Wednesday, 4 September 2019

"Look at him"

 I remember when twitter first took the piss out of J*c*b R**s-M*gg. I think he'd posted some photograph outside a shop that sported a Vote Labour poster in 2017, with a caption about how he'd be "taking his custom elsewhere" or some bollocks, anyway he looked like a twerp, and twerps are good currency on twitter, especially among comedians, so my timeline was full of him. The following day however I realised I hadn't been looking closely enough: the shop was a tattoo parlour. It was a joke. And the Sun, the Mail, and BBC2's "The Daily Politics" I remember, all heralded M*gg as a darling of the internet. And they were right.

 I knew of him already though, as I had remembered - but not verbatim - his speech in the House of Commons the previous year, when Leave had won the referendum, something about how this vote had - and I wish I could remember the exact words - "awoken an ancient power". I remember it because I remember fearing he was right, and wishing someone would ask him to specify exactly what "ancient power" he was so looking forward to see returning.

 And I remember far earlier, in 2008, when Boris Johnson won the London Mayoral election, thinking quite specifically "Oh fuck, Johnson's going to be this country's Nixon, isn't he... He's never going away until he gets the top job, and once he does, history will never forget him oh bloody hell." And I remember seeing the Johnson, four years later, cycle right past me, ten feet from me - long after he'd tried to turn the fourth plinth into a war memorial and greenlit that weird little wedge-shaped temple on the corner of Green Park celebrating the role of white guys in WWII - and I remember dreaming of pushing Johnson under a bus just then, just... just in case, just a little dream... And oh yeah, four years after that I played the prick.

  And now he's Prime Minister, and the other one's Leader of the House, having both taken private meetings with Trump's former strategist Steve Bannon, a self-confessed white supremacist who understood, as none before, the unprecedented lift a tidal wave of publicity can give a candidate who looks like they don't give two fucks about political process, even if - and this is something that had clearly never occurred to Johnson before - it's a wave of outrage.

 And tonight, a new British Government lost its first vote. And Johnson might call an election, positioning his Government very specifically now as anti-Parliamentary. And M*gg is lounging on the front bench, literally, and all over my internet again. Trending. And it's all very Bannon.

 So really what I'm saying is, until we're absolutely sure M*gg isn't going to be this country's Trump let's maybe, actually, not look at him. Do nothing to build the wave he looks so sure is coming to lift him. Just in case.Ta. Here's yer moment of Zen:

(Thanks to David Reed for the tip.)

Tuesday, 27 August 2019


Last Christmas my Mum gave me "Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World" by Jack Weatherford because apparently I'd been complaining about how little I knew about Genghis Khan. Now that I've finally read it I'm very glad she did. Here are some passages to give you an idea why, accompanied by images of Genghis Khan statuary in ascending order of spread:


"In twenty five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years... On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation."


"Instead of attacking the walls of Riazan, the Mongols used their massive number of conscripted laborers in a project that confused and terrified the citizens even more. The workers cut down trees, hauled them to the Mongol lines outside the city, and rapidly began building a wall completely surrounding the already walled city."

"The four serpents on the Silver Tree of Karakorum symbolized the four directions in which the Mongol Empire extended... When the khan wanted to summon drinks for his guests, the mechanical angel raised the trumpet to his lips and sounded the horn, whereupon the mouths of the serpents began to gush out a fountain of alcoholic beverages into large silver basins arranged at the base of the tree."

 "The Mongols loved competitions of all sorts, and they organized debates among rival religions the same way they organized wrestling matches... Finally, as the effects of the alcohol became stronger, the Christians gave up trying to persuade anyone with logical arguments, and resorted to singing. The Muslims, who did not sing, responded by loudly reciting the Koran in an effort to drown out the Christians, and the Buddhists retreated into silent meditation."

So why didn't any of it last? The same reason so little lasted beyond the fifteenth century AD: the Black Death, which wiped out a fifth of the population of the planet. Having opened up the world from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, the Mongol Empire's extraordinary infrastructure collapsed from the casualties, a victim of its own success. Western Europe meanwhile, protected from the Mongol invasion by its forests, stepped into that world as soon as the coast was clear, and that's what we call the Renaissance. Would read again.

(Apologies for non-inclusion to Dashi Namdakov.)

Monday, 26 August 2019

Something I only noticed about Horror Sequels watching Darlin'...

Frankenstein's sequel: The Bride of Frankenstein...

Night of the Living Dead's sequel: Dawn of the Dead...

Evil Dead's sequel: Evil Dead II...


They say comedy is tragedy plus time, so it makes sense so many horror sequels turn out to be hoots, and while I knew Freddy Kreuger got sillier and Godzilla cuddlier over time, I hadn't noticed how quick the turnaround could be on absolute corkers until this evening when I saw Pollyanna McIntosh's "Darlin'" (the trailer's packed with spoilers by the way). Its predecessor "The Woman" is an absolute classic - stark and simple and absolutely merciless - and the sequel does everything I now realise a return to the scene of that trauma should do: introduces a wider world, builds a family, and parkours from tone to tone without putting a foot wrong or looking like it's searching for a way out (everything "Bride of Frankenstein" did in fact). Also it looks incredible. It's out in September I think, it will make you laugh and it will make you hurt, and it is a hoot.

"Son of Kong" however is shit.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

What Do The Pills Do?

Well I didn't know they do this, for a start:

And now, apologies. The lights went out all over my old laptop a while back, but I have a new one now so I can blog again woo! And I have something to plug which is ending very soon: "Coma" - a show ostensibly about lying down and taking a pill. The pill-taking is optional, but not the lying down as space in the venue is limited (see below).

 Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic.    

As part of their ongoing Darkfield project, creator David "shunt" Rosenberg, writer Glen "Ring" Neath, musicians Max and Ben Ringham et al have recorded me and others doing things in a box, and then taken that box up to Summerhall so people can lie in it in total darkness for half an hour and be an audience. Given the absence of any live perfomer, as far as I know, it's extraordinary how live an event these shows still manage to be - the simple presence of others counts for a lot, it turns out, even if you can't see them. And the twitter reviews I've read have been incredibly pleasing, although the most pleasing was probably "Neither pleasant nor unpleasant it sits just the right side of creative to make you feel that things are not good until you leave" because it was so confusing. You can book TICKETS HERE and then I think the show's moving to Canary Wharf in September. But, as I say, most of my work was done a month ago, outside Television Centre (see below). You know, in that heat wave. Water was on hand... That's not much of an anedote is it - Okay: I was asked to provide a component of something unique built by friends. It was fun. And still is. I'm assuming.

So yes I'm doing Edinburgh this year, sort of - not physically (which is a shame as London "Gabbie" Hughes is obviously KILLING IT UP THERE) but I hear it's like I'm really there, right down to the smell (see below - not sure which vial's me).
And of course David's been doing stuff with binaural sound for over a decade now. And shipping containers. Things were easier back in 2007 before the crunch, back when we were doing "Contains Violence" and were still allowed in buildings. I can't believe I've never posted this shot of the microphones going into Nigel's head so we could record me stoving it in with an Apple Mac before:

And here's the card handed to audiences from that first binaural gig, intended to minimise technical hiccups.  The system's been refined a bit since.

25/08/19: P.S. I've just remembered, my favourote review is actually this one comparing the character I voice to "one of those vaguely disreputable Cronenbergian scientists" and noting "in fact Cronenbrg's two earliest movies, Stereo and Crimes of the Future could provide acceptable alternative titles for this..."  Lovely stuff.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

POW NYEEOW PEGASUSES BANG tink tink tink - Two "Avengers: Endgame" thoughts

 Stark staring

"We're not beginning to... to... to mean something?"
Samuel Beckett, Endgame
 Am I wrong, or have Marvel movies changed what film stars are, changed them back to what they were? These charming, witty, principled but troubled and surprisingly middle-aged heroes of Marvel Phases 1, 2 and 3 aren't the kind of blockbuster surefire things I or even my Dad grew up with. They're Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and like those stars - and unlike the singular Schwarzenegger or Connery - they're legion. If Disney really is buying all the cinemas and Netflix all the telly then the Studio System might be returning, and I don't know what to feel about that because I've always loved old movies... That was one thought I had after "Avengers: Everyone". The other's a SPOILER, so anyone who doesn't mind those, meet me under the table, and everyone else, BYE x

Okay the other thought was:

SPOILERS, REMEMBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She lets him die. "We're gonna be okay... You can rest..." The more I think about it the more gutted I am. I've never recorded on this blog before how oddly important Downey's "piping hot mess" has been to me. Iron Man wasn't a comic I knew anything about and I'd always found RD Jr a bit too get-out-of-my-way in previous films, but from "Iron Man 2" onwards Futurism was suddenly a thing again, and curiosity and hope, all served with newly smart grasp of the USA's unique relationship with fantasy, and this excited me. And I loved Tony Stark. So to see him finally diagnosed with a death wish, and to see that wish granted by the person who cared for him most was devastating. There were other reasons he had to die of course narratively speaking: as an idealisation of post-War America, Stark's mini-Hiroshima with the finger-click couldn't go without a reckoning (just as the earlier murder of Thanos had to turn Thor blurry). But I'd hoped for a happy ending with "Endgame", and feel something has been let go, and that it being let go is final proof it was untenable. And I don't want to type the words "Rest In Peace" again either I don't think. At least the alternative "Fare Forward" avoids the idea life's a chore. Ideally I'd just like to say from now on "Sorry you've gone"... Good film though.

Clark staring

Monday, 29 April 2019

Kenny Everett interrogates John Lennon about Abstraction and Misery and I share it.

My mate Ollie Ford, who originally put this extraordinary 1971 artefact up on f*c*book, writes:
"This is a brilliant interview. Kenny Everett is so funny and John clearly likes him. He asks why his first solo album was so sad when he has so much and John starts to play the Laughing Policeman on his guitar and sarcastically asks if he’d prefer his next album to sound like that. There is also a heartbreaking bit when he tells Kenny how he’d like to die..."

I'm putting up a second post today not because I'm ashamed of the previous one - it's clearly a beautiful tale vividly told - but because I'm trying to make this the place where I share stuff now, and this is definitely worth sharing. The anarchic sweetheart who would later go on to shout "Let's bomb Russia!" at Young Conservatives on the advice of Michael Winner pulls surprisingly few punches questioning the choices of the troubled genius who would later go on to sing "Imagine no possessions" sat behind a white grand in Tittenhurst Park, and perhaps what's most extraordinary is just how cosy the interview remains despite Cuddly Ken's unresolvable problems with not only John and Yoko's politics but their art. It's all parsecs away from Lennon mucking around with Peter Cook a decade earlier or Everett mucking around with Bowie and Freddie Mercury a decade on, but there's no bad faith here, and it's fun...

Liana Finck. Here's the linck.

... Which hopefully leads me to why I'm sharing the interview here on this blog rather than on, say, twitter. Because it's literally impossible these days to go more than thirty seconds on that site without encountering a fight. Neither that site nor f*c*book are really doing what we want them to any more - which is stay in touch - and they're both on our phones now, and our phones no longer fit our hands, and I'm increasingly concerned about what's in charge of who sees what. Joe Mande posted something beautiful about leaving twitter only today: "That's the problem with most things that are stupid as fuck: they're usually pretty fun" and Rick Webb's Internet Mea Culpa remains very sound, but of course there are many incentives to stay on, because one's work requires attention, so I'll keep linking to the blog on both sites. If you've any comments however, I guess, please post below? Or just enjoy.

(If you're unfamiliar with the work and impact of Kenny Everett - whom I love - you're probably also unfamiliar with Joel Morris and Jason Hazely's "Rule Of Three" podcast - which I also love - so you might want to start with this one.)

And I'm still on instagram. Sure!


 "Well I don't know what we were expecting to see..." muttered Zorian.
 "You - You guys didn't think that was wild?! I thought you'd really dig - No, uh, no problem, there's other sights!" But Plok could see his fare slipping away...

Ilustration by Ed Valigursky.