Friday, 28 May 2010


She has seen what she desires and she can think of nothing else. The sense of it fills her and she must have it. The only question is how to obtain it. It is fiercely guarded and the journey to attainment will not be easy. But the reward, oh the sweet reward. She can almost feel it and knows that it must be hers...

Suddenly, a window of opportunity. She knows that if she does not seize this moment of serendipity, this chance coming together of elements, she will regret it and, being a creature of wants and needs who is not given over to regrets for the paths not taken, she is spurred into action.

She moves, she grabs and the object of desire is hers. This is the moment she has wanted and she savours the taking. It is good and it is hers.

But then the window is gone and her desire is once again thwarted. She moves away relinquishing her victory but is satisfied to have had that stolen moment when it was hers, all hers...

All of which is to say that if the bloody cat steals a burger from my dinner plate while I'm not looking again, she'll get marginally less affectionate attention from me in future. Ah, who am I kidding? We all know that's not true. She ended up getting the rest of the burger in her food bowl anyway. Well, I wasn't going to eat it. It was covered in carpet hair and catty teeth marks.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

And So It Ends...

Warning - Don't read on if you plan to watch the end of Lost at some point and haven't yet...

Six years. Six years of being promised that, if you stuck with this series, it was going to head somewhere. And, to be fair to the creators of Lost, it did go somewhere. I just don't think it was somewhere satisfying...

Lost has been quite the TV phenomenon. I read and watch a lot of stories, so am always drawn in by something that I can't second guess, that I have no real idea where it's going to go. Lost was very much the definition of this - week by week, I pretty much had no idea where it was all going to end up.

Sure, at times I became frustrated with it. The constant piling up of question upon question began to wear me down in the middle of the third season and my patience started to wear thin but I stuck with the show and my obsession with it was rekindled once the ending was announced and the writers seemed to be pulling out all the stops to get to there.

Then came the sixth season and the "flash-sideways". These I was less interested in. It seemed to be a bit of a wish-fulfilment parallel universe where everyone was getting to live relatively happy lives. Parallel universe stories are usually good fun but, strung out over a whole season, I found myself caring less and less as the weeks went by. I didn't care about what was happening to the characters in this other reality; I just wanted to know what was happening in the main storyline.

Which brings us to the last episode and the biggest cheat of all. It turns out that we haven't been seeing another universe. Oh no, we've been watching our characters in some sort of limbo, waiting for them all to come together after their deaths so that they can "move on". The whole secondary storyline this season had purely been put in so that the writers could try and pull one last "aha!" before they left the room. I'd probably be better disposed towards it if it actually made any sense - there are so many things about this limbo that don't really make a lot of
sense when you look back at it (why is Claire pregnant there? Why is Sawyer a cop? Why are Jack and Juliet separated with a son? Why are characters like Miles and Ana Lucia there but not in the church? And more and more...). Of course, the answer to all those questions is that the writers wanted you to think that that you were watching an alternate universe storyline so you'd be fooled by their final twist. As it is, it's still far too close to the whole "it was all a dream" ending for my liking - one ending that is absolutely guaranteed to raise my ire.

No, basically, the writers wanted to have their cake and eat it. They obviously wanted to have some of the characters sacrificed along the way to give the ending some emotional weight but, at the same time, have a nice, happy heart-warming ending where everyone gets reunited. And, for me, that just made it feel it was neither one thing or the other. It's also indicative of a trend we seem to be getting (certainly one that Doctor Who has been guilty of recently) in giving a resolution that's big on nostalgic sentiment at the expense of genuine emotion and plot logic.

As for the conclusion to the main island storyline, I expected things to be left mysterious to an extent but still don't really feel that the whole Jacob/Smoke Monster thing was adequately explained. There was a lot of talk of rules that governed the way they behaved which were never really explained and, to me, that's another lazy writer's way of saying "Well, we need a reason why he doesn't just kill them himself but can't think of one. It's just a rule, OK?" Plus the fact that this epic conflict was pretty much resolved by switching the island off then switching it back on again seems ridiculously easy.

All of which makes it sound like I completely hated it. I didn't, there was still stuff in there that I enjoyed and I always knew that, after such a long build-up, there was going to be a sense of disappointment when all was revealed. I just didn't expect to be disappointed quite that much. I think that, as it was a payoff that the writers claimed they always had in mind, it just doesn't live up to the build-up that preceded it.

So farewell, Lost. It was a ride that was by equal turns exhilarating and frustrating and, while the destination didn't live up to the journey, overall it was still worth the trip.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Under-appreciated Comedians - Gene Wilder

Sometimes you forget how much you like someone and are amused by them. When asked about my favourite comedians, there are always some names that spring immediately to mind but it's often the ones that aren't immediately on the tip of your mind that can really make you laugh. Today's subject, Mr Gene Wilder, being a case in point...

He's in three of my favourite comedy films* - The Producers (original and best version), Young Frankenstein (which he co-wrote) and the eminently quotable Blazing Saddles** - and arguably steals the show in all three. He has one of those perfectly expressive comedic faces, able to induce hysterics with a glance, particularly in his portrayal of the hapless and neurotic Leo Bloom in The Producers. He's also able to switch to full manic shouting mode without losing any of the funny (a problem that Will Ferrell suffers from in my mind - he can be funnier in his quieter moments but makes me cringe when he's just being "shouty man who thinks he's funny").

He also formed a cracking partnership with Richard Pryor. They only made about four films together but it somehow seems like more. There was just something about the two of them together that really worked. As with all great double acts, I guess they just had that chemistry that you can't really engineer or manufacture. It's the elusive spark that comes from two people who just "get" each other.

So here's to The Waco Kid. He doesn't get enough recognition these days so this is my small attempt to redress the balance a bit. Mr Wilder, your work is definitely appreciated round these here parts.

* To be fair, that's a long list with sub-categories and everything but still...

** Yep, all Mel Brooks films, too. Mel Brooks - funny in the 70s then the 80s came along and the funny went away.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Annoying Plot Device No.2 - The Shock Dream

No, it's not the "it was all a dream" ending so rightly reviled in yesterday's post on this themed topic. It is instead something that is used very. very commonly in serial television - the shock dream.

In general, this is most commonly consists a scene showing the shocking demise of a regular character which is then immediately followed by someone sitting bolt upright in bed (generally accompanied by a scream). And it's a dreadful, dreadful cheat. I can imagine that it creates a sense of glee - playing a cheap practical joke on the audience. "Heh heh, Favourite Character's dead. Oh no, wait, it was all Minor Character's dream. Ain't I a stinker?"

It all provokes that weary feeling again when it becomes obvious that we're drifting into dream territory. After all, as soon as you've realised that the section you're in is a dream, it all becomes a little bit dramatically redundant. Nothing you're seeing is "real"* so why should you invest yourself in it? I find myself marking off time while I wait for the sleepy gubbins to finsih and the story proper to pick back up again. OK, yes, I realise that a lot of times dreams are used to either foreshadow or underscore upcoming dramatic moments but that alos feels like a bit of a cheat as I don't really remember many of my dreams being prophetic or dramatically ironic. Mostly incoherent or, if I'm lucky, just filthy (on the rare occasion that I actually remember them - I generally don't).

That not to say that all dream sequences are bad. Some can be genuinely odd, disturbing or dream-like and those are the ones I like. If it actually seems like a dream then it's a different kettle of fish. Occasionally, if you're lucky, you get a slice of mentalness like Twin Peaks which makes bizarre dream logic integral to the plot but there are very few things that can get away with that level of oddity.

In conclusion then, drop the shock dream sequence and give us some actual dream-resembling dream sequences**. Until you can do that, let's all just stay awake for now, shall we?

* We'll leave aside the whole "what is real anyway?" thing for now.

** I'm using the word "dream" so many times that it's beginning to lose all meaning. Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream....

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Annoying Plot Device No. 1 - Amnesia

In anticipation of the run up to the very last episode and also due to the fact that we seem to be spending a lot of time going "Wait a minute, who was that again?". Gorgeous Girlfriend and I have been working our way through Lost from the beginning (currently up to the end of season 2 - hatch-based fun and shootings galore). In so doing, I was reminded of one of my least favourite of dramatic devices - the sudden case of amnesia.

It's lazy and tiresome and generally a way of stringing out storylines long beyond their natural span. It's the point where a writer has been backed into a corner by giving one of the characters information which they would not keep to themselves but, for dramatic purposes, cannot be revealed to the audience. And so it seems that, instead of coming up with a creative way around, the old "Well, why don't we just give them amnesia" card gets pulled out of the pack.

It fills me a kind of all-pervading weariness whenever this particular chestnut gets pulled out. It doesn't raise my ire in the same way that the "it was all a dream" ending does (I'll never regain that time I spent watching Boxing Helena*) but it comes a close second. Basically, it's a way ofmarking off narrative time until you can get the characters to the point they need to be at in the plot. I never think "oh goody, a nice juicy amnesia storyline". No, it's the inward groan, the rolling of the eyes and the gritting of the teeth til it's all over.

Just to point out, in now way does this mean that I'm not enjoying rewatching Lost cause I certainly am (with the exception of any of the Boone and Shannon episodes - snore). It just struck as one of those things that I hate in otherwise engaging stories. Anyway, that's my bit for today, as you were, at ease.

* Oh, did I spoil the end of that film for you? Good because now you won't be tempted to watch and I've just saved you both valuable time and a sense of frustration at being treated like an idiot. You're welcome.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Contains Traces Of Blog

Time was, way back in the day, that simply giving a film a certificate (U, PG, 12, 15 or 18, those are your basics) was sufficient to give people ample warning as to the level of suitable content within a film. But no, for some unfathomable reason, we're increasingly given weirdly specific-seeming descriptions that do, in fact, give you no real information as to what you're going to encounter ("mild peril" being a particularly useless favourite - although I have to admit that "fantasy spiders" does leave little room for interpretation). So I thought it was time we were given some actually useful descriptions which may help us all decide whether or not to watch a film. Here area few examples:-

Summer Blockbuster CGI-Fest
- Contains 80% CGI, 18% shouting and 2% acting

Harry Potter And The Endless Franchise
- Contains characters using the full name "Harry Potter" throughout the entire film just in case you forgot who the speccy kid was

Generic 80s Horror Film Remake Part 3
- Contains nothing that you liked about the original

Michael Bay's KickExplodeFightBoom
- Contains 73 explosions in super slow motion and no need for cognitive reasoning.

Any Film Starring Or Even Featuring Or Just Mentioning Hugh Grant
- Contains a vomit-inducing amount of Hugh Grant*

Any more for any more?

*OK, that one may be a specifically personal bugbear

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Oh Yeah, I Forgot That Was Great - No.2: Blood Sugar Sex Magik

The portable music listening device is a wonderful thing, especially now that you can carry around enough audio goodness to fill your ears for about 45 days straight without ever having to listen to the same thing twice. Which is all well and good if it weren't for the fact that, when confronted which such overwhelming luxury of choice, this fella's brain does in fact go into total lockdown and become crippled by the inability to choose. When coupled with the fact that I tend to get obsessive about songs/albums that I like and listen to them repeatedly until I'm sick to the back teeth of them, it tends to mean that there are a large number of sadly overlooked items of joy lurking about in the electronic hinterlands.

So it's always nice to have that sudden urge to listen to something you haven't heard for ages, find it readily available at your fingertips (or earholes, I guess, I don't listen with my fingers like some weird man-grasshopper hybrid*) and discover that you still love it as much as when you first used to listen to it.

The latest rediscovery? The album Blood Sugar Sex Magik by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It wasn't their first album (they'd produced four more before that) but, to my mind, it's their finest. It's the first one that drew my attention to them and I was utterly obsessed with it from first listen onwards. Funky and rocky, melodic and shouty, emotional and puerile, it's a great mix that swings from slower, tuneful numbers like Breaking The Girl to the rock majesty of Give It Away and Suck My Kiss.

Sure, they produced some great tracks before and after and I'm sure someone more musically minded could come up with a good reason why some of their other albums might be better but this is the one that always gets me listening all the way through (and I always like it when you get to the end of a song and are starting to mentally play the first few bars of the next track in anticipation in your head). In conclusion then, Blood Sugar Sex Magik is good and I like it. More valuable insights next time.

*Yes, I know they hear through their knees but it;s the same sort of principle. As you were, biology police.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Oh Yeah, I Forgot That Was Great - No. 1: Nemesis The Warlock

Being a child of the eighties, the first comic I became properly obsessed with was 2000AD (and quite rightly so). Obviously, characters like Judge Dredd and Sam Slade Robo Hunter were always big winners but the one that I remember being particularly drawn to as a child was Nemesis The Warlock. He was a truly alien-looking, demonic, cloven-hoofed sort of a creature and, in the issue that first really drew him to my attention*, he was fighting a spiky, armour clad villain called Thomas de Torquemada who was instructing him to "Repent or die!" on the cover.

It was partly the fantastic artwork of Bryan Talbot that drew me to the character but it was also the fact that the whole thing appeared to be utterly alien, utterly fantastical and utterly divorced from anything resembling real life. I was already a confirmed sci-fi fan by that point so it wasn't as if that needed confirming but I'd say that, from that point onwards, there was no going back from the path of comics fandom.

Sadly, in the end, it's a somewhat disappointing strip. It becomes confusing mired in a time travel story that kind of forgets it's a time travel story and ultimately limps to a rather disappointing squib of an ending. It did, however, attract some truly distinctive and different artists during its run; all of them great talents in very different ways. From the cartoony and scratchily inventive style of co-creator Kevin O'Neill to the glorious detail of the aforementioned Bryan Talbot through to the grotesque body horror of John Hicklenton (who sadly passed away earlier this year), it was always fascinating to look at even if it did skate over the edges of coherence from time to time.

So if you like your comics to be odd and alien, give it a go. While the storyline doesn't necessarily hold up in the end, it's warped sense of humour and inventive visuals certainly do. Credo!

* Issue 404 published in 1985 containing episode 18 of Book four - The Gothic Empire. No, I'm not that Rain Man-ish - I looked it up.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Heavy Reader

There's never a time when I'm not reading something but I go through phases where I have the urge to just keep reading until my eyeballs bleed (I don't because the whole bleeding eyeball thing is not a good look and would probably frighten the kids). It's almost a physical need - a compulsion to keep consuming stories until my story-craving brain is sated.

They don't have to just be fictional stories although that tends to be the main default setting for me. No, I like some true stories as well although, if they're going to be true, I do tend to prefer them on the strange side. So what have been the highlights of this immersion in the written word? I'm so very glad you asked me that as that was pretty much how I was planning to pad out the rest of this entry...

The Eyre Affair & Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde - A comic author in much the same vein as Robert Rankin and Terry Pratchett to an extent, these books follow the exploits of Tuesday Next, a literary detective living in alternate 1985 who gets involved in cases that involve stolen literary characters, the Crimean War, time travel, Shakespearean authorship conundrums and much more strangeness besides. He's got an extremely inventive mind with a very readable writing style and the plots rattle along at a good pace.

The Call Of The Wild by Louis Theroux - I've always enjoyed Louis' documentaries (although recently, he's gone off the boil a little bit by branching out into more serious subjects and losing a lot of that quirky appeal). This is his first book and details his attempts to get back in touch with previous documentary subjects as a ten year "reunion Tour". It makes for interesting reading, partly to see how the lives of the former interviewees have altered (not a lot in most cases) and partly because it's fascinating to see Louis' oddly naive belief that his subjects wouldn't have been offended by the mocking documentaries he made about them.

Screen Burn by Charlie Booker - A collection of his columns for The Guardian, I found it a fascinating read for two reasons - firstly because his brand of raging vitriol is extremely amusing (he has a very good turn of phrase when he's outraged) and secondly because it covers the years 2000 - 2004 and it's interesting to look back and see the changing nature of television over that time from the rise of reality television onwards.

I'm also indulging in something that I haven't for a long while - the reading of multiple books at once. As well as finishing off Lost in A Good Book, I'm also getting through Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (enjoyable but not overly easy going) and Uller Uprising by H Beam Piper (classic 50s pulp sci-fi). I'm sure this will all fade again soon but, for the moment, I'm a dedicated heavy reader.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


This being Bank Holiday weekend, it would appear that my attempt to blog daily is off to a mistimed start as currently the lure of bed and episodes of 1st season Lost are calling. Instead of an actual post, here are some of the things this weekend has involved.

Homemade paella
Driving lessons
Smoked salmon
Sunday dozing
Drunken SingStar
Doctor Who
Not really moving much

All with the added bonus that tomorrow is like an extra Sunday so there's none of "dread of Monday' feeling that normally assaults the soul in the long dark teatime of a Sunday. Huzzah! TTFN.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


Today being the first of May
Your baldy host's here to say
That he will once again try
And drain the well dry
To post you new stuff every day

Now this is the sort of a vow
That's easy to make here and now
But when screen is bare
And inspiration's nowhere
He hopes that you all will allow

The odd day or two now and then
When the old bloggy muse once again
Does not dare show its head
And tucks up in bed
Out of sight to all women and men

(Which is basically me saying that I'm going to try and get back into writing something every day. But then again, I might not. yeah, it's always a bad sign when the limericks are on the loose.)