Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Power of Editing - Number 3

Last one one on the video editing based theme and it's one from Armando Iannucci, the writer-producer-performer behind such shows as On The Hour/The Day Today, I'm Alan Partridge and The Thick Of It (recently spun off to the big screen for the film In The Loop). This clip is taken from 2004: The Stupid Version.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Smash And Grab

With a sinking feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, I knew that the time was approaching. For some time now, I had been drifting along in relative bliss, the memory of the last occurrence but a dim afterthought in the dank recesses of my mind. However, with an inescapable inevitability, the telltale signs began to show through. I tried ignoring them, tried to push them away and hope they'd stay submerged but to no avail. The time was fast approaching again and I had no alternative. I would have to square my shoulders, gird my loins, grit my teeth and take the plunge. There was no getting away from it - I would have to go shoe shopping.

I have to a hatred for shoe shopping that borders on the pathological. It's not an irrational phobia - for starters, it's not a fear but very much a hatred. I know exactly where it stems from and that is two specific places. Firstly, I have very wide feet. Now, you may not think is sufficient grounds for a burgeoning intense dislike but I can tell you it is when every shoe shopping trip as a wee nipper involved going into every single shoe shop in Lewisham, being measured on every conceivable machine and trying on what felt like pretty much every shoe in the shop until eventually we went back to the first shop and bought the pair that was the least uncomfortable.

"OK," I hear you say, "so you had horrible shoe shopping experiences as a child. Well, boo hoo, get over it, you're a grown man." Ah but that's not the only reason. The second reason I hate shoe shopping is because, for three and a half years, I was a children's shoe salesman in Selfridges on Oxford Street. Yes, I do appreciate the irony - boy who hates shoe shopping grows up to work in shoe shop, fitting shoes for children. My, how we laughed.

It's an eye-opening experience, working in a shoe department. Particularly a children's one. I know what you're thinking - that the kids must be the worst part of working there. Not so. True, a lot of them were irredeemable shitbags (this was Oxford Street after all and people who shop in Selfridges like to think they're posh but can't afford to shop in Harrods) but they weren't the main problem. Oh no, my friends, the real problem were the mothers. The mothers who are convinced they know best over a trained shoe-fitter (oh yes, they trained us; we went on a couple of days training to learn how to fit the shoes as an ill-fitted shoe can damage growing bones, folks) and the ones who want to save a bit of cash by getting them two sizes larger to grow into. Now, I'm the sort of person who, even if he doesnlt like a job, still takes pride in being able to do that job well and it was always depressing to watch a kid leaving the floor with his/her shoes falling off his/her feet. Even more depressing when they came back the following week for a refund because they didn't fit and our policy meant we had to honour that.

It's also a frightening insight into the world of the shop worker. You know how sometimes you give them a pair of shoes and they go off and spend ages "looking for it"? No, they're not looking for it. They're chatting to their mate who works out the back or having a sit down with the paper for a bit. This is something which I can confirm as a fact. I know, I did it (but only to people who were rude to me).

All of which means that I resent spending my time having to shop for things which will be worn on my feet until they fall apart, making me buy new ones, all because I don't want to step on sharp things or dog plops when I'm walking around. So I've perfected my "smash and grab" technique. Into to first shoe-type shop (preferable if it sells clothes as well so you can do the whole thing in one fell swoop), pick three likely looking pairs and, if they don't cripple you when you try them on, buy, buy, buy!

Which means that I managed to try on and buy one T-shirt, three shirts and three pairs of shoes today in an hour and that includes the half an hour it took to walk there and back. Smash and grab, people, smash and grab.

The Power of Editing - Number 2

Another video post for you today. Here's one from Adam Buxton (of Adam and Joe fame for those of you who are UK based) and it's proper funny.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Morning Schmorning

We established some time ago that I'm something of a curmudgeon when it comes to travelling (see here and here). Yes, sad to say that I live up to the stereotype of the London commuter - self-absorbed and completely uninterested in their surroundings with an almost pathological determination to get home by whatever the quickest possible means may be. In actual fact, I would say that it goes slightly further than disinterest - I actively discourage people from interacting with me while I travel. That's my reading and music time, my time to catch up on two things that I would otherwise not necessarily find the time for. And woe betide you if you try to deprive me of that time.

Unfortunately, every one week in three, I need to make some minimal form of human contact when I travel into work. For, on that third week, we work an early shift that requires us to be in the office for 6 a.m. Yes, there's a 6 o'clock in the morning now. Now, I am not a morning person. In no way, shape or form have I ever nor will I ever be described as such. I am the Lex Luthor of the evening to the Superman of the morning. Well, you get the idea - I don't like mornings.

Now, because we need to be in before a time that decent London Transport reasonably runs, work very kindly transports us in. And this is where the human interaction comes in because, for half an hour at a time of morning when I can barely manage grunting, I am in the company of another human being who is driving me to the office. Nine times out of ten, this is absolutely fine. Other than a polite "good morning", they no more want to exchange banal small talk with me than I do with them. I stick my earphones, they stick the radio and everyone is happy in their non-talking bliss.

There's always that one in ten, though. The one who is a morning person. The one who wants to engage you in conversation. Who is bright and chirpy and chipper and provokes in me an uncontrolled annoyance and grumpiness. I know it's not the way to be. I know it's the way to make friends and influence people. But I can't help it. It's like those times when you're in an irrational and unaccountably foul mood and someone comes up to you, all cheerful-like, and says, "Cheer up, it might never happen" or "It takes more effort to frown than to smile, you know". The skin begins to turn green and the inner Hulk begins to burst through the seams...

They always try those opening conversational gambits that it's hard to completely dismiss - the main two being "You house is difficult to find" (our front is kind of tucked away from sight of the road so this is true but doesn't really merit discussion) or "which way would you prefer to go?" (fair enough, you want to know if there's a preferred route but you're the one who does this driving lark for a living, you pick a route). Eventually, though, with enough persistence to generally non-committal and monosyllabic answers, you can get the point across that you're really not an early morning conversation kind of guy and the earphones can go in.

This morning, though, noncommittal wasn't quite enough and I had to deploy the big guns - feigning sleep. It's the last resort of the early morning curmudgeon and also meant that I didn't get to listen to my tunes on the way in.

Maybe I should try to change. I mean, is it so bad that someone just wants a bit of polite conversation to make their working day go past quicker? Wouldn't it help the world be a slightly better place if we all did our bit to pass on a bit of good cheer every now and then instead of gloom and doom?

Nah, sod all that hippy shit. I want to listen to my tunes in the morning. Bloody cheerful morning people. Ought to be outlawed, I tells ya. Mutter, mumble, grumble, mutter, mumble, grumble....

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Things What Are Great #12 - 2000AD

In A Nutshell:- The Galaxy's Greatest Comic. At least, that's what it says on the cover.

The Basics:- The year is 1984. Your humble narrator is a mere eight years old. Every Friday, his grandmother comes round to visit armed with the standard accoutrements - chocolate bars (two of each kind so that The Brother and I do not fight), packets of crisps (again, two of each flavour, there'll be no favouritism in this house) and, lastly yet most importantly (for me), the week's comics. Up until then, it had been UK reprints of Marvel's Secret Wars and Return Of The Jedi comics. This week, though, there's something different in there. It's one she's not bought for me before but I'm fascinated. On the front cover is a man in what looks like a weird futuristic motorcycle helmet and he's turning behind him as he's about to be attacked by a huge alligator with its jaws spread wide, ready to snap. The man's name appears to "Judge Dredd" and the word "GATOR!" in emblazoned in large, startling letters on the cover. It's Prog 384 of something called 2000AD* and this simple act of grandmotherly kindness will tip a small boy's idle comic reading habit into a monstrous comic-collecting beast...

Why's It So Great Then?:- Quite simply, it's probably the most influential comic of the last 30 years. Without it, the current crop of highly acclaimed British writers and artists working in mainstream US comics would, in all likelihood, not have been pushed into the limelight and you wouldn't have had ground-breaking comics such as Watchmen without it (Alan Moore, the writer of Watchmen, got his first real break in 2000AD). It also has the advantage of being an anthology comic, showcasing around five serialised stories each issue, lasting about 7 or 8 pages per chapter, which means it's able to keep fresh and varied over the years. It's the only serious British comic still running - the British comics industry these days consisting mainly of US reprints or cartoon tie-ins. 2000AD has also brought us some truly iconic characters - Judge Dredd** being the most recognisable, especially after being specially ruined for the big screen by Sylvester Stallone but special mention must go to characters such as Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog, Nemesis The Warlock, ABC Warriors, The Ballad Of Halo Jones, D.R. & Quinch and more. Most importantly, I guess, and this is probably what's kept it going so long - it's run through with a strongly British sensibility and sense of humour that's never really deserted it.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Sadly, yes, sometimes it can deliver a duff tale or go through the odd ropey patch (there's nothing worse than having to sit through a couple of months of all stinkers). And when it delivers a real clunker, they can be unbearably stinky. Being an anthology title, this is always the risk - you never know what you're going to get. This is also a plus point, however - it's a reasonably safe bet that if you're plowing through a dodgy patch that an upswing is in the offing at some point.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you're in any way a fan of comics then there are some 2000AD collections you should definitely pick up (fortunately, they tend to reprint a lot of serials in nice handy to read graphic novels). The Ballad Of Halo Jones is a good starting point but you can't go far wrong with Nemesis The Warlock (cracking artists and some insane storylines), Ace Trucking Co., RoboHunter or D.R. & Quinch (if you're in the mood for something more light-hearted) and, naturally, there's always room for the adventures of everyones favourite fascist bully-boy, Judge Dredd - the Case Files are currently reprinting them year by year in order and thoroughly enjoyable they are, too. Splundig Vur Thrigg!

* Sadly, I'm not quite geeky enough to remember that off the top of my head. I went to the boxes until I found the issue in question.

** The futuristic fascist, not the reggae artist. He's spelt differently.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Hair Yesterday, Gone Tomorrow

I genuinely don't miss the old bonce covering. I think that some people believe that, deep down, I still have a hankering for the hair but, let's face it, when I did have the hair, it was naturally greasy, slightly wavy and generally unmanageable. Don't, however, take my word for it. Let's back it up with some cold hard photographic facts, shall we?

The Natural Bald Way
Attractive and appealing the way that nature intended

The Various Stages Of "Oh Dear Lord, No"

1. No

2. Definitely Not

3. You're just taking the piss now, aren't you?

Proof, if proof be need be, that bald is way forward. However, if bald is the way forward then, in the interests of balance, a beard should be maintained.

Otherwise it's like being stared at by a fat speccy egg, isn't it? Somewhere, all the king's horses and all the king's men are on standby....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Under-appreciated Bowie

The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust. Screaming Lord Byron. Or just David Bowie. Whatever he chooses to call himself, he's pretty much always churning out good tunes (all opinions are, naturally, those of Nick Nack Blog Attack Ltd. and should be taken as you will). I wouldn't say that I'm a massive Bowie fan but I do like a lot of his stuff. And, whilst perusing tunes on the old portable music system today, I realised that I like a lot of his songs that aren't necessarily held up to be classics.

Oh, sure, I like all the classics (Life On Mars?, Space Oddity, Changes, Ashes To Ashes, Heroes, etc., etc.) but I feel that some of his work is being unfairly overlooked. Now, don't worry, I'm not about to stand up and sing the praises of Tin Machine (there are limits, after all) but here are a few for your consideration.

Loving The Alien

Taken from the album Tonight, released in 1984:-

Jump They Say

Taken from the album Black Tie White Noise, released in 1993:-

The Heart's Filthy Lesson

Remixed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and originally on the concept album Outside from 1995:-

Magic Dance

Taken from...well, you know (OK, so this one isn't under-appreciated but there's always room for a bit of Henson...)

Sunday, 24 May 2009


Hello, folks, it's word origin time (he says, putting on his best Neddy Seagoon voice and fat suit). Lurgi. A fairly commonly used word these days, meant to denote an unspecific ailment or illness or maybe a general feeling of malaise. But where oh where did it come from? Well, there is, naturally, some debate as to the specific etymology of the word but the signs point to it mainly being popularised by Mr Spike Milligna, the well-known typing error, in his 1954 episode of The Goon Show entitled Lurgi Strikes Britain. Spike claimed that he saw it on a construction site and fell in love with the word and there is indeed a German company called Lurgi which would seem to lend some weight to his claim.

All of which is to say that I've got a bit of a sniffle so can't be bothered to do a proper blog and stuff. Instead, here's Lurgi Strikes Britain. Enjoy.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Choose Your Own Blogventure

In honour of those Choose Your Own Adventure books which we all used to love as kids (unless you're a different age to me, in which case, they were before/after your time), today's post will be a similarly interactive affair, allowing you to weave your own way throughout. As is traditional, we begin at Number 1...

1. It's a fine day. You are reading Nick Nack Blog Attack and wondering where he gets his damn fine ideas. You begin to suspect that you will never reach these levels of insane genius. Suddenly, you hear an eerie noise coming from behind you.

If you want to investigate the strange noise, go to 2. If you would rather risk dying in ignorant bliss yet horrible agony, go to 3.

2. A ten-headed, multi-tentacled monster with scythe-like arms and many, many razor-sharp teeth has materialised in your room. It is bellowing at you in rage and covering you in little flecks of stinky monster-spittle. You scream like a little girl and this noise seems to only enrage it further. As you wet your pants while simultaneously emptying your bowels, it bites off your head with its numerous scalpel-like teeth. You are dead.

Go back to 1 and start again.

3. By choosing to ignore the eerie sound behind you, you have hurt the feelings of the monstrous slavering death beast which was creeping up on you and it slinks back to its own dimension for a bit of a sulk. Your quick thinking has kept you safe from the monster. However, your general tendency to ignore problems in the hope that they go away means that the chip fan fire you started earlier is still burning out of control and you die in horrible agony (albeit with a lovely odour of pork chops). You are dead.

Go back to 1 and start again.

Oh, come on, much as I loved them, they always seemed to be rigged to prevent you from actually getting to the end. I swear I read one of them for nearly a year and still never escaped...

Friday, 22 May 2009

Maybe Some People Have Too Much Time On Their Hands

Another video for you again today, in a somewhat similar vein to yesterday's. This chap, Francois Macre, apparently spent two and a half months making this out of 64 separate vocal tracks. Yep, it's all vocal, there are no instruments in it at all. Impressive, insane or probably both? You decide.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Mother Of All Funk Chords

Brain not working so video blog today. Here's a video by a fella called Kutiman made up of YouTube instrument tuorials all combined together to make a new song. And jolly clever it is, too. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Review - Star Trek

(Another Brief Plug Before We Go Any Further:- Oh yes, my friends, I am popular this week. A couple of days ago, you got two posts from me - one here and one over at TishTahs's blog. Well, I'm repeating that trick today as the lovely Anna Russell of Incoherent Ramblings has also gone on holiday and requested a slice of Baldy action to keep her loyal readers entertained. Go and have a read at my continued attempts to gradually take over all of Blogger, blog by blog, and then read all her other stuff because she's really rather good and you should be following her. Anyway, back to the subject in hand)

Some spoilers ahead....

In A Nutshell:- It's Star Trek, Jim, but not as we know it (oh, come on, look, I know that's really lazy but at least indulge me on that one...)

The Basics:- Quite frankly, if you don't know what Star Trek is or haven't heard of this much-talked-about relaunch of the film franchise then I'm not entirely sure how you managed to switch on a computer and find this blog but let's give you a bit of background anyway. The man who gave us Alias and Lost has been tasked with taking a lucrative but, let's face it, dying sci-fi franchise and making it young, fresh and exciting for Da Kids. Has it worked?

The Good:- Fortunately, I'm happy to say there is very much that is good about this. The first thing that it made me realise was that Star Trek has, for a long time, needed a young, fresh cast to make it fun and action-packed again. Much as I love (most of) the original set of films, they mainly dealt with the themes of aging and impending retirement (yes, even the Next Generation cast who were heading towards their older years as well by the time they moved to the films). The main thing that's been missing? The old-school, swaggering, cocky, drinking, fighting, womanising Kirk who's very much present and correct in Chris Pine's performance. That's not to say that he's the standout, mind. Zachary Quinto as Spock and particularly Karl Urban as McCoy are pitch perfect. Not so much doing impressions of the previous actors but managing to capture their style and characterisation. The rest of the crew are all good but are fairly underused (although that's not overly different for the original anyway). Simon Pegg's Scotty is great fun and, even if his accent does waver from time to time, at least it feels like he's actually heard a Scottish accent in the first place. And Zoe Saldana's Uhura is well fit.
So is it a reboot or a continuation? Well, it satisfyingly manages to be both, using Leonard Nimoy to tie it in to the original series before cutting loose the forty-odd years worth of stories that have gone before and leaving itself free to blaze a new trail. This move manages to pull off the dual feat of being pleasing to fans (there are references a-plenty) but not at the expense of leaving it inaccessible for newcomers. Impressive stuff.

The Bad:- As with all first films in a new franchise these days, this film is very much about set-up so the film's main villain, the Romulan Nero (Eric Bana), feels a little weak. Also, there are a few elements that probably don't stand up to a lot of close scrutiny. I mean, if you've been thrown back in time, rather than concoct some elaborate revenge scheme for the destruction of your planet, wouldn't it make more sense to try and prevent that destruction (especially as the film demonstrates that you are able to alter what has gone before)? But, really, these are minor niggles when the film's main mission statement is to provide thrilling big-screen entertainment.

Closing Remarks:- So, in my opinion, J.J. Abrams appears to have pulled off the seemingly impossible - he's made a Star Trek film that's fun, exciting, uncluttered by history while still providing plenty of nods to the past and enjoyable if you're a newcomer or a lifelong fan. It's not the most intellectually stimulating of sci-fi films but it's big, action-y fun. A definite thumbs up and a hearty recommendation from this humble reviewer.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Things What Are Great #11 - Arrested Development

In A Nutshell:- Much underrated and cruelly cancelled before it's time, this is quite simply one of the funniest sitcoms in recent years.

The Basics:- The Bluth family are successful and rich... until father George, founder of the Bluth Company, is arrested for fraud and embezzlement. His son Michael struggles to keep the company and family together. Why he bothers to do this when they seem hellbent on going down with the sinking ship, even he's not sure... It lasted for three years between 2003 and 2006 and was cruelly cut down in it's prime by a combination of network and viewer indifference - as can sometimes be the way with smart and funny comedy.

Why's It So Great Then?:- Three things which seem deceptively simple but are so often the hardest things to get right:- scripts, style and cast. The central cast of characters are all properly crafted comedy creations - the put-upon Michael, the nervous George-Micheal, the monstrous Lucille, the idiotic Gob (pronounced Joe-b), the repressed Tobias and all the rest of the family have their moments to shine. The series makes great use of "cutaway" humour (for want of of a better description) along the lines of shows such as Spaced and Scrubs and has a really distinctive, mock-documentary look to it, accompanied by Ron Howard's narration. The cast are all uniformly great and it's hard to single anyone out - I've always been a big fan of Jeffrey "Hey Now Hank Kingsley" Tambor but Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter, Portia de Rossi and particularly Will Arnett and David Cross are all great. It's also got a fine line in wordplay and pun-based humour - a favourite of mine being when Tobias claims to be the first combined analyst and therapist but he didn't do too well once the business cards were printed... Running gags are also a theme - the show really rewards prolonged and repeated viewing to catch all the jokes that are referred back to through out the series (a standout one being the entire family's inability to imitate a chicken - trust me, that'll make sense if you've seen it).

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Well, being English, the main disappointment is the extended section of the third season involving the pointless Charlize Theron (seriously, I don't get the appeal or popularity of her, she's like the acting equivalent of wallpaper) playing a supposedly English person with an absolutely atrocious accent. As does the guy playing her uncle. Awful. But I'm just nitpicking, really.

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you're in any way a fan of well-crafted sitcoms and cracking character-based humour then yes, this is one for you. And, fortunately, even though it did get cancelled, the staff knew the writing was on the wall and so mange to deliver a final episode that ties everything up with some nice little throwbacks to the first episode. So, yes, go, enjoy and feel free to get upset that it's all over too soon.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Item One....

(A Brief Plug Before We Go Any Further:- Today, you are fortunate to be receiving a double dose of Baldy goodness. Yes, there's not just one but two blog posts from me today. There's this one which you're reading right here, certainly, but if you take a wander over to My Telephone Booth where the lovely TishTash normally holds court, you will find a guest post from yours truly while she's away sunning herself on hols. Go and have a look and, while you're there, read some of her stuff, too. She's bloody funny. Also, that isn't going to be my only guest post this week. Your humble narrator is in high demand this week. Watch this space. Anyhoo, on with today's inanity...)

Lists. We all love a list. Go on, you know do. They're a great way to keep track of all that stuff that would otherwise fall in between all the gap-like bits of the brain (stop me if I'm getting too technical, there as I learned everything I needed to know about brainology from Steve Martin in The Man With Two Brains - you know, back when he was funny). It's important to make sure that you're listing the right things, though. Using the medium of the list itself, I shall outline some things which are desirable to list and somethings which aren't. First off, the good kind of lists:-
  • Films what you have got to watch
  • Books what you would like to read
  • Exotic places you have visited
  • Comics missing from your collection*
  • Reasons To Be Cheerful (1,2,3)
  • Things that made you smile yesterday

Of course, for every yin, there is a yang, for every Holmes, there is a Moriarty, for every Kirk, there is a Khan**, so in the interest of balance, here's the things that really don't deserve listing:-
  • Films starring yourself and a jar of hand cream that you plan to make
  • Exotic diseases that you have
  • Exotic diseases you would like
  • Exotic diseases you have spread
  • Reasons to be arrested. Again
  • Things that made you smile yesterday in an extremely creepy way that adds to the "Reasons to be arrested" list

Lists. Use them wisely, my young friends, and they shall bring you much joy. Use them foolishly and they can be used as evidence in a court of law. Hypothetically speaking, of course.... OK, so my case is due up on Thursday. I usually get let off with warning, though, so that's OK. (What? Blogs are admissible as evidence? Dang.)

* A standard part of the nerd armoury, this should be carried upon the person at all times on the off-chance that you stumble upon a hitherto undiscovered comicarium and it should happen to have that issue of Doom Patrol you've never been able to find.

** Altogether now:- "Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!"

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - The Last Day

Here we are, then, at the end of our seven day odyssey into the world of the theme tune. We've smiled in recognition, smiled in recognition some more and finally had a little smile at something we've recognised. Yes, it's been week chock full of much variety. So I guess you're wondering to yourselves, "Well, who has he picked for the grand finale?" (unless, of course, that you're wondering "Did I remember to set the Sky+ for Lost?" or "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" *)

I'll tell you then. It's...

John Williams

Yes, I was hardly going to let the week go by without this man getting a mention. He started out in TV, doing quite a few tunes for Irwin Allen shows such as this one:-

But it's his film themes that he's most famous for and it's these four in particular. Love them or loathe them (and if you loathe them, you might well be at the wrong blog), you can't deny that they are the very definition of iconic themes. So, without any further ado, here are the judge's final selection:-

That was the theme week that was and thus concludes our motif for the week. Next week, your normal service of random witterings with little or no coherence or cohesion will resume.

* The answer to that one being, of course, that a woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day Six

Well, it's just the one theme tune today, partly because it's the weekend and it's quiet round these parts on a Saturday and Sunday (Hello? Hello? Hello?...) and partly because this man only really needs the one theme tune to sum him up.

Henry Mancini

Yep, it is, of course, this one:-

So who does that leave for the big finale? What are the notable themes that are missing? Well, there's only one way to find out - be here tomorrow....

Friday, 15 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day Five

Back to the land of TV now with some classic tunes which all came from the mind of one man. Hard to believe, really. Would today's mystery guest please sign in?

Mike Post

He's been working on themes since the seventies and there are plenty of his I could chose from but, unfortunately, I'm a little bit scuppered in my plans by the fact a lot of the original themes have been removed from YouTube by petty lawyers frightened that this minor sharing of music may signal the end of civilisation as we know it. Or something. So, instead of The Rockford Files which would have been the first choice, first up we have:-

And, to finish off let's go with this little beauty:-

He also wrote the theme for Hill Street Blues but good luck trying to find the original of that on the YouTubes, too.

Two days left. Two more composers to go....

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day Four

Oh, and our excursion into lands theme-y continues today with a short but sweet post (because I forgot to blog earlier and I'm going out - sometimes I do have a social life, yes, I know, it's difficult to believe). Who have we got today, I wonder? Well, I'll tell you. Right now.

Ennio Morricone

Yep, the man that is the sound of the spaghetti western and there's really only one theme that I could post which would sum up this man. Here you go, start whistling, aahh-ing and wah-ing...

And, for a bit of variety, here's the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain version:-

But it's not over yet. A week has seven days by my reckoning (unless someone went and sneakily changed the calendar on me in which case I'm hoping tomorrow's one of the new weekend days) so three more to go. Who's left to come? And who will be the grand finale at the end of the week? I know but I'm not telling... just yet....

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day Three

The 60s vibe continues with today's theme-y themester and, really, there was no way I was going to let the week go by without a certain TV tune turning up. So, who have we got today?

Ron Grainer

The king of 60s British themes, he gave three real belters. First up is this iconic piece from a series which couldn't be any more 60s if it tried. Here goes:-

But he didn't just go for your strange, weird and offbeat sci-fi/fantasy style series. He was capable of knocking out some pure comedy sitcom themes, too.

However, the greatest of them all has to be this theme - one that has been reworked many, many times over the last 46 years and is still going strong today...

Credit Where Credit's Due Dept. :- In all fairness, this theme isn't entirely Grainer's creation. While he may have come up with the basic tune, it was a young lady from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who came up with the arrangement and the razor-blades-down-piano-wire noise that makes up the haunting theme. Her part was unfairly overlooked for many years but, in recent years and fortunately before her death, she received a lot more recognition for her work.

The week's not over yet. Any bets on who else we've got coming up?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day Two

Oh, back for more, eh? Well, everyone loves a good theme tune so don't be ashamed. We're still sticking with a 60s/70s vibe because, let's face it, that's when most of the best theme tunes were made. Don't try and argue, this is a fact. A lot of shows even dispense with a title sequence altogether these days - I mean, all you get with Lost is a spooky noise over the word "Lost". That's not a theme tune!

Anyway, I digress. Who have we got today? I'll tell you...

Lalo Schifrin

Who he? Well, he's a lot more prolific than yesterday's themer, having been working in films and TV since 1957 (and is still going strong today). What have you heard by him? Well, this for starters:-

And maybe this (go to 0:45 for the theme to kick in):-

And probably also this:-

That last one may also be familiar to those of you in the UK who remember post-pub, bet-based, daft gambling show Banzai!

The themed theme isn't over yet, though. Come back tomorrow to see who's next in line (unless you've got some sort of working time machine in which case you can save yourself the wait and nip forward to find out now although, if you did have that, you'd probably want to use it for gambling or playing the stock market or avoiding your own death and cool stuff like that).

Monday, 11 May 2009

Theme Tune Week - Day One

We all like a good theme and the theme for this week is... themes! Aha, do you see what I did there? I took the word theme in the sense of a unifying idea (or motif, if you will) and used it in the sense of theme to apply to a musical composition. I've also now used the word "theme" so much that it's starting to sound weird. Theme, theme, theme, theme...

"So, what sort of musical theme did you have in mind?" I hear you ask in a desperate attempt to bring my rambling mind back to the topic in hand. Well, I'll tell you - televisual and filmic themes, of course. This week, I'm going to be singling out some of those unsung heroes of the musical world whose work you may be very familiar with yet whose names may well be unknown to you (unless you know it, that is).

Will our first contestant please sign in?

Neal Hefti

He's not as prolific as some of the other people that are getting a mention this week but he deserves a place on the top theme composers lists for two reasons. The first is this:-

The second, and to my mind most important, reason is this:-

Classics both, I'm sure you will agree. So that's our starter for ten. Who will be next up? There's only one way to find out. Come back again tomorrow, same Nick time, same Nick channel...

Dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, din - Bald-eeee!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The Four To The Zero To The Zero

A long time ago
One bright winters morn
A baldy young* fellow
His head freshly shorn

Did go to a site
Where the Space was Mine
And decided he might
Rant, moan and whine

For he'd heard of a thing
A "blog" was its name
Where people could sing
Without fortune and fame

"About stuff, I can write
Whenever I will
In the day or the night
Moving fast, standing still

About things strange and odd
The old and the new
Just on me tod
My own thing to do"

Now many years on
(Well, three and then some)
He's still going strong
Post four hundred has come

You're reading it now
(Whenever that is)
And wondering how
You've been drawn into his

World of books and comics
Films and tee-vee
With occasional trips
To flights of fantasy

In answer, reader dear,
There's only one thing to say...
"I've absolutely no idea
But cheers anyway!"

400 down**, an infinite number to go...

* Artistic licence

** Yes, I am counting the ones I re-posted. Shush. It was just an excuse for something to write about on a Sunday afternoon, anyway, to be honest...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Second Shuffle (Pt. 2)

When you spend your life chasing around after O.P.P. (that's Other People's Problems), sometimes your own life takes a backseat. Don't get me wrong, I'm not short of my share of fun with the ladies and there are some who even get return visits (sweet Molly Malone, My Roly Poly Girl, always knows how to show a guy a good time). But I don't have a lot of time for love. Sure, once upon a time but that was long ago and far away....

So, when I went looking for Flo in Reverend Risingson's creepy cult, I wasn't expecting love to come looking for me. Look it did, however, and how. She was a knockout, alright, legs all the way up and the kind of body that would make a monk weep. But it wasn't just that. She was sweet, she was innocent, she was Naive and, with one look, I was hooked; line, sinker, the lot.

The cult itself was nothing new - your usual selection of half-baked new-age mumbo-jumbo, all designed to make the flock obedient and the shepherd richer, with a standard line in "What the World Needs Now Is Love" style platitudes for the sheep to bleat. Also unsurprising was the targeted membership of mainly young, nubile fillies.

"He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," I thought, taking in the sweet set-up that Risingson had carved out for himself.

I had to ingratiate myself into the cult first, before I performed my Sir Lancelot bit and swept the fair Flo from the clutches of the vile dragon.

"Did you call?" chimed in Rufus.

"Ah, go back to sleep," I muttered internally.

I Found A Job in the compound's vineyard (the cult made a nice little sideline profit in it's own wine merchant business) so that I could keep close to my Sweet Honey Baby Flo. Over the coming days, we built up a rapport and Flo began to feel that she could Come To Me and confide in me. Before long, we were as close as it was possible for two people to be and I began to suspect that she felt for me much the same way that I felt for her. I began to notice the suspicious looks, however, that the good Reverend was casting in my direction.

"Hey, Fuck You, Risingson," I thought. But I knew time was running short.

That night, under cover of darkness, Flo and I made good our escape from the compound and fled back to the real world. But the fairytale ending was not to be. I begged her to come back with me but Flo wanted to keep on running.

"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish with you," she said and, like that, she was gone.

I was blue. Bluer than blue. Rufus tried to cheer me up but his selection of bawdy dragon-related anecdotes failed to hit the spot. About a week later, I got a Postcard Of A Painting with a postmark indicating it had been sent from Mexico. It was from Flo.

She said that she hoped that she hadn't caused me any Embarrassment and that she'd always be fond of me but she'd started to Jump Around with another guy - a shady sounding character by the name of Mr Apollo - and that this could be the real thing. She wished me all the best and asked me to apologise to Joe about the money.

Dames. Unbelievable.

Ah, well. I wonder what Molly's up to....

The Songs:-

O.P.P. - Naughty By Nature
My Roly Poly Girl - Jake Thackray
Naive - The Kooks
What The World Needs Now Is Love - Burt Bacharach
He's Got The Whole World In His Hands - Nina Simone
Found A Job - Talking Heads
Sweet Honey Baby - J.J. Barnes
Come To Me - Peter Sellers
Hey Fuck You - Beastie Boys
I Started Something I Couldn't Finish - The Smiths
Postcard Of A Painting - Maximo Park
Embarrassment - Madness
Jump Around - House Of Pain
Mr Apollo - Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Unbelievable - EMF

Friday, 8 May 2009

Second Shuffle - Interlude

Never fear, intrigued readers*, the story will continue. In the meantime, please enjoy this musical interlude. It's a little tune entitled Powerhouse by The Raymond Scott Quintette (although the arrangement of the middle section by Carl Stalling will be more familiar to most people). "Hmm," you may be thinking, "I've never heard of this track." Well, in all probability, I think you will know it, you'll just not have realised that's what it was called. Sadly, the only version I could find had embedding disabled so you'll just have to link through. Enjoy!


Carl Stalling arrangement:-

* Or "Anna" judging by yesterday's response.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Second Shuffle (Pt. 1)

I'm a gumshoe, it's who I am. I get things done, I find things out and I finish the job. The law? That's for the fuzz. It's Their Law, not mine. All I'm saying is that I see it as being more flexible, that's all.

The schmoe sat in front of me was your regular law-abiding Joe Q Public. He had the look about of him of a glass of water - long, shiny and damp - and he was determined to pour out his tale of woe. Seems that he and his sister had been left quite a substantial sum of money when his parents perished in a night-time fire caused by an ill-advised cigarette.

"Well, Momma always said Don't Smoke In Bed," chimed in Rufus, the invisible dragon living in my head who only I could see and hear (don't ask).

"Yeah, Momma also said never to talk to the dragons in your head," I silently replied. It always makes a client nervous when you start having the conversations with your internal head dragons out loud.

This Joe, whose name was Joe coincidentally enough, was still pouring out his tale so I cocked an ear back. Seems that sister dearest (Flo - that's parents for ya) had absconded with the loot before they'd had a chance to luxuriate in their filthy lucre.

"The last thing I remember her saying before she vanished was "We're Going Wrong," opined Joe. "Three days later, I find out all the money's gone."

"Let me guess," I drawled, "a little birdy paid a visit And Your Bird Can Sing." Being a gumshoe means talking the talk as much as walking the walk.

"Actually, my accountant phoned to ask if I was mad, signing all the cash over to Flo like that."

"Close enough," I muttered. "Was she behaving strangely at all?"

"Well," damped Joe, "Bernie said that when he asked what she needed it for, she said she didn't need it. 'All You Need Is Love', she said."

Aha, I thought, the picture's beginning to form. Sister dearest has a secret beau, a secret beau in financial trouble who needs bailing out and she has the funds to do it - as long as she claims the whole lot for herself and leaves poor old brother Joe out in the cold. As sure as a Satellite Beats a lonely orbit through the dark night sky, I knew I was onto something. Sure, it was An Ugly Story but it was one I saw all the time and, if I didn't have this case all figured out, I'd take my hat and Eat It.

Time was a-wasting and I needed to get on the Groovy Train before the trail went cold. I got a list of Flo's favourite haunts from brother Joe and set out to beat the mean streets.

After a few hours of fruitless questioning, I stopped in at one of her regular haunts, Loveblind, a seedy little club on the East side. As soon as I positioned myself at the bar, one of the local skanks sidled her way over.

"You gonna show me a good time, big boy, or you gonna cry yourself to sleep tonight?" she oozed at me.

"I'll Cry Instead," I demurred, sidling an equal distance in the opposite direction. When I caught the bartender's attention, I began to squeeze some info out of him. Seems Flo had been coming in here regular and talking to man named Risingson who'd been coming here equally regularly. He reckoned himself a reverend and ran a mission over by the dock, place by the name of When Doves Cry, and he'd been gradually adding a lot of regulars to his flock.

A little undercover work at the mission brought some real enlightenment (and not your airy-fairy religious kind, neither). Seems the Reverend Risingson had been persuading the local waifs and strays to donate their worldly possessions to his private church for a place at his own personal paradise - a thirty-acre ranch located just outside The City.

There was nothing else for it. It was time for me to go in like a Wild West Hero and rescue Flo from Shangri-La. It might also be time to start getting ready for some hat chewing...

To Be Continued...

What Was All That About?:- Well, if you're not sure, go here. See? Clear as mud.

The Songs:-

Their Law - Prodigy
Don't Smoke In Bed - Nina Simone
We're Going Wrong - Cream
And Your Bird Can Sing - The Beatles
All You Need Is Love - The Beatles
Satellite Beats - Fantastic Plastic Machine
An Ugly Story - The Muppets
Eat It - Weird Al Yankovic
Groovy Train - The Farm
Loveblind - Jamiroquai
I'll Cry Instead - The Beatles
Risingson - Massive Attack
When Doves Cry - Prince
Wild West Hero - E.L.O.
Shangri-La - The Rutles

(Yes, out of the thousands of tracks on the iPod, it picked out three Beatles songs and a Beatles spoof. Go figure.)

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Eternal Struggle

I stare. I stare some more. It sits there, white and blank and uninviting. I'm not imagining this, it really is staring back at me, I can feel it, it's devoid glare boring into my very brain. Fine. I'm stubborn. I can sit here and stare too. I can sit here all day if that's what it takes. Eventually, you will crack, oh yes, my dauntingly empty friend, you will crack and you'll be all full of wordy goodness.

Nothing. It's not working. Stare harder. That's it, really get those eyeballs working. Try not to stare too hard, though, don't want the forehead to start bleeding (not again, anyway). It's willpower, it's mind over matter. You have the mind and it is the matter and, at some time and with enough eyeballing, the matter will bow, the blankness will recede and the words will be there.

It's still not working. Try looking away and looking back. Yeah, that's it, catch it off guard. Maybe try a bit of a nonchalant whistle. Even ease the chair back a little (a good audible scrape should make it more authentic) and maybe it'll magically fill up while you're not paying attention. Doo dee doo, oh, what's that over there, looks mightily interesting, maybe I'll just inspect that for a little- aha!

Damn. Still nothing. Maybe you were on to something with the looking around, though. The white abyss provides no easy muse. Maybe a thing other than the nothing will inspire. OK, well, let's have a bit of a look-see. Hmmm, well, that's just rubbish and really needs to be thrown out (is three bags of rubbish in your bedroom excessive? Probably....nah, it's fine. When there's four, maybe it's time to throw stuff away.) Scruffy rucksack? Nah. Piles of DVDs? Pfff, where to start? Untidy pile of clean clothes that really needs to be sorted out so I don't spend ten minutes every morning looking for a pair of socks that match up and then not bothering and just putting on the first two I picked up anyway? Well, I think that's pretty much covered that. Boxes of comics and shelves full of books (these are a few of my favourite things)? That wouldn't really make much of a change, always banging on about those.

OK, blank space, you win. I've got nothing. Zip, zilch, nada, rien, bugger all. I guess I just won't bother writing anything today and skip straight to tomorrow. Oh well, hopefully no one will notice...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Come On, Fingers, Work With Me!

I have large hands with long and wide fingers (ladies). While this admittedly makes me both amazing and awesome at the same time (yep, that's right, amazome), it can make typing a frustrating and tiresome experience when they decide not to keep up with the pace of my brain. Which is all the time. I made several typing errors in those first two sentences. And four in that one just now telling you about the typing errors (thankfully I use a combination of "my eyes" and "spellchecker" to spot these things).

What I have come to notice is that there is a trend. My fingers follow set patterns which I do not want them to and yet I have no real control over this. It always seems to be the same words, day in, day out, that they obstinately refuse to spell properly. I mean, come on, digits! I'm making you type these alphabetic combinations on a daily basis, both at work and at home. You should be picking these things up by now. I need some sort of special class for the slower learning fingers that really just refuse to co-operate.

Maybe they're dyslexic. Can you have dyslexic fingers? I mean, the brain knows all the words and all the orders what the lettery bits go in. So why aren't the fingers paying attention?

So here are some of the common offenders:-

particualry - particularly (I didn't even manage to type that right when I was really trying, too)
theer - there
deicde - decide
juts - just
cheesr - cheers
Anything with an apostrophe - has a semi-colon instead (i.e. can;t instead of can't)

Most galling of all, though? This one:-

Badly - Baldy

Yes, I've chosen an inter-nom-de-plume that I cant even type properly.

Anyone fancy paying for me to go on a typing course?

Monday, 4 May 2009

Things What Are Great #10 - Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Because I haven't done one of these for a while...

In A Nutshell:- Young girl discovers she's the chosen one and gets to kill undead things and avert the apocalypse on an annual basis.

The Basics:- Having initially brought the story of Buffy Summers, the schoolgirl who is destined to be the vampire slayer, to the big screen with a distinct lack of success, Joss Whedon tried again on the small screen. And it was infinitely better. Over seven seasons, we follow Buffy and her friends as they grow up and save the world from unspeakable things which want to destroy it / rule it / both.

Why's It So Great Then?:- Well, I have to admit, I was resistant to watching it at first. It just looked like some twee and bog standard teen drama with a bit of a horror twinge but, once I actually sat down to watch it, I was completely hooked from the start. The key thing for me is that Joss Whedon knows how to throw in snappy, sparky dialogue and combines it with a strong knowledge of the genre and its associated cliches which meant he was able to sidestep them and blindside you from time to time just when you thought you knew where it was going. It's also a series that's unafraid to develop it's main characters and even dispose of them if the story calls for it. True, that's fairly common in TV drama these days but it didn't happen so much ten or so years ago.* It's also fairly unusual in that it spawned a spin-off series of equally high quality (Angel) and one that felt as if it had been cancelled before its time.

Surely Some Of It Must Be Rubbish:- Well, it's a TV drama with 22 episodes a year to churn out so, yeah, from time to time, they're not always brilliant. But when it's good, it's one of the best shows there is. It does, however, have a strangely puritanical "drugs are bad" attitude towards drinking. Or is it just that I'm a disgraceful, booze-sodden sot? That was rhetorical, you know, no need to leap straight in with answers. You people...

So We Should Seek Out This Thing Of Which You Speak?:- If you're put off by the fact that it's got people in bumpy headed make-up in it but are fond of a drama series which grow and change their characters as well as offering you story arcs to get drawn into, then definitely give it a go. It's good fun, it's got an ending and Sarah Michelle looks good in the earlier ones before she gets all skinny and loses her boobs. Oh, and Charisma Carpenter'd definitely get it, too.

* On a side note, I've started re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation recently and it's odd to see how much TV has changed from the fairly formulaic stand-alone model of 22 years ago (yes, it is that old. Yikes.)

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Review - X-Men Origins: Wolverine

In A Nutshell:- Well, the ridiculously clunky title should give it away, really. How the the man himself came to be the best there is at what he does.

Opening Remarks:- If I'm honest, I didn't really have high hopes for this one. After delivering two films of great build-up then finishing it off with a right clunking stinker of epic proportions (X-Men: The Last Stand, I'm looking at you), I was reasonably convinced that this would turn out to be utter bobbins. The X-Men franchise seemed to have to have lost its way and finished itself off. Would a prequel be worth the effort?

The Good:- Hugh Jackman still makes a pretty good Wolverine which is a good job, too, as this is entirely his film. The film rattles along at a good pace, keeping you swept along without ever getting bored as it moves from set-piece to set-piece. There are some nice moments of humour from time to time and some impressively stylish action sequences - the climactic showdown between Wolverine, Sabretooth and Deadpool being probably the highlight. There are plenty of X-Men fan pleasing references and characters (oooh, look, Gambit! Emma Frost! The Blob! Silver Fox...well, alright, maybe not so much that one). It also does a creditable job of picking memorable moments out of Wolverine's comic book history and weaving them into something coherent - something that they've actually utterly failed to do in the comics.

The Bad:- Well, the fan-pleasing references seem a little too heavy-handed or occasionally wasted opportunities (other than having one of the same powers, the movie Emma Frost bears no relation to the spiky and ambiguous comics counterpart). There's also that all-pervading sense that you get with a prequel of "well, so what?". You ultimately know that Wolverine and certain other characters have to survive to make in into the following films so it robs a sense of tension which is replaced which a sense of mild curiosity. In the end, I guess the worst thing about it is that it feels fairly superfluous - if it had never been made, we'd be none the worse off for it.

Closing Remarks:- Overall, it's an enjoyable comic-book action film and an entertaining way to spend two hours if you're in the mood for some fairly undemanding action. That said, I doubt a lot of it will really stick in the mind for that long afterwards and, ultimately, if it hadn't been made, we would not have felt its loss...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Films What I Inexplicably Haven't Got Round To Watching Before Now #1 - The Odd Couple

(This potentially wins the prize for the most torturous themed-type blog title so far. Note that I say "so far" implying that I can come up with something far more torturous in the future. Oh, believe me, I can...)

In a nutshell:- Yes, it's the archetypal set-up - the tidy one and the slobbish one living together. Will they get on?

So You've Never Seen This Til Now?:- Nope, for some reason, its one of those films that's always managed to pass me by. Not out of a conscious desire to avoid it or some inkling that I wouldn't enjoy it, it's just one of those films that "I'll get round to watching someday"* And, on Sunday, some day finally rolled around.

So What's The Verdict Then?:- I really enjoyed it. Oh, you wanted something a bit more in depth than that? Fair enough then... It's very much a film that still has strong traces of it's stage roots - the action doesn't stray very far from the main living room of slobbish Oscar's flat but it doesn't suffer any for that, mainly due to the sparkling script (adapted by Neil Simon from his own play) and the fine performances from Walther Matthau as the slobby, slovenly Oscar and Jack Lemmon as the housework-obsessed, neurotic Felix. I guess which character you sympathise with more depends on your own personal personality as I found Oscar's behaviour towards Felix to be a little on the harsh side at times. I mean, come on, he only wants to keep things neat and tidy, what's wrong with that? Yeah, OK, I'm probably more Unger-ish out of the two options.

So Would You Recommend It?:- Yes, definitely, especially if you're a fan of either Matthau or Lemmon or just a fan of nicely observed character interplay. The Odd Couple II's on this weekend - think I'll give that a look and see if it's worth a watch (sequels, though - usually subject to the law of diminishing returns...)

* I have a list of films like that so long that it could probably choke a small whale.