Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Ear, Ear

Oh such a transport of delight is the London omnibus. Its glorious red streaked black with pollution and grime, its many seats filled to bursting with unspeakable deposits and untold germs, its countless passengers slowly baking in their own and other people's juices. A London bus is summer is truly a thing of splendour and wonder.

So I was on the bus yesterday and this bloke sits down in front of me. He's an older man, not quite "elderly" as such but definitely circling on the outskirts of that particular term. I catch an unpleasant whiff as he seats himself - the ammoniac tang of a frequently under- or unwashed body clad in under- or unwashed clothes. That, however, notable though it may be, is not what has drawn my attention to him. No, it is his ears.

They're not large. They're of a perfectly ordinary size. But they are by far and away the strangest shaped ears that I have ever seen. They seem to warp and bubble outwards, like some pastry-based hors d'oeuvres (possibly somewhere between a samosa, a blini and a bhaji) and I cannot seem to take my eyes off them.

I realise that I'm staring and try to look away. My eyes, though, are constantly drawn back to them, as though the ears are the singularity at the heart of a black hole and my gaze cannot escape its gravitic pull. Must look away. Cannot stop looking.

I wonder what has caused this malformation of his lugholes. Was it the result of a former career in boxing or an enthusiastic amateur keenness for a Friday night punch-up? They don;t really look like cauliflower ears, though. Is it a medical condition? Something new? Was he born like that? Or are they simply weirdly shaped?

Sadly, we shall never know the answers to these questions for my reverie was interrupted by the arrival of my stop. I departed the bus and the man and his ears went on their merry way (naturally - you wouldn't expect the ears to go around by themselves now, would you?).

Is it wrong that I had to fight the compulsion to flick them?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Oh Yeah, I Forgot That Was Great - No. 4: Batman: The Movie (1966)

"Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb."

And some days, you suddenly realise that you've liked a film at different stages in your life for entirely different reasons. When I was a wee, hirsute nipper, I dearly loved this film with no trace of irony whatsoever. It was bright, it was exciting, it had fightings, it had gadgets and I watched it many times. Oddly enough, I was obsessed with the penguin. I dearly wanted an umbrella that turned into a gun and shot out gas and became a helicopter - this was the ultimate gadget as far as I was concerned.

As I grew older, I began to realise that this was, in fact, one of the finest comedy films ever. Even when I started reading Batman comics and wanted my Batman films to be all dark and grim and gritty (Batman And Robin, don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out). my affection for this film never wavered.

Why is it so good? Oh, many reasons. One of the the chief ones has to the man playing Batman himself, Mr Adam West. His delivery is perfect - serious enough for kids to accept him in the role but with enough of a smirk lurking at the corners of his eyes for the adults to know that he's in on the joke. It's a masterpiece of using deadpan delivery to comic effect and is the definitive comedy superhero (with Patrick Warburton's The Tick coming a close second - although there is a hint of him channelling a bit of West).

Secondly, it knows that it has a low budget to realise a lot of the effects and makes a virtue of them. The scene in which Batman battles an obviously foam shark whilst dangling from a helicopter always raises a smile (particularly when the ultimate solution to his predicament is Shark Repellent Spray).

Lastly, it's just very funny. Some great moments of comedy timing, chief among them being this sequence (a sequence that is so iconic, it's referenced by Wallace And Gromit more than 40 years later):-

It's a cracking film no matter what age you are and definitely one that's fun for all the family. If you haven't seen it before and like your comedy daftly deadpan and campily serious then give it a go.

"They may be drinkers, Robin, but they're still human beings."

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Oh Yeah, I Forgot That Was Great - No. 3: Cheesy 80s Film Soundtracks

OK, let's go with the whole "80s films" thing briefly mentioned yesterday, then, while my brain is deciding to co-operate. Thanks to the glory of the Portable Music Device What Plays Songs Into Your Ears, I had a sudden urge to listen to an album that I hadn't heard in a while and, lo and behold, there it was at my fingertips. That album was the soundtrack to Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure and he listened to it and heard that it was good.

I mean, obviously, it's pretty naff. It's an album full of cheesy 80s-style rock bands who sound kind of like a lot of the major rock bands at the time but very much aren't them thus making their songs more available and, chiefly, more affordable. Given that the two main characters in the film are major rock fans, it feels like the album should have tracks by Van Halen, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and oh so many more on there.
That's not what you actually get, though. No, the album features a far superior line-up including such greats as Shark island, Big Pig and Glen Burtnik. I know, I know, contain your excitement. The only reasonably famous name on there is Extreme of cheesy cock-rock ballad "More Than Words" fame and, of course, not forgetting their hilariously titled track "Get The Funk Out" (oh stop my aching sides).

Despite all that, though, there are a good selection of enjoyably cheesy songs that leave you with that feelgood factor. This isn't the only 80s soundtrack album with a rock theme to have this effect on me. I've mentioned before my love for the greatest film of all time, Transformers: The Movie (forget about Michael Bay, the proper one from the 80s with leonard Nimoy, Orson Welles and Eric idle in it*. Not least because it features the ultimate cock-rock power ballad, The Touch by Stan Bush.

So here's to the cheesy 80s rock-based film soundtrack. Long may they continue to satisfy my ears with their inoffensive guitar riffitude. And, to sign off, here's The Touch in all its glory followed by Play With Me by Extreme.

* No, I'm not making that up, they're really in it, go and check.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Oh Brain, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Recently, my brain has been steadfastly refusing to play ball for the majority of the time. I'll be happily walking along the road, probably just nipping up to the shop, and it begins to construct a blog idea or maybe some notes for a story. "Oh goody," thinks I, "this is just what I needed, the old grey matter getting going again, firing on all cylinders and all that guff." Naturally, at this point in time, I am unfettered by computer and keyboard or even pen and paper. It then chugs along merrily for a bit until distracted by the actual purpose for my visit outside. And then to top it all off, when I return to the place where the writing implements are, it stops and goes all inconveniently blank.

I mean, really, what are you playing at, brain? Do you really want me to stab you via the earhole with a sharpened Steadtler HB? Do you? Most frustrating.

All of which is to say that I've had several ideas for blog posts of late which fizzled away into nothingness as soon as I'm in a position to slap them down onto the page. Maybe they'll come flooding back and I'll enter into a sudden prolific month where the words flow like wine and everyone is illuminated with the shining light of my wit and wisdom. Or maybe I'll just post something trivial about 80s films and then shut up again for nearly a month. It could go either way, really...

The hotter weather doesn't overly help. Much like a PC, my brain operates best at colder temperatures and is prone to crashing whilst overheating. I'm one of those people who is much more at home during the colder climes. Don't get me wrong, I do like the hot weather when all I have to do is sit around in my swimming trunks drinking beer and not moving but you make me put on a shirt and shoes and cram me into a moving sweatbox (or train, if you will) with a couple of hundred other people and my liking for heat evaporates really rather quickly.

It also doesn't help that the equation "slightest sign of heat = disproportionate amount of sweat" sums up much my summer experience. It's not a pleasant thing for me or anyone nearby. Until someone invents some of cheap air-conditioning suit that maintains your body at an even cool temperature, that is. Yeah, that would be nice.

So, in conclusion then, my brain is still capable of random tangents. That is all.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Check One-Two, One-Two

I probably shouldn't have watched so much of the Glastonbury coverage over the weekend - it made me wish I was there. Partly because the previous two occasions that I descended upon the festival were mudbaths of the highest extreme but also because it reminded me how much I love going to see live music.

I know a couple of people who argue that they don't enjoy live performances by artists they enjoy as it never sounds as good as the recorded version. I can see their point of view if they just want to listen the songs they know and love the way that they know and love them but, for me, that's not the appeal of the gig. Sure, a big part of is about the music itself but it's also about the shared experience, the company, the socialising. Even a bad gig can still be a good night out. There's just something about it.

You arrive at the pub/club/stadium/field. You find someone you know. The longing emptiness in your hand is replaced by the cooling fullness of a lovely cold alcoholic beverage. Imbibing commences.
The anticipation builds. Music begins, probably a support act. They are good or bad. Discussions ensue. Imbibing continues.

At last, the act you have been anticipating graces the stage / corner of the pub / cowshed. You sing, you dance, you jump around, you shout yourself silly, you probably spill some alcohol but this is one of the few occasions where that is pretty much OK.

They were brilliant. Everyone is happy and carries on drinking and dancing badly to the post-gig cheesy disco (if there is one). They were awful. Everyone is a bit disappointed so carries on drinking and dancing badly to the post-gig cheesy disco (if there is one).

Having had many a friend or family member in a band at one time or another, there's just something appealing about seeing a band play live. Of course, you will inevitably spend the next day with ears ringing and throat sore from the singing but it's a small price to pay, I say...