Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Scare Me! Blogfest

Budd over at Scifi Media is holding the Scare Me! Blogfest.

So here's how it works in Budd's own words:

"The purpose of the Scare Me Blogfest is to write about the scariest book that you have read, Movie you have watched, Ghosts you have encountered, and/or to share your own scary story. Just sign up on the Linky below and post your entry on Halloween. A panel that includes me, myself, and I will argue and fight to decide which entry was the best and that entry will get an award. Who knows, I may make several."

I've chosen to write about three of the scariest things I've ever seen on screen in the order I saw them. All three are British, although that wasn't deliberate.

Doctor Who: The Curse Of Fenric
This four-part 1989 Doctor Who story sees Sylvester McCoy's Doctor visit a Top Secret naval base during World War II. It borrows heavily from Norse mythology and combines it with a healthy dose of vampires to make an excellent and uneasy tale. The script, performances, monsters, location, effects and even the weather all work together to make a brilliant story.

Why is it scary?: The Haemovores are vampires in all but name and have a look that would put you off your lunch, but the scariest thing about The Curse Of Fenric for me is how it deals with ideas of faith. Vampires in many stories are repelled by crucifixes. Haemovores take that idea to its logical conclusion and are repelled not by the crucifix, but by the faith of the person holding it. If you have an absolute faith in anything then you are safe. At the tender age of eight I sat down on four successive Wednesdays to be scared out of my wits by the simple idea that my own doubt could kill me.

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The Wicker Man
This 1973 film set in the Scottish Islands follows a policeman searching for a missing girl in a convoluted conspiracy and ritual sacrifice. The Wicker Man features Christopher Lee in drag, Britt Ekland's body double's buttocks and a truly excellent performance from Edward Woodward.

Why is it scary?: We come back to faith again and by extension certainty without the need for proof. All the characters in The Wicker Man are certain that their own beliefs are correct even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The merry dance that the islanders lead the policeman on is all the more scary second time around. The climactic scene is terrifying and shocking. I haven't seen the remake, but the fact that someone could watch this and think they could improve on it is truly horrifying.

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Asking what might happen if they dropped an atom bomb on Sheffield, this 1984 TV Movie is an unflinching look at a Nuclear holocaust. I was recently reminded about the severity of Threads and have ben unable to get it out of my head.

Why is it scary?: It's an unflinching look at a Nuclear holocaust. How could it not be scary? If the other two stories here examine ideas of faith, then Threads brings us full circle, but it's more like abandon hope all ye who enter. The documentary style and unrelenting plausibility of it all wears away your expectations and rather than rooting for the survivors you begin to see them as the real victims. This film is harrowing in the extreme.

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What scared you?

Monday, 29 October 2012

"You've Been Away As Long As You Think You Have"

Is what the Seventh Doctor tells Ace upon her return to the present day (which may or may not have been 1989) in Survival, the last story shown in Doctor Who's first run.

1989 was the year that the Berlin Wall came down, a fatwā was declared on The Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie, the Hillsborough disaster claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool supporters, the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre took place and the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1989:

The Abyss
James Cameron's SF underwater epic is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking. Surely nobody has ever worked harder on a film. The cast are fantastic, the story is brilliant and the CGI is still wonderful.

The Tall Guy
Jeff Goldblum, Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson are fantastic in this off-beat romantic comedy which parodies celebrity and musical theatre brilliantly. All of Thompson’s scenes, the Elephant! sequences and the Madness music video performance of 'It Must Be Love' are all wonderful.

Crimes And Misdemeanours
Woody Allen's experiment with structure sees a comedy and a tragedy entwine to great effect, whilst also managing to aask profound questions about the human condition. Allen, Martin Landau, Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Angelica Huston and Jerry Orbach are fantastic.

Back To The Future, Part II
The second Back To The Future film is a great sequel that expands on the ideas and yet remains true to the spirit of the original. The DeLorean time machine travels further and visits an inspired 2015 which left a generation wishing for hoverboards and an alternative 1985 which successfully explores a divergent timeline in a mainstream piece of cinema and the scenes revisiting the 1955 events of the first film are brilliantly put together. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
The much-maligned fifth film is, marshmelons aside, much better than its reputation. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Laurence Luckinbill and David Warner are great. The story asks some big questions, provides some bold answers and is probably the film most in the mould of the original series of Star Trek. Here's the trailer.

Licence To Kill
In a great twist on the usual formula the sixteenth Bond film, 007 follows a vendetta, goes rogue and has his Licence To Kill revoked. Desmond Llewellyn and David Hedison are both wonderful, while Timothy Dalton is fantastic in his second and final outing as Bond which sees the best portrayal of the super spy sadly curtailed.

Doctor Who: The Greatest Show In The Galaxy 4; Battlefield; Ghost Light; The Curse Of Fenric; Survival
The greatest show in the galaxy ends its twenty-fifth season with the wonderful last part of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, the reveal of the Gods of Ragnarok is great, Sylvester McCoy is excellent in the Doctor's 'audition' for them, evoking the TV talent shows of recent years and his calm exit of the exploding tent is very, very impressive. In retrospect the line, "Entertain us...Or die" takes on a more unfortunate significance...
McCoy and Sophie Aldred return for the show's twenty-sixth season with Battlefield, a story with an undeservedly bad reputation. Jean Marsh, James Ellis, Angela Bruce, Marcus Gilbert and Robert Jezek are fantastic, McCoy's business is very funny, the simplicity of the chalk circle is great, the Destroyer make-up is astonishing, twisting the Doctor up in Arthurian legend works really well and the concept of his future catching up with him is a brilliant one, but the genius of this story is how the Brigadier is written. Nicholas Courtney is phenomenal as ever, his dialogue is wonderful and everything that goes right for him plays to the expectation that he'll pay the ultimate price and so the ending is surprising and well earned. Another story, another strange reputation. Ghost Light isn't nearly as complicated as some would have you believe. It could be clearer certainly, but the pieces of the puzzle are all there: the evolution and the experimentation. The dialogue is great: "damned tsetse fly", the list of things the Doctor hates, "the cream of Scotland Yard", the Doctor's change speech. Michael Cochrane, Ian Hogg, Sylvia Syms, Sharon Duce and Frank Windsor are wonderful. Ghost Light is a brilliantly macabre story that draws together elements from all over the place to create something incredible. The Viking mystery combines with the World War II setting in the next story to create a tangible sense of unease, while the Doctor and Ace take on "Evil since the dawn of time". The vampiric Haemovores descendents from an alternative future only repelled by faith are a very scary concept and the Ancient One looks amazing. Doctor Who is full of great scripts with ambition that is beyond the reach of the budget, this script is great and the story so epic in scale that it practically redefines the word epic and yet somehow it is still well and truly within the scope of this production and "Don’t interrupt me when I'm eulogising" is a brilliant line. The all-location shoot, the weather and the period detail all give the story a cinematic feel while McCoy, Aldred, Dinsdale Landon, Janet Henfrey, Nicholas Parsons, Tomek Bork and Ann Reid are all fantastic. The Curse Of Fenric is phenomenal. Rona Munro’s script for the last story of the season, Survival, is brilliant. Ace revisiting her old haunts, her seduction by the animal instincts and the climactic battle between the Doctor and the Master are all fantastic. McCoy, Aldred, Anthony Ainley and Lisa Bowerman are superb. The scenes in suburban Perivale are all the scarier for it, the planet of the Cheetah people looks great and the Cheetah people themselves are better than their reputation suggests. For a time this was the last ever Doctor Who story and although such a thing is never desirable, we couldn't have hoped for a better last ever Doctor Who story, the themes explored in the story made this a poignant bookend to the first ever story. The Doctor's closing monologue is wonderful and it is all the more incredible that the show was cancelled after a season as good as this.

Red Dwarf: Backwards; Marooned; Polymorph; Bodyswap; Timeslides; The Last Day
Series III is a massive sea change for Red Dwarf. It's got less grey, more Kryten, a new theme tune and a head sex change. The crew visit an Earth on which time runs Backwards and the result is a great mix of high minded SF and low brow humour. Robert Llewellyn makes an excellent debut and the opening crawl, Lister and Cat debating Wilma Flintstone and "Thankski veryski muchski, Budski!" are all fantastic, but the least said about Cat's visit to the bushes the better. Rimmer and Lister are Marooned, and Chris Barrie and Craig Charles are wonderful in a brilliant two-hander: Holly's "This is not a drill" opening, Rimmer's past life regression, "Ascension Sunday" and quoting Shakespeare, Lister story of how he lost his virginity and eating dog food, Cliff Richard and the closing line are all fantastic, but more importantly this is an absolutely wonderful piece of television. The shape-changing Polymorph works its way around the crew, robs each of them of an emotion and the resulting new dynamic is a great ensemble piece featuring the funniest mention of "alphabetti spaghetti!" ever heard. Rimmer and Lister Bodyswap and aside from some dubbing issues it's great, the Cat's "Jozxyqk!", the model work is beautiful and "Oh smeg! What the smeggin' smeg's he smeggin' done? He's smeggin' killed me!", the line boasting the most smegs per square inch. Another episode built around a brilliant concept, Timeslides enables the crew to step inside a photograph and time travel back to that moment, Lister's "in-smegging-credible" jump, the Cat's snowball and the briefcase bomb are all great interractions between the photographs and the real world, but it's the character moments that really shine: Danny John-Jules' Junior Angler sales pitch, Lister and Rimmer meeting and being embarrassed by their younger selves, the repetition of "cryptofascist", Hattie Hayridge's delivery of exposition and Chris Barrie's delivery of Rimmer's speech asking "Who is the rich man?" are all fantastic and despite his reputation for being difficult Special Guest Star Adolf Hitler puts in a very impressive performance. The true success of the series finale, The Last Day, is that Llewellyn's Kryten feels like he's been a part of the show much longer than six episodes and so the thought of losing him is all the more appalling, which is best exemplified by the Officer's Club scene, but Lister's defence of boxing, Rimmer's Samaritans story, Cat's gift, Kryten's dismissal of the existence of human heaven and Holly's potentially fatal pragmatism, "the Star Trek crap", viable targets and a great performance from Gordon Kennedy. Series III not only reinvents the look of the show, but ensures it will be around for a long time to come.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Schizoid Man; Unnatural Selection; A Matter Of Honor; The Measure Of A Man; The Dauphin; Contagion; The Royale; Time Squared; The Icarus Factor; Pen Pals; Q Who; The Emissary; Peak Performance; Evolution; The Survivors; Who Watches The Watchers; Booby Trap; The Enemy; The Price
Highlights from the second season include The Schizoid Man in which Brent Spiner is great as Data possessed by his own 'grandfather'. A Matter Of Honor is a great Klingon culture clash episode. The Measure Of A Man is a fantastic episode and a very thought provoking allegory for slavery. The Dauphin is a nice little Wesley episode with great performances from Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes and Whoopi Goldberg. Contagion is great, impressive visuals, an urgent threat and the realisation of the Iconians is compelling. The crew visit The Royale, a hotel based on the story of a pulp fiction novella, not a subtle episode but Brent Spiner and Sam Anderson are great. Time Squared is a nice little time travel mystery. Data and a doomed alien girl become Pen Pals in a touching episode that questions the validity and morality of the Prime Directive. Introducing the Borg brilliantly, Q Who is a game changer for the series with fantastic performances from Patrick Stewart, John de Lancie and Goldberg. Michael Dorn and Suzie Plakson are wonderful in The Emissary, an episode which adds depth to both Worf and Klingon culture itself. Frakes, Spiner and Roy Brocksmith are all great in Peak Performance.
The third season opens with Evolution which shows an invigorated sense of style and features great performances from Stewart, Spiner, Wheaton, Ken Jenkins and a returning Gates McFadden. Stewart and Anne Haney are fantastic in The Survivors, a personal look at omnipotence and a very touching use of SF. Asking big ethical questions and featuring great performances from Stewart, Ray Wise and Kathyn Leigh Scott, Who Watches The Watchers is another step up in quality. LeVar Burton and Susan Gibney are great together as LaForge seeks the solution to a Booby Trap on the holodeck and falls in love. The Enemy is a great Cold War-style thriller with fantastic dialogue and wonderful performances from Burton and Dorn. The negotiations for the galaxy's first stable wormhole in The Price are great and the ultimate cost is a great payoff in an episode which uses the Ferengi well and sets the scene for the next two spinoff series.

Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out
The first of Nick Park's animated shorts featuring Wallace and Gromit is wonderful. The construction of the rocket, the take-off, the visit to the moon and it's subsequent consumption are all fantastic. The moon's sole coin-operated robot occupant is great and the shot of Gromit in place of a workbench is hilarious.

Around The World In Eighty Days, With Michael Palin
Michael Palin attempts to follow Phileas Fogg's circumnavigation of the planet from Jules Verne's novel in eighty days and seven episodes. The journey takes him through sixteen countries by foot, train, ship, balloon and husky dog. It's brilliant.

Blackadder Goes Forth: Captain Cook; Corporal Punishment; Major Star; Private Plane; General Hospital; Goodbyeee
The phrase "trench humour" could not be more appropriate than in Blackadder Goes Forth. The lunacy and tragedy of the First World War supplies an excellent backdrop for the fourth series. Captain Cook sets up the new dynamic brilliantly. The next five episodes all examine aspects of a war Blackadder describes as "a war which would be a damn sight simpler if we just stayed in England and shot fifty thousand of our men a week", from the trial and the firing squad of Corporal Punishment, Hugh Laurie's wonderful performance as George as Georgina in Major Star, Lord Flashheart, the Twenty Minuters and a fate worse than death in Private Plane, everything Miranda Richardson does in General Hospital and the series finale, Goodbyeee, is a surprisingly effective and touching tribute to a lost generation.

Last Chance To See
Natural history programming and radio don't seem like an obvious fit, but Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine's radio trip around is a wonderful audio experience, but don't just take my word for it. The BBC have put it up on their website.

Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor
The prose is so beautifully written and the jokes so exquisite that it is almost a shame that it has to be part of Red Dwarf at all. The novel explores aspects of the TV episodes The End, Future Echoes, Waiting For God, Me², Kryten, Thanks For The Memory and Better Than Life, but expands upon them to a point that renders it far more than a simple novelisation. The first Red Dwarf novel is magnificent and I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
The seventh Discworld novel visits a fictional country with Egyptian overtones and the best named ever conceived. It's a very funny and largely standalone novel that deals with articles of faith, assassins and the revelation that the finest mathematician on the Disc is a camel with another in a spectacular series of names.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
Dragons versus coppers it may be, but the first novel to feature the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is the beginning of the modern era of Discworld. Less fantasy, but no less fantastic.

Where's Wally: The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford
Wally's whereabouts among the Gobbling Gluttons, the Carpet Flyers, the Ferocious Red Dwarves, the Nasty Nasties, the Deep-Sea Divers and the Land of Wallies are unknown. Find him if you can.

Doctor Who: Time And Tide; Nemesis Of The Daleks
Time And Tide wait for no man, the nilistic Tojanans and their village look fantastic in a nice strip about hope. The Doctor meets Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer in Nemesis Of The Daleks, an epic if not particularly cerebral strip full of double page spreads featuring scores of Daleks and huge explosions courtesy of Lee Sullivan.

Lego Pirates: The Golden Medallion
When I was young I loved Lego, I still do if I'm honest, but Pirate Lego really captured my imagination. I wanted to build and play with the big pirate ship more than anything, but I couldn't afford it. It was with a heavy heart that I spent my pocket money on this comic book and I only bought it because it came with two pirate figures and a treasure map, but the comic really fired my imagination: "an interesting looking chest", drunkeness, hangings, prison breaks, shark bites, volcanic eruptions, a bonk and quite a sadistic ending.

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1988

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Le Discret

Sarah and I were watching The Day After, the nuclear holocaust film directed by Nicholas Meyer. It's a sort of American Threads, but it's all a bit kinder than Threads. In one of the early scenes Jason Robards' character visits a Kansas City art gallery and for a moment he looks at this painting:

How brilliant is that?

Sarah managed to find it online. It's called Le Discret and was painted circa 1790 by the French portrait painter Joseph Ducreux (1735–1802). He worked in the court of Louis XVI and also after the French Revolution.

His less formal works are wonderful. They seem so modern and have apparently been exploited for various internet memes that seem to have passed me by.

I'm definitely a fan.

Monday, 22 October 2012


We have a neighbour whose car makes an incredibly loud noise. It's a bit of the soundtrack to our lives that we could all do without. I don't know cars, but it's large, white and has a very large and aptly named spoiler on the back.

On Friday, I was going out when the familiar noise drew my attention to the car. I looked over and there was no one in the car. It looked like an arrogant remake of Knightrider. It seemed odd that the engine was running while it was empty. It occurred to me that the driver might be in some sort of trouble and I walked over to the car.

I stood next to the very loud vehicle and was surprised to see the window was open. There was no sign of anybody around. I could see the key in the ignition and for a moment I was tempted to take them out for the benefit of all in earshot. I resisted the temptation. The nearest door opened and a burly man leaned out and said simply "Get away from the car."

I should point out that although I was stood next to the car I wasn't stood in its parking space and was closer to the next car over. I ignored his lack of courtesy and asked why his car was making "that noise".

A brief and unenlightening answer came, "It's warming up", before he chose to embroider his original comment as "Get away from the f***ing car."

I declined. He reached behind him, pulled a big dog into view by its collar and said "Get away from the f***ing car" once more. I declined again. I don't really know what I would have done if he had actually become violent, but after recent events, I wasn't willing to be threatened on my own doorstep again.

His wife or girlfriend came out and he and the dog went back indoors. She was far more polite and attempted to placate me. She made excuses for her other half, not for the first time I'm sure. She agreed that he had no reason to talk to me like that, but no apology was forthcoming. When I mentioned that he brandished the dog in my direction she countered with "Oh the dog wouldn't have done nothing", but took it slightly more seriously when I suggested it was still obvious that he intended it to be threatening behaviour.

We had a discussion about the car and its noise. Apparently the reason for the excessive noise is because the car has a turbo-charger that needs to warm up or it "runs bad". I would have assumed that the more you spent on a car, the more convenient it would be for you, but it looks like I was wrong. I asked how long it took to warm up and she didn't know, but said that a dial inside the car had to reach a certain number before it could be driven. I reminded her that no one was in the car to check on it and so presumably they left it for a set period before driving it. She didn't know how long that would be. For the record, we have regularly heard it run for between half an hour and forty-five minutes.

I suggested that if the car was going to make this much noise, then they needed to be humble about it and that the confrontation helped no one. She didn't disagree and said that if anyone was inconvenienced then they just needed to let her know. On behalf of my neighbours I said that everyone was inconvenienced and that if they could expect a welcome as warm as I received then they were probably more than a little intimidated as well.

Our entire conversation was calm and reasonable, but because we were still stood next to the roaring engine it was a full volume.

When I told Sarah about it, it renewed talk that we should move home. This was something we had discussed after what has become known as "the incident", but that I resisted, not wishing to be driven out. Now I was seriously considering it. What does it say about me that I can handle an attack by knife-wielding maniac better than some idiot boy racer full of sound and fury? I felt really silly admitting it, but I hate where I live now more than ever.

I replayed the confrontation in my head again and again. After "the incident" people talked about flashbacks and that Sarah and I would need to keep an eye on each other in the days and weeks afterwards. We felt fine and seemed to be able to put it behind us fairly easily, but I can't put this experience out of my mind. Nothing happened and yet I can't put it out of my mind.

I wonder whether one experience has compounded the other? Are these sorts of effects cumulative? Or whether I'm just more appalled than I realised that his first reaction was hostile and his second was threatening.

I hadn't heard the car in question again until yesterday afternoon. It growled into life again, but Sarah pointed out that it was revving so he must be behind the wheel. I looked out of the window to see that he was manoeuvring his pride and joy into a garage that we didn't know he owned.

I don't know if it makes me a bad person, but I took a certain amount of pleasure in seeing that the back of the car is currently missing its lights and number plate, is covered in scratches and it has obviously been in some sort of collision.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Nineties Blogfest Debrief

Thank you to everyone who took part in The Nineties Blogfest. Of the 31 people that signed up, 23 posted something. The Nineties inspired Jeremy to recast Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stephanie to write about shorter periods, Phil to write a piece about the Noughties as well and two of you to sign up twice, which was thorough.

For every year, film and music were the most varied suggestions, while books, comics and games came up less often. Of the three games posted, two were from The Legend Of Zelda series, and both the comics posted were X-Men crossovers.

After The Noughties Blogfest I compiled a debrief of sorts and so here's my attempt to do so again for the Nineties.

Here's a rundown of the most popular suggestions:

The films Ghost, Total Recall and The Hunt For Red October were all featured on two lists each, as was TV show Twin Peaks

The runaway success this year was Nirvana's Nevermind album appearing on no less than six lists with songs 'Come As You Are' and 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' both garnering two votes individual votes each. Filmwise Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Fisher King, Doc Hollywood and Disney's Beauty And The Beast were listed twice.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' songs 'Breaking The Girl' and 'Under The Bridge' appeared on one list each, with both tracks from Blood Sugar Sex Magik. While the U2 album Achtung Baby also got two votes. The Last Of The Mohicans, Reservoir Dogs, Universal Soldier and Disney's Aladdin were all on two lists each.

Jurassic Park made it on to four lists (with a special mention for Michael Crichton's 1990 novel as well). Counting Crows songs, 'Mr. Jones' and 'Anna Begins', from the album August And Everything After both featured on different lists.

Pulp Fiction was chosen by four of you, while the films Speed, Forrest Gump, TV show My So-Called Life and Weezer's The Blue Album are all on two lists each.

The big surprise this year was that The Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld appeared on two lists. 180 episodes to choose from and two of you both zeroed in on that one. The TV show Nowhere Man, Oasis album What's the Story Morning Glory? and the films WaterworldSe7en and Toy Story were also on two lists each, while Braveheart Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill made it onto three.

Twister and Independence Day were both in three posts, whiole Matilda, Mission Impossible, The Birdcage and Star Trek: First Contact were all in two.

More movies were posted this year than any other and yet The Fifth Element and Titanic appeared in three posts and Donnie Brasco, L.A. Confidential, Face/Off, The Full Monty, Starship Troopers, Liar Liar, As Good As It Gets, Good Will Hunting, G.I. Jane and Gattaca were all in two posts each, as were Radiohead's OK Computer and Foo Fighters’ The Colour And The Shape. On TV, the debut of Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw it crop up on four lists.

Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album and films Soldier and Blade all made it into two of your posts.

Films The Mummy, Fight Club, Galaxy Quest and The Sixth Sense were on two lists, while The Matrix was on four. On TV, Buffy spinoff series Angel got two votes (one of them for the episode I Will Remember You) and three of you loved Blink 182's Enema Of The State album.

The Linky will stop working at some point so here are links to all those that took part: Me, Philip J Reed, Donna Hole, Hart Johnson, Azia, M.J. Fifield, Deniz Bevan, Medeia Sharif, Melissa @ My Creatively Random Life, Entertaining Interests, Tami @ Thrift Shop Commando, Sydney Aaliyah, Stephen Tremp, SciFi media, Ninja Captain Alex, Drea Moore, Building Castles On The Beach, Jeremy [R- Zombie], Ellie, Joshua, Tony Laplume, The Pedestrian Writer and Stephanie who separated hers into smaller chunks 1990, 1991, 1992-1994, 1995 - 1997 and 1998 & 1999.

Hopefully I'll see you here in eleven months time for
The Eighties Blogfest...

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Nineties Blogfest Today

Today, is The Nineties Blogfest where I invite you to tell me your favourite things from the Nineties.

It's not too late to join in. Choose one thing from each year from 1990 to 1999, be it a Film, a TV show, a radio show, a particular episode of a TV or radio show, a piece of theatre, a book, a comic, a piece of artwork, something online or something else entirely, and then tell us what you love about it.

Here are some of my favourite things from the Nineties:

The Secret Of Monkey Island
Deep in the Caribbean, Guybrush Threepwood wants to be a pirate and sword fighting, buried treasure, The Fabulous Idol of Many Hands, cryptic voodoo, ghost pirates, barely navigable forests, overzealous salesmen, a weird tree stump, cannibals, barely navigable caverns and piranha poodles all conspire to get in his way. "If there's one type of piracy I don't like, it's a CONS-piracy".

The citizens (and denizens) of Mêlée Island make this game as solid and believable as it is funny and weird. This is the game that the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies wish they could be. I love this game and since it has recently been given a posh remastering now is just as good a time to give it a go.

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The Fisher King
Terry Gilliam's attempt at a "simple" film is anything but. The Fisher King is a funny and touching modern Arthurian fairytale. The cast are brilliant and it is shot beautifully, but it also has a tragic honesty that raises it above the competition. The film asks important questions about the responsibilities of the media, post-traumatic stress disorder and the wooing of tattooed ladies.

I really love this film.

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Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
The first twelve Discworld novels are all wonderful, but as luck would have it number thirteen is an absolutely spectacular piece of work. It's a brilliant treatise on faith and organised religion that is both hilarious and intelligent regardless of your faith or indeed lack thereof. Less I'll believe it when I see it and more I'll see it when I believe it.

If ever I am asked to recommend a Discworld novel for first time or seasoned readers alike, Small Gods is it.

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Red Dwarf VI
I waxed lyrical about the sixth season of Red Dwarf recently to celebrate the show's return. Maybe I've said enough, but just in case...

Red Dwarf was already a show firing on all cylinders, but the sixth series of the sitcom that shakes its sit up and succeeds masterfully much to the benefit of its com. The loss of the eponymous ship and a beloved regular character really invigorates the show. The new dynamic is cramped, claustrophobic and, crucially, forces the Boy from the Dwarf together. The search for Red Dwarf, the returning characters and the running gags, often lead the show's critics to call this series formulaic, but they ignore a vital factor when doing so. There is a formula at work here, but it's a fantastic formula. The cast are uniformly brilliant, the jokes are very funny and the science fiction is genuinely intelligent and thought-provoking.

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Pulp: His 'N' Hers
The theme of feeling like an outsider runs through tales of domesticity and sexual alienation before apparently reaching the conclusion that you are better off an outsider than fitting in. I don't remember the first time that I heard 'Do You Remember The First Time?', but I do remember loving this album as soon as I heard it. Coming to it after Different Class, it seemed rawer and rougher around the edges. It's a spectacular blend of synth-pop and style. Tracks like 'Joyriders', 'Babies' and 'Happy Endings' just go to show a band waiting for the rest of us to catch up with them.

How 'Joyriders' failed to become an anthem, how the phrase 'Acrylic Afternoon' hasn't caught on and how this album lost out on the Mercury Music Prize to M People I'll never understand.

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Pulp: Different Class
The true winner of the Blur versus Oasis debacle was neither of those bands, but instead Pulp claimed the Britpop crown. I had this album on cassette tape and indeed it was the first album that I ever bought and it remains one of the best that I ever bought.

Pulp's breakout album is twelve absolutely fantastic tracks all crammed full of wonderful observations about the human condition.

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It would never have occurred to me reading Irvine Welsh's novel that it could be a film. The novel is a meandering series of vignettes with a shared group of characters and the genius of the film adaptation of Trainspotting is not in its faithfullness to the book, but instead in its wonderful inventiveness. It works like a strange homeopathic dilution that somehow focusses the material and makes it stronger. The Worst Toilet in Scotland, the Bond references and Dale Winton's game show are all great examples to the story.

The cast are fantastic, the soundtrack is fantastic and the assault on post-Braveheart Scottish identity is well meant. Danny Boyle, John Hodge and the cast achieved what seemed impossible and they've done it with style.

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer, season one
Probably the greatest American TV drama series ever made starts here. In the first season, Buffy and her friends prevent two apocalypses and see off vampires, a witch, a praying mantis, some hyena-possessed teenagers, a demon on the internet, a demon on the stage, the nightmares of whole town and a murderous invisible girl alike. Although, that's not really what this show is about and the "high school is hell" metaphor is at its strongest here.

The cast are great, the writing superb and the set pieces border on the visceral. In the short term Season One set the tone for the rest of Buffy's run and the spinoff series Angel, but in the long run you can see its impact on practically everything ever made since.

The first eleven episodes of season two also aired in 1997 and took the show up to the brink of the game-changing Surprise and Innocence two-parter.

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Pulp: This Is Hardcore
It was suggested to me that three albums by the same artist is cheating. Maybe so, but I don't care. Pulp made us wait three years for their sixth album and given the terrible music that dominated the charts in their absence it was a long three years indeed. My expectations were high and this album more than met them. Both lyrically and musically, the album is a masterpiece. The exploration of the themes of hitting the big time, living the high life and getting everything you ever wanted only to find out it wasn't worth having is nothing short of fantastic.

On different albums 'The Fear', 'Dishes', 'Help The Aged', 'Seductive Barry', 'Sylvia', 'Glory Days' and 'The Day After The Revolution' would each be the stand out track, but together and with the title track being such an astonishing piece of work it raises the bar considerably.

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Spaced, season one
The first sitcom of the twenty-first century arrives two years early as Spaced reinvents the genre. The characters are wonderful, but the rapid editing, pop-culture references, surreal moments and zombies make this series one that it's easy to see why so many have taken it to their hearts.

Tim and Daisy have extended their childhoods and never grown up. It's implied at times that they might be better off putting away childish things, but when I watched this on its first broadcast it was all I ever wanted in life and now many, many years later if I'm honest with myself, it still is.

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Here are the details on how to take part:

• Leave your name and link on the linky below.

• Feel free to publicise the blogfest on your blog, facebook, twitter, etc and post the above image on your blog if you wish.

• On the 15th of October (that's tomorrow) post a favourite something for each year 1990-1999, and tell us what you love about each of them.

• Leave a comment here, so that we know that you have posted your efforts for all to see.

• Visit as many other participating bloggers as you can on the list below. Compare, contrast and comment on their choices.

Join Us....

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Nineties Blogfest Tomorrow

Here's a little reminder that The
is taking place tomorrow. Here are the details on how to take part:

• Leave your name and link on the linky below.

• Feel free to publicise the blogfest on your blog, facebook, twitter, etc and post the above image on your blog if you wish.

• On the 15th of October (that's tomorrow) post a favourite something for each year 1990-1999, and tell us what you love about each of them.

• Visit as many other participating bloggers as you can. Compare, contrast and comment on their choices.

Join Us....

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bus Stop! Reviewed

I recently posted Bus Stop!, a comic I wrote to fit artwork drawn by Lee Sullivan. I heard from both Lee and his collaborator on the original project, Simon Guerrier. Here's what they had to say:

Lee Sullivan:
"Brilliant! It's particularly amusing for me as, although I remember doing this for Simon, it was done in a bit of a rush, and I only ever saw the first panel again as a promo postcard. So, somehow the other 3 panels are completely erased from my memory - I literally cannot remember drawing them - so to see a resolution with word balloons is a treat. I like cartooning, but it seems not to engage my memory cells much; maybe because it isn't as laboured or crafted as a strip or general illustration usually is."

Simon Guerrier:
"Ha ha! Amazing!"

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


It's my birthday today. I'm 31, but I'm not going to write about that. Instead I'm going to write about last year.

This time last year I met up with my sister and we went for a meal. It was her treat. Then we went to a pub to meet my girlfriend. She was standing outside and lead me inside to be greeted by a group of friends and family. It took longer than you might think to realise that I was the lucky recipient of a surprise birthday party.

I had no idea and had clearly been deceived by many of my nearest and dearest. I couldn't have been happier.

I had a great night. It was a slightly bizarre experience to see people from very different groups of friends mixing and getting along so well. Actors, schoolfriends, Uni friends and parents all socialising. People whose only connection was me, talking as if they had known each other for years.

The night just kept getting better as more people arrived and I was absolutely flabberghasted as a group came all the way from Oxford.

I found myself walking from group to group. Utterly bemused at what was unfolding around me.

My friend Abigail gave me a balloon. When she tied it to back of my jeans I didn't realise just how good a present it was. At the pub and it the streets it meant everyone knew where I was and I've since been told that I have a tendency to wander off and it was very useful, but it really came into its own the next day.

I woke up in our hotel room, a bit hungover and was unable remove the balloon from my jeans. I wasn't that bothered and decided to wear it brazenly. It was the best decision I made all day.

I went down to breakfast and after a raft of people wishing me a slightly awkward happy birthday, I sat down to eat food I wasn't certain I was ready for. I was then surrounded by a moat of hotel staff, apparently from Poland and Polynesia in equal amounts. They sang 'Happy Birthday' and I was very embarrassed. They parted and let another girl into the circle and she was carrying two slices of cheesecake with candles on. I blew out the candles and thanked them, they left very pleased with themselves. It was a lovely gesture.

Sarah came back from the breakfast buffet bit and sat down. I warned her that as my stomach was a little tender she was probably going to have to eat a lovely gesture. I love cheesecake, but it's not a hangover breakfast. Sarah wasn't exactly thrilled, but dug in so the hotel staff wouldn't feel it was all for nothing. It was toffee cheesecake. I love toffee cheesecake, it's like they knew me.

Sarah couldn't eat two slices and so she sort smushed one about to make it look like it had been tried. The dessert equivalent of hiding sprouts under your mashed potato. We left and thanked them profusely, but having been encircled and outnumbered I didn't really know who to thank and got a very bemused look from the girl filling up the orange juice who I soon realised had nothing to do with it and probably thought I was thanking so much because I thought she had grown the oranges herself or something.

We queued up to check out and everyone was wishing me a happy birthday. We checked out and with one eye on the balloon the girl behind the counter waived something on the bill and called it a birthday present.

We walked out onto the streets of London and fewer people wished me anything, but scores of people smiled and some went out of their way to be nice to me.

Everyone was so nice to me that I'm considering wearing a happy birthday balloon everyday for the rest of my life.

Also the helium lasted much longer than we expected and although it wasn't reaching for the sky, it still had lift for the next five weeks or so. I decided that it was still my birthday while the balloon was aloft. Best birthday so far and I can't thank everyone enough for their part in it.