And then finish off with a little bit of this (especially as it has a brilliant Spike Jonze video):-

Pharcyde - Drop

Peace. Out.

* Actually, it's Thursday and my ideas pool is draining fast but you get the idea...

** And for anyone who might be reading this as a Facebook note, I've added the links as well as embedding the vids otherwise you'll just see a big blank space. Yes, I am good like that.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Things What Are Great #8 - Star Wars

In a nutshell:- Seriously? You honestly have to ask?

The Basics:- Something about fighting in space, I think. I'm not sure, I've only seen it the once. No, of course, that's the whoppingest of massive-type lyings. It didn't even occur to me to do this one as a "Things What Are Great" blog because it's that ingrained that it didn't even show up on the radar. Not even long range... So, a long time ago, in a living room not so far away, a small boy was sat down in front of a shiny VHS copy of a futuristic type film called Star Wars. His parents' wallets would never be the same again...

Why's It So Great Then?:- There are reams and reams and sites and sites dedicated to this subject if you care to seek out that sort of thing (shouldn't take very long to find) so let's go into why it's so great for me personally (and bear in mind that I'm talking about the original trilogy here). The main reason - I was the perfect age when the films came out - born a year before the first film hit the cinemas. For me, it's always been there. Always. I have no pre-Star Wars memories. For as long as I can remember, I've been a Star Wars obsessive (same goes for Doctor Who but I blogged about that a while back once it emerged from the shadows and became something people talked about in public again). It was the thing that made a sci-fi fan out of me, that made me a collector (the toys and the Return Of The Jedi comic started down the slippery collecting slope) and that made me a lifelong film fanatic. So, it's had a big influence on my life.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Looked at with the clinical, analytical eyes of someone not immersed lifelong in it, than yes, there are creaky moments and wonky dialogue. Throw the prequels*, perpetual "Special Edition" style tinkering, spin-offs and endless merchandising into the mix as well and it's easy to start pouring scorn on them. But you stick me down in front of that original set of films and I'll always be in the right mood to watch them with the glasses I'm wearing firmly in place and all rosy of tint.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- No, probably not. "What?!?", I hear you say (well, not really cause I'm not even in the country at the moment and even if I was I wouldn't be able to hear you as you read this 'cause that's not how the internet works but you get the idea). "Isn't this the bit where you tell us to go and watch it?" Normally, yes, that's true but I figure that if you've not seen it by now or if you have but don't like it then you're unlikely to be swayed by my opinion. Spend your time doing something you'll enjoy instead. Leave the Star Wars watching to me - I'll enjoy it more than enough for the both of us.

* My very basic opinion on the prequels? Well, there is a lot to like in there but there's a loooooot that's wrong with the them. If you want me to go into more detail then you're some kind of insane masochist opening up a nerd-based Pandora's Box.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Oh, The Humanity

Notification Of Works:- That Baldy Fella Inc. is writing to inform all readers that during the period of Friday, 20th - Monday 23rd February, there will be no replies to any comments made due to annual holiday being taken by CEO, head writer and cleaner Mr That Baldy Fella. Please note that publishing of blogs will continue during this time due to the wondrous powers of the magic pixies what live within the intarwebs and make it all go. End Of Notification.

So, while I'm not here (but I am still here, just not here), here's some stuff to tide you over. For today's words of choice,* I have decided to carry on stealing ideas from other people because it's just easier and cuts down on the thinking time (well, you wouldn't want me to put actual thought into these, would you?). So here's what you have to do today:-

Go to the 4th folder in your photo album, pick the 4th photo, post it and tell us what it's about.
Simple. Here's the pic:-

This is a picture of The Bro, Mrs Bro**, Mrs Bro's Friend and your faithful Badly narrator taken last year at Mrs Bro's birthday. It was a fun night which involved a curry on Brick Lane (London's foremost curry eating area) and then on to an 80s-style club for a night titled End Of The World, in which they play old tunes and have burlesque acts while mock news announcements count down to impending nuclear armageddon. You know, the usual.

All fine and good fun. Until...

Until something about the combination of curry and beer on this particular night disagreed with me rather strenuously. Disagreed to the extent that I had to keep making frequent visits to the gentleman's room. Although here I use the "gentleman's room" in the loosest and most inappropriate sense as... well....

Have any of you ever seen the film Trainspotting? For those of you that have, you're probably suspecting which scene I'm referring to. For those of you that haven't, there is a particular scene in the film where Ewan McGregor (trying to give up the drugs at this point) is caught short and forced to use the toilets in the nearest place - a betting shop. The toilet he uses is considerably less hygienic than one you would find in a WWI trench. The toilet I had to use in this club was considerably less hygienic than that.

Not only was it horrendous that I had to keep going back in there (and, not being well, I wasn't making the state of them any better), it was made worse by the fact that on one occasion I had to wait until there was a free cubicle as there was a couple having sex in one of them. I don't think I've ever been that drunk that I've wanted to have sex in the toilet from Trainspotting. I can;t imagine how that was even possible - the smell, dear Lord, the smell... In the end, I got a cab home once I was well enough to make the journey back (and was gutted to have missed out on the full night).

A lovely story there to tide you over while you're having your lunch/dinner.

(I realise that, a while back, I made a list of things which I wouldn't do and that one of those was blog about friends and family. Snow Day seems to have started an erosion of that rule...)

* I say "today" but it's actually yesterday for me as I sit and write this but today for you as you sit and read it. I've travelled forward in time to give you these words. So effectively I've invented time travel just for the purposes of blogging. Maybe I should have come forward with a more important message like, "Watch out for that bus" or "Whatever you do, don't eat the sushi" but I guess we'll all just have to live with it now. Anyway, back to the point....

** I refer to her as Mrs Bro here but they're not actually married. It's just easier to call her that.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The One Hundred

Admittedly, this isn't the most original of ideas (mainly because I stole it from several other people who've already done it) but it seemed a fitting way to celebrate the one hundredth blog post*. So here are one hundred things about me. If you make all the way to the end of this ridiculously long list, you probably deserve some sort of medal like Muttley in "Stop The Pigeon". You're not gonna get one but, you know, you probably deserve one.

1. My full first name is Nicholas, meaning "victory people".
2. People only call me Nicholas for the following reasons:-
3. To annoy me; or
4. To attract my attention if I'm not responding to them.
5. The exception to this was my Nana (mum's mum) who called me Nicholas because it was my name.
6. I don't generally attract nicknames.
7. The exception to this being at work where we all seem to be calling each other by overly extended and tortured variations on our surnames.
8. I am from South East London.
9. But don't hold that against me.
10. My hair loss has been genetically passed down from my maternal grandfather.
11. But he lost his at about 19 so I had two years on him at least.
12. And his went white as well.

13. So I win. Yes.
14. I have one brother.
15. He is not bald.
16. In fact, he's quite hairy.
17. He's three years younger.
18. And four inches taller.
19. That's not very fair.
20. I'm supposed to be taller. I'm older. That's how it works.
21. I love music.
22. I have the musical ability of a crab. A really unmusical one, too.
23. Fortunately, I do film-making instead.
24. The first thing I tried to film was a feature length adaptation of a comic called Hellblazer. Whilst still at school.
25. Start ambitious and work your way down, that's how we learnt.
26. The existing rushes are utterly unwatchable (no, you can't see and judge for yourself).
27. It was later filmed starring Keanu Reeves.
28. I would have been better.
29. No, really.
30. An unmusical crab would have been better.
31. I can touch the tip of my nose with my tongue (ladies)
32. I can also breathe through my ears (ladies).
33. Number 32 was a lie.
34. But number 31 is true (ladies).
35. Still here? OK, just checking...
36. Sport is a bit of a foreign country to me.
37. I mean, I get that it's important to some people but I don't really get why.
38. I was brought up in a footballing environment.
39. We're English so the word "soccer" never crops up.
40. Somehow, it just didn't take with me.
41. The immediate family are a mixture of Charlton, West Ham and Millwall supporters.
42. That is the extent of my footballing knowledge.
43. I'm ophidiophobic (go look it up).
44. Fortunately, it doesn't impact on my day to day life.
45. Although a friend is threatening to get one as a pet and I have warned that visits may be less frequent. Or nonexistent.
46. I'm strangely obsessed with the number 23.
47. I should probably have put that at No. 23 on the list.
48. Although 46 is a factor of 23.
49. I find it hard to pick a singular favourite of any particular thing.
50. I am however always in the mood to read The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
51. Halfway there, people. Take a deep breath and gird yourself. No, that's not girding, stop that, you'll go blind.
52. I'm a confirmed pedestrian.
53. I never learned to ride a bike.
54. I never took my driving test (although I did have lessons when I was 17)
55. I live in London; there's public transport everywhere and, although it's frequently annoying or inadequate, when it works, it gets you around.
56. I did learn to roller skate, though.
57. And, by default, this means I can ice skate. Been twice, never fallen over.
58. The exception to my no sport rule is tenpin bowling.
59. Hey, if darts and snooker are sports then so is this.
60. I'm not very good but I can hit the pins most of the time.
61. I'm a cat person and former cat owner.
62. I don't dislike dogs but I'm not overly keen.
63. I was bitten by a Doberman on the road that I lived on when I was about 9 or 10. That didn't help my liking for them.
64. I have a small lump on the right side of my nose from where I fractured it when I was 18.
65. No, it wasn't caused by fighting.
66. Yes, it was alcohol related.
67. We're two thirds of the way there. In some sort of sport, they refer to this as the home stretch.
68. I cannot roll my R's.
69. 69, dude!
70. I've been a comics collector since I was about 7.
71. My Nana (mum's mum) is largely
to blame for feeding this addiction.
72. The first comic I started collecting was Return Of The Jedi.
73. The only comic that I bought when I was 7 that I still by now 2000AD.
74. Batman is great and could kick both Anna Russell and Trodo McCracken's collective asses.
75. Like many my age, I worshipped at the altar of George Lucas.
76. That faith has been shaken a bit in the last decade but it's ultimately still there.
77. I'd love to be able to swordfight like in old-fashioned swashbuckling movies or Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.
78. My dad used to get told he looked like Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent quite a lot.
79. My mum currently has no known celebrity lookalikes.
80. In the mirror universe, my evil twin has a full head of hair and a clean shaven chin. (And probably an eyepatch as he can't have the goatee).
81. Having said it's hard to single out favourites, my favourite dinosaur is a tyrannosaurus rex. Naturally.
82. My love of Chas 'n' Dave stems from happy memories of younger times at my paternal grandparents.
83. I still live in hope that one day I'll be able to shoot electric bolts from my fingertips to smite my enemies like the Emperor in Star Wars. That would be cool.
84. I'm fond of lists but this might be taking things too far.
85. If you're still reading then I can only assume that you're some sort of masochist. You kinky so-and-so.
86. I was never a festival person until 2005 when I suddenly decided to go to Glastonbury.
87. In fact, I'd never been camping before then.
88. It was the year of the Great Flood. Everything I owned was soaked on the morning of the first day and I feel full length in the mud.
89. I loved it.
90. I went back in 2007 and got just as muddy and still loved it.
91. I've been to a folk festival. I mainly enjoyed the cider. Most of the music wasn't really my thing.
92. Chas 'n' Dave were there and I got offered my current job whilst drunkenly dancing to "Gertcha". Good times.
93. I do not and never will understand the appeal of Morris dancing.
94. I still have a friend that I've known since the first year of primary school. We still tell the same jokes.
95. 2006 was (with one notable exception) a great year.
96. 2007 sucked donkey balls.
97. 2008 was fair-to-middling.
98. 2009 is too early to call.
99. This is the penultimate fact about me.
100. I will never do a list this long again. It was sheer folly. Folly, I tell you.

Right, someone else's turn, I reckon...

* OK, if you're including the previous blog, technically this is the 318th blog post but people don't tend to celebrate the 318th anything, really. Unless it was your 318th birthday. I reckon people would celebrate that. Not that anyone you knew would still be alive. But I digress in a slightly odd way.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet

I'm easily sucked into the latest new online thing. The old addictive personality/obsessive compulsive thing kicks in and I find myself becoming hooked to the New Thing. A few years back, it was MySpace which introduced me to the world of online social networking and blogging and then, when everyone jumped ship for pastures Facebook-ier, I followed along like the sheepy lemming type creature that I am (I wasn't convinced about it at first and, despite now being as hooked as everyone else, still think MySpace is the more flexible site but if there's no one left to socialise with then there's not a lot of point in staying there).

My main objection to Facebook was its lack of blogging facilities. Fortunately, thanks to this very site what you are reading these very words on, the blogging need is once again being catered for (and ta very much to all you lovely people of exquisite taste who read and leave comments - nobody likes an unread blog).

So now it appears that the next big thing is here as friends are beginning to tell me that I need to start Twittering. Like in the early days of Facebook, I remain unconvinced at the moment. Do I really need another way to be random and inane at people? Do I really enough to say on yet another social networky thingy? Would I just be saying the same stuff to the same people but just in a different place? Can't we all just go down the pub instead? I hear they have booze there. Crisps and peanuts too. I'm not gonna get a round in for everyone, though. Maybe if we had some sort of kitty that we each chuck a tenner into for starters. We can always top it up as we go along. As long as no one starts off by ordering a cocktail, that's just selfish. Yeah, you're right, maybe we just split off into smaller rounds. Easier that way...

So, in conclusion, anyone fancy a pint?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Things What Are Great #7 - Calvin And Hobbes

In a nutshell:- A young boy and his stuffed tiger have pretty standard adventures involving dinosaurs, space travel, duplicators, transmogrifiers and mutant snowmen. You know, the usual.

The Basics:- Bill Watterson's newspaper strip ran for just ten years from 1985 through to 1995 and yet is one of those things that seems to have been around forever. It revolves around the everyday life of Calvin, a slightly misfit and wildly over-imaginative six year old, who has a stuffed tiger called Hobbes that Calvin believes is as alive as he is. It's the sort of thing that could have been horribly twee and cloying and yet is far from it...

Why's It So Great Then?:- Watterson really succeeds in capturing the obsessions and pre-occupations of the six year old - incomprehensible games with rules only kids understand, fascinations with things that are both gross and slimy, a love of both pre-history and the future and mutant snowmen (never underestimate the appeal of mutant snowmen). It manages to be sweet and funny at the same time which is always a tricky act to pull off and, from time to time, pulls out the odd genuine moment of emotion. Plus the varying art styles he employs for Calvin's different fantasies are often extremely impressive - he draws a mean dinosaur and his alien landscapes are suitably weird and alieny.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Seeing as he churned out a strip every day for the best part of a decade, yeah, sure, some of them don't quite work. But for someone asked to produce four to five panels of funny every day, his hit rate is satisfyingly high.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?*:- This one should be relatively easy to track down - there are bound to be plenty of sites out there with online versions of the strips, there are individual collections and even a super snazzy hardback boxset which collects the full ten years in order. If you're a fan of comic strip humour then seek this one out. Quite frankly, it absolutely shits all over Garfield (not literally - that would horrible and nobody wants to see that).

* Yeah, still haven't come up with a decent title for this inevitably affirmative end section. Answers on a postcard, please.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Things What Are Great #6 - Airplane!

In a nutshell:- It's a movie filled with brilliantly bad puns and visual jokes but that's not important right now.

The Basics:- Having written a sketch-style TV-based spoof in the form of Kentucky Fried Movie, Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker decided to turn their hands to directing with a spoof of a 1950s film called Zero Hour! (and also of plane-based disaster films in general). And with that simple decision, they created a slice of movie comedy gold. The gags come thick and fast and the performances are played straight for the most part, which just adds to the comedy.

Why's It So Great Then?:- The simple answer? It's extremely funny, even after all these years (29 years old this year) and, for me, it's the sort of film where I discover something new each time I watch it. Having watched the film many a time since I was a wee nipper, the joy in rewatching it has come from suddenly getting jokes that I didn't get when I was younger or noticing some bit of business going on in the background that I hadn't noticed before. In many ways, it's one of the forerunners of the sort of humour that shows like The Simpsons employ in which multiple viewings are rewarded with all those little background details that you may not have noticed before. Also, as all good comedies should be, it's immensely quotable.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- OK, so some of the gags do fall a little flat occasionally but the beauty of Airplane! is that the hit rate is so high that you can forgive the odd misfire and, if one joke didn't quite work, there'll be three more along in a minute that will tickle your funny bone.

So We Should Seek Out This thing Of Which You Speak?:- Absolutely.* You also can't go far wrong by watching Police Squad (In Color), the first Naked Gun film and Top Secret as well - all brought to you by the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker team. Airplane II has some good gags too but I didn't realise until doing a bit of research just now that it wasn't made by them at all** - they felt they'd made all the gags they had to make on the subject and passed on the sequel. You learn something new every day...

* Maybe I should retitle this last section on these. Let's face it, having waxed lyrical about my subject, I'm hardly likely to turn round and say no, am I?

** Particularly odd as I'm one of those oh-so-dreary film buff types who actually looks at people's names in the credits and yet I've failed to spot this. One film geek demerit to me...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Just Won't Budge

As it's the weekend and there's hardly any bugger around, here's a writing-lite style blog for you today. In keeping with my slightly obsessive compulsive nature, I have a tendency to play a song over and over again once I become a bit infatuated with it. The urge to keep listening to it will remain for a little while before the next song dislodges it and becomes flavour of the month. So, to give you an insight into the background sounds constantly running through my head, here are a few of the tracks that I can't seem to stop listening to incessantly at the moment. Enjoy!

When it comes to being de la, it's just me, myself and I...

Friday, 13 February 2009

Things What Are Great #5 - Muppet Show Albums

In a nutshell:- Most sensational, inspirational, celebrational AND Muppetational.

The Basics:- Back in the 70s, when everything was all bright primary colours and sweets were 99.3% sugar, there were no video-type recording device thingies. Want to relive bits from your favourite puppet-based children's show? Well, then you'll be needing a shiny black disc with grooves on both sides that you'll need to turn over when you get halfway through. To tie in with the unexpectedly huge popularity of the Muppet Show in the mid-70s, two soundtrack albums were released; one covering songs and sketches from the first season, the next covering material from (logically enough) the second. These were played incessantly in our house alongside the Muppet Movie soundtrack. In fact, we only had the second album on tape and it was played so much it had to keep being repaired, eventually getting to the point that it wore so thin you could hear both sides at the same time...

Why's It So Great Then?:- It's Jim Henson's Muppet material - do you even need to ask? For me, it's great for two reasons. This was Muppet stuff I could listen to whenever I wanted. It wasn't on the TV or VHS throughout the early 80s so it kept fanning the flames of Muppet adoration in my heart. Secondly, there's some great material on there and it proved that you could take away the puppetry and the performances would still shine through. The "good grief, the comedian's a bear" routine* is just as funny on LP with only the voices of Jim Henson and Frank Oz as it is with the visual performance. The second album even acknowledges the slightly daft nature of some of the material - there's a little nice aside about a tap dance routine which was ludicrous enough on the show as it didn't show any feet but even more ridiculous on an album with no visuals at all!

Surely Some Of It Must be Rubbish:- OK, I was never very fond of either of the songs by Kermit's nephew Robin - far too twee - but other than that, no, I can't think of a thing.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- Absolutely but good luck finding them. They're long out of print and have never been released in their entirety on CD. They've released a compilation CD with some tracks from both albums along with various movie songs but it's not quite the same. If you can find copies somewhere and have still got a turntable lurking about upon which to spin them then I urge you to do so. They're a lovely memento of a time before the ready availability of these multimedia times.**

* Yes, I know, long time readers will be bored of me always twatting on about this one. Well, tough, it's still a favourite.

** I'm not knocking the multimedia age, I love it. These are just a nice reminder of what it used to be like.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Please, Please Stop

Dear Steve,

We had a close association a long time ago but, for quite a while now, I've distanced myself from you and I feel I should write and tell you why. It's only fair - you brought me a lot of joy in those early years but I've watched you struggle and flail around for a long time now without saying a word right to you. Sure, I've discussed it with others but I feel it's time I wrote something directly to you.

I remember how good it all was back in the beginning. You were a wild and crazy guy back then and the laughs came thick and fast. You weren't necessarily always calling yourself Steve either. You were Navin R Johnson or Rigby Reardon or Dr Michael Hfuhufuhurr but we always knew it was you. Those were the good times, man, and we all enjoyed them. I particularly liked your stint as Orin Scrivello (DDS), a sadistically Elvis-like dentist who gets his just desserts by being fed to a giant talking plant (your average everyday role) and a special mention has to go out to Ruprecht, the depraved, eyepatch-wearing monkey boy.

But then something went wrong. A sort of malaise set in. You seemed to reach a point where you'd become disinterested in the whole comedy thing or, when you were interested in them they were of a lazy feelgood variety. You were playing the harried father or the put-upon husband and, very quickly, we stopped laughing.

You started to try and show a more serious side from time to time as if to say, "Hey, you know what, the time for fun is over. We're done with that now."OK, fair enough but then you tried to go back to being the comedy clown to win our laughs again and it just wasn't working for us.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. If you're going to expect us to laugh along with you again, why do you insist on taking our friend Peter's sublime comic creation and repeatedly smearing it in your own excrement? That may sound a little harsh, Steve, and I know you haven't done that literally (no one would want to see that) but that's what it feels like. You've taken Inspector Clouseau and you've daubed him in your own fecal matter. Not just once but twice. Do you hate us that much now, Steve? Do you have that much contempt for us that you're happy to keep befouling someone else's comedy works and pocketing the cash for it?

We had some laughs once so I can't hate you completely. I'll always remember the good times. But you and me are done now. I won't be going to see The Pink Panther 2 or whichever other abomination you choose to trot out next. For you see, you, sir, are now pretty much just an arse.

Yours without any more real affection at all,

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Things What Are Great #4 - Ghostbusters

(I kind of deviated off my original intention a little bit with the last one of these - my intention was to look at things that are so ingrained within my cultural mindset that I take it for granted that everyone else knows about them too. They probably do but, just in case, here's another one for you today...)

In a nutshell:- Who you gonna call?

The Basics:- OK, for anyone who's been living under a rock for the last 20-odd years, it's a simple tale of four not-quite-so-young men trying to catch them some ghosts (of which they ain't afraid) before New York gets sucked into Hell. It's got ghosts, ghost-busting and a man in love with a woman who occasionally turns into a dog. A pretty straightforward apocalyptically supernatural love story then.

Why's It So Great Then?:- There are oh-so-many reasons for this film's sheer greatness - the chemistry of the lead actors, Bill Murray's delivery of pretty much any line in the film, the demented imaginative turns that lead to a giant marshmallow man stamping on the city in a Godzilla-stylee, the insanely cheesily catchy theme tune, the endless quotability of the lines - but I think that the key thing that has lead to it's endurance as a classic comedy film is that it is that rarest of beasts:- a family comedy film that's genuinely funny without being patronising towards children and too moronic for adults to enjoy. It strikes just the right balance - something which few films strive to do these days and fewer actually achieve.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Nope, not a bit of it. It's as entertaining a film now as it was then - my friends kids enjoy it just as much as we did. OK, sure, a few of the bluescreen effects don't really stand up to a lot of scrutiny in these heavily CGI'ed times in which we live but the model design can't be faulted. Slimer, the Devil Dogs, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man - they're all great creations.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- As there are somehow people out there who haven't seen Star Wars (I know, I have difficulty understanding the concept, too), then it stands to reason that there are people out there who haven't seen this film either. If you've been dismissing it for the last couple of decades because you thought it was a silly kids film, I urge you to sit and watch it. You will not regret it. All together now...

If there's somethin' strange in your neighbourhood...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

People Are Strange

(Yep, you've now either got The Doors song or the Echo and the Bunnymen cover version from the Lost Boys in your head. Sadly, this has nothing to do with the rest of this post.)

Thanks to a whizzy and snazzy type site that tells me all manner of factage about my blog viewership (yes, I do know what colour underwear you're wearing and when the last time was that you changed them and, yes, four days is too long), I've come to the realisation that Google searches can throw up some pretty odd results. Not all the time - some of them are pretty straightforward...

Evangeline Lilly - Well, I did mention her once over here
Patrick Stewart - Yep, he got a mention here
That rug really tied the room together dude - Whole blog title so making sense so far
Pronoun trouble Looney Tunes - Also got a whole blog all to itself

No, they all make sense. It's the stranger phrases that throw up questions as to what people are even looking for:-

Full name of foreign - Full name of foreign what? Just the full name of foreign stuff in general? That's going to be a fairly comprehensive search.
Attack in Lewisham over snowballs - Look, I know knife crime in South London is fairly high but seriously? An attack over snowballs? You're supposed to attack with the snowballs...
Nack men arund you - Well, there's a "Nack" in the blog title so I guess that's what brought them here. Not sure where this is going, though...
Pichers of the nack it bruthers bands - OK, maybe there's some sort of theme coming in to play here but it's seems to be illiterate hillbillies searching for pictures of my brother's band in the nip. I'm don't reckon they'd like what they find if that were to be successful...
Male stories - I'm not even going to touch that one

So what has this shown us? The frankly entirely expected revelation that people use that there intarwebs to look for some random old crap and are rewarded with being pointed in the direction of random old crap - just not necessarily the random old crap they were originally looking for.

When you're strange, faces come out of the rain...

Monday, 9 February 2009

Singy Yet Funny

I'm fond of music and I'm somewhat partial to comedy so, when the two elements combine into one glorious whole*, it tends to make me a happy chappy. I've always been fond of the comedy song for as long as I can remember - being an avid Muppet fan as a child** would probably have been one of the prime factors. So let's single out some favourites today, shall we? That was a rhetorical question, I'm going to do it anyway.

Now let's just take it as read that I pretty much love all Monty Python songs and couldn't really single out a specific one so I'll just start you off with Sit On My Face and we can carry on from there.

(I defy you to not have that in your head for the rest of the day now.)

Let's tackle this one in a slightly chronological fashion. One of the earliest comedy songs that I can remember enjoying is this little ditty brought to us from a Mr Stanley Laurel and a Mr Oliver Hardy in the deservedly classic "Way Out West".

Once again, with those two, it's all in the timing and the facial expressions. Plus kids love a silly voice so that was me hooked. Staying with the older theme, here's a song that became indelibly associated with the singer throughout many hundreds of radio and TV episodes of the game show "You Bet Your Life". It was originally performed in the film "Animal Crackers" and goes a little something like this:-

And that's exactly the sort of thing that began to cement my love for nonsensical wordplay. Another comedy hero of mine was equally as fond of cunning wordplay as he was of particularly silly noises. Take it away, Mr Milligna (the well-known typing error).

Here's someone that I've only gotten into in the last five years or so and then coincidentally discovered that my parents were fans of his (obviously, the comedy apple doesn't fall very far from the tree - on to somebody's head, probably). He's as fond of the meaning as he is of the sounds of the words themselves. His name is Jake Thackray and there are many of songs of his which I love Unfortunately, I can't find a video of my favourite, "The Castleford Ladies Magical Circle", but this is a good 'un, too:-

Back in the days before "House" and "QI", Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry used to knock about together doing a really rather splendid sketch on the old Beeb Beeb Ceeb and would occasionally throw out the odd belter of a song. I like the way that each verse builds on the previous one to lead up to the big finish and it also features some nice tortured pronunciation in order to make the words fit the rhyme scheme.

Getting closer up to date, we reach Mr Bill Bailey who I've been to see live several times and makes me laugh very much. Here, Bill demonstrates the hitherto unexplored link between cockney and classical music:-

And finally, to round things off, let's go with a bit of Flight Of The Conchords (because it would be rude not to, frankly). There are many other proponents of the comedy song that I love and could list here (Spinal Tap, Tenacious D, Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, Neil Innes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone plus many more) but I'd be here all night and you'd get all bored and wander off to more interesting blogs. I'm going to go with this track, I think - "Business Time" and "Ladies Of The World" are probably better tracks but there's a sweetness combined with a filthiness about this one that always makes me chuckle along with the over the top rhyming. Give it a go, if you're into it, that is....

* Put the double entendre back in the box. Matron.

** Not that I'm no longer a Muppet fan, of course, that's just when it all began+

+ That's the sort of phrase in TV and film that leads to to gazing into the middle distance accompanied by a wibbly wobbly transition effect to signify a flashback. Not here, though. This is a blog. That doesn't really work.#

# You just get footnotes instead.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Cheesily Cheerful

It's a Friday (yes, my powers of observation really are second to none) and I've noticed that things tend to wind down a bit over the weekend round these here parts. So, to continue my week long theme of being a lazy style blogger who doesn't write too much, here are some cheesily cheerful guilty pleasure-style tunes to set those weekend toes a-tapping. They're not great works of art, they won't win any awards but they might just make you smile in an "oh yeah" kind of a way. Enjoy (remember, if you don't enjoy it, it's free so, no, you can't have some money back. Yeesh, some people...)

Nothing From Nothing - Billy Preston

Mama Used To Say - Junior

Shine A Little Love - ELO

All cheesily cheerful, I think you'll agree. Any more for any more?

Thursday, 5 February 2009


Firstly, a bit of housekeeping - I invited captions the other day and, in the excitement of mucking about with weather, I completely forgot to announce the winner. It was a tough choice and there were some solid entries; in my book, you're all winners (which is that wishy-washy sort of phrase you get nowadays when someone's too spineless to say, "I liked one better than the others and I don't want the rest to feel that they're losers. Even though they are.").

And the winner is....

The Masked Philosopher with "Wow, the Pet Shop Boys have really let themselves go....". Well done, squire (and don't worry, I didn't find the first one offensive - Monty Python references are never offensive...)

And now on to today's entry. I'm continuing the theme of being lazy this week and am going to steal ideas for my own blog from other people. First up, one from TrodoMcCracken and Brandy Rose - The Urban Dictionary.

Here's the idea:-

Go to and type in your answer to each question in the search box, then write in one definition it gives you.

Easy. Let's get going, shall we?

1. Your Name: Nick

"the most amazing person alive with a huge penis"

So a pretty standard start then.

2. Your age: 32

"a person who has school smarts, but in real life is fucking dumbshit."

Actually, now we're getting more like it. (I'm also beginning to notice that capital letters seem to be sparingly used on this site.)

3. One of your friends: Simon

"Of Simon and Garfunkel, the one that is not Garfunkel"

That has, at last, cleared up one of the longer standing mysteries of the universe for me.

4. Admirer: Evangeline Lilly (What? She just doesn't know it yet. She would be if she met me.)

"The highest source of heat on the planet Earth after the Sun. "
I stood next to Evangeline Lilly on the subway, and got a bad sunburn.

Yeah, she is nice. Mmmmm, Evangeline Lilly.

5. Favourite colour: Blue

"The hue of the portion of the visible spectrum lying between green and indigo, evoked in a human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 420 to 490 nanometers. "
The sky is blue.

Well, I can't really argue with that, to be honest.

6. Birth place: Greenwich

"Greenwich (UK) is a Borough in South East London, which is famous for Greenwich Mean Time The former Royal Naval College, The National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Town centre (among Other Things). Despite the borough's significant place in British naval and scientific heritage, it is one of the most deprived areas of London."
Greenwich is one of the most deprived broughs of The East Thames Corridor.

That's one of the few entries on there to refer to proper Greenwich, you know, the one where the time is made; not this other place that they all seem to be banging all on about in somewhere called Connecticut. And even then it's derogatory. And they can't even spell borough correctly in their example. I've a good mind to write a strongly worded missive of complaint. If only I wasn't too deprived to be able to afford pen and paper.

7. Month of your birthday: June

"1. The sixth month.
2. In Japan, an early publication featuring male/male stories in the tanbi style. People used to refer to the category of male/male relationships targeted at the female audience as June, but since that was a trade name for a magazine, that meaning of the term has fallen into disuse. The category has evolved and changed so much and the types of stories so varied that the entire category is now called BL by the industry and most fans. In some places, including Comiket, original stories are still called 'sousaku (original) June'. "
1. My birthday is in June.

2. June is a thing of the past...

You learn something new (and fairly odd) every day...

8. The last person you talked to: Bruv

"A word used by mainly South Londoners. It's the shorter version of 'bruvva' which is a slang variation of 'brother' "
Ez mate. You alright, bruv?

Well, I'm from South London and he's technically actually my bruvva so, yes, spot on.

9. Nickname: Baldy

"noun: person with no hair; excessive foreskin"
That fool reminds me of that dimwit Baldy.

Right, that's it, Urban Dictionary, it's gone too far. It started off so well with all the penis flattery and whatnot but now it's descended into rudenesses about a chap's shiny pate. I'm going to have to ask you to step outside the intarwebs for fisticuffs. Have at thee!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

More Snowy Goodness

Because I'm nothing if not lazy (and boy, am I lazy), here are some more pics from Monday's enjoyment of the un-Londonish weather*. Enjoyment which has now worn thin, as what does snow become once it's not really melted but it's no longer soft and fluffy? Yes, potentially neck-breaking ice. Still, we'll always have Monday...

A Bro / Mrs Bro Creation

Mrs Bro Is The One On The Left

The Cold, Dead, Icy Eyes Of A Killer

Shoulda Kept Moving, Bruv

*Apparently, it's also Worldess Wednesday. Well, I've broken that one with those words. Oh, and these words. These too...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Best. Day. Ever.

Snow. It's something that a lot of people have to deal with on a regular basis and, for most, it's just not a big deal. But here in beautiful, balmy, sun-kissed London, it's not something we see a lot of - our last significantly heavy snowfall was 18 years ago, Fact Fans. Sure, we get the occasional light dusting underfoot which is barely noticeable (and yet sufficient to entirely halt all public transport) but, in general, snow is SWOPH (Something What Other People Have).

But not this week. Oh no. All day Sunday and Monday, a steady fall of white gold from the sky transformed grey old London in a gleamingly bright winter wonderland and, for a city of dyed-in-the-wools whiners, complainers and curmudgeons, it was enough to stir that inner 6 year old within us all to then spent the day screaming, "SNOOOOOOOOOOOW!".
So not only was the day brilliantly snow-covered but it was also my day off for being in the office rather late on Sunday. This, combined with the fact that the Bro and Mrs Bro were unable to reach work and in conjunction with the fact that we live ridiculously close to Greenwich Park, made for a day of fun and frolics. And here's the proof....

Impromptu Sled Of Doom

Myself and Mrs Bro there, demonstrating our makeshift sled which Mrs Bro found abandoned - an old one-way sign with the arrow rubbed off. It had straps to hold on to and everything. There was only one thing for it - head for the nearest hill and test it out...

Baldy Prepares

Baldy Launches

Baldy Fall Down, Go Boom

The Brother Prepares

Fly, The Brother, Fly!

Mrs Bro Steps Up...

...And Decides To Use "Baldy Technique"

Snow Angel #1 - Small

Snow Angel #2 - Medium

Snow Angel #3 -Cut Back On The Curries

This...... Is.... Sparta!!!!

Right, Sod The Snow, Time For The Pub

The Trudge Home...

So what did we learn on our snow day?

1. Found road signs make brilliant sleds.
2. Dogs like to chase bald men going very fast down a hill on a found road sign.
3. If someone goes very quite and drops behind, a snowball is imminent...
4. Pubs on a snowy day are even better than usual (I know it doesn't seem possible but it's true).
5. Snow is the most entertaining of all weather patterns.

So, same again in 18 years time, then?

Sunday, 1 February 2009


A small blogette for your delictation today and it's gone all interactive again for you. Below is one of my favouritest ever pictures from a friend's 30th birthday party a few years back (yes, hard to belive that I'm not a sprightly 18 year old, I know). All you have to do is supply a suitably amusing caption for it. Easy, isn't it? The winner and notable runners up will be announced later.

Here's the pic:-

Toodle pip and good luck!